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How LeFrak City Invented Modern City Living

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Every New Yorker has passed LeFrak City’s unmistakable red brick facade while driving on the Long Island Expressway.

But few understand how the Queens housing complex (which happens to be powered by Runwise) invented modern urban living.

LeFrak City was a revolutionary idea for multifamily housing

Originally built by real estate developer Samuel J. Lefrak in 1962 in preparation for the 1964 World’s Fair, Lefrak City consists of twenty 17-story complexes that house over 15,000 people in 4,605 apartments.

Mr. Lefrak’s philosophy for building the complex was unique:

Provide housing with a ton of amenities, just outside of the city center, at a reasonable price. 

Sound familiar? Well it wasn’t in the 1960s when Mr Lefrak invented the concept.

LeFrak received rebates to pay for smart building controls that reduce energy costs.
Check to see if your building is eligible for rebates here.

While most apartment buildings going up at the time were either public housing projects for low-income residents on the outskirts of the city or luxury co-ops uptown, Mr. Lefrak sought to provide a quality place to live for people who couldn’t afford Manhattan.

The complex was designed to provide lifestyle amenities that would increase the value of living there

Lefrak City was designed to provide everything residents would need all located within the property.

Turf fields, sports courts, a swimming pool, a post office, shops, parking spaces, and even a branch of the New York Public Library are right there on the grounds.

Putting people close to where amenities are was always a no-brainer for any property developer; Samuel J. Lefrak, however, put the amenities close to where the people are.

Some famous (former) residents of Lefrak City include Inside the NBA commentator Kenny Smith, rapper Noriega, and former Sony Corporation CEO Kaz Hirai.

Today, Lefrak City stands the test of time, boasting a 98% occupancy rate, with comparable rent and relatively large apartments.

Today it's showing how the use of technology can improve energy efficiency to significantly cut the cost of utility bills

It’s also now one of the greenest residential building complexes, having reduced its fossil fuel usage by over 30% in the past few years through investments in technology like smart building controls (from Runwise).

Smart controls have been so effective in reducing excess energy costs that most utility companies will now even pay to have them installed. You can use the form below to see if your building qualifies.

In the two generations since Lefrak City was constructed, developing buildings full of amenities, slightly outside the center of major cities has gone from a crazy idea, to the default playbook for almost every developer in the country. 

But it all started with a vision and a plot of land along the highway leading to airport. Talk about letting brilliant ideas fly.