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December 1992 New York's Community Affairs News Magazine $2.50

S E X , L I E S A N D H O M E L E S S N E S S D T R U M P E D O N T H E W E S T S I D E ?
Could This Man Really Be...
A P resident
For T he C ities?
eitv Limits
Volume XVII Number 10
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Move Beyond Symbolism
O far, so good. The early signs from President-elect Bill Clinton are
surprisingl y encouraging: dropping the ban on gays in the military,
reversing the executive order that sends Haitian boat people
straight home without a hearing, and spending time in Washington's
poor neighborhoods to get acquainted with his new home.
If Clinton uses the presidency to highlight and humanize society's so-
called outsiders-gays, refugees, immigrants, poor people-it will be a
tremendous improvement on the sneering rich boys' club that's domi-
nated the White House for the past 12 years.
Still, strolling through inner-city neighborhoods is hardly on a par
with reforming discriminatory policies. Clinton needs to move quickly
beyond symbolism and initiate creative, effective policies that truly
foster change in America's urban centers.
Unfortunately, some of Clinton's pledges, like starting new enterprise
zones in poor neighborhoods, fail to meet this challenge, as illustrated by
"Dollars and Change," Andrew White's insightful feature on economic
development in Jamaica, Queens.
White's article shows that about $1 billion of public investment in
Jamaica's downtown enterprise zone has helped stabilize the business
district-but it's hardly made a dent in the depressed neighborhoods a
few blocks away. What's more, officials can only point to a few hundred
jobs created for local people since the zone began five years ago. The
enterprise zone can be a magnet for large companies based outside the
community, but what the area also needs is economic development from
within-direct investment in job creation through local entrepreneurs.
Another worrisome indicator is the emphasis on homeownership in
Clinton's housing policies. The median sale price for a house or apart-
ment in New York City is $180,000-well beyond the reach of most
renters, whose median household income is $20,000. Peter Dreier and
John Atlas detail a much more progressive approach to housing policy-
with real help for renters-in "Changing America: Blueprints for a New
Democracy," edited by Mark Green, Harvey Gantt and Madeleine Kunin.
President-elect Clinton-read that book!
* * *
We note with sadness the recent death of Peter Smith, the director of
the Partnership for the Homeless. Smith, 57, set up a well-regarded
program for sheltering the homeless in synagogues and churches across
the city. 0
Cover photograph of Bill Clinton campaigning in East New York by Stacy Rosenstock/Impact ViSUals
From the White House to Your House
An interview with Marc Weiss, a top urban advisor to
President-elect Bill Clinton. 11
Promises, Promises
Policy proposals from the Clinton campaign. 13
Listen Up!
Advice from a New York community leaders and
advocates. 14
Dollars and Change
Examining old and new options for economic develop-
ment in Jamaica, Queens. 16
Move Beyond Symbolism ... ............ ................ ........ . 2
Grand Street Investigation ........ .... .......................... .4
Parkash Problems ..................................................... 4
Tax Credit Veto ............ ............ .... ............................ 5
Tainted Money ........... .. ................. ......... ...... ... ......... 5
Good Neighbors ....................................................... 6
Down by the Riverside ............................................. 8
City View
Take the Blinders Off! ............ ........ ........ ...... ......... 22
Sex, Lies and Homelessness ...... ...... ............ .... ...... 25
Letters ....... .... ..... ........... ..... ........ .... .. ............. ........... .. 27
Job Ads ....................................................................... 31
Riverside/Page 8
White House/Page 11
Dollars and Change/Page 16
Grand Street Settlement
House, a 76-year-old social
services agency, is the target of
investigations resulting from
charges of inAated enrollment
forms and improper use of city
funds in some of its education
Funded in part by the city's
Department of Employment and
housed in the New York City
Housing Authority's Jacob Riis
Community Center on the Lower
East Side, the programs were
canceled last year because of
budget cuts and funding
Beverly Cheuvront, a
spokesperson for the city's
Deportment of Employment,
says Grand Street is currently
under investigation. Jean
Nathan, a spokesperson for the
New York City Housing
Authority, adds that Grand
Street is no longer administering
the community center because
of the investigation. And a
spokesperson for the Manhattan
District Attorney's office says
they "have received information
and are reviewing it to see if an
investigation is warranted."
Anna Hopkins, Grand Street
Settlement's executive director,
denies the charges of wrongdo-
ing. "An independent account-
ing firm has looked into these
allegations," she says, adding
that she is sure the charges will
be proven false.
Founded in 1916, Grand
Street Settlement is a social
services organization with a
multi-million dollar budget and
an array of day care, eCluca-
tional, senior citizen and youth
programs funded by city, state
and federal agencies.
Most of the charges against
Grand Street come from
Stephanie Samuels, a former
employee who was hired in
1990 as the director of a
program for teenagers. Samuels
was laid off last summer
because of budget cuts.
During her two years at
Grand Street, Samuels eventu-
ally became the director of all
the organization's programs at
the Jacob Riis Community
Center site, including a General
Equivalency Degree (GED)
program called "Bridge to the
Funding for "Bridge to the
Future" came from the Depart-
ment of Employment. Students
were required to sign a time
card at the beginning of the
day, which enabled them to
receive $30 a week as well as a
stipend for lunch and travel.
Samuels says students told
her they'd been receiving the
stipend without attending
classes. "Somebody was signing
them in and signing time cards
for them," she explains.
Hopkins from Grand Street
Settlement concedes there were
problems with "Bridge to the
Future." 'We did find lax
attendance monitoring at the
site, we made some staff
adjustments and we made sure
the system was not at fault," she
says, adding "sometimes kids
may have signed for one
another, but not staff. There was
no financial gain to the agency.
We discovered the problem and
we fixed it."
Questions about attendance
records are not limited to the
GED program. Samuels and
Charlie McCormick, another
former Grand Street Settlement
employee, say they had to
submit attendance forms to the
housing authority, which
allowed Grand Street Settlement
to use the Jacob Riis Community
Center without paying rent. But
at one point Samuels says she
received a call from a super-
visor and was asked to submit
the forms to Grand Street
administrators rather than
directly to the housing authority.
Suspicious, Samuels contacted
the housing authority and she
says an employee dropped off a
stack of photocopied attendance
"1 found that the forgeries
were unbelievable," says
Samuels. ''There were sign-in
sheets and time cards and if you
looked closely the signatures on
the sign-up sheets didn't match
the time cards."
Hopkins responds, "Our
employee [who reported to I the
housing authority in no way
Families in the NYC Shelter System
and Where They Stay
Number of families in
each type of shelter, 10192:
Private Rooms ITItr 2'., 3,844
~ Dormitories ITItr I'.,
Hotels 1,107
Total Families: 5,458
2190 10190 6191 2192 10192
Source: NYC Human Resources Administration.
looked to forge the forms .... He
says if he made a mistake it was
done in all honesty." She adds
that since Grand Street doesn't
pay rent to the housing
authority, or receive fUnds for
increasing attendance at the
community center, there was no
motive for forging the forms.
In essence, Samuels and
McCormick claim that Grand
Street Settlement has a pattern
of abuse in their reporting to
government agencies. But
Hopkins says, "If we are guilty
of anything, it is poorly
managing staff." 0 Paul
Queens landlord ved
Parkash is up to his old tricks.
In 1990 he evicted a tenant
organizer, Marsha Barnes,
claiming he needed her apart-
ment for his personal use. That
act put Parkash on the Village
Voice's ''Ten Worst Landlords"
list. Now another tenant
standing up for her rights,
Phyllis Winston, is losing her
apartment because P a r ~ a s h
says he needs her home for his
Winston recently agreed to
pay $2,100 in rent she held
back because of a lack of
repairs-even though she says
the repairs have still not been
made. In exchange, Winston
avoided immediate eviction and
has until May to find a new
place to live. The "personal use"
eviction law allows landlords to
repossess any apartment in their
building if they or an immediate
family member need the unit.
There is "absolutely an
abuse ... a pattern" going on,
says Isaac Parsee from the
Jamaica neighborhood
stabilization office of the
Commission on Human Rights,
explaining that Parkash's
actions send a message to
tenants demanding repairs and
decent housing that their actions
might lead to eviction.
Parkash took control of
Winston's building, 162-05
89th Avenue, in 1984. "He let
the place deteriorate into a
slum," says Winston, listing
problems including broken
elevators, peeling paint,
buckling walls due to leaks and
a frequent lack of heat and hot
The 70-unit building has 136
housing code violations,
according to a for
the city's Deportment of Housing
Preservation and Development.
And the state's Deportment of
Housing and Community
Renewal reports eight com-
plaints of illegal rent increases
by Parkash. The state housing
agency found that Parkash
overcharged one tenant,
Brandon Fortez, by $155 per
month and owes him
$15,991-0 finding that
Parkash is currently appealing
for the second time.
In response to questions from
City Limits, Parkash hung up the
phone. The secretary at Horing
and Welikson, the law firm
handling Parkash's litigation
against Winston, says the firm
has "no comment" on the case.
Andrew Kelman, a housing
specialist for Queens Borough
President Claire Shulman, says
there are serious problems with
the personal use eviction law.
''What we have found in many
instances is that people are
somewhat powerless to fight
abuse of the system:' he says.
He and others say the law
should be reformed to increase
the penalty for landlords whose
actions prove they have not
acted in good faith.
Winston, who moved to New
York from St. Thomas in 1977,
is now searching for a new
home. She says she "never
believed that poor people were
really treated like this."
Meanwhile, another activist
tenant is having problems with
Parkash. German Bayron, a
tenant from 90-60 1 79 place
recently received a letter from
Parkash claiming that the
apartment is needed for his
brother. The case is in
court. 0 Beth Greenfield
President George Bush's
recent veto of urban aid
could cause major
delays in the development of
low income housing in New
Elegy of a Program? Mayor Dinkins speaks at the opening of Hattie
Dodson Houses in Harlem-completed by the AbYSSinian Develop-
ment Corporation under a tax-credit program that expires at the end
of this year.
York-ot least until President-
elect Bill Clinton takes office and
deals with the issue next year.
The vetoed legislation
included a permanent extension
of the low income tax credit
program, which has been one
of the primary sources of
funding for subsidized housing
development since 1986. The
tax credits enable corporations
to earn a substantial return on
investments in low income
housing channeled through the
Enterprise Foundation or the
local Initiatives Support Corp-
oration. But the current year's
allocation is almost used up.
''There's probably going to
be a slow-down:' says Bill Frey,
director of the New York office
of the Enterprise Foundation.
President-elect Bill Clinton
repeatedly stressed his support
of the program during his
campoign, so some advocates
believe he will resurrect it early
in his administration, perhaps in
the first 100 days. But the lag
between the veto and the
renewal could hurt-some fear
that the program could grind to
a halt early in 1993. ''The
pipeline is dry," says Rich West
of the National low Income
Housing Coolition. "It requires
the Clinton administration to
turn on the spigot quickly."
Other advocates suspect that
Congress will not approve the
program until legislators have
worked out a major new tax
bill. If that's the case, politics
could push the tax credit's
renewal back well into next
summer or fall, according to
Since the program was
created in 1986, it has been
responsible for creating
125,000 units of housing
nationwide each year, West
says, and in New York state the
program helped produce 5,000
units in 1991 alone.
In New York City, the
corporate money derived from
tax credits is usually combined
with financing from the city,
state and foundations to
develop housing that must
remain affordable for 30 years.
The buildings are developed
and owned by community
groups, and must be run as
typical rentals. The program has
been criticized as more
complicated and expensive than
giving direct grants to commu-
nity groups. 0 Steve Mitra
The real estate, banking and
buildin9 industries contributed
nearly $75,000 to the election
campoign of Republican Rep.
Susan Molinari of Staten Island
in 1989 and 1990. At the
same time, they gave $30,000
to Democratic Rep. Jose
Serrano of the South Bronx. For
both of them, the contributions
made up a large portion of their
campoign war chests-far
above the nationwide average,
according to a recent report by
the National Housing Institute
Nationally, the average
congressman or woman got
one-tenth of his or her cam-
poign funding from the three
industries. But Molinari's take
was nearly 40 percent of her
total expenditures, and
Serrano's was 27 percent.
On the Aip side, the report
shows that neither Molinari nor
Serrano gave up crucial votes in
exchange for the money. The
report, entitled "Politicians for
Rent," graded politicians on
their votes for or against
legislation that pitted consumer
interests against the three
inAuential industries. Serrano
scored an A+ by the institute's
measure, and Molinari a B+.
New York City's entire dele-
gation scored' in the "A" range
except for Molinari and out-
going Congressman Bill Green.
"New York was one of those
states where candidates
appeared to be more indepen-
dent," says Patrick Morrissy,
executive director of NHI. ''The
candidates took money from the
interests but then voted with the
But overall, Morrissy
charges, the three interest
groups remain fully able to steer
the Congress.
The National Association of
Realtors has the largest political
action committee in the country,
the repc>rt shows, and it has
successfully lobbied to keep
reforms-like capping the tax
deduction for mortgage
interest-off-limits for discussion
in Congress.
''What they do is set the
agenda," Morrissy explains.
"And it does not include
affordable housing." 0 Steve
By Norman Oder
Good Neighbors
Three years after the death of Yusuf Hawkins,
churchgoers in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bay Ridge
are sharing food, discussion-and friendship.
n a chilly October afternoon, a
line of people forms inside the
hall of John Wesley United
Methodist Church, a sanctuary
far more handsome than its surround-
ings at Quincy Street and Nostrand
Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Many
of them are parishioners, older folks
still in Sunday suits and fancy hats.
But others-the ones with white
faces-have trekked from Bay Ridge,
a neighborhood some six miles away
and a few worlds apart.
At a table overseen by Loretta Power
of Bed-Stuy and Judy Parris of Bay
Ridge, people pick up name tags ,
programs and a selection of readings
from the American Bible Society on
peace and justice. Thus begins a
leisurely afternoon of pot-luck meal,
speakers, small group discussion and
prayer among some 60 people. They're
all members of a three-year-old group
called Neighbors for Racial Harmony
that includes seven churches divided
between Bed-Stuy and Bay Ridge.
helped her feel there's less of a chasm
between her and African Americans.
And Loretta Power, a lifelong Bed-
Stuy resident who is a retired office
chicken, salad and cake, some of the
stiffness is replaced by conversation
and joking.
Exchanges between churches in
different communities are nothing
new, but this program was prompted
not by church leaders but by the 1989
killing of Yusuf Hawkins in white
Bensonhurst, which shook the city.
Hortence Lopez, a retired school-
teacher and veteran peace activist from
Bay Ridge, attended a memorial
service at the Cathedral of St. John the
Divine, and listened to Mayor David
In Brooklyn, where the racial
mosaic is frequently far from gorgeous,
this modest meeting is a hopeful sign,
an attempt to build bridges between
neighborhoods separated by race and
class. It introduces parishioners from
Bay Ridge, which in places might be
mistaken for Westchester, to the com-
munity institutions thatthrive behind
Bed-Stuy's notorious blight-and
welcomes Bed-Stuy residents into a
neighborhood that has been known to
greet African Americans with cold
stares and violence.
Reaching Out Parishioners from Bay Ridge and Bedford-Stuyvesant are trying to build bridges
between neighborhoods seperated by race and class.
How to Stop Prejudice
"Face to face contact between
people who don't ordinarily interact
is the single most important thing to
counteract racism and prejudice,"
observes Robert Sherman, executive
director of the Increase the Peace
Volunteer Corps, a mayoral initiative
that promotes mutual respect among
various races and ethnic groups in the
For Judy Parris, a secretary and a
church activist who's lived in Bay
Ridge for 25 years, the group has
supervisor, sees her participation in
the group as an extension of her church
Still, Power, who once worked in
Bay Ridge, notes that for some African-
Americans, getting together with
whites is no big deal. And she, like
some others in the group, wonders if
Neighbors for Racial Harmony will
ever evolve to tackle community prob-
lems like the need for jobs and hous-
ing. "I don't think the people in Bay
Ridge are familiar with the things that
go on here in Bedford-Stuyvesant,"
she says carefully, implying that it
may take more frequent and more
inclusive meetings to deepen under-
The group has had some growing
pains. At a previous meeting, steering
committee members unconsciously
segregated themselves by race. And
here at John Wesley Church, it takes a
while for discussion to get going. But
over a shared meal that includes
Dinkins exhort attendees to go home
and work in their own communities.
It took a year, but Lopez and others
from St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic
Church linked up with St. Peter Claver
Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Monsignor James Hunt brought a
parishioner, lawyer Jim Sullivan from
Bed-Stuy, to a meeting in Bay Ridge,
and the churches decided to hold a
potluck meal together. Hunt suggested
they do it again, and thus the quar-
terly meetings, which have included
up to 150 people, were born.
Lopez, who grew up in white
Flatbush and whose second husband
is Puerto Rican, says she was color-
blind to children she encountered as
a schoolteacher, but became close to
only one black person-a former maid.
Now she's speaks on a weekly basis
with Geneva Whitfield, a Bed-Stuy
resident who works as a school secre-
tary. As a result of the church inter-
change, they've become friends.
Helping the Healing
The contacts in the Neighbors group
led recently to an unusually open
attempt at racial healing during a
September church service honoring
St. Peter Claver, who in the 17th
century in Colombia consecrated him-
self "slave of slaves forever. " In the
midst of the service, Lopez and two
other white Catholics moved to the
microphone and apologized for the
sins of their ancestors for any role
they may have played in the slave
trade. Then Julius Walls, a St. Peter
Claver parishioner and a member of
the Neighbors steering committee,
accepted the apology and said, "We
too must apologize for much that we
have done against other people."
Hunt says his parishioners were
amazed that white people would make
such statements. Whitfield comments
that some people felt the gesture wasn't
concrete-but most "felt it would help
with the healing."
The comments stirred controversy.
When news of the service was reported
in a local Catholic newspaper, The
Tablet , several Irish American
Catholics wrote vehement letters
objecting to the apology from an Irish
speaker at the church and citing
discrimination against the Irish in
America. (The apology had included
the statement, "Many Irish who came
to the United States were in-volved in
the slave trade.") Lopez and Whitfield
each wrote to The Tablet, defending
the symbolic value of the statements.
Monsignor Hunt, the child of Irish
immigrants, says recognition of past
wrongs is the first step towards change.
"You gotta lance the boil ," he says.
Developing Mission
Organizers say Neighbors for Racial
Harmony is still finding its way, still
in the process of drafting a mission
statement. And while discussions at
the quarterly meetings have been
fruitful-especially a one-time youth
forum-sometimes they're not.
On this fall Sunday, the group
seems to lose momentum when aguest
speaker drones on about brother-
hood. After his speech, people have
only a brief time for small group
discussions, and the topic is limited
to brainstorming ideas for the group's
future. Some members propose that
the churches exchange classes or
pulpits or choirs. Several say the group
should attract more youth. "My basic
feeling is you have to work with the
teenagers," says Whitfield.
Group members have debated issu-
ing statements about controversies
such as the riot in Washington Heights.
"Some would like it if we could be a
little more critical of what exists in
Methodist Church says he hopes to
create more organic links between
congregants by pairing churches of
the same denomination. Then "they
would have a natural liturgical pro-
grammatic life together," he says. Such
bonds could eventually involve more
people, since only a small percentage
of each congregation has the time and
energy to pursue the current ex-
"Face to face
contact is the
single most
important thing to
Then again, he's realistic about the
group's potential. Progress, he says,
will come slowly and quietly, "as re-
lationships between people and reli-
gious communities can be established,
and as some of the self-consciousness
drops away."
Whitfield comes back to the impor-
tance of developing friendships. " If
you can't talk and communicate with
each other," she asks, reflecting on
the continuing tensions in Crown
Heights, "how are you ever going to
get together?" 0 the city," says Hunt. But, he adds,
"This group is not ready to make a
statement. "
Norman Oder is a freelance writer
based in Brooklyn whose work has
been published in the Columbia Jour-
nalism Review and In These Times.
And for now, public statements
may not be the point. The Rev. Scott
Summerville of Bay Ridge United
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By Jon Gertner
Down By The Riverside
Is Donald Trump's Riverside South project a
disastrous sell-out, an artful compromise or some
mixture of the two?
ven by New York's ruthless stan-
dards, it's been a year of long
knives and acrimonious dispute
on the West Side of Manhattan.
The reason is Riverside South, the
massive Trump development slated
for the largest empty parcel of land in
the borough. The development
proposal recently emerged from the
City Planning Commission after a fa-
vorable unanimous vote, and will-if
and when it is completed-be the
largest private construction project in
the history of the city.
Depending on whom you speak
with, Riverside South is either a disast-
rous sell-out, an artful compromise or
some mixture of the two. The planning
commission's stamp of approval
virtuall y assures fleet passage through
the City Council in mid-December.
But disagreements still swirl about
sewage problems, population density
and subway improvements related to
the site, the old Penn Central railroad
yards that stretch from 59th to 72nd
Street between West End Avenue and
the Hudson River.
The West Side's community boards
and most local elected officials are
opposed to Riverside South, but their
basic concerns about whether a city
with a luxury real estate glut has any
need for new upscale towers have
been brushed aside by city officials
and media commentators declaring
the need for new property tax revenue.
In this climate of concession, the Riv-
erside South dispute has evolved into
a fiery argument over specifics. "This
time," one neighborhood resident
notes, "the devil is in the details."
Sewage Scandal
The detail that has stirred some of
the greatest controversy concerns
sewage. The North River Water
Pollution Control Plant in Harlem is
already seriously overburdened,
according to the state. Can it handle
the waste generated by residents in an
extra 5,700 apartments?
No problem at all, says Albert
Appleton, commissioner of the city's
Department of Environmental Protec-
tion (DEP), which operates the plant.
In late October he produced data for
the planning commission showing
that Riverside South would have a
negligible impact on the amount of
sewage flowing to the plant. The as-
sertion left critics dumbfounded, since
North River has hovered just at or
still swirl about
sewage problems,
density and
above its legal capacity of 170 million
gallons per day for years. State Sena-
tor Franz Leichter says Appleton's
analysis is "inadequate, insufficient,
unsubstantiated and erroneous," and
charges that the commissioner has
fudged the figures.
Even some advocates for Riverside
South raise doubts about Appleton'S
data. "It's hard to feel comfortable
with government data that all of a
sudden indicates a dramatic shift,"
says Eric Goldstein of the Natural
Resources Defense Council, which is
part of a coalition of civic groups
supporting the proposal. "We are
concerned. "
State officials are also skeptical.
"The city's flow data is taken by us
with a grain of salt," says Richard
Newman, the regional water program
director for the state's Department of
Environmental Conservation. Early
last summer, after the city repeatedly
violated regulations by channeling too
much waste water through North
River, the state fOI:.ced DEP to sign a
legally-binding consent order that
gives the city 18 months to reduce the
burden on the plant. !fthe city doesn't
comply by 1994, the state can prohibit
sewer hook-ups-which are essential
for new development-in the sur-
rounding neighborhoods.
Besides the basic question of
whether North River can handle Riv-
erside South's waste, there are other
concerns. The sewage treatment plant
serves virtually the entire West Side
of Manhattan. Riverside South oppo-
nents have charged that a new hookup
of its size would, in effect, block new
developments in less exclusive real
estate markets, including Harlem.
When Borough President Ruth
Messinger accepted the Trump plan
last August, the two agreed that the
developer would address concerns
about the capacity of North River by
either paying for low-flow toilets and
other conservation fixtures in hun-
dreds of West Side buildings, or build-
ing a small treatment plant on the site.
But DEP opposed Messinger's pro-
posals. "At this point it doesn't seem
necessary," says agency spokesper-
son Ian Michaels. "We anticipate the
plant will be able to handle it."
Critics counter that officials have
simply failed to seriously consider
the sewage question as it affects the
long-term interests of the borough.
"The city continues to shirk the
responsibility of good planning," says
Peggy Shepard, the co-founder of West
Harlem Environmental Action, a
community group that has battled with
the city over problems at the North
River plant. Her reaction to DEP's
data? She's "disgusted."
Too Much, Too Vast?
The disagreement over Riverside
South's population density has been
equally heated. For nearly two
decades, West Siders have warned of
the congestion and intrusions they
expect from development on the
derelict, 57-acre site. A mid-1970s
plan for the Penn Yards, Lincoln West,
included a total of 4,300 apartments
and what was then considered an
unthinkable seven million square feet
of space. Trump acquired the land in
the mid-1980s; his Trump City
proposal of several years ago doubled
the Lincoln West plan to 14.5 million
square feet.
After what looked to be an
unwinnable war against community
groups and the city, Trump joined
Make Way for Trump: The 57-acre wasteland on the West Side waterfront could become the site of the largest private construction project in the
city's history.
forces last year with six civic groups
that had collaborated on an alternative
plan, including the Municipal Art
Society, the Parks Council, the Natural
Resources Defense Council, the
Regional Plan Association, the River-
side Park Fund and Westpride. He
downsized the project to 8.3 million
square feet-still larger than Lincoln
West. With Trump's consent, the
planning commission recently
reduced the density even further, but
at a current 7.9 million square feet-
with 5,700 residential units-the
trimming hardly seems severe.
In June 1991, a workshop of
planners and architects sponsored by
the Manhattan Borough President's
office issued a detailed report recom-
mending a more dramatic density re-
duction of 16 percent, as opposed to
the five percent agreed upon by the
planning commission. In July of this
year, Community Board Seven voted
against Riverside South, demanding
that the project's density should not
exceed 6.9 million square feet. Both
suggestions have been relegated to
footnote status.
"People who don't understand all
the aspects that go into a good and
balanced plan reach for density as a
simplistic issue," charges Rosina
Abramson of the city's Department of
City Planning. "The notion of density
is a critical one, but simply cutting
density does not mean you meet your
other goals," she says.
But opponents say Trump passed
the breaking point when his project
eclipsed the seven million square foot
mark. Abramson counters that studies
have shown that the new project is in
sync with its surroundings. She says
the project came outto 102 apartments
per acre, while the surrounding West
Side area has 105 apartments per acre.
Other methods of analyses further
complicate the debate. For instance, a
spokesperson for the project's archi-
tect, Skidmore Owings & Merrill,
recently told Metropolis magazine that
designers used Central Park West and
its massive towers as their frame of
reference, rather than the smaller
buildings along Riverside Drive.
Madeleine Polayes of the Coalition
for a Livable West Side charges that
the manipulations of data and zoning
contexts obscure the true impact of
such a huge development. "It will
ruin the West Side as we know it," she
Early Disagreement
While the specific hot spots in the
Riverside South debate were identi-
fied early on, some say Mayor David
Dinkins' and Borough President
Messinger's support at Riverside
South's 1991 unveiling sealed the
plan's ultimate success even before
the caterwaul began. The opposition
of State Senators Franz Leichter and
Manfred Ohrenstein, as well as the
criticisms of virtually every locally
elected West Side politician-includ-
ing Council Members Ronnie Eldridge
and Stanley Michels- have helped
galvanize the opposition, even as the
project seems increasingly a fait
accompli. But the fact that the elected
officials have closed ranks, including
former Trump ally Andrew Stein, is
rarely noted in press accounts.
However strong the opposition,
advocates maintain that the project's
"economic integrity"-a euphemism
for profit making-could be jeopar-
dized by too many concessions. Even
in the report that accompanied the
Borough President's approval of the
project, this was rhetorically antici-
pated. Messinger stated that "[den-
sity 1 has often led to horsetrading,
which can easily overtake the resolu-
tion of issues of much greater conse-
quence to the community," like the
city's need for property tax revenues,
affordable housing and parks.
One issue that appears resolved
after the planning commission's ap-
proval is an increase in Trump's con-
tribution, from $5 million to $12 mil-
lion, towards the renovation and ex-
pansion of the 72nd Street and 66th
Street subway stations. Years before,
when the Lincoln West project had
been the center of a similar fire storm
during its review by the now-defunct
Board of Estimate, mandates in the
planning agreement had called for
over $30 million in contributions to-
wards improving the 72nd Street sub-
way station. "Lincoln West was giv-
ing $32 million plus other allowances
for the ' subway," says Madeleine
Polayes. "By today's standards that's
$45 million." But the planning com-
mission concluded it was unrealistic
for Trump to assume the entire cost of
subway renovations and that, in fair-
ness, the developer's contribution
should only match the estimated 28
percent increase in foot traffic at the
A similar battle has raged over af-
fordable housing and park sites. The
tantalizing prospect of a 21.5 acre
park abutting the river was one cor-
nerstone of the plan. Accordingly, the
planning commission insists that the
park be built in increments along with
the towers, and that apartments can't
be occupied until the commitment is
fulfilled. In addition, part of the pub-
licly-owned park's maintenance and
oversight costs will be picked up by
the developer.
But the newly refurbished, elevated
Miller Highway on the Riverside South
site is a major obstacle. The planning
commission called for an "interim
park" until the highway can be moved
slightly below ground level, as called
for in the development proposal. But
the federal government just sank $62
million into renovations for the el-
evated road, and newly elected Rep-
resentative Jerry Nadler, a strong
opponent of the current plan, "will
do whatever he can to prevent the
moving of the Miller Highway,"
according to his aide, Brad Korn. The
congressman "believes any federal
money should be used to repair other
infrastructure problems of the city,"
Korn explains.
Progress on Affordable Housing
Of all the conditions worked out by
the planning commission, proponents
call the Riverside South affordable
housing guarantees the most promis-
Riverside South
is Trump's life
ing and progressive. Trump had origi-
nally agreed to provide 10 percent of
the project's units for this, but with
insistence from the planning com-
mission he agreed to a mandate of 12
percent, or 20 percent if federal pub-
lic subsidies can be procured. The
stipulations have teeth, Planning Com-
missioner Ron Shiffman says, and
would force the developer to actively
search out subsidies to hit the 20 per-
cent mark-which would mean Man-
hattan could have 1,140 new afford-
able apartments. Furthermore, the af-
fordable housing will be scattered
throughout the project, not segregated,
and half of the units will be targeted to
low income households. (The rest will
be divided evenly between moderate
and middle income families.)
Shiffman sees this as the shape of
things to come. "I anticipate that we're
going to hold any developer with a
large scale development to any
inclusionary housing in future agree-
ments," he says. "A number of the
commissioners will fight for it with
any project that comes before us."
Trump, Chase and Beyond
But will Donald Trump ever see
any of this to completion? Both critics
and advocates of Riverside South
quietly acknowledge that a property
sale, probably parcel by parcel, is
imminent once the plan makes it over
its final hurdle in the City Council or,
perhaps, after the completion of the
first few units.
While development of the Penn
Yards site has been Donald Trump's
lifelong dream, at this point the dream
may be replaced by his need for cash.
Zoning clearance for the site would
vastly inflate the net worth of the
property; it might even propel the
bankrupt developer back into the
black. Documents from the New Jersey
Casino Control Commission indicate
that Chase Manhattan would be
willing to refinance other Trump
properties, such as Trump Tower, if
Riverside South gets the nod before
the end of the year. At present, Chase
has over $200 million behind the Penn
Yards properties. Though Trump has
never stopped being a player-
perhaps because he had sunk so far
into debt (about $6 billion) that the
banks couldn't let him fail-critics
say Riverside South is his life
preserver, his way back on to the cover
of New York magazine.
The Riverside South proposal has
yielded many firsts: Donald Trump
has held court with the community to
some degree, conceded to precedent-
setting affordable housing guarantees,
and did not, for a change, name a
project after himself. But in the end,
New York's reliance on real estate
development as the most facile means
of stimulating the local economy-
and raising new revenue-has been
the guiding force behind negotiations.
Bob Fitch, an economist who is
currently working on a book about the
topic, says this approach ignores the
long-term, structural needs ofthe city
and its residents. "There has to be
something wrong with a city that has
tens of millions of square feet of empty
office space and has thousands of
empty condos and we have to keep
building more," he says. "We have to
think seriously about what this city is
going to do for a living." 0
Jon Gertner is a freelance writer based
in Brooklyn.
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Faith Wiggins!
(212) 925 .. 9820
By Lisa Glazer
Talking with a top urban advisor to President-elect Bill Clinton.
From the White House to Your House
m stressed to the max," says Marc Weiss, 42, a senior
policy advisor to President-elect Bill Clinton. It is two days
after the election, Weiss is just back from Little Rock, and
he is clearly on overdrive-hyper and yawning at the same
time. In the quiet of his office at Columbia University he relaxes
slightly, just enough to detail his involvement with the successful
Democratic campaign and to provide a conceptual road map for
urban issues in the new administration.
Like the man he campaigned for ,
Weiss comes across as an earnest,
affable political moderate committed
to building broad-based coalitions. He
speaks in the generalized parlance of
the election: "housing equals jobs", "a
new passion for community," "a time
of opportunity." But un-
derlying the rhetoric are
a handful of campaign
proposals Weiss helped
develop that just might
put cities back on the
presidential agenda.
(How high they'll be on
that agenda is another
question altogether.)
But only some of that enthusiasm
has spread from the Clinton campaign
to cities, where many have noted how
rarely racism, poverty and urban re-
building were mentioned during a
year of electioneering targeted mostly
toward suburbanites. Catering to the
These aren't the only promises.
Besides business enterprise zones,
microenterprise loan programs and
community development banks,
Clinton has also pledged full federal
funding for the maintenance of public
housing, permanent extension of low
income housing tax credits, more
money for important housing develop-
ment programs, and the expansion of
Federal Housing Administration
mortgage insurance to a greater num-
ber of home buyers.
When push comes to shove, when
dollars don't match desire, what will
be funded? "Some of the really key
priorities will be the tax credits and
mortgage revenue bonds, " says Weiss.
The credits give tax breaks to corpora-
tions in return for in-
vesting in affordable
housing, and mortgage
revenue bonds enable
states and cities to float
bonds to raise capital for
housing, often as mort-
gages for home buyers.
Not incidentally, neither
requires serious, up-
front investment of fed-
eral funds.
But with the recession
still going strong and for-
eign crises looming, it
seems entirely possible
that even these modest
goals could be put on
UJ hold. Weiss denies this
vehemently, saying that
Clinton's $20 billion
"I've been working on
the campaign from the
very beginning," says
Weiss, who was anadvi-
sor to Governor Jerry
Brown in California in
the 1970s and was im-
pressed by then-Gover-
nor Bill Clinton's
achievements in Arkan-
sas. Years later, when
Weiss heard that Clinton
was running for presi-
dent, he volunteered his
and became
_________ ---' __ 00 "Rebuild America"
City Person: Marc Weiss says, ''I'm very, very, very excited about what we're plan-if enacted-will
going to be able to do ...
one of the candidate's chief advisors
on city topics.
Growing Role
"It grew to be a bigger role than the
campaign itself," explains Weiss, who
seems slightly dislocated by the shift
from campaigning to pre-inaugural
strategizing. After a year of policy-
making and public speaking for
Clinton, including outreach to
national housing and community
development groups, he says, "I'm
very, very, very excited about what
we're going to be able to do."
middle class can easily overwhelm
the needs of the nation's 35 million
poor people-and many of the early
Clinton positions on community de-
velopment can only be described as
"Early on there was an effort to be
very lean and later things developed,"
Weiss says, noting that as the campaign
progressed Clinton became more
specific on city issues and now prom-
ises to expand the budget for housing
and urban development to pre-1980s
levels-in terms of how many people
are assisted-over four years.
include extra money for
cities. "The centerpiece
of his whole program is economic
growth, and housing and community
development are definitely a part of
that," he says. How will it happen?
Adding extra money to Community
Development Block Grants and more
funds-perhaps an extra billion-for
the new HOME program, which offers
cities and states flexible funding for a
range oflow income housing options.
Expansion of ei ther program would
give a kick to the depressed building
industry as well as increase the hous-
ing supply. But this approach worries
some, including Richard West from
the National Coalition for Low In-
come Housing. "They sell low income
housing as a job creation program, but
we don't believe the primary problem
in America today is supply of hous-
ing-it's affordability. This can be
solved economically and efficiently
through rental assistance programs in
contrast with much more expensive
and time-consuming construction pro-
West and others note that the
nation's largest housing subsidy pro-
gram for low income families-Sec-
tion Eight rental vouchers and certifi-
cates-is in dire straits because of
funding cutbacks but is not singled
out for attention in any Clinton policy
Meanwhile, 132,000 people are on
New York City's waiting list for the
federal rent assistance, a number that
has exploded during the recession.
Instead of tenant assistance, Clinton
proposals have focused more on home-
ownership. But Weiss says, "I would
expect to see an increase in Section
Eight and very possibly an effort to
improve the program."
Broad-based Vision
Raised in Chicago, Weiss describes
himself as a "city person" who worked
as a community organizer in anti-
poverty programs while in high school
and marched for civil rights and fair
housing. He served in Vietnam, and
later earned an urban planning
doctorate from the University of
California. Today he teaches real estate
and urban planning at Columbia and
is the author of two publications: a
real estate textbook and "The Rise of
the Community Builders," which
focuses on large-scale, for-profit
residential development. His current
book project is about home owner-
ship, so the lack of focus on rental
assistance shouldn't come as a
surprise. Nor should his disinterest in
politicall y risky reforms like changing
the tax rules for mortgage interest
deductions so the wealthy don't ben-
efit from tax breaks.
"Housing programs need to get
broad-based support and when you
zero in on that issue in particular it
becomes very divisive," says Weiss.
"If you said we need to expand hous-
ing programs that serve middle income
and low income, that are for home
ownership and rental, and that you
are going to pay for it by cutting the
defense budget, you get a much big-
ger, more positive political coalition
and it's much more likely to pass."
Stressing the importance of the
HOME program, he says it's "a great
vehicle with one important advan-
tage: you can do it quickly. The alter-
native is to come up with an entirely
new program. That would take years
and wouldn't help the economy. It's
much better to take the existing
programs and make them work better."
Could cities
return to the
Many low income housing advocates
agree that HOME is essentially a good
program, especially since it gives states
and cities a lot ofleeway to determine
how they'll expand low income
housing. The program funds both
rehabilitation and new construction,
and mandates that 15 percent of funds
must be set aside for community-based
housing groups.
Regarding public housing, Weiss
predicts that the Jack Kemp agenda of
privatization will be slowed down-
but boosting tenant involvement in
management will remain key. Weiss
also says the president-elect is likely
to support the new, neo-conservative
Family Self Sufficiency program,
which offers families on Section Eight
rental assistance greater access to
social services, education and job
training-in exchange for giving up
Section Eight five years down the road.
When it comes to the Community
Reinvestment Act (CRA) , there are
already signs that Clinton is living up
to his reputation for trying to please
everyone. On the one hand, advocates
are heartened that bank lending in
poor neighborhoods has been high-
lighted as an election issue and they
point to Clinton's record in bringing
the South Shore community bank to
Arkansas to manage a rural develop-
ment bank. Yet his campaign's policy
papers lead with a demand to cut back
CRA paperwork, which Allen Fish-
bein from the Center for Community
Change describes as "disingenuous,"
explaining that paperwork overkill is
a pet peeve of the banking lobby and
a ruse to undercut CRA. Steven Kest,
the director of the Association of
Community Organizations for Reform
Now, which has worked nationally
on CRA issues, adds that the new
head of the American Banking
Association, William Brandon Jr. of
Arkansas, has worked closely with
the president-elect for two decades.
"I think Clinton is hearing from both
sides and there will be a battle over
which side prevails," notes Kest.
Dismay, Ecstasy
Among inside-the-beltway housing
and neighborhood policy wonks, the
early take on Clinton's campaign
promises is divided. Some, like
Chester Hartman from the Poverty and
Race Research Action Council, are
dismayed by his centrism and by the
absence of big-name housing and
community development folks in the
campaign. But others beg to differ.
"Our members are ecstatic," says Bud
Kanitz from the National Neigh-
borhood Coalition. Kanitz says the
organizations he works with are
absolutely thrilled that the Reagan-
Bush era is finally over.
But what will come in its place?
Most of the experts say there's little
chance that housing, homelessness,
and community development will
leap to the top of the Clinton agenda.
But they acknowledge that Weiss is at
least listening to nonprofit neighbor-
hood and housing groups, bringing
them back in the loop after 12 years of
embittered outsider status. Continu-
ing his quest, Weiss says, "I hope
everyone reading City Limits-the
people really out on the front lines
making change-will know that they
have a friend in Clinton and a friend
in the federal government."
Already it looks like Clinton won't
be a best friend-but at least he'll be
an acquaintance, and that's a start,
advocates say. As Fishbein puts it,
"There's nowhere to go but up." ::J
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(212) 925-9820

Promises, Promises
Some of the key campaign pledges for cities
made by President-elect Bill Clinton.
Community Development
Create a national network of 100
community development banks
and 1,000 microenterprise loan
programs to provide capital and
technical assistance to people who
want to start or expand small
businesses and help revitalize
Create 75 to 125 comprehensive
enterprise zones to help distressed
communities. Require businesses
to make jobs for local residents a
top priority if they are to receive
the benefits of the new enterprise
Strengthen the Com-
munity Reinvestment
Act to emphasize per-
formance over paper-
work and stop the
practice of "redlining"
in economically disad-
vantaged communities.
Fighting Poverty
Set up Individual
Development Accounts
for low income Ameri-
cans for first-home pur-
chases, post-secondary
education, business
development and retire-
ment. Raise the asset
limit for AFDC recipi-
ents from $1 ,000 to
Increase the Earned
Income Tax Credit so that no one
with a family who works full-time
has to raise their children in pov-
erty; make up the difference be-
tween a family's earnings and the
poverty level.
Scrap the current welfare system.
Provide the education, training and
child care that recipients need for
up to two years so they can break
the cycle of dependence. After that,
those who are able will be required
to work.
Require any corporation receiv-
ing a multi-million dollar federal
contract to create a mentors hip ,
after-school employment or
summer employment program for
urban and rural disadvantaged
Rebuilding Urban Infrastructure
Target funding and Community
Development Block Grants to rebuild
roads, bridges, water and sewer treat-
ment plants and low income housing
stock, stressing "ready to go" projects.
Require companies that bid on these
projects to set up a portion of their
operations in low-income neighbor-
hoods end employ local residents.
Affordable Housing
Increase the ceiling on Federal
Housing Administration mortgage
insurance to 95 percent of the price of
a home in an average metropolitan
Make home ownership possible for
lower-income Americans through
federal support of low income, long-
term housing-buy-out programs in
which condemned houses are pur-
chased, restored and sold to low
income buyers through a package of
long-term subsidized housing.
Maintain the mortgage revenue
bond program to make affordable
housing a reality.
Continue and strengthen the HOME
program by giving more authority to
local administrative officials.
Permanently extend the Low
Income Housing Tax Credit.
Preserve public housing by
ensuring that adequate funding for
maintenance and upkeep is in-
cluded in the HUD budget.
Hold a Housing and Homeless-
ness Summit with urban leaders to
create a new consensus for poverty
programs, funding levels and fed-
eral assistance for innovative hous-
ing solutions.
Fighting Homelessness
Make permanent housing with
supportive services a priority.
Work to develop cost-effective,
community-based, service-en-
riched housing programs for spe-
cial needs populations.
Build flexibility into federal
funding programs, like the
McKinney Act, to finance housing
and supportive service costs, in-
cluding pre-development and ad-
ministrative costs.
Children and Education
and the Women, Infants
and Children program.
Give teenagers who
drop out of school a sec-
ond chance through a
Youth Opportunities
nities open youth cen-
Develop a national
apprenticeship program
that offers non college-
bound students valuable
skills training.
Give every American
the right to borrow
money for college,
establish a National
Service Trust Fund
where those who borrow
from the fund will be
able to repay the balance by work-
ing as teachers, police, health care
workers or peer counselors.
Establish a national health care
Improve health care access in
urban areas through school and
community-based clinics to
provide preventive care.
Allocate greater resources to
"intelligent vehicle" and roadway
technology to reduce traffic.
Increase the decision-making
role of municipalities and commu-
nity development groups so they
can allocate a greater share of their
transportation funds for mass
transit systems.
Guillenno Linares
New York City Council Member
Your strategy has to be bottom up,
based on what communities perceive
should be the focus.
Pursue an agenda that creates jobs
right away. That's the first thing that
communities, people of color, im-
migrants and poor people need. Sec-
ondl y, focus on channeling resources
to cities that help families pull them-
selves together-especially housing,
which should include strategies to
help the homeless. Not just the men-
tally ill but families that are doubled and tripled up.
Help small business people that have such a hard time
surviving. A strategy that does not focus on economic
development at the base of the community is doomed to
Linares repmsents the Washington Heights section of
Manhattan. He is the city's first Dominican-American
elected official.
Marjorie Moore
Community Environmental Health Center
Come visit Harlem. You will find that in addition to the
childhood lead poisoning epidemic, we are also experi-
encing alarming rates of asthma and tuberculosis. Do
these environmental health
problems exist in other urban
communities? I can assure you
they do.
When you visit, you will
get an instant education about
how the urban center-the
city-supports the comforts
of those who are financially
better off and can live in the
suburbs. You will be hit by
the sudden realization that
when we say we are unwill-
ing to accept another envi-
ronmentally questionable project or any kind of unwanted
facility, or that we won' t let industry dump its poisonous
bypro ducts-we are not saying "not in my backyard" but
rather that we don't even have a backyard.
I want to challenge you to be imaginative and creative
and to reject complacency out of hand. Get busy!
The Community Environmental Health Center is based at
Hunter College.
Jay Small
Association for Neighborhood
and Housing Development
During the campaign none of the candidates, yourself
included, articulated an urban agenda. In fact, it almost
seemed as if cities had ceased to exist. While the conven-
tional wisdom seems to be that this
was just part of a centrist election
strategy, it is entirely possible that
ignoring cities and poor people will
remain an entrenched government
An effective housing policy would
have to include radical new
initiatives addressing both urban and
industrial policy. The flight of capital
from the cities and the accompany-
ing destruction of the infrastructure
is not a new phenomenon. Some priorities: create high-
paying, union jobs-not enterprise zones. The federal
government should directly fund the creation of new low
income rental units. The homeownership fetishism of the
Reagan-Bush years should be scuttled for what it is-
racist and elitist. By all means, flood the cities with
money, and let that money be spent according to local,
popularly-based plans.
The Association for Neighborhood Housing and Develop-
ment is a coalition of 30 community-based housing groups.
Sally Hernandez-Pinero
New York City Housing Authority
I hope you'll bring the same
tenacity to solving our housing
problems that you brought to your
election campaign. You will find
that among those advocating for
affordable housing there is a wide
diversity of opinion because there
are so many disparate and compet-
ing needs-housing for people with
AIDS, housing for the mentally ill,
housing for people doubled up,
housing for the homeless. Dollars
are only one part of the solution-allocation ofresources
between competing needs is a serious challenge.
Don't be deterred. Come up with equitable solutions
even if they might not be the most popular.
The New York City Housing Authority is the nation's
largest provider of public housing.
City Limits asked an array of New Yorkers-community organizers, advocates,
government leaders-what their advice is for President-elect Bill Clinton.
Here's what they had to say.
Richard Cloward
Columbia University
Your welfare reform ideas are all wrong. The idea of
putting welfare mothers into training programs and then
cutting off benefits is ridiculous. Mothers are needed at
home to raise their kids and they can't possibly survive on
minimum wage jobs. If you do
in fact begin cutting people's
benefits after two years it will
be a social catastrophe that
leads to a monumental increase
in homelessness.
What I would instead rec-
ommend is doing something
about welfare grant levels that
have fallen precipitously. Also,
legislate services that give
women more support.
Revise the tax structure. The structural changes that
took place in the 1980s really were horrendous and redis-
tributed taxes downward.
I think something has to be done about campaign
financing-the money interests are just buying the country,
buying the political process. The national Voter
Registration Act, popularly called the motor voter bill,
should be enacted.
Cloward helped devise some of the early programs in the
War on Poverty.
Rima McCoy
Action for Community Empowerment
This is what we'd like to see.
No wars. Better education. Tax
the rich. Make transportation
more accessible. Make govern-
ment officials more accountable.
Pass gay rights laws and the Equal
Rights Amendment. Get decent
people on the Supreme Court.
Recoup the civil rights we lost in
the Reagan-Bush years. Abolish
the death penalty. Revamp the
prison system, with less money for prisons and more
money for services. We need more housing that doesn't
cost a lot of money to live in.
The main thing is to really get to the root causes of
poverty instead of just fighting the symptoms.
Action for Community Empowerment is a community
organizing group working with formerly homeless fami-
lies in Harlem.
Julie Sandorf
Corporation for Supportive Housing
Make permanent housing with support services a prior-
ity and take your lead from the best and most creative
organizations. Es-
tablish partner-
ships between
nonprofit housing
and service provid-
ers and state, local
and federal govern-
ments that take a
approach. This is a
far more cost-
efficient alterna-
tive than the revolving doors of shelters, emergency
housing, jails, hospitals and institutionalization.
The Corporation for Supportive Housingprovides technical
assistance for nonprofit groups developing housing and
services for people with special needs.
Richard Green
Crown Heights Youth Collective
When you spoke about the re-United States, that was
perhaps the most profound statement I had heard from a
politician in decades. There is
a real need to reunite this
United States.
In Crown Heights, the
African American and Hasidic
population has co-existed
without really paying attention
to each other. That led to the
riot that happened last August
19 and the tensions that con-
tinue to simmer. These issues
have to be brought out into the
You should inaugurate a
leadership program for young
people and bring resources to
the table for a youth agenda.
For foreign policy, take a definitive stance on Haiti and
help return it to a democracy. Start close to home and
continue further abroad.
The Crown Heights Youth Collective brings together
Hasidic and African American youth in Brooklyn.
Traditional economic development schemes have hardly made a dent in South
Jamaica's desolation. Now the community is struggling to find a new way.
n the middle of an autumn afternoon, the sidewalks in
downtown Jamaica, Queens, are jammed with black and
Latina women and their children, office workers grabbing
a late lunch and teenagers just out of school. Vans and
buses fight for space on the crowded avenue, while across the
way, bold signs and window banners announce bargain
prices-$9.99 for dress pants at Sam's Fashion, $9.99 for gold
tooth caps from Chubby's Jewelry. Asian and Indian merchants
mind the shoppers, their storefronts piled high with discount
mouthwash, coffee-makers, shirts and paper napkins.
But just a few blocks to the south, past the lawns of the
newly-built York College campus, the commercial energy
fades to desperation. Beyond a no man's land of wide roads,
auto repair joints and used-car dealerships is the edge of
South Jamaica, a place of crowded, tumble-down wooden
houses with cracked siding and broken windows, where
toddlers ride rusted tricycles and stringy corn stalks stand
seven feet high along a fence.
This is the dichotomy of Jamaica, a neighborhood whose
contrasts clearly illustrate the serious limitations of traditional
economic development work.
Waiting for a Better Day: The bleak streets of South Jamaica, where development has failed to create either stability or a sense of security.
The downtown discount marketplace along Jamaica what has to be done. We just need to give them an
Avenue thrives in large part because of more than a billion opportunity."
dollars of government investment, the development of a For all of those involved, there remain nagging doubts:
federal office building and the creation of an enterprise in an increasingly global economy, rebuilding individual
zone. It looks like an important urban success story-but neighborhoods in severe decline is more than a challenge.
the benefits have not made much difference to the impov- "It's very difficult to do," says Wim Wiewel, director of the
erished residential community of South Jamaica. Center for Urban Economic Development in Chicago. "To
"When you talk about economic development, you think about totally restoring a local economy ... that is far
want to develop a sense of pride, a sense of well-being, a beyond what's going to harp en. It's just not realistic."
sense of security," says Inez Patterson, the director of the But within the bounds 0 realism and the opportunities
South Jamaica Urban Renewal Committee. "We don't created by government investment, people are searching
have that here." for workable alternatives. "The ultimate aim is to stop the
In a year when community economic development has leakage of dollars going out of the community," says
moved to the fore of the national agenda with the support Walter Stafford, a professor of public policy at New York
of politicians like President-elect Bill Clinton, local lead- University. "But how does the community generate the
ers in neighborhoods targeted for such work say it takes institutions to capture that money?"
more than money to do it right. In South Jamaica, Patterson
and others say they have learned that communities must
guard against giving up too much to the owners of major
corporations, shop owners from miles away, and contrac-
tors and developers who often live outside the city. It's a
question, they say, of community control.
The African American leaders of Southeast Queens
have begun to focus on redirecting development funding
to local groups, making sure the money does not go to
outsiders. "I don't think [outside organizations] have to
develop anything here," says State Senator Al Waldon, Jr.
"The contractors and organizations I know are profession-
ally prepared and are extremely intelligent about doing
The organizations that are meant to answer that ques-
tion are the Queens Overall Economic Development Cor-
poration, the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, a
handful of community-based groups in South Jamaica and
the local development corporations from more stable,
middle class neighborhoods nearby like Hollis, Rochdale
Village and Springfield Gardens. But instead of working
together and striving for creative new approaches, these
organizations often must compete for scarce government
grants, with the smaller groups-those rooted in the resi-
dential communities-frequently missing out.
Almost two years ago, Edward J. Lewis, the leader of the
Rochdale Village Local Development Corporation, learned
there was state money available for a revolving loan fund
targeting minorities and women in Queens-and that
local groups could apply to administer the fund. Loan
funds like these are among the rare sources of capital for
people seeking to establish or expand small, inner-city
businesses. Lewis, who has a dozen years' experience
running a printing and marketing firm, says he saw the
fund as the perfect chance to do what he and his colleagues
had long been talking about: creating jobs for the commu-
The Rochdale Village LDC put together a loan commit-
tee comprised of a Chase Manhattan vice-president, a loan
officer from another bank, real estate professionals and
other successful business people from Southeast Queens,
and sent their proposal to the state. They were all from the
community, African American, with strong ties to
churches, block groups and civic associations. But they
didn't get a chance to test their plan. The state gave the
$200,000 loan fund to the Greater Jamaica Development
Corporation (GJDC), instead.
"We need an organization that can get into more than
one district," says Alan Sullivan, executive deputy com-
missioner of the state
Department of Eco-
nomic Development.
"GJDC was able to
make that happen.
They are better
the improvement of downtown Jamaica, and in that time
the government has poured hundreds of millions of dol-
lars into revitalizing the commercial hub.
Half a century ago, Jamaica Avenue was one of the
largest retail areas in the city, with department stores, the
subway and government offices all crowded within a few
blocks. But soon the downtown district began to stumble-
new highways bypassed the area and malls went up in the
suburbs. Finally, in 1978, Macy's closed its Jamaica store
and, two years later, the locally-based Gertz department
store shut down for good. It's faded advertisement still
graces a railroad bridge near York College-the scripted
"Gertz" is hidden behind another sign that reads, "Adver-
tising Space Available."
The development corporation was the offspring of
the Regional Plan Association's ambitious 1969 plan for
the metropolitan area. The planners called for a remake of
the district's image, estimating that 50,000 office jobs
could be created there by 1985. GJDC's first and only
executive director, Carlisle Towery, was one of those
planners; he came to the organization in 1971 committed
to creating a new downtown Jamaica.
Between 1971 and 1984 the government spent $750
million on projects ranging from the removal of the el-
evated subway and street improvements to the creation of
a pedestrian mall and
the expansion of Mary
Immaculate Hospital.
In the later part of the
1980s the new cam-
pus for York College
opened, the federal
government built a
massive brick office
building, the city
completed a new sub-
way extension and
state agencies moved
into the old Gertz
store. Much of the
work was overseen in
one way or another
Lewis can't argue
with that. After all,
GJDC receives an an-
nualgrant of$420,000
from the city's Depart-
ment of Business Ser-
vices, and other plan-
ning and develop-
ment funds from the
state. But he and a
chorus of others in the
community say GJDC
simply doesn't have
strong ties to the
neighborhoods be-
yond the enterprise
zone, which it over-
sees. Besides, Lewis
Help Wanted: Edward f. Lewis says community groups like his need a chance to
oversee development projects and funds.
In 1987 the state.
designated the down- .
town area an Eco-
nomic Development
Zone-the state's ver-
sion of an enterprise
zone. The zone offers
adds, "local development corporations haven't been given
the type of money they need to establish a track record."
The problem is emblematic, says James Heyliger, the
director of the York College Small Business Development
Center and a long-time advocate for South Jamaica. He
leans forward, impassioned, as he describes the common
Catch-22: "They will never have that track record if you
never give them the opportunity."
T he shopping strip, the federal building and the brightly
lit entrance halls of the Jamaica Center subway station are
all testament to Greater Jamaica Development Corporation's
strong track record. For 20 years the group has managed
an array of tax credits designed to make doing business
cheaper inside the zone than outside, and it generates
government spending on infrastructure to make the area
more attractive. The intended targets for all this activity
are industrial companies looking for a desirable place to
build, renovate or expand a plant. The benefits to the
surrounding community include increased property val-
ues, the cash spent by workers in shops and restaurants,
and, sometimes, low-wage jobs.
Today there are several thousand office, manufacturing
and wholesale jobs in the Economic Development Zone,
many more than there were five years ago (though tens of
thousands less than RPA predicted in 1969). The retail
strip is very much alive-but there's no way of knowing
where most of the workers in the area come from, says
Jobs, Jobs, Jobs? Government programs helped develop a thriving business district, but officials can only point to 200 local people hired in the
enterprise zone in recent years.
James Johnson of GJDC.
Local activists confirm what any eyes can see-the
cultivation of an economic base has not had a ripple effect
in South Jamaica. "It' s had no impact," says Storm Russell ,
the director of the Jamaica Housing Improvement Pro-
gram, a nonprofit group that assists tenants and small
property owners. "I've not seen that people here are
working in the federal buildings. And the premise for the
state offices was the number of jobs created. People were
excited but those jobs did not go to community residents.
Retailers don't hire in the community. I don't see it. I really
don't see it."
Indeed, reports by zone officials can point to only 200
local people hired in the zone between 1987 and December,
1991, as a result of their work. The enterprise zone pro-
gram includes wage tax credits for employers that hire
residents of the South Jamaica area. But to earn those
. credits they have to hire new people to fill new positions,
not just replacements for departed staff. And the tax
incentives are not much help to a local entrepreneur who
has a good idea but little capital to start a company.
Johnson, who oversees the Economic Development
Zone for GJDC and lives in Far Rockaway, is extremely
frank about the limitations of his work. "The design is
trickle-down. The benefits work best for a manufacturer
moving into the area. That's the prime target." But attract-
ing outside companies "doesn't necessarily create stabil-
ity," he adds. "It creates lower-level, unskilled jobs with
little chance for promotion.
"Businesses that stabilize the community are the ones
that are owned by the community. They hire their friends '
children, they hire their neighbors , even if it's just one or
two jobs here or there," he continues. "You not only create
a higher level of income, you have higher incomes and
profit staying in the neighborhoods, investing in homes,
investing in Little Leagues. "
If the supervisor of the Economic Development Zone
concedes this, why isn't there more direct support for
neighborhood-owned businesses? Mainly because it's a
riskier financial approach that involves direct subsidies
rather than tax credits. "Giving up revenue that you
haven't got is a lot easier than loaning or granting out the
taxpayer's money," says Sullivan from the state's Depart-
ment of Economic Development.
There are several alternative strategies to GJDC's fo-
cused work in downtown Jamaica. One of them, champi-
oned by Queens Overall Economic Development Corpora-
tion (QOEDC), is the redevelopment of smaller commer-
cial strips all around the borough.
QOEDC receives nearly half a million dollars in fund-
ing from city and county officials each year, along with
planning and development grants from the state. The
results and the reactions to its work on commercial strips
are mixed.
One example is a planned shopping development on
empty urban renewal land in South Jamaica, at the inter-
section of Sutphin and Linden boulevards. QOEDC is
working on the project with the Sutphin Boulevard Local
Development Corporation, an all-volunteer group of
business people and civic leaders.
Current business owners express fear about the new
development-they've heard that one of the prospective
tenants of the planned stores is a large franchise or chain
operation like Rite-Aid Pharmacy. "If they bring them
here our expenses will go up," says Jose Montalvo, the
owner of the Sutphin Grocery, speaking in Spanish.
"Everyone will have to close." Iris Luckain, who lives
nearby and manages the new Shear Elegance beauty parlor,
also worries her rent will shoot up. It's better to develop
the property for small businesses, she says. "We should be
given a chance."
A few miles away on Hollis Avenue is a new shopping
plaza that is a larger version of what the Sutphin Boule-
vard effort could become. Working with a state grant of
$300,000, QOEDC joined forced with the Hollis Local
Development Corporation-another all-volunteer grou p-
and a for-profit company to set up the plaza. The shops are
brightly lit and busy: Blockbuster Video, Domino's Pizza,
Walgreens Drug Store.
All the stores are owned outside the community and, so
far, all but one are managed by people from outside the
community, according to QOEDC. The contractors that
built the stores are also outsiders. The Hollis group that
helped develop the site has not yet earned a penny from it,
though they are slated to receive 15 percent of the profits
from the store's leases (QOEDC will get 35 percent, and the
private developer will get 50 percent). Marjorie Banks, a
leader of the Hollis LDC, says her group often felt
uninvolved in the project. "We didn't have any control in
choosing the tenants," she says. "They [the for-profit
developer and QOEDC] didn't use any of our suggestions.
And we didn't have much say in the money part."
But local residents are
happy with the shopping
center. Martha Snipes, shop-
ping with her children, says
it has improved the commu-
nity. "I didn't feel that we
had high quality stores" in
the neighborhood before, she
says. And Banks is sincerely
pleased with the end result.
"Our biggest concern is to
get the avenue cleaned up,"
she says. Drug dealing has
long been a major problem
in the area, but now the
scourge has moved further
up the avenue. In fact, it's
hard for anyone to argue that
the busy stores are not a
major improvement over the
broken-down buildings that
stood here before.
like a one-way trap for money," he argues. "There's no
investment back into the community. Who did they ac-
complish this for? What about the guy who owns the
candy store down the street?"
, 0 understand the grassroots options for economic
development in South Jamaica, it's important to know the
area's history. Once a market village for the farming
communities of Long Island, Jamaica evolved into a magnet
for African Americans moving up the economic ladder
from working class to middle class in the 1950s and 1960s,
and the small homes with yards provided a welcome
escape from the stress and crowded streets of the city.
"Queens was the borough for people who had made it,
regardless of their ethnicity," says Frank Vardy from the
Department of City Planning.
But over the years, many black New Yorkers of means
moved closer to the border of Nassau County, away from
the industrial landscapes along the Jamaica railroad tracks
and avenues. Thousands of
them stayed within the city
boundaries because they
worked in government
agencies with residency
requirements. Yet they still
managed to leave the poor-
est part of the community
behind in South Jamaica,
and the area's been deterio-
rating ever since.
"The project goes beyond
job creation," argues Elise
WagerofQOEDC. "This pro-
vides well-known, well put-
together stores that people
didn't see in the neighbor-
hood before. In the end, it
helps the neighborhood
prosper. It keeps the people
that are the backbone of the
community here. It keeps
investment there in new
homes and small stores." But
what about criticism thatthe
money spent on the project
didn't employ local people,
and that the stores provide
Besides a smattering of
church-funded projects and
the construction of middle-
income townhouses, eco-
nomic development work
here is sparse. But some long-
time activists have very
clear ideas of what could be
done. Larry Cormier, presi-
dent of the Jamaica NAACP
and one of the founders of
both QOEDC and GJDC, now
runs a security company on
Merrick Boulevard. He says
he would like to see govern-
ment investment in pri-
vately-owned, community-
based plants that manufac-
ture products for industry,
like pallets for airport freight
operators, or plastic and
electronic components for
computers, cellular phones
or short-wave radios. The
plants, he says, could train
and hire local unemployed
people. His model is a
Invest in Opportunilr. Larry Cormier, president of the Jamaica NAACP,
would like to see government investment in locally-owned and
staffed industrial plants.
company he owned during
the 1980s, Technology Industries, which employed 450
local laborers in the manufacture of electrical cables and
harnesses for the defense industry on Long Island. "We
brought in the hard-core unemployed, gave them classroom
training and put them in the plant," he says. "Anyone who
only low-wage employment-like for the teens that work
the counter in the video shop? "The neighborhood revital-
ization approach is separate from jobs," she explains.
But Sherman Brown, a former banker from the commu-
nity who serves on QOEDC's board, isn't convinced. "It's
survived a year with
us, they went on to
bigger and better
could do the work?"
adds Patterson.
Other proposals
focus on the develop-
ment of small-scale,
community-based re-
cycling businesses
that could be respon-
sible for sorting, cart-
ing and re-using the
huge volume of trash
gathered in New York
City. In East New
York, a firm is already
manufacturing traffic
cones and other plas-
tic products from
recyclables, and in the
South Bronx, a plan
is in the works to de-
Their aim is to
build an economy
indigenous to the
community, finding a
market for the prod-
ucts and services that
the community itself
can generate, and
using government
and private money to
invest in those busi-
nesses, in skills train-
ingfor local residents,
and in neighborhood
improvements like
street repairs, day care
and health centers.
New Directions: Some activists say its time to recognize the collective wealth of even
the poorest neighborhoods.
Supporters say that
such a plan requires
intense effort from
local people who already have business skills as well as
from government officials and politicians. In the end, they
say, the up-front costs are compensated by higher employ-
ment, fewer people on public assistance, more income
taxes for the state and more retail activity for the neighbor-
velop a $200 million paper mill that will recycle news-
print. In all ofthese projects, the government has to have
a role, either as an investor or low-interest lender provid-
ing training funds, tax incentives and regulatory relief.
Heyliger of the Small Business Development Center
recommends a business incubator on an urban renewal
site near York College, which would cost about $800,000.
He envisions a building designed like a mall that would
have a staff of five or six people providing advice and
support for retailers, light manufacturers, and service
providers like accountants, printers and copy stores. Once
a business developed roots in its market and a long-term
business plan, it could move out of the incubator and into
a storefront somewhere else in the community. "If we
develop a site, control that site, and create an incubator for
entrepreneurs, that's work forever," says Heyliger.
But perhaps the single principle that pervades all of the
various pieces of proposals people here
discuss is the one they've learned from
watching the work going on under the
Some say this is visionary-and unrealistic. But the
advocates disagree. "We have the contractors, we have the
churches, the owners of property," Patterson says. "We
can push the banks, find investors, do the marketing. The
experience is here."
At its most basic level, development is a question of
planning, priorities and power. The community has to
devise a plan for creating a wide array of businesses,
shopping strips and services, so that
money can be spent there in many
different ways. Prospecti ve labor pools
direction of government agencies,
GJDC and QOEDC. While tremendous
amounts of money have been spent on
infrastructure improvements in the
area, like street and sewer repairs ($1. 8
million was spent in the enterprise
zone in 1991 alone), local labor and
contractors have not done the work.
"The dollars go to contractors from
outside the neighborhood," says
Cormier. "They bring the workers, the
workers bring their bag lunches, they
don't even buy a soda in the neighbor-
hood. There's no recycling of dollars
here. It's beautification for us, not eco-
"Businesses that
stabilize the
have to be targeted, training programs
expanded, local contractors enlisted.
And the community must organize a
united front behind-or in front of-
its politicians and other leaders, to
foster the influence that makes gov-
ernment listen.
community are
the ones that are
owned by the
Mel King, a prominent African
American activist in Boston who lec-
tures at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, promotes development
methods that recognize the power of
the collective wealth in even the poor-
est neighborhoods. He says vision is
nomic development."
Instead, say Cormier, Patterson,
Heyliger and the rest, if local people were in command of
the money, local contractors with local employees would
be used for every job. "Put the dollars back into the
community so they are used over and over and over," says
Lewis from the Rochdale Village LDC. "Why bring in
builders from Staten Island and Egypt when people here
exactly the point.
"We need well-connected road maps
of where we are going, not scraps of
theory, not discontinuous plans," he writes. "The trans-
formation will require a paradigm shift for all concerned.
It must be participatory and not administrative. It must be
creative leadership and creative followership, as we find
that we need different skills to face the problems that are
facing us." D
II' I 0i I l'tll
By Renita Steeley
Take the Blinders Off !
his summer I attended a confer-
ence about families who leave
the shelter system and move
into permanent housing. The
conference, sponsored by the
American Red Cross, was held for
case workers who work with people
in the shelter system. As I sat there
and listened to
hours and
hours of sugar-
coated, cheer-
ful speeches
about how
things are run-
or are supposed
to run-I grew
more and more
angry. Finally,
I felt compelled
to stand up and
make the speak-
ers aware of
their ignorance.
What they were
talking about and what happens in
the real world are two different things.
I know-I lived in the city's shelter
system and moved to a New York City
Housing Authority (NYCHA) apart-
ment over a year ago. My experiences,
as I left the frightening conditions in a
Bronx shelter and entered an apart-
ment, stripped me of my self-worth,
self-respect and dignity. All this
because I, a taxpaying citizen of the
United States, was forced into home-
lessness after living with eight other
people in an overcrowded two-
bedroom apartment.
No Support
Imagine if you became homeless,
then had to enter a shelter, and then
were relocated to public housing.
Imagine the trauma of dealing with
continually changing circumstances,
and readjusting to a new life. You'd
think the city would inform you about
basic services like medical care,
schools and day care in your new
community, if only to prevent you
from falling back into homelessness.
Butno. WhenImoved into my NYCHA
apartment, I was never told of any
City View is a forum for opinion
and does not necessarily reflect
the views of City Limits.
community services. When I asked
speakers at the conference why not, I
was told that "while living in the
shelter, I appeared to be capable and
self-sufficient." I was classified as a
"one" on their scale of "one" to "four."
They explained that a "four" is some-
one who has multiple problems like
drug addiction, or is abusive to family
members, while a "one" has the least
number of problems.
To those fine women and men
who assist relocated families , I can
only say that I appreciate your con-
fidence in placing me in the ' one'
category, but it would have been nice
to receive the welcome anyway. I could
have used a little help.
Never Saw Rent Money
When I got into the apartment, I
was put on the "Direct Vendor "
system. This meant that I never saw
my rent money-it went directly from
the public assistance office to NYCHA.
I was never given any reason why I
wasn't entrusted with handling the
money. When I asked why I was placed
on Direct Vendor, I was told this was
because I "moved to a NYCHA apart-
speeches ignore
the reality of
homeless families.
ment from the shelter."
Unless you have a bad payment
record from the past-like being
evicted for nonpayment-you're
supposed to have a choice in deciding
whether or not you get on the Direct
Vendor system. If you don't have a
bad record (and I didn't), you're
supposed to be able to volunteer for
Direct Vendor. But the city sometimes
forces your hand.
Handling your own rent is an im-
portant part of being a tenant, whether
or not you're on public assistance:
Firstly, if your landlord is lax in his
upkeep you can, at the very least, stop
paying the rent and try to force him or
her to be more responsive. Secondly,
if you're on Direct Vendor and the
city's rent check issued to NYCHA is
late-and it often is-you get a bad
rent record that stays with you. This
can be a real problem when you move
or look for a different apartment.
According to state regulations, if
at any time I wanted to get off Direct
Vendor, I could have filled out a form
to request this. However, I was not
given this option. When I asked about
getting off the payment program, I
was exposed to how nasty, insensi-
tive' and abusive city employees can
be. It took me a year of com plaining to
city officials before they finally
approved my paperwork.
Help Us Adjust
The point of all this is to tell the
employees at various city agencies
who may be totally unaware of the
problems of families who become
homeless: Take the blinders off! Once
you give us homeless families apart-
ments, make sure we have the tools
and basic knowledge it takes to keep
the apartment. Help us to adjust.
And reform the current Direct
Vendor system. You need people with
ground-level experience-the
formerly homeless-on your panels
and advisory committees. An ex-
shelter resident like myself can be a
great asset to you. Don't throwaway
my ex.-erience-use it to your advan-
tage! U
Reach thousands in the
nonprofit community!
Call: Faith Wiggins at
(212) 925-9820
The 15th of the month
before publication.
Decent housing. Small business development. Worth fighting for.
That's why Brooklyn Union Gas started the Area Development Fund four
years ago. We committed $7 million to create a revolving fund and to
attract others to the cause.
In this good fight, we use equity investments; below-market loans for
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expansion; bridge financing; letters of credit and venture capital.
To date the Fund has contributed $9 million for housing, small
business development, and capital projects for cultural institutions. We've
gained dedicated allies among several private and public
Their help has enabled the Fund to leverage $9 million to $300 million.
Come, join us in fighting the good fight ... shining armor supplied. Talk
to Chris Haun at (718) 403-2583. You'll find him working for you at
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c) Brooklyn Union Gas

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L ___________________________________
By Eric Weinstock
Sex, Lies, and Homelessness
ing .... Those people never would have
had it together enough to make a film.
They were just junkies, who let us
crash on their floor ." Ritter knew well
that sex sells and used that knowl-
edge to great effect.
"Broken Covenant," by Charles M.
Sennott, Simon and Schuster, 1992,
373 pages, $23, hardcover.
"God's Lost Children," by Sister Mary
Rose McGeady, 115 pages. "Children
of Eve, " by Kevin Casey, 116 pages.
Both published by Covenant House,
1991, "suggested donation" $5 each,
our or five years ago, at about
this time of year, a brown enve-
lope arrived in my mailbox. In-
side the envelope was a letter
from Father Bruce Ritter urging me to
send money to Covenant House in
time for Christmas. Also enclosed was
a picture of a white female, about 16
years old, wearing a tube top, hot
pants, and fishnet stockings. She was
standing in front of an apartment door
in an obviously abandoned building.
Beneath the grainy black and white
photo was a continuation of the
fundraising plea. It implied that if I
did not contribute to Covenant House,
the young woman in the photo would
be forced to continue to lead a life of
Although I'm pretty much immune
to any mail order pitch, particularly
one for a charity affiliated with a
church, I kept the letter and photo for
a few days, then threw them away.
The pitch was little more than soft-
core pornography.
From Charles M. Sennott's account
of Covenant House, Bruce Ritter and
the organization's fundraising magic,
many people contributed money
before they threw the picture away.
Sennott, at the time a reporter for
The New York Post, broke the story of
the Manhattan District Attorney's
investigation of Covenant House and
Bruce Ritter in December, 1989. For
Sennott, an Irish Catholic, calling up
a priest to ask if he had sex with a
former male prostitute was a difficult
task. Nonetheless, the reporter pro-
vides a well-crafted portrait of Father
Ritter, Covenant House's finances and
the shock and dismay of its workers as
they tried to cope with the downfall of
their idol.
Father Ritter was a Franciscan, a
follower of a Catholic order founded
on the works of St. Francis of Assisi.
St. Francis was the son of a wealthy
merchant who left behind all of his
possessions and led a life of poverty.
In 1968, Father Ritter, who had
recently completed his religious train-
ing and taken his vows, asked to start
a street ministry in order "to live and
work among the poor." Ritter's desire
to go it alone conflicted with the com-
munal nature of proper Franciscan
living and he was forced to take two
other ministers with him. Still, there
is no mention of anyone but Bruce
Bruce Ritter was
the Donald Trump
of Catholicism.
Ritter in the mythology of how the
East Village ministry was transformed
into Covenant House.
Even at this early stage, the tragic
flaws of the man and his organization
were evident-but routinely ignored.
Ritter highlighted Covenant House's
work with teenage runaways and
added a sexual content that had not
been present, claiming that the first
runaways he sheltered were running
from "junkies who were pimping
them ... (and forcing) them to make a
porn film." When Sennott contacted
one of those runaways years later, she
said, "That's just Ritter's mind work-

Fundraising Genius
According to Sennott, "Bruce Ritter
was the Donald Trump of Catholi-
cism," a fundraising genius. He made
Covenant House one of the wealthiest
charities in the U.S. by persuading
white middle-class suburbanites that
if their kids ever ran away, he would
be there to catch them and send them
home. He knew that saving runaway
white children from prostitution
would encourage Middle America to
contribute to Covenant House. He
would even fly in whites from other
Covenant Houses for photo and press
opportunities in New York City. As
Covenant House grew, Father Ritter
became a favorite of the political and
religious right. Ritter was named an
unsung American hero by President
Ronald Reagan in 1984.
Covenant House was widely de-
nounced in the nonprofit sector for a
number of reasons. The size of the
organization and its ability to grab the
spotlight and raise money were dis-
liked by its rivals. Its fundraising from
foundations and corporations helped
drain scarce dollars from smaller, com-
munity-based nonprofit groups strug-
gling to make ends meet. When it
moved into a new city it often drove-
or nearly drove-smaller out
of business. However, professional
jealousy and pride aside, Covenant
House's method of operation itself
was often the subject of criticism.
Writing D Reports D Proposals D Newsletters D Manuals D Program
Description and Justification D Procedures D Training Materials
Research and Evaluation D Needs Assessment D Project Monitoring and
Documentation D Census/Demographics D Project and Performance
Planning and Development D Projects and Organizations D Budgets
D Management D Procedures and Systems
Call or write Sue Fox
NEW YORK, N.Y. 10025
(212) 222-9946
Covenant House's main focus is on
providing shelter, food, and clothing.
Although it does provide counseling,
its policy of open intake gives anyone
under the age of 21 the right to come
in-no questions asked-and receive
support. Some kids used Covenant
House facilities while dealing drugs
and conditions within the shelter were
often far from ideal.
But these criticisms ignore the ar-
gument that open intake is probably
the best way to get kids off the street.
Providing unconditional access to
shelter and food is an appropriate
policy not just for children, but for
adults as well. At a time when welfare
restrictions are being pushed by the
right-and by our centrist president-
elect-Covenant House's policies are
a welcome respite. Covenant House
workers believe that they cannot talk
about God to children that are hungry.
Welfare reformers will also find that
they cannot talk about work unless
basic needs are being met.
Although the Manhattan District
Attorney eventually dropped the
investigation into Covenant House's
finances (and Sennott implies this
was a result of pressure from the Catho-
lic Church) an internal investigation
showed tremendous improprieties
and confirmed numerous allegations
of sexual misconduct by Father Ritter.
Covenant House has survived the
resignation of Ritter and continues
serving its population of homeless
Falling Back on Old Ways
As part of its fundraising efforts,
Covenant House sends out short,
inexpensively-printed paperback
books which are really infomercials
for the literate, telling the heart-
wrenching stories of individual
children and young adults assisted by
Covenant House. In the post-Ritter
era, the first book, "God's Lost
Children," is written by the current
president of Covenant House, Sister
Mary Rose McGeady. In it, she talks
about the difficulties of working with
homeless children and is far less sen-
sationalist than Father Ritter. She is
more realistic about the causes of
homelessness , but nonetheless
stresses the stories of children snared
by the sex industry.
Book two of the series, "Children
of Eve," is written by Kevin Casey.
The bookis about Casey's experiences
in the Covenant House van, "scan-
ning for young hustlers , prostitutes,
like we do every night." A picture of a
white female teenager is on the cover,
and the book stresses Covenant
House's work with "runaways" as
opposed to abandoned children.
Casey's contacts wi th Lisa a/kI a Stray,
whose mother committed suicide and
father locked her out, is the main story
of this short book. Casey meets Stray
after her first two weeks on the street.
He writes, "she was probably 16 un-
der all that white powder and death
black lipstick, maybe younger. She
wore black shoes, tights, a short leather
skirt, a tube top and a leather
jacket. .. The Harley Barbie ensemble, I
thought." Get the picture? 0
Eric Weinstock is an economist and a
former city housing official.
THE NEW YORK WOMEN'S FOUNDATION is pleased to announce
its 1993 grants program. A total of $400,000 will be awarded in grants of
up to $30,000 to grassroots, neighborhood-based, women-led non-profit
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Areas of focus include housing, employment, safety, domestic violence,
education, child care and health care.
To learn how to apply for a grant,
telephone The Foundation at (212) 226-2220.
Proposals must be received in The Foundation's office no later than
Friday, January 8, 1993, 5:00 P.M.
The New York Women' s Foundation, 120 Wooster Street, New York , NY 10012
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Policy Switch
To the Editor:
Your otherwise excellent report on
water and sewer costs ("Drowning in
Debt," October 1992), misstates the
position of the Rent Stabilization
Association on this issue. While the
RSA had previously called for a partial
pass-through of metered water costs
to tenants, we now realize that water
and sewer rates have risen so precipi-
tousl y that neither owners nor tenants
in low income buildings will be able
to afford these costs, even on a flat rate
The matter of burgeoning water
costs is clearly an area where both
nonprofit and private owners and all
tenants have a common interest. All
forms of low income housing are
threatened by rising water costs.
Therefore, the RSA has initiated a
lawsuit which seeks to prohibit the
city from continuing its water meter
installation program and to return
metered buildings to a flat rate basis.
We believe that maintaining front-
age rates will have a less regressive
effect than metered billings. However,
the already high-and rising-front-
age bills will themselves be disastrous
unless all involved parties, govern-
mentand private, profit and nonprofit,
can work together to find ways to
contain and fairly distribute water
and sewer costs.
John J. Gilbert, III
President, Rent Stabilization
Labor Power
To the Editor:
Bill Weinberg and Andrew White
suggest in their article "Electric Shock"
(October 1992) that upstate electricity
users who receive low-cost hydro-
electric power use electricity very in-
efficiently, and that downstate users,
who are paying dearly for high-cost
nuclear generated power, deserve to
get this cheap power. No evidence
was offered in the article that upstate
users have invested in less conser-
vation (because they are allegedly
deterred by cheaper power rates) than
downstate users. It might be smart
policy to take this cheap power away
from upstate users if most opport-
unities to conserve power had been
exhausted downstate, and if few
upstate users would invest in conser-
vation because power is so cheap. But
you'll find the cupboard is bare if you
want to make that case.
To understand the debate of up-
state versus downstate hydropower
allocation requires some history. On
June 7, 1956, the rock wall above and
behind the Schoellkopf Power plant
collapsed. The hydroelectric plant
which had been owned by Niagara
Power Co. (a private utility) was
washed down the Niagara River. West-
ern New York State industries were
dependent on the plant and had to
buy power from Ontario, Canada at a
much higher rate until Congress sorted
out who would develop Niagara Falls:
the state, thefeds, or the private utility.
Thankfully the state developed it and,
as consequence, the power rates have
been kept far lower than if a private
utility had retained the right to exploi t
the falling water.
Which brings me to the point. Why
did Niagara Power give up the oppor-
tunity to rebuild a power plant at
Niagara Falls? Because the Power
Authority of the State of New York
(P ASNY) cut a deal to allow Niagara
Power to transmit and resell, at cost, a
large block of power from PASNY's
Robert Moses plant to its customers in
exchange for surrendering its claim to
the falling water. Today, this is called
"Replacement Power" which is sold
to industrial customers in the Niagara
frontier at approximately 1.1 cents
per kilowatt-hour. Given the history
of Replacement Power, how can any-
one imply that PASNY (now called
NYPA) is robbing this low-cost power
from the city?
The appropriate criticism ofNYP A
is that they have squandered the
economic development potential of
what is now 695 megawatts (equiva-
lent to a medium sized nuclear power
plant) of low cost hydropower by
failing to require this $250 million per
year subsidy to be reinvested by the
corporations that have benefitted from
this public largess. As a result of a no-
strings-attached feeding frenzy at the
public trough by many companies,
Erie and Niagara counties are struggl-
ing with massive de-industrialization,
evidenced by mile after mile of empty
factory buildings. Indeed a duPont/
Olin joint venture (Niachlor) enjoys a
subsidy of $120,000 per worker per
year. Moreover, these corporations
have used this cheap power to spawn
a legacy of toxic pollution at Love
Canal and elsewhere. However, the
solution is not to yank the low-cost
power away from western New York
State but to reform the terms by which
it is granted.
Plant closings have cost the Oil,
Chemical & Atomic Workers Union
60 percent of its membership over the
past 15 years in the Niagara frontier,
while industry has received in excess
of $2 billion in low-cost power
subsidies. The union has proposed
that the process of allocating low-cost
power be democratized by creating a
Western New York Power Allocation
Board made up of representatives from
local government, industrial unions ,
public interest groups , academic and
economic development organizations.
The union also proposes to add strings
to the low-cost power allocations so
that industry can get low-cost power
only if 75 percent of the subsidy is
reinvested over a five-year period; a
company has implemented maximum
feasible energy conservation measures
(to free up cheap powerformorejobs),
and a company has been in compli-
ance with environmental, labor and
equal employment laws for the past
three years.
Pitting one half of the state against
the other makes interesting reading.
But that neither promotes equity nor
accountability. Rather, massive
conservation efforts would reduce
demand and thereby take the most
expensive energy supplies off line,
while public participation and new
rules would make business more
accountable for the subsidies they
Richard Miller
Oil, Chemical &- Atomic Workers
International Union, AFL-CIO
Holyoke, Mass.
Andrew White replies: I fully agree
with Miller's argument that upstate
industry has abused the public trust
by milking state subsidies before
shutting down, and that his union's
proposals are critical to the develop-
ment of modern, energy efficient
factories in western New York State.
But winter's coming, and
power consumers still use inefficient
electric heaters to stay warm. Mean-
while, Niagara-Mohawk has actually
moved to cut its energy-efficiency
As we clearly explained, the
litigants calling for a redistribution of
cheap hydropower to the city are not
targeting the power consumed by
industry, but ratherthat sold to general
consumers. But the main point is that
efficiency programs upstate are not
what they could be. Niagara-Mohawk
has proposed a new "conservation"
program that actually gives an incen-
tive to industry, in the form of a two
percent rate reduction, not to partici-
pate in conservation. "It's wrong
headed, it's backwards, it's very
unfortunate," says David Wooley of
the Pace University Energy Project.
If getting the upstate utilities to
share some of their cheap power with
New York City would, in turn, force
them to push forward with efficiency
measures, then it may be a good idea.
Have a Heart
To the Editor:
The inaccuracies and unsubstan-
tiated claims in your article "Homes
for the Heartless?" (November 1992)
do a disservice to many talented
employees who find great satisfaction
working in the nonprofit world, not to
mention the 530 homeless families
including over 1,000 children who
benefit from programs at Homes for
the Homeless.
Among the many false charges that
employees were fired (they were not),
that Mr. Nunez never communicated
with staffin person (he did often), that
staff were hired to break up the unions
(staff is hired based on ability to do
the job), you even claim that one
employee was driven to leave town by
her supposed ordeal at Homes for the
Homeless (she told us she left for
personal family reasons). Such accu-
sations betray a lack of knowledge of
the circumstances surrounding this
issue and reveal your seriously preju-
diced journalism.
At Homes for the Homeless, we are
committed to our employees and to
the families we serve. We provide
critical services to an ever-increasing
population of children growing up in
poverty. We are saddened by tactics
this union has employed against us; it
is a message to all nonprofits that we
are all defenseless against the wrath
of a few disgruntled employees. We
are further disheartened that your
publication chooses to legitimize such
"heartless" tactics against an organi-
Tackle the Issues.
zation whose sole mission is to serve
New York City's less fortunate
children and families.
Amy J. Roitshteyn
Homes for the Homes
Andrew White and Aaron Jaffe reply:
As we stated in the article, eight
employees of Homes for the Home-
less-some who were never involved
with the Communications Workers of
America-spoke to us about serious
problems they experienced with
management while working for the
shelter organization. All of the charges
in the article are attributed to them.
City Limits did not invent them nor
did we "claim" anything. We gave
Ralph Nunez and his staff ample
opportunity to tell their side of the
story. The idea that an organization is
above scrutiny because of its
honorable "mission" makes no sense.
And as for the threat to other
nonprofits, we know of no other
National Labor Relations Board
investigations of nonprofit shelter
operators in the city, only the one of
Homes for the Homeless.
You can make a difference.
At New York University'S Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public
Service, you will acquire the skills necessary for a professional career in
public, nonprofit, and health organizations. Programs of study include
Urban Planning. Public Administration. Health Policy and
Management. Study full time or part time. Financial aid is available. Career placement services are available to all
Wagner students. Find out what the Wagner Graduate School can do for you: Call (212) 998-7400 Monday through Friday.
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New York, NY 10010.
BULK SALES REPRESENTATIVE. Work part-time from your home to sell
City Limits in bulk to libraries, nonprofits, community boards etc.
Generous stipend plus commissions. Resume to: Lisa Glazer, 40
Prince Street, New York City 10012.
David H. Grumer
Certified Public Accountant
25 West 45th Street, Suite 1401, New York, New York 10036
(212) 3541770
Financial Audits Compilation and Review Services
Management Advisory Consulting
Tax Return Preparation & Advice
Over a decade of service to community and nonprofit organizations.
COMMUNITY ORGANIZER. Requires BA degree plus one year of
tenant/community organizing; or H.S. degree plus two years expe-
rience. Some night meetings. Must be bilingual Spanish-English.
Lower East Side resident preferred. Organize building and block
associations to deal with n'hood development and fight displace-
ment. Salary based on experience. Excellent fringe benefits. Re-
sume to: Cooper Square Committee, Att: Executive Committee, 61
East 4th Street, NYC 10003.
ORGANIZER for a Lower East Side housing advocacy coalition.
Develop and implement organizing strategies and coalition building
among community-based groups. Community organizing experi-
ence, public speaking, writing and bilingual Spanish/English skills.
Resume and cover letterto Lower East Side Joint Planning Council,
61 East 4th Street, NYC 10003. Salary: low to mid 20s. JPC is an
affirmative action employer.
Community Development Group
A resource for the non,.profit
development community
Gary Hattem, Vice President
280 Park Avenue,19 West New York, New York 10017
Tel: 212A54,3487 FAX 454,2380
The Seventh New York City
Computers For Social Change Conference
IIInformation Technology for Our Communities"
"hursday-Friday,January 21-22, 1993
Hunter College School of Social Work
J29 East 79th Street (between Lexington and Park Avenues) in Manhattan
Keynote Address
Dr. Marc L Miringoff
Director of The Fordham Institute
for Innovative Social Policy
"Snapshot o f America:
A Picture o f the Nation's Well-Being
-Making the Invisible Visible"
Presentation of the
Walter A. Wannerstrom
Progressive Computing Award
to honor the work o f a community-based group
that has used computer technology in an espe-
cially innovative way to improve its community
Wo rksho ps o n:
_ Empowerment & Activism
_ Public Policy & Public Data Access
_ Organization & Management
_ Telecommunications
_ Computer skills
Also available:
_ Resource Room, Networking & Affinity Groups
_ Technical Assistance & Shareware
We need your help in identifying grass-
roots organizations and neighbOrhood
groups using computer technology for
social change! We encourage groups
to nominate themselves or others. The deadline tor
submissions is December 30, 1992.
For further information, please contact: Robin Sirota
ECCO, Hunter College School of Social Work
129 East 79th Street, NY, NY 10021
phone 212-457-7132 Fax 212-452-7150
_ NY Computer Activists _ Education Center for Community Organizing, (ECCO) at Hunter College School
of Social Work _ Community Service Society _ Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility
$35 per person (if registering before January 15); $45/person after January 15.
Fees include Friday lunch. Thursday evening keynote only: $5 for nonregistrants.
Or to receive a brochure or registration packet: _ Patricia Friedland, CSS 212-614-5314 _ Robin Sirota,
ECCO 212-452-7132 or 7112 _ Krista Kaminsky, 212-666-4245. Entire conference is wheelchair-accessible.

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