First Houses


First Houses is a
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project in Alphabet City,
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New York City
and was one of the first public housing projects in the United States. First Houses were designated a
New York City New York, often called New York City to distinguish it from , or NYC for short, is the in the United States. With a 2020 population of 8,804,190 distributed over , New York City is also the major city in the United States. Located at the s ...
National Historic Landmark A National Historic Landmark (NHL) is a that is officially recognized by the for its outstanding historical significance. Only some 2,500 (~3%) of over 90,000 places listed on the country's are recognized as National Historic Landmarks. A Na ...
in 1974. They are managed by the New York City Housing Authority.


The project consists of 122 three-room or four-room apartments in 8 four-story or five-story buildings, and is located on the south side of East 3rd Street between
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and Avenue A, and on the west side of Avenue A between East 2nd and 3rd streets in Alphabet City and East Village.


First Houses take their name from their distinction of being one of the first public housing units constructed in the
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United States
, opening for the first tenants on December 3, 1935.
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s existed on the site before they were cleared to build the project, which was also the very first project undertaken by the city's new
Housing Authority A housing authority or ministry of housing is generally a governmental body that governs aspects of housing or (called in general " shelter" or "living spaces"), often providing low rent or free apartments to qualified residents. The existence o ...
, which completed it in 1936. The project was planned as a gut rehabilitation, with one of three tenements torn down to provide extra light and air, but
architect An architect is a person who plans, designs and oversees the construction of buildings. To practice architecture means to provide services in connection with the design of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the buildings that ha ...

Frederick L. Ackerman and his engineers soon discovered that the 19th century tenements were too fragile to be reconstructed. So they were torn down and First Houses was built from scratch, with a small number of the original foundation supports being used.''
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The New York Times
'' (November 21, 1935)
The project reused bricks and employed dozens of workers on relief paid for by the federal government. Ackerman designed the apartment buildings with rear entrances and courtyards to allow more light and air than existing tenements. The cobbled open areas behind the buildings provided playgrounds, trees, benches and sculptures for the tenants. Although First Houses cost far more than anticipated, Housing Authority chairman Langdon Post said it was worth it. "In the first place ... it has taken the question of public housing out of the realm of debate and into the realm of fact. Second, it has established the Authority as an agency for the issuance of
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bonds. Both
Vincent Astor William Vincent Astor (November 15, 1891 – February 3, 1959) was an American businessman, philanthropist, and member of the prominent Astor family. Early life Called Vincent, he was born in New York City New York City (NYC), often simply ...
and Bernard M. Baruch accepted the Authority’s bonds to cover payments for the land – the first such bonds ever issued. In the third place, it provided an opportunity to test the Authority’s power to condemn land for slum clearance – a test which we won. Fourth, in Fiorello H. La Guardia, Mayor La Guardia’s words, it provided us with 'Boondoggling Exhibit A.'" The test which the Housing Authority won was the right to exercise the powerful tool of eminent domain. The owner of two tenements on East 3rd Street contended that seizing his property, even with compensation, contravened the constitutions of the United States and New York State. The New York State Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state, ruled that the Housing Authority could Eminent domain, seize private property: "Whenever there arises, in the state, a condition of affairs holding a substantial menace to the public health, safety or general welfare, it becomes the duty of the government to apply whatever power is necessary and appropriate to check it."

See also

*List of New York City Housing Authority properties *List of New York City Designated Landmarks in Manhattan below 14th Street *National Register of Historic Places listings in Manhattan below 14th Street



External links

"In the Beginning, New York Created First Houses"
Gray, Christopher. ''New York Times,'' September 24, 1995

" Amateau, Albert. ''The Villager,'' October 25, 2006.
Landmarks Preservation Commission designation
Shelter Shorts, January/February, 1996.

{{National Register of Historic Places in New York, state=collapsed Residential buildings on the National Register of Historic Places in Manhattan Public housing in Manhattan East Village, Manhattan Houses completed in 1935 1935 establishments in New York City New York City Designated Landmarks in Manhattan