The Unkut Guide To Hip-Hop’s Most Notorious Projects – Part 1
Monday March 02nd 2009,
Filed under: Features,In The Trenches,Not Your Average,Print Work,The Unkut Guide
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The PJ’s have always been an essential part of New York hip-hop, for better or worse. You’ve heard the names of these housing projects shouted out in songs over the years, but unless you’re a well-traveled NYC resident, it’s likely you don’t know a whole lot about some of these landmarks. Here’s a piece I put together (with additional help from the homey Dallas Penn) for Hip-Hop Connection magazine last year for their ‘Violence Issue’ (hence the focus on head cracks)…

NAME: Pink Houses

LOCATION: Linden Boulevard, Brooklyn.

ACTUAL FACTS: Louis Heaton Pink was a wealthy businessman who became chairman of the New York State Housing Board, and was dedicated to the notion that private and public housing efforts would eventually eradicate slums. Louis Heaton Pink Houses has twenty-two, 8-story buildings with 1,500 apartments. Established September 30, 1959, its current population is numbered at 3,810 residents.

TOUGH GUY RATING: High. In the mid-80’s Pink Houses was the home of the infamous street gang the A-Team. A generation later the project would spawn the notorious ‘Pink Houses Crew’, a twenty-deep team of thieves accused of stealing $2.5 million worth of jewelry during a dozen robberies that took place between 2003 and 2005. Legend has it that Pink Houses residents used to split sides before fights based on what floor they lived on (8th floor vs. 7th floor etc).

SMART DUMB CATS: Foxy Brown was allegedly robbed outside of Pink Hoses when she dumped her boyfriend after discovering he was a “small-time pimp”. Ironically, he then instructed three of his “employees” to jump her. Foxy was dragged out of her car and relieved of her purse containing $500 cash, her hair weave and her hearing aid. After fingering one of her attackers to police, Foxy later decided to “stop snitching” and instead denied the whole thing ever happened.

RAP ALUMNI RATING: 1/5. Uncle Murda: “I’m from Pink Houses, but I fuck with Cypress niggas. I got a lot of problems with Pink Houses. I had a lot of shootouts in Pink Houses and I hurt a lot of people, so they don’t like me too much.”

LYRIC QUOTE: “And then I take a trip to Pink Houses/Check out the girls with the pretty pink blouses” Daddy-O [‘Uda Man’ – Stetsasonic]

NAME: Stapleton Houses

LOCATION: Gordon Street, Staten Island.

ACTUAL FACTS: The largest housing project in Staten, with six, 8-story high buildings that were completed May 31, 1962. Its 693 apartments currently house 1,821 residents.

TOUGH GUY RATING: High. Two undercover cops were executed, gang-land style, during an investigation into arms smuggling in the area in 2003. This year there have been several brawls between local police and firemen, stemming from an incident at Beer Goggles, which has been closed down repeatedly for serving booze to minors.

SMART DUMB CATS: According to in February 2008, “a would-be stick-up-kid pulled out a gun inside the Blu Lounge and tried to hold up two men, struggling to get their attention over the din of the music. He pulled some gold chains and medallions off one of the men, then, as he was trying to stuff the gun and jewelry into his jacket pocket, accidentally fired off a shot, hitting himself in the process.”

RAP ALUMNI RATING: 4/5. Ghostface Killah, Method Man, Trife Da God, Shyheim and GP Wu.

LYRIC QUOTE: “Stapleton’s been stamped as a concentration camp/At night I walk through, third eye is bright as a street lamp” – RZA [‘Impossible’ – Wu-Tang Clan]

NAME: Patterson Projects

LOCATION: 3rd Avenue, Bronx.

ACTUAL FACTS: Lester Patterson was a no-nonsense Bronx County judge who is said to have once sentenced a mugger to two concurrent life terms. Lester Patterson Houses has fifteen buildings 6 and 13-stories tall with 1,790 apartments, making it one of the largest in the city. Opened December 31, 1950, it’s currently home to 4,377 residents.

TOUGH GUY RATING: Medium. The neighbourhood of Mott Haven was at the centre of major drug wars in the Bronx during the 80’s. Although things slowed down over the next decade, by the turn of the century Bronx prosecutors created a Gang/Major Case Bureau to combat the rise of gang activity in the area. In April 2004, the unit busted nine alleged Bloods for selling up to $80,000 in crack a month from the Patterson Houses.

SMART DUMB CATS: In April, 2005 a man climbed down the building shaft after dropping his mobile. While he was climbing back up he slipped and fell four stories. It took a team of fire fighters and a stretcher to hoist him to safety. The guy suffered several broken bones for his troubles, but got his phone back.

RAP ALUMNI RATING: 3/5. Percee-P and Andre The Giant.

LYRIC QUOTE: “And on the other side of town was a kid named Flash/Patterson and Millbrook projects, Casanova all over, ya couldn’t stop it” KRS-One [Boogie Down Productions – ‘South Bronx’]

NAME: Soundview Houses

LOCATION: Rosedale Avenue, Bronx.

ACTUAL FACTS: Soundview Houses has thirteen, 7-story buildings containing 1,258 apartments. Completed October 29, 1954, it now houses 3,148 residents.

TOUGH GUY RATING: Off The Meter. Spawned the infamous Sex Money Murder Bloods (founder Pistol Pete is not to be confused with the character of the same name who is part of Fat Joe’s Terror Squad). Was named New York’s “Murder Capital” in 2002, and currently holds the title for the most car thefts in the city.

SMART DUMB CATS: In 1999, four members of the now-disbanded Street Crimes Unit emptied 41 rounds into Amadou Diallo after they mistook him for a wanted rapist. When the plain-clothed officers thought he was reaching for a gun, when he was in fact tryin to show them his ID, they opened fire. All four of the officers involved were later exonerated of “any wrongdoing” by jury trial.

RAP ALUMNI RATING: 3/5. The Jazzy 5 MC’s, Lord Tariq and Big Pun.

LYRIC QUOTE: “Lord Tariq, Soundview ain’t bout it, we of it/Round the world they respect my gangsta, gotta love it” Lord Tariq – ‘This Cold World’

NAME: The Polo Grounds

LOCATION: F Douglass Boulevard, Manhattan.

ACTUAL FACTS: Originally the home of the New York Giants before the stadium was demolished to make way for the buildings. Polo Grounds Towers has four, 30-story buildings with 1,612 apartments. Completed June 30, 1968, the Towers are home to 4,196 residents.

TOUGH GUY RATING: High. January 2007 saw twenty-five people arrested for trafficking heroin and crack-cocaine in and around the Polo Grounds Towers and across the street, at a community grocery store and a Chinese takeout restaurant. In April of this year, a robbery victim was doused with gasoline and set on fire in the lobby of the Towers after having attended a party upstairs the night before with his boyfriend. The Rooftop roller disco had been located directly across the street from the housing project and thus was the source of many robberies and stick-up attempts including the incident in 1991 where Slick Rick was accused of shooting his cousin and another person he thought were attempting to rob him.

RAP ALUMNI RATING: 2/5. Pioneering mixtape DJ Ron G, who perfected the art of blending R&B vocals with hard beats.

LYRIC QUOTE: “We left the rally now we’re maxing uptown/8th Ave, 25th, 45th, and the Polo Grounds” Lord Jamar [Diamond feat. Brand Nubian ‘A Day In The Life’]

NAME: Brownville Houses

LOCATION: Sutter Avenue, Brooklyn.

ACTUAL FACTS: Brownsville Houses has twenty-seven buildings, 6 and 7-stories tall with 1,337 apartments. Completed April 16, 1948, it is currently home to 3,550 residents.

TOUGH GUY RATING: Simmering. Northeast Brooklyn was the location of 765 murders in 1990, while 2007 saw it reduced to 212. Since the locals have adopted LA-style gangs, the Brownsville and Tilden Houses’ Bloods have been at war with the Crips across the street at Marcus Garvey projects, and the murder rate is on the rise again.

SMART DUMB CATS: According to the New York Post, in January 2008, a “meathead thief shoved seven salamis into his trousers and up his sleeves at the Western Beef on East New York Avenue in Brownsville.” When the assistant manager confronted him, he was “slugged in the face” before other customers grabbed the thief and held him down until the cops arrived at the scene. It’s unclear what became of the recovered salamis.

RAP ALUMNI RATING: 4/5. Agallah, Masta Ace, Sean Price and Mike Tyson (M.O.P. are from Prospect Plaza, which is why they rep the Brownsville area).

LYRIC QUOTE: “Duke wanna fear one Rock shoot this nigga/Brownsville projects I’m not stupid nigga” Sean Price – ‘Don’t Say Shit To Ruck’

Uncle Murda repping his new residence.

Tomorrow: Part 2.

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57 Comments so far
Leave a comment

great post.

Comment by swordfish 03.02.09 @

Awesome shiite my dude. No Albany Projects though?

Comment by Combat Jack 03.02.09 @

No New Orleans projects? good read tho. Chicago too.

Comment by phenomphenom 03.02.09 @

“duke wanna fair one”

very mid 80s slang for fighting one on one

Comment by Mercilesz 03.02.09 @

Fantastic. Just one thing: Thistin Howl the 3rd and some of the Lo-Lifes are from Brownsville as well.

Comment by Antonio 03.02.09 @

Great post. One correction on the Pistol Pete from Soundview being affiliated with Fat Joe and Terror Squad. Their are two Pistol Pete’s from the Bronx; Peter Rollack, who is doing life in the Feds, who formed SMM, is down with Lord Tariq, Minnesota and Boss Money. Puerto Rican Pistol Pete, from Beekman Houses, is the one down with Terror Squad. Each Pistol Pete’s crew get real touchy about who is the “real” Pistol Pete from the Bronx…both were extremely deadly with the gun.

Comment by bronxbred 03.02.09 @

Isn’t Fab from Pink Houses too?

Comment by young_ 03.02.09 @

so what’s the tough guy rating on Brownsville Houses, streets wanna know.

Comment by shoot him 03.02.09 @

a girl from Pink Houses says “I like you a lot” GOT , this is how you get got…… Mos Def

Comment by BIGSPICE 03.02.09 @

I think you posted wrong pic of Soundview Houses. That looks like my old hood Monroe PJs

Comment by dolo 03.02.09 @

No Fab is from Breevort Houses … & most Brownsville Lo Lifes was from M.G.V. Marcus Garvey Village projects

Comment by Black Bully of Billyburg 03.02.09 @

Yo Robbie have you been to any of these hoods?

Comment by illa 03.02.09 @

Pink Houses also used to be known as “The Terrordome”.
UMCs are from Stapleton Projects.
I would think Park Hill has more of a reputation, but might not be public housing anymore?!
Illest projects ever has to be the ones uptown where dude has a TIGER and an ALLIGATOR in his crib:

Comment by keatso 03.02.09 @

a robbery victim was doused with gasoline and set on fire in the lobby of the Towers after having attended a party upstairs the night before with “his” boyfriend. no hom @ “His”

Comment by HeatHolder24-7 03.02.09 @

Enjoyed reading this, cant wait for the next part. :)

Comment by RowanB 03.02.09 @

no Vanderveer? That place was pretty scary when I visited family there back in the late 80s… lots of Decepticons.

Comment by murderator 03.02.09 @

Well done … get Fort Greene p’s for a profile of bricks that done fell off…

Comment by Yooj‽ 03.02.09 @


Comment by Yooj‽ 03.02.09 @

Yo Robbie this shit is top notch.

I’m a researcher, writer and DJ (and Marciano pusher/supporter/obsessive) who studies the relationship between the built environment and the cultural landscape, linking the history of ideas and architecture that led to the PJ’s, and the cultural innovation that came out of them – Hiphop culture. All of that is just to say, I’m feelin’ this post like a ton of vinyl – and it’s just as, if not more, useful to me too.

Keep ’em comin!

Comment by Memetic 03.02.09 @

Memetic, you might be interested in understanding why Long Island produced so many great hip hop acts.

Comment by keatso 03.02.09 @

Starrett City always scared the sh*t out of me. I always got into fights in East New York – no projects but just ass whippings and muggings.

Comment by Dave 03.02.09 @

One other thing – I would like someone to do a story on the hood in Southern Calfornia. Parties in Compton, Watts and Inglewood routinely changed from light-hearted events to gunfire and people hauling ass out.

Comment by Dave 03.02.09 @

In the early 90’s East New York & Brownsville kept the murder rate high in BK (the whole NYC as a matter of fact!.)I think both have the highest concentration of pj’s in the city. All 3 you showed should have the highest tuff guy rating available.FYI West Brighton is the livest pj’s on Staten Island.

Comment by Slap 03.02.09 @

This is an ill article. Rns who taught Rza to produce is from Stapleton as well as Dom Pachino of killarmy and dark skin assassin. jojo Pellegrino sharpen his sword hanging with shyheim in stapleton.

Comment by one love 03.02.09 @

Yo east new york was call the murder capital also called homicide central this is when they caught more bodies then dc alone the east had more bodies then whole new york put together The 75 precent had to ask for more cops.True story

Comment by Eny for life 03.03.09 @

oh yeah im glad the homie bronxbred corrected the pistol pete comment i know the history on dude yeah you right homie the pistol pete from the terror squad is not the real pistol pete

Comment by Eny for life 03.03.09 @

neva thought my projexts would be a topic here..yo robbie u the man haha..Pink houses all day!!

Comment by dj blendz 03.03.09 @

“Yo Robbie have you been to any of these hoods?”.

^ Negative. That’s why I enlisted 80’s trooper Dallas Penn to do my dirty work.

Fixed the Pistol Pete part also, good looks.

Comment by Robbie 03.03.09 @

Isn’t Method Man from Park Hill?

Comment by Krisch 03.03.09 @

^ He was raised in Stapleton as far as I know.

Comment by Robbie 03.03.09 @

I mean….I guess they eradicated ‘slums’ in New York. But is this really a good solution? New York’s projects always seemed to be a horrifying experiment to me. Does anyone who grew up in the projects actually think this public housing system was a good idea?

I’ve seen projects in other cities, but nothing as MASSIVE as these. 3500 people living on top of each other! It’s madness.

Comment by Finally 03.03.09 @

This is pronably my favourite thing you’ve done for HHC.

Though, an expose piece on Eric B via an in-depth interview with one of his scorned daughters could probably top it.

Comment by brian beck from wisconsin 03.03.09 @

dope article robbie.. one clarification big pun not from soundview he was from forest projects up by cardinal hayes (actually grew up on prospect)

Comment by Killuminatti 03.03.09 @

No wonder they are called the “projects”

Comment by keatso 03.03.09 @

The housing projects plan isn’t flawed until you fill it with poor people. When these building were filled with working class folks it seemed like there might be a better life for people.

Generations stayed up in those buildings too. Remove the manufacturing and shipping industry from NYC and add the rampant access of drugs like alcohol, heroin and then crack and the housing projects devolve into what we have now.

The government smartened up with regards to warehousing the poor and disenfranchised. In the early 1900’s they gave away tracts of land to the Native Americans for them to drink themselves to death. The housing project is the same idea except the acres are stacked on top of one another instead of being spread out.

This aids in the control and regulation of these populations as well. Police can black off a few traffic arteries if the native get restless now.

Housing projects are just reservations in the sky.

Comment by dp 03.03.09 @

@BrooklynzFinezt The article was assigned by a music mag so that was the main focus, plus how many good stories/references I could dig up. If it had been for FEDS mag I would have covered Supreme Team’s stomping ground.
As soon as someone throws me a six-figure book advance I’ll cover every single project in NY in detail…

Comment by Robbie 03.04.09 @

In theory, this is a good concept for an article. And a real journalist would have no trouble with it. But it’s kinda weak to write an article on housing projects without having set foot in them. Much of this information is either incorrect or just random blotter stuff.

Please don’t make excuses. The fact that a magazine “assigned” it, doesn’t legitimize it. In fact, it’s more insidious, because it supports my view that this is propaganda, intended to dehumanize the people who live in these buildings.

I think most people here who are familiar with PJs will attest to the fact that these are still just apartments buildings, with normal decent folk living in them, and that criminal activity is not as wanton as one might think.

We should be humanizing the PJs, not fetishizing them. The responsible thing to do — if you are a good journalist — is to show the HUMAN side of the PJs. Because otherwise people get the impression that these are just buildings brimming with wild savages who eat strangers for dinner. And while that might happen on occasion 😉 …let’s not pretend it’s the norm.

Comment by eric 03.05.09 @

“if you are a good journalist”

^ I never claimed that. Not sure why you expected this to be anything deep and meaningful though – rapper’s have been trading off these same stereotypes forever.

Comment by Robbie 03.05.09 @

I don’t mind the breezy tone. No one is expecting Pulitzer material. And let me be fair and say that you regularly get deep into the human element on your site.

But I wouldn’t be doing my duty if I didn’t point out the fact that these apartments are being portrayed as zoos, where the main attraction is how often the animals attack each other.

And, judging from the comments, I’m far from the only one here who feels this way. But I’ve said my peace, and otherwise I have no complaints.

Comment by eric 03.05.09 @

i think everyone is getting a bit to upset over this article (brooklynsfinest) , its obviously supposed to be lighthearted not a serious investigation & as somebody who grew up in commissioned housing (outside of the usa but still) i can safely say its a running joke & theme that housing projects are crime ridden and fucked up , why not have an article rating the toughness of these places , its what the kids from these neighbourhoods & there favourite rappers do all the time anyway & if anything i think the fact its called tough guy factor just shows its lighthearted , i mean its not like the article states “it’s currently home to 4,377 residents , all of which are crack smoking gang bangers with felony charges” , if anything i feel you should be complaining about some of the dudes seriously comparing which projects are harder…

Comment by Hobojoe 03.06.09 @

Where i live (L.A.), people who live in rough spots often say “Oh, it’s not so bad here… but over in [different neighborhood] it’s really crazy.” And then you go to that neighborhood and the locals say, “Oh, it’s not so bad here… but over in [insert another neighborhood], that’s where it’s really fucked up.” And so on and so forth. And it’s really just one big loop.

So yes, it can be sort of a fun game and a fantasy, but it’s also a subtle aspect of divide and conquer. It says to people who live in the ghetto, “Don’t unite and actually do something”. And to people who live in nice neighborhoods it says, “Just a bunch of crazy savages… don’t ever go there and find out that it’s just normal decent folk.”

Trust me, in L.A. most white people think everything south of the 10 freeway is like a no-man’s land. “Dont’ go there, it’s crazy!” And yet HALF the city lives south of the 10. It’s a big problem, seriously. But I”m not really hating on Robbie, or even upset… just like to use it as an excuse for a soapbox.

Comment by eric 03.06.09 @

“ -A Tribute to Ignorance”

Comment by dj blendz 03.06.09 @

When it comes to drugs and hookers, aint no ave like Roosevelt ave, Queens

Comment by oxyaface 03.16.09 @

i dont know who gave yall ya info but thats not the pink houses thats linden pjs

Comment by husam washington 04.09.09 @

The A Team was not from Pink Houses, but actually from Cypress Hills. And the Pink House Crew was a name made up from the police because they took surveillance of them in Pink Houses. The guys from the ALLEGDED robberies wasn’t all from Pink Houses. Police claim it was NFL and PBC.

Comment by M Deezy Dinero 06.10.09 @

Yo, yall couldn’t get a real pic of Patterson? I don’t know what pjs yous got up there, but it ain’t patterson- other than that this was a good read.

Comment by bronx honey 06.17.09 @

more i think about it – is that even soundview?

Comment by bronx honey 06.17.09 @


Comment by NAYNAY 07.17.09 @

Someone asked about Vanderveer in Flatbush. It now a private development now known as Flatbush Gardens.

Comment by JC 10.01.09 @

Masta ace isnt from Brownville houses hes from Howard PJs which like 3 blocks down on Pitkin Ave. And thats not a picture of Patterson projects in the Bronx or those buildings you called soundview projects. If your not from NY then don’t put up false info about NY projects.

Comment by Jay 07.17.10 @

The DJ who became the long lasting Spinderalla with Salt N Pepa (Dee Dee Roper) is from Pink Houses.

Comment by Tim 01.07.11 @

The picture that you have for Pink Houses which is the first project listed in your piece is not even from Pink Houses. The buildings in Pink Houses only have 8 floors and clearly the picture you have listed as pink houses has more than eight floors.

Comment by Tim 01.07.11 @

Brownsville Houses !!

Comment by Lady B;* 06.15.11 @

The projects are a form of concentration camps, created by NAZI archetics,just look real closely at the designs(from a top view) and you’ll see the swastika.Pay attention to whats really going on,Allso when you research the names of the archetics you’ll see that most of them were german or of german desent,plus research Sophia Stewart she wrote the movie The Matrix and those crackers stole it from her then brought her out after a long cort battle,the original name of her book was called The Thrid Eye and it was about black people in the Projects, notice in the movie The Matrix Neo all ways goes to the projects to visit the “ORACLE” a black woman,these crackers know “THE ORIGINAL JEWS” stay in the projects!!!And yo check it robbie I think that you’ll really be short changing yourself by waiting to get a six figure deal to write a much more detailed story about each NYC PJ,Do you know how many people the world over are waiting to hear this story,hit up my E-mail and we can do are own publishing!!! REAL TALK

Comment by MURKY BEY 07.08.11 @

1666 was the building!

Comment by Cat Taylor 02.03.12 @

Big Pun is from Forrest projects not Soundview

Comment by MBEEZY 03.08.14 @

can someone please tell me the name of a 90’s underground rap song that named all the housing projects? i’ve been trying to find it on google, bit the search engine never gives any results… greatly appreciated if anybody know the name…

Comment by c-lo 04.29.15 @

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