Take a look at this article by NYMAG which details why the public housing was created in NYC and the social effects on its inhabitants. Click here for the full article.
"New York might be a city of neighborhoods, but Nychaland is a zone of its own. It is almost unthinkably huge: 334 “developments” spread from Staten Island’s Berry Houses to Throgs Neck in the Bronx—178,895 apartments in 2,602 buildings situated on an aggregate 2,486 acres, an area three times the size of Central Park. The population of Nychaland is usually cited at 400,000, but this number is universally regarded as too low, since most everyone knows someone living “off lease.” One NYCHA employee says that “600,000 is more like it.” That’s about 8 percent of New York—with 160,000 families on the waiting list. If Nychaland was a city unto itself, it would be the 21st most populous in the U.S., bigger than Boston or Seattle, twice the size of Cincinnati.
Indeed, perhaps Nychaland’s most compelling attribute is the fact that it exists at all. Across the U.S., public housing, condemned as a tax-draining vector of institutionalized mayhem and poverty, whipping-boy symbol of supposedly foolhardy urban policy, has largely disappeared. Chicago knocked down Cabrini-Green, St. Louis imploded Pruitt-Igoe, New Orleans flattened Lafitte after Katrina. Only in New York does public housing remain on a large scale, remnants of the days when the developments were considered a bulwark of social liberalism, a way to move up. "