Harlem Units

Schomburg Towers

Schomburg Towers.
Plan of Schomburg Towers.
Schomburg Towers are part of the Schomburg Plaza development, comprising twin, 35-story octagonal towers and a rectangular mid-rise slab, separated by a landscaped multi-level outdoor plaza. The Urban Development Corporation (UDC), reacting to criticisms of mass displacement in earlier slum-clearance projects, sought to house larger numbers of tenants on smaller sites. Schomburg’s taller buildings on smaller footprints, as well as small, but efficient units helped achieve density levels higher than most public housing projects.

Apartment sizes ranged from studios to five bedrooms, allowing for a mix of residences and occupant groups, building on the UDC’s desire to create neighborhoods consisting of both families and individuals. The octagonal layout centralized the building services, maximizing light to the units and minimizing internal circulation.

Date: 1975
Units: 600
Shown: 2 Bedroom Apartment, 800 SF

Taft Houses

Photograph of Taft Houses.
Plan of Taft Houses.
Taft Houses Type A Building consists of full floors of two-bedroom units. These generously scaled apartments are similar to Chelsea’s Penn South development, with half the unit is devoted to private areas (bedrooms, bathrooms, and storage) and half to a spacious living room and a pass-through kitchen connected to a dining alcove. NYCHA administrators limited apartments to a nuclear family and banned boarders.

The combination of tight occupancy controls, large units, and low land coverage across sprawling superblock sites generated population density of just 410 persons per acre despite lofty 19-story buildings.

Date: 1962
Units: 1,470
Shown: 2 Bedroom Apartment, 720 SF

A typical Tenement

Photograph of the tenement on 97 Orchard Street.
Plan of the tenement on 97 Orchard Street.
While Harlem had many tenement blocks, this section depicts a unit at 97 Orchard Street, on Lower East Side, a typical tenement erected in the 1860s that today houses the Tenement Museum. This is a “modified” tenement typical of those predating the 1901 housing reforms that required an airshaft (3×3 feet), shared water closets in the stairwells, and “tuberculosis windows” that allowed light and air to penetrate from the street facade to interior rooms.

Landlords frequently rented these small apartments by the room and let tenants sublet to boarders. The overcrowding of these apartments, combined with extremely high lot coverage, generated the extreme population density of the Lower East Side.

Date: 1900
Units: 20
Shown: Apartment, 300 SF