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NYCHA Vice Chairman Earl Andrews Jr. presents a mayoral proclamation to members of the managing body at Harlem River Houses. Photo by: Pete Mikoleski
Harlem River Houses Celebrates its 70th Anniversary

New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) Vice-Chairman Earl Andrews, Jr. presented a proclamation at the Harlem River Houses in the Hamilton Heights neighborhood of Manhattan on October 31st, to commemorate the development's 70th Anniversary. Signed by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, the document proclaims October 1st, 2007 in the City of New York as "Harlem River Houses Day."

Located between West 151st and 153rd Streets, the Harlem River Drive and Macombs Place, Harlem River Houses consists of seven buildings of four and five stories with 574 apartments. It is home to some 1,013 residents.

"It's a beautiful development; it's unique, not the typical high-rise," remarked Housing Manager Patricia Humphreys, who has been working at the development for four years. "Most people who come here don't even know it's public housing."

"I like it because the buildings aren't too tall," said Resident Association Corresponding Secretary Idena Banks. "It's family oriented. You get to know your neighbors. It's a real community." Ms. Banks has lived at the development since 1965 and has raised five children there.

Statue of folklore hero John Henry
Statue of folklore hero John Henry was installed at Harlem River Houses several decades ago and still maintains its artistic splendor.

Harlem River Houses, which was completed on October 1, 1937, was built for African-Americans at a time when public housing was segregated. The beneficiary of President Franklin D. Roosevelt "New Deal" social program, the development marked the first time federal money was used to construct public housing in New York City. That funding, which came from the newly created Public Works Administration, financed two projects in New York City: Harlem River Houses in Manhattan and Williamsburg Houses in Brooklyn. Both have since been designated architectural landmarks.

"There's still cobblestones and art here," commented the Vice-Chairman, referring to statues of an African-American man and a woman that stand at either side of the development's interior courtyard.

At Harlem River, the team of architects designed a housing complex where childcare, health care and a public community room were provided on site. One of the primary architects was John Louis Wilson, who became the first African-American graduate of Columbia University's School of Architecture.

Seventy years since it opened its doors, Harlem River Houses remains well planned, soundly constructed and creatively designed on a human scale in harmony with its surroundings. Harlem River Houses is adorned with public sculpture, offers views of Yankee Stadium and the Bronx across the river and is walking distance from Jackie Robinson Park and the Esplanade Gardens. The development has an active Resident Association and tenant patrol.

November 1, 2007

Explore historical photos of Harlem River Houses