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February 1992 New York's Community Affairs News Magazine $2.

M U T U A L H O U S I N G D F I G H T I N G M E G A - P R O J E C T S
C ure or C urse?
Selling Off City-Owned Housing
e i ~ V L i m i ~ s
Volume XVII Number 2
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Shelters Versus Housing
y the time this issue is in your hands, the mayor's Commission on
the Homeless should have released recommendations on how to
improve the city's gargantuan system for providing shelter and
housing for the homeless. Led by Andrew Cuomo, the son of
Governor Mario Cuomo, the commission is expected to promote the
creation of new shelters and perhaps a new public authority to expedite
shelter construction.
Any attempt to focus on shelters instead of permanent housing is a
grave mistake. Take a look at the "Vital Statistics" information on page
19 and the numbers tell the story. More than $300 million is spent on
maintaining the shelter system each year. And that doesn't take into
account additional hundreds of millions set aside for new shelters! This
massive expenditure diverts precious resources from permanent hous-
ing, which helps solve the problem of homeless ness rather than serving
as a panacea.
Large-scale homelessness has been a reality in New York for more than
a decade and during this time a massive industry has emerged to meet the
needs of the homeless. There are shelter developers and administrators,
social service providers and housing specialists to search for possible
apartments. Andrew Cuomo is a part of this industry-his organization,
HELP Inc . .! mostly develops shelters for homeless families.
HELP and many other groups that serve the homeless are not profit-
making enterprises, but their directors and staff do rely on the homeless
to make a living. Cynics point out that these groups have a vested interest
in ensuring that homelessness continues. The only way to counter this
cynical point of view is for influential shelter providers and those in
government to offer substantive plans to end the crisis of homelessness,
not prolong it.
In the absence of a complete overhaul of the way the American
economy works, the very first step is more permanent, affordable hous-
ing. Social services, drug-treatment, education, day care and decent-
paying jobs are also essential, but they must be accompanied by housing.
* * *
Close readers of City Limits are probably familiar with our "Know Your
Rights" clearinghouse, which provides ordering information for hand-
books on everything from housing court to environmental laws to the
rights of people under arrest. The clearinghouse has been so successful
that we've decided to expand it. Individuals, nonprofit groups and
government agencies that have pamphlets or guides that might be
suitable are encouraged to send them in to us for consideration, along
with ordering information. 0
Cover photograph by F.M. Kearney.
1 I ' ~ ' j " 1 1 I I I
Seize the Day
The economic slide presents a unique opportunity
for community groups to influence long-stalled
developments. 14
Shelters Versus Housing .......................................... 2
Undocumented Expenses .... ...... ..... ............... .... ..... . 4
SRO Fraud Charge ................................................... 4
HIV Lawsuit ............................................................. 5
All in the Family ...................................................... 6
Cure or Curse? .......................................................... 8
Speculators Keep Out! ..................................... ...... 11
Vital Statistics
Looking for Home, Finding a Shelter .................... 19
Screening for Tenants: Rules are Long Overdue .. 20
Screening for Tenants: Rules are Unnecessary ..... 20
Edgy Existence ....................................................... 22
Letters ........................................................................ 23
All in the Family/Page 6
Cure or Curse?/Page 8
Seize/Page 14
Undocumented expenses at
the Tenant Advisory Council of
the New York City Housing
Authority have led to the sus-
pension of the tenant group's
leader, Violet B. Hamilton, and
funding for the organization is
on hold pending an investiga-
tion by the housing authority's
inspector general.
''We've discovered that there
were some undocumented
expenses," soy:s Joan Harris, a
spokesperson for the housing
authority. ''We're investigating
and everything is on hold.
We're giving peaple an oppor-
tunity to make restitutions or
document the expenses."
The Tenant Advisory Council
(TAC) is run by an eight-
member executive board elected
by tenant delegates from
housing authority projects. The
council, which was created to
advocate for the 600,000
residents of public housing,
receives abOut $500,000
annually from the New York
City Housing Authority.
Hamilton, a tenant represen-
tative from Astoria Houses in
Queens, has been the president
of the Tenant Advisory Council
and Roberto Napoleon was the
vice-president. In an interview,
Napoleon said he raised
questions about Hamilton's
leadership last year after he
saw blank checks signed by the
TAC treasurer.
Napoleon says that after he
raised questions about the blank
checks, Hamilton changed the
locks in the tenant group's office
and used council fUnds to take
an overseas trip, without the
approval of the TAC board. He
says the housing authority is
asking Hamilton to account for
Numerous calls to Hamilton
were not returned. Harris from
the housing authority would not
confirm the amount of money in
question or whether T AC money
was used for an overseas trip,
but she that the
locks in the TAC office were
Harris adds that the Tenant
Advisory Council has been
suspended until new elections
are held this spring. Until that
time, she says, investigations
will continue, and Hamilton is
not the only member of the T AC
board being questioned.
Referring to Napoleon, she
says, "All that I've said applies
to him, toa." Follow-up calls to
Napoleon were not returned.
Napoleon is the chairman of
the tenant association of Baruch
Houses, the chairman of the
board of the Puerto Rican
Council and a renowned
"poverty czar" in the lower East
Side. An investigation of the
Puerto Rican Council by the
State Attorney General's office
in 1986 led to a report that lists
18 wrongdoings, including a
finding that the organization
used processing fees for a
summer youth program to make
repairs at the center's office.
Ronald Ward, a tenant
leader from Howard Houses in
Broaklyn, describes himself as a
dissident member on the execu-
tive board of the TAC. He says
that Hamilton and Napoleon
used to be allies but a split
developed. "There has been a
serious problem with the leader-
ship of the Tenant Advisory
Council," says Ward.
Ward says that he raised
questions about Hamilton's
leadership two years ago to
Emanuel Popolizio, who was at
that time the chairman of the
New York City Housing Author-
ity, but his concerns were
ignored. 0 UN Glazer and
Abby Scher
An owner of a Upper West
Side single roam occupancy
(SRO) hotel, charged with
committing fraud in his efforts to
overcharge his tenants, is on the
verge of settling with the state's
Department of Housing and
Community Renewal (DHCR),
according to the director of the
agency's enforcement unit. But
lawyers at the West Side SRO
law Project say that DHCR
allowed the landlord to alter his
official filings with the agency-
filings that define how
much rent a. landlord can legally
charge-four years ago, and
only discovered the alleged
fraud by accident.
On November 18, 1991, the
west Side battle: Riverside SRO tenants Bob Grossman, Jim Vadan, and
Juan Miranda.
agency charged Don lewis,
owner of the Riverside Tower
Hotel at 80 Riverside Drive, with
evasion of rent regulations and
submission of fraudulent docu-
ments. "lewis did not properly
register his building ... and
submitted fraudulent documents
to substantiate his rents," says
Stephen Cohen, director of
DHCR's enforcement section.
lewis could be fined hundreds
of thousands of dollars if found
guilty, but on December 17 the
case was adjourned in the
expectation of a settlement. At
press time there was still no
In 1987 lewis told DHCR
that he had misunderstood its
regulations, claiming that he
had undercharged
tenants for several years. He
claimed that 61 tenants who
moved in after 1984 were in
fact transients rather than long
term tenants; that allowed him
to triple or quadruple their rents.
Rent regulations allow SRO
landlords to legally rent roams
at free-market rates for six
months or less, or until the
renter requests a lease.
At that time, DHCR staff
simply amended the rents as
lewis requested. One of the
long-term tenants, Bob
Grossman, a substitute high-
schoal teacher, ended up
paying a transient rate of $150
per week for two years after
moving into the building in
1986. About 60 other tenants
were in the same situation,
according to leon Bell, a staff
attorney at the law project.
In 1988, the law project
received a rent history of the
building from DHCR and
noticed it differed from a similar
document a tenant had ob-
tained before 1987. The advo-
cates brought it to the attention
of regulators, who began an
In DHCR's complaint against
lewis, the agency says the
landlord forged city tax records
to prove that he had paid hotel
occupancy taxes between 1984
and 1987-taxes that hotel
owners pay on transient roams
but not on long-term rentals. The
regulators say that if he didn't
pay those taxes, then those
roams couldn't have been
occupied by transients. In fact,
city records show he paid the
taxes only after DHCR asked
him for the proof of payment,
and the rent agency says he
altered the dates on the receipts.
Further incidents of a.lleged
fraud are also described in the
But bock in 1987, DHCR did
not hesitate to allow lewis to
increase his rents, says Bell of
the law project. ''We suspect a
few other landlords may have
done a similar thing," he
says."lf you're allowed to
change rents retroactively it
takes all the teeth out of the
process," he adds.
Cohen would not comment
on why DHCR granted lewis the
rents he asked tor in 1987. The
agency says that for now it is
not accepting retroactive rent
When contacted by City
Limits, lewis refused to discuss
the charges against him and
instead olamed the "rent crooks,
prostitutes, welfare cheats, and
drug dealers in the building."
He says the West Side SRO law
Proiect is conspiring to take over
the building as a court-ap-
pointed administrator, which the
law project denies. ''We never
have been and never want to
be" a court-appointed adminis-
trator of any building, says
Elizabeth Kane, director of the
law project. 0 Andrew WhR.
A New York State Supreme
Court judge is preporing to
decide wnether or not city
shelters put residents witn HIV,
the virus that causes AIDS, at
unusual risk of illness or death.
If he decides that they do, the
city may be forced to provide
apartments managed by non-
profit groups or private land-
lords to thousands more
homeless peaple than are
The city already tries to
provide private accommoda-
tions to every homeless person
with AIDS who seeks it, but this
automatic access to housing has
been denied to people who
have HIV-related illnesses but
not full-blown AIDS.
The case, Mixon vs. Grinker,
was brought to the state courts
in 1988 on behalf of homeless
people testing positive for HIV.
The plaintiffs want the court to
require the city to offer all
people with HIV-related dis-
eases the same housing and
services currenrly available only
to people with AIDS.
Advocates have long argued
that city shelters are an ex-
tremely harmful environment for
people testing positive for HIV.
''They tell you that when you
have HIV you have to cut down
on your stress levels," says John
Hatchette of the Peaple With
AIDS Coalition. ''Then you have
to deal with living on tile street,
or in a hotel where peaple are
shoating up all around you, or
going into a shelter" wnere
disease and violence are rife.
The case went to trial one
year ago, and post-trial hear-
ings are still underway. A final
decision could still be months
The plaintiffs brought wit-
nesses to court who testified
about the tuberculosis epidemic
in the city shelters, and the link
between conditions in the
shelters, tuberculosis, and HIV.
In response, the city offered a
plan to enhance health care and
services for medically frail
shelter residents, including
people with HIV. The proposed
plan would provide less con-
gested sleeping arrangements,
better food, and primary
medical care.
But the plaintiffs argue that
the plan would not diminish
exposure to tuberculosis for
shelter residents with weakened
immune systems. And even a
city official testified that eligible
residents might fear using the
special facilities because of the
inevitable loss of confidential-
ity-the special roams would
likely be perceived by the
shelter population as "AIDS
City officials say the special
program could handle 625
people, but homeless advocacy
groups estimate that about
13,000 homeless New Yorkers
are infected with HIV. City
officials say they don't have the
resources to meet the needs of
such a large population. But the
outcome ot Mixon vs. Grinker
could change that assessment.
"If there's a court order, the city
would have to loak at it differ-
ently," says Jeffrey Carples,
hElOd of the city's Adult Services
Administration, which oversees
the shelters and AIDS services
programs. 0 Michael Broder
The New York Campaign
Finance Board recently released
information about contributors
to last year's City Council
campaigns. Here is a list of the
major contributions made by the
Real Estate Board of New York.
(REBNY), a trade organization
of real estate developers. Very
few developers contributed
independenrly of the board.
Not every candidate partici-
pated in the campaign financ-
Families in the NYC Shelter System
and Where They Stay
Number of families in
each type of shelter, 12191:

Private Rooms 3,230
(Tier 2's)
(ill] Dormitories 440 ....
(Tier 1's)

Hotels 926
Other 227
12187 12188 12189 12190 12191
Total Families: 4,823
Source: NYC Human Resources Administration.
ing program, which sets limits
on private donations and
requires full disclosure of
contributions in exchange for
public matching funds, so only
those who did are listed here.
$2,000 to Antonio Pagan,
winner on Manhattan's Lower
East Side. A not-for-profit
housing developer who helped
coardinate the bame to clear
homeless from Tompkins Square
$2,000 to Hector Del Toro,
loser in East Harlem. Director of
the Hispanic Housing and
Development Task Force, which
failed to fulfill contracts for low-
income housing development.
$1 ,000 to Adam Clayton
Powell IV, winner in East
$1,250 to C. Virginia
Fields, winner in Central Har-
lem. Incumbent member of the
council's Land Use Committee.
$1,000 to Kathryn Freed,
winner in downtown Manhat-
$1,000 to Lawrence
Warden, winner in Co-Op City
in the Bronx. Longtime Demo-
cratic Party district leader.
$2,250 to John Sabini,
winner in Jackson Heights and
Corona. Former Democratic
county leader, homeawner
$1 ,000 to Thomas White
Jr., winner in Jamaica and
Rochdale Village, Queens.
$2,000 to Karen
Koslowitz, winner in Rego Park,
Kew Gardens and Forest Hills.
Stalwart advocate for home-
owner interests.
$2,000 to Juanita Wat-
kins, winner in Far Rockaway,
Rosedale and Howard Beach,
Queens. District includes the
Arverne Urban Renewal Area.
$1 ,000 to Mary Pinkett,
winner in Fort Greene, Prospect
Heights and Crown Heights .
Supporter of Atlantic Terminal
and Saratoga Square redevel-
opment plans, both in her
district .
$1 ,000 to Carl Andrews,
loser in Crown Heights. Active
in the Broaklyn Democratic
Party establishment.
$1 ,500 to Herbert
Berman, winner in Flatlands and
Canarsie. Incumbent chair of
the powerful Finance Committee
and member of the Land Use
Committee. 0 Andrew WhR.
By Lise Funderburg
All in the Family
Sinergia stitches together a unique living situation.
iththeir latest project in East
Harlem-a brownstone
residence designed to give
maximum independence to
people who have difficulty living on
their own-Myrta Cuadra and Dick
Lash concede they are taking tremen-
dous risks. They have trained jobless,
homeless, recently-immigrated
Dominican women who don't speak
English to live with and care for
developmentally disabled babies and
Most of those adults are mentally
retarded women who have at least
one child. The brownstone on East
117th Street offers a rare opportunity
for them to be reunited with their kids
while still receiving support and
supervision themselves. But what if
the babies don't get enough stimu-
lation, affection, supervision? What
if the Dominican women become
overwhelmed or bored? What if the
fragile set-up fails?
well as by federal nutrition food pro-
grams for the children. "It's like a
commune from the '60s," Ulitsky says
with delight.
Not exactly. The house provides
living quarters for 12 people who, for
should, with extensive support
systems, stay together.
So far, Lash and Cuadra say the
project is going well, although they
say it requires much more work from
the Sinergia staff than they had ever
imagined. Anna Teresa Portes, 21, is
one of the women working as a family
care provider in the house. This is her
first formal job. "I've acquired experi-
ence and learned a lot of patience,"
she says in Spanish, speaking through
"I am sure a lot of people are saying,
' Look, Lash finally messed up, '" jokes
Dick Lash, 62, executive director of
Sinergia, a social services agency based
in Manhattan Valley. Since 1983,
Sinergia has worked primarily in that
primarily Latino community serving
people with developmental disabili-
ties, an umbrella term that includes
mental retardation, cerebral palsy and
Symbiosis in East Hartem: Myrta Cuadra (second from left) and Dick Lash with Sinergia residents
Angie Montaez, her daughter Angela Marie, Barbara Waters, and her daughter Shantell.
Relying On Each Other
Now Lash and program director
Cuadra, 48, are taking a step forward.
Using a patchwork of city, state and
federal subsidies, they are in the midst
of their first attempt to bring together
disabled and non-disabled people
under one roof in a living situation
where all the residents rely on each
other. The unusual effort reflects the
organization's name, a Spanish trans-
lation of synergy: working together.
"What they're building is a family
unit," says Andy Ulitsky, Special As-
sistant to the Commissioner of the
New York Office of Mental Retarda-
tion and Developmental Disabilities
(OMRDD). Ulitsky's office has taken
primary fiscal responsibility for the
project, although these expenses will
be partially offset by the disability
benefit of some of the residents, as
a variety of reasons, have been unable
to live independently. Sinergia trained
two Dominican women, who had been
living doubled-up with relatives, to
work as paid care providers for two
babies with developmental disabili-
ties as a way to avoid placing the
children in foster care or group care.
("Neither is a nifty option to our mind, "
says Lash.) Additionally, the Domini-
can women care for up to six young,
single mentally retarded mothers and
their non-disabled children.
Lash says keeping families together
when one or both parents are men-
tally retarded is "a balancing act. You
have to observe people's rights and at
the same time make sure the baby is
Although Dick Lash makes jokes
about the risks he's taking, about how
the children may come after him one
day for allowing them to be raised by
retarded parents, he believes families
a translator. "And the job also allows
me to send a monthly maintenance to
my mother and grandmother in the
Dominican Republic."
Sneaking Children In
For Lash and Cuadra, East 117th
Street is an outgrowth of housing ser-
vices they have provided for the last
three years. They started in the large
yellow apartment building on West
105th Street that also houses their
basement offices. Of the 12 apartments
they now lease there, most provide a
home for developmentally disabled
adults and their children. Those resi-
dents get assistance from home health
care attendants and senior volunteers
who help with cooking, cleaning and
child care. Cuadra says Sinergia didn't
come up with the idea to keep chil-
dren with their parents; it evolved
from repeated instances of women
sneaking children in.
Residential programs usually don't
have the resources or inclination to
support mentally retarded adults who
are parents. But at Sinergia, the natu-
ral response was to find some way to
accommodate the women and their
children. "We go where the people
take us," Cuadra says.
Among Sinergia's champions in
Anne Emerman, director of the
Mayor's Office for People with Dis-
abilities. Emerman has known of
Sinergia since 1986, when she sat on
an advisory board with Lash and
Cuadra for David Dinkins, then
Manhattan's borough president.
A few months ago, Emerman led a
20-person delegation of New Yorkers
to Tokyo for a symposium on the
International Decade of the Disabled.
She took Cuadra along. "What Myrta
said to them was, 'Listen to the dis-
abled community and take them in as
equal partners, rather than as benefi-
ciaries of service.' It was a powerful
statement and it had a tremendous
Lash explains that all of Sinergia's
30 staff members treat people who
come to them like customers. "We're
operating a store," he says, "and if we
don't supply what the customer wants,
they should be able to go somewhere
else. Maybe they're not paying us in
money, but they are paying us in trust
and time and investment."
Human Services Brokers
Since 1977 they have been human
services brokers, trying to find
housing, education, medical care and
anything else needed by people in the
area who have special needs. Origi-
nally funded by the Community
Service Society, Sinergia is now an
independent non-profit and was in-
corporated in 1983.
Sinergia's expansion into housing
reflects the drastic state-wide short-
age of community-based housing for
developmentally disabled people.
Ever since television journalist
Geraldo Rivera exposed inhumane
treatment of mentally retarded resi-
dents at Staten Island's Willowbrook
State School in 1972-"1t was the best
thing he ever did," says Lash-there
has been a push for "normalization"
of people with developmental dis-
abilities. Primarily, that means taking
them out of institutions like
Willowbrook and providing them with
supervised residential programs in the
community. The last of these institu-
tions has to be closed by the end of
this year but there is still a dire lack of
replacement housing.
Saves Money
The Sinergia project at East 117th
Street may provide a new model for
community-based care, one answer to
a need that is growing as institutions
close, people with retardation live
Bringing together
disabled and non-
disabled people
under one roof.
longer, and city and state budgets are
steadily reduced. By mixing people
who do and don't have special needs,
Sinergia breaks away from the typical
model of community residences,
which isolates the developmentally
disabled. It also saves money. Care in
community residences or family care
costs OMRDD and Medicaid between
$11,000 and $37,500 per person each
year. The annual cost for each of the
seven people who receive care at East
117th Street is roughly $21,500. And
that cost covers rent for the building,
erasing the rent burden for the rest of
the residents.
There are more than 15,000 devel-
opmentally disabled people on the
waiting list for OMRDD housing. In
addition to East 117th Street's waiting
list of more than 70 young mothers,
Sinergia has a list of 200 families
(where at least one member has a
developmental disability) who also
need housing.
Lash has already found two more
sites, both in Harlem, where he hopes
to replicate the components of East
117th Street. The Sinergia approach
is so finely-crafted that it may reach
tens or hundreds instead of thousands ,
but those who benefit say the rewards
are enormous. One mother with de-
velopmental disabilities, Rosita
Ortiz * , 26, speaks about the joy and
frustration of spending time with her
18-month-old daughter, who has been
in foster care since birth. With
Sinergia's support, Ortiz recently was
granted weekly visitation rights and
what was once an impossibility now
seems possible. "I hope someday she'll
come live with me," Ortiz says. 0
*Not her real name.
Lise Funderburg is a freelance writer
who has had articles published in
Newsday and the New York Observer.
City Limits has a limited supply
of "Women's Perspectives on
Neighborhood Development," a
booklet by the Women's Housing
Coalition, available for $5. Send
a check to 40 Prince Street, New
York, NY 10012.
Mark Your Calendar Now for a Conference on
8:30 am - 6:00 pm
One Bankers Trust Plaza
Sponsored by the
This conference is underwritten by Bankers Trust Company
with funding support from The Fund for the City of New York.

By Lisa Glazer
Cure or Curse?
Community advocates debate plans to sell
city property to nonprofits-and private owners.
hen Mayor David Dinkins
announced the Neigh-
borhood Ownership Works
program in his State of the
City speech, it was widely perceived
as a testament to the benefits of non-
profit ownership.
As he explained it, the program's
primary purpose was transferring city-
owned buildings seized from tax-de-
linquent landlords to the "dedicated
hands of not-for-profit housing orga-
nizations. "
Yet the cluster of new program
models being consid-
ered by the city's
housing department
includes the recently-
killed Private Owner-
ship Management
Program (POMP),
which has the oppo-
site effect: it sells city
buildings to private,
profit-making land-
the elimination of the POMP program
for years. They argue that city-owned
buildings should remain in the public
domain or be run by nonprofits so that
the apartments remain affordable, es-
pecially for the current tenants, who
have a median income below $7,000
per year. Additionally, many POMP
landlords have tJeen criticized for
shoddy renovation work on their
buildings and poor maintenance and
management. (See City Limits, Au-
gust/September 1988.) In the summer
of 1991, housing officials announced
plans are still in flux. However, the
housing department provided a rough
description of each of the potential
new programs, including POMP. (See
Cautious Optimism
Despite the uproar about selling
property to landlords from the for-
profit sector, the majority of new
programs involve nonprofit groups.
Some housing experts are expressing
cautious optimism, noting that
community-based organizations will
be truly committed to renovating ram-
shackle buildings in their neighbor-
hood. Others are raising questions
about tenant involvement in decision-
making, whether the long-term
affordability of apartments will be
guaranteed and how buildings can be
economically viable for nonprofit
Underlying all of
these concerns is an
unresolved struggle
about the appropriate
role of government.
Should the city hold
onto these dilapi-
dated buildings, reno-
vate them properly,
and ensure that they
remain a long-term
resource for afford-
able housing? Or
should they get rid of
them and let private
landlords, commu-
assume responsibil-
Community advo-
cates and housing ex-
perts, who have been
arguing the merits
and pitfalls of greater
nonprofit ownershi p,
responded with sur-
prise-and anger-to
the news that POMP
could be brought back
from the dead.
----------' u.: In the past two de-
Dilapidated hoIMs: Elba Vasquez uses her living room for storage because of rotted cades, the city has
walls that the city fails to repair. flip-flopped between
"If this is true, then
they're [the housing department] not
being on the up and up," says Harriet
Cohen, a housing specialist for Man-
hattan Borough President Ruth
Messinger. "I thought there really was
an understanding that it was not good
to give these resources to private own-
This could create "a real problem
of trust between the Department of
Housing Preservation and Develop-
ment (HPD) and the community hous-
ing groups," adds Amy Barnett,
associate director of the Association
for Neighborhood and Housing
Development, a coalition of commu-
nity housing groups.
A broad array of housing and com-
munity groups have been calling for
that they eliminated POMP to save
money, although the status of build-
ings already in the POMP pipeline
did not change.
A few days before the State of the
City speech, Housing Commissioner
Felice Michetti met with about 100
representatives of community-based
organizations to discuss the depart-
ment's plans for selling off about 9,300
city-owned apartments, mostly to
nonprofit groups. Participants say the
commissioner mentioned that private
landlords would be included in a small
way but did not discuss the revival of
the POMP program.
Michetti turned down requests from
City Limits for an interview to discuss
the new programs, explaining that
these two directions
and the current position accommo-
dates all points of view. Some build-
ings are managed by the housing
department. Others are funnelled out
to community groups, the tenants
themselves, or, in the case of build-
ings still in the POMP program, pri-
vate landlords.
The new initiative to sell city prop-
erty is a step in one direction that
appeals to groups across a broad ideo-
logical spectrum. Conservatives wel-
come the move as an example of
"privatization" that takes an extremely
expensive burden out of the hands of
the bloated government bureaucracy.
And liberals embrace the notion of
handing housing over to nonprofit
groups and enhancing community
But the new programs probably
have more to do with budget shocks
than ideological commitment. In the
past few years, the Dinkins adminis-
tration has made a significant attempt
at major repairs and decent manage-
ment in city-owned buildings but
budget slashing has stopped much of
that work dead in its tracks. Each
building manager is now responsible
for more than 300 buildings and the
housing department's backlog of re-
quests for repairs exceeds 80,000.
Still, handing buildings over to
nonprofit groups may not be as thrifty
as it appears. If apartments are going
to remain affordable to very poor
tenants-and increased homelessness
is going to be avoided-continuing
government subsidies are necessary.
This support usually comes from the
federal government's Section 8 rental
subsidy, but many advocates say this
is a slim reed to rely on, especially as
budget cutting continues in Wash-
"The new programs may be an op-
portunity for some buildings to get
out of a bad situation, but it's not clear
if they're getting into a permanently
good situation," says Anne Pasmanick,
a housing advocate from the Commu-
nity Training and Resource Center.
She and many others say that if
there's one point that is clear, it's the
need for more detailed information
and the involvement of tenants and
community groups in the formulation
of new programs. As Pasmanick says,
"At the moment we don't have enough
information to make a judgment."
Dangerous Conditions
The City of New York owns about
7,000 buildings with approximately
86,000 apartments that have been
taken from landlords who failed to
pay taxes, according to the most re-
cent Mayor's Management Report.
Most of these properties are located in
Harlem, the South Bronx and Central
Brooklyn. Many are infamous for their
dangerous conditions and some are
barely livable. Only about 600 of these
buildings are managed by community
groups, private landlords or tenant
Many housing groups are generally
welcoming the policy shift. "We think
this is an important challenge because
we have the philosophy that commu-
nity control and community manage-
ment is the way to go," says Carol
Watson, the project director of the
Highbridge Development Program, a
housing renovation effort in the Bronx.
For neighborhood housing groups
that have already renovated aban-
doned buildings in their area, the new
city programs provide an opportunity
to transform ramshackle, drug-
plagued buildings that may be hold-
ing up the redevelopment of their
neighborhood. "This will have an ex-
traordinary impact," says Getz
Obstfeld, who until recently served as
the director of the Banana Kelly Com-
munity Improvement Association in
the South Bronx. "It could really com-
plete the physical restoration of the
Participants from the meeting with
the housing commissioner say that
she discussed using capital budget
funds, which come from bond sales,
to renovate buildings in the new pro-
grams. This would ease the strain on
the budget for buildings that remain
in city management, whose budget
comes from city tax dollars.
But many advocates are fearful that
nonprofit groups will not receive suf-
ficient funds for renovations and that
the long-term viability of the build-
ings is doubtful unless subsidies are
And nonprofit groups in the midst
of financial strife may find themselves
signing contracts they can't fulfill.
"Are groups going to take on more
than they can handle because of the
lure of new dollars?" asks Pasmanick
from the Community Training and
Resource Center. "I think this could
be a real strain on nonprofits."
The potential for strain is magni-
fied because renovation of occupied
buildings, with the tenants still living
inside, is one of the toughest jobs in
housing renovation. When buildings
are as run-down as the ones owned by
the city, problems are compounded.
An additional concern is that tens of
thousands of formerly homeless
families have moved into city-owned
buildings, and there are tensions
between these families and long-time
tenants, as well as a need, in some
cases, for social services.
What's more, the rent rolls in city-
owned buildings are rarely enough to
cover costs-if rent is collected. The
New Program Models Include POMP
Details of new housing programs
are still being worked out, but
Valerie Jo Bradley, a spokesperson
for the city's housing department,
provided these rough outlines:
Neighborhood Opportunities
Program: Under this program
model, city-owned buildings will
be transferred to nonprofit com-
munity groups, mutual housing
associations or tenant cooperatives.
Neighborhood Redevelop-
ment Program: This model will
utilize private and nonprofit
sponsors to renovate buildings in
city management or purchase and
rehabilitate nearby city-owned
buildings. Financial incentives will
be provided through increases to
the building development fee,
which will be partly funded by the
syndication of federal low income
tax credits. Low cost loans for
rehabilitation will also be provided.
Adjacent Owners Program:
Transfers occupied, city-owned
buildings to the owners of
renovated or well-maintained
buildings that are located nearby.
Private landlords or nonprofit
community groups are eligible to
City-Owned Special Initia-
tives Program Buildings: These
buildings, which were renovated
by HPD and are now inhabited by
formerly homeless families, will
be sold to nonprofit groups.
Small Builders Program: This
involves one to six-unit buildings,
which will be transferred to city-
wide nonprofit housing groups,
who will coordinate rehabilitation
and then sell the buildings to
individuals, local nonprofit groups
or tenant cooperatives.
Private Ownership Manage-
ment Program (POMP): The POMP
model is now being reinstated, with
rules recently promulgated to
protect tenants. The program will
use experienced for-profit private
managers for rehabilitation and
Supported Work Assisted
Disposition of One- to Four-Family
Homes: Uses job-training programs
for the homeless such as The Doe
Fund to rehabilitate one- to four-
family homes.
city has been unable to collect up-
wards of $10 million in rent every
year. "Tenants get the message that
they get lousy services and mainte-
nance but they don't have to pay the
rent," says Brian Sullivan, a senior
planner at the Pratt Institute for
Community and Environmental
Development. "If nonprofits come in
with strict management, it's going to
be a rude awakening for a lot of people,
and it's not going to make the
nonprofits very popular."
"Beware of government agencies
bearing gifts," adds Carol Lamberg,
executive director of the Settlement
Housing Fund. She recalls that in the
1970s nonprofit groups tried to take
control of federal housing projects
that didn't have sufficient operating
funds or rents and many resulted in
failure. However, she adds, something
has to be done because the city is
having real problems maintaining
buildings-and HPD knows what it
takes for nonprofits to run a building
in the 1990s.
Sullivan disagrees. "We're foisting
10,000 units HPD found absolutely
impossible to control. What kind of
magic are the nonprofits supposed to
Martin Smith, an organizer for the
Union of City Tenants, adds, "If the
people in the building are low in-
come, there's no way community
based organizations can maintain
those buildings without responsible
assistance from the city, the state, the
federal government. The alternative
is for the community based organiza-
tion to become a speculator, bring in
middle-income tenants and chase
people out of the neighborhood who
have been living there."
Participants at the meeting with
the housing commissioner said she
discussed providing about $35,000
per unit for renovation, as well as
enhanced development fees and the
possibility of federal Section 8 subsi-
dies to cover operating costs. How-
ever, none of these details have been
Tenant Involvement?
On a recent visit to 2081 Vyse
Avenue, a city-owned building in the
South Bronx, most tenants weren't
aware of the new city policy and their
major concern was basic repairs. "I've
lived here 10 years. Any time there's
a problem we have to make 10 phone
calls every week," say Todd Hernan-
dez. "We've got crackheads in the
building, no locks, no nothing." In
another apartment, there are signs of
repair efforts, but Elba Vasquez's living
room is unusable because of severe
water damage. In downstairs apart-
ments, windows rattle in rotting
A central question that many advo-
cates have about the new city policy is
the role of tenants living in the build-
ing. Bernard Alston, another organizer
for the Union of City Tenants, says,
"There's no tenant involvement. Ten-
ants aren't even aware that this is
happening for the most part."
Advocates are hoping to avoid a
situation where tenants first learn
about the new programs when com-
munity owners come to collect the
rent. Another concern is how commu-
nity groups will be chosen to run the
buildings. Groups that are currently
renovating and managing city build-
ings are the obvious choices-but will
new groups have opportunities?
Ruth Young, the director of Parents
on the Move, a group offormerly home-
less families who now mostly live in
cit yhousing, says, "What are the com-
munity-based organization's creden-
tials? All folks should be able to be
The housing department is show-
ing signs that it is making an effort to
work with new groups, although this
raises questions about whether they
have the experience and capacity to
do the job. Alston from the Union of
City Tenants, an advocacy group that
has never done building management,
says his group has been approached
by the housing department and they
are considering setting up a subsid-
iary group to take over city buildings.
Other Options
Some housing advocates, like
Joseph Center from the Ecumenical
Community Development Organ-
ization, reject the idea of greater
ownership by community groups in
favor of expanding programs that give
tenants the opportunity to own and
manage their buildings. A related
option that other advocates favor is a
city-wide mutual housing association,
which allows tenants to collectively
own their buildings. (See article, page
11.) Still others have promoted the
creation of a separate city entity,
similar to the New York City Housing
Authority, that would run city-owned
"Government is in a better position
to deal with this than nonprofits are,"
argues Harold DeRienzo, the director
of the Consumer-Farmer Foundation,
which funds low-income housing, and
a long-time advocate for the housing
authority approach. "If you take what
is essentially public housing and
privatize it and don't give people the
means to run it over time, then it's
going to collapse." Commenting on
the city's new programs, he adds, "I
think this could bury groups."
Others are somewhat more positive
about the nonprofit ownership plans.
"I think this is a step in the right
direction," says Cohen from the
Manhattan borough president's office.
"The proof will be in how it is
realized-what groups are chosen,
what neighborhoods are targeted, what
buildings are used, and what role
tenants will have. Privatization is in
the wind and I think this is a better
form of privatization." 0
Writing 0 Reports 0 Proposals 0 Newsletters 0 Manuals 0 Program
Description and Justification 0 Procedures 0 Training Materials
Research and Evaluation 0 Needs Assessment 0 Project Monitoring and
Documentation 0 Census/Demographics 0 Project and Performance
Planning and Development 0 Projects and Organizations 0 Budgets
o Management 0 Procedures and Systems
Call or write Sue Fox
NEW YORK, N.Y. 10025
(212) 222-9946
By Robert Neuwirth
Speculators Keep Out!
Mutual housing associations are a growing trend.
nJanuary, tenants offourprivately-
owned Harlem buildings held an
unusual meeting about their land-
lord. Instead of yelling about
deteriorating conditions, they listened
to a community group tell them that
their owner, Manufacturers Hanover
Trust (which wound up with the
buildings as collateral for a loan that
went bad) doesn't want to own the
In the past, the meeting would prob-
ably never have happened. The bank
might have simply sold
the buildings to the
highest bidder, possi-
bly a speculator who
would ignore them and
pocket the profits.
Eventually, after much
decay, they'd end up
in tax arrears and the
city would take over,
the owner of last re-
sort. The tenants would
be in for tough times.
On paper, MHAs are a dream solu-
tion to the housing crisis in which
tenants, community leaders and non-
profit agencies join forces. The MHA
owns the buildings and is run by an
elected board of directors that inel udes
all three groups. Through their posi-
tions on the board, tenants control
their homes, like in co-ops, but the
MHA structure removes the profit
motive. And since residents can only
sell their apartments back to the MHA,
ment. I pay $282 a month. We all take
care of the building together. It's like
having your own home."
"The idea of owning your own
apartment does change a person's
attitude," echoes Jose Soltero, a state
worker and freelance film maker who
is a member of an MHA in Cooper
Square. "We treat the building a little
better because it belongs to us."
Snarls in Reality
But the jury is still out on MHAs in
New Yark. What works on paper can
cause snarls in reality and MHAs
across the city are still fine-tuning the
details of mutual ownership. Many
New York MHAs are small, raising
questions about whether they will
have enough active members to share
the large responsibili-
ties of community con-
trol. And questions
abound about whether
MHAs that are reno vat -
ing formerly city-
owned buildings can
pay for major renova-
tions and still break
even without large rent
increases or subsidies.
Nonetheless, the
MHAs in the city are
running full speed
ahead. MHANY is cur-
rently pushing to ex-
pand its program be-
yond the initial 180
apartments in East New
But the Urban Coa-
lition and several other
non-profit groups don't
want that to happen.
They proposed a new
option, one that would
put the tenants in con-
trol of the buildings.
Under the plan, the
buildings would get
renovated, the tenants
-.... ________________ 'UI York to Crown Heights
HousIng for the people: Guillermo Bird, Maria Torres-Bird, Jean Larking, Claudia and Bushwick. Two
Goldstein and Barbara Bleecker o/the Cooper Square MHA in front o/their East Lower East Side
4th Street home.
would remain, and their buildings
would be owned by a mutual housing
association (MHA).
A Creative Solution
If the tenants in the Harlem build-
ings decide to opt into the program,
they will become part of a growing
number ofMHAs that have sprung up
as a creative answer to the city's
chronic shortage of affordable housing.
These MHAs have started recon-
structing 94 buildings containing more
than 500 apartments. Scores of other
sites are in the works and some groups
talk about expanding the concept city-
wide. The trend is so pronounced that
even the normally-stodgy city bureau-
cracy has set up a separate unit in the
Department of Housing Preservation
and Development (HPD) to work with
at cost, this is a housing program that
stays affordable forever and preserves
the housing as a community resource.
"Mutual housing is really housing
in the public interest," says Margo
Kelly, deputy director of field opera-
tions for the Neighborhood Reinvest-
ment Corporation, a national nonprofit
that helped establish the Lower East
Side Mutual Housing Association and
has set up MHAs in eight other cities.
To members, the benefit is se1-
evident. "The program is an outstand-
ingprogram," says Sharon Bush, who
lives in a newly renovated three-family
building and sits on the board of the
Mutual Housing Association of New
York (MHANY). "I have two children.
I'm a single parent. I was paying $650
a month in rent and I couldn't afford
it. Now I have a two-bedroom apart-
groups, People's MHA
and Lower East Side
MHA, expect their first buildings to
be completed and occupied this
spring. In Cooper Square and
Strycker's Bay, local MHAs have just
taken control of their buildings and
are preparing to start rehabilitation.
All of these groups have devised
slight variations on the program.
Some, like People's, Lower East Side,
and Strycker's Bay envision a struc-
ture where the MHA, controlled by
the tenants, owns the building and
the residents essentially rent their
apartments. The monthly charges, set
initially to reflect the costs of operat-
ing and managing the buildings, will
be subject to rent stabilization.
Others, most notably Cooper Square
and MHANY, are setting up a Com-
munity Land Trust, which will hold
title to the property. The buildings, in
turn, will be transferred to the resi-
dents as co-ops, with 99-year-leases.
In this model, private resale of the
units is prohibited: the residents are
required to sell their units back to the
land trust at no profit. MHANY, which
has aggressive expansion plans, has
added people waiting for housing to
its board, to ensure that their interest
in renovating additional buildings will
be represented.
In each case, the idea is to produce
affordable housing and destroy any
inducement for residents to specu-
late. Nonetheless, many of the groups
acknowledge that rents will have to
rise in their buildings, since the
amount collected must pay all the
costs of operating the building. In
some cases, low-income tenants will
need rent subsidies to be able to afford
to stay.
In addition, most of the local MHAs
are doing extensive rehabilitation of
their buildings with interest-free or
extremely low-interest city money that
doesn't have to be paid back, even in
part, until well into the 21st century.
At MHANY, for instance, renovations
are costing about $90,000 per unit,
which would make this housing ex-
pensive if the money was coming from
a bank instead of the city. MHANY's
costs are high, explains executive di-
rector Lawson Shadburn, because it is
working with severely decayed
smaller buildings (many are only two-
family dwellings) and is creating very
large apartments (mostly three, four
and five bedrooms).
MHAs seem to take strongest root
when the residents have been orga-
nized long before the group is formed.
That way tenants have a feeling of
ownership prior to taking legal title to
their buildings. In Cooper Square and
Strycker's Bay, for instance, the MHAs
exist on urban renewal sites where
tenants have been battling for years to
establish control. "The tenants in these
buildings have a history," says Kelley
Williams, head of the Strycker's Bay
Neighborhood Council and an officer
of the United Tenants Association
Mutual Housing Association that now
controls 15 buildings. "They went
through a squatter movement in the
'70s. They're a close-knit group. You
may not be able to duplicate this in
other areas."
MHANY, the oldest ofthe recently
formed MHAs, began with a tightly
organized squatting campaign run by
the Association of Community Orga-
nizations for Reform Now (ACORN).
The group now requires new mem-
bers who were not squatters and want
to get on the waiting list for homes to
attend at least 10 community meet-
ings and put in 50 hours of sweat-
equity work on the buildings in the
program (most often not on the unit
they will eventually occupy.)
Dissident Tenants
But problems do arise. In Strycker's
Bay, dissident tenants have formed a
rival organization dedicated to
destroying the MHA. William Price,
who leads the opposition, accuses the
MHA of wanting to raise rents un-
affordable housing
as a community
reasonably. "By the end of this thing,
there's a six-fold rent increase," he
says. "People won't pay it." Price says
state rent regulation is not enough of
a protection for tenants, pointing out
that rents could rise to more than
$1,000 a month under stabilization.
(See letters, page 23.) Williams, the
MHA leader, responds that her group
will impose additional restrictions on
rent increases that will make the MHA
policy tougher than rent stabilization.
MHANY, too, has faced tough
issues. Originally, MHANY planned
to give multi-unit buildings to a single
owner-occupant who would in turn
lease the apartments. But, says ACORN
staffer Fran Streich, "We saw with
some of our original squatters that
people take advantage of each other.
Our board didn't want to set up people
to be landords." Now MHANY has
restructured the program to favor a
co-op approach.
Even in Cooper Square, where the
tenants have generally supported the
MHA, the residents have been upset
that rents have increased while
have not improved. "In
theory it's a good program," says
Shirley Campbell, an active resident.
In practice, she adds, "The MHA has
not been living up to the expectations.
I believe they [the staff running the
MHA] are trying to. But sometimes
good intentions aren't good enough."
"It's a little painful to us because
the members come to meetings and
scream and yell," admits Valerio
Orselli, executive director of the
Cooper Square Committee, which
sponsored the MHA. "Our members
are so used to seeing the [former]
landlord, the city, as the bad guy.
They need to vent and get it all out."
But, he adds, "Then we have a chance
to talk. That's what the MHA is all
Two groups on the Lower East Side
are working with vacant buildings,
but they've approached them in
different ways. The Lower East Side
MHA organized its members years
before it even chose the five buildings
it is now completing near Avenue B
and Second Street. Now the members
are finally eligible to apply for apart-
ments. Organizers say the long struggle
has made keeping members difficult.
Luis Nieves, the group's acting execu-
tive director, says some original mem-
bers lost confidence in the program
because of the delay and he had to
recruit new members.
People's MHA has followed a
different plan. Working with com-
munity sponsors, People's renovated
its first 77 units without involving
their ultimate residents. Now, the
group is starting to advertise the
apartments, and has to educate pro-
spective tenants about the mutual
housing concept. "Most people want
to pay the rent and close the door,"
acknowledges Matt Lovick, a former
city housing department employee
who heads the People's MHA. "This
is even more difficult. They don't even
own it. The MHA owns it."
The MHAs in the city operate on a
very small scale-most will ultimately
control fewer than 200 apartments.
The Neighborhood Reinvestment
Corporation says its experience shows
that MHAs cannot become fully se1-
supporting unless they link about 500
But if the MHAs in the city are to
grow to that size, they may have to
cross neighborhood boundaries and
that poses another problem: can
people from different buildings in
different areas work together? Kelley
Williams from Strycker's Bay doubts
it. "I couldn't even get a group of
tenants on Amsterdam Avenue to
work with a building across the street!"
she says.
New Privatization
But groups are preparing to try just
that. A coalition of nonprofits led by
the Community Service Society has
proposed converting all city-owned
buildings managed by the housing
department to mutual housing, linked
through one central MHA. The group
hoped to start a small demonstration
project in 1989, but the idea was killed
by the budget crisis. Now, with Mayor
Dinkins' new commitment to turning
over large numbers of tax foreclosed
buildings to nonprofit groups , the plan
could be back on the agenda.
"I think it has a real place with this
new privatization," says Andrew
Reicher, executive director of the
Urban Homesteading Assistance
Board, which set up the Self Help
Works Consumer Co-operative, which
is similar to an MHA, and worked on
the city-wide MHA proposal.
Today's mutual housing associa-
tions are linked in spirit to some of the
major developments of the early and
middle years of this century, when
local unions backed massive housing
programs. One of the most energetic
efforts, the United Housing Founda-
tion (UHF), an offshoot of the
Amalgamated Textile Workers Union,
started this way. During the 1950s
and 1960s, UHF built notable mutual
complexes, including Rochdale
Village, Amalgamated Warbasse
Houses and Penn South. Each was
structured as a mutual-style, limited
equity co-op, and they have remained
reasonably priced to this day. UHF,
though, has been dormant since it
finished Co-Op City in 1972 and it
only recently renewed its involve-
ment in promoting housing.
"I look at the major work as
being ... neighborhood oriented, the
smaller, 100 to 200 unit stuff, mostly
in Brooklyn and the Bronx," says Ken
Wray, the group's executive director.
He says he wants to encourage local
unions to once again put their vast
resources behind low cost housing,
and mutual housing associations are
an appealing option.
For the long-time supporters of
MHAs, the real benefit is rebuilding
neighborhood spirit in areas where it
has died. "If this is just about creating
housing, then this is probably foolish-
ness," acknowledges Lawson
Shadburn from MHANY, noting that
there are simpler ways of building
affordable homes than the time
consuming process of weaving local
interests into an MHA. To Shadburn,
MHANY's goal is not only to fix
buildings, but to refashion the sense
of community.
"In these communities there's such
a total breakdown that the law of the
land is whoever shoots whom. We're
going into these communities where
people are saying there's such social
decay and we're finding wonderful
human beings who have held their
families together. We're developing a
sense of community. We're rebuilding
and creating democracy. If the cure
for the ills of democracy is more
democracy, then this is a training
ground." 0
Robert Neuwirth writes frequently on
housing, development and politics for
the Village Voice and Newsday.
For information about a workshop series and an organizing
conference, call the Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness
and Housing at 212-316-3171.
The events are being sponsored by the Interfaith Assembly,
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Community groups are changing the course
of development as the economy slides.
hile President George Bush may not want to
hurt his reelection campaign by talking of
"this recession thing," the reality is that times
are tough. Amon the most prominent victims
are the city's reaY estate mega-developments.
But the slowdown is also a window of opportunity, a
time-out that affords community groups, civic organiza-
tions and city agencies the rare chance to fully include the
public in planning and development.
Citywide, community activists agree that something
positive can come of this recession. "We've been waiting
for this moment to arrive," says Reverend David Haberer,
a member of the Queens Citizens Organization (QCO),
commenting on Oceanview Associates' withdrawal from
the massive market-rate Arverne housing development on
the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens.
With Oceanview formally out of the
picture, QCO's own low-cost housing
By envisioning the future as they would like to see it,
Sclar says, groups will have the leverage to help create
better and more appropriate developments when the money
comes back around. He notes that even as the economy
sputters, community groups should "make no small plans."
Echoing a tradition that goes back a century to master
planner and architect Daniel Burnham, Sclar says groups
should seize the opportunity to be "proactive, not reac-
tive." He warns, "Don't wait for the developers to come
back to graze."
Here's an update on some of the city's most controver-
sial development schemes.
Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area (ATURA)
The New York City Housing Authority is considering
developing public housing on the site of the stalled, city-
sponsored mega-development at the intersection of
Flatbush and Atlantic avenues in
downtown Brooklyn, according to a
plan for the site may again become
Some of the other large-scale projects
remain in a holding pattern, as they've
been for years. Other aging plans con-
tinue to be steadfastedly supported by
the city's economic development agen-
cies, even as alternative plans become
more plausible.
"Don't wait for
developers to
come back to
The housing authority recently an-
nounced its intention to build 837
apartments in a complex mix of rent-
als, co-ops, and condos, on sites around
the city. A spokesperson confirmed
that A TURA is one of the possible
locations. Ted Glick of the ATURA
Coalition, which represents a variety
of neighborhood groups that have op-
posed the subsidized development
graze. "
The Public Development Corpora-
tion (PDC, now part of the new Eco-
nomic Development Corporation), for
instance, recently presented a new
version of the subsidized private development plan for the
Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area (ATURA) in down-
town Brooklyn to local community groups and residents-
but the "new" plan was virtually identical to the mid-1980s
plan, despite more than five years of growing community
opposition to the project. Yet the convergence of other
factors make ATURA look more and more like it could be
the first example of a major community-motivated rede-
Elliott Sclar, a Columbia University planning pro-
fessor, sees the current development situation as a double-
edged sword. "Land is cheaper and the pressure exerted
by developers is diminished," he says, "but there's not as
much money for community groups to operate, either."
Sclar urges activists and local groups to "organize and put
plans together for the kind of development they want."
plan, says that his organization has
been meeting regularly with housing
authority officials in recent months.
He says the ATURA Coalition strongly supports the idea
of public housing at the site.
The original $530 million Atlantic Center plan in-
cluded 641 housing units for sale to middle-income New
Yorkers. The developer, Rose Associates, also planned for
hundreds of thousands of square feet of commercial and
retail space, a 50,000-square-foot, 24-hour supermarket, a
1,000-car garage, and a multiplex cinema, all of which
were approved by the Board of Estimate back in 1986.
As they say, that was then. Lawsuits, a declining real-
estate market, and the loss of the office buildings' anchor
tenant have plagued the project. Still, the first phase, the
demolition of the Long Island Railroad terminal, was
completed at the end of 1991 with an infusion of $5.5
million in federal money. And the development group-
which now includes Rose, Forest City Ratner, the city's
bara Fife an-
nounced in De-
cember that the
city intends to
break up the 308-
acre urban re-
newal site into
smaller project
sites, which she
says would facili-
tate the realiza-
tion of what could
be the city's larg-
est housing de-
~ velopment s i ~ c e
z BatteryParkClty.
~ Officials say that
'---_---'-_----' ..... !Ii the smaller sites
PDC and the New
York City Part-
nership-says it
is ready to go
ahead with the
construction of
about 130 hous-
ing units as soon
as the federal De-
partment of
Housing and Ur-
ban Development
completes a
study of the pro-
posed develop-
ment's impact on
the racial compo-
sition of the
Winds of c:Mnp: Rev. David Haberer af the Queens Citizens Organization wants Nehemiah could be parceled
homes in Arverne. out to developers
But many in
the community are dead against the project's size, the
plans for a huge supermarket and parking garage, and the
lack of low-income housing. At a community meeting in
late November, antagonism toward the current plan was
nearly universal among the local residents present.
Arverne Urban Renewal Area
The withdrawal of Oceanview Associates, a developer
of market-rate housing, from this vast empty landscape on
the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens has left the door open
to alternative plans, including one initially proposed
many years ago by QCO and I.D. Robbins, founder of the
Nehemiah housing concept that took East Brooklyn by
storm in the early 1980s.
Under the Ocean view Associates' plan, the city stood to
gain between $70 and $90 million in exchange for 300-
plus acres of vacant land on the Rockaway Peninsula in
Queens. Some of that money was slated to cover the cost
of subsidized moderate- and middle-income housing in
the Edgemere neighborhood.
Oceanview cited a downturn in the local economy and
the city's desire to sell the land to more than one developer
as the impetus behind its withdrawal last December. The
organization, a consortium composed of Forest City Ratner
and Park Tower Realty, planned to build between 7,500
and 10,000 market-rate condominiums, thousands of park-
ing spaces, shopping centers and parks. Although their
plan was approved by the city's Board of Estimate in 1990,
local critics blasted it because the condominiums were
not affordable to most community residents.
Haberer ofQCO says that the developer's exit provides
the perfect opportunity to adopt a plan for Nehemiah
housing in Arverne. The organization envisions single-
family units built for working- and lower-middle-class
families with annual incomes between $25,000 and
Robbins says that he is prepared to to pay the city for the
land, assume all infrastructure costs, and build 18,000
garden apartment units-primarily for lower-income New
Yorkers-at the Arverne site. He is also proposing to
convert the waterfront into the "Jones Beach of the
Rockaways, with recreation areas and bathhouses."
Robbins and QCO have some major obstacles to over-
come before they make any progress. Deputy Mayor Bar-
over a period of
several years, so that the city does not have to depend on
anyone plan crumbling beneath economic pressures.
Melrose Commons
One mile east of Yankee Stadium, a $400 million
middle-income housing development that is the baby of
Bronx planners and politicians continues trudging forward
despite the economic downturn.
The Melrose Commons project is in the midst of the
"environmental review process," according to the city's
housing department, and has yet to be approved by the
City Planning Commission and the City Council. But the
concept is part of the Regional Plan Association's Bronx
Center Plan and reportedly has the support of several
planning commissioners.
Neither the public or private funding for the develop-
ment have been worked out. Only $40 million in city
capital-budget funds is scheduled to be channelled into
the housing project by 2001, and next to nothing is being
spent before 1994. The scheme includes the rehabili-
tation of some currently existing buildings and new
construction of about 3,000 housing units. Most of the
apartments are for moderate- and middle-income buyers
at a subsidized rate. Critics argue that the low-income
tenants now on the site, whose incomes average below
$10,000 anually, won't be able to afford housing in the
The city intends to relocate about one-third of the 900
families out of the area, moving them to other city-owned
property. Officials also hope to buyout about 80 small
businesses currently on the site, or help them move.
Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer has long
supported the Melrose Commons plans, though according
to a spokesperson for the borough president, it seems as if
the project is "scheduled for sometime in the next cen-
tury." Community Board 1 also supports the project, and
approved it last year, according to its district manager.
Matthew Lee, director of the Bronx-based Inner City
Press/Community on the Move homesteading group, says
that he has found it hard to challenge the Melrose plan, in
part because of the project's popularity among Bronx
politicians. He says local residents' argument-that people
in the neighborhood will be priced out of their own
community-has fallen on deaf ears. But his group is
staying informed and
considering future ac-
tion such as a lawsuit
against the plan.
Tibbett Gardens
Hunters Point
A coalition of com-
munity groups on the
East River waterfront in
Queens is fast con-
structing an alternative
proposal to counter the
monstrous 75-acre, $2.3
billion commercial and
residential project pro-
posed by the state's
Urban Development
Corporation, the city's
Public Development
Further north in
the Bronx is a 13.5-
acre site that was
slated for the Tibbett
Gardens project, a
750-unit apartment
complex for New
Yorkers earning more
than $50,000 annu-
ally. Although the
Board of Estimate ap-
proved the housing
plan in November
1987, it died last year
New agenda: Ted Glick and Mildred Davis of the A TURA Coalition are fighting for
public housing at Atlantic Terminal.
~ Corporation, and the
~ Port Authority of New
G:i York and New Jersey.
til At the same time, Gov-
ernor Mario Cuomo is
mentioning the Hunters
for lack of financing. Local community groups are cel-
ebrating a victory as the School Construction Authority
prepares to break ground on the site this spring for a new
P.S. 37; meanwhile, the local community board is still
pushing for a junior high school, a play area, and a senior
citizens center.
The original project, sponsored by the Real Estate
Board of New York, was controversial from the outset. The
city's initial subsidy of $25,000 per unit had ballooned to
more than $80,000 by the time the project died. For years,
the local community had been pushing for an educational
park on the site in order to ease crowding in what is one
of the city's most overcrowded school districts.
But housing could still be built there. At press time,
Robbins of Nehemiah expected to make a presentation for
the site to a task force from the Bronx Borough President's
office at the end of January. His proposal for the remaining
10 acres at Tibbett Gardens calls for 600 single-family
units, again for $70,000 per home (with total monthly
costs of $400 per family) without any subisidy from the
city. For now, Community Board 8 is opposed to any
housing on the site.
Seward Park and Clinton
The Lefrak Organization's l,200-unit moderate- and
middle-income and luxury housing plan for Seward Park
on the Lower East Side of Manhattan is now officially
dead, as is the Milstein Organization's proposal to build a
similar 1,500 unit development in Clinton on Manhattan's
west side, according to the city's housing department.
Both projects would have used income from the sales of
luxury, market-rate apartments to offset the cost of the
subsidized rental units. And the city was slated to provide
about $25,000 per unit in subsidies, also for the rental
Valerie Jo Bradley, a spokesperson from the housing
department, says the agency is meeting with community
groups to discuss the possibility of a new mixed income
housing plan at the Seward Park site just below the
Williamsburg Bridge, though she says there are no ~ p e c i f i c
details on the table as yet.
As for the Clinton project, "We anticipate it will be
developed for housing and a new school at a future date."
No city funds are committed to the project at present.
Point development in
his speeches, calling it "Queens West" and suggesting that
a new public authority be created to finance the long-
stalled project.
Daniel Andrews of Queens Borough President
Shulman's office says Shulman still supports the state
plan, although "it is not yet fine-tuned."
Fine tuning may be a little less than the Hunters Point
Community Coalition is interested in, however. The
coalition is working with an architect to create a new
development plan that is "based more in reality," says
Debra Whitelaw, a coalition founder and community
resident. She says the group is looking at ways of altering
the mega-development by providing below-market rate
housing in the area for at least 700 families; planning for
human services like child care and recreation; changing
the open space and density provisions of the plan; temper-
ing its environmental impact on the waterfront, and ame-
liorating the impact of automobile traffic and parking.
Whitelaw says that the coalition will hold an open
house for local residents this month. "We're trying to get
feedback from people who live and work and own busi-
nesses in the community rather than just a group of people
deciding what's right," she says. The alternative plan
should be unveiled sometime in the spring or early sum-
mer, she adds.
The state-sponsored plan approved by the Board of
Estimate in 1990 calls for 6,400 apartments, a small
percentage of which are to be set aside for affordable
housing, two million square feet of commercial space, a
hotel, and, to handle the influx of new residents, a 5,600-
space garage. According to the public agencies, the devel-
opment would bring the city $300 million in revenues
over the next quarter century and create 9,000 new jobs.
The project's stagnation during the last year and a half
has not changed the political pressures for forward move-
ment. But the community coalition is stalwart in its
opposition. Corrine Stoewsand, executive director of the
Hunters Point Community Development Corporation
(HPCDC) and part of the coalition, says that delays are
providing "a real opportunity, and the community has
taken advantage of it." 0
Steven Saltzman is a form er editor ofMetropolis magazine
and a freelance writer.
Case in POint:
Fulton Landing
Incubator Project
The NY/NJ Minority Purchasing Council
has a dream: create an incubator for
small business minority entrepreneurs.
The incubator itself is a four-story water-
front building in the Fulton Landing
area of downtown Brooklyn. When
completed, it will offer shared office
services, managerial and technical
assistance, and below market rents.
Citibank, through its Citibuilders Pro-
gram, is financing $220,000 of the nearly
$310,000 needed for the first phase
of this project. The Minority Purchasing
Council is providing the rest. They asked
if Brooklyn Union's Area Development
Fund could help with a one-year work-
ing capital loan of $50,000.
We could and we did. We've found
that our Area Development Fund is a
working blueprint for change in the
economic and social life of New York. If
your company would like to help as has
Citibank, Pfizer, Bankers Trust Company
and so many others, talk to Jan Childress
at (718) 403-2583. You'll find him
working for a stronger New York at
Brooklyn Union Gas ... naturally.
6 B r o o ~ n Urian Gas,
1992 National Conference
Building Housing Resources:
From Your Community To Capitol Hill
March 14-16, Washington, DC
Join hundreds of fellow housing advocates in Washington, IX, for the liveliest housing
conference ofthe year. Hear from some ofthe leading housing ad vacates in Congress. Learn
everything you need to know to profit from new federal housing programs. Network with
nonprofit housing producers and low income residents to learn about what's going on
around the country to advance the cause oflow income housing. If you can only attend one
housing conference in 1992, make it the NLIHC/LllllS national conference.
For more information, contact Frances Williams
NLIHClLIHIS 101214th St., NW, #1200 Washington, DC 20005 202/662-1530
Eviction prevention isn't just about rent.
When tenants need more than your office can provide, STREET SHEET
will help you find resources for them. These guides list walk-in
services for people in need. Meals, pantries, clothes, entitlements
assistance and more, all free, all where your tenants live.
In addition to the STREET SHEETs, you can receive UPDATE, a
quarterly resource newsletter for service providers, Street Card,
borough-wide minisheets, and the upcoming Getting Off Drugs,
listing walk-in detox/rehab facilities.
They're all yours with a membership subscription of only $20.00 a year.
Don't miss out on these important resource tools. Become a member.
Subscribe today!
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To subscribe, fill in coupon and enclose check for $20.00 payable to STREET SHEET.
Department. Room
City. State Zip Code
Mail to: The STREET SHEET, PO Box 174, Ansonia Station, New York, NY 10023
18/FEBRUARY 1992/CnY UMn5
Looking For Home, Finding A Shelter
he way the government spends money is
the clearest indication of its priorities.
The city of New York has far fewer re-
sources than the state or federal govern-
ments, but it has made by far the largest commit-
ment of the three toward developing permanent
housing here for the homeless.
Still, the city spends more than $130 million a
year on its share of the cost of shelter operations.
The state matches the city's contribution, and the
federal government chips in another $104 mil-
lion. This huge budget-$366 million a year- for
shelter operations doesn't even take into account
the millions set aside for construction of new
It's no wonder that the budget for permanent
housing is small in comparison. The city has
budgeted $589 million for ten years' worth of
homeless housing development. The state spent
$237 million for such housing during the last ten
years. The federal government's contribution for
permanent housing for the city's homeless is a
mere $20 million in any given year. 0 Andrew
Federal Government
Approximate federal spending on homeless shel-
ters vs. spending on permanent housing for the
homeless (excluding Section 8 rent subsidies), both
in New York City, Fiscal Year 1992.
$120 .-----------.,
housing for
the homeless
Source: NYC Dept of Housing Preservation and Development,
Mayor's Office on Homelessness, US Interagency Council on the
City Government
Planned city spending for development of permanent housing for
the homeless vs. development of new shelters, 1992 to 2001. At
right, for comparison, is city expenditure on shelter operations.
(J) 800
600 =
.!: 400
housing for
new homeless
City's share, cost of
shelter operations,
FY 1991, projected
ewer 10 years
Source: NYC Dept of Housing Preservation and Development, Mayor's Office on
Homelessness and Office of Management and Budget.
State Government
Actual state spending for development of permanent housing forthe
homeless vs. development of new shelters, both in New York City,
1983 to 1992. At right is state expenditure on city's shelter
housing for
the homeless,
new homeless
shelters, 1983-
state's share,
cost of shelter
FY 1991, projected
ewer 10 years
Source: NYS Dept of Housing and Community Renewal, Dept of Social Services.
Screening for Tenants:
Rules are Long Overdue
very night in
New York City,
the number of
homeless fami-
lies grows, while ev-
ery day, brand new
apartments desig-
nated for homeless
families remain
unrented and vacant.
In identifying all the
culprits, we cannot
overlook housing de-
partment policy and the practices of
some community-based, not-for-profit
housing providers.
The housing organizations are re-
sponsible for managing buildings
owned and renovated with city funds.
But they have complete freedom in
choosing who to accept as tenants in
their buildings and how to go about
making those choices. The housing
department refuses to establish crite-
ria for acceptance and denial or to
oversee the process, and that has led
to serious abuses.
To better understand
the problem, picture a
single mother and her
two children who have
been living in the shelter
system for almost a year.
City shelter policy has
forced her to stay in the
system for nine months
before allowing her to ap-
ply for permanent hous-
ing. But her hope for an
apartment begins to wane
the day of her first interview with a
community housing provider's
"screening" committee. (The screen-
ing committee is the panel from each
non-profit housing group that chooses
tenants. They include officials of the
organization, and sometimes current
tenants and neighborhood residents.)
After sitting for several hours in an
overcrowded waiting room with no
chairs, the woman and her children
are called into the interview room.
Her request that her housing special-
ist from the shelter be present during
Screening for Tenants:
Rules are Unnecessary
ould you
want this
family to
live next
to you?"
For more than 20
years, tenant assoc-
iations and com-
munity-based orga-
nizations have
struggled for the
right to answer that
question, and for the
responsibility to
live with the conse-
que.n.ces of their
At long last, tens
of thousands of for-
merly city-owned apartments are be-
ing sold to nonprofit organizations or
tenant-initiated cooperatives by New
York City's Depart-
ment of Housing
Preservation and
(HPD), along with
the right to select the
people that may
move in to them.
The answer to
that question-
"Would you want
this family to live
next door to you?"-
or rather, how you
get to the answer of
that question, is at
the heart of the
debate over whether
or not a set of
uniform tenant selection criteria
should be established for HPD-assisted
the interview is denied. Then the ques-
tioning begins.
The woman is asked whether any-
bodyin her family (not just those Who
will be living in the apartment) has
ever had a problem with drugs or
alcohol. She is asked whether or not
she is seeing the children's father,
whether her children all have the same
father, and whether any men will be
visiting the apartment. She is asked
whether or not her current boyfriend
is willing to be interviewed by the
committee, although he will not be
living with the family. She is asked
whether she has good credit, or an
outstanding student loan.
When she is asked whether anyone
in her family has a medical problem,
she freezes. She has tested positive for
HIV, but remains healthy. What will
the group decide if they know her
health status? She decides to say
No Appeals Process
At the end of the interview the
woman is told that she will know
within a week whether or not she has
been accepted. After three weeks and
no news, she finally learns from HPD
that her family was rejected because
she is "not ready for independent
living." She asks in disbelief what
The regulations that govern the
selection of tenants in HPD-assisted
housing are already complex and
burdensome. In order to select tenants
for a building, a community-based
manager (and the tenant selection
committee, if a group of masochistic
neighborhood volunteers can be
assembled for the task) must first
master the rules governing the famous
HPDlotterysystem. The manager must
then wade through the constantly
shifting eligibility criteria for "home-
less" units. Then the manager has to
pull out the slide rule and calculate
income eligibility.
Vast Web of Laws
Finally the manager can talk to
prospective tenants. But wait! Have
the manager and the screening com-
mittee taken a course in the vast,
tangled web of city, state and federal
laws designed to prevent and punish
discrimination in housing? Because
they will need to know how to keep
every word they utter and every
sentence that they write free of the
"appearance of discrimination."
such a statement means. She wants to
appeal the decision, and demands a
written notice explaining the grounds
for the denial. But an HPD staffer
argues that such notices are not
possible for homeless applicants. And,
the staffer says, there is no appeals
Unfortunately, this scenario is all
too true to life. In my work with home-
less families during the last two and a
half years I have witnessed such
screenings and known many families
who have been given the "bum's rush."
At best, homeless families are being
subjected to invasive questioning,
sweeping generalizations and judge-
ments simply because they are home-
less and poor. At worst, some families
may be victims of discrimination. It is
hard to determine legally because HPD
refuses to clearly outline eligibility
criteria or to require that homeless
applicants and non-homeless appli-
cants be treated in the same manner.
Should community housing pro-
viders, receiving public funds (pre-
sumably to create more inclusive
communities), be permitted to ask
questions that no private landlord can
ask? Should they determine who is
and who is not fit for a home built and
paid for with taxpayer money? HPD
leaves the question for each commu-
At long last, it is time to begin the
screening of new tenants. But by now,
the manager, who started out with big
plans of doing unscheduled home
visits and detailed reference checks,
barely has the time or energy to
schedule an interview and sign the
lease. (Forget the tenant selection
committee-they've given up hope of
ever actually interviewing a pros-
pective tenant, having thrown in the
towel after the fourth or fifth meeting
of plowing through the "Regulatory
Agreement" that HPD requires every
building to sign.)
In the end, most managers and their
volunteer committees are able to
persevere, mostly because they want
to have some say over who will become
their neighbor. They can have one or
more interviews, they can do home
visits, they can check references and
perform credit checks. They can set
standards of behavior that they expect
their future neighbors to adhere to.
They can adopt the selection proce-
dures that others have tested or they
can innovate their own. They can be
as thorough or as casual as they have
nity group to decide, and approves of
opaque, catch-all classifications like
"not ready for independent living."
Confused Roles
Some groups justify their practices
by reminding us of the magnitude of
their task to create stable buildings in
what were formerly burnt-out shells.
Many of them, though, confuse their
roles of landlord and social service
provider. While many questions posed
to prospective tenant families are rel-
evant to assure effective service deliv-
ery to tenants, they should be asked
during the post-selection tenant ori-
entation process and not before. The
Special Initiatives and Construction
Management programs were designed
to include the social services that
relocated families need, so the need
for services should not exclude any
family from decent housing.
One thing is clear. Families who
are not accepted remain homeless, at
a tremendous cost to them and to the
city. Meanwhile many of the apart-
ments designated for them remain
vacant, sometimes for months, while
community groups wait for the perfect
In closing, I am left with this ques-
tion: When will HPD act like the regu-
latory agency it is supposed to be? D
the desire and the resources to be. But
in the final analysis, it is they who
must live with and collect rent from
the new residents, and it is they who
must decide how to select their
The current system for resident
selection is a far cry from what any of
us envisioned when we first started
our efforts to save our housing back in
the early 1970s. It is already too
heavily burdened with rules and
regulations designed to promote the
government's ideas about fairness,
about who is eligible to live in this
housing and about how to prevent
abuse. The process is difficult to
implement and impossible to monitor.
Taking away the little part of the
process that the community controls
(albeit with Big Brother constantly
looking over our shoulders) will be
the last straw. D
City View is a forum for opinion
and does not necessarily reflect
the views of City Limits.

City Limits!
Jane Latour
(212) 304-8324
The Magazine about
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... for people who are part
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By Eric Weinstock
Edgy Existence
"Edge Cities: Life on the New Fron-
tier," by Joel Garreau, Doubleday,
1991,546 pages, $22.50, hardcover.
emy Miller once referred to
the United States as the "Air-
Conditioned Nightmare."
Miller's view of a soulless
country driven mad by the almighty
dollar reaches its penultimate con-
clusion in America's so-called edge
cities, the tracts of sleek office towers
and shopping malls that cover more
of the United States each year.
Author Joel Garreau defines an edge
city as a place where more people
work than live, and where, 30 years
ago, there were only small homes or
farmland. Fort Lee and Princeton in
New Jersey, Stamford and Greenwich
in Connecticut and White Plains, New
York are all local edge cities. The
development along Route 128, which
rings Boston, is the prototypical edge
city. While these places are not
perceived as cities because they are
spread across such broad stretches of
the landscape, for several years they
have been the most intense growth
areas of the United States.
How did this happen? In the 1950s
and 1960s, the automobile allowed
people to move to suburban areas.
The shopping mall cut people's
commercial links to the city by allow-
ing them to shop where they lived. By
the 1980s, computers, fax machines
and advanced telecommunications
networks all helped people to work
close to their homes.
Close to the Country Club
New Jersey is an edge city encom-
passing much of the state. It is the
only state in the country with a popu-
lation density greater than Japan's,
yet it has no vast, traditional cities.
Once content with being a bedroom
community for New York City, New
Jersey is now filled with office space
and jobs skimmed from New York
City. Connecticut is also a major edge
city state. Wealthy executives, tired of
the commute into New York, have
moved their companies closer to their
country clubs and mansions.
Garreau is an unabashed fan of edge
cities. But he constantly pries into
their faults-their sterility, the per-
ceived lack of culture and the loss of
community roots that they represent.
His accounts of these cities are hon-
est. He does not try to hide their flaws.
The Democracy Defense
Garreau's basic defense of edge cit-
ies is the democracy defense. This is
the way people want to live, he ar-
gues; in their own home, closer to the
countryside, far from the poverty and
crime of the inner city. People don't
like mass transit, he says, they prefer
to drive to work. Garreau believes that
people have voted with their feet for a
new type of environment and lifestyle.
An honest
embrace of the
"Air Conditioned
Nightmare. "
Garreau's ardor for edge cities is a
reaction, in part, to the dismissive
attitude that urban planners and
architects have for these non-
traditional cities. The snobbishness
of city residents towards the suburbs
(i.e. Jersey jokes) propels Garreau to
embrace this new form of a city.
Garreau's definition of civilization is
not far from my own: good bookstores
and ethnic restaurants. And in his
nationwide examination of edge cities
he finds that they pass this test easily
and have far more culture and com-
munity than city residents give them
credit for.
But even if you accept Garreau's
embrace of upscale Japanese restau-
rants as good ethnic food and groups
such as a Californian association of
computer executives that grew into a
consciousness-raising group, as an
example of community-mindedness
in the suburbs, there are flaws in his
Enormous Subsidies
Most notably, he doesn't acknowl-
edge the enormous subsidies given
each year to edge cities. The most
egregious of these is cheap automo-
bile transportation, the single premise
that makes edge cities possible as we
know them today.
The failure to tax gas to encourage
conservation, while subsidizing the
building of the expressways and
highways, has resulted in the over-
development of edge cities. If devel-
opers had to pay the full costs of their
developments and, in turn, drivers
had to pay the full cost of road
construction and maintenance and
environmental damage, these edge
cities would lose much of their charm.
When I was an undergraduate student
in 1977 I planned to write my thesis
about the formulation of U.S. energy
policy. It's a good thing I changed my
topic because nearly 20 years after the
first oil price shock of 1973 the U.S.
still doesn't have an energy policy.
If we did, we'd recognize the inher-
ent worth of cities. They are the most
energy efficient and cost efficient
method of housing people. Apartment
buildings use less energy per resident.
Trash collection (and recycling),
education and other services are
cheaper to provide for a large popu-
lation than a scattered population as
long as fuel is properly priced.
However, once the middle class fled,
cities lost their tax base and gra9.ually
started to become home to only the
poor and very wealthy. As the cities
continue to lose population and voting
power, the transfer of wealth out of
the cities continues unabated to this
But edge city development relies
on cheap oil. The nation's oil supplies
come from a world market, and will
always be vulnerable to short-term
price shocks due to wars or political
crises in distant lands. The impact of
any world shortage in oil, or in the
increasing costs of other energy
sources, will damage the economic
strength of edge cities dependent an
automobile transport. Conversely, that
could lead to a rebirth of our cities and
the decline of edge city development.
But Garreau believes that edge cit-
ies are the wave of the future. If he is
right, then you can view the future of
New York and other cities at your
local video store. I recommend
"Robocop," "Escape From New York,"
and "Bladerunner." 0
Eric Weinstock is the director of the
housing research project of the
Community Training and Resource
Center and an adjunct instructor in
economics at Brooklyn College.
Potential Subscribers, Take Note!
To the Editor:
I gotta say-your January issue is
excellent. Most informational ever, I
think. Community Reinvestment Act
(CRA), Deep Dish, Commission on the
Homeless. Keep it up. I've encour-
aged a couple of people to subscribe.
We're writing to the Association
for Neighborhood and Housing De-
velopment to get the CRA Resource
Guide. Our group (and our new, for-
mal "advocacy" arm, Urban Justice
Institute) is very interested to start
looking into banking practices here in
the Bronx. We feel that a CRA chal-
lenge could wake things up here, make
the banks put money into low income
Just so you know, our Home-
steaders' Association now has support
from Community Boards Four and
Six to legally homestead several
buildings. The Department of Housing
Preservation and Development is
"considering" our request for site
control. Hopefully it's a step in -the
right direction.
Matthew Lee
Inner City Press
Community on the Move
Lapsed Subscribers, Take Note!
To the Editor:
Your January issue is fantastic-
every article important, concise and
well-written. Many thanks for so much
valuable information!
Eve Levy
P.S. Enclosed is my renewal check.
Cuomo Commission
To the Editor:
I'm writing in response to your
article "Out of Commission?" in the
January 1992 issue of City Limits. Your
article was very accurate and support-
ive of the grassroots work for housing
justice for the homeless, but I would
like to add some more information
about the Homeless Clients Advisory
Council, which has been organizing
the protests at the Cuomo commis-
sion hearings.
Grace Seifman and I are shelter
residents and we are organizing other
shelter residents to advocate on their
own behalf for fair representation on
all policy-making boards of the city
and to advocate for decent, affordable
housing. Client advisory boards are
established to do this work in the
shelters while the Homeless Clients
Advisory Council is a supportive and
unifying force for all clients in the
shelter system and the homeless on
the street for systemic change.
Essentially the Cuomo commission
and city and Human Resources
Administration officials argue that
services are the answer to home-
lessness. HCAC members have a bird' s
eye view from first-hand experience.
Decent, affordable permanent housing
means true empowerment for the poor.
Services would be gladly accepted
were they readily available and
Above all, homeless people must
be involved in the business of policy
which affects their lives. We hope
that the mayor and other city officials
and the public will finally hear us
before it's too late.
Sherletta McCaskill
Homeless Clients Advisory Council
Editor's Note: Larry Rhodes, a home-
less man who is in the "Ready, Willing
and Able" job-training program, was
appointed to the Cuomo commission
on the homeless on January 7. Home-
less people continued to protest their
lack of representation because Rhodes
does not live in a publicly-run shelter.
Toxic Dumping
To the Editor:
I was very distressed to read "The
Dumping Fields" in your January 1992
issue. You manage to accomplish the
very difficult task of misstating the
facts, smearing the community board
of Rockaway in general and Italians in
The most disturbing aspect of this
article concerns your own journal-
istic standards. Your writer was will-
ing to take rumors and hearsay from
problematic sources and print them
as fact. There was no attempt to get an
official response from the community
board or the sanitation department,
which you so casually smear.
For the record, allow me to correct
just a few of the misstatements of fact
in this article. There has never been a
proposal for a sludge manufacturing
plant in Rockaway. The community
board did not ignore neighborhood
complaints about illegal dumping.
Enforcement was targeted for the area
and arrests were made. The commu-
nity board made arrangements for the
sanitation department to remove the
dumped material. There is absolutely
no evidence that hazardous or medical
waste was dumped in the area. And
lastly, it would appear that your
reporter knows about as much about
boats as she does about Rockaway;
there is no such thing as a 15-foot
cabin cruiser.
Finally, let me express my anger
over your "mafia" remark. Prejudice
is an insidious thing, apparently alive
and well at City Limits. As an Italian-
American, I am personally sensitive
to such ethnic slurs. I am sure your
politically correct reporter (and editor)
would not permit an analogous remark
about African-Americans or Puerto
Ricans or Jews or anyone of a number
of "protected" ethnic groups.
Vincent S. Castellano
Community Board #14
Margaret Mittelbach replies: Did you
read my article? You say there is no
official response from the sanitation
department. Yet the article includes
quotes from Pansy Mullings from that
very department! And the reason we
don't have a response from the com-
munity board is that despite numer-
ous calls made by myself and the
editor, board members did not return
calls in a timelyfashion. I wrote in the
article that no "significant" arrests
were made, not that no arrests at all
were made. As to smearing the com-
munity board of Rockaway, the com-
munity board was only mentioned
twice in the piece-and only in pass-
ing. I never accused the community
board of ignoring the problem-that
wasn't the point of the story.
You say I was willing to take ru-
mors and hearsay from problematic
sources and print them as fact. Do you
consider the sanitation department
problematic? The homeowners who
have to live next door to the illegal
dumpsites? The head researcher for
the state legislature's Environmental
Conservation Committee?
I'm particularly disturbed by your
claim that the article could somehow
be construed as a smear on Italians.
No one of Italian descent is men-
tioned anywhere in the piece, nor is
any ethnic group stereotyped in any
way. There is only one reference to the
"mafia" in the article, and it is in a
quote; this quote is a reference to
organized crime's reputed involve-
ment in the garbage hauling industry.
I completely fail to see how you can
twist this into an "ethnic slur. "
Editor's note: City Limits was incorrect
in reporting a "proposed sludge
manufacturing plant" on the Rock-
away peninsula. The proposal is to
use treated sludge to cap the recently
closed Edgemere landfill.
Mutual Housing Debate
To the Editor:
William Price ("Gentrification,
Mutual Housing Style," November
1991) raised such a critical issue in
his opinion piece, I was chagrined at
Pratt Collaborative's response. Rather
than squarely address the affordability
issue, Pratt would have us applaud a
process by which tenants may well
have opted for their own demise.
For low income tenants (at the
United Tenants Association and else-
where) it boils down to this: how can
-, --
local mutual housing associations
with no long term public sector
involvement, possibly assure poor
tenants' ongoing tenure? Too often
cooperators pressured by rising costs
have either squeezed higher rents from
people who can ill afford them, or
r ~ n t e d vacanc.ies to people able to pay
hIgh rents. EIther way, low income
people lose.
Neither Section 8 vouchers (limited
to a five-year term, with no guaranteed
renewal) nor the 15-year Section 8
certificates offer any real comfort; they
both expire. Is this Nixon-era landlord
subsidy really what we in the housing
movement mean when we talk of
"permanent" housing for the people
who need it most? Today' s Section 8
tenants are tomorrow's new wave of
We must insist on ongoing public
involvement in every low income
housing project now under develop-
ment in New York. To do otherwise is
a disservice to tenants and the public
alike, and plays too readily into the
hands of the privatizers.
Tom Gogan
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Dashed Expectations
To the Editor:
In his article (November 1991)
"Gentrification, Mutual Housing
Style," William Price raises a number
of questions about how a mutual hous-
ing association (MHA) is being used
to privatize 181 low-rent apartments
in the West Side Urban Renewal Area.
According to him, if the MHA plan is
implemented, it will lead to the loss of
this low rent housing. He asserts that
tenants were misinformed about the
escalating costs structured into the
MHA plan, promoted by the city's
Department of Housing Preservation
and Development and several non-
profit groups.
The description of the MHA is of a
costly and coercive scheme put over
on the MHA tenants. It reminds me of
another program, the Private Owner-
ship and Management Program
(POMP), that has run roughshod over
the rights of city tenants.
Anyway, I looked forward to possi-
bly reading an informative rebuttal.
So much for expectations. In a letter
appearing in the December 1991 City
Limits, Pratt planners Brian Sullivan
and Joseph Weisbord chose to try to
discredit Price rather than to respond
to his points, made by him as a tenant
who is directly confronting the
privatization. I hope he is offered
ample uncensored space to respond.
Roy Pingel
Uncensored Response
To the Editor:
Brian Sullivan and Joseph
Weisbord from the Pratt Planning and
Architectural Collaborative, who
should be on the cutting edge of re-
search for methods to preserve per-
manent low-rent housing, have re-
sponded to criticism that they are not
doing that with a personal attack on
me because of my Cityview piece,
"Gentrification, Mutual Housing
Style" in the November 1991 issue of
City Limits.
In making this attack, they have
introduced a sort-of ideology-baiting
reminiscent of the unfortunate years
of the 1950s. In this instance, it's from
liberals, not McCarthyites, but it still
just amounts to naming names and
name-calling. For instance, they write
"Bill 's objections seem to have more
to do with his personal ideology than
an open-minded assessment of the
MHA model"-that is, the Mutual
Housing Association proposal now
being processed by the United Tenants
Association (UTA) for 181 apartments
in Manhattan' s West Side. And Brian
and Joe-now that we are on a first-
name basis-hope that I am not "ideo-
logically intractable. " If the "ideol-
ogy" is public ownership versus
privatization, which is how I under-
stand our differences, why not come
right out and say it so the reader can
know what the argument is about? If
Brian and Joe don't want to concede
their support of pri vatization-I don't
blame them-let them keep quiet.
Brian and Joe ridicule my descrip-
tion as a "sizable fee" the $6,000 re-
tainer that Pratt got from Strycker's
Bay Neighborhood Council for Pratt's
work on setting up the MHA. For
those of us who had worked as volun-
teers to raise money such as this, it is
insulting to have this effort sarcasti-
cally referred to as "munificent." The
$6,000 was a retainer for Pratt written
into a contract between Pratt Jmd
Strycker's Bay and was only a small
piece of the monies which were to go
to Pratt under an agreement where the
Pratt Center would get a portion of the
development cost and an architec-
tural fee. I'm not sure what the status
of this contract is now, but one thing
is clear: Pratt may have only got the
$6,000 but it was not for want of trying
for bigger stakes.
There are many factors in the MHA
equation that deserve discussion. At
stake is whether or not the UTA apart-
ments can continue to be homes for a
low income population that has lived
in them for many years. The answers
are not to be found in personal attacks
on someone's presumed ideology.
William Price
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A decade of service representing
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ORGANIZER/POLICY ANALYSIS. For citywide housing advocacy orga-
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and political/budget process. Resume and cover letter to: Associ -
ate Director, ANHD, 236 West 27th Street, 2nd Floor, NYC 10001 .
nonprofit CBO, for a Homeless Prevention and Services Program
to be operated in Income Maintenance Centers in Brooklyn. The
program aims to assist clients identified as at-risk of homelessness.
Requires a college degree and experience in NYC welfare system
and/or Housing Court. Salary low-twenties for Caseworker, mid-
twenties for Paralegal. Contact Santa Napolitano or Paula Smith at
(718) 287-2600 or send resume to 1720 Church Avenue, 2nd Fir,
Brooklyn, NY 11226 .
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Housing Director. Bereavement Counselor. Clinical Social Worker.
Family Crisis Intervention Specialist. Activist orientation and com-
mitment to empowerment of persons living w/AIDS & HIV. Women
and persons of color urged to apply. Spanish a +. For information,
call (212) 966-0466. Housing Works is an Affirmative Action Em-
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR. Deep Dish TV, a growing national network of
activist television producers, programmers and community orga-
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in City Limits!
Call Jane Latour
(212) 304-8324
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