Public Housing That Worked: New York in the Twentieth Century

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When it comes to large-scale public housing in the United States, the consensus for the past decades has been to let the wrecking balls fly. The demolition of infamous projects, such as Pruitt-Igoe in St. Louis and the towers of Cabrini-Green in Chicago, represents to most Americans the fate of all public housing. Yet one notable exception to this national tragedy remains. The New York City Housing Authority, America's largest public housing manager, still maintains over 400,000 tenants in its vast and well-run high-rise projects. While by no means utopian, New York City's public housing remains an acceptable and affordable option.

The story of New York's success where so many other housing authorities faltered has been ignored for too long. Public Housing That Worked shows how New York's administrators, beginning in the 1930s, developed a rigorous system of public housing management that weathered a variety of social and political challenges. A key element in the long-term viability of New York's public housing has been the constant search for better methods in fields such as tenant selection, policing, renovation, community affairs, and landscape design.

Nicholas Dagen Bloom presents the achievements that contradict the common wisdom that public housing projects are inherently unmanageable. By focusing on what worked, rather than on the conventional history of failure and blame, Bloom provides useful models for addressing the current crisis in affordable urban housing. Public Housing That Worked is essential reading for practitioners and scholars in the areas of public policy, urban history, planning, criminal justice, affordable housing management, social work, and urban affairs.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Highly recommended."—Choice

"While high-rise public housing in the United States is widely regarded as a disaster, the experiment in New York City has thrived for more than seventy years. Nicholas Bloom's well-written, well-researched, and well-illustrated work provides the most sophisticated answers yet to this American paradox."—Kenneth T. Jackson, Columbia University

"Nicholas Dagen Bloom's bold thesis is powerfully argued and effectively overturns much received wisdom about the history of public housing in the United States. This well researched and clearly written book will undoubtedly trigger a fierce debate both among historians and those interested in current housing policy."—Robert Bruegmann, author of Sprawl: A Compact History

"In Public Housing That Worked, Nicholas Dagen Bloom offers the best examination to date of the origins, choices, mistakes, and management of the New York City Housing Authority from its beginnings in the 1930s up through the present. He stresses effective management as the principal reason behind why the city's public stock of housing has survived in decent condition while scores of projects across the country have been demolished. The book should be essential reading for planners and policy analysts seeking a detailed look inside how and why New York's public housing became a notable if controversial exception."—John Goering, Baruch College and CUNY Graduate Center and former HUD project manager

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812220674
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/10/2009
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 1,298,159
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Nicholas Dagen Bloom is Chair of Interdisciplinary Studies at the New York Institute of Technology and author of Merchant of Illusion: James Rouse, America's Salesman of the Businessman's Utopia.

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Table of Contents

Pt. 1 Model Housing as a Municipal Service

1 Defining a Housing Crisis 13

2 Three Programs Are Better Than One 35

3 High-Rise Public Housing Begins 45

4 Model Tenants for Model Housing 77

5 Tightly Managed Communities 92

Pt. II Transforming Postwar New York

6 The Boom Years 109

7 Designs for a New Metropolis 128

8 The Price of Design Reform 152

9 The Benefits of Social Engineering 168

10 Meeting the Management Challenge 181

Pt. III Welfare-State Public Housing

11 Surviving the Welfare State 201

12 The Value of Consistency 220

Pt. IV Affordable Housing

13 Model Housing Revisited 245

Appendix A Guide to Housing Developments 269

Appendix B Tenant Selection Policies and Procedures 277

Notes 279

Index 349

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  • Posted February 25, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent history of New York public housing and lessons learned

    Public Housing That Worked: New York in the Twentieth Century.
    by Nicholas Dagen Bloom, an associate professor at the New York Institute of Technology

    Nicholas Bloom's book Public Housing That Worked is a fascinating and detailed history of public housing in New York from the tenements of the early 1900s to current theories and practices on social housing almost a century later. I own this book.

    Professor Bloom's book discusses how good housing management practices are crucial to successful public housing and social housing programs. He notes that effective management includes both regular maintenance and "keeping patronage to a minimum, holding employees and tenants responsible for their behavior, seeking private sector help where necessary, and using politics to build and protect housing".

    There are no easy solutions for affordable housing for hundreds of thousands of lower-income metropolitan New York residents. Professor Bloom's book focuses on drawing lessons learned from NYCHA to see what has worked and what needs improvement. At 354 pages with hundreds of footnotes and index, this book is a good resource for the affordable housing community and future housing programs.

    David Hoicka

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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