The New York City Housing Authority began construction on the North Bronx’s Parkside Houses in 1948. The first tenants—including the family of novelist Richard Price—began moving in during the spring of 1951. In a recent piece for Guernica, Price detailed the rise and fall of public housing in New York, told through the lens of his own upbringing. Below are some of his early recollections:
This was the beginning of public housing’s golden age. And it would last for roughly fifteen years.
Similarly résuméd couples in their mid- to late twenties found each other effortlessly, quickly forming tightly knit cliques. The men were postal workers, chauffeurs, garment factory foremen, institutional cafeteria managers, cabbies, truck drivers, subway motormen, and the odd luncheonette or bar owner. The wives/mothers did what wives/mothers did back then. Housewifing, maybe taking on a little part-time work to cut the drudgery if their own mothers could cover the kid. Or kids.
Keeping up with the Joneses was a piece of cake.
Bragging rights were hard to come by.
None of the men seemed interested in taking advantage of the GI Bill to further their prewar education.
On the other hand, they all had jobs.
Everyone read the Daily News and the Daily Mirror, and occasionally the New York Post (vaguely Red), but rarely the New York Times, which, unlike the tabs, was too unwieldy for public transportation.
They were patriots but not particularly political.
In their downtime, many of the Originals, both men and women, took to the benches in front of the buildings, Greek-chorusing about this and that, the talk easily reaching their friends directly overhead, hanging out of apartment windows in order to join in the conversation. The buildings were only seven stories high, there was no reason to shout.
Everyone smoked like chimneys.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons (Photo is not of the Parkside Houses)