As of January 2015, over 403,000 people call the New York City housing projects home
; another 212,000 live in semi-privatized public housing (where the city pays landlords to provide affordable residences). Year after year, headlines continue to highlight New York's enduring affordable housing crisis
: particularly the city's lack of available units for low-income families. And, while we hear about the median rent in New York rising 11%
in just seven years; the absurdly-high amount of applicants for an absurdly-low number of new housing developments
; and Mayor de Blasio's just-announced plans
for improvement, we rarely hear from the actual tenants who call these sometimes dangerous
and frequently run-down places home.
In 2010, photographers George Carrano, Chelsea Davis, and Jonathan Fisher founded Developing Lives
, a nonprofit program encouraging project residents to explore their creative sides — and provide realistic insight into a subject that is normally only seen through the lens of journalists or filmmakers. Five years later, the work (and narratives) of some of these participants — from 72-year-old Nancy Morales, who has lived in public housing for over 30 years, to Aaliyah Cohen, an 11-year-old Manhattanville resident who's never lived anywhere else — has been compiled into an incredibly moving book.
allows readers to "journey into a world [they've] never seen, invisible because these images of the New York projects don't have sensationalist appeal," its introduction explains. "Anyone living in the New York projects has absorbed much of what life can throw at people. But none of our photographers, not even the seniors lamenting that things used to be better back when, take this opportunity to complain, but rather simply demonstrate pride in their homes and in their lives."
These images, and their accompanying text, are "less of an accusation than a plea for change," the trio says. The pictures also serve as an unbiased, unfiltered look at life in New York's housing projects, at a time when living conditions have never been more shocking.