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Knickerbocker Village

About this listing

Residential complex providing harbor and arbor

Place Details

Borough : Manhattan
Neighborhood : Chinatown
Residential, Housing

Place Matters Profile

Written by Molly Garfinkel

Located between the ramps of the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges at the nexus of Manhattan’s historic Lower East Side and Chinatown districts, Knickerbocker Village was New York City’s first federally-subsidized housing development. Designed for middle-income families, the complex was conceived and completed in the early 1930s, an era when city and regional planners endorsed urban renewal and wholesale slum clearance as the optimal solutions to the problems of the inner city working-class “ghetto.” For the last eighty years, residents have fought hard to preserve the development's affordability, as well as that of the surrounding neighborhood.

The Lower East Side reached peak residential density at the turn of the 20th century. Henceforth, the area would be decisively associated with its majority immigrant population – a heterogeneous conglomerate cast as uniformly undesirable by planners and private real estate moguls hoping to profit from the neighborhood’s social and physical...

Read More


Braun-Reinitz, Janet and Jane Weissman. On the Wall: Four Decades of Community Murals in New York City. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2009.

Interview with Victor Papa and Kerri Culhane, October 7, 2013.

Mele, Christopher. Selling the Lower East Side: Culture, Real Estate and Resistance in New York City.
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000.

Plunz, Richard. A History of Housing in New York City. New York: Columbia University Press, 1990.

Stevenson, James. “THE PEOPLE ALL THE PEOPLE.” The New Yorker, September 16, 1967, p.141.

On The Web

Knickerbocker Village blog,Two Bridges Neighborhood CounciL


Allan Silverstein

A wonderful place to grow up. (October, 2009)

Marty Babits

This is the site of the first income subsidized middle class housing in the city. Formerly known as "the lung block" because of a high concentration of Tuberculosis among the residents, Robert Moses leveled the buildings and created this project. I grew up in Knickerbocker Village and still remain in close contact with many others who also grew up there.

Due to its ambiance, the site was used as a backdrop for the movie "Donnie Brasco," starring Al Pacino and Johnny Depp. Also, the image of the place is featured on the cover of the book 'Tis by Frank McCourt.

Knickerbocker Village's structure creates a sense of community for its residents. The place a unique look. It is an integral part of the look of the area. The water towers are unusual, and there is a grandeur to the way the internal courtyards were designed. Still well maintained, they are lovelier than ever. (October, 2009)

Alexandra Petillo

This is a 1800 plus apartment complex built in the 1930s. The complex provided, and continues to provide, a safe community in the heart of the city. It is still a thriving community with diverse cultures. Many well-known people lived there along the way. It is still very well maintained with beautiful gardens. The gardens in the center of the courtyards are beautiful and unexpected in the concrete jungle. (October, 2009)

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