Posts Tagged ‘East River Houses’

Whimsical and welcoming housing project signs

March 26, 2012

New York City has more than 300 public housing projects, and they’re home to five percent of the city’s population.

Mostly built between the 1940s and 1960s, these usually sprawling residences have some very welcoming signs decorated with fun icons, which belie their shady reps.

The 11 buildings that make up the Robert S. Fulton Houses, on Ninth Avenue between 16th and 19th Streets in Chelsea, were finished in 1965. The steamboat couldn’t be more appropriate.

Gaylord White was a Presbyterian minister in the early decades of the 20th century who spearheaded settlement houses in East Harlem.

This 1964 apartment house named for him is for seniors only, on Second Avenue at 104th Street.

That looks like an illustration of the waves of the East River on this sign, greeting visitors to the 10-building East River Houses, on First Avenue at 105th Street.

The very first public housing development still exists in the East Village; the sign for this project is a little less spirited.

Fighting the “white plague” on Cherokee Place

February 17, 2009

The charming Cherokee Apartments on 77th Street and Cherokee Place—a sliver of a block between York Avenue and John Jay Park—have wrought-iron balconies, tiled tunnels leading to a central courtyard, and large windows. Another lovely 20th century apartment complex, it seems.

Not exactly. They were originally built as the Shively Sanitary Tenements (some sources call them the East River Houses) in 1910 for poor New Yorkers suffering from the deadly white plague—tuberculosis.

cherokeeapts Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt put up the money for the tenements. She got the idea from a doctor who ran the TB clinic the Vanderbilts funded at Presbyterian Hospital, Henry Shively. 

At the time, the only treatment for TB was fresh air and light. So the tenements were built close to the East River, where residents could catch cool breezes. All windows faced outward for maximum air and light exposure. 

The balconies encouraged the sick to be outside; wide corridors and stairwells made it less likely that healthy family members of the sick would catch TB too. Chairs built into landings at the top of each set of stairs helped easily winded residents go up and down.


 The whole idea was great in theory. But by 1912, the tenements were declared a failure, mainly because the rent was too high for poor, tuberculosis-stricken families.

In 1924 they were sold to a private developer, and at some point renamed and turned into co-ops.