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Chatham Green, 165 Park Row: Review and Ratings

between Pearl Street & Chatham Square View Full Building Profile

Carter Horsley
Review of 165 Park Row by Carter Horsley

This handsome, long, undulating residential building near the city’s civic center in Chinatown was one of the city’s most monumental buildings of its time in terms of the its number of residential units: 450.

Designed by Kelly & Gruzen, its serpentine mass reflected the form of Le Corbusier’s Obus Plan of 1931 for the rebuilding of Algiers.

It had no interior corridors and every apartment had two exposures that provide ventilation.

It also has Swedish-designed windows that has a double thickness of glass with a Venetian blind between and they can be pivoted for cleaning.

The building was erected with closed cell urethane insulation in its exterior walls.

It was developed by the Association for Middle Income Housing, an arm of housing advocate Shirley Boden’s Fund for Urban Improvement that would also develop Chatham Towers nearby, a pair of 25-story residential towers designed by Kelly Gruzen, the architects of Chatham Green.

Bottom Line

A couple of blocks north of the Manhattan approach to the Brooklyn Bridge and a couple of blocks east of the courthouse complex at Foley Square, the red-brick Chatham Green is one of the city’s best buildings with a sinuous plan and an interesting foil to the twin, Brutalist buildings of the slightly taller, concrete-clad Chatham Towers a block to the west, that were designed by the same architectural firm, Kelly Gruzen.


The red-brick building has a 24-hour security booth on its west side and outdoor parking.  Balconies and terraces begin at the 7th floor.

Its sinuous form is broken up by three windowless piers that project from the façade and rise a bit over its roofline.


The building had a children’s playground, a courtyard, and a live-in superintendent.


Apartment 14F is a three-bedroom unit with a 33-foot-long, slightly angled, living/dining room with a 12-foot-wide balcony and an 11-foot-long enclosed kitchen.

Apartment 21A is a two-bedroom unit with a 33-foot-long living/dining room with an enclosed 9-foot-long kitchen and a balcony.

Apartment 17H is a two-bedroom unit with a 21-foot-long slightly angled living room with an 11-foot-long dining room and an enclosed 10-foot-long kitchen and a balcony.

Apartment 5B is a one-bedroom unit with an 18-foot-long living room with a 12-foot-long dining room/foyer and an enclosed kitchen.

Apartment 17G is a studio unit with an angled entry foyer that leads to a 21-foot-long, slightly angled, living/bedroom and an enclosed 11-foot-long kitchen.


In their great book, “New York 1960, Architecture and Urbanism between the Second World War and the Bicentennial,” Robert A. M. Stern, Thomas Mellins and David Fishman provide the following commentary about this building:

“In 1950, shortly after mainland China’s fall to Communism, Herman T. Stichman, New York State Housing Commissioner, announced plans for massive slum clearance in Chinatown, to be sponsored in part by the American Legion.  According to The New York Times, Stichman ‘had asked the help of President Truman for his favorite project of clearing the slums of Chinatown and setting up a Chinese Village’ neighborhood community there.  Stichman’s plan called for the construction of three housing projects that would, as The Times described it, help transform ‘a quaint city landmark of 25,000 cramped residents into a sun-lit park–filled area retaining aspects of Chinese life such as “pagoda touched” architecture.’  While cautioning local residents that new anti-discrimination laws required housing projects would be open to all, Stichman also promised them that existing businesses would be accommodated and that the rebuilt district would retain its distinctly Chinese identity.  He explained, for instance, the new housing projects would contain floors reserved exclusively for the large number of Chinese bachelors – as a result of the vast migration of Chinese men in the mid-nineteenth century and the subsequent Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, four-fifths of Chinatown’s residents were male.

“Employing his characteristically caustic tone, Robert Moses, in his role as New York City Construction Coordinator, ridiculed Stichman’s proposal as a ‘celestial promise’ that would inevitably take the community for a ‘lovely rickshaw ride.’  Moses charged that the State Housing Commissioner had passed off ‘as an accomplished fact something that is only a figment of [Stichman’s] busy imagination’ and that the plan’s public announcement amounted to little more than ‘what might be called a slip of the Tong.’….Stichman responded to Moses’s comments in a seven-page letter, labelling Moses the “Civil Construction Obstructor” and dismissing his humor as sophomoric and derogatory.  Defending the proposal’s intention to at least in part incorporate a traditional Chinese architectural vocabulary, Stichman asked, “Must all New York housing have vertical lines, no adornment, no imagination, and much red brick and dullness?”…Stichman proceeded with his plans, consulting with the China Institute on the possibility of establishing a cultural center in Chinatown as well as other ways to integrate aspects of Chinese culture into the area’s development.  The institute’s director suggested the construction of tea gardens and pagodas.  In 1954, Stickman released drawings that showed two anonymously designed perpendicular slabs rising from a parking lot on a two-acre triangular site bounded by Park Row Worth and Baxter streets and incorporating the southernmost block of Mulberry Street, which was to be closed.  In an essentially misguided attempt at contexuality the building’s elevator penthouses were to be treated as pagodas, and a two-story commercial building to be located at the corner of Worth and Baxter streets, was to feature a Chinese roof and pagoda.  Despite Stichman’s perseverance, Moses’s original charges of insufficient funds seemed to have been true the project was never realized.”

“With the demolition of the Third Avenue Elevated in 1955, the eastern edge of Chinatown was particularly ripe for redevelopment.  In 1956 plans were announced for a large-scale housing development just east of Chinatown’s traditional boundaries, north of the Brooklyn Bridge along Park Row. The project, Chatham Green, was a 21-story, middle-income cooperative housing 450 families. Sponsored by the Municipal Credit Union and the New York State Credit Union League until Title I provisions, the project occupied a 4.5-acre site bounded by Park Row, Pearl Street, Madison Street and St. James Place, located directly east of Stichman’s unrealized project.   Given its proximity to the civic center area and to the financial district, Chatham Green was, as Manhattan Borough President Hulan Jack put it, a ‘central factor’ in the city’s plans to revitalized lower Manhattan as a ‘walk-to-work’ community.”

A May 30, 1958 article in The Times noted that “the city condemned four and a half acres of the old Five Points slum yesterday” adding that “the site, bounded by Park Row, St. James Place and Pearl and Madison Streets, had been part of Peter Stuyvesant’s farm” and that “the area became, in turn, the center of the city’s tanning industry, a cheap entertainment district, and, about a century ago, a jungle where thugs assaulted visitors and armed policemen with equal enthusiasm.”


Out of 44

Architecture Rating: 29 / 44

Out of 36

Location Rating: 28 / 36

Out of 39

Features Rating: 13 / 39


CityRealty Rating Reference

  • 30+ remarkable
  • 20-29 distinguished
  • 11-19 average
  • < 11 below average
  • 27+ remarkable
  • 18-26 distinguished
  • 9-17 average
  • < 9 below average
  • 22+ remarkable
  • 16-21 distinguished
  • 9-15 average
  • < 9 below average
  • #33 Rated co-op - Downtown
  • #2 Rated co-op - Lower East Side
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between Madison Avenue & Park Avenue South
Murray Hill
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30 E 31 | Exterior View 30 E 31 | Interior View 30 E 31 | Interior View 30 E 31 | Interior Living and Kitchen 30 E 31 | Bedroom