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Co-op City: How New York Made Large-Scale Affordable Housing Work

The mega-complex of middle-income housing in the Bronx, which just turned 50, offers a (mostly) successful alternative to the speculative housing market.
Bernie Cylich, a longtime resident of Co-op City, takes in the view from his apartment balcony.
Bernie Cylich, a longtime resident of Co-op City, takes in the view from his apartment balcony.Adam Tanaka

On a chilly Monday night in December, a crowd of partygoers descended on the Marina del Rey, a lavish waterfront event space in the eastern Bronx. At first glance, an outsider might have mistaken the gathering for a wedding, or perhaps a high-school reunion. But circulating through the crowd were some of New York’s biggest political heavyweights: city councilors and state legislators, a congressman, the city comptroller, the attorney general elect, and even at one point, Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The event, in fact, was a birthday party—not for a person, but for a place. Co-op City, the massive middle-income housing complex in the northern Bronx that remains the city’s (and the country’s) largest affordable-housing development, was celebrating its 50th anniversary.