Welcome to the Rochdale Village 50th Anniversary website. This initial post of the Rochdale Village Timeline spans the 1950’s and 1960’s and is designed to familiarize readers with the historical significance of this revolutionary housing cooperative.
This timeline also details the inspiration and trajectory towards the development of a monumental cooperative housing concept that was essentially the first of its kind in these United States.
October 4, 1956
Master builder Robert Moses speaks at the annual meeting of the United Housing Foundation. At the UHF meeting, Moses called for the redevelopment of the Jamaica Racetrack into a middle income housing cooperative. This meeting is said to be the turning point and initial beginning of the Rochdale Village Cooperative concept.
The Jamaica Race Track, which originally opened its doors on April 27, 1903, ran its last race on the sprawling grounds of southeast Jamaica, Queens which is located just off of Baisley Boulevard and then New York Boulevard.
February 16, 1960
Albany, New York – Plans are announced to transform the then-dormant race track site into an $86.4 million housing development. Under then Governor Nelson Rockefeller’s administration and with input from master builder Robert Moses, construction got underway to create a housing complex the likes of which, had never been seen before.
A New York Daily News story said “the development will feature middle income housing for 6,318 families. Funding will come from several sources, mainly the state Division of Housing, the state Teacher’s Retirement System and the state Employees Retirement System.”
April 29, 1960
The New York City Board of Estimates gave final approval to turn the Rochdale Village housing dream into a reality in southeast Queens. It is described as “something grand in scale and more ambitious than any other United Housing Foundation sponsored housing development, that to date, would be built.” It’s the vision of master builder Robert Moses. The cooperative gets its name from the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers, historically one of the first consumers’ cooperatives in the world.
That society was founded in 1844 in Rochdale, England, by 28 Lancashire weavers. They established a set of principles, including one’s still practiced today: one member, one vote; limited return on share capital; not-for-profit operations; continuous education; and cooperation among cooperatives.
The United Housing Foundation sponsored its first public information meeting – for future and potential Rochdale co-operators – at its Grand Street offices in Manhattan.
July 23, 1963
Civil rights protests begin at theRochdale construction site.
December 10, 1963
The New York Times newspaper features a story about the opening of the Rochdale Village cooperative mentioning how the first 18 families, out of an eventual 5,860, have begun moving into what was then the world’s largest housing cooperative.
Representatives of the “Traditional Synagogue of Rochdale Village” purchase 155-27 Baisley Boulevard, an 85-foot by 175-foot parcel with an existing three-story building on the property. The site is across the street from Rochdale’s then-under construction Mall 1, now affectionately knows as “the big mall”.
September 17, 1964
The Rochdale Village Nursery School opens to 100 youngsters in the Building 11 Community Room. Beatrice Kelvin, the former director of the Roslyn Nursery School, is the new director. Six early childhood teachers are hired to work with six groups of children, in half-day sessions.
The Jamaica Medical Center of the Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York (H.I.P.) – with only small offices in a Building 1B ground floor apartment – starts negotiating for larger space to lease in the new Rochdale Village Community Center complex.
New York State Senatorial candidate Robert F. Kennedy, a Democrat, and Republican incumbent Kenneth Keating both visit Rochdale. They visit the development on separate dates, prior to the November race for the General Election. Keating attempted to portray Kennedy as an arrogant carpetbagger. Kennedy was victorious, helped in part by then-President Lyndon Johnson’s huge victory margin in New York.
December 16, 1964
The Rochdale Co-op Supermarket opens at 10am with a crowd of more than 300 shoppers lined-up outside. The supermarket earned $25,000 in food sales that day. On January 13, 1965, the Co-op Supermarket publishes a double-sided newspaper circular. The circular’s cover explained how a co-op works as well as about the origins of the Rochdale name. On the reverse side of the circular were food items for sale, including should steaks priced at .89 cents a pound and Indian River seedless grapefruits at five for .29 cents. Those were the days.
Rochdale Village Mall #1 opens with leases and negotiations in progress. Stores included a Barricini Candy and Smoke Shop; the Brandt Theatre, Carvel’s, a Chemical Bank, H&S Coffee Shop, Irene Smart Shop Ladies Wear, Jarme Hairstylists, Merlob Men’s Shop; National Shoes, Peter Pan Bakery, Radsminsky Kosher Means, Rochdale Barbers, Rochdale Bowling Lanes, Rochdale Mall Wines and Liquors, Rochdale Sationers, Rosner Dry Cleaning and Laundering, Stride-Rite Shoes, Thriftway Pharmacy, and the United States Post Office.
P.S. 30 on Bedell Street, between Baisley Boulevard and 127th Avenue, opens to students.
April 6, 1965
First elections are held for the Rochdale Village House Congress organization.
November 9, 1965
The 21 megawatt independent power plant at Rochdale Village withstands the great blackout that struck the Northeast at 5:27pm on that date. Electricity, heat and air conditioning for residential units and mall stores remained uninterrupted.
The massive power outage struck without warning and essentially plunged the entire north eastern United States and large parts of Canada in to utter darkness.
Nov. 13, 1966
Writer Harvey Swados, published an eleven-page Sunday New York Times expose on Rochdale Village, which he described as “the largest interracial cooperative development of its kind anywhere.” The article was entitled: “When Black and White Live Together”
Dec. 2, 1967
The often controversial, orthodox Rabbi Meir Kahane, a New York City born militant and founder of the Jewish Defense League, returns to the city from Israel and settles into none other than Rochdale Village. Rabbi Kahane became the spiritual leader for the then 340- family”Traditional Synagogue of Rochdale Village”. After two years, he stepped down due to conflicting time obligations to the synagogue and his work as a columnist for the Jewish Press newspaper.
September 1968 marked the beginning of the New York City Teacher’s strike which directly affected two elementary schools and one junior high school that is based here in the Rochdale Village community.
The Rochdale’s Tenants Council is the first group to win an elected office to the Rochdale Village Board of Directors. This election occurred one year before the “Concerned Cooperators” ran and won seats on the 15-member elected board.
Just as this Rochdale Village timeline covers the unique events which occurred over a period of decades, the next timeline post will detail the 1970’s through 1980’s. Thank you for visiting.
- Timeline content: Compiled by Kevin Dilworth, co-chair of the Rochdale Village 50th Anniversary Ad Hoc Committee
- Images: Submitted by Rochdale Village Ad Hoc Committee members as well as residents past and present as noted above.
- Edited by: Susan Van Brackle, Managing Editor, Rochdale Village Bulletin
- The Rochdale Village Board of Directors