From City Limits:
What should New York City do with its public housing? Demolish it, as public housing authorities in cities like Newark, Chicago and Detroit have done? Sell it, as private-market advocates propose? Or watch it continue to deteriorate as the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) struggles with deficits brought by cutbacks in state and federal support?
These are critical questions for the city because with nearly 180,000 apartments spread over five boroughs, NYCHA is New York's largest landlord. And in a city where housing for low- and moderate-income people is so desperately needed, public housing provides a vital service. Even if the buildings are getting old. Even if the elevators don't always work. Even if the vast superblocks typical of most housing projects are banal in design, barren of amenity and often empty and intimidating at night.
This year, an international team of graduate students from the University of Michigan Master of Urban Design Program spent a semester exploring the redevelopment potential of public housing projects on the Lower East Side, one of the greatest concentrations of such projects in the country.
They proposed that the projects' open spaces (more than 80 percent of their land area) be used for development that 1) retains all public housing in the area; 2) provides new revenue streams for NYCHA that can be used to maintain and enhance its housing stock; 3) creates the kind of economically integrated communities preferred by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development in its public-housing demolition and replacement program, HOPE VI; and 4) uses development to increase project residents' social and economic opportunities.
Okay...sewers, parks, schools, electricity, police...where are we building those? Do these things not matter?