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  City Hall Library Notes, December 2015

SPOTLIGHT ON: New York City Housing Authority

By Christine Bruzzese

      The New York City Housing Authority completed its first public housing project in 1936. Since then, there have been various attempts to provide affordable public housing. This article features some resources on public housing that can be found in the Municipal Library collection.

      Summary of Government Housing Activities in New York City was published in 1975 by the Housing and Development Administration. This is a detailed guide to various city, state and federal programs to help sponsors of public housing projects find the funding needed.

    Scarcity by Design: the Legacy of New York City's Housing Policies by Peter D. Salins and Gerard C.S. Mildner examines various problems and issues involved in public and rental housing in New York City. The focus is on municipal housing policies, which the authors believe have created more problems than benefits. It was published in 1992.

    Housing and Community Development in New York City: Facing the Future was edited by Michael H. Schill. Experts on housing such as academics, attorneys, planners and others contributed essays on various issues relating to housing policy in New York City. Publication date is 1999.

    Next Generation NYCHA was published by NY City Housing Authority in 2015. This publication discusses current problems faced by the Housing Authority. Proposed strategies for change include improving financial stability, making housing operations more efficient, better maintenance of housing stock and developing good residence services.

    New York City Housing Authority published a report celebrating its fiftieth anniversary in 1984. Fifty Years of Public Housing describes the agency's establishment, first projects built and accomplishments over the fifty years. Photos dating from 1930's to the 1980's enhance the text.

    Going further back into the history of the Housing Authority, the collection includes NYCHA Annual Reports dating from 1934 to the 1990's. A series of Brochures was published by NYCHA from 1935 to 1937 concerning issues in public housing and the work of the agency. A report on the Queensbridge housing project dated 1935 presents details on the proposed project along with plans and maps. Today Queensbridge South and Queensbridge North, completed in 1940, are comprised of over 3100 apartments, home to over 7,000 residents according to NYCHA. These are just a few of the examples of historic materials.

    Other useful sources of information include vertical files containing clippings on public housing and related topics. City and state agencies have also published reports that can be helpful. Researchers can check the Municipal Library online catalog. The DORIS electronic government documents portal is another source for the researcher especially for more current materials from 2003 to present. Please see: for further information.

    The NY City Housing Authority Collection at the La Guardia and Wagner Archives at La Guardia Community College includes photographs, architects' renderings, transcripts of radio programs and much more of interest to the researcher. Please see: to learn more.

An Intern's Experience at the Municipal Library

By Mia Bruner

    In 1938, librarian Rebecca Browning Rankin hosted a radio program in which she discussed the purpose of the Municipal Reference Library: “the Municipal Reference Library strives to serve as the bureau of information for both citizen and official and to help each one understand the problems of the other.” In my time interning at the library this fall, I've found this to be true. However, I would add that the Municipal Library offers information that has the potential to help us, as citizens of a rapidly changing New York, understand each other as well. I have had the pleasure of interning at the Municipal Library since August 2015. In just a couple of months, I've read dozens of reports from city agencies, rigorously evaluated city-code containing information policy, and assisted in research about feminist activism and the structure of city government. I've even conducted my own research on the history of municipal reference libraries in New York City and nationwide.

    Additionally, I have grown in my understanding of city government: its problems and successes. The Municipal Library offers access to current government documents collected and cataloged for use. I find this to be incredibly special because these documents reflect the immediate concerns and activities of communities today. I have a background in HIV education and advocacy for public health. Often this work left me feeling burnt out and a little hopeless about positive change in this city. But materials at the library illustrate a different point of view. They offer some of the best and only iterations of information on movements and activism in this city: records of progressive (sometimes radical) organizing as well as political advocacy within city agencies. Ultimately, they remind me how powerful civic engagement can be both inside city government and outside of it.

    Finally, at the library, I have discovered historical treasures; that is, moments that shaped our city in enormous ways. There are histories of political action in East Harlem, Who's Who in New York (1904), and reports from the Department of Health during the beginning of the AIDS Crisis. Today, I spent some of the afternoon reading about the history of East Harlem in the Vertical Files. I read a newspaper article from 1969 titled “Young Lords Do City's Work in the Barrio”. It describes how the Young Lords organized door to door lead poisoning tests to residents along East 112th St. This story is a powerful illustration of people working hard to protect each other. I am so grateful to intern at a library that facilitates this kind of knowledge. Now, when I walk through East Harlem, I have another layer of respect for the neighborhood around me: a deeper understanding of problems this place has faced and the ingenuity and creativity used to address them. I find this to be true whenever I spend time browsing the stacks at the Municipal Library. I continually leave with a deeper understanding of local history and current issues in New York City and the responsibility of libraries to preserve just that.

Attendance at Metadata Basics Webinar

Tuesday, October 27, 2015 – Sponsored by through Metropolitan Library Council of New York

By Julia Robbins

    Libraries and archives have a core mission: to enable people to find information they need. In this evolving area of information discovery, metadata is how we make that easier, more efficient, and machine readable. This course, offered by a library services non-profit organization, is a four-part introduction (Metadata Principles & Practices) aimed at librarians and archivists who are planning digital projects. Christine Bruzzese and I attended the first segment, devoted to defining metadata, its purposes and uses and other basic information.

    The webinar helped us understand the components of metadata and how it helps information be expressed in an online environment. It enables digital objects to be properly displayed by any computer. This can be achieved by packaging the digital file with information about the object's layout and condition, container, the pathways to the digital object and the linkages between the digital object and other digital objects. We learned a bit about how the XML programming language enables different types of metadata to be expressed in a nesting framework.

In the Shadow of the Highway: Robert Mosses’ Expressway and the Battle for Downtown

By Sylvia Kollar, Director, NYC Municipal Archives

    The NYC Department of Records and Information Services Municipal Archives presents an exhibit in collaboration with Below the Grid Lab and the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU. 

    The Lower Manhattan Expressway (LOMEX) was first proposed in 1929 as a small part of a plan to build highways throughout the region, and then included in a 1941 National Defense proposal drafted by Robert Moses. It was envisioned as a key connection between Long Island and the interstate system.  This 10-lane expressway would cut across the heart of Lower Manhattan and stretch from the Williamsburg and Manhattan Bridges to the Holland Tunnel, rising over Broome Street.

    In 1962, the NYC Board of Estimate decided not to relocate neighborhood residents to build LOMEX.  The expressway was ultimately de-mapped in 1969 due to activism and advocacy on the part of neighborhood residents. 

    In the Shadow of the Highway: Robert Moses’ Expressway and the Battle for Downtown focuses on various aspects of the proposed highway: architectural, political, and personal.

Report from Municipal Records Management Division

By Terrance McCormick, Director, Municipal Records Management Division

    Municipal Records Management (MRM) is making great strides in the areas of Records Management and Information Governance. MRM is leading the initiative for developing guidance on best record management practices for all agencies.  MRM will offer policy, procedural and practical guidance to advance City agency record keeping practices. In addition, MRM is strategizing, in collaboration with the NYC Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications (DoITT), to obtain and update the Electronic Content Management platform for the city. MRM will ensure that the technical requirements in determining the specific capabilities and components are met. Determinations will also be made on how each agency defines its needs and ascertaining the most viable system to meet these needs. Further, MRM has also reached out to all Mayoral Agencies and informed them that they will be required to update their existing records retention schedules and follow the MU-1 or applicable schedules created by the New York State Archives. This will help to identify any records eligible for disposition while identifying hard copy records that can be converted to an electronic format for long-term storage.

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