I just came back from a great couple of exhibits at the Museum of the City of New York that would be of great interest to the readers of this blog. The first, Affordable New York: A Housing Legacy, provides a history and education of affordable housing programs that have been integral to the development of the City:
New York City has a long history of creating below-market housing for its residents. Today the city offers subsidized housing to families across a wide economic spectrum; more than 400,000 in public housing, and many more in privately or cooperatively owned apartments. With affordable housing a cornerstone of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, New York’s housing legacy—often overlooked and little understood—is more relevant than ever.
Affordable New York traces over a century of affordable housing activism, documenting the ways in which reformers, policy makers, and activists have fought to transform their city. A focus on current and future housing initiatives demonstrates how New Yorkers continue to promote subsidized housing as a way to achieve diversity, neighborhood stability, and social justice.
The exhibit has a lot of good pictures that give a sense of the range of options that exist for affordable housing development. It also provides a condensed history of the NYC experience with subsidized housing.
The other exhibit, Jacob A. Riis: Revealing New York’s Other Half, is a bit more somber, but when viewed in the context of the first it shows the great progress we have made in providing decent housing to a broader range of City residents:
Jacob Riis (1849-1914) was a pioneering newspaper reporter and social reformer in New York at the turn of the 20th century. His then-novel idea of using photographs of the city’s slums to illustrate the plight of impoverished residents established Riis as forerunner of modern photojournalism. Jacob A. Riis: Revealing New York’s Other Half features photographs by Riis and his contemporaries, as well as his handwritten journals and personal correspondence.
This is the first major retrospective of Riis’s photographic work in the U.S. since the City Museum’s seminal 1947 exhibition, The Battle with the Slum, and for the first time unites his photographs and his archive, which belongs to the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library.
The pictures of the homeless kids are heartbreaking — Newsies without the songs — and the recreation of one of Riis’ public talks is pretty extraordinary. The shows are running for a few more months, so there is still plenty of time to see them.