Public Housing That Worked: New York in the Twentieth Century

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University of Pennsylvania Press, Incorporated, Aug 4, 2014 - History - 368 pages
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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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This book has neoliberal, middle-class morality seeping from the pages. It regurgitates neoconservative criticisms of the welfare state. Bloom propagandizes, "Officials at NYCHA worried that turning unwed motherhood from a negative to either a neutral or positive factor for public housing admission could in fact bring in more disordered families. Such a policy might even encourage women to have children to gain access to pubic housing" (208). However, as a comprehensive analysis of the managerial history of The New York City Housing Authority, the book is a complete success. If you're looking for an ethnography that details the experiences of people living in New York, I would suggest starting with Lance Freeman's book There Goes the 'Hood.  

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This book is a monstrous lie that will ultimately be burried by history.

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About the author (2014)

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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