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Green Housing

Providing heat and power to buildings accounts for nearly half of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. In the last several years, New York City has been stepping up its efforts to apply green standards to its buildings.

The city passed Local Law 86 three years ago which required municipal construction projects costing $2 million or more to achieve a silver rating from the green building certification system known as LEED – or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The LEED rating system was created by the nonprofit trade organization U.S. Green Building Council.

Our program features different strategies New York architects, politicians, and designers are using to lessen the negative impact housing has on the environment.


The Bronx has been victim to toxic dumping. Last year, officials found toxins in Pelham Bay Landfills. This spring they tested Baychester Public School walls and found materials over 2,000 times the amount considered toxic waste by the Environmental Protection Agency. This is a main reason why advocates of public housing are looking to green materials to safen this borough for its residents.

Architect Fernando Villa is excited as he overlooks the cliffside lot where his first green building will go up next year. He plans to beautify the Bronx, the borough he calls “inspiring,” by building safe, effecient, aesthetically pleasing apartments.

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Unusual and Uninhabited

Living in a city where rents are high, apartments tiny, and buildings old, finding a place to live can be hard. Though thousands of stories exist, we only delved into two. One, the Wyckoff farmhouse, was built in 1652 when most of Brooklyn was just open farmland. Generations of Wyckoffs have contributed to the upkeep this home, which is also open to the public. Number two is referred to as, “The Blood Dumpster.” Artists who used macabre images to decorate their space inhabit the small apartment.

We also spoke with Toni Schlesinger, author of Five Flights Up and Other New York Apartment Stories. She used to do the same sort of thing we are talking about, only in print for the Village Voice.

Listen to hear more about these stories. Below you will find pictures from our adventure researching the these unique situations.


The Wyckoff House began as a one-room house, which a family of 13 shared. Slowly over the decades, new generations built-on to the house. Many of the original heirlooms are still in the house, now the Wyckoff House Muesum, today for all New Yorkers to peek into history.

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Hard-Knock Living

In 1996 only three percent of mortgages in New York were subprime. By 2005, it was 25 percent. Housing prices began to drop in 2006, making it difficult for people who had assumed risky mortgages to refinance. In New York City alone, 18,000 foreclosures were initiated last year.

We talked to a man who may be losing his home in Queens; the Neighborhood Preservation Commissioner at the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development; and to a squatter who is working to legally own his space on the Lower East Side.


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