Queensbridge, Queens, New York City
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Queensbridge Houses is the largest public housing development in the United States. It is located in Long Island City in Queens, and opened in 1939. The 3,142 unit complex is the country's largest such housing project and is owned by the New York City Housing Authority. The complex is located in Community Board 1.
The 96 unit six-story buildings are distinctive due to their shape - two Y's connecting at the base. This shape was used as the architects hoped it would give residents more access to sunlight than the traditional cross-shape. The design was said to be cost-efficient, and they reduced the cost even further by using elevators that only stopped at the 1st, 3rd and 5th floors. Political pressure to keep costs down was a key reason for the use of cheap designs.
In many aspects the buildings of Queensbridge are very similar to most government-built housing projects of the era. They are a worn grayish brown which now suffers noticeable deterioration and weathering. Each building is painted red to about four feet up from the ground, giving a united feel to the entire complex because a uniform red "layer" is always close, throughout the complex.
On each of the corners in Queensbridge, the New York City Housing Authority has posted signs indicating the project's name and management: "Queensbridge North (or South) Houses NYCHA." These signs come in several varieties depending on their age. The oldest signs, erected in the early nineties, are simply orange and blue, with the newer signs featuring graphics, like those of many other projects.
Access to buildings in the complex is by key or via a new intercom system. The halls of Queensbridge's buildings are comparable to most municipal buildings, and are dilapidated and lined with worn light blue tiles. Apartments are painted white and are fairly small, even by New York City standards.
Within the last few years, the elevators have been rebuilt and now stop at floors 1-2-3-4-5 and kitchens have been completely renovated and now have frost-free refrigerators. Three thousand bathrooms were renovated with new tubs, toilets, vanities, floor tile and lighting in 2000. This followed a renovation in 1986 when 1000 of the bathrooms were renovated by Arc Plumbing, a firm for which the salesman to NYCHA was John Gotti.
During the 1950s, the management changed the racial balance of Queensbridge by transferring all families whose income was more than $3,000/year, a majority of whom were Caucasian, to middle-income housing projects, and replacing most of these tenants with African American and Latino families. While this policy provided safe and sanitary housing to many low income African American and Latino families, it also resulted in racially motivated conflict between their children. By the 1960s, the project was a dream of rich diversity and all the consequences such brings.
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