Cooperative Histories is a series of oral history interviews conducted between 2021-2022 with residents of HDFC co-ops, a type of resident-controlled, cooperatively-owned, and permanently affordable housing unique to New York City. This project aims to preserve the voices and memories of co-op residents so that they may be passed down to future generations, as well as educate the public on the history and value of this affordable housing model. It builds on our previous archival work to tell the story of a little known but hugely influential movement, spanning four boroughs and thousands of homes from the 1970s to today. Selected audio clips are presented here from the dozens of hours of interviews conducted by UHAB staff and volunteers.
The interviews cover topics like self-governance, time management, and equity; the transformative effects of stable housing; rehabilitation and renovation of buildings; squats and squatters; family life in co-ops; challenges of working with city officials; navigating generational and demographic changes; building a place-based sense of belonging and community; and the struggle to remain affordable in a financialized housing market. Co-ops like Umbrella House are featured; participants are also spread out across New York in neighborhoods like Harlem, Washington Heights, South Bronx, Lower East Side, and Brownsville. Discussions touch on race, immigration, and gentrification.
While UHAB has sporadically collected oral histories over the years, this project represents the first cohesive effort to collect and permanently archive these stories. Audio recordings of these interviews will be entered into the Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives to ensure their permanent accessibility to all.
This project was designed and spearheaded by Reb Ngu.
The following volunteers were essential to this project:
We extend our gratitude to all the HDFC co-op residents who were generous with their time and stories:
Diane D. Orr
Lillian Theresa Reid
Patricia (Pat) Greenidge