In the 1950’s and 60’s, the concept of blacks and whites willingly living together was completely unheard of. Historically, tense racial divides still existed at that time.
In 1959, efforts to implement a pilot study on the effect of fair housing practices law in New York City was a directive handed down by the U.S. Congress. As such, housing developers put forth their best efforts to promote emerging trends in racial distribution. That is why the cooperative concept of the twin pines was such a perfect fit.
While there was “much ado” about the overall concept of merging the races, visionaries like megabuilder Robert Moses and co-operative housing guru Abraham Kazan opted to boldly go where no men had gone before by building an integrated housing complex in Jamaica, Queens. Substantial investment went into erecting this massive structure on 120 acres of land that formerly operated as the Jamaica Racetrack. The Twin Pines concept, which arose out of the worker’s unions and originated in Rochdale, England espoused the utopian benefits of cooperative living, shared responsibility and self sufficiency.
As each Rochdale Village building was built and rose up towards the sky, the world waited and watched for the explosion that never happened. At least not in the sense that most people thought it would. Yes, there were documented struggles about gaining admission into the complex and yes, there were complaints about local construction jobs being unevenly distributed. But, at the end of the day, black and white residents lived side by side; eagerly moving in of their own volition. What occurred was in fact a cooperative explosion. The explosion was also a diversity explosion. Ultimately, it was a unity explosion.
The “first move- ins” took possession of their keys to the complex feeling extremely blessed to be a part of the boom in affordably priced, open plan, well designed co-ops. They all kept their eyes on the prize.
Many of the white and black, residents have moved away to private homes and distant lands. Conversely, many have stayed on Rochdale soil raising generation after generation. Individuals that have moved away are proud to have been a part of the Rochdale Village experience and use every opportunity to boast of their past affiliation with its legacy. And those individuals that have stayed in their co-ops, through all the highs and lows, are proud to call themselves pioneers.
Yes, over the years, a slew of newspapers, journalists and television programs waited and watched for the explosion that most thought would blow Rochdale Village off the map but as we can all see, almost 50 years later, we’re still standing – we’re still Rochdale strong. Celebrate with us.