Williamsburg Housing Development – Brooklyn NY


“Williamsburg Houses, the ‘city-within-a-city’ slum-clearance project, erected in the heart of the historic Williamsburg section of the borough of Brooklyn, city of New York, is one of the larges low-rent housing projects undertaken in the United States. It provides homes for 1,622 families in the low-wage brackets. This project occupies 20.2 acres and supplants twelve of the most blighted and congested slum blocks in Greater New York City.

The 5,719 rooms which make up the Williamsburg project are located in 20 fireproof, 4-story walk-up apartment buildings. These structures, covering about 32 percent of the 20.2 acre site, are set at a slight angle from true north and south giving each building a maximum of recreation space, ventilation, sunlights, and the benefit of prevailing summer breezes.

Each building has a full basement providing space for individual laundries and drying rooms, nurseries, social units, and craft rooms. There are, in all, seven craft rooms. There are, in all, seven social units. seven craft rooms, and a nursery school occupying 5,700 square feet. Approximately 3 percent of the 1,622 apartment units are 2-room, 47 percent 3-room, 46 percent 4-room, and 4 percent 5-room units. All rooms open on landscaped courts and park areas. Within the project 49 stores and shops have been leased on private individuals.

The development was first tenanted on September 30, 1937. The average shelter rent, which includes cold water only, is computed on the basis of $6.52 a room per month. The total actual rent averages $8.47 a room per month, which includes all charges for heat, hot and cold water, and electricity for light, cooking, and refrigeration.

The 20.2-acre site, including a half-acre donation by the city, cost $3,745,722. It accommodates 226 rooms to the acre. The structures were completed at a construction cost of approximately $8,708,228, or 57 cents a cubic foot, for a total of 15,230,100 cubic feet. This construction cost is equal to $1,523 a room and $5,363 an apartment unit. The entire development, including land and miscellaneous costs, was fully financed with P.W.A. funds. The total project cost was $12,912,600, which approximates a total cost of $2,258 a room and $7,961 a family-dwelling unit.”
(Short and Brown)

“The best public housing project ever built in New York but also the first and most expensive (in adjusted dollars). Its 4-story buildings embrace semiprivate spaces for both passive and active recreation. Reinforced concrete and brick infill is punctuated by pedestrian ways that connect sequential courtyards through stepped and columned portals. The apartments themselves are reached without benefit of corridors by an entry system that opens directly off the stair landings (as in Princeton Collegiate Gothic, here in serene modern dress). The new aluminum doublehung windows are a clunky alteration, replacing elegant slender-mullioned, but unhappily deteriorated, steel casements.

Stripped of its original brick, and articulated with blue tiles, the revivified Williamsburg Housing seems a fresh breath of architecture once again.”


Project Details

Federal Cost Local Cost Total Cost Project #'s

Source notes

C.W. Short and R. Stanley-Brown. "Public Buildings: A Survey of Architecture of Projects Constructed by Federal and Other Governmental Bodies Between the Years 1933 and 1939 with the Assistance of the Public Works Administration." (1939).


We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.

Location Info

Leonard St. and Scholes St.
Brooklyn, NY 11206

Location notes:
The housing project stretches from Leonard St. to Bushwick Ave. and Scholes St. to Maujer St.

Coordinates: 40.710003, -73.943657

One comment on “Williamsburg Housing Development – Brooklyn NY

  1. I lived there in the 1940s and 50s. My family has good stories to tell. We had good friends, and some still live there. I filled out an application to move to a low income housing and hope I can move back into the Williamsburg project.

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