Archival Collections
Columbia University Archives

Morningside Area Alliance records, 1947-1992 

Morningside Heights, Inc.,.
Phys. Desc: 
149 linear feet (118 record cartons 4 oversized flat boxes 75 tubes and 3 document boxes)
Call Number: 
Columbia University Archives
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Biographical Note

Morningside Area Alliance was founded as Morningside Heights Inc. in 1947, out of the recommendations of two Columbia University-instituted committees—acting University President Frank D. Fackenthal's Morningside Heights Development Committee, and the University’s extant Committee on Research in Urban Land Use and Housing. Together the committees concluded that any work toward development, redevelopment, and institutional expansion in Morningside Heights would be wasted without collaboration across all institutions in the area. After initial meetings of institutional representatives from the fourteen institutions involved (Columbia University, St. Luke's Hospital, Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, Teacher's College, Barnard College, Corpus Christi Church, Home for Old Men and Aged Couples, International House, Jewish Theological Seminary, Juilliard School of Music, St. Hilda's and St. Hugh's School, The Riverside Church, Union Theological Seminary, and the Women's Hospital of St. Luke's Center) during which the name of Morningside Heights Inc. was agreed upon, Lawrence Orton, a member of the New York City Planning Commission, was appointed Directing Consultant, later to become Executive Director, and David Rockefeller was appointed president of the Executive Committee. The organization began by focusing on information gathering, mapping, and planning as a way to carry out the stated goal of “[promoting] the improvement of Morningside Heights as an attractive, residential, educational, and cultural area.” The original certificate of incorporation further defines the methods, stating that the organization will strive to collect, study and disseminate information, research and data affecting the improvement, redevelopment, and advancement of the area; to appear before official bodies to accomplish these purposes; to increase cooperation between real estate and mortgage holders for the improvement of the district; to acquire property, provided it is necessary for these purposes; to further or cause activities which will in any manner further the intent and purposes given above. By the end of 1948 Morningside Heights Inc. made the decision to work towards neighborhood improvements by focusing on developing public housing and improving public schools. In addition the organization’s housing-improvement mission, it was decided that Morningside Heights Inc. would act as a “clearing house” for all real estate purchases and transactions by the sponsoring institutions. To aid in this task, the stock corporation Remedco was founded in 1949 to act as the real estate arm of Morningside Heights Inc. Given the task of acting “as vehicle for any business activity…undertaken jointly” by the supporting institutions, Remedco was operated by a small executive committee made up of experienced real estate businessmen who could move more quickly and effectively than could the Board of Morningside Heights Inc. to complete real estate transactions. Remedco became instrumental in organizational efforts to rid the neighborhood of single room occupancy buildings, including the Bryn Mawr which was purchased and cleared of tenants in 1964 by Remedco before being sold to Barnard College for institutional use. During its existence Remedco acted on a number of buildings in this manner. The efforts of Morningside Heights Inc. in the area of public housing were made vastly more effective by the passage of the Federal Housing Act of 1949. The Morningside-Manhattanville neighborhood was selected as a redevelopment area by the Mayor’s Committee on Slum Clearance in 1950, and as part of the redevelopment process Morningside Heights Inc. was authorized to compile and present a long report on redevelopment of the neighborhood. The Morningside Housing Corporation--the company created to build the Morningside Gardens Housing Development under Title I--was founded within Morningside Heights Inc. in 1952, but immediately became an independent entity sharing executive membership with the organization. Morningside Gardens was opened in 1958. The design, demolition, and construction were carried out by the Morningside Housing Corporation, while Morningside Heights Inc. assisted in financing the project through Remedco and contributed to design and public relations through their persistent mission of information-gathering and distribution. The organization’s work with redevelopment and renewal projects was again stimulated in 1960 when the city applied for a federal planning grant from the Housing and Home Finance Agency to create a General Neighborhood Renewal Plan (GNRP) for the area bounded by 100th and 125th streets and 8th Ave and the Hudson River, and to fund construction and the other costs of carrying out the plan. As part of this area, Morningside Heights Inc. was in a position to offer assistance to the GNRP effort. Assistance included preparing a public relations plan to stimulate interest in the project and offering secretarial and other services to the bodies created by the GNRP--mainly the Morningside Renewal Council. The Council, which was created by the City Housing and Redevelopment Board to advise it during the GNRP project, was composed of representatives from different institutions and community groups with a stake in the project, including Morningside Heights Inc. Ultimately the GNRP would lead to some conflict between the City and Morningside Heights Inc. due to the limitations of institutional expansion under the plan, which some institutions, and especially Columbia University, deemed unconstitutional. During the existence of the Morningside Renewal Council, and especially during the tense periods in the late 1960s and early 1970s there would be an air of conflict in the Council proceedings and the interactions between Morningside Heights Inc, the bodies of the City, and the citizen and neighborhood groups of the area. The next largest area of Morningside Heights Inc. work was aid to public schools and programs for Morningside youth. The organization funded a music program in PS 125 and PS 165 from 1954-1958, and advocated for years on behalf of the effort to build another elementary school in Morningside Heights. PS 36, which had been proposed at least ten years earlier as PS 62, was eventually built in 1966 on Morningside Drive. The organization's strong push for a new elementary school was partially based in the findings of the Morningside Manhattanville Redevelopment study, which recommended additional education facilities for the neighborhood where they were currently lacking. Throughout its existence Morningside Heights Inc. worked to revitalize organized extracurricular youth activities in the neighborhood as part of a program intended to minimize the perceived causes of juvenile crime. In 1954 the organization began funding the Cathedral Summer Day Camp at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and the Morningside Basketball league, which would continue under the Adult Youth Association when it was founded in 1958. The Stone Gym Youth Center was founded for similar purposes--a process which stretched from 1960 to 1962--and was aided by Morningside Heights Inc. but largely operated by the youth themselves. In 1977 the organization—now known as Morningside Area Alliance after a 1972 reorganization and name change recommended by internal committee—began sponsoring the Morningside Summer Streets Program which offered activities and day trips for kids in the neighborhood. Morningside Heights Inc. would continue its work against neighborhood crime on another front through direct action by the committee on Public Safety and the programs that came out of it. In 1961 Morningside Heights Inc. began running a street patrol of hired security guards manning posts and walking beats throughout the neighborhood. The name was changed to the “Community Patrol” in 1969 and the program has continued through the present day. Throughout the 1970s and the early 1980s, in response to a perceived increase in street crime, the Alliance carried out the “Operation Alliance” initiative which included an increased street presence, flyers and posters aimed at educating the public about crime, and services to escort vulnerable citizens and work directly with “problem” youth. Much of the major work of Morningside Heights Inc./Morningside Area Alliance has been through the reports released to engage with the organization’s planning as well as information-gathering and distribution mission. The organization released a large number of reports, plans, and studies of varying size and length, but some of the larger and most notable are the Morningside Manhattanville Redevelopment Report (1951), the Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill Report on Morningside Heights (1958), the Morningside Heights Core Area Study (1968), and the statistical and economic studies compiled by consultant Chester Rapkin (1951 as part of the Morningside Manhattanville Redevelopment Report, and 1970). The findings of these documents reflect much of the major work carried out by the organization, especially in the earlier part of its existence. The organization has also gone through many changes in membership due to inevitable shifting of institutions to and from the area. Starting with the fourteen original members, Corpus Christi Church withdrew from participation in Morningside Heights Inc. in 1959 and then rejoined in 1961. The Interchurch Center joined in 1960 after moving to Morningside Heights, as did Bank Street College of Education in 1968 and the Manhattan School of Music in 1969. St Hilda’s and St Hugh’s School joined in 1962. The Juilliard School withdrew from Morningside Heights Inc. in 1969 when it moved to the newly-constructed Lincoln Center.

Scope and Contents

The Morningside Area Alliance is an organization working for community improvement on behalf of its member institutions in the Morningside Heights neighborhood in New York City. The organization was founded as Morningside Heights Inc. in 1947 through joint action of fourteen Morningside Institutions--Columbia University, St. Luke's Hospital, Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, Teacher's College, Barnard College, Corpus Christi Church, Home for Old Men and Aged Couples, International House, Jewish Theological Seminary, Juilliard School of Music, St. Hilda's and St. Hugh's School, The Riverside Church, Union Theological Seminary, and the Women's Hospital of St. Luke's Center--with the expressed purpose of "[promoting] the improvement of Morningside Heights as an attractive, residential, educational, and cultural area." The collection includes much, if not all, of the material that was created by the organization as part of its daily business from 1947 to 1992, when the materials were accessioned into University Archives at Columbia University. This includes records of the Board of Directors and the various Committees within the Alliance; assorted publications, reports, pamphlets, and theses both acquired and created by the organization; files of the different offices within the organization; maps, plans, and photographs used and created by the Alliance for its work; and the collected materials and files created for the organization's projects in different subject areas--specifically buildings, community services and programs, public safety, schools, and the Morningside General Neighborhood Renewal Plan. The collection also includes a large quantity of material rearranged into subject files on different areas of concern within the organization. This large collection contains the entirety of the materials produced and saved by Morningside Heights Inc. and the Morningside Area Alliance from the organization’s inception in 1947 to the 1992 transfer of the records from the Alliance to Columbia University. It is likely that some items, especially those that more closely resembled personal correspondence of the officers (many of whom held their positions in Morningside Heights Inc./Morningside Area Alliance in addition to multiple other positions across the city and state of New York, in both public and private capacities), were retained by the individuals or discarded as they saw fit. The vast majority of all other materials that stayed with the files of the organization and its offices, however, are present in the collection. The collection contains the records of the Board of Directors as well as the Executive Committee and the various committees that were formed at different times to address different issues. These records are mostly made up of the files for each meeting of the Board or committee, and contain the minutes of the meeting as well as copies of supporting materials distributed to those present. There are also occasional memoranda addressed to all members. The financial records and documents of the organization are also present, and range in form from receipts and stock certificates to financial planning documents and yearly audit and budget reports. These records exist not only for Morningside Area Alliance but also for some of the individual committees and their projects, as well as for Remedco. The files from the main office of the Morningside Area Alliance are present in the collection as well, and mostly contain the records of the secretarial work necessary to keep the organization running—including receipts, office equipment information, correspondence, and memos. As part of the Alliance’s information-gathering and distribution mission reports, plans, publications, theses, and dissertations on anything that concerned their mission were collected and these materials have been retained in the collection. These materials are most often concerned with education, youth programming and youth crime, public housing, and urban renewal, and were mostly published and written either specifically for the Alliance or for the United States and New York State and City Government and their various agencies and authorities. Many records were retained together with others compiled for a specific type of use. In this format, the collection contains a large group of subject files arranged alphabetically. In addition there are working files, separated by subject but presumably maintained specifically for ongoing work within the organization. The Alliance also ran a “Planning Center” which carried out the city and neighborhood-planning function to which the Alliance increasingly dedicated itself. The files for this body, were retained and are found together within the collection. Overall the largest piece of the collection are the project files, which are files containing the records of the various projects—separated by focus of project—undertaken by the Alliance, its committees, and the bodies those created. These are the files that contain the greatest depth of material in the collection, and include documentation of great detail such as hourly patrol log reports from the Morningside Community Patrol and data sheets from block surveys of building conditions in the Morningside area. Photographs appear throughout many different parts of the collection. Those that were already filed within the materials of a specific series have been retained in this order and their presence is noted in the container list. Those that were not associated with any specific part of the collection have been separated into their own series. There are three major types of photographs in the collection: promotional photos, created for the sponsoring institutions; photos of building, redevelopment, and housing projects; and street photography depicting residents, street scenes, and activities in Morningside Heights. Finally, the collection contains many large-format maps, plans, and diagrams created by the Alliance for both their planning and their information-gathering missions. Many of these were created near the beginning of the organization’s existence in its initial push to amass a collected body of neighborhood information where none had previously existed. These were retained separately within the collection, and so have been set apart as its own series.