Crappy buildings are springing up everywhere in Queens these days, but when did this trend begin? You can find examples from almost any period, but perhaps the finger can be pointed at the Queensbridge Houses, the massive and ugly housing project visible from the F Train at the 21st Street-Queensbridge St. subway stop.
This would be a strong candidate as the birthplace of modern Queens Crap. A staggering 96 buildings containing 3,142 apartments, the Queensbridge Houses were aimed at lower-income residents. As such, they were built on the cheap, to the extent that elevators were designed to only stop at the 1st, 3rd and 5th floors of the 6-floor buildings! The ugly grey Y-shaped buildings have been an eyesore ever since they opened in 1939.
As these 1942 photos from the Library of Congress attest, the original racial makeup of Queensbridge was overwhelmingly caucasian. According to Wikipedia, though, during the 1950s, the management changed the racial balance of Queensbridge by transferring all families whose income was more than $3,000/year, a majority of whom were caucasian, to middle-income housing projects, and replacing most of these tenants with African-American and latino families.
In recent years, the Queensbridge Houses have become a hothouse of rap music, with well-known artists including Def Jam and Nas originally from the project, according to Wikipedia.
Public housing doesn't have to be ugly, but the Queensbridge Houses certainly are.
- Bob Bobster