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Rochdale Village

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  • Dan Clore
    News & Views for Anarchists & Activists: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo http://www.hnn.us/articles/131999.html 10-04-10 Rochdale Village: Blueprint for a
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 4, 2010
      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo

      http://www.hnn.us/articles/131999.html
      10-04-10
      Rochdale Village: Blueprint for a New Housing Option?
      By Peter Eisenstadt

      Peter Eisenstadt is the author of Rochdale Village: Robert Moses, 6,000
      Families, and New York City’s Great Experiment in Integrated Housing
      (Cornell University Press)

      Few areas of New York City have had as many housing foreclosures in
      recent years as the neighborhoods in southeastern Queens, such as
      Jamaica, South Jamaica, St. Albans, and Laurelton—all with large tracts
      of modest private homes and a predominantly minority population. But
      one large area of southern Queens, Rochdale Village, has not had a
      single defaulted mortgage. All of its residents own their homes, and
      like the surrounding neighborhoods it has an overwhelmingly minority
      population, modestly middle class in its income and aspirations. What
      makes Rochdale different is that it is a limited equity cooperative,
      whose residents chose their management and govern themselves
      collectively. The 6,000 apartments, in twenty large apartment
      buildings, cannot be individually resold. If its residents cannot
      profit from real estate investments, they also cannot lose their homes
      and much of their savings when the market turns on them.

      Rochdale Village, standing on the site of the former Jamaica Racetrack,
      opened in 1963. It was built by the United Housing Foundation (UHF),
      and followed the vision of its longtime leader, Abraham Kazan, who
      believed in creating attractive, affordable housing, for families of
      moderate income, all owned by their residents. Kazan was a product of
      the anarchist wing of the Jewish labor movement in the early twentieth
      century, and had been building cooperative housing for workers since the
      1920s. Under the auspices of the UHF, largely a consortium of labor
      unions, he built over 30,000 units of cooperative housing in New York
      City from the early 1950s to the early 1970s, which made him the most
      successful developer of cooperative housing in the country.

      Before Rochdale, most of Kazan’s cooperatives had tended to draw heavily
      from the Jewish labor movement, and Jewish families in general.
      Rochdale Village was different, and from the beginning had a substantial
      black population (and unlike previous UHF cooperatives, was in a
      predominantly African American neighborhood.) Rochdale Village touted
      its achievements as an integrated cooperative, and through the 1960s it
      was the largest integrated housing development in New York City, if not
      the United States as a whole.

      Alas, this did not last, and the whites started to move out in the early
      1970s, and in time Rochdale would become almost entirely African
      American, and today it remains the largest predominantly minority-owned
      cooperative in the country, a tribute to the determination of its
      residents to defend what is unique about Rochdale, and the flexibility
      and relevance of Kazan’s original cooperative vision.

      The UHF built only one more cooperative after Rochdale, the gargantuan
      15,000 unit Co-Op City in the Bronx, but after completing it in the
      early 1970s, it laid down its shovel and never built another unit of
      housing. The reasons for this are complex. One factor was the
      conviction of Jane Jacobs and her legion of followers that large scale
      superblock housing projects were sterile and dehumanizing, incubators of
      urban anomie, a reality belied by the generations of families of modest
      means who had cherished their homes in UHF-built cooperatives.

      But the real question came down to money. By the early 1970s many had
      concluded that cooperatives such as Rochdale Village and Co-op City,
      privately owned but government sponsored, were costing the taxpayers too
      much money, and that in a time of inflation, revenues were not keeping
      up with expenses. The fiscal crisis of the mid-1970s seemed to confirm
      the prevailing wisdom; the government should, as much as possible get
      out of the housing biz. And so New York City was launched on the
      vertiginous explosion of housing prices that has largely priced the
      working, middle, and moderate classes out of New York City. If there
      was grumbling, most bought into, in more ways than one, the underlying
      rationale; that as long you own your place, and the prices appreciate,
      you could more than recoup your investment by selling to the next
      purchaser. But a system based on beggaring one’s neighbor could not
      last forever, and of course it came crashing down in 2007 and 2008,
      toxic asset by asset.

      The Obama administration is currently wrestling with the problem of
      housing prices that continue to fall. Whatever is done, and this is a
      very serious problem, we need to reconsider the alternatives to the
      speculative housing market such as limited equity cooperatives, which
      for many decades have afforded families of modest incomes a way to own
      their homes without personal mortgages and high levels of individual
      indebtedness. Building affordable, attractive housing is not cheap, but
      neither is the $14 trillion or so in net worth the United States has
      lost since 2007 as a result of the burst housing bubble. Residents of
      Rochdale Village and Co-op City have both considered the path of
      privatization, and both have rejected it, and they remain places where
      three bedroom apartments are available for well under $1,000 in rent a
      month. A stay on the waiting list for a vacancy can stretch into the
      decades. Limited equity cooperatives have prospered, quietly, in the
      decades when the American dream seemed to be reduced to everyone
      becoming a real estate speculator. As we move forward, let us make room
      in our housing mix for new Rochdales and Co-op Cities, appropriately
      refashioned for the twenty-first century. Sometimes, Santayana to the
      contrary, only those who have learned something from history can know
      enough to repeat it.

      --
      Dan Clore

      New book: _Weird Words: A Lovecraftian Lexicon_:
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      http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0035LTS0O
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      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo

      "From the point of view of the defense of our society,
      there only exists one danger -- that workers succeed in
      speaking to each other about their condition and their
      aspirations _without intermediaries_."
      --Censor (Gianfranco Sanguinetti), _The Real Report on
      the Last Chance to Save Capitalism in Italy_
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