Friday, February 12, 2010
Several days ago, the Several days ago, the New York Times reported on the New York Housing Authority's plan to tear down the Prospect Plaza public housing project in Brooklyn. According to the paper, the project will be replaced by "public and private housing, not only for the poor but also for low- and moderate-income families ... in low-rise buildings."
The interesting angle here is not the demolition itself. As the story notes, "[s]ince the 1990s, public housing high-rise buildings have come tumbling down by the dozens across the country"; "Philadelphia tore down 21. Chicago leveled 79. Baltimore took down 21 as well, and when 6 of them came down in one day in 1995, it threw a parade."
No, the interesting part here is the rarity of such events in New York. "New York City has long been the great exception." This will be the first New York demolition of a an entire public housing project. According to the Times, to date, the New York Housing Authority has only knocked down a handful of high-rises.
My view of public housing is largely shaped by my knowledge of Chicago's public housing. I find it difficult to imagine the circumstances in which state-owned, -constructed and -operated housing stock is a good response to homelessness and poverty or an efficient utilization of realty. I have the instinct to dismiss New York's refusal to abandon public high-rises as another peculiar political desire --- one as misplaced as New York's refusal to finally do away with rent control (and rent-stabilization in the idiosyncratic New York nomenclature). But I haven't researched the issue enough to know whether I'm missing something here. Am I?