Nicholas Dagen Bloom


On his book Public Housing That Worked: New York in the Twentieth Century

Cover Interview of May 18, 2009

In a nutshell

Public Housing That Worked is one of the few upbeat histories of one of the most reviled aspects of the American welfare state: tower block public housing.  Some years ago I identified the curious fact that the projects of America’s largest housing authority had not suffered the same disastrous fate as so much public housing elsewhere.  New York City still housed more than 10% of public housing tenants nationally, and its housing authority had been founded in 1934, but was mysteriously never the subject of a comprehensive history.  Why not? Why had it been ignored? In my opinion the answer was simple: it did not fit the conventional wisdom that public housing is always doomed to failure.  What I found, as I researched in the archives of the New York City Housing Authority, was that New York had adopted an alternative management model that proved superior to those in other cities.  The book looks in detail, over time, at the different elements of this management including politics, design, tenant selection, community planning, and daily maintenance.