Micro-apartments are touted as both a way to live with less, and a pilot project to create housing for a squeezed city. These tiny studio apartmentssmaller than what is currently allowed by NYC laware meant to house a population explosion of single New Yorkers. However, many worry that these snug accommodations serve only a narrow group. Who’s left out of the conversation? And how much space do you really need to live?

CUP and teaching artist Chat Travieso worked with a group of public high school students from Bushwick’s Academy of Urban Planning to investigate the fascination with these tiny modular living spaces. The students asked urban planners about regulatory hurdles, architects about prefabricated units, and developers about funding structures. They also talked to community advocates about what groups are privileged in the race for newer smaller housing stock. The crew took what they learned, and with the help of graphic designer Mary Voorhees Meehan, they created The Big Squeeze: a poster that uses collage to teach others about the past, present, and future of apartments in New York City.

On April 4th, 2013 the group presented their project at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, where they discussed their investigative process and led a panel on other approaches to addressing New York’s housing needs. They were joined in discussion by Seema Agnani, Executive Director of Chhaya CDC, an organization that works with homeowners and tenants to streamline the ‘legalization’ process for illegally converted dwellings; and Andrew Reicher, Executive Director of the the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, a 35-year old nonprofit that helps create and support cooperative and affordable housing.

Get your own copy of the poster here!

What People are Saying

“The project did change the way I think about the government because I originally thought there were no construction restrictions on housing size. I think that the government should be more open to peoples’ opinions regarding smaller housing sizes, so more people can fit in the city.” — Christopher Viquez, student

Resources & Links

The Academy of Urban Planning is a public high school in Brooklyn, with an urban planning-based curriculum.

Chhaya Community Development Corporation is a community-based non-profit organization focused on improving access to housing opportunities, resources, and information for South Asian Americans throughout New York City and the metropolitan area. We advocate for community and economic development and justice within South Asian and other immigrant communities.

The Urban Homesteading Assistance Board transforms renters into homeowners who collectively own and democratically govern true housing co-operatives that will remain affordable, in perpetuity, to people of modest means.

The Tenement Museum preserves and interprets the history of immigration through the personal experiences of the generations of newcomers who settled in and built lives on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, America’s iconic immigrant neighborhood; forges emotional connections between visitors and immigrants past and present; and enhances appreciation for the profound role immigration has played and continues to play in shaping America’s evolving national identity.

Funding Credits

This project is made possible with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

Special Thanks

Gabriella Amabile (NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development), Yeju Choi, Travis Eby, Ari Goldstein (Jonathan Rose Companies), Josue Gomez, Ryan Hartley, Chad Karty, Alex Keith, Jonathan Kirschenfeld (Kirschenfeld Architects PC), Eric Klinenberg, Andy Reicher and Emily Ng (Urban Homesteading Assistance Board), Aaron Koffman, Wesley LeForce, Anthony M, Materials for the Arts, Charles Okpala, Jamie Olen, Alison Peckett, Janine Soper, the Tenement Museum, Steven Thomson, Cheryl Tse, and Sandra Williams


  • Project Lead
  • Valeria Mogilevich
  • Project Support
  • Sam Holleran
  • Christine Gaspar
  • The Academy of Urban Planning
  • Students
  • Antonio Capellan
    Miguel Ruiz
    Christopher Viquez
  • With help from
  • Marcus Carlos
  • Bernardo Nuñez
  • Project Coordinator
  • Joshua Lapidus
  • Mary Voorhees Meehan
  • Typography


The Big Squeeze: Illustrating Micro-Unit Housing
  • Urban Omnibus
  • June 26, 2013

CUP teaching artist Chat Travieso worked with a small group of students to create a powerful tool to make the discussion of this new housing model accessible to a greater population.