10. First Houses was one of the first public housing projects in the U.S.
As the name suggests, First Houses, located on Avenue A and East 3rd Street, was one of the country’s first public housing projects. Built in 1935 to 1936, the project consists of eight four- and five-story buildings collectively housing 122 apartments. The first tenants moved into the apartments on December 3, 1935. They were designed by Frederick L. Ackerman, who focused predominantly on working-class housing while working with the New York City Housing Authority. The apartments replaced Victorian-era tenements that were cleared due to their instability, which was NYCHA’s first-ever project. Many bricks from the original tenements were reused for First Houses.
The apartments cost significantly more than anticipated, though they allowed for more light and air thanks to the inclusion of courtyards. The project had “taken the question of public housing out of the realm of debate and into the realm of fact,” said NYCHA chairman Langdon Post. The apartments were an important example of eminent domain, as the previous tenements could not be safely repaired and the need for lower-income housing was rather dire. At the time, residents paid just $5 to $7 a month. in rent. They were greeted with animal sculptures commissioned by the WPA. The apartments were designated a National Historic Landmark in 1974.