A visionary model of cooperation or a planning and architectural nightmare? Co-op City has been viewed both ways, but for many New Yorkers it remains an enigma, tucked away in the urban periphery of the northeast Bronx.
To outsiders it is a collection of high rise buildings, viewed afar from the window of a passing car or train. Although highly visible, it is isolated. Inaccessible by subway, the kidney-shaped area is bounded by the New England Thruway on the west, the Hutchinson River on the east and an Amtrak line on the southeast. Its southern section is intersected by the Hutchinson River Parkway.
Co-op City offers as pure a manifestation of the Modernist ideas of Le Corbusier as exists in or around New York City. For this reason alone, anyone interested in urban planning and architecture should visit to see for themselves the tower-in-the-park prototype writ large.
But it’s not just an architectural relic from another era – there’s more to Co-op City than meets the eye. Here are 10 fun facts about this unique community.
10. The City Within Co-op City
Co-op City, encompassing over 320 acres, is one of New York’s cities-within-a-city. The development includes 15,372 units of housing in 35 high rises and 236 townhouses spread across several superblocks. Besides housing, the complex also includes shopping centers, houses of worship, elementary, intermediate, and high schools, a college campus, public parks, and parking garages. It is served by its own power plant, weekly newspaper, public library, zip code, and security force.
Construction started in 1965 and the buildings were completed from 1968 to 1972. The high rises include ten 24-story “Chevrons,” ten 26-story “Triple Cores,” and fifteen 33-story “Towers.” The 33-story buildings, at 338 feet tall, were briefly the tallest in the Bronx until they were eclipsed by Paul Rudolph’s 400-foot tall Tracey Towers in 1973.
According to the Census, there are about 35,000 residents in Co-op City today, and about one in five are age 65 or older, a shift from its early years when it was populated primarily by families with children and had a population of around 50,000.