A History of Housing in New York City / Edition 1

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Overview

The French architect Le Corbusier once described New York as "a magnificent catastrophe." Since its emergence in the mid-nineteenth century as the nation's "metropolis"' New York has faced the most challenging housing problems of any American city, but it has also led the nation in innovation and reform. The horrors of the tenement were perfected in New York at the same time that the very rich were building palaces along Fifth Avenue; yet public housing for the poor also originated in New York, as did government subsidies for middle-class housing. A History of Housing in New York City traces New York's housing development from 1850 to the present in text and profuse illustrations. Richard Plunz explores the housing of all classes, with comparative discussion of the development of types ranging from the single-family house to the high-rise apartment tower. His analysis is placed within the context of the broader political and cultural development of New York, a city which in many ways summarizes in microcosm the evolution of urban housing in the United States.

Plunz examines the multiple tensions among builders, government planners, housing reformers, and architects which have affected the course of housing development. He explains how the first high-rise apartments were built for the wealthy who preferred the security of living "above it all," and he looks at the technology which made them possible. The author examines the effect of the urban economy on development. He describes how the rising cost of Manhattan real estate and the growth of transportation networks have contributed to the departure of the middle class from the inner city, leaving it with little except luxury housing and slums. He offers fresh material on the creation of "garden apartments" which proliferated throughout the outer boroughs and remain among the finest models of urban housing. Plunz also offers insight into how and why modernist "tower in the park" designs of architects such as Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius were adapted into the design of much of New York's public housing, and the recent return to low-rise publicly subsidized housing, such as new "suburban cottages" set amidst the abandoned buildings and rubble strewn lots of the South Bronx. More than 300 illustrations are integrated throughout the text, depicting housing plans, neighborhood changes, and city architecture over the last 130 years. A History of Housing In New York City is a pioneering study of a largely unexplored realm of United States urban development, as well researched as it is well written.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Kent Barwick
Housing, historically one of most perplexing problems, turns out to be a fascinating perspective from which to assess our incomparable city. Professor Plunz provides an erudite, revealing, and relentlessly engaging portrait of a great urban place and its people.
Library Journal
New York City has been, and continues to be, a city of contrasts when it comes to housing: elegant mansions of merchant millionaires coexist with the squalid tenement slums of immigrant workers, and garden apartments coexist with high-rise apartment towers. In this revealing study, Plunz traces the history of housing in New York from 1850 to the present, examining the complex roles that city planning, real estate development, housing reform, building codes, contruction technology, and government policies--and politics--play in the process. Plunz shows how specific housing types developed over time and analyzes their successes and failures in meeting the diverse needs of their occupants. The book's comprehensive scope and high degree of detail makes it recommended reading for anyone interested in housing.-- H. Ward Jandl, National Park Service , Washington, D.C.
Booknews
Paperbound reprint of the 1990 study of New York's housing development from 1850 to the present. The author is an architect and historian at Columbia University. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231062978
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 4/22/1992
  • Series: Columbia History of Urban Life Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 422
  • Sales rank: 1,412,430
  • Product dimensions: 8.68 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 0.99 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Plunz is an architect and a historian teaching at Columbia University where he has served as the Chairman of the Division of Architecture. He recently edited Design and the Public Good: Selected Writings by Serge Chermayeff, 1933-1980.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

IllustrationsPrefaceAcknowledgments1. Early Precedents2. Legislating the Tenement3. Rich and Poor4. Beyond the Tenement5. The Garden Apartment6. Aesthetics and Realities7. Government Intervention8. Pathology of Public Housing9. New Directions10. EpilogueNotesBibliographyIllustration CreditsIndex

Columbia University Press

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