No heat. Leaking roofs. Mold and pests. Interminable waits for basic repairs.
Public housing in New York City has become synonymous with the dilapidated living conditions many of its more than 400,000 residents have endured in recent years.
But it wasn’t always like this in the 325 housing projects owned and managed by the New York City Housing Authority, also known as Nycha. The country’s largest public housing system was once a seemingly reliable option for the working poor . Nycha successfully endured some of New York City’s most turbulent eras while other public housing buildings across the country came tumbling down.
Now, Nycha is at a crossroads. As part of a settlement in June in which Nycha admitted to covering up its actions and lying to the federal government, a court-appointed monitor will soon oversee the beleaguered agency as it tries to come up with billions of dollars to keep thousands of its aging buildings habitable for decades to come.
To understand how Nycha arrived at this point, we combed through our photo archives for forgotten images and spoke to longtime residents, former housing officials, historians and others about the housing authority’s often overlooked and surprising eight-decade history. That story, in their words, is below.
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