Citv Limits

Volume XX Number 2
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Urban Homesteading Assistance Board
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the Public Interest
Beverly Cheuvront, City Harvest
Francine Justa, Neighborhood Housing Services
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Mary Martinez, Montefiore Hospital
Rima McCoy, Action for Community
Rebecca Reich, Low Income Housing Fund
Andrew Reicher, UHAB
Tom Robbins, Journalist
Jay Small, ANHD
Walter Stafford, New York University
Doug Thretsky, former City Limits Editor
Pete Williams, National Urban League
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Call To Action
r many years, the progressive community has tried to -fight its battles
with analysis, facts and reasoned arguments. To a large degree, that's
what City limits itself is about. This approach plays a very important
role when it comes to deciding how best to solve social problems. But
reasoned arguments rarely appeal to people's hearts and they certainly
don't win elections. No matter how much time progressives spend trying to
counter conservatives on their own turf-debating the long-term damage of
certain budget cuts versus the short-term benefits, for instance-the result
is bound to be fairly insubstantial. Major change requires a mass movement
or a strong message with widespread visceral appeal. That's how the Re-
publicans have gotten where they are in Washington, Albany and City Hall.
The premises underlying government investment in social reforms,
community revitalization efforts, even environmental balance and the
improvement of urban infrastructure, are all under attack. So if reasoned
argument isn't going to make the difference, what's the alternative?
The lesson from the conservative ascendancy is a lesson about mass mo-
bilization, and that requires a coherent message. But there is no well-de-
fined progressive message in New York City anymore. Nationally, there is
no overarching platform.
It's time to bring people together in New York City, at least, to begin for-
mulating a plan of action to counter what is happening in government at
every level. Ultraconservatives have organized around a theme of "family
values." We ought to organize around a message that has equal power but
is a social contract of a different form, rooted in compassion.
Also of immediate importance: the momentum behind welfare reform, the
balanced budget amendment, middle class tax cuts and so on is not slowing.
People in the various social advocacy and service sectors have to establish
lines of communication and, without compromising on their individual con-
cerns, work together to address each attack. Division and parochialism play
entirely into the hands of the most reckless budget cutters.
On the morning of Thursday, February 9th, there will be a meeting to
begin planning some kind of umbrella effort, a means of working together
to build a broad agenda and common strategy. Scores of organizations and
individuals have already promised to attend, including welfare rights
advocates, housing groups, AIDS activists, youth organizations, day care
providers, soup kitchen operators, labor leaders, representatives from pro-
gressive elected officials and others. The site is not yet set. For information
call Agnes Molnar at the Community Food Resource Center, (212) 344-0195.
Please try to come.
to begin planning a progressive response to conservative
action in Washington, Albany and City Hall:
The morning of
Thursday, February 9th
Call Agnes Molnar at the Community Food Resource Center,
(212) 344-0195
Cover illustration by Eric Gemhauser
Turning the Tables ., . 18
The ultimate fate of the Commumty Rernvestment Act IS currently
being decided in Washington. Advocates for low income
thought they frnally had a law with big choppers . Have banks .and theIr
lobbyists turned it into a toothless wonder? by Klm Nauer
Eyes to the Right 7
Beware the budget busters: an update on the plans emanating from
Washington, Albany and City Hall. by Andrew White
Techno Revolution 8
Environmental activists are harnessing the power of computers to
track and map industrial polluters in Brooklyn. by Hanna Liebman
Say it Ain't So, Mario 10
"Stay with your Aunt Mary." One of Cuomo's parting shots eases state
mandates requiring the city to provide shelter for homeless families.
by Jesse Drucker
Desperate Measures 14
City officials said staff reductions wouldn't affect services at the welfare
offices. Says one center worker, "They have no idea what goes on here."
by JiU Kirschenbaum
Undue Advantage 24
To keep her job as an office cleaner, Luz Ruiz was forced to have sex
with her supervisor. It's an all-too-common scenario for immigrant
workers in the service industries. By James Bradley
Pornography Dilemma
February 14th for Justice
The Drug War's Toll
Squat Loees in Court
Tenant RiPI8 Attack
In Judge Scott's Wake
by David B. Rein
by Deeda Seed and Juliesue Westwood
by Ernest Drucker
C1earin@hou8e 17
Letters 30
Profeuional Directory 34
Job Ad. 34,35
Squat Loses in Court
Heights Homesteaders Face Eviction
A state court has ruled that
the city does not have to take a
group of Washington Heights
squatters to Housing Court be-
fore evicting them, overturning a
lower court decision.
The Appellate Division's 4-0
ruling in Paulino vs. Wright,
handed down December 22nd,
upheld the Department of Hous-
ing Preservation and Develop-
ment's right to summarily evict
the squatters from 508 West
168th Street. The four families
were first evicted last April, but
moved back in June after state
Supreme Court Justice Carol Ar-
ber ruled the eviction violated
their right to due process be-
cause they had been living in the
building more than 30 days. But
the appeals court rejected that
claim, noting they were "illegal
occupants .. . with no property in-
terest in the premises." If upheld
on appeal, the decision removes
a key obstacle to the eviction of
numerous squatter-homestead-
ers in the city.
HPD hailed the decision as a
Fourth graders at P.S. 175 in Hartem used cut-out paper hearts in a lesson about non-
violent conflict resolution, part of an event to comlMll1Ol"8te Martin Luther King Day.
Organized by the CIty Volunteer Corps, the children In grades one through five learned
to distinguish conflict from violence through games and skits.
Tenant Rights Attack
A resolution before the City
Council's Housing and Buildings
Committee has tenant rights ac-
tivists lobbying hard to preserve
one of the most basic rights of
tenants in Housing Court.
The resolution, introduced
by Council members Antonio
Pagan and Archie Spigner,
supports a bid by landlords to
amend the state's Housing
Court law. The legislation would
require that, at the outset of
rent nonpayment proceedings
in Housing Court, tenants de-
posit whatever rent their land-
lord claims is owed them in a
court account. The resolution
had not yet been voted on by
the committee at press time.
While the City Council has
no authority over the Housing
Court, the resolution is seen as
an important piece of support
for Republican forces in Albany,
including Governor George
Patakl's administration, which
want to push for the mandatory
pre-trial deposits. Pagan and
Spigner sey that the require-
victory affirming the city's right
"to remove anyone who is ille-
gally trespassing." Lawyers for
the department immediately
faxed a copy to Jackie Bukowski,
attorney for squatters in four East
13th Street buildings who won a
temporary restraining order
blocking their eviction in October.
Assistant Corporation Coun-
sel Terryl Sellers, representing
HPD in both cases, says the deci-
sion could undermine that re-
straining order, which is partially
based on a similar due-process
claim. However, Bukowski dis-
counts its effect on the 13th
Street squatters.
The four Washington Heights
families, all Dominican immi -
grants, were organized by Inner
City Press, which runs about 20
homesteads in abandoned build-
ings owned by the city in Upper
Manhattan and the Bronx. Do-
lores Santana was the first to
move in, on August 12, 1993. A
street peddler and housecleaner,
she had been staying with vari -
ous friends after her building's
owner discovered that the super-
intendent was renting basement
cubicles to her and other immi-
grants and made them leave. Af-
ter cleaning four van loads of
garbage, needles and crack vials
out of a first-floor railroad flat in
& the four story brick walk-up on
.3 168th Street she now lives there
~ with her 22-year-old daughter.
Mariano Paulino, a 45-year-
old door installer, and his wife,
Herminia, a mannequin-factory
worker, moved in shortly after-
ward. They had been living in a
ment would guarantee land-
lords that they will receive what
is owed them once a case is de-
cided in their favor, adding that
"Residential property owners
lose over a hundred million dol-
lars annually as a result of the
failure of the law to require
mandatory pre-trial deposits ...
"Not only is this unconstitu-
tional, it chills all due process
in housing court," responds
Angelita Anderson, executive
director of the City-Wide Task
Forca on Housing Court, a ten-
ants' rights group. "The land-
lord is given all the advantages.
"He can go in with a rent
claim that may be an over-
tiny $600-a-month apartment on
West 177th Street, sharing the
bedroom with their son, now six.
Their new top-floor apartment,
which they have immaculately
renovated, has a tiled kitchen, a
rebuilt bathroom, new windows
and plasterboard walls with
imbedded stereo speakers. He
says the boiler only needed minor
repairs, and the four apartments
now have regular heat and hot
water. The wiring was supervised
by a licensed electrician, accord-
ing to a Con Ed spokesperson.
"I knew there' d be a moment
of confrontation with the city, but
I hoped that they wou Id see what
we were doing and offer to
help, " says Paulino in Spanish.
"What I don't understand is the
city coming to throw us out, put
us in a shelter, and then pay to
fix our apartment."
Unlike the Lower East Side
squatters, the 168th Street squat-
ters have drawn support from
local nonprofit housing groups.
The Northern Manhattan Im-
provement Corporation referred
them to a structural engineer to
help them back their claim that
the building is sound, says orga-
nizer Evan Hess. "They should
not lose their homes," he argues.
"When people make efforts to
improve their community, it's in-
cumbent on community-based
organizations to support them."
According to spokesperson
Mara Neville, HPD will not evict
the squatters until the Appellate
Division-the state's highest
court-decides whether to allow
an appeal. Steven Wishnia
charge or that may not even be
due to him, and tenants will
have to deposit this money in
court," she says. "It's unequal
treatment. Landlords WOUldn't
have to place a repair bond in
the court if a tenant came in and
claimed that repairs were due ...
Dave Robinson, a housing
attorney at Legal Services' Le-
gal Support Unit, adds that the
bill doesn't even make sense.
"Whafs the penalty going to be
for tenants who can't pay their
rent to the court?" The judge
can't deny tenants a trial, he
says. "It's unclear what the pur-
pose of this is other than as an
intimidation tactic." Kim Neu..
Racial Steering
For nearly a year, Craig Og-
burn hunted for a one-bedroom
apartment in the mostly white
Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens
sections of Brooklyn. When he
didn't find one, he hunted for a
good lawyer instead.
Ogburn, an African American
who works on Wall Street, went to
the Open Housing Center, a Man-
hattan-based nonprofit fair hous-
ing group. The center dispatched
"testers" to see if racial discrimi-
nation was at the root of Ogburn's
difficulties. The evidence that it
was, they charge, is very clear. So
last month, they sued the Cobble
Heights and Heights Berkeley re-
alty firms for violating federal fair
housing laws.
shown apartments for rent, ac-
cording to court papers. Og-
burn's lawyer, Richard Bellman
of the New York firm Steel BeIl-
man Ritz & Clark, concedes that
brokers are often forced to ap-
pease property owners who may
not want to comply with fair
housing laws. "But they have no
choice," he says. "If all brokers
obeyed the law, owners wouldn't
be able to pick and choose."
" Wherever [discrimination)
can be done, it's being done,"
Spiro adds. "It has everything to
do with black and white, and
nothing to do with green." The
organization currently educates
the public about housing dis-
crimination through a new cable
show called "The Housing Fo-
rum" on Manhattan Neighbor-
hood Network's public access
channel, and through communi-
ty workshops. Seem a Nayyar
East HaI1em's seat in the state Assembly is up for grabs following the death last
month of Democrat Angelo Del Toro. His brother Wliiam is _ vying for the seat,
but members of the community orpnizltion East Hartem Partnership for Change
aren't sure that's a good idea: abo¥e, the Reverend James Brennan presents gfPi-
ernment officials with 25,000 signatures of local residents demanding a financial
audit of Del Toro's social service organizations, which have receiYed miIHons
of dollars in government (:OIIbac:b and lease payments.
The center receives "a couple
of thousand" complaints each
year, only a handful of which ac-
tually result in a lawsuit, says
Phyllis Spiro, the center's deputy
director. The federal Department
of Housing and Urban Develop-
ment recently buoyed its efforts
by awarding a $500,000 grant,
and the center is about to hire its
first in-house lawyer in 16 years.
In Judge Scott's Wake
Yee says she was "not in a po-
sition to comment" about
whether OCA monitored Scott's
cases during the year he was un-
der investigation. "You can't do
anything so overt that he knows
about it," explains Gerald McK-
elvey, a spokesperson for District
Attorney Robert Morgenthau.
McKelvey said the investigation,
which included three undercover
stings against Scott, took a year
because "it takes time to build a
solid case."
The lawsuit against the two
Brooklyn realtors alleges that
Ogburn visited their offices sev-
eral times over a 12-month peri -
od and was repeatedly told that
no Cobble Hill or Carroll Gardens
apartments were available in the
$925 to $1200 range. One sales-
woman allegedly told Ogburn
that Carroll Gardens was an "old
Italian" neighborhood and ques-
tioned why he would want to be
"bothered with such restraints."
Instead, Ogburn says he was
steered to neighboring Boerum
Hill, a community with a higher
percentage of African American
Andrew Berger, a lawyer for
the realtors, declined to com-
ment, saying he would rather try
the case "in the court instead of
the press."
The Open Housing Center al-
leges that the two realty offices
also discouraged black testers
from renting in the mostly white
sections of Brooklyn, or told
them nothing was available, de-
spite advertisements indicating
otherwise. Meanwhile, the cen-
ter's white testers were all
Tenants who appeared before
Housing Court Judge Arthur
Scott-who was arrested in De-
cember on charges of taking
bribes in exchange for authoriz-
ing evictions-will soon be re-
ceiving notices that they may
have an opportunity to reopen
their cases.
At a meeting last month with
representatives of the Legal Aid
Society, Chief Administrative
Judge E. Leo Milonas agreed to
hand over a list of tenants who
had no legal representation when
they appeared before Scott, and
may thus have been vulnerable
to unusual treatment. Legal Aid
will review the cases for proce-
dural irregularities and mail out
notices urging tenants to contact
them, according to Helaine Bar-
nett, head of its civil division.
Office of Court Administration
(OCA) spokesperson Mai Yee
says she has been unable to cal-
culate exactly how many cases
will be included in the list. Hous-
ing Court judges typically handle
several thousand cases per year,
and 90 percent of tenants repre-
sent themselves, so the number
is likely to be high.
At first, OCA apparently be-
lieved that affected tenants
would have heard about Scott's
arrest in the media, according to
Angelita Anderson of the City-
Wide Task Force on Housing
Court, but tenant lawyers and
advocates urged OCA to broaden
its efforts.
Advocates also criticized the
Manhattan District Attorney's of-
fice for taking a year to complete
its investigation, and the OCA's
apparent failure to monitor Scott
during that period. "Why were
people evicted for so long? They
are poor people and nobody
cares," says Barbara Small, a
paralegal with MFY Legal Services
and the City-Wide Task Force.
Haillby Mahler, who says she
didn't hear of Scott's arrest until
she complained recently to the
City-Wide Task Force about his
handling of her case, is suing her
former landlord for $150,000.
Mahler agreed to pay back rent
and move out of her Chelsea
apartment after her lawyer told
her she had no chance of win-
ning her 14-month rent strike in
Scott's courtroom. But when she
tried to object to the stipula-
tion-court papers drawn up by
her landlord's attorney to settle
the case, which she says over-
charged her by $5,500-Scott
threw it out and gave her 72
hours to move. "Was he bought?
I don't know," she says. "I
wouldn't be surprised, because
we had such a good case."
Steven Wishnia
~ ...
... ,
The Chase Community Development
Corporation Finances Housing and
Economic Development Projects,
New Construction
Special Needs Housing
Homeless Shelters
Home Mortgages
Small Business Loans
Loan Consortia
For information, call the
Community-Based Development Unit
(212) 552-9737
We Look Forward to Your Call!
Eyes to the Right
There's certainly no shortage of en-
tertaining news from the halls of gov-
ernment these days (for those who
consider shock drama entertaining,
that is). For at least the next few
months, City Limits will provide a cal-
ender of some of the critical issues
slated for executive and/or legislative
action. This way, those of you working
in one field can at least have some
idea what your colleagues in other
fields are up against, and vise versa.
The next round of budget mania is
scheduled to begin February 14th,
when Mayor Rudolph Giuliani releas-
es his four-year financial plan. It will
include yet another modification of
the current year's budget-at least a
$500 million cut and maybe $600
million, says Comptroller Alan
Hevesi. So far the predicted "budget
gap" that Giuliani will seek to bridge
for the 1996 fiscal year (which begins
July 1, 1995) amounts to $2.5 billion
or more. Expect further cuts in capital
infrastructure investment as well as
social services, housing preservation,
sanitation; higher expenditures on
overtime for the uniformed services;
and fewer cops on the street, more at
desk jobs.
Governor George Pataki's first budget
proposal is due out February 1st. It is
guaranteed to make the hardiest advo-
cates shiver, thanks to an estimated $4
to $5 billion budget gap and $1 billion
in promised tax cuts. Among the pos-
sible hits:
The demise of the Division of Housing
and Community Renewal (DHCR): A
plan drafted by the Pataki housing
transition team-which included such
New York housing stalwarts as Kathy
Wylde of the New York City Housing
Partnership, Mike Lappin of the Com-
munity Preservation Corporation and
former city housing officials Sally Her-
nandez-Pinero and Al Walsh, among
others-would entirely remake state
housing policy. At the top of its agenda
is a plan to eliminate duplicative bu-
reaucracy by folding DHCR and its re-
sponsibilities into a newly combined
Housing Finance Agency and State of
New York Mortgage Authority (HFAI
SONYMA). More dramatically, the team
has asked Pataki to drop state backing
for 250,000 units of Mitchell-Lama and
public housing "through buy-outs and
conversions" and privatization; phase
out rent regulation by deregulating
apartments when they become vacant;
"launch an investigation of New York
City Housing Court"; "exempt buildings
with 20 units or fewer from rent regula-
tion"; and "mandate enforceable sanc-
tions on those who bring frivolous anti-
development lawsuits."
Another proposal would shift state
funds away from development of new
housing for the homeless to one-time
bonus payments for private landlords
who agree to house homeless people,
a model based on the city's troubled
Emergency Assistance Rehousing
Medicaid: Spending on Medicaid,
government medical insurance for the
low-income uninsured, in New York
State and across the country is shoot-
ing upward at a seemingly uncontrol-
lable pace; most fiscal analysts agree
that clipping its wings is critical to
solving budget problems at all levels of
government. But even The New York
Times says the $1.2 billion in cuts put
forward by Lieutenant Governor Eliza-
beth McGaughey would likely have a
severe impact on health care for the
poor in New York City. For the city's
public hospitals, a deep cut in Medic-
aid funds could be the death blow, crit-
ics say. As it is, these hospitals depend
heavily on Medicaid dollars because
they serve a higher percentage of unin-
sured patients.
President Clinton's fiscal year 1996
budget proposal is due out February
6th. In Congress, watch for change in
the following areas:
Welfare reform and nutrition pro-
grams: The Republican plan for
slashing the social safety net is part
of a larger budget cutting proposal
expected to move onto the House
floor in February. Savings via welfare
reform are at the very core of the Re-
publican agenda, reportedly account-
By Andrew White
ing for $40 billion in planned budget
savings over five years to help pay
for tax relief for middle and upper in-
come Americans. The currently fa-
vored method would be for Congress
to give block grants to states for wel-
fare (AFDC and SSI included), child
care and food programs. One of the
more liberal Republican proposals,
favored by many governors, would
freeze funding for these grants at cur-
rent spending levels, adding only
enough money each year to make up
for inflation. Other Republicans are
looking for a 15 to 20 percent cut be-
low current spending levels.
The problem? When the economy
stumbles, more people need a safety
net, but they would not be entitled to
one as they are today. Instead, the
amount of cash available to the states
would be fixed. When it runs out,
that's it. What's more, says Robert
Greenstein of the Center on Budget and
Policy Priorities in Washington, "Pro-
grams such as AFDC-or a welfare
block grant-that have weak political
constituencies would likely fare poorly
in the intense competition for the
shrinking pot of funds."
More info: Center for Community
Change, (202] 342-0567; Center on Bud-
get and Policy Priorities, (202] 408-1080.
Youth and crime prevention pro-
grams: As City Limits goes to press, the
House Judiciary Committee is prepar-
ing to vote to revoke all $5 billion
authorized for youth and crime pre-
vention programs funded in President
Clinton's 1 994 Crime Bill. The new bill
will likely move to the floor of the
House quickly, and a similar one will
probably move onto the Senate floor
during February.
The Republican sponsors seek to
kill funding to cities and towns for
crime prevention and community de-
velopment programs involving young
people, as well as funding for after-
school education, recreation and oth-
er youth programs. They're also going
after $1 billion earmarked for new
drug courts designed to deal with the
overwhelming influx of low-level
drug arrests by focusing on alternative
sentencing, drug treatment, and anti-
violence work.
More Info: National Association of
Child Advocates, (202] 828-6950.
Techno Revolution
By Hanna Liebman
Computers may transform the the environmental justice movement-
it's already happening in Brooklyn.
ometimes real reform requires
the heart of an activist and the
mind of a bureaucrat. Thanks in
part to a man who has both, res-
idents in the Brooklyn neighborhoods
of Greenpoint and Williamsburg are
about to get their hands on a powerful
new tool that speaks the language of
the area's biggest and smallest pol-
luters. Activists hope that detailed
computer maps will go a long way to-
ward proving the unfairness of the
heavy environmental load in their area.
If they do, this program could be a
model for other poor communities, like
Harlem and the South Bronx, seeking to
Hazardous facilities near schools In a sample section of G..npolnt·Wllliamsburg
stem the tide of trash
from other people's
paper shufflers. It's called
computerized geographic in-
formation system (GIS) map-
ping, and activists hope it
will be techno-fuel in their
long battle against a legion
of neighborhood polluters.
The bureaucrat-cum-
activist is Reiniero
Hernandez of the city's
Department of Envi-
ronmental Protection
(DEP). He convinced
area leaders that they
should, at least momentari-
ly, drop their distrust of a
city bureaucracy that has been all too
eager to leave their neighborhood in
the hands of trash haulers and heavy
manufacturers. In return, he helped
them set up the Williamsburg/Green-
point Environmental Benefits Program,
which will soon open a new storefront
office housing the only comprehensive
neighborhood database in the city, and
one of the most detailed in the country.
Staffed by a full-time organizer, the
office will be in the business of distrib-
uting block-by-block information about
"We're pushing the
envelope in terms of
community right-to-
know. Even the city
agencies don't have
this kind of compre-
hensive data," says
Barbara Warren, pro-
ject director of the
Consumer Policy Insti-
tute and a member of
the program's tech-
nical advisory board.
"No one," adds Her-
nandez, "has anything
even remotely close to
what we're doing here."
Environmental Insults
home to large Hasidic, Pol-
ish, and Latino popula-
tions, is a poor commu-
nity with an average
household income that
is thousands of dollars
below that of the
borough as a whole,
according to the 1990
The neighborhood's con-
dition is as poor as its residents. It
has the highest percentage of land de-
voted to industrial activity of any com-
munity district in the city and has been
a favored dumping ground for the
city's garbage haulers. The list of envi-
ronmental insults is notorious, begin-
ning with a chronically overflowing
sewage treatment plant, a radioactive
waste storage facility and high levels of
volatile organic compounds released
into the air by local businesses. Petro-
leum and natural gas spills have been
common and noxious 18-wheeler in-
dustrial traffic rumbles through day
and night. Many experts describe the
community as the most polluted in
New York City.
For some time, residents have sus-
pected that all of these factors com-
bined have levied a heavy toll on the
community's health. But gathering sub-
stantive proof has been tough. In recent
years, studies by academic researchers
on environmental links to health prob-
lems in the neighborhood have proven
inconclusive or have been downplayed
by authorities.
Toxic Emission Sites
So a few years ago, when the oppor-
tunity-and a good chunk of money-
presented itself, a group of residents
knew what they needed: a powerful
data bank to help them trace toxic
emission sites as well as respiratory
health problems, for example, or com-
bine information about garbage trans-
fer station permits with tax records,
and so on. With good information, they
figured, the community would have
the ammunition it needed to fight
The money came from a consent de-
cree worked out in 1991 after the state
Department of Environmental Conser·
vation sued the city for failing to com-
ply with regulations governing opera-
tion of the Newtown Creek sewage
treatment plant. The settlement includ-
ed the allocation of $850,000 for a
three-year, community-based environ-
mental assessment and enforcement
project, which became the Green-
point/Williamsburg Environmental
Benefits Program. It also required a
partnership between a frustrated com-
munity and a city agency it has long
mistrusted: the DEP.
When Hernandez came onto the
project a year later, the enterprise was a
shambles. Little had been accom-
plished and disputes within the com-
munity had stymied progress even on
agreed-upon initiatives. The key, Her-
nandez says, was that he and his team
thought of themselves as serving the
community, not the city government.
Before long he had convinced people
from the neighborhood that he meant it.
"Half these projects would not be
done if it was up to DEP" because of
the bureaucracy's inclination to avoid
controversy, he recalls. "It was my job
to try to manipulate DEP into getting
the projects done. I put myself at risk
on many occasions to get these projects
off the ground." Indeed, a few months
ago, the Giuliani administration dis-
banded the community relations divi-
sion Hernandez oversaw and he was
moved two levels down in the agency
Teaching The Community
Among the projects that have fallen
under the EBP's auspices are a two-
year health study identifying cancer
hot spots; environmental education ef-
forts focusing on household hazardous
wastes and providing training for local
school teachers; the preparation of a
curriculum for grades three through six
in three schools; a study of regulatory
enforcement patterns; and a recycling
study and a pollution prevention pro-
ject targeting neighborhood businesses.
Rounding out the efforts is an open
space project, including a bid to the
Department of Transportation to plant
trees along the Brooklyn-Queens Ex-
pressway, which runs through the
neighborhood and up to the Williams-
burg Bridge.
The new neighborhood office will
be run by an "environmental watch-
person, " says Hernandez, who will
organize lobbying efforts against illegal
polluters and the like. The staffer will
also seek money to study environmen-
tal and health problems in the area,
and to keep many of these projects
operating when government funding
runs out (the original $850,000 is
already almost gone, Hernandez points
out). But the watchperson's most
important job will be teaching the com-
munity how to take advantage of the
geographic mapping tools.
GIS is a sophisticated computer pro-
gram that links geographically coded
databases to detailed maps of the
neighborhood. These days , an enor-
mous amount of public information
has been geo-coded and can be easily
analyzed by systems such as this, says
Jeffrey Osleeb, a professor in Hunter
College'S geology and geography de-
partment and the principal architect of
the Greenpoint/Williamsburg's GIS
A citizen, for example, could use the
computer to identify all schools within
a quarter mile of businesses that han-
dIe hazardous materials, he says. Not
worrisome enough? How about finding
all the schools near plants that haven't
been inspected by regulators in four
years? All this is public information
and it can all be mapped on the GIS,
Osleeb says.
The database will also contain im-
portant textual information, adds Inez
Pasher, Community Board 1 's envi-
ronmental subcommittee chair. A
block association could find out how
many other people have called DEP
about a particular problem in their
neighborhood. Or they could assess
for themselves exactly how the neigh-
borhood is doing in terms of pollution
prevention. The goal is to have all
kinds of environmental information
available at a keystroke, she says.
"There are uses for that database we
haven't even thought of yet ," adds
Jim Freeman, staff attorney for the En-
vironmental Justice Project at Brook-
lyn Legal Services Corp A.
What makes this project especially
powerful is that it has been set up to
provide data at the individual lot level,
rather than in the more typical groups
of blocks defined by the federal Census
Bureau. This means that people can
analyze data about a particular build-
ing or site, which can't be done with
systems based on census tracts.
40 Sources
But the crowning glory of this sys-
tem will be the number and variety of
databases it pulls together, Hernandez
says. Other community GIS systems
around the country have mapped in-
formation from a few databases at
most. This one, which is nearing com-
pletion at Hunter, can access data from
about 40 different sources, including
waste transfer station permits, toxic
release inventory filings , even New
York Transportation Authority bus
depot records. Residents will be able to
combine information from state and
local environmental agencies , real
estate and planning departments,
health departments, school boards,
finance offices and much more.
"The GIS will open doors to a lot of
information that the authorities have
been denying exists in Greenpointl
Williamsburg," Pasher says. "It will
prove the point, which we've known
anecdotally, that this community has
been grossly overburdened with nega-
tive environmental impacts."
Some people warn against putting
too much faith in computer-generated
information. "I think the GIS will be
helpfuL" says Eric Goldstein, senior at-
torney at the Natural Resources De-
fense Council, who has also provided
assistance to the neighborhood effort.
"Knowledge is power. But it might be a
mistake to count on this as being the
definitive word. It may show that there
are significant gaps in environmental
data-gathering." Federal emissions
data, for instance, include only legal
emissions. The community would
have to find other ways to discover
illegal emissions.
Cumulative Impact
While activists agree there's no way
to know how useful GIS mapping will
ultimately be, they are excited about its
potential. Until now, says Larry
Shapiro, senior attorney for the New
York Public Interest Group, "Nobody
has really known what was being emit-
ted. This could be a very important
organizing tool. "
The first project to put the GIS capa-
bilities to the test will be the creation
of a neighborhood-wide environmental
impact analysis with the help of a team
of Hunter professors. In recent years,
researchers have compiled health
studies, assessments of lead-dust
contamination, impact tests of under-
ground gasoline spills-but there has
been no conclusive look at all the envi-
ronmental problems that converge on
Greenpoint/Williamsburg. A cumula-
tive impact statement combining all of
these factors could help convince city
officials and state lawmakers that the
neighborhood needs help.
As for Reiniero Hernandez, he's now
hatching a plan for an Environmental
Benefits Program that will cover the
entire Bronx, using funding provided
through the federal government's
Empowerment Zone initiative; roughly
$1.5 million is already forthcoming.
Hernandez hopes to leave the bureau-
cracy behind and move squarely into
his community activist role in a matter
of months. "We're well on the way to
having the Bronx as a case model for a
borough-wide environmental justice
program," he says with a smile.
Perhaps, then, Hernandez will fulfill
the promise of a plaque some former
co-workers gave him that hangs high
on a wall in his office: It reads, "Most
likely to start a revolution." 0
Hanna Liebman is an editor at the
soon-to-be-published Brooklyn Bridge
Say It Ain't So, Mario
Cuomo's parting shot raises one more hurdle
for homeless families in their search for shelter.
The Rodriguez family lived doubled·up, six to a bedroom, before becoming homeless. Above, they await
admission to the shelter system.
he more things change for New
York City's homeless, the more
they just get worse, advocates
say. This time around, they
have Mario Cuomo to thank for shift-
ing the ground beneath their feet.
A few days before leaving Albany,
Cuomo approved a new policy direc-
tive allowing the Giuliani administra-
tion to tighten eligibility requirements
for admitting families to the homeless
shelter system. The directive also eases
an ll-year-old mandate that requires
the city to provide immediate emer-
gency shelter to homeless families.
No mayoral administration has ever
lived up to this mandate: over the
years, many thousands of families have
spent repeated nights trying to sleep on
the chairs and floors of the city shelter
system's intake centers, awaiting a
room with a bed. Indeed, since 1990, a
state Supreme Court judge has fined
the city more than $5 million for ignor-
ing the rule.
But Cuomo's move legitimizes this
practice and allows the city up to 48
hours to decide whether or not a family
is even eligible for emergency housing.
The result, city officials say, is that
intake workers will be able to deter-
mine if families requesting shelter can
instead access other services, such as
additional public assistance benefits,
and return to where they have been
"It's a way to help people to stay in
what is admittedly not a great housing
situation, but it's still housing," says
Joan Malin, commissioner of the De-
partment of Homeless Services (DHS).
The extra time will relieve pressure on
the overburdened and costly shelter
system, Malin adds, and it will enable
the city to weed out families who may
have other options but are entering the
shelters in order to jump to the front of
the line for subsidized apartments.
"I don't think I necessarily help a
nineteen-year-old girl by providing an
apartment," she explains "I would be
doing a better service by saying 'Stay
with your Aunt Mary. Let's get you into
a GED program, get your kid into day
care, and then get you onto a waiting
list for housing."
No Shelters, No Services, No Luck
While Malin seeks to intervene with
families to prevent them from entering
shelters, many homeless prevention
services have been decimated by city
budget cuts in recent months:
-There has been a continued reduction
By Jesse Drucker
in Department of Housing Preservation
and Development (HPD) housing code
inspectors-down from 500 in 1989 to
just over 200 today.
-More than $1 million dollars from
HPD for tenant legal assistance through
Legal Aid and Legal Services has been
-The Human Resources Administra-
tion's (HRA) "Diversion Teams"-
workers in welfare offices who help
prevent evictions and solve other prob-
lems to prevent families from entering
the shelters-are understaffed as a
result of buy-outs and attrition. Despite
promises from HRA to fill the empty
positions, 33 of 146 staff positions re-
main vacant.
Even Commissioner Malin's plan to
help young women access day care as a
homeless prevention program is prob-
lematic, according to Nancy Kolben,
executive director of Child Care, Inc.
She points to the nearly 16,000 people
already on waiting lists for publicly
funded day care, adding that Mayor
Giuliani's latest budget cuts included a
reduction of nearly 1,900 day care slots.
The one recent expansion in home-
less prevention has been the HRA-
funded Eviction Prevention Screening
Teams, a highly successful program
staffed by nonprofit groups working in
welfare centers. But it primarily assists
people on the verge of eviction from
their homes and has proven much less
successful helping those who have
already been evicted and are seeking
shelter, says Liz Krueger of the Com-
munity Food Resource Center, who
oversees part of the program.
"The city wants it both ways,"
charges Steve Banks of the Legal Aid
Society's Homeless Family Rights
Project. "They want more time to pro-
vide more comprehensive legal and
preventive services, but then those
services aren't there."
Intolerable Conditions
Others view the directive as a stamp
of approval for returning women and
children to intolerably overcrowded
living conditions. Anna Lou Dehavenon
of the Action Research Project on
Hunger, Homelessness and Family
Health has been surveying men and
women at the city's shelter intake
offices and publishing annual reports
on her findings there since 1987. Her
research shows that families request-
ing shelter usually say they are leav-
ing overcrowded housing because of
violence, or conflicts with the lease
holder-not, as Commissioner Malin
put it recently to a New York Times re-
porter, because their grandmothers
"got tired" of housing them. Forcing
families back into such circum-
stances, Dehavenon says, will often
just lead to a return visit to the shelter
system-or to the street.
"These policies are based on the as-
sumption that families can go back to
doubled-up situations," says Dehavenon.
"Even if they can go back temporarily,
it's not a permanent solution. But the
permanent solution, creating more
housing, isn't even discussed."
Advocates note that most homeless
families only seek shelter after exhaust-
ing all other options. "I find (Malin's)
characterizations insulting," says Jack
Doyle, administrator of homeless ser-
vices for the American Red Cross. "I
think it's offensive to families who have
fying their homelessness-part of a
screening policy implemented last
year. The guard instructed the families
to walk out into the falling snow, small
children in tow, and use a pay phone
on the street to call the city's homeless
emergency hotline for a referral. With-
out exception, a phone attendant con-
firmed what the families had already
told the security guards: they had no
place to go.
As they stood outside, Carlos and
Aida Rodriguez explained to a reporter
what drove them and their four small
children to the EAU: the family of six
shared an apartment in East New York
with a friend and her family-altogether,
12 people in a two-bedroom apartment.
They coped for six months, but finally
the situation became unbearable: two
months ago, the building was aban-
doned by its landlord. That meant two
long months without heat and hot water.
Now, both families need someplace to
go, and they have no other options. "If
they refuse us, where are we supposed
to go?" asked a visibly shaken Carlos.
Tanya Simpson was making her
second trip to the EAU, and she had
the same question. Simpson and her
Even as the city seeks to keep
people from entering shelters,
homeless prevention services
have been decimated by budget
cuts in recent months.
relied on their own resources, as well as
to the neighbors and relatives who have
extended themselves to help them. It
minimizes the difficulties that families
face living in severely overcrowded sit-
uations for long periods of time."
Eight People, One Bedroom
Those difficulties were evident on a
frigid January night at the city's intake
office for families seeking shelter. the
Emergency Assistance Unit (EAU) on
East 151st Street in the Bronx. Over
and over again, bewildered and ex-
hausted families straggled into the
building and were informed by a secu-
rity guard that they could not be ad-
mitted without an official referral veri-
five-year-old son Ronald fled an abu-
sive boyfriend over a month ago. They
tried to stay with family, but there was
no room. They ended up spending five
nights at the EAU before the city
placed them in the Allerton Hotel in
Manhattan. But after four weeks there,
they were sent to an Income Support
Center where a caseworker wrote the
Simpsons a referral sending them back
to the EAU.
The runaround didn't end there. At
the EAU, Simpson had just been
informed that despite her referral, she
still had to go back outside to use the
phone to get permission to come
inside. She returned a few minutes
later after being told over the phone
Mario Cuomo's New Year's gift to
Rudy Giuliani could turn out to be de·
fective. City officials were overjoyed
that the governor's parting directive
apparently gave them more time to
shelter homeless families, thus
putting an end to the massive fines
that the city has accumulated since
1990. But according to a 1986 ruling
in state Supreme Court, the new di·
rective may be illegal.
Neither the city nor the state dis·
putes that families still have a right
to "emergency housing." What is at
issue are the circumstances and
conditions for providing that shelter.
The Legal Aid Society's Steve Banks
points out that a ruling in a state
Supreme Court case called McCain
v. Koch, based on the judge's read·
ing of the state's constitution, reo
quires the immediate placement of
homeless families into emergency
housing. The first paragraph of the
McCain decision states that the city
must "provide lawful emergency
housing to all eligible homeless fam·
ilies with children, such emergency
housing not to include overnight
accommodations at Emergency As·
sistance Units" (emphasis added).
Banks, who filed the original
McCain lawsuit in 1983, says that if
city officials think they can flout the
ruling by continuing to keep families
in the EAU for days at a time, they
should prepare themselves to go
back to court.
Lorna Goodman, a spokesperson
for the city's corporation counsel,
disagrees: "The order in McCain es·
tablished a constitutional right to
shelter," Goodman claims, "not the
terms and conditions under which
the city must provide the shelter."
Reached by telephone, Judge
Helen Freedman, the judge who
found city officials in contempt for
allowing families to sleep in the
EAU, would not comment on the
diverging interpretations without
reviewing the cases. She would only
say, "That·s an interesting ques·
tion." J.D.
that she did indeed have the right to
be admitted.
Andrea Smart was also nervous
about what was going to happen to her.
Smart and her two small children
shared a one-bedroom apartment with
five other people. But the overcrowd-
ing became unbearable, and she came
to the EAU. "If I had someplace else
to live, I would have gone there, " she
According to Dehavenon, stories
like these are not unusual. Seventy-
three percent of the 182 families she
interviewed as they sought entrance to
the shelter system last year came from
apartments housing between 1.5 and
3.9 people per room.
The Census Bureau's Housing and
Vacancy Survey for 1991 found approx-
imately 210,000 doubled-up house-
holds in New York City. It estimated
that about 50,000 of these households
were "crowded" or "severely crowded."
"What amazes me is not that we
have so many homeless families, but
that we have so few, " given those num-
bers and the deterioration of housing
in many neighborhoods, says Doyle of
the Red Cross.
Nowhere To Go
Whether or not the new directive
will have any impact on the number of
people entering the shelter system is
unclear. Nancy Wackstein, executive
director of the Lenox Hill Neighbor-
hood Association, points out that city
officials have been tightening eligibili-
ty requirements for access to shelter
since the spring of 1993, yet there has
been little change in the number of
families allowed in.
"I can empathize with Joan, " says
Wackstein, who headed the Mayor 's
Office on Homelessness and SRO
Housing for part of the Dinkins admin-
istration. "But it might just mean two
more days for the same result. The
truth is, very few families are found to
be ineligible."
Of course, DHS's effort to prevent
families from coming into the shelters
are entirely logical from the agency's
point of view, says Krueger of the Com-
munity Food Resource Center. That's
because the department only has con-
trol over access to the shelter system. It
has no authority to deal with the
circumstances that force people there
in the first place. Nor does it have
control over the permanent housing
that families need in order to leave the
shelters. "It is a tough position to be
in," says Krueger. "DHS doesn't know
what to do, where to put people. But
these people will go somewhere.
Everybody-the Police Department,
DHS-is very good at moving people
somewhere else. The problem is, there
is nowhere to go. " 0
Jesse Drucker is a reporter for The New
York Observer.
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Desperate Measures
Workers on the front line say the city's welfare system is
tumbling into chaos.
ight months after the Giuliani
administration launched an ef-
fort aimed at drastically reduc-
ing the city workforce, employ-
ees at the 39 welfare centers throughout
the five boroughs are finding it more
difficult to perform their jobs, and ser-
vices to clients are deteriorating.
To date, 3,402 of the 23,000 workers
in the city Human Resources Adminis-
tration (HRA) have taken severance
buyout offers and left their jobs, ac-
cording to agency spokesperson Karen
Calhoun. This includes 867 from the
Income Support Centers where needy
New Yorkers go to apply for public as-
sistance and seek changes to their wel-
fare benefits.
Conversations with more than a
dozen center workers and clients as
well as advocates and nonprofit service
providers indicate that critical data
is not being keyed into computers,
an increasing number of cases are
not being assigned to caseworkers
and new clerks are not receiving the
training they need to perform their
jobs. The result is an overburdened
system, already hobbled by a high
error rate, that is growing more
chaotic with each passing day. "It's
insanity," says Shirley Davis, a su-
pervisor at the Kingsbridge center
in the Bronx. "We are behind and
we are never going to catch up. "
The gravity of the situation is
immediately clear at the Waverly
Center on West 14th Street in Man-
hattan. The second floor waiting
area is noisy, hot and crowded with
people waiting to see a caseworker.
Many have been there since early
morning-at some centers the clients
line up outside as early as 6:00 a.m. ,
hoping to see a worker before noon-
and some are asleep in their chairs.
The scent of stale cigarette smoke
lingers in every corner, made all the
more noxious by the suffocating air of
resignation that permeates the room.
Lanidy Morgan has been here four
days in a row. "The first day, I came to
apply for benefits-I just got out of jail
and I am homeless. I had to come back
Tuesday so I could get my photo ill for
food stamps. I spent the entire day
here, but then the ill place was closed.
So I came back Wednesday, got the ill,
but they put the wrong number on it.
Today, I got that fixed. Now I'm waiting
to get the food stamps-but the com-
puter work isn't ready."
This isn't unusual , says Lori
Williams, an ombudsman in the office
of Manhattan Borough President Ruth
Messinger. "It seems like obstacles are
being put in the clients' way .... Any-
thing to keep them deterred and keep
them stressed." For six years, Williams
has helped constituents make their
way through the tangled welfare sys-
tem. The problems have worsened in
recent months, she says.
Those on the front line say they are
completely overwhelmed. "We're los-
ing staff but we're constantly gaining
clients," says a supervisor from the
Concourse Center in the Bronx. "Peo-
ple say morale is low? It doesn't even
exist." the supervisor adds. "The stress
is so intense, there have been instances
where workers have just lost it. They
just can' t take the pressure and they
start crying, start screaming. People are
very tense with each other."
$200 Million
In the cost-saving maneuverings of
the Giuliani administration, HRA has
been targeted for more than $200 mil-
lion in cuts-out of a total $7.5 billion
By Jill Kirschenbaum
social services budget-for the current
fiscal year. Last February, desperate to
reduce a multi-billion dollar deficit,
the mayor's budget office proposed
slashing an additional 1,000 superviso-
ry and clerical slots from the income
support centers. Officials claimed that
by redeploying workers from other de-
partments, expanding the duties of
center supervisors and merging two
groups of front-line case workers, they
could swallow the cuts without affect-
ing services. But attorneys from the Le-
gal Aid Society and Legal Services for
New York City countered that even
without the additional reductions, the
centers were incapable of delivering
services in compliance with state and
federal regulations. To block any fur-
ther cuts, they filed three separate law-
suits against the city on June 16, 1994,
charging HRA with failing to com-
ply with state and federal require-
ments. The city agreed to postpone
the cuts and the redeployment
pending the outcome of the suits.
Random Vacancies
But the lawsuits have not forced
the city to fill positions that be-
come vacant when employees re-
tire or resign. Nor have they pre-
vented City Hall from offering
workers two severance buyout
packages. As a result, front-line
HRA administrators have had to
c: deal with many unplanned, ran-
* dom pockets of vacancies. Vital
We sections have been hit dispropor-
~ tionately hard even though they
~ were never targeted for reductions,
some suffering losses as high as 40
percent, according to court documents
filed in one of the lawsuits.
Meanwhile, the number of experi-
enced supervisors who can ensure that
necessary work is done has also pre-
cipitously declined. And at least two
centers have lost their entire data con-
trol units-where computer entry work
takes place-in the wake of the buy-
outs, according to Gwen Richardson
from Local 1180 of the Communica-
tions Workers of America, which rep-
resents many welfare workers. Other
centers report similar losses.
"So nothing goes into the comput-
er," charges Cathleen Clements, a staff
attorney at South Brooklyn Legal Ser-
vices. And what does not go into the
computer does not come out, whether
it is the paperwork needed to change a
recipient's address, add a newborn to
her monthly budget or issue an emer-
gency rent check. A control unit super-
visor in the Bronx reported that some
130 checks had been held up for at
least a week, as well as about 200 other
actions on individual cases.
Lorraine and Stanley Lopez know
this all too well. The homeless couple
has been staying at the Allerton Hotel
on West 22nd Street in Manhattan
since December 28th. In early January,
they went to the Waverly center on
West 14th Street to pick up a check to
cover the next half month's rent. After
a full day of waiting, they were finally
told at 5:15 p.m., as the office was clos-
ing, that the person handling their case
that day had left an hour before. There
was nothing to do, they were told, but
come back the following day. The cou-
ple left the center and walked into the
chill January night, hoping the manag-
er of the Allerton would believe them
when they said they'd have money for
the room the next day.
In many offices, entire caseloads are
going uncovered. At the Kingsbridge
center, says supervisor Shirley Davis,
there were five uncovered caseloads
for nearly three months, which means
at least 1,000 clients had no permanent
caseworkers. Court documents indi-
cate similar predicaments at centers
throughout the city.
At the same time, vacancies in su-
pervisory positions have increased the
burden for those who remain. Davis, for
example, has been supervising seven
workers, as opposed to her usual five,
since the October buyout. Others report
they are double and triple covering.
"My contact with clients has gone
up eighty-five or ninety percent," says
the supervisor at the Concourse center,
who is overseeing 10 workers. "I try to
explain to them that it's not that they're
not important. It's just that we don't
have the manpower to do what needs
to be done."
Bottomed Out
Advocates for the poor first suspect-
ed that something was drastically
wrong with the city's welfare system
two years ago. A lengthy Dinkins ad-
ministration hiring freeze had caused
staff levels at HRA to drop from 27,000
Nine out of ten
of the city's
orders to reduce
or discontinue
benefits are
reversed when
they reach the
hearing stage.
to 23,000 workers. Meanwhile, the
number of people receiving public as-
sistance had risen during the same pe-
riod, from some 800,000 in 1991 to 1.1
million by early 1994. Caseloads at the
Income Support Centers had swelled
from 175 per worker to as high as 300
in some instances, says Mark Cohan,
an attorney and director of government
benefits for South Brooklyn Legal Ser-
"It became clear by early 1994 that
HRA had bottomed out," Cohan says.
The result, he charges, was that thou-
sands of destitute people have been de-
nied benefits for which they qualify
under the law.
Marisol Santana is a case in point.
Last fall, Santana,_ an 18-year-old with
one small child and one on the way,
was told at the Hamilton center on
West 135th Street that she did not qual-
ify for public assistance because she
was under 21.
An income support worker there
told her she would qualify for public
aid only after she produced a high
school diploma or proof of prior em-
ployment, neither of which she was
able to do-and neither of which is, in
fact, required of welfare applicants.
Misinformation like this, says Lori
Williams of the Manhattan borough
president's office, is by no means un-
"What did having a high school
diploma have to do with being denied
welfare?" she asks. When Santana came
to her for help, Williams called uptown
immediately. "I told the center I wanted
paperwork that supported that theory,"
she recalls.
A high percentage of welfare recipi-
ents experience some kind of bureau-
cratic foul-up, experts say. Reductions
or the discontinuation of benefits can
be contested in an administrative "fair
hearing"-and most of the city's or-
ders to reduce or discontinue clients'
benefits turn out to be flawed when
they reach the hearing stage. Between
June 1 to October 31, 1994, 90 percent
of the hearings resulted in such orders
being reversed or withdrawn, accord-
ing to HRA documents obtained by
attorneys for the plaintiffs in one of the
legal services lawsuits, Morel v. The
City of New York. In each case, the
Income Support Center either had no
records to substantiate its action or had
made an error in interpreting the regu-
lations. "The protracted denial of...
benefits constitutes immediate and
irreparable harm," concluded United
States District Court Judge John F.
Keenan. "To indigent persons," he
wrote, "the loss of even a portion of
subsistence benefits constitutes ir-
reparable injury."
For their part, city officials have
publicly blamed the lawsuits for pre-
venting HRA from implementing a re-
deployment plan it says will eliminate
inefficiencies. "We have no doubt that
once our plan is put into effect in its
entirety, we will be able to complete
our work in a timely fashion," states
HRA's Karen Calhoun.
Agency officials were unable to
make that case in all three lawsuits
brought against them, however. Judges
in each of the cases have prevented the
city from moving forward with its re-
structuring initiative. In Morel, Judge
Keenan even quoted from an internal
HRA memo obtained by lawyers for the
plaintiffs. Commissioner Marva Ham-
mons acknowledged that staff reduc-
tions would subject the city to lawsuits
and further penalties (in 1993, the fed-
eral government fined the city $10 mil-
lion for its high error rate on welfare
cases) and that the agency "will not be
able to defend [againstllawsuits."
Agency officials are now working
with a court-appointed mediator and
advocates to iron out a plan to improve
operating procedures and comply with
state and federal mandates.
One supervisor suggests they take a
few field trips to ask people at the front
end of the system what's needed. "The
people who create these ideas and
want to initiate these procedures are
working off a piece of paper called a
degree, " she observes. "But they have
no idea what goes on here." 0

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OIEMICAL BANK -helping individuals flourish, businesses grow and
neighborhoods revitalize. For more information please contact us at:
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Economic Development and Community Banking
"Making CRA Work For You: A Guide For Community Organizations,"
by Kathy Thelin. The Woodstock Institute. $10.
"The Business of Self-Sufficiency: Microcredit in the U.S.," by Valjean
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~ c t Justly. " Outlines how to create an economic justice agenda for
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"1992 Directory of Microenterprise Programs." Directory lists agencies
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The Resources Clearinghouse is supported by the Joyce Mertz-Gilmore Foundation.
By Kim Nauer
Community reinvestment is undergoing a tumultuous rebirth in the halls of government.
t was just a year ago December that times seemed
so good for John Taylor. President Clinton had
followed through on a campaign promise to
strengthen the Community Reinvestment Act,
better known as CRA. He had ordered the na-
tion's four banking agencies to sit down and rewrite the
aging regulations. The goal , a mantra for public consump-
tion, was "more lending, less paperwork. "
It seemed like a workable formula for improving access to
loans and bank services in low income neighborhoods and
communities of color-communities that advocates like
Taylor, president and chief executive officer of the Wash-
ington-based National Community Reinvestment Coalition
(NCRC), charge have been too often overlooked by the in-
dustry. Since its enactment in 1977, eRA has required banks
to offer services to customers in every neighborhood where
they receive deposits, even the most disadvantaged. It hasn't
always achieved that goal. But bankers, too, have had their
complaints. They have long argued that the rules are too
vague, the paperwork too time-consuming and the regula-
tors too unpredictable. All sides agreed that more specific
rules and regulations would serve everyone better.
Taylor dared to believe he was helping the Clinton ad-
ministration reshape CRA into the sharp tool that many had
always believed it could be. In long rounds of negotiations
with regulators, he and other activists discussed the prob-
lems of bank-starved communities: Home buyers who can't
find mortgages and homeowners who can't sell. Small busi-
Taylor's good mood had turned
gloomy. President Clinton wasn't talking
and the banking lobbyists seemed
to be carrying the day. If reform foils,
Taylor said then, "There will be
holy war. Congress will have hell to pay. "
There was no war.
nesses that wither without access to credit lines. Stores that
have no safe place to deposit cash. Even simple passbook
savings accounts have been out of reach because banks find
small accounts unprofitable. Culling all this, activists ham-
mered on three main reforms.
First, communities had to have a way of measuring ex-
actly how many loans were actually being made to borrow-
ers in low and moderate income neighborhoods. Second,
the government had to come up with a mechanism for over-
seeing small business lending, which had always dipped be-
low the regulatory radar. Finally, Washington had to devel-
op a method for enforcing the law, since poor CRA compli-
ance had never been a punishable crime.
The resulting proposal, released for public comment in
December 1993, reflected the long hours spent at the nego-
tiating table. Although there were still problems, communi-
ty reinvestment advocates lined up to offer their praise.
But the banks were aghast. They claimed they had been
blind-sided. In the months that followed, more than 6,700
letters were dumped on the regulators, most of them from
angry bankers. Almost immediately, there were signals that
the administration was backing away from its community
position, and by mid-summer, Taylor'S good mood had
turned gloomy. President Clinton wasn't talking and the
banking lobbyists seemed to be carrying the day. If reform
fails, Taylor said then, "There will be holy war. Congress
will have hell to pay. "
There was no war. A few demonstrations, maybe, and cer-
tainly a lot more earnest meetings. But regulators decided to
go back to the drawing board. By late last September, they
released a second draft.
The banks were much happier. Many activists, on the
other hand, were disappointed. And they only became more
so as regulators spent the remainder of the fall yanking at
the few teeth left in the reform proposal.
oday, regulators are putting the final
touches on what has turned out to be al-
most two years of work; in the next few
weeks, the results are expected to appear
in the Federal Register, the official com-
pendium of federal regulations. Where does the Clinton ad-
ministration's new CRA proposal stand?
-The reform proposal offers communities no clear
method of tracking an individual bank's record of loan-
making in low and moderate income neighborhoods.
CRA wformns IW .,./n", u.,itM HiB iPllnlll.!III RIpU-
Iiutu 1m'"""'" itJitiluiws ,. ""","" .,. pi tIN _ .Almost lIS
f1'IIi"f ,. "...,., Mliflists is tIN foa tIMt IIH 104tiJ c...,ms """
wJJ JnwjJ 20 ",.". .f worIt spmt "'"""'" CRA ralls, Ac-
tivists. 1NmJIm ... IMw spmt In.UmJs t(htnm JHW-
i"f tIM" _Ii. t( TIN rmJt. StNM 40 ptIfn.f
pmu ;" the Federal Register, IWU til k
fiuJiuJ I¥forr tIMt """ k """'flU]
.At JmSS ",,", Iamudtm ill "til the HtnI# """ Snum fWN
CIIIJi"l for " I"WinII t(CRA ".ftwrn.
IMw .. ,,,ptwtl " six- ,. n,In-18II1IIh INdt .,. tdJ
1UfII '" "", kiNi. Bat tIN ",." .",;".., sip """
wJllN" jiB ;"JIm..,,'" FJ._ BiB
Mee..JJ.a the Rli1lWftlllnll I"'P1'fIfInIIIJII
An .j' 1995, tbis ¥1.tUnt """,u ".IfoaiwI1 DmIIlt .bust
ftIn'J ,.. ;" tIN anutI'1 fi'nI CRA
All MIIII ,.". wInth """" ., 1IttIJY tbtM 70",,",".j' tIN
,..,;",,) ",."u IN ,..,... MiJ-siutJ """is.
willi ...• ,. $5IJO ",;0;.". ",..u.." -.
.... n", 1III#IIIIS MIJ 6 .f- Iwtth t«nJJ
-1tIIIj«I-foil CIA .. It,..." IIIIIIIJris Jtn.
", liM CnItIr for a..... II,. ".., ;,.
........ """4 "'" IMd tIMt"" " ",.,.,.
.""....u I.;"""". fi- &tI1IIIIIIIIIiI CRd for III
IMII M ..... s;,. 94 ",.", tf* .. ft. "., ..
,..,,., fII*I"".. it.,.., tiNII CRA .... tIItJIII/J ,.
...... tf. ,-ford..,,,. tIft'1 WI'II
1IIrr6i..,... ...." • "., """'" ..., InN.,.
fIIiII.llJistlJiwt. ..........
[991 .... Dr!tttM11IIIiie a...p.. '--I.111.ftn'
".fn1nwJ IMtdI ", ,..",, __ jmo. "'Itt IMrrI ,.1fII .... fIJi/l
.".ltwlll .... ", _lMwItIN ........,iJIJIIJ,...
MIlt lin. "., ,. " fIIIN • .. MJI AJIe. FbItIHitt. pnwJ ct1U#I
for,. c",,-ai9 a... -lit a;",.,, __ -
""." ...... ill "", nr, .... itItIieIIte tiNlllIIq
will"."".,.;. "'" 1MUiIJ, ",.". p""';';""'"
1istuMJj", eRA. .AIul'-' pwIJ etnIIn ,.."" ".
"..-1,. lise., .... JC.N.
-It does require banks to publicly report the race and gen-
der of small business loan recipients. However, all sides ex-
pect that this requirement will be removed before the regu-
lations are finalized because of opposition from banks and
top brass at the Federal Reserve.
-The proposed penalties for noncompliance, including
fines of up to $1 million a day, have been eliminated; the
Justice Department decided that the language of the eRA
law did not allow for them.
-Still, the new regulations are undoubtedly stronger than
those that have been in effect for the last several years.
Banks used to be able to get away with public relations cam-
paigns to fill their eRA obligations. Now eRA evaluations
will concentrate on real work. eRA examiners will be look-
ing at low and moderate income neighborhoods and asking:
how much money is really hitting the streets?
All in all, it's a model of public compromise-but bigger
compromises may be yet to come. The very foundations of
Contrary to popular perception, the law
is not about ending racial
discrimination, nor does it require that
banks make loans to risky borrowers.
business regulation are the target of Republican pickaxes in
the 104th Congress, and CRA regulation has long rankled Re-
publican leaders. Now they are on the attack. Ranking mem-
bers in both houses have asked regulators to stop their work
so they can review this final set of rules. More disturbing is
one of the first bills introduced in the House Banking and Fi-
nancial Services Committee this year. Called the Communi-
ty Reinvestment Improvement Act, it would effectively gut
CRA by exempting 95 percent of the country's banks from
community reinvestment reviews. (See sidebar, page 19)
"I find this abhorrent," Taylor fumes. "CRA reform in-
volved everybody. Now Congress is going to say to heck
with that process, to heck with public involvement, to heck
with all the expense and trouble that people have gone
through in the last two years.
"If Congresspeople want to undermine this effort, they
can start messing with the regs," he adds. "But they had bet-
ter be held accountable. They had better recognize that
they're not serving the American public; they're serving the
banking industry exclusively. "
he skirmishes are over, activists fear.
Now the war has begun. Defending the
CRA reform effort, however flawed, is
crucial to defending the law itself. To do
this intelligently, activists say, requires a
real understanding of what has already taken place-over
the last 20 months, and the last 20 years.
By most accounts, the law's godmother is Chicago activist
Gale Cincotta. During the mid-1960s, as the racial make-up
of her West Side working class neighborhood shifted from
white to black, Cincotta noticed a pattern of discrimination
developing. It was becoming increasingly difficult for her
and her neighbors to borrow money from their local banks.
The practice, now known as redlining, had been going on in
cities allover the country and by the early 1970s, commu-
nity anger was reaching critical mass. Cincotta and others
led a national movement to outlaw the practice.
The resulting CRA law, passed under the Carter adminis-
tration, remains the same today. It is nothing more than a
simple declaration, says Malcolm Bush, president of the
Chicago-based Woodstock Institute, a research and advoca-
cy group. "All we want is for banks to behave the same way
in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods as they would
anywhere else." Contrary to popular perception, the law is
not about ending racial discrimination, nor does it require
that banks make loans to risky borrowers, he says. "We just
want them to make loans to anyone who is creditworthy."
But despite CRA's good intentions, enforcement has only
limped along. Bank regulators are supposed to do periodic
CRA reviews and rate banks on how well they serve less af-
fluent neighborhoods. Activists say, however, that these re-
views have always been perfunctory at best. Despite evi-
dence of ongoing discrimination, regulators have rarely lev-
eled poor ratings against banks with questionable records
and have taken little action against the most blatant offend-
ers. Last year, 94 percent of the 5,592 commercial banks eval-
uated received CRA ratings of satisfactory or outstanding, ac-
cording to trade reports. The nation's 50 largest banks-
which control more than 80 percent of the nation's bank as-
sets-all currently have CRA ratings of satisfactory or better.
That's not to say the law has had no impact. Bush and oth-
ers concede that some banks have done a great deal of work
to earn their high ratings-many offer better service in dis-
advantaged communities than ever before. In Chicago, for ex-
ample, citywide multifamily lending levels rose from 564
loans in 1983 to 1,332 loans in 1992. One-to-four unit lend-
ing is up almost 16 percent in the city's low and moderate
income areas since 1987, compared to an increase of 9 per-
cent in the city's middle to upper income neighborhoods.
But organizers say that the real gains since the mid-1980s
have more do with the changing nature of CRA activism
than with CRA regulation.
First, activists discovered the power of what is now com-
monly known as the "CRA challenge. " Banks must apply for
regulatory approval any time they want to grow or reorga-
nize. Activists know that these periods, particularly mergers
or acquisitions, are a very effective time to challenge a weak
CRA record. The fear of costly delays generally motivates
bankers to sit down with community leaders and reach
some settlement. These agreements, which the NCRC esti-
Boy, times haw For a at _ politics of
CRA, look at wry public dispute bnwem Kathy of
York City Housing Partnnship, anti Matthew Lee, ex«utiw
di"ctor of South Bronx's Inner City PmsICommunity on Mow.
W1/Je's Partnnship, city's r.onprofit of afford-
able OM- anti two-family wouUln't exist without multi-mil-
lion do/J4r banlt knJing commitmmts for subsiJiud, moan-ate in-
housing. group, on hand, has a rrp-
utatWn for using CRA a ti" iron. In last thr« years, Inner
City Press has sucmsfull} seven of city's anti
most banlu, ganuringpromises of mo" than $70 million in
loans anti _ branches for South Bronx and Up!" ManhattAn.
cunmt dispute revolws around community kntling re-
sponsibilitin of Yt1rlt's Savings Bad, which "emtly
with Anchor Savings. Inner City Press to mng-
" on pYJunds that both banks hMi ignorwl thnr obligtUions to
loans anti maintain branches ill South Bronx. Such chlll-
ImUS have Nm most pownfol tool that ctJ1IImunity pYJups have
undn CRA. While regulators rarely rrj«t a banlt "Pplicllhon on
CRA grtnInds, community chllllmgn can tiela} an IljJplication for
months. &nIu lJPiclllJy smk with the by maltingfimu'e Iolln
commitmmts rathrr than Milling with the cost ,,"" hIIssIe .f tiefond-
ing thnr CRA "cord.
Bill this ,,, •• ntmItiws fr-", 21 •• "."".jits,
may _ h.J plttym on the
smIe, snit " Imrr to the rep/aton tiefnu/ing mnwstlrlmt
rmmJ. o.JIint tIInnseIws the Nnu Y..-k City for RIsptnt-
sible o",,1IItmity Lnttfint, tINy pw hip 1IfIris to INueJ .n
their""", with the bait. The]" i,.uatly
the by LH, whtIse IIj'the city's wt D1pIIiutI
tIJImIIUms reWilittlting InUJJings outsiM
gowm1llmt-1Mc1mJ chtt"Mls---tIlm whitt chtlr«tniu lIS an
-u1lMthotlox· IlP"...m to its fIItIrlt.
MtIre IlSIitnUIIJing to CRA IICtivists WIU wyIM's
mates have pumped more than $60 billion into communi-
ties nationwide, are still the main way activists force banks
to open new bank branches and increase lending activity.
A second major change has also taken place. Bankers and
community activists now routinely team up to funnel loans
and housing money into needier communities. Even some
of the banks' most vociferous critics have established bank-
dependent development offices. The Association of Com-
munity Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), for in-
stance, was a pioneer in the use of CRA challenges and now
runs the Mutual Housing Association of New York and oth-
er development projects throughout the country.
Indeed, thousands of non profits nationwide are now in the
business of working with banks to promote affordable hous-
ing, economic development, microenterprise loan programs
and community technical assistance. Other budding non-
profits, like the community development financial institu-
tions, are also dependent on the cooperation and goodwill of
the banking industry. City Limits itself raises about 8 percent
of its budget from bank advertising and grants.
Op-Ed on in New York Newsday. A Itry argummt:
efforts Lels a" in haruis of groups, In-
n" City Prrss, that no trllClt "cord in housing or
businm loans.
"Todtzy. Yt1rlt has a MtWorie of than 250 nonprofit
groups ... with proven captlCity to translate bank commitmmts into
housing. jobs anti tkwlopmmt, » wrote. "Without a ca-
ptlCity to deliver, Inner City Press rislts tying up money that banks could
be investing mo" "nJ tffiaiwly through other chanMIs. "
tiff and W1/Je is symbolic of a greater split in
"inwstmmt community. Since CRA took qfict in 1979, law
has sp4WMd Il MW gutZrd of com",unity organizations ill
Ilrt of financing Ilnti tkvelopmmt. from
natiollwitk housing tkvelopm to Ioclll unions IInti tin} m;-
loan funds. Banlu working with pYJups be-
cau« thry p",viM 111ft mIT] into unfomili4r territory; mo" impor-
tantly, they do much of the costly Ilnd training llSSOCiAted
with co",m,mity loans.
B., mnllest1llmt foNillmentaiists point out thIlt the whtJle ,,;m of
CRA WIlS to gn banlu to milt low anti mot.lnrzte Mighbor-
hotNJs 1l"1 othrr community. ThtIt muns btlnlu shouUJ maintain
bWlnches compkte with loan offi«rs who will dutifolly
consiJer the "Pplications of Ilnd wtnJd-be
This is lllintitteJJy harrJn. and more expnuivt worIt. But OYfIl-
niurs SII} that's euctIy why banlu must N to do it. And whm
"."""fits tu", tin pYJuPs Inner CiIy Press, tINy do to at their
tIW1I pmJ. -This puts " chilli"g 4foct "n the whole ctJ"""."ity in-
fltJltJmrmt prtlUSS. ,. StIJS tIM p",minnat tlCtivist. CWIMt it SIIJS to the
baMs is: 'You clln buy us. ,. This is IIlJ besitie tIJe point StIJS
MIIIIhnu Lee. lind Anchor SlIt dnm with him lind C01II1IIittetl
thmueIws to malting at lellst $20 ",;a;." in loans in the South
Bronx """ Up!" MII1Ihattan. They thmv in the ,",mise of a _
fiJI-snvi« South Bronx bait bWlnch to boot. NtIW that's tM WIlJ
CRA is lfIIptmt/ to writ, LH SIlJs. "We at whIIt the banlt d«s, ,.
M StIJS. wIf it's no poJ. taJIt to them. If they're "rrtlfllnt, chal-
Imge thmt.. • K.N.
Of course, says Allen Fishbein, general counsel for the
Washington-based Center for Community Change, banks are
listing each and every one of these activities in their CRA re-
ports. But, he adds, the danger is that government regulators
will become enchanted with these nonprofit partnerships
and let banks off the hook for what many community lead-
ers feel is most important: serving low and moderate income
customers in exactly the same way as they serve the rest of
America-by making loans and opening branches.
"In even the most active banks, CRA work represents a
very tiny percentage of their overall activity," he argues. "If
''If we lose the focus on the overall business
by praising this small potatoes activity, we
will have created a system that enables
banks to get by doing very little in fulfilling
community needs. "
we lose the focus on the overall business [by praising] this
small potatoes activity, we will have created a system than
enables banks to get by doing very little in fulfilling com-
munity needs."
He advocacy groups occasionally clashed
during the CRA revision process, most
agreed that the banking industry could be
doing much more to serve poor neighbor-
hoods. The question was how.
The current CRA evaluation procedure, which almost al-
ways resulted in good grades, was a joke. That they knew.
And they also knew the power of public information, having
made good use of the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act
(HMDA) , which requires banks to reveal the race, income
and neighborhood of all applicants, whether or not they suc-
ceed or fail in getting a loan.
So why not dream the dream? Activists pushed for a CRA
evaluation, known as the "market share test," that would in-
clude and compare real numbers. Essentially, it was a quick
and dirty loan test for comparing whether banks served their
low and moderate income neighborhoods as aggressively as
they served their affluent ones, says Rick Marsico, a com-
munity reinvestment scholar at New York Law School.
Bankers and banking groups, however, wanted nothing to
do with this test. Arguing that it would vastly increase their
paperwork burden, they launched a full-scale assault to re-
move it. The bankers enlisted the support of the Federal Re-
serve, the most powerful and politically independent of
Washington's four banking regulators, and the result is what
we see today.
The good news, says Fishbein at the Center for Commu-
nity Change, is that the new regulations require banks to get
a satisfactory rating on lending in order to pass their CRA
evaluation. That means that banks will no longer be able to
say they just tried to lend-they will have to show some re-
sults to pass. The bad news is that the market share test and
most other public measures of CRA performance are gone.
Furthermore, the new regulations allow examiners to
give banks big points for all the work they do with non prof-
its. This worries some activists who feel that the effect will
be to reduce the importance of direct, bank-to-customer
lending in the neighborhoods. It is possible, for example,
that a retail bank that aggressively supports nonprofit lend-
ing programs-such as community loan funds or credit
unions-could itself do no direct lending at all, yet still pass
its CRA test, Fishbein says.
(This discussion, it should be noted, applies only to the
large retail banks, which dominate big city markets like New
York. Small banks, with assets of less than $250 million,
will face new "streamlined" CRA evaluations. Wholesale
and limited-purpose banks, which don't serve off-the-street
customers, will be judged by how much indirect lending
work they do with community groups.)
But Janis Smith, a spokesperson at the Office of the Comp-
troller of the Currency, a chief architect of the regulations,
says that banks deserve full credit for this kind of work. And
many nonprofit leaders support this approach as well, argu-
ing that bank support for community groups promotes loan-
making efforts that would not otherwise get done.
"They had better give banks credit for indirect loans,"
says Fran Justa, director of Neighborhood Housing Services
of New York City, which arranges financing for the rehabil-
itation and repair of one- and two-family homes. "Who's go-
ing to make a $5,000 loan for boiler repair? Nobody, any-
more. We do it." [See page 21 for more about the changing
nature of community groups.]
In the end, everyone agrees, this tricky analysis will be
left to the judgment of individual government examiners.
"We've lowered the burden on the industry and put the bur-
den on ourselves, where it should be," Eugene Ludwig,
Comptroller of the Currency, told the American Banker last
September. That's not exactly a warm thought considering
the past behavior of CRA examiners, responds ACORN's ex-
ecutive director, Steven Kest. "The examiners have been
pretty pro-bank. We've looked at the examinations and
they're ludicrous," he says. "The main critique of the exist-
ing CRA is that the exam process is very subjective, and I
don't think these proposed regs are much different."
creasing mortgage and development activity was
not the only goal of CRA reform, however. Activists
also wanted to see more emphasis on economic de-
velopment and support for small businesses. The
general consensus is that communities have not
gained much.
The most recent version does require banks to collect
data on the business loans they have made, documenting
what neighborhood the business is from as well as the race
and gender of the primary business owner.
The information would not be as detailed as the powerful
HMDA mortgage data, however, and most of it would be re-
served for the eyes of CRA examiners. Even so, observers
are betting that even this weak reporting requirement won't
make it into the final regulations. Banking groups and Fed-
eral Reserve Governor Lawrence Lindsey have made its
elimination a top priority. President Clinton and his team at
the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency are doing noth-
ing to fight back. "It's too bad," sighs ACORN's Kest. "We
could have taken advantage of that."
But in all the talk of lost opportunities, activists have
missed an even more glaring weakness, says Joseph Vincent,
director of financial service development at the South Bronx
Overall Economic Development Corporation. (SOBRO). The
new regulations, he says, do almost nothing to improve in-
ner city banking services, even though their availability is
crucial to the economic revitalization of any neighborhood.
Small businesses need a place to make their nighttime de-
posits, he explains. And without a local bank, owners lack
easy access to currency to make change. They can't accept
checks or sign up for credit card programs. Basic financial
services, which Manhattan shopkeepers take for granted, are
impossible to get in the South Bronx, he says.
The economic growth of the rest of the community is also
stunted, Vincent adds. Lacking access to banks, families
have no safe way to save money. And even if they can get to
a branch, small depositors are rarely welcome. Most banks
charge high minimum deposits and monthly fees to dis-
courage penny-savers. The disparities are obvious in his
own neighborhood, he says. The six community districts in
the South Bronx share 24 branches while the six communi-
ty districts in the northern Bronx have 86.
Of course, activists can still negotiate for additional
branches during a CRA challenge. But little else has been
done to improve matters, Vincent says. "You've got a whole
class of working people who are being shortchanged out of
services like savings and checking. But you don't relate to
that as viscerally as you do to problems like homelessness,"
he says. "So the problem is, we don't have advocates for
these people."
, then, what really has changed?
For activists, not a whole lot, concludes
ACORN's Kest. "I don't think there are any
new handles for community groups here,"
he says. "What we come down to in the new
regs is exactly the same situation we've had since CRA
started, which is if you're able to demonstrate power and
support on the street, you'll have a much better chance of
forcing the bank into negotiations and the regulators into
a more helpful role. If not, then you won't."
But this assumes that CRA-reform or no-remains on
the books. Given the current mood in Congress, communi-
ties are going to have to put up a fight to save it, Fishbein
says. "CRA has never been popular in Washington. The sup-
port for it, the strength of it, has always come from the grass-
roots community groups," he adds. "This law will depend
on the work of all of these groups to survive." 0
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Undue Advantage
A landmark human rights case exposes sexual harassment
of immigrant workers in the service industries.
ne night seven
years ago, Luz
Ruiz's supervisor
asked if she want-
ed a ride home after work.
Ruiz, who worked the night
shift as an office cleaner,
later testified that she was
wary of the offer, but a car
ride from lower Manhattan
to Queens was far more
appealing than taking the
subway in the early morning
hours. It was the beginning
of a harrowing and brutal
During the ride home,
Ruiz alleges, her supervi-
sor, Namik Uruci, pulled
over on a dark and deserted
street, pointed a gun at her
head and told her she had
no choice but to have sex
with him. He also told her
that if she reported the inci-
dent she would be fired.
For the next several
months, Ruiz was forced to
have sexual relations with
her supervisor, usually in the back seat
of his car, sometimes up to three times
a week, according to court documents.
He even showed up at her home to
demand sexual favors. Ruiz testified
that she could have told management
about Uruci's abuses, but she feared
losing her job, and with it the legal rep-
resentation provided by her union-at
the time, she was in a bitter custody
battle for her daughter in Family Court.
As City Limits goes to press, the
city's Commission on Human Rights
is expected to soon affirm an adminis-
trative judge's recommendation that
Namik Uruci and his employer, Arcade
Cleaning Corporation, pay Ruiz
$300,000 in compensatory damages for
the sexual harassment she experienced
on the job. Because of the way that
human rights law is written, the
judge's ruling becomes legally binding
only upon a vote of approval by the
commissioners. But if they agree with
the judge's recommendation, this set-
tlement would represent the largest
amount of money awarded a victim of
harassment in the 40-year history of the
city agency. Women's rights advocates
are hopeful that this and other large
cash settlements will ultimately playa
crucial role in stemming sexual harass-
ment in the workplace.
"It's the only thing that's going to
help," says Dr. Francine Moccio, direc-
tor of Cornell University's Institute for
Women and Work. "Without these set-
tlements, employers would not, on the
whole, address this issue."
"Any case that comes down has an
impact," adds Sharon Hoahing, direc-
tor of the regional office of the Nine to
Five Working Women's Association, an
advocacy group. "The publicity has a
major impact on the way people per-
ceive and handle their own personal
situations. "
But what will it mean for women
like Luz Ruiz? A Colombian immi-
grant, she speaks little English, has
scant understanding of her civil rights
and limited resources for pursuing jus-
tice. Hers is a situation not uncommon
among many of the city's recent immi-
By James Bradley
grants. Struggling to make
a living, many end up
in industries like office
cleaning where, govern-
ment officials and others
say, sexual harassment
is a notorious problem.
"We know that sexual
harassment goes on," says
Yolanda Wu, an attorney
for the National Organiza-
tion for Women's Legal
Defense Fund. "It's a mat-
ter of reaching out to
these women and letting
them know they have
Physical Violence
As Judge Steven E.
Presberg wrote in his rec-
ommendation on the Ruiz
case, "It is difficult to con-
template, in an employ-
ment discrimination case,
conduct more egregious,
more intrusive or physi-
cally assaultive than that
which occurred here."
According to transcripts from the trial,
not only did Uruci force Ruiz to have
sex at gunpoint, but he also threatened
her and her family with physical vio-
lence and transferred her to different
worksites so she remained under his
supervision. The abuse was so great
that she was hospitalized for trauma
and had to take a six-month leave of
absence. Only after receiving psychi-
atric counseling did she go to the Com-
mission on Human Rights in 1988 to
report her case and file a lawsuit
against him.
It took five years for the bureaucracy
to move her case forward, but finally,
in 1993, it came to trial. Attorneys and
officials from the commission's law
enforcement bureau brought her psy-
chiatrist, witnesses, sexual harassment
experts and others to testify on her be-
half. Uruci categorically denied every-
thing, but even members of Arcade's
management testified that he had told
them he had a sexual relationship with
Ruiz. Arcade maintained that it swiftly
and promptly dismissed Uruci once
Ruiz made her complaint, and that the
company was not culpable for his be-
Judge Presberg ruled otherwise. In
addition to the $300,000, Presberg rec-
ommended that Ruiz be given her job
back-she left under pressure soon af-
ter the incidents-and that Arcade im-
plement a comprehensive sexual ha-
rassment policy. All of the company's
supervisors must also take training ses-
sions on sexual harassment.
As an administrative law judge,
Presberg does not have the same au-
thority as a civil court judge. He can
only recommend a decision to the
commission, which must then affirm
or reject it. Because the judge has heard
all of the evidence presented in a
lengthy trial, however, "his recommen-
dation is entitled to great weight," says
commission attorney Randy Wills.
Staff attorneys at the agency say it
would be highly unusual for the judge'S
recommendation to be reversed.
Attorneys for Arcade, however, say
they will likely appeal the decision in
state Supreme Court if the commission
affirms Judge Presberg's recommenda-
Immigration Problems
In the aftermath of Anita Hill's tes-
timony before the Senate Judiciary
Committee in 1991, sexual harassment
charges have increased dramatically in
number, as have lawsuits with settle-
ments reaching into the millions of
dollars. Sexual harassment charges
filed with the federal Equal Employ-
ment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
increased 112 percent nationwide
between 1989 and 1993, from 5,623 to
11,908. In 1992 alone, there was an
increase of 53 percent in such cases.
In New York, the state Division on
Human Rights opened the Office of
Sexual Harassment Issues in Septem-
ber 1993. The office reports that com-
plaints statewide have gone up from
237 in 1991 to a projected 570 in fiscal
year 1995. "Cases are rising at over 100
a year," notes Virginia Vida, director of
the office. The city's Human Rights
Commission also confirms there has
been an increase in the number of cases
But many immigrants have re-
mained unaffected by the growing
awareness of sexual harassment in the
workplace. For one thing, government
agencies are threatening to many im-
migrants, particularly those who are
undocumented. "They fear that they
might be exposed to immigration prob-
lems," says Wills. "Of course, that's not
the case, and Mayor Giuliani has made
that clear. But it takes a while for these
messages to filter down." Also, sexual
harassment is often a symptom of larg-
er problems affecting immigrants in the
workplace, such as wages, worker safe-
ty and other discrimination issues. In
order to address sexual exploitation,
more sweeping reforms for immigrants'
rights must be confronted as well, ex-
perts say.
Especially Vulnerable
Additional variables make immi-
grants especially vulnerable to sexual
harassment. "In general, immigrant
workers, particularly unauthorized
immigrant workers, are in a very pre-
carious situation," explains Wendy
Shimmelman of the International
Ladies Garment Workers Union. "They
are isolated by language. Their bosses
use immigration law against them. In
some cases, they make threats that
aren't real: 'I'm going to have you de-
ported.' That's not something they can
do, but the person doesn't know that."
"A lot of times colleagues will turn
against you because they think you're
trying to be the boss's girlfriend," adds
Ursula Levelt of the Center for Immi-
grants' Rights. "The women are very
isolated, especially when they come
from a culture where they really cannot
talk about these
ployees have a sexual harassment poli-
cy. The bill passed the Assembly twice,
but stalled both times in the Republi-
can-controlled Senate. Matusow plans
to introduce the bill again.
"A Bad Period"
Sexual harassment policies could
have a real impact, activists argue, par-
ticularly in industries where these
kinds of abuses have been rife. Strong
evidence indicates that many other
workers in the office cleaning industry
are victims of sexual harassment. "We
have a number of cases in our docket
alleging gender discrimination and
sexual harassment against a number of
cleaning companies," says Wills of the
Commission on Human Rights, noting
that since 1990, there have been 16
sexual harassment complaints filed by
employees of such firms. Also, Ar-
cade's night operations manager, Joe
Echevarria, testified that the company
"had undergone a bad period where
there were individuals who were sell-
ing jobs and had sexual relations with
employees for jobs." According to data
compiled by the Albany-based Center
for Women in Government, 32 percent
of those who filed sexual harassment
complaints with the EEOC in 1992
were in the service industries, the
largest of any sector of the economy.
Activists are also becoming more in-
volved. Ursula Levelt of the Center for
Immigrants' Rights
things. Women of-
ten feel like they
lost their honor."
Activists stress
that comprehen-
sive strategies are
needed to stem
sexual harassment
in the workplace.
"Employers need
to be proactive,"
says Vida from the
state's Office of
Sexual Harassment
Issues. "It's a good
idea for every em-
ployer to have a
sexual harassment
policy and a com-
II I 11 I i'..', I'll 11 I 111!lJ... I 'l' ....
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held a workshop
in November to
discuss how immi-
grants can deal with
sexual harassment.
Levelt was alerted
to this issue in an
odd way. "We were
doing a workplace
project, basically
to address nonpay-
ment of wages and
stufflike that," she
recalls. "But people
came to talk about
sexual harassment.
That told me some-
thing." Levelt is
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plaint procedure that every employee
is informed of. That sends a message to
employees that if you are sexually
harassed, you are welcome to come
forward with your complaint." State
Assemblywoman Naomi Matusow has
introduced legislation mandating that
all companies with four or more em-
planning to hold
more workshops on the subject.
But what about Luz Ruiz? Even
though she is on the verge of winning a
large sum of money, she is not rejoic-
ing. "I'm not going to be the same per-
son that I was," she told City Limits.
"No money could give me back what I
Pornography Dilemma
y some estimations, the
pornography industry is a re-
pugnant element of New York
City life, undermining devel-
opment and driving away potential
investors in neighborhoods otherwise
ripe for change, including Times
Square. Last September, responding to
pressure from community and busi-
ness groups, the Department of City
Planning undertook an assessment of
the industry and issued a report which
asserted that adult businesses degrade
property values, inhibit the start of
new businesses, increase the crime rate
and hasten the moral decay of our
nation's greatest city.
The report is the first step in a larg-
er administration plan to push adult
businesses to the fringes of the city. It
was produced to serve as a support
document in the event that zoning
laws regulating pornography are ever
challenged in court.
Such zoning laws have yet to be im-
plemented, but last spring, Giuliani
staffers leaked information regarding
the mayor's still-unreleased proposal
to restrict adult businesses-video
stores, peep shows, topless clubs and
related operations-to certain indus-
trial zones. The plan would require
existing adult businesses elsewhere to
close, phasing them out over a number
of years. On November 11th, the City
Council passed a one-year moratorium
on the opening of new adult business-
es, explaining that the delay would
give policymakers time to formulate
new zoning restrictions.
Politically, arguing against pornog-
raphy is easy. Indeed, the rhetoric of
opposition to adult businesses has
grown so heated that it has scared off
public officials and other citizens who
might wish to discuss alternatives for
regulating the industry on a more ana-
lytical, less emotional basis.
I recently set out to see whether or
not there was another way of looking
at this issue by assessing more closely
the adult entertainment sector, deter-
mining what its economic impact is,
who benefits from it and who is likely
P]anwatch is a forum for opin-
ion and does not necessarily
reflect the views of City Limits.
to be hurt if the sector is driven to the
fringes of the city. My aim was to ana-
lyze the legal, commercial pornogra-
phy and sex industry in the same way I
would any other economic sector.
What I found should not be easily
dismissed. The legal adult entertain-
ment industry is a large segment of our
city's economy, employing low-skill
workers, male and female, often at rel-
atively high wages. It is also an indus-
try with extraordinarily high consumer
demand. Even if one feels that the
degradation of women is implicit in
sex work, its total abolition under law
would only drive the industry into the
unregulated underground-not out of
The Giuliani proposal borders on
prohibition. By forcing video stores,
peep shows and topless clubs to in-
dustrial areas and away from their
mostly mainstream, middle and upper
class consumers, the government
would drive sex businesses ever more
closely into the hands of the under-
world and force the closure of upscale
establishments where employees earn
higher wages and work under better
The alternative that is being ignored,
then, is a more practical approach to
regulation-of signage, of workplace
conditions and related standards.
Flourished and Receded
Adult entertainment has been a facet
of the city's economy for hundreds of
years. Always, adult entertainment has
flourished and receded according to
various regulatory environments; al-
ways, adult entertainment has served a
huge consumer demand.
Demand has grown in recent years
as Americans grasp for sexual outlets
in an age of AIDS and increasing social
isolation. Many cities have spawned
production centers for pornography.
Advertisements for electronic enter-
tainment (phone sex, explicit Internet
chat lines), unimagined only a few
years ago, fill the back pages of many
offbeat magazines and papers. Los An-
geles currently has a video production
business so large that local government
hesitates to regulate it because of the
possible economic repercussions. New
York, too, has become something of a
production center for pornographic
magazines as well as the live adult
By David B. Rein
entertainment capital of the United
Adult entertainment, more so than
many industries subsidized by govern-
ment, survives solely on the basis of
strong market demand. This demand
will not simply disappear as a result of
attempts to regulate porn businesses
out of existence. Many New Yorkers
want adult entertainment and quietly
vote for it with their wallets each day.
A survey I did of 29 adult business-
es in Manhattan, chosen at random
from a list supplied by the Department
of City Planning, found that the major-
ity of customers are middle or upper
class, which makes sense: the high cov-
er charge and drink minimum in many
establishments necessitates that cus-
tomers come from affluent back-
grounds. Upscale topless bars in partic-
ular cater to the desires of male busi-
ness executives and tend to concentrate
geographically near convention centers,
business hotels and office towers.
According to my research, the aver-
age adult business employs 41 people
(about one-fifth of them-primarily the
large strip clubs-employ more than
100 people, skewing the average up-
wards). The smaller porn stores-video
shops and video peep shows, which
comprised about two-thirds of my sam-
ple-may not be as much of a tourist
draw as their larger counterparts, but
they also playa significant role in New
York's economy. Extrapolating the data
I collected, I estimate the adult sector
to account for nearly 7,700 jobs in New
York City. This number is probably
low, however, as it does not include the
countless newsstands and bodegas
whose primary income is derived from
the sale of pornographic videos and
From a purely objective economic
standpoint, the adult sector provides
high wage, low-skill jobs-the type of
employment New York City is so poor
at creating. The dancers employed in
upscale topless bars and nude clubs
can earn hundreds of dollars in a shift,
and those working in midtown peep
shows earn tips well in excess of mini-
mum wage, despite the fact that many
of them lack college or high school
diplomas. Many of the small adult
business owners-primarily of video
stores-and their male employees are
recent immigrants possessing limited
language skills and few networking
High Revenues
Determining the moral or ethical ba-
sis of the adult entertainment industry
is an extremely difficult proposition. In
this essay I am only trying to discuss
how best to regulate a large, existing
segment of the city's economy.
And it is large: Using a conservative
equation based on my survey results, I
was able to estimate the yearly gross
revenue of this city's adult sector
(meaning the 185 businesses listed in
the City Planning report) as falling
somewhere between $270 million and
$356 million a year.
That's only part of the picture. To
find the total economic impact of any
sector in New York City, economic
analysts have several formulas at
hand. For entertainment industries
such as major sports franchises, the
city Comptroller's office uses an "eco-
nomic impact multiplier" of 1.52,
while the mayor's office uses a multi-
plier of 1.76. These multipliers mean
that for each dollar generated by an
entertainment-type industry, there is
somewhere between 52 cents and 76
cents of additional economic impact
realized through the use of cabs, ho-
tels, mass transportation and other
Applying these same formulas, it
can be estimated that the total econom-
ic impact of the adult sector is some-
where between $410 million and $625
million per year.
Adult entertainment has long
thrived in New York City despite dif-
ferent government attempts to restrict
it. If Draconian zoning prohibitions are
enacted, adult entertainment will con-
tinue to thrive as a black market sector;
there is simply too much demand for it
to disappear. Abolition of the adult
entertainment sector, or de facto aboli-
tion that would result from consigning
it to out-of-the-way industrial areas,
could backfire, destroying legitimate
taxpaying businesses in favor of sleaz-
ier, more dangerous and less account-
able underground establishments.
There is a far more effective way to
handle popular concerns regarding
adult entertainment: negotiate effective
adult business regulations with mem-
bers of the industry. In my survey I
found that most adult business opera-
tors would accept government restric-
tions on the type of signage they are
permitted to use, as well as controls on
their concentration within commercial
and residential zones, in exchange for
promises to cease government harass-
ment. This means the glaring, neon
triple-X signs and offensive posters
could be forced out of sight without
much of a battle. More importantly,
such mild zoning restrictions should
be adequate to address the vast majori-
ty of complaints communities have
against adult business.
Other Improvements
Opening new lines of communica-
tion could result in other improve-
ments in the sector as well. For
instance, regulation could codify adult
business standards, such as cleanliness
and workplace rules protecting em-
ployees. Such legislation is possible
only with open and direct negotiations
between business owners and the
communities in which they are locat-
ed. Attempting to impose a unilateral
government "solution" to the problems
of adult entertainment is not only eco-
nomically destructive, it is probably
doomed to failure. 0
David B. Rein is a researcher for the
Urban Research Center at New York
!lBankersliust Company
Community Development Group
A resource for the non--profit
development community
• • •
Gary Hattem, Managing Director
Amy BrusHoff, Vice President
280 Park Avenue, 19West
New York, New York 10017
Tel: 212 .. 454 .. 3677 Fax: 212 .. 454 .. 2380
February 14th for Justice
By Juliesue Westwood
and Deeda Seed
ometimes it takes cannon fire to
wake up the troops. The can-
nons went off on election day,
1994, and the result is that the
movement for economic justice in this
country is gaining new energy. Some of
this energy is born from fear, some
from anger, some from the hope that
concerted action will end the assault.
The battle to save our nation's social
safety net and to preserve and enhance
economic opportunities for all Ameri-
cans is on in full force, and women are
driving the agenda.
Welfare reform is a hot issue being
debated across the nation. Elected offi-
cials are proposing highly punitive
measures such as lifetime limits on the
amount of assistance a family can re-
ceive, financial penalties for children
born to women already receiving wel-
fare and caps on the amount of educa-
tion and job training that low income
women can access while still receiving
There is talk of severely reducing
federal funding for low income assis-
tance programs by "giving welfare pro-
grams back to the states" through a
block grant process, ending the entitle-
ment status of many programs and cap-
ping their funding. Practically speak-
ing this would set our nation back al-
most 100 years to the time when "char-
ity" was dependent on private organi-
zations and limited state programs.
The elected officials who are making
these suggestions are trying to con-
vince Americans they can balance state
and national budgets on the backs of
poor women. Politicians apparently
believe they have nothing to lose by at-
tacking poverty prevention programs.
They are betting that the constituencies
these programs serve are the least like-
ly to defend themselves-that they
won't raise a ruckus.
We've got news for them. One way
or another, a ruckus will be raised. You
can't eliminate the tools of survival for
over 13 million Americans, most of
whom are women and children, and
expect to hear nothing in return.
Joining Forces
Women from diverse backgrounds
are beginning to form coalitions, hold
conferences and join forces. Links are
being forged with particular solidarity
between low income and middle in-
come women. Certainly there is no
doubt that poverty is an issue of
women's rights: over 90 percent of
adult welfare recipients are women;
three out of four adults living under
the poverty line are women; women
still earn significantly less on average
than men do; and women are dramati-
cally underrepresented among the
elected officials making decisions
about welfare reform.
Children's Hearts Are in Your Hands."
The event is designed to show Con-
gress, state legislators and the public
that there is a strong, unified grassroots
opposition to the destruction of our na-
tion's social safety net. The theme sym-
bolizes the great devastation that will
come if current proposals to severely
restrict AFDC, SSI, Food Stamps, hous-
ing assistance and child nutrition pro-
grams are adopted.
At first our goals
were modest-we
thought we would be
able to involve only
a few states-but the
response to our ini-
tial phone campaign
has been tremen-
dous. As of this writ-
ing, women's organi-
zations and coali-
tions representing
~ the clergy, communi-
~ ty groups, advocates
~ and concerned citi-
e .
~ zens III 38 states
Women are soci-
ety's caretakers of
children and the el-
derly. We know that
children at risk,
shoved into orphan-
ages, will not disap-
pear forever, nor will
poor women who are
suddenly bereft of
assistance. We know
our society will pay a
large price for its
lack of compassion
and its tunnel vision.
The bottom line is
that women must
lead the battle for
economic justice be-
cause women are be-
ing targeted.
Deeda Seed (right) and Juliesue West-
wood are founding members of JEDI
Women, an economic: justice group in
Salt Lake City, Utah.
across the country
are organizing events
for the day of action.
Mainstream wo-
men's groups are
coming on board.
Groups like the Na-
Our organization,
JEDI Women, was or-
ganized by a diverse group of women
who were concerned that the very
meaning of the word "welfare," defined
in the dictionary as the concern for the
well-being of the disadvantaged, has
been skewed by rhetoricians to indicate
a pernicious policy that encourages
out-of-wedlock births and long-term
dependency. Our challenge is to seize
the debate and return it to a dialogue
about the truly important issues of wel-
fare and economic justice, such as ac-
cess to affordable housing, child care,
health care, education, job training and
jobs that pay a living wage.
Day of Action
The first step toward recapturing the
offensive is in building the movement.
So far, response to our efforts to orga-
nize a "National Day of Action to Stop
the War on the Poor," in partnership
with organizations throughout the
country, has been extraordinary. The
action is scheduled for Valentine's Day,
February 14th, and the theme is "Our
tional Organization of Women, which
in the past have not pursued an aggres-
sive poverty plank in partnership with
low income women, will be there,
alongside the Welfare Warriors, who
have long fought in the trenches of
welfare reform. The National Associa-
tion of Social Workers will be there,
supporting self-advocacy groups like
the Bronx-based Community Voices
Heard. The time has come for main-
stream women's groups and women in
poverty to conquer the chasm that has
separated them for too long. We need
to sit at the table together. The Nation-
al Day of Action is a beginning.
In New York City, a rally and speak-
out is scheduled for 3:00 at 26 Federal
Plaza. For more information call Debo-
rah Pucci at (212) 777-4800. 0
Cityview is a forum for opinion
and does not necessarily reflect
the views of City Limits.
The Drug War's Toll
"Reckoning: Drugs, the City and the
American Future," by Elliott Currie,
Hill and Wang, 1994,405 pages, $25.00
As he assumes power in the United
States Congress, Newt Gingrich speaks
of orphanages. His remarks and the
ideas behind them recall those of
William Bennett-gone from drug Czar
to elder moral entrepreneur to a best-
selling author for Republican America.
Without embarrassment, both remind
us that free-market alternatives to the
welfare state might look a lot like Dick-
ens' England. In this context it seems
almost perverse to take issue with the
liberal premises of Reckoning, political
scientist Elliott Currie's analysis of
America's drug problem.
After all, Currie correctly parses the
drug issue as a symptom of larger
underlying social structures and the
constant political crises they engender:
the ever-deepening division between
the haves and have-nots, between the
races, and between the cities and the
rest of mostly suburban and middle
class America. He points out that drug
abuse "is not evenly distributed ... but
runs along the fault lines of our soci-
ety," explaining that the recreational
drug use of the middle class is a very
different animal than the compulsive
desperation of marginalized junkies
and crackheads.
Currie believes middle class drug
use to be manageable by conventional
means, such as treatment and public
education, and he's right. Problematic
middle class use of all drugs (includ-
ing alcohol and tobacco) has been on
the decline for 15 years.
When it comes to the other and far
more serious drug epidemic, that of the
urban poor, Currie concludes that our
"energies and resources have gone to-
ward fighting symptoms, not causes."
The crack house and the shooting
gallery are seen worldwide as the sac-
rificial altars for a generation of Amer-
ica's ghetto youth. The widely held
association of drug use with this disen-
franchised segment of humanity has
become its hallmark, synonymous with
our social failure.
Yet, while Currie identifies our al-
most total reliance on drug prohibition
and its enforcement through criminal
law as a vast exercise in futility (where
he's right again), he fails to note the
ways in which that policy itself wors-
ens the severity of the social problems
of the inner city.
Policy Disaster
In the last 15 years, prison and jail
populations have tripled in the United
States, reaching the highest per capita
rate of any Western democracy. One in
four young black men is currently be-
hind bars or a recent alumnus of the
criminal justice system, on probation
or parole. Most of this increase has
been associated with the wholesale
incarceration of drug users for posses-
sion and small-time sales of heroin and
cocaine. The new Federal crime bill
allocates $8 billion to build still more
cells and calls for 100,000 more police
to see that they are kept filled.
For urban minorities, this policy is a
disaster. High rates of incarceration of
young men mean further destabiliza-
tion of family and community. For the
African-American community this has
aggravated an ominous trend, the re-
lentless concentration of impover-
ished, poorly educated and unemploy-
able people in the old core cities. Full
of resentment and rage, these young
men are consigned to cycle through the
vast gulag for "drug offenders"-actu-
ally training camps for violence, and
eventually, rebellion.
Boiling away beneath all this physi-
cal and social carnage is the huge drug
economy, now estimated at $400 bil-
lion annually, second only to the
weapons and armaments trade as an
international commodity. Narco-dol-
lars fuel a vigorous global economy
which in America employs (and de-
stroys) wave after wave of inner city
residents. But while tens of billions of
these dollars course through the poor-
est of urban communities, they leave
hardly a trace behind.
Drug treatment will not solve these
problems. "Just as we will not punish
our way out of the drug crisis, we will
not treat our way out either," Currie
notes. Treatment on demand has be-
come a glib panacea, an apparatus
more likely to enrich the growth in-
dustry of drug testing and compulsory
treatment than to solve the problems
of the inner city. Committed to the
shibboleth of a "drug-free America,"
many treatment advocates have, for
By Ernest Drucker
too long, collaborated in the campaign
to demonize drug addicts, hardening
attitudes toward their plight among a
frightened populace and undermining
their self-esteem-the last thing a
chemically dependent person needs.
Effective drug treatment can help
these casualties, but it will never ad-
dress the root social causes of drug
abuse among the poor.
Yet Currie criticizes advocates of
legalization, claiming their "failure to
offer more positive remedies" has mar-
ginalized them and "minimized their
influence." Falling too easily into cant,
he declares, "We do need a war on
drugs, [but] one targeted at the real
enemies: the deeper roots of endemic
drug abuse." Currie's prescription: "re-
constructing communities" by assuring
jobs, education and health care, and re-
forming the tax structure. Such plans,
written before the recent elections,
would once have been called idealistic.
Today they are utopian.
Social Control
Meanwhile, calls for a new "Mar-
shall Plan" for the cities are dismissed
out of hand; the new political consensus
actually blames welfare programs for
the problem. The alternative is social
control-a national political strategy
that places drug prohibition, police
and prisons at its fulcrum to deal with
"the dangerous classes. "
Drug prohibition is a ruinous policy
in which powerful human appetites
become global commodities, produced
and marketed totally outside the nor-
mal channels of commercial or social
control. Drug prohibition therefore
fuels continued social deterioration
even as it claims to avert it. Currie's
failure to acknowledge the key role
that our drug policies have in creating
the dreadful conditions he associates
with drug use is Reckoning's great
shortcoming. These policies and the
social and economic forces they create
are alive and dynamic. Any approach
which does not take this into account
is charting a course by "dead reckon-
ing," the most primitive type of navi-
gation, poorly suited to the very dan-
gerous waters in which we sail. 0
Ernest Drucker is director of the Divi-
sion of Community Health at Monte-
flore Medical Center.
Contradictions Abound
Harry DeRienzo makes a number of
important and valid points in his
Cityview essay ("Managing the Crisis,"
December 1994). However, his analysis is
poorly timed and much too general to
playa significant role in any examination
of the state of the "housing movement"
in New York City.
The article comes at a time when non-
profits working on housing are under at-
tack from many directions and an attack
from within, however well intentioned,
is the last thing we need. The issues he
presents are not new and have gone
largely unaddressed for many years.
Jumping on the anti-community housing
bandwagon at this time is all too easy and
is not what we want our well-known ad-
vocates doing.
Crain 's New York Business has been
leading a politically based attack on non-
profits for several months now. Harry is
in danger of using the same poorly docu-
mented and dangerous techniques as he
lumps many diverse organizations with
unique histories and missions into cate-
gories where they just don't fit.
Our own history of organizing and
housing development in the Northwest
Bronx is far different than the blanket de-
scriptions Harry throws over the housing
movement. Very early on we recognized
the potential for conflict between hous-
ing management and development and
community organizing. As one of a hand-
ful of organizations around the city that
performed true, issues-based, grassroots
community organizing, the leadership
and the staff of the Northwest Bronx
Community and Clergy Coalition and its
affiliated associations made a very clear
decision to separate housing manage-
ment, ownership and development from
the organizing work. Separate companies
such as Fordham Bedford Housing Cor-
poration (FBHC) were established to con-
duct the new activities, leaving the ten-
ant organizing to the coalition, where it
rightly belongs.
DeRienzo seems derisive when he
states that "our organizers had become
managers, our volunteers had become
employees, our members had become
clients." Nothing could have trained me
better for my 15 years with Fordham Bed-
ford than my six years as a community or-
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ganizer with the coalition. Nothing could
have prepared our managers better for the
difficult tasks they faced than a couple of
years as a volunteer manager in nearly va-
cant buildings. And if we began to treat
our tenants as customers, it was a sound
business decision. One goal we have al-
ways maintained at Fordham Bedford is
getting community-run buildings to the
point where we would feel comfortable if
our own families lived in them.
Some staff and volunteers moving to
new careers did not mean their old ac-
tivities ended. The organizing work has
continued and, in fact, the work of our
company is made much more effective
by an involved, informed community
fighting to solve neighborhood issues.
The "active, connected constituent
base" is alive and well in the Northwest
Bronx, as I presume it is in other parts of
New York.
I'm hardly ready to write off the many
successes and victories we have achieved
during the past 15 years because the au-
thor Frances Moore Lappe is disappoint-
ed that a tenant might call us landlord.
Was she really expecting we'd be called
comrade? One of my first experiences at
Fordham Bedford was in a small build-
ing which had been through a series of
disappointing managers and court-ap-
pointed administrators. When discussing
what FBHC's role in the building might
be, one tenant stated very clearly what
their association was looking for: "We
want you to be the landlord. We want
you to be in charge. "
This didn't mean the tenants wouldn't
be involved. It meant that they wanted
us, a group established and run by the
community itself, to be in charge of the
business of managing their building. The
president of this association is a longtime
member of our board.
Not everyone or every group plans to
go to the barricades and lead the revo-
lution. And that's okay. Many neighbor-
hoods and buildings are looking to es-
tablish social stability and order (not
the same as maintaining the status quo).
as well as seeking social change. People
are seeking a good place for their fami-
Whether or not you have enjoyed
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lies to live and one of our jobs is to pro-
vide it.
We too have been disappointed by all
too many groups that have become vul-
nerable to the whims of outside funders.
The recent demise of the Community
Management Program (CMP) and the
rapid rise and fall of the Neighborhood
Ownership Works program (NOW) give
concrete examples. We were late arrivals
in CMP. We were, quite frankly, some-
times embarrassed at meetings with HPD
when directors of other groups were
fighting for still higher management and
development fees. There was seldom any
mention of issues such as insurance
costs, water and sewer charges and post-
sale budgets, all very real crises facing
community-run, former in rem proper-
ties. The biggest complaints from the
"housing movement" about the NOW
program were also about the loss of fees,
as was the case with later criticisms of
the Neighborhood Redevelopment Pro-
gram. Real housing issues are rarely top-
ics of discussion.
Too many groups with insufficient ex-
perience succumbed to the temptation of
big fees, developing large low income
housing projects which they now find
nearly impossible to manage, especially
after they had become dependent on the
no-longer-available development fees.
Over-expansion during good times is not,
however, a phenomenon unique to non-
Organizations must be willing, as Har-
ry says, to either turn down certain
forms of funding or change the terms un-
der which funding is provided in order
to remain true to their neighborhood
missions. As he also suggests, a great
idea of internal self-examination needs
to take place in order for many groups to
be certain they are meeting legitimate
community housing needs. There is def-
initely a period of painful shake-out
coming and many groups will either
adapt or perish.
The housing organizations in New
York City must find a way to police,
evaluate and strengthen ourselves rather
than provide more ammunition to ene-
mies of community-based organizing
John M. Reilly
Executive Director
Fordham Bedford Housing Corporation
As the executive director of an organi-
zation comprised of over 65 community-
based housing groups, I feel somewhat
ambivalent about responding to Harry
DeRienzo's essay, "Managing the Crisis. "
As well as representing the interests of
these organizations, I find myself in sub-
stantial agreement with Harry's charac-
terization of the housing movement. But I
think it's important to examine the rea-
sons for this situation and begin to con-
struct a program for correction. Harry's
statement that "Somewhere along the
way ... the social agenda got confused with
the vehicles created" does little to ex-
plain the situation we are in now, and
unfortunately leads to the conclusion
that the groups themselves made a con-
scious decision to divorce themselves
from their community base. Where did
we come from and how to we get back to
that place?
The early history of the housing move-
ment has to be seen in the context of
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widespread social ferment and the exis-
tence of well-organized, large, influential
movements. Specifically, the Black Lib-
eration movement and those of other op-
pressed nationalities, women, and the
movement to end the Vietnam War
brought masses of people into motion
and had a profound effect on informing
other struggles, such as the housing
movement. Many activists from these
broad social movements joined with
neighborhood activists to fight against
displacement, disinvestment and gentri-
fication. During this period the housing
movement was characterized as opposi-
tionist and uncompromising.
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Toward the end of the 1970s, many
factors began to erode the popular na-
ture of the movement, gradually leading
to a change in the overall character of
the neighborhood groups. As a result of
their organizing efforts, groups began to
receive funding from the government.
This had contradictory effects. On the
one hand, it stabilized the neighborhood
organizations and permitted them to
hire paid staff. On the other hand, they
became subject to pressures from the
city to blunt their advocacy and orga-
nizing. To their credit most groups
resisted these pressures, and continued
organizing neighborhood residents, de-
veloping neighborhood leadership and
maintaining a common front to demand
programs and policies for housing equity
and justice.
With Reagan's election in 1980, direct
federal aid to the cities for low income
housing production virtually disap-
peared. At the same time the private
development market boomed and market
rate housing for upper income people
proliferated while the stock of units
for low income people dwindled. Home-
lessness as a permanent phenomenon
appeared. The objective conditions and
the government's (both federal and city)
mean-spirited attitude towards low
income people triggered a process of de-
moralization and retrenchment.
The malign neglect of the Reagan-Bush
years not only took its toll on poor people,
but also on the organizations in which
they participated. Washington's policies,
along with the decline of progressive so-
cial movements, caused cynicism among
the people and began to evince changing
philosophical and political attitudes in
community-based organizations.
Funding for activities which were de-
signed to further the original missions of
these organizations became scarce and in
some cases nonexistent. Organizing was
de-emphasized and organizing staffs
were diminished. During this period,
"economic development" activities pro-
liferated. Often, these took the form of
merely providing tax incentives for
local industry, and administrative
monies for the organizations, without
having any palpable effects on the com-
Simultaneously, the production of
low income housing became almost
totally dependent on financing from the
federal low income housing tax credit.
This gave a disproportionate amount of
power and influence to intermediary
organizations such as LIse and Enter-
prise. the intermediaries' ulti-
mate responsibility is to ensure a maxi-
mum return on investment, they began to
pressure groups into becoming more
"professional." In many cases, this pres-
sure had the effect of exacerbating an
emerging trend of the organization be-
coming removed from its grassroots base.
The boards of directors of organizations
became increasingly marginalized as pol-
icy makers, and any remaining organic
links between the organizations and the
residents of the communities were fur-
ther weakened.
With the advent of the Giuliani ad-
ministration and their rush towards pri-
vatization, groups are experiencing new
and increased pressures. The city has
made it very clear that they will only
deal with the nonprofits who do not op-
pose their privatization initiatives. Even
though the implementation of the new
Neighborhood Entrepreneurs Program
would spell disaster for tenants living in
city-owned buildings, some groups are
sorely tempted not to oppose it so as not
to jeopardize their ability to maintain
their organizations. Combined with the
all-out right-wing attack on non profits as
exemplified by the recent Crain 's New
York Business series, the housing move-
ment finds itself in dangerous waters.
With all of this being said, is there
any hope for the community housing
movement? One thing is clear, exhorting
the groups to get "back to basics" and
rediscover their mission is not enough.
More often than not, people roll their
eyes and accuse us of not understanding
the onerous nature of managing proper-
ty. For the past three years, ANHD has
been raising the issue of creatively
resolving the contradiction between
management and organizing, the tension
between being a landlord and "fighting
the power." Perhaps the main problem
facing the groups can be summarized by
the statement of one long time housing
activist: "We taught the tenants to fight,
and now they fight us. "
Some organizations, admittedly a mi-
nority, have been able to maintain the
delicate balance of providing housing
and services while still acting as a pow-
erful organizing force in the community.
This has not been an easy task for these
groups, and they sometimes make serious
mistakes. But they have been able to get
back on track by listening to the residents
of their neighborhoods and working with
them to define strategies to advance the
community struggle. These groups
provide the model to reinvigorate the
movement. ANHD believes that only by
consciously informing the practical day
to day work in the community by the
community can neighborhood organiza-
tions play the role of progressive agents
of social change.
Advertise in
Ci ty Limits!
Jay Small
Executive Director
Association for Neighborhood and Hous-
ing Development (ANHD)
Call F ai th Wiggins
at (917) 253-3887
New York University School of Law
NYU Review of Law and Social Change
presents a colloquium on
Community-Based Efforts
to Achieve Economic Justice
Friday and Saturday, February 10 and 11, 1995
Friday - Registration begins at 2:00 p.m.
Saturday - Registration begins at 9:30 a.m.
NYU School of Law, Greenberg Lounge 40 Washington Square South
For additional information please call (212) 998-6370
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the City of New York.
For information call:
Ingrid Kaminski, Senior Vice President
R&F of New York, Inc.
1 Wall Street Court, New York, NY 10005-3302
(212) 269-8080, FAX (212) 269-8112
(800) 635-6002
Attorney at Law
Meeting the challenges of affordable housing for 20 years.
Providing legal services in the areas of General Real Estate,
Business, Trust & Estates, and Elder Law.
21 7 Broadway, Suite 610
New York, NY 10007
(212) 513-0981
William .Jacobs
ClTtitil'll PlIhlic ;\Clllllllt,lI)t
Over 25 years experience specializing in nonprofit hoUling
HDFCa. Ne.,borhood Preservation Corporations
Certified Amuel AIIIits. Compilation and Review Services.
Management Advisory Services. Tax Consultation and Preparation
Call Fodar For A Free ConsuItafion
77 Quaker Ridge Road. Suite 215
New Rochelle. N.Y. 10804
Fax 914-633-5097
J-51 Tax Abatement/Exemption • 421A and 421B
Applications. 501 (c) (3) Federal Tax Exemptions. Allforms
of government-assisted housing including LlSC/Enterprise,
Section 202, State Turnkey, and NYC Partnership Homes
Attorneys at Law
Bronx. N.Y.
(718) 585-3187
New York, N.Y.
(212) 682-8981
Hardware Sales:
mM Compatible Computers
Super VGA Monitors
Oladata Laser Printers
Software Sales:
Okidata Dot Matrix Printers Word Processing
Services: NetworkIHardwarelSoftware Installation,
Training, Custom Software, Hand Holding
Clients Include: ANHD, MHANY, NHS, URAB
Morris Kornbluth 718-857-9157
I'lanning allli \rl'hill'l'ltll'l' lor thl' '\on·l'rofit ( onllllllnit\
Specializing in
Feasibility Studies, Zoning Analysis & Design of
Housing, Health Care and Educational Projects

10 East 40th Street, 39th Floor, New York, NY 10016
Facsimile 212481 37llJ Telephone 212 683 5977
Concentrating in Real Estate & Non-Profit Law
Title and loan closings D All city housing programs
Mutual housing associations D Cooperative conversions
Advice to low income co-op boards of directors
100 Remsen Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201, (718) 624-6850
C ommunity D evelopment Legal A SSistance C enter
o proiect of the lawyers Allionce for New York, 0 nonprofit orgonizoHon
Real Estate, Corporate and Tax Legal Representation to Organizations
• Tax Syndications • Mutual Housing Associations
• Homeless Housing • Economic Development
• HDFC's • Not-for-profit corporations
• Community Development Credit Unions and Loan Funds
99 Hudson Street, 14th Fir., NYC, 10013 (212) 219·1800
PROJECT DIRECTOR. Neighborhood based organization seeks experi-
enced self-starter with financial analysis/loan packaging and real es-
tate negotiating skills to implement affordable housing development
projects. Excellent writing and communications skills. Salary high
30s. Send resume to: Executive Director, PACC, 201 Dekalb Ave.,
Brooklyn, NY 11205. FAX: 718-522-2604.
SEEKING POSITION. Recent Hunter Graduate-M.S.W., community or-
ganizing-seeks fit diversified position in CBO. Bronx, Upper Manhat-
tan preferred, but flexible. Experience with youth, battered/pregnant
women, homeless. Experience in program development/implemen-
tation/supervision, organizing, volunteer coordination, advocacy, en-
titlements, crisis intervention, counseling. Desires to become part of
an organization where creative, self-starting, passionate and positive
attitude will be encouraged. Life experiences deepen understanding
of and commitment to work, especially in economically depressed
communities. I do not speak Spanish. 718-884-1335.
Nonprofit social service agency in Brooklyn has the following posi-
tions available for Homeless Prevention and Services Program:
PARALEGAL. Experience in Landlord/Tenant Court. knowledge of
tenants' rights, public assistance and other government en-
titlements. BA required. Fluent in Spanish or Creole preferred.
COUNSELORICASE MANAGEMENT. Counseling and case management
to low income families and individuals. Knowledge of Landlord/Ten-
ant Court, public assistance and other government entitlements. BA
required. Fluent in Spanish or Creole preferred. CASEWORKER.
Knowledge of public assistance and other government entitlements.
Experience with entitlement and tenant advocacy. BA preferred. Flu-
ent in Spanish or Creole a plus. Send resume and cover letter to:
Director of Personnel, CAMBA, 1720 Church Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
11226. Or fax to (718) 287-0857.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR. Morrisania Revitalization Corp., a not-for-profit
economic, housing development and management organization is
seeking a CEO for MRC and its subsidiaries. Responsibilities: report-
ing to the Board of Directors, the Executive Director will: serve as ad-
ministrator and supervise a staff of 10; identify, implement and over-
see economic and housing development activities; supervise proper-
ty management activities; lead fund development and grantwriting
activities; supervise the provision of tenant and community services.
Qualifications: B.A. required and previous experience in real estate or
economic development, property management or not-for-profit man-
agement. Advanced education in any ofthese areas preferred. Writing
and organizational skills are essential. Please send resume to:
William Miller, President, Morrisania Revitalization Corp., 1199 FUl-
ton Avenue #2B, Bronx, NY 10456. Affirmative Action employer.
Women and minorities are encouraged to apply.
PROGRAM MANAGER. The Red Hook Economic Development Effort
(RHEDE) seeks individual to develop and manage operation of innov-
ative Commercial Driver's License training program in Red Hook,
Brooklyn. Position requires experience in areas of recruitment, job
placement and case management of trainees; curriculum and work-
shop development; networking with employers and job developers,
and administration of the program. Fax cover letter and resume to
(718) 243-0312.
EXPERIENCm CANVASSING DIRECTOR. Must be familiar with many
Brooklyn neighborhoods. Able to organize a large canvassing opera-
tion as well as coordinate community groups. Brooklyn residence re-
quired. Salary $35,000 plus benefits. Send resume to: The Brooklyn
Bridge, Ste 58, 370 Court Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231.
VEl.OPIENT ASSOCIATE. Small firm working primarily with community
based not-for-proflt organizations involved in housing and social service
programs seeks full-time Office Manager/Executive Assistant. Must
have excellent organizational skills and clerical skills. Bookkeeping a
plus. Salary commensurate with experience. Also seeking part-time
paralegal/housing development associate with good organizational
skills. $8-$10 per hour, depending on experience. 15-20 hours per
week. Both positions require knowledge of MS Windows, Word and Ex-
cel, good writing and organizational skills. Excellent opportunity to leam
about affordable housing development and real estate law. Fax resume
and cover letter to Dellapa & Lewis, (212) 732-2773.
PART TIME BOOKKEEPER. City Limits needs an experienced book-
keeper to maintain computerized accounting records and subscription
data, plus related tasks. 12 to 20 hours per month, sometimes more.
Hourly wage negotiable based on experience. Computer literacy is
essential. Call Andrew at (212) 925-9820.
Looking for employment candidates
who understand your line of work?
Advertise your job in City Limits!
Call (212) 925-9820
Deadline: 17th of the month before publication
We have been providing low-cost insurance programs and
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