image to enlarge
*Labor and Housing
in New York City
Schuman, an architecture
professor at the New Jersey School of Architecture, New
Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, NJ has written
a fascinating article, which provides greater details
about our roots:
Herman Jessor and the Cooperative Housing Movement.
He has graciously agreed to share it with us.
Our Bronx Roots
Somewhere around the mid 1920s, in the Bronx,
NY, history was being made. The Amalgamated Clothing Workers
Hillman and driven by Abraham
E. Kazan, took a bold
step and sponsored the construction of affordable housing
as Amalgamated Cooperative Apartment House, it was the
first limited equity housing cooperative in the United
States. The project was a success and continues to thrive
today, growing from the original 300 families to over 1400
families, as new buildings were added to the development
up through 1970. Today it is known as Amalgamated
Housing Cooperative, or, simply, "the Amalgamated."
Alexandra Vozick Hans wrote a wonderful article
about the history of "the Amalgamated." Her family was
one of its early "pioneers."
You can read her article
Bolstered by the success of Amalgamated Cooperative
in the Bronx, the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America
immediately began working on a 2nd limited equity housing
cooperative on Manhattan's Lower East Side - Amalgamated
Dwellings was born. Like a breath of fresh air in the midst
of dark, congested tenements, Amalgamated provided spacious
apartments, built around a central
Completed around 1930, Amalgamated
Dwellings was the first of four housing cooperatives
to be built along Grand Street from Essex Street east to
FDR Drive. Collectively, the four cooperatives eventually
came to be called Cooperative Village.
In the mid-1940s the Amalgamated Clothing
Workers of America sponsored the construction of Hillman
Houses (officially known as Hillman Housing Corporation,
and named for Sidney
Hillman), which became home to about
800 families. Opened in 1948, with the 2nd and 3rd buildings
Hillman was organized as a Redevelopment Company, under
New York's Private Housing Finance Law. The three 12-story
Hillman structures were built on either side of Amalgamated
Dwellings, creating a contiguous stretch of modern housing
with gardens, playgrounds, and shopping.
East River Cooperative
The leadership of the Amalgamated Clothing
Workers of America were instrumental in forming The United
Foundation (UHF), which constructed affordable housing
around the country. In
the early 1950s, the UHF, with sponsorship from the
International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) built
East River Houses
(officially known as East River Housing Corporation).
Opened around 1956, and located at Hillman's eastern edge,
East River's four 20-story triple-core structures are home
Seward Park Cooperative
After completing East River,
the UHF began construction of Seward Park Houses (officially
Park Housing Corporation), which opened around
1960. Seward Park is architecturally similar - but not
identical - to East River, both having been designed by
Jessor*. Approximately 1,700 families call Seward
It's not clear when the name Cooperative
Village was first used to refer, collectively, to the four
co-ops. But, it is clear that until recently all four were
management and resources such as gardening and snow-removal
equipment, steam and hot water generation. At the same
time, they were separate and independent corporations,
each with its own board of directors.
As originally organized, the cooperatives
enjoyed the benefits of subsidies such as tax abatements
- but, in turn, were subject to governmental regulations.
One such regulation required
back to the
corporation upon moving out of their apartments, for pretty
much what they originally paid. The apartment was then
sold by the housing corporation, for the same price, to
the next person on a waiting list. Because apartments in
Co-op Village have always been desirable, and turnover
was low, the waiting lists were huge. It was not uncommon
for people to wait 10 or more years for an apartment in
one of the cooperatives.
In the early 1990s, after fulfilling obligations
related to the earlier benefits and subsidies received
under the terms of the original form of organization,
the four housing corporations began the process of privatization
- or "reconstitution." Privatization would convert the
co-ops to standard housing corporations. There would be
no more subsidies. At the same time, shareholders would
no longer be required to sell their apartment shares back
to the corporation when they moved. They would find a buyer
on the open market and agree on a price and sell directly
to the buyer. This needed to be approved by a majority
of the shareholders of each of the co-ops, and it was.
For the first few years after privatizing,
price caps were imposed on the sales of
apartments. In addition, a flip tax was imposed requiring
that a percentage of each sale be paid
to the corporation. Eventually the price caps were lifted
entirely, but, a flip tax remains in most of the corporations.
cases, lobbies, elevators and upper hallways have been
completely renovated or are in the process of being renovated.
been replaced, security has been improved and grounds
have been re-landscaped - largely thanks to the flip-tax.
Along the way, however, some differences
of opinion arose between the individual co-ops. As
a result, Amalgamated Dwellings pulled out of Cooperative
privatizing. Seward Park followed
suit a few years later. Today, only East River and Hillman
still live under the "Cooperative Village" umbrella. But,
there are still very strong ties between the shareholders
of the four co-ops as many have relatives and close friends
living in one or more of the other developments.
Co-op Village History
More Than Just a Name