Living Together

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Most New Yorkers know their neighbors only as well as thin walls permit. But Alex Marshall, a journalist and senior fellow at the Regional Plan Association, wants to change that with Brooklyn Cohousing LLC. He joins us today to talk about the notion of "cohousing," a movement that encourages community living without eliminating privacy altogether.


Alex Marshall

Comments [18]

Gerry from Yonkers

I have lived in a commune for 20 years, and was happily surprised to hear your guest claim that the community would be governed by consensus. If they are willing to be strict about this, meaning no small voice goes unheard on any decision, there chances for success are very good.

Feb. 11 2009 05:19 AM
BrooklynGreene from Fort Greene

Well, we're sad it turned out the Carlton Muse project as approved by Landmarks, the Community Board and the DOB was a bit too large for the Brooklyn Cohousing group to grapple with and the site of the church and lot behind it will sit for a longer timeframe.

But the cohousing group will pull it together luckily and find something better scaled to the group.

Just a word to those who did not fully understand cohousing. Basically, all residents will have their own apartments much like a coop/condo building. On top of this though is a whole social structure (the cohousing group). The material manifestations of it are generally shared meals certain nights in the week (and possible weekend lunch/brunch) in a large dining facility (apart from residents' homes...meals are prepared in a large kitchen adjacent to the group dining room; safe play and educations spaces for kids of all ages and also quiet spaces set aside for adults; possible music recording rooms, woodshops, workspaces, grouped home-office rooms with shared office equipment...etc., etc.

Operating costs can be kept down in many ways...on of which is to have one gas and one electric account instead of on meter per utility per house. That is just one savings. If the project ends up being purpose-built, there is ample opportunity for a high level of insulation and energy efficiency.

To the Richard from Clinton Hill above: have a look at the cohousing magazine online. There was an article recently on a cohousing community that embraced a member who could not afford a downpayment. He is disabled and low income. The group pulled together and made it possible for him. It's a very nice article.

It may not be possible in NYC considering the costs.

But, you never know...the group may be able to build out extra apartments for rent so people less likely to buy or unable to buy can participate in the community.

I wish them all the best of luck in 2009.

Dec. 23 2008 08:07 PM
Mariana from Berkeley, CA

It's extremely hard to build cohousing in areas where real estate is expensive. Kudos to these organizers! FYI cohousing is different from many intentional communities -- details some of this.

Dec. 23 2008 06:03 PM
CT from Manhattan


I hear you, but I believe that even small, petty examples of ignorance such as this one are harmful and should not go unchecked. Imagine a child hearing an adult make such stupid comments - what impact is that going to have on the formulation of their ideas about art? What I'm saying is that these little things add up, and they feed into and entrench a dangerous culture of hostility toward the arts which is unfortunately too pervasive in our current society. I'm calling her out on it.

Dec. 23 2008 11:52 AM
RIchard from Clinton Hill

Oh well, I now feel excluded because I am not affluent enough to even be considered for this type of community. Because of illness, unemployment and bad credit, I will never be able to afford a downpayment or even be considered for a mortgage, and yet I would love to be a part of this kind of community.

Dec. 23 2008 11:49 AM
Elke from queens also has an extensive list of intentional communities of all sorts in North America, in answer to Judith's question. there's also a print directory that lists about 1,000 of them, also available at the bookstore at

Dec. 23 2008 11:39 AM
Anina from the village

I'm very psyched about the prospect (no brooklyn pun intended:) of this bklyn co-housing project, but also intrigued by the idea of an intentional-community of sorts w/in weekend driving distance of nyc.

When I was a student at SUNY New Paltz in 1974, my nine housemates and I played poker when we ate together; the big loser would wash the dishes. (Luckily I enjoyed washing dishes:)


Dec. 23 2008 11:39 AM
Elke from queens

I lived in intentional communities for 20 years, 1985-2004, 15 of those years right here in NYC. Although coho (co-housing) eliminates a lot of the problems of such close living by each unit (person or family) having their own house or apt, there still are more interpersonal problems than in your average unrelated neighborhood.(As well as more pleasure in relating to people with a common interest.) The good news is there are a lot of resources out there! has a bookstore, and has even republished BUILDING UNITED JUDGEMENT, an excellent maunal. There are also group facilitators that specifically work with community groups. One I think particularly good is Laird Schaub ( There are others, many with linnks from the site.
I tried to start a coho group in Queens, but unfortunately am not that organized or committed. i am very happy & excited to hear the Brooklyn Coho is doing well.

Dec. 23 2008 11:35 AM
Chris from Fort Greene

Hey WNYC, give us some credit! I lived across the street from that site for two years, and it's 2 blocks from Fort Greene Park, not "near Prospect Park" as you put it.

Dec. 23 2008 11:31 AM
O from Forest Hills


Don't take her remarks so personal. She was commenting on someone else, don't personalize it, I know I do the same thing. That woman's attitude is a reflection on her not the roommate and why does she have to go on a talk show to vent about a roommate, former or otherwise, if she is so busy working, she doesn't have time to complain about other especially on the show. it is a reflection of her, don't pay her any mind. She isn't worth the energy.

Dec. 23 2008 11:30 AM
Judith Mahler from Brooklyn

Phillip, I think, spoke about co-housing living in the country near NYC. Is there any way to find out about these communities?

Dec. 23 2008 11:29 AM
CT from Manhattan

I found that caller's disparaging remarks about her former "roommate" to be quite offensive. Being an artist certainly does NOT equate with being lazy and an anti-"worker bee." The arts are like any other industry in that there are lazy artists and very industrious artists, and the latter ones have an ENORMOUS impact on society. That caller needs to get over herself and seriously reflect on how her quality of life would suffer without the contributions of artists!

Dec. 23 2008 11:27 AM
Dara B. from Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn

What about actually building and organizing the community, instead of building a new place and importing the a new community into it?

Dec. 23 2008 11:24 AM
Glenn from Queens

People have been living like this over the summer in "SHARES" in Fire Island and other like communal places. It's not that unique of an idea! And I also see this being a perfect way for gay retirees who need a place to live and maintain their social way of living.

Dec. 23 2008 11:21 AM
Hugh from Crown Heights

I lived in co-ops in Boston for several years. They are (or were) a great deal more common there than here in New York.

We had a pretty extensive interviewing process for new members. We had regular group meetings and group meals. It was very democratically organized and worked pretty well in the time I was there.

Dec. 23 2008 11:17 AM
Linda from East Village

Beyond co-housing:

What about bringing back the rooming house--with communal living and media rooms and kitchens, and with meals cooked by out-of-work roving gourmet chefs? After all, in much of urban NY, kitchens and living areas are either unused or practically non-existant. So why not get rid of them entirely, and make these areas communal.

Dec. 23 2008 11:16 AM
Jake from Manhattan

What about the "unselection" process? What if a resident is no good--can others vote them out?

Dec. 23 2008 11:14 AM
RIchard from Clinton Hill

Do I have to be able to buy an apartment in order to be considered? Can I join and either rent, or join on a rent-to-own agreement?

Dec. 23 2008 11:14 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.