MCNY Blog: New York Stories

Iconic photos of a changing city, and commentary on our Collections & Exhibitions from the crew at MCNY.org

Affordable New York: Amalgamated Housing Cooperative

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.), Sedgwick Avenue and Gun Hill Road. Amalgamated Clothing Workers Apartments, 1929. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.6790

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.), Sedgwick Avenue and Gun Hill Road. Amalgamated Clothing Workers Apartments, 1929. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.6790

In 1926, when the tenements of the Lower East Side were overflowing and there was wide recognition of the unhealthy conditions created by such dense living, New York state enacted a new housing law that offered various tax and financing benefits to anyone who would build affordable housing. Developers were bringing in tidy profits with market rate housing and were not over eager to take advantage of the new law’s perks. The Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (ACWA), however, saw an opportunity to create housing for their members. The ACWA, founded in 1914 by Sidney Hillman, was already a major progressive force in the nation’s labor unions when it undertook construction of the Amalgamated Houses in the Bronx, located in between Van Cortlandt Park and the Jerome Park Reservoir.

Construction began in 1927 on what would eventually become a complex of eleven apartment buildings, today housing around 1,500 families. The first 303 limited equity tenants moved in in late 1927. Run by the Amalgamated Housing Corporation, founded by Abraham E. Kazan, the new buildings consciously corrected the health and quality of life issues perpetuated in the older tenement buildings.”Pioneering cooperators” found themselves in apartments with ample light and air flow, provided by construction that guaranteed all apartments had views of both the street and a large interior courtyard, eliminating the dark interior rooms of tenement life.

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.), Sedgewick Avenue and Gun Hill Road. Amalgamated Clothing Workers Apartments, 1929. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.6789

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.), Sedgwick Avenue and Gun Hill Road. Amalgamated Clothing Workers Apartments, 1929. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.6789

The original buildings were designed by the firm of Springsteen and Goldhammer, architects already known for their garden apartments in the Bronx. Construction covered only 51% of the available lot and the interior gardens were landscaped and criss-crossed with pathways. The photograph to the right shows lush plantings, paths, and a fountain.

Beyond simple lodging, Amalgamated Housing provided (and continues to provide) a community, with newsletters, educational activities, a library, and a supermarket, as shown in the photographs below. The cooperative is still democratically governed by its residents.

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.), Sedgewick Avenue and Gun Hill Road. Amalgamated Clothing Workers Apartments, [classroom] interior, 1929. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.6792

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.), Sedgwick Avenue and Gun Hill Road. Amalgamated Clothing Workers Apartments, [classroom] interior, 1929. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.6792

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.), Sedgewick Avenue and Gun Hill Road. Amalgamated Clothing Workers Apartments, [super market] interior, 1929. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.6791

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.), Sedgwick Avenue and Gun Hill Road. Amalgamated Clothing Workers Apartments, [super market] interior, 1929. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.6791

Foil wrapped needle set from the Bronx Amalgamated Housing Cooperative Supermarket, ca. 1955 - ca. 1970. Museum of the City of New York. 2015.10.1

Foil wrapped needle set from the Bronx Amalgamated Housing Cooperative Supermarket, ca. 1955 – ca. 1970. Museum of the City of New York. 2015.10.1

Foil wrapped needle set from the Bronx Amalgamated Housing Cooperative Supermarket, ca. 1955 - ca. 1970. Museum of the City of New York. 2015.10.1

Foil wrapped needle set from the Bronx Amalgamated Housing Cooperative Supermarket, ca. 1955 – ca. 1970. Museum of the City of New York. 2015.10.1

Below are photographs of the interior of an apartment.

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.), Sedgwick Avenue and Gun Hill Road. Amalgamated Clothing Workers Apartments [Amalgamated Housing Cooperative.] Interior, bedroom, 1929. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.3460

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.), Sedgwick Avenue and Gun Hill Road. Amalgamated Clothing Workers Apartments [Amalgamated Housing Cooperative.] Interior, bedroom, 1929. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.3460

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.), Sedgewick Avenue and Gun Hill Road. Amalgamated Clothing Working Apartments, interior, 1929. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.6785

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.), Sedgwick Avenue and Gun Hill Road. Amalgamated Clothing Working Apartments, interior, 1929. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.6785

Wurts Bros., (New York, N.Y.), Sedgewick Avenue and Gun Hill Road. Amalgamated Clothing Workers Apartments, interior, 1929. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.6784

Wurts Bros., (New York, N.Y.), Sedgwick Avenue and Gun Hill Road. Amalgamated Clothing Workers Apartments, interior, 1929. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.1.6784

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.), Sedgwick Avenue and Gun Hill Road. Amalgamated Clothing Workers Apartments, 1929. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.3463

Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.), Sedgwick Avenue and Gun Hill Road. Amalgamated Clothing Workers Apartments, 1929. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.7.2.3463

The buildings along Sedgwick Avenue were destroyed in the 1960s to make way for two high rise towers, completed in 1970. Some of the original Tudor buildings remain on nearby blocks.

This blog post is presented in conjunction with the City Museum’s exhibition, Affordable New York: A Housing Legacy, on view until February 16, 2016. If you or a family member live or lived in the Amalgamated Housing Cooperative, please share your memories in the comments section. We look forward to hearing from you!

7 comments on “Affordable New York: Amalgamated Housing Cooperative

  1. sherrie Lieber Pasarell
    September 22, 2015

    Thanks, great article. – — 1 thing It’s Sedgwick– one “e”( maybe the spelling was changed…)

  2. Steve
    September 23, 2015

    That’s “Sedgwick” Avenue, not “Sedgewick” Avenue.

  3. Susan London
    September 25, 2015

    I lived there from 1951-1966. There was no better place to grow up. We were a real community and still have reunions. Thank you for letting people know.

  4. Diane Davis
    October 11, 2015

    I lived there from my birth until I was 25… all four of my grandparents and my great-grandmother lived there as well… my father moved into the first building as a boy and my mother moved into the 7th building as a teenager… my aunt still lives there, as well as cousins… I go back for reunions and to visit friends and family… I am still in contact with people that I have known my whole life… it was across the street from the first public 18 whole golf course and up the hill from a lake where we went boating and ice skating in the winter… lots of wonderful memories

  5. JM
    November 3, 2015

    When your daughter asks where your parents lived when you were born and you google “Amalgamated Sedgwick Ave,” you hardly expect to find a recent mcny post that includes a photo of your grandmother teaching kindergarten–very cool!

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This entry was posted on September 22, 2015 by in Exhibitions, Photography Collection and tagged , , , , .

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