NORCs in New York

A study of Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities in New York City


Published in Urban Omnibus

Project Team: 

Tobias Armborst, Daniel D’Oca, Georgeen Theodore, David Himelman

NORC stands for Naturally Occurring Retirement Community. It’s “naturally occurring” because it sort of just happens, without too much planning. Co-op Village in NYC–where Interboro once exhibited its work–is a NORC because 4,060 of its residents are over 60, even though none of the buildings that make up Co-op Village were “purpose-built” as retirement communities. Again, this sort of just happened. People moved in, made friends, decided to stay for a while, and viola!

Interboro is interested in NORCs because we think they embody some of our own ideas about how people, things, and cities should grow. We love the idea that retirement communities can grow organically, and agree that it’s sometimes silly for older adults to drop everything and move to some Sunrise facility in the suburbs, where the sorts of amenities enjoyed here in New York City are inadequately manufactured. Interboro is currently working on a critical exploration of NORCS in NYC. As it turns out, there has been very little critical attention paid to NORCs. First and foremost, then, we want to identify them, visit them, and document them. Second, we want to ask questions about them: What are the factors that determine where and when NORCs will happen? How are NORCs funded? How well do they serve the elderly’s needs? We also think the NORC is a good case study in how public housing facilities are used today. We think there is a good opportunity here to articulate the point that it’s often difficult to predict how space will be used; Herman Jessor, who designed Co-op Village, probably never anticipated that his buildings would become retirement communities (and neither did he anticipate how well Co-op Village would accommodate the needs of the elderly).


A series of postcards depicting NORC residents at home in their communities.

A map of all current NORCs in New York City

The Timeline of InNORCoration shows when NORCs were built and the years that they were officially established as NORCs