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Herman J. Jessor (1895 – April 8, 1990) was an American architect who helped build more than 40,000 units of cooperative housing in New York City. He, along with Abraham Kazan, was a driving force of the cooperative housing movement in the United States.[1]

Contents

Biography

Herman Jessor was born in Imperial Russia. He arrived with his family in the United States at age 12, and graduated from Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, and then the Cooper Union School of Engineering. During school, he worked as an engineer.

He was a young architect on the staff of architect George W. Springsteen, of Springsteen & Goldhammer, when that firm engineered the first limited-equity cooperative in New York City, the Amalgamated Housing Cooperative in The Bronx, in 1927. Jessor was the architect for Seward Park Housing Corporation; Hillman Housing Corporation; phase two of the United Workers Cooperative Colony;[2] East River Housing Corporation, the large complexes at Grand Street on the Lower East Side also known as Cooperative Village; Rochdale Village[3] in Queens and the Penn South complex in Chelsea, Manhattan.[4]In one of his largest undertakings, Jessor was the major designer of Co-op City, the 15,500-unit cooperative development in The Bronx.

Jessor died in Manhattan, New York[5].

Design hallmarks

Jessor became known for ensuring working-class families had proper social amenities in their daily lives. He included entrance foyers, eat-in kitchens with windows, and bedrooms with cross-ventilation, so working-class families without air-conditioning could benefit from natural breezes. At the time Jessor was an architect, air-conditioning was especially expensive.

Labor unions

Jessor was a close ally of such labor unions as the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union, the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Many of the buildings he worked on were funded with the help of these unions.

Sewar Park Housing collapse

In January 1999, in the wake of a collapse in the Seward Park Housing parking garage[6], New York City building inspectors suspected there could be a potential flaw in Jessor's "honeycomb" design of the massive garage roof. The roof had been built to support a vast playground/park above, with trees and grass upon hundreds of thousands of pounds of soil. After the collapse on Friday night, January 15, 1999, the New York City Department of Buildings opened an investigation into other Jessor projects to test for durability.[7] The investigation did not turn up any major design flaws, and cited convergence of many elements including several days of warm rain, followed by quick freezing, thawing, and refreezing, along with a stoppage in the drainage system combined with minor cracking of the concrete in the roof and the immense weight above. After a four-year lawsuit, the Greater New York Insurance Company, insurer for Seward Park Housing, lost their nonpayment case to the cooperative, and $18 million for the damages.

See also

References

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