Visions of community: post-war housing projects of Local 3, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and Local 1199, Hospital Workers Union

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In the twentieth century, labour unions in New York City developed tens of thousands of affordable housing units that were targeted to the city's moderate income residents. Case studies of projects developed by Local 3 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Local 1199 of the Hospital Workers Union illustrate how union-backed housing reflected two significantly different conceptions of community. Local 3 represented the white, politically moderate and middle-income building trades; Local 1199's membership was primarily non-white, low-income service workers. Local 3's Electchester created a homogeneous and exclusive residential enclave in near-suburban Queens that was part of an array of benefits funded collaboratively with the union's employers. Local 1199's 1199 Plaza used public funding and resources to construct striking modern buildings in the low-income neighbourhood of East Harlem, with the goal of creating a community that was inclusive in terms of both its residents and its relationship to the neighbourhood. These different visions of community were based largely, although not entirely, on race. This article discusses the planning and development of the two housing projects, in the context of each union's conception of community - both its own, and its place in a broader physical, social and political community.

Keywords: New York City; affordable housing; community; labor unions; moderate-income housing

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Baruch College, The City University of New York, New York, USA

Publication date: April 1, 2009

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