Places that Matter

Parkway Village

click on image for slideshow
Typical Courtyard, Courtesy of Preserve Parkway
Typical Courtyard, Courtesy of Preserve Parkway
Main Street Entrance to the Village, Courtesy of Preserve Parkway
New Orleans flavor on Grand Central Parkway, Courtesy of Preserve Parkway
60th Anniversary on the Village Green, Courtesy of Preserve Parkway
Built as housing for United Nations staff
Place Details »

Place Matters Profile

The colonial revival homes of this lovely 37-acre residential development--bordered by Main Street, Union Turnpike, 150th Street, Goethals Avenue, Parsons Boulevard, and the Grand Central Parkway--were one of New York City's first integrated housing developments. Opening in 1947, it was built to house United Nations employees, but others were quickly allowed in. Figures like Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Ralph Bunche, an African American U.N. leader, civil rights leader Roy Wilkins, and famed feminist Betty Friedan all lived there in the early 1950s. One hundred and ten two-story buildings mix with the more than 1,800 trees on the landscaped grounds and provide 685 apartments. The buildings, although apartments, are not laid out on a grid pattern but, as in a suburban "garden city" plan, with plenty of open green space. Parkway Village represented the rarely attained vision of a harmonious multiracial, multiethnic, multicultural community.

Parkway Village opened in 1947 as one of several new housing projects designed specifically to lure the United Nations to New York City. It was designed by Leonard Schultze and Associates, the firm that designed the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Schultze himself had been the chief of design for Grand Central Terminal. The United Nations required that its home city have sufficient housing for its racially diverse staff, so New York City worked with private corporations to build new housing developments. Parkway Village differed significantly from the other complexes like Peter Cooper Village and Fresh Meadows in that it was completely racially nondiscriminatory.

U.N. Secretary-General Trygve Lie and city officials, especially Robert Moses, worked with a group of savings banks to select and develop the site in Kew Gardens, Queens. The banks actually owned and developed the property, then leased it to the United Nations, which limited rentals to the families of U.N. staff and World War II veterans. In mid-1952, 480 of the 685 families were affiliated with the United Nations. When the lease expired in early 1953, Parkway Village became a regular development, albeit an integrated international one.