The other day, I was wandering along the Boulevard of Death, aka Queens Boulevard.
As I walked along this decidedly unfriendly-to-pedestrians street, I pondered Mayor de Blasio’s recent announcement of his “Affordable Housing” initiatives and what that means for Queens. That’s when I noticed the Mitchell-Lama funded Big Six rising against the horizon, right around 60th Street in Woodside.
The Mitchell-Lama Housing Program is a non-subsidy governmental housing guarantee in the state of New York. It was sponsored by New York State Senator MacNeil Mitchell and Assemblyman Alfred Lama. It was signed into law in 1955 as The Limited-Profit Housing Companies Act (officially contained in the Private Housing Finance law, article II titled Limited-Profit Housing Companies and referring to not-for-profit corp., whereas article IV titled Limited Dividend Housing Companies refers to non-Mitchell-Lama affordable housing organized as business corp., partnerships or trusts from 1927 on).
The program’s publicly stated purpose was the development and building of affordable housing, both rental and co-operatively owned, for middle-income residents. Under this program, local jurisdictions acquired property by eminent domain and provided it to developers to develop housing for low- and middle-income tenants. Developers received tax abatements as long as they remained in the program, and low-interest mortgages, subsidized by the federal, state, or New York City government. They were also guaranteed a 6% or, later, 7.5% return on investment each year. The program was based on the Morningside Gardens housing cooperative, a co-op in Manhattan’s Morningside Heights neighborhood that was subsidized with tax money.
LIC Daily Star image courtesy fultonhistory.com
Unveiled in February of 1959, and completed by 1963, the eponymous Big Six towers were built by Typographical Union No. 6 – known in its heyday as Big Six. The buildings were erected as a non profit co-op for members of the union in Woodside.