A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from February 25, 2010
Jewel of Jamaica (Rochdale Village)

Rochdale Village is a 20-building residential cooperative that opened in 1963 and was dubbed “The Jewel of Jamaica” (Queens).  The nickname is still used.

Wikipedia: Rochdale, Queens
Rochdale Village (also called Rochdale) is a 20-building, 5,860-apartment residential cooperative designed by architect Herman Jessor and built by the United Housing Foundation, consisting of five circles of four buildings in the South Jamaica neighborhood of the New York City borough of Queens. The United States’ second largest housing co-operative, it was founded by garment workers in 1965 to set a precedent for establishment of future cooperative housing.

Rochdale Village was named after the English Town of Rochdale, Greater Manchester, England, where the Rochdale Pioneers developed the Rochdale Principles of cooperation. The neighborhood is part of Queens Community Board 12.

The architect’s concept of Rochdale Village was an attractive community covering 122 blocks that would provide the residents with a park-like setting and facilities of suburbia, within the limits of the Urban Jamaica Area. Rochdale was designed to be a “city within a city”. In addition to its thousands of apartment, it included a power plant (providing electricity, heat and air-conditioning all included in the carrying charges), two shopping malls, two supermarkets, two drug stores, and an assortment of others amenities. Also included were a community center, post office, public schools, a public library branch, and a New York Police Department precinct.

The property is the former site of Jamaica Racetrack, which was operated by the Metropolitan Jockey Club and its successor, the Greater New York Association (now the New York Racing Association.) When the NYRA decided to renovate Greater Jamaica’s other track, Aqueduct Racetrack (in South Ozone Park), it also decided to close Jamaica Racetrack when the Aqueduct Racetrack’s improvements were finished. Jamaica Racetrack was shut down in 1959 and demolished.

Problems began before Rochdale Village was completed: the construction company responsible for building Rochdale Village would not hire African American workers.

Construction proceeded at a rapid pace on a new community in Queens. When Rochdale Village opened, it was the largest private cooperative housing complex in the world (later surpassed by Co-op City in the Bronx), and was between 10 to 20 percent African American and 80 to 90 percent white. As years passed, more and more African Americans moved to Rochdale. It was between the late 1960s and mid-1970s that most whites moved from the community.

Rochdale Village, Inc.
Welcome to Rochdale Village “The Jewel of Jamaica”, located in the heart of Jamaica, Queens. Rochdale Village the wide open spaces of a 120 acre residential park that was once the home to the old Jamaica Race Track. It comprises of 20 buildings in five groups. Each building has three sections A, B and C. Each section in each building has its own mailing address.

Rochdale Village has something for everyone, Seniors, Toddlers and Youths. Toddlers will play in modern fully equipped playgrounds, on site daycare. Rochdale Village is surrounded by three schools, PS 30, PS 80 and JHS 72. Rochdale village has its own branch of the Queens Public library system.

Rochdale Village Civic Association
Since Rochdale Village was to be the largest single cooperative housing community ever to be undertaken at that time, considerable thought was given to endowing it with an appropriate name. Because it was expected that the development would set a precedent for establishment of future “cooperative villages” around the country, the name most fitting seemed to be that of the little English village of Rochdale which gave birth to the Cooperative movement in 1844. This lead to the Rochdale Principles of Cooperation. Thus did Rochdale Village derive its name.

The architect’s concept for Rochdale Village was an attractive community covering 122 city blocks, that would provide the residents with the park-like setting and facilities of suburbia within the limits of the urban Jamaica area.

Rochdale Village in southeast Queens opened in 1963 ( pop. over 25,000), lying within South Jamaica and bounded to the north by Baisley Boulevard and Bedell Street, to the east by Bedell Street, to the south by 137th Avenue, and to the west by Guy R. Brewer Boulevard. When the village first opened in 1963 it was the largest private housing complex in the world (later surpassed by Co-op City). The population was at first heavily Jewish but became mostly black in the early 1970s.

New York (NY) Times
Published: September 28, 1997
It’s spelled R-O-C-H-D-A-L-E. You can pronounce it Rawtch or Rock or Rosh. Just don’t say Roach-dale.

‘’There are no roaches in Rochdale,’’ said Ronald D. Hollie, president of the board of directors.

Or rats, for that matter.
‘’We’re known as the jewel of Jamaica and we want to preserve that,’’ said Marion Scott, the managing agent for the monolithic 5,860-unit cooperative in South Jamaica. ‘’We get very upset when we hear bad things about Rochdale.’’

Rochdale Village was built in 1963 for middle-income families. During the 70’s and early 80’s, white residents moved to the suburbs, leaving the complex with empty apartments and unable to pay its bills. The 120-acre city within a city fell into disrepair. Crime escalated. People began to get the impression that Rochdale was a failed housing project.

Under new management, Rochdale has become a preferred residence for middle-class black people. There are only nine vacancies. The grounds are well kept; there is a community garden.

The Cooperator
The Largest Cooperative in Queens
Rochdale Village

By Greg Olear
Rochdale Village was, from the get-go, a vision of utopia. Developed under the auspices of the Mitchell-Lama Housing Program, the cooperative was built to provide affordable housing for low- and middle-income families. The name—pronounced ROTCH-dale—derives from the eponymous English town whose guild of weavers drew up what became known as the Rochdale principles: open membership, democratic control, political and religious neutrality, and so forth.

The brainchild of—who else—Robert Moses, the complex, designed by cooperative housing pioneer Herman Jessor, drew its inspiration from the Le Corbusier “city-within-a-city” paradigm. Although antithetical to the urban planning models proposed by Jane Jacobs, who apotheosized sidewalks, stoops, and streets, Jessor’s design is impressive in size and scope. Five circles of four buildings—20 total—rise majestically from an outlying neighborhood of row houses, earning the development the sobriquet “The Jewel of Jamaica.” In addition to the 5,860 residential units, Rochdale Village’s 120 acres boast two public schools, a police station, a library, two malls and its own power plant. Transportation is also convenient: JFK Airport is a short cab ride away, and the Locust Manor station on the Long Island Railroad is within walking distance.
Today, Rochdale Village is still called the Jewel of Jamaica, and it lives up to the designation—although not in the way you might think.

“It’s a desirable place to live in Jamaica,” says Mamie Freeman, the newly-minted general manager of Rochdale Village. “With almost 6,000 families on only 120 acres, it brings in a lot of money, it brings in a lot of jobs. I think that’s why they call it the Jewel.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityBuildings/Housing/Parks • (0) Comments • Thursday, February 25, 2010 • Permalink