During the late nineteen twenties and early thirties the development of large apartment complexes began in New York City. Knickerbocker Village was among the first to be developed. The block on which it was built was a notorious slum. Fred F. French, a real estate magnate known for his expansive lifestyle, constructed Tudor City, a multi-building complex at 42nd Street and First Avenue in the nineteen twenties. He followed that with Knickerbocker Village. Construction began in 1933 and was completed in 1934. He also gave New York City one of its most beautiful office buildings, the Art Deco Tower at 45th Street and 5th Avenue known as "The French Building".
Designed to attract the young urban crowd of the times, nearly two-thirds of the Knickerbocker apartments are one-bedrooms. Kitchens were designed small, with the thought that they would have limited use.
Many of the early residents were socialists and the complex was a hotbed of tenant activism at the time. Hand in hand with activism, tenants also organized clubs around various interests and there was a strong social element in the complex. Newsletters of the period announced to the residents activities as diverse as a camera club, a fencing club and meetings of the American Labor Party. The Pioneer Women and Hadassah met here as well.
During the nineteen forties and fifties, the complex was home to Julius & Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted of spying for the Soviet Union and executed. It would seem that their activities were orchestrated from their apartment.
After owning the complex for more than fifty years, Fred F. French sold the complex to a new ownership group in the late nineteen seventies, which has remained as the owners for nearly thirty years.
Over the last fifteen years, the complex has undergone extensive renovation and rejuvenation. Nearly fifteen million dollars have been spent on new windows, new building entries, extensive waterproofing and many other projects.
The addition of a horticulturist to our staff in recent years has resulted in the courtyards being a glorious haven in an urban setup. As the courtyards have become more inviting, it has been necessary to add additional benches for seating almost every year.
Today Knickerbocker Village provides quality housing at modest rents and is a highly desirable place to reside.