'The Green Way' 10 Years Later

The History of Via Verde

John Hill
6. September 2023
Photo: Screenshot from 

While the seven-minute film marks ten years since Rose and Phipps started operating Via Verde, the impetus for the innovative housing project goes back another decade. Then, in 2003, the New Housing New York (NHNY) design ideas competition spurred architects to think about ways to address the shortage of affordable housing. That competition led three years later to the NHNY Legacy Project, a competition targeting a specific site in the Bronx and the goal of realizing the winning project.

The winning, built design by the team of Dattner Architects, Grimshaw, and Weintraub Diza Landscape Architecture, which partnered with for-profit developer Jonathan Rose Companies and non-profit developer Phipps Houses, is a distinctive design that terraces up as it snakes its way around the perimeter of the site at Brook Avenue and East 156th Street. Via Verde combines 151 rental apartments affordable to low-income households with 71 co-ops affordable to middle-income households. It is capped by south-facing green roofs, urban farms, and photovoltaic panels — it proudly displays its green credentials, in other words.

Even before residents moved into Via Verde, newly appointed New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman praised the project in his very first column in the post, signaling a change in the paper's focus from iconic architecture toward socially minded projects, but also reflecting a similar change in the profession in the years following the subprime mortgage crisis. While the critic's fawning over Steven Holl's Hunters Point Library in September 2019 was tempered by subsequent lawsuits over the public building's lack of accessibility, no such backlash has appeared to greet Via Verde in the decade since it was completed and written about. All the more reason to celebrate the project — and to keep pushing for more green affordable housing in and beyond NYC.

Video by Jonathan Rose Companies, found at Dattner Architects

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