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Columbia University Digital Knowledge Ventures The Architecture and Development of New York City with Andrew S. Dolkart
image Living Together Tenements
Government Housing
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Tenements
Government Housing
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And it's not until the 1930s during the Depression that the government finally becomes involved in housing. And even when they do finally become involved, it is not until there has been a huge debate over whether or not the government should be involved or whether the private housing community could somehow solve the problem, which as had been shown over the decades, they clearly could not.

The first government-funded housing was funded by New York City, and appropriately enough is called First Houses. First Houses is located on Avenue A at about East Third Street, and it started out as a private construction project by the Astor family, which actually owned the buildings. And the Astors' idea was that they would demolish every third tenement to create light and air, and as they did this the cost became so high that they persuaded the city to take over the project. And the city continued the project, they did demolish every third tenement, creating light courts. And they refaced the structure of the old tenements in very simple brick. They rearranged the interior layout so that the apartments all were sizeable and all had modern amenities—they all had modern kitchens, they all had individual toilets. They created a nice place for working-class people to live.

And in the backyard where each tenement had had its own individual backyard, probably with a wall between each backyard, they combined them all into a large playground for children. And this was a very, very important idea, getting the children off the street and finding a secure place for them to play.

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