In 1934, the city bought a stretch of dilapidated tenements on Avenue A and East Third Street, then spent a year renovated them. They collectively became the first public housing in New York history.
Appropriately called the “First Houses,” they were home to 122 families in 1935. The three- and four-room pads cost a bargain $6.05 per room. This original photo is from the New York City Housing Authority.
At the opening ceremony, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt dedicated the houses. “There is sunshine in every window” exclaimed Mayor LaGuardia, commenting on the fact that 20 families were moving in from old-law apartments that had few or no windows at all.
In the 1930s the city went on to build massive, federally funded projects in Harlem, Williamsburg, and Red Hook. Today, about 350 developments house more than 400,000 people all over the five boroughs.
Here’s a view of the houses today, from Avenue A. If you didn’t swing around the corner and see the sign marking them as public housing, you’d never know.