Fred L. Lavanburg was a businessman philanthropist who pioneered the idea of subsidized low-income housing in New York at a time when such a thing did not exist. After a trip to Europe, where he studied these models, Lavanburg conceived the idea of endowing a large-scale low-rent model housing project in NYC, hoping that his action would stimulate similar projects by private individuals as well as by municipal authorities.
Although ultimately the job proved to be too enormous for private endowments, his experiment set the stage for the development of the great public housing programs in New York City of the thirties. The Lavanburg Foundation (which still exists today) was formed and a site acquired for the Lavanburg Homes on Goerck Street on the Lower East Side, one of the most notorious slum neighborhoods in the city. Arthur Somers was a member of the Lavanburg Foundationís Board of Directors, and helped oversee the running of the homes, especially after Fredís untimely death soon after the opening in 1927.
There is a book which is out of print but used to be available online, titled Diary of a Housing Manager by Abraham Goldfeld, which gives a detailed and fascinating account of the first four years of this unique experiment. The buildings were later donated to the City in 1956, and they are now the home of The Urban Family Center for the accommodation and rehabilitation of temporarily homeless families.