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    We Built This City: Labor’s Cooperative Housing Projects in New York City

    by  • February 6, 2019 • 2018-2019 Provost Digital Innovation Grant Winners, Provost's Digital Innovation Grants

    Project Name: We Built This City: Labor’s Cooperative Housing Projects in New York City

    Grantee: Erik Forman

    Discipline: Cultural Anthropology

    Funding Cycle: 2018-2019

    Project Status: Complete

    White Paper: WeBuiltThisCity_Whitepaper


    About the Project:


    New York City is in the throes of one of the worst housing crises in decades, evidenced by record homeless, intensifying gentrification, and skyrocketing rents. The City of New York and social movement organizations have proposed a wide array of solutions ranging from affordable housing policy, to community land trusts and universal rent control. But one idea that worked for decades has been left out of the debate, and it’s hiding in plain sight. Today, over 100,000 New Yorkers live in two dozen permanently-affordable limited-equity cooperative housing complexes that were built with labor movement backing from 1926-1974. While the names of the co-ops are familiar to many New Yorkers– Co-op City, Penn South, 1199 Plaza, Electchester, Rochdale Village, Amalgamated Houses, and others– the story behind these successful attempts to provide high-quality housing for low- and middle-income people is not. Through a website and social media presence that engages current residents of the cooperatives, labor leaders, urban planners, scholars, policymakers, and the general public, this project is the first phase of a public history project to illuminate the history of labor’s affordable housing cooperatives, and inspire debate about what it would take to build again.