3. In Spite of Setbacks, Cooperation Continues

Co-op City View From Pelham Bay Park

While press coverage of Co-op City initially focused on its aesthetics, the development’s greatest existential problem turned out to be financial. During the mid 1970s, it teetered on the brink of foreclosure by the state. Cost overruns, due in part to shoddy construction, resulted in substantial increases in monthly charges to residents, known officially as “cooperators.” In response, they became uncooperative cooperators, first filing suit against the United Housing Foundation but losing in the US Supreme Court and then instituting a rent strike that lasted 13 months.

In the summer of 1976, a solution ending the strike was worked out. Essentially all sides backed off and residents gained direct responsibility for overseeing the Riverbay Corporation, the legal entity operating the co-op. (United Housing Foundation, on the other hand, ceased its development activities.)

In the years since, Co-op City has faced and overcome other financial and management problems, but the fun fact is that 45 years after its completion it is still providing affordable housing to thousands of families with a waiting list of more people who would like to move there.