Introduction

The Cooper Square Mutual Housing Association (CSMHA) has its origins in the Cooper Square Committee, and the struggle over the Cooper Square Urban Renewal Area which began in 1959.  During the tenure of Robert Moses, Chair of the Mayor’s Slum Clearance Committee, the Cooper Square Committee (CSC) was formed to fight displacement of neighborhood residents by urban “renewal” plans.  Moses’ plan would have demolished scores of buildings between East 9th Street and Delancey Street from the Bowery to 2nd Avenue in order to build middle income housing unaffordable to 90% of area residents.  CSC adamantly opposed this plan.

During the first decade of this struggle, CSC’s members engaged in court battles, demonstrations, press conferences and sometimes civil disobedience.  They also did community based planning and created an alternative to Robert Moses’ plan that called for preservation rather than demolition, and new construction of low income housing and relocation of residents from a small number of substandard buildings which would be demolished.  After many years of struggle, in 1971, the City adopted CSC’s “Alternate Plan”.  But this plan was only partly implemented due to insufficient federal funding, although nearly 300 units were built on two sites by 1985.  CSC then drafted a “Revised Plan” with input from its members over the course of many planning meetings.  The plan evaluated and compared the benefits of various City renovation and ownership options.

After much resident input, CSC ultimately decided on the creation of a unified Mutual Housing Association (MHA) comprising all the renovated buildings which would form a single multi-building self-governing cooperative.  CSC and the community residents believed that the  MHA self-governing cooperative model would create an “economy of scale”, permitting the bulk purchase of supplies and services (including fuel, insurance, maintenance, etc…) at a discounted price…

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Managing low-income co-ops in NYC's Lower East Side