Description & Building Alterations
This development is known as First Houses and was a designated New York City Landmark in 1974. The apartments are named for “their distinction of being arguably the first public housing units constructed in the United States.” The project was undertaken by the newly established New York City Housing Authority and established as the first public, low-income housing in the nation.
The lot (when it was subdivided, lots 6-26, 30, 32, 33, 37, 38) was once part of William B. Astor’s holdings and was leased out to various people between 1850 and 1875. The old tenements on the site were acquired from Vincent Astor, and two buildings were acquired from Andrew Muller. First Houses was constructed from twenty-four rehabilitated tenements, and the project was designed by Frederick L. Ackerman, a leading housing reform advocate. The paved interior courtyard was an adaptation of the garden apartment concept, typically applied on a small scale, to a municipal project. Park Commissioner Robert Moses’ department outfitted the playground that is part of the development. The red brick buildings feature six over six windows and the street fronts feature three raised brick courses above the top two corner windows of each building. Four small, recessed square panels appear above the top four center windows. This ornamentation is a stylized, simplified motif of the Art Deco period. Unlike other public housing projects in the city, this project was uniquely funded, housed relatively few families, relied heavily on renovation instead of construction, and was municipally owned.
Block : 430 / Lot : 010 / Building Date : 1935 / Original Owner : New York City Housing Authority / Original Use : Residential / Original Architect : Frederick L. Ackerman