The Largest Cooperative in Queens Rochdale Village

In 1939, when the WPA Guide to New York Citywas first published, South Queens, and particularly the area around what would become Rochdale Village, had little to recommend the visitor.

"Springfield, Laurelton and Rosedale, at the southeastern extremity of the borough, are undistinguished products of the Queens building boom of the 1920s," the WPA Guide reads, without elaboration.

The neighborhood's lone tourist attraction was the now-defunct Jamaica Race Track, which opened in 1903. The 1959 renovation of the Aqueduct Racetrack in nearby South Ozone Park obsolesced the former, which was demolished to make way for a new housing cooperative—what would be the world's largest until the completion of Co-op City in 1971.

Rochdale Village was, from the get-go, a vision of utopia. Developed under the auspices of the Mitchell-Lama Housing Program, the cooperative was built to provide affordable housing for low- and middle-income families. The name—pronounced ROTCH-dale—derives from the eponymous English town whose guild of weavers drew up what became known as the Rochdale principles: open membership, democratic control, political and religious neutrality, and so forth.

The brainchild of—who else—Robert Moses, the complex, designed by cooperative housing pioneer Herman Jessor, drew its inspiration from the Le Corbusier "city-within-a-city" paradigm. Although antithetical to the urban planning models proposed by Jane Jacobs, who apotheosized sidewalks, stoops, and streets, Jessor's design is impressive in size and scope. Five circles of four buildings—20 total—rise majestically from an outlying neighborhood of row houses, earning the development the sobriquet "The Jewel of Jamaica." In addition to the 5,860 residential units, Rochdale Village's 120 acres boast two public schools, a police station, a library, two malls and its own power plant. Transportation is also convenient: JFK Airport is a short cab ride away, and the Locust Manor station on the Long Island Railroad is within walking distance.

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15 Comments

  • I grew up in Rochdale. My family moved there in 1963 and we moved back to Brooklyn in 1973. I will always remember Rochdale. I went to P.S. 30 and I.S. 72. I went to Rochdale Day camps during the summer and had many many friends. My mom also worked in the pharmacy in the "Big Mall" for a number of years. Rochdale will always be "my home".
  • what are the requirements to move into Rochdale co-ops
  • I also grew up in Rochdale Village, one of the original 6,000 families that were the "pioneers" of the development. It was a wonderful place to grow up in the 1960s, but the assassination of Martin Luther King--paired with a horrible teachers strike--set the tone for the rest of my family's time there. I went to P.S. 30 and I.S. 72, and have many memories--both good and bad--about the development. I will always remember my years there.
  • PHYLLIS SIEGEL HERMAN on Sunday, March 13, 2011 6:36 AM
    I moved in, in 1963 with my parents.When I married in 1968 my husband-Larry- and I got our own apartment. In 1972 I gave birth to my first child. My fondest memories were of being a part of The Rochdale Players. The greatest people and actors around.I often wonder if any still live in the NY/LI area.
  • Interested in becoming a resident. What are the requirements?
  • Cynthia Bennett-Walker on Tuesday, July 10, 2012 6:41 AM
    I grew up in a neighborhood across from Rochdale; never knew they were for low income people. I went to school with kids that lived there. I do have a lot of great memories from back then. I have been searching for people that I went to PS 30 with. I moved out of state in 1973.
  • Goldy Safirstein on Monday, May 27, 2013 2:46 PM
    I also grew up in Rochdale Village, where lived across the hall from my grandparents. I have fond memories of PS 30, and going to the library and the co-op supermarket with my mom. We, like so many others, moved in in 1963 and out in the early 70s. The apartments are great. We had a two bedroom, my grandparents had a one bedroom with a balcony and my best friend lived downstairs in a big four bedroom. What a place! I'm glad to hear it has made a rebound. It also saddened me to hear it had deteriorated.
  • I am a retired senior citizen with reduced income from $50thousand to $20 thousand a year and now face monthly carry charges of $894.00 monthly after about 12 years living in Rochdale village. What are some supplementary program available for help in my situation to prevent me from homelessness. I really enjoy and feel safe here therefore with crime on the rise what help is there for tax paying seniors citizen like me.
  • I've lived in Rochdale for over 40 years I attended I.S. 72 and my siblings attended P.S. 30. It saddens me to see how the people have changed. I am of African American descent. I am ashamed of the crime and the way some not all but some of the occupants still urinate in the elevators and stair cases. Even though management works so hard to keep things clean. It is not the majestic place I remember as a child. I grew up with our Assemblyman Edward Abrahmson in my building. It was clean and we had a security guard assigned to... each building. Those days have long since gone. As I too will be very soon.
  • miriam cohen-kurland on Sunday, December 29, 2013 3:58 PM
    Rochdale was a special place to grow up. Wonderful people, special relationships, progressive mindsets and beautiful apartments!!! Crime was a problem, along with violence in the schools, leading people to move away once they could save up and afford a mortgage for a house in more middle class and less crime ridden neighborhoods.
  • Does anyone remember the Valencia theater on Jamaica Avenue in Queens? I am looking for a security guard who used to work there . His name is Michael Kennedy they called him Norman. He was a stout african american man. He is approximately in his 50's or 60's. Thank you please contact me at hbrownjr2001@yahoo.com. He has family searching for him. God bless
  • I'm interested in applying for an apartment Where do I go
  • crime is every where.we can't run from it or lock our selves in from it.i raised my two sons in rochdale.we had a beautiful life there,many friends,many good memories of rochdale.we retired and moved only to be near the grands,,rochdale is just as safe or safer than any neighborhood .
  • I am interested in applying for an apartment, where do I go
  • I'm interested in getting a 2 bedroom apartment could I applied on line or I have to come to get a form and where should I go?