NYCHA is celebrating its 80th anniversary this month—or at least it’s celebrating the 80th anniversary of plans to create NYCHA being unveiled. What would become NYCHA started out as a mission by the New York State Housing Board to “create a new city agency that would have broad powers to construct apartment buildings in the poor areas of the five boroughs.”
The plan to create NYCHA, first known as “slum clearance,” was given credibility by Mary Simkhovitch, who backed the plan. Simkhovitch was the founder of the National Public Housing Conference, which was at the time one of the leading affordable housing organizations.
Upon its creation, NYCHA would have both the authority to deem areas unfit for living, purchase them, and redevelop that land into affordable housing units. It could use private and public funding, including federal funding (newly developed at the time).
Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia officially established the “Municipal Housing Authority” in 1934. Its name would later change to the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). In late 1935, the first public housing development (First Houses) was opened. Nowadays, the housing authority has 334 public housing developments that provide living quarters to more than 400,000 New Yorkers.
Original NYCHA board members included Langdon Post, Louis H. Pink, Baruch Charney Vladeck, Mary K. Simkhovitch, and Rev. E.T. Roberts Moore. These days, the NYCHA board lineup includes Chairman John Rhea, Vice Chairman Emily Youssouf, Margarita Lopez, and Victor A. Gonzalez. Where there were once just 14 staff members, there are now well over 14,000 NYCHA employees.