9. Landmarked Public Housing Projects

Affordable New York A Housing Legacy-Museum of the City of New York-Exhibition-Untapped Cities-NYC-001First Houses (Astor Housing project), Alphabet City, Manhattan. Completed: 1936. Photographer unknown/Courtesy of La Guardia and Wagner Archives, La Guardia Community College/The City University of New York/New York City Housing Authority )

Public housing projects often get a bad rap today, but it’s important to remember that the architecture behind New York City’s affordable housing was often cutting edge. As the current exhibits Affordable Housing: A New York Legacy at the Museum of the City of New York and Affordable Housing in New York at Hunter East Harlem Gallery show, New York City was a pioneering force behind the housing movement. Given this context, it’s not surprising that several housing projects are also landmarks, including the York Avenue Estate, once the largest low-income housing project in the world and offered designs to allow more light than traditional tenements (though significant changes have been made to the facades).

The Harlem River Houses, also landmarked, were the first federally-funded, federally-built, and federally-owned housing project in New York City, commended for its physical planning and sense of community. First Houses in Alphabet City is also landmarked, the first New York City-sponsored housing project.