CITY LIMITS

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In October, 1979, following a week-long retreat to
Camp David where he pondered the ills of the nation,
President Jimmy Carter appointed a 50-person commis-
sion of academics and intellectuals to formulate "A Na-
tional Agenda for the 80s." At that time, the President
undoubtedly believed he would be re-elected in the fol-
lowing year. In effect, he was asking this committee to
give him a blueprint of what his second term adminis-
tration's national policies should be. It didn't happen
that way.
Just before President Carter left office, even though
the final report was still unfinished, members of the
commission, including its chairperson, William J.
McGill, ex-president of Columbia University, made
public some of its major recommendations. The most
dramatic and controversial of the proposals urged that
federal urban policy be reorientated away from aid for
the ailing and declining older cities of the northeast and
midwest and toward offering incentives to spur the
movement of poor people out of these cities to places
"where the jobs are," such as the sun belt cities of the
south and far west.
Because the people who made up the Carter commis-
sion are so prestigious and influential, as well as being,
for the most part, non-partisan and "above" party poli-
tics, the report is unlikely to be viewed as merely
another self-serving politi9l1 document destined to be
ignored by incoming President Ronald Reagan and his
domestic policy advisor/. Indeed, considering the anti-
eastern big-city bias of many of Reagan's supporters,
the report may very well be seized upon by the new ad-
ministration as justification for drastic cuts in federal
government support to inner-city revitalization and
neighborhood development. Thus, Carter's expression
of disagreement with the report's recommendation,
made four days before the end of his term, by no means
puts the matter to rest.
The report actually proposes little that is new for a
CITY LIMITS/February 1981
",-----------------------------------
'National Agenda.' · This country's neo-conservatives
(masquerading as urban policy experts) have been advo-
cating the planned shrinkage of older city neighbor-
hoods for years. In 1976, the well-known Professor
George Sternlieb of Rutgers University's Center for Ur-
ban Policy Research co-edited a book bearing the pon-
derous academic title of "Post-Industrial America:
Metropolitan Decline and Inter-Regional Job Shifts,"
containing essays by a group of theoreticians plus the
Director of the U.S. Bureau of the Census and Mr. Roger
Starr, then New York City's chief housing official. The
major thrust of the book attempted to document the
declines in population and jobs in the nation's older
cities, and the inevitable continuation of these trends,
and suggested the futility of further efforts by govern-
ment to restore those cities to their former viability.
A year later, in 1977, Paul Porter, a Washington
lawyer, former federal New Deal official and recent
convert to planned shrinkage, offered a formula which
is strikingly similar to the Carter commission's recom-
mendations. In his book, "The Recovery of American
Cities," Porter recalled that many of the worst urban
slums contain "potentially the most valuable residential
real estate in the metropolis." These areas can best be re-
developed by emptying them of their poor residents, he
wrote, and allowing private gentrification and commer-
cial development to take place. The poor, he said, for
whom the city has no, or at any rate, too few jobs,
"should be assisted in leaving the city." Again, as far
back as the late 1960s, our own area's Tri-State Region-
al Planning Commission began a lengthy and ,ex-
pensive research effort whose thrust was that federal,
state and local dollars should be redirected to promoting
migration of the inner-city poor to the suburbs and else-
where so that they could be near to the places where new
factories were being built and' 'where the jobs are."
2
Our own Roger Starr, who, after leaving city employ-
ment, now writes editorials for The New York Times,
National Agenda?
by Robert Schur
has for years urged even more drastic measures. With-
draw all services and public support from the inner-city
slums, he says, thereby making life so intolerable as to
force everyone now living there who possibly can to
leave the city. Then, preserve (but do not improve or
provide services to) a small number of those slums, as
permanent ghettoes into which the poor elderly, handi-
capped and other members of the lumpen proletariat
would be herded, to be quarantined from, and neglected
by, the rest of society.
Three weeks before the commission bared its own
proposals, a Times editorial with all the earmarks of the
Starr philosophy appeared, titled, "Let the Urban Poor
Escape." Speaking condescendingly of Reagan' s " pet
urban policy" of urban enterprize zones, the Times
warned Reagan that the zones concept, even if work-
able, was not enough. "There can be no serious urban
policy," cautioned the Times, "without helping more of
the poor find economically more hospitable places to
live." Proposing increased mobility in the form of job
vouchers, welfare transfers and portable housing assis-
tance, the editorial ended on a ringingly patriotic note,
seemingly destined for a subway ad campaign: "Greener
pastures: it's not only right, it's the American way."
Much of this does not amount to any significant de-
parture from what, in fact, our country's urban policy
has long been all about. Richard S. Morris, in his breezy
and eminently readable book "Bum Rap on American
Cities," amply demonstrates the many ways in which
our federal government deliberately discriminates
against and hobbles our larger and older cities, in favor
of the sunbelt and its newer metropolises. He shows
how our federal tax policies and the ways in which
government spends its money drain resources from the
cities and redistribute them to the sun belt.
Jack Newfield and Paul duBrul in "The Abuse of
Power" describe how the real power structure right here
in New York City, bankers, real estate developers and
politicians who work hand-in-glove and are full y inter-
changeable, are promoting and encouraging the acceler-
ating decline of our city and its poorer neighborhoods-
and making tons of money in the process. Our local fin-
ancial institutions, through redlining and reinvestment,
regularly, year after year, take billions of dollars from
New York City residents and local small businesses and
use them for development and speculation in other parts
of the country and abroad. continued on page 22
3
Robert Schur is a consultant to community housing or-
ganizations.
.CITY LIMITS'
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Cover photo by Robert Wersan.
CITY LIMITS/February 1981
CITY LlMITS/Febryary 1981
Lydia Osorio and her daughter oj 715 East 9th Street on the Lower
East Side. Tenants oj the building went to court to have one Article
7-A administrator removed and a new one installed.
4
Evicting the Landlord by Susan Baldwin
Tenants in over 300 city apartment buildings have successfully turned the tables
and evicted the landlord, replacing him with a tenant or professional manager.
There are flaws in the program under which this maneuver is carried out, admit
tenants and officials, but it may be the only game in town.
What could a luxury apartment house and a close-to-
abandoned building have in common? In the topsy-
turvy world of New York City, two such buildings are
both struggling for survival under a 15-year-old pro-
gram that permits tenants or their agents to manage pro-
perties when the owners refuse to provide services.
The Bel Nord Hotel at 225 West 86th Street on Man-
hattan's Upper West Side and the building at 92 Ridge
Street on the Lower East Side are both being run by
court-appointed administrators under Article 7A of the
city's Real Property Actions and Proceeding Law.
Apart from this similarity, the two buildings have
nothing in common. The Bel Nord's yearly rent roll is
reportedly $2 million. Ninety-two Ridge Street is lucky
to collect $600 a month. Yet in neither building are
tenants regularly receiving essential basic services such
as heat and hot water.
Under the 7-A law, tenants can petition housing court
judges to appoint a qualified individual, in some cases a
private organization, or the Department of Housing
Preservation and Development, to manage a building of
six units or more that a landlord has abandoned. This
administrator's duties include collecting rent, providing
basic services, and making repairs, using the money
from the rent roll to carry out this assignment. He is
permitted a maximum fee of five percent of the rent
roll.
"We are not selling people the pot of gold at the end
of the rainbow, but as far as we are concerned, this -
the 7-A Program - represents the best solution for
owner-abandoned buildings:' said Joseph Shuldiner,
head of HPD's Division of Evaluation and Compliance.
"This is not the best answer, but it is a program that
helps tenants and communities to work together to save
buildings with the assistance of government."
"It's a building abandonment program and nothing
more, but if it works, it keeps housing for people who
need housing," said Ron Webster of the People's Fire-
house, a non profit Brooklyn-based community organi-
zation that has been using the 7A law for several years to
save low income housing stock in the Northside of
Brooklyn. "We take on the 7A - reluctantly - because
there is no other answer, particularly since the city is not
vesting property out here."
During the fiscal crisis in 1977, the city attempted to
5
speed up the collection of real estate taxes by shortening
from three years to one year the time that a landlord
could fall behind in paying his taxes before the city
could begin proceedings to foreclose on the property.
Unfortunately, this policy precipitated a flood not of
tax payments but rather of landlord-abandoned proper-
ty into the city's unwilling hands. As a result, the city
has slowed down the "vesting" or taking of property -
particularly in low income neighborhoods around the
city.
And, according to Shuldiner, the city is now stuck
with attempting to run low cost housing on a very strict
budget, leaving the 7A law as "the only game in town."
"We try to do our best and that may not be too great,
but we're trying to make it better," said Bruce Kramer,
head of the DEC's litigation bureau. "If we chase down
landlords and make them comply, we will be happy ... .
In the meantime, we're in the business of saving build-
ings. We are not going to turn this housing into palaces,
but we are going to try to hold onto them."
In its effort to promote the program, HPD has sent a
letter (complemented by a survey of buildings in the 7A
program last year) to the city's 16 housing court j u d ~ e s .
HWe're in the business of saving build-
ings. We are not going to turn this hous-
ing into palaces, but we are going to try
and hold onto them."
The survey gives details of the program's successes
and failures and stresses that "97 percent of all build-
ings survived the winter and a substantial portion had
achieved an acceptable level of habitability." Currently,
there are 301 buildings in the 7A program and, accord-
ing to Shuldiner, it would "not be surprising" if 1,000
were enrolled by June.
Both Shuldiner and Kramer are concerned that the
housing court judges do not understand the urgency as-
sociated with the 7A proceedings.
Management by Crisis
As Shuldiner explained, "This is management by
crisis, but it does work most of the time and one of our
major problems is letting the court know that it works
most of the time so we can continue to save buildings
CITY LIMITS/February 1981
this way." He also noted that the court is often leery
about appointing 7A administrators because it only
hears about failed cases. "It's the same thing with doc-
tors," he added, "they only see the bad patients. They
never see the cured ones. This is why we keep telling
them that this condition is a serious problem and why •
we sent them the report."
she feels she must scrutinize oil deliveries since certain
suppliers - aware that many buildings are haphazardly
administered - deliver oil one day and come back the
next to pump it out.
Low Rent Rolls
Most appointed administrators in buildings with pri-
marily low rent rolls serve to illustrate the abuses and in-
efficiencies of the program. "Take the example of 715
East 9th Street," said Sharman. "They finally removed
the administrator Raul Reyes after the tenants com-
plained for months. He did nothing in the building ex-
cept he says he put in five little marble steps which he
claims cost over $2,000. We don't believe his story, and
we know HPD did not monitor him."
Asked about the 7A survey, Harry Joslyn, chief clerk
of the Civil Court, said, "We are aware of it and are
working on it. We hope to have discussions about the
legislation and may even improve on it ... Obviously,
the city feels this is very important."
In its report to the judges dated November 20, 1980,
the city claims ownership to "10,000 parcels including
4,000 occupied residential buildings taken pursuant to
tax foreclosure proceedings" and states that it has
turned to "outside help, be it community groups or real
estate firms" through its alternative management pro-
grams to run these properties.
Yet, the report claims, "Even if the city could manage
all these properties itself, it would not be appropriate. A
long-term plan for buildings must include eventual pri-
vate management. To the extent that there is no existing
responsible private management capability for these
troubled buildings, it had to be developed." The report
concludes that the city's under-utilized 7-A legislation is
the best means at present for keeping these properties
going.
Major Flaws
Some of ·the program's major flaws, in Kramer's
view, stem from the lack of an adequate vehicle for
supervising the administrators. HPD, in its pUblicity
campaign to sell the 7A program to the court, has em-
phasized that it conducts special training sessions for
administrators. Yet, in actuality, competent and honest
administrators are in short supply. According to Shul-
diner, the city prefers ·to appoint administrators who
live in the building and who have a good working rela-
tionship with a tight, well-organized tenant association.
Very often, however, an administrator unfamiliar with
the building and tenants will be appointed. Such an ad-
ministrator, likely the product of one of the HPD train-
ing sessions, may fail to keep the interests of the tenants
fully in mind. As Brent Sharman, a housing organizer
on Manhattan's Lower East Side has pointed out,
"HPD is turning out too many administrators from its
classes who think they're going to make a fortune out of
these run-down buildings, while they provide even fewer
services than the old slumlords did."
An exception is Luana Robinson,. who lives in and
manages a building at 403 West 154th Street in Central
Harlem. Robinson, who recently was forced to leave a
spacious apartment after a serious fire, asserts that
among 7A building administrators "for everyone who
is conscientious there are ten out there who would cheat
you at the drop of a hat." As a regular part of her job
CITY LIMITS/February 1981
Asked to comment on the administrator's removal,
Albion Liburd, head of HPD's monitoring unit, said,
"This is the first I've heard of his removal. We haven't
gotten a judgement (from the court) as yet."
Queried about Reyes's ability to serve as administra-
tor in other buildings, Liburd added, "I don't think he
has any other buildings, but certainly if he doesn't
follow the guidelines, we will recommend his removal."
Reyes, on the other hand, claims he gave up the build-
ing because the tenants would not cooperate with him.
But, according to Lydia Osorio, a tenant for seven
years, "All he did was collect rent, send out a lot of dis-
posess notices, and repaired nothing." She also reported
that when he first came in July,1980, 19 of the building's
22 apartments were occupied. Now only 13 families re-
main in the heatless building, and a newly appointed ad-
ministrator - Mayra Castro ~ is concerned about pro-
viding essential services because so few people are pay-
ing rent. "I hope we can hold it together for the winter,
but I'm not so sure," she said, adding, "you can't blame
people for not paying if they don't get anything for their
money."
Admitting that there are "hundreds of administrators
out there" Shuldiner said, "We would much prefer to
work with the owner if there is one ... this is a pro-
owner program and all we're doing is trying to save
buildings by whatever means we can. When we train
somebody in this course, we don't do psychological test-
ing. Someone may look good on paper and then we find
out the opposite."
Seed Money
By and large most community groups believe the pro-
gram is valuable because there are no other available
tools to intercede in declining privately-owned housing
in the city's low income neighborhoods. And they are
also grateful that a seed money revolving loan program
guaranteeing at least $10,000 for major systems repairs
for each building has been set up. Created in July 1980,
with a $50,000 grant from the New York Community
Trust and the Fund for the City of New York, the
revolving fund has already lent more than $200,000 to
buildings in need of major repairs.
6
"The $10,000 is a start, but it's not anywhere near
what is needed for these buildings to survive," said
Webster of the Peoples' Firehouse organization. "If
the city really wants the 7-A program to work, it should
encourage the tenants to work collectively and HPD
should provide more technical assistance so that a work-
ing rehab and repair package can be put together. Other-
wise, the program just isn't going to work."
Webster's group is one of a number which provide
organizers to help tenants enter the 7-A program. But,
they do not encourage the appointment of outside 7-A
administrators. Rather, they prefer that groups of ten-
ants serve, collectively, to administer their own build-
ings without taking the five percent management fee
permitted by law.
"What is good about the 7-A legislation is that it for-
malizes the tenants' right to collect the rent," said Bar-
bara Schliff, an organizer with Los Sures, a nonprofit
community-based organization in Brooklyn. "For a
while, we weren't doing 7-A's because we could get the
buildings into the alternative management programs,
but now with the city postponing vestings, this is the
only tool we have."
According to Schliff, one of the better features of the
program is the availability of a fuel agreement under the
Emergency Repair Program. In the case of 184 and 188
South Second Street and 745 Driggs Avenue, the
tenants' association and the city signed an agreement to
deliver fuel with the stipulation that the tenants pay
$800-a-month for this service.
The Future of 7-A
What is the future of the 7-A program? Many obser-
vers claim that it could lead to tenant ownership of low
income cooperatives because tenants will have the right
of first refusal, if and when the city brings tax foreclo-
sure proceedings against the landlords. But, many ten-
ants are not interested in ownership and a number of
legal aid attorneys believe it is the responsibility of the
city to provide habitable low-cost housing.
The city prefers' to appoint administra-
tors who live in. the building. Often, how-
ever, an administrator unfamiliar with
the buildings and the tenants will be
appointed.
"We don't go the 7-A route unless we have no other
option," said Bess Stevenson, of the Metropolitan
Council on Housing. "What we don't like most about it
is that it permits landlords to come back in the picture
and start the same cycle over again. We think it should
be impossible for them to show up again."
Steve Cruz, director of tenant organizing for St.
Nicholas Neighborhood Preservation and Rehabilitation
Corporation, concludes, "I'm not going to say that it's a
7
Luana Robinson, a 7-A administrator for her own building in
Harlem, sweeping up the/ront walk.
wonderful program, but it can work and would work if
community groups had more control, and if HPD pro-
vided them with more technical assistance and cut down
on the red tape. But one thing's for sure. We don't need
more administrators; we need services. The community
groups can train their people much better than HPD." 0
7-A , Leasing
"I would much prefer to manage a building that
the city owns because you have back-up resources
to the rent roll," said Gary Zuckerman. "That's
why I prefer the 7-A leasing program."
Begun in November, 1978, the 7-A leasing pro-
gram was designed to allow court-appointed ad-
ministrators to continue managing buildings after
the city had taken title to them.
A professional administrator, Zuckerman man-
ages six buildings under this city leasing program
and one privately owned 7-A building. In the city
leasing program the management fee is seven per-
cent as opposed to five percent under the regular
court-appointed stipulation. According to Zucker-
man, what is "nice about this program is that it is
a repair program ... eventually leading to a build-
CITY LIMITS/February-1981
ing's survival. And, he said, it makes a lot more
sense to work with the city rather than through the
courts."
Currently, there are 76 buildings with 2,258
apartments in this leasing program. Once the
repairs are made and the rents are restructured,
HPD plans to sell the buildings to tenants as low
income cooperatives or to the leasee as rental
housing. The repairs are covered by federal Com-
munity Development funds.
Under this innovative program, for example,
the city is presently underwriting the rehabilitation
of a single room occupancy (SRO) hotel in Central
Harlem that will be used to house needy neighbor-
hood residents and former mental health patients.
Bonding
One of the main reasons why so few buildings
entered the 7-A program until recently was that
the administrators had trouble becoming bonded.
Insurance companies providing collateral in low
income neighborhoods for years were reluctant to
take this risk, and if they did, charged very high
rates.
"This is why we went to the state and asked that
mandatory bonding be waived when the city was
involved in initiating the 7-A proceeding," said
Shuldiner.
But, the problem with waiving the bond is that
tenants have no recourse for recouping their rent
roll if the administrator should happen to disap-
pear with it.
Such is the case at 50 West 105th Street in Man-
hattan where the former administrator absconded
with a great deal of money - reportedly several
thousand dollars. Right now ten of the 18 tenants
in the building are paying rent to the new adminis-
trator - Frank Lalley - a tenant organizer.
"When tenants get burned and start withholding
the rent, they are working against themselves,
stealing from themselves," Lalley it's
hard to get the idea across. I'm not sure we'll
make it through the winter because we only had
enough money to get fuel until March. We sure
could use that bonding money now."
Night Courses
HPD is currently accepting applications for
night courses for potential administrators who are
unable to attend the agency's ten-week, 4O-hour
daytime course.
"We had our first night course in the fall in the
Bronx at Fordham, and it was highly successful,"
said Edith Bacate, student coordinator for the
courses. "It is good to have the night sessions
CITY LIMITS/February 1981 8
because there are a number of people who would
like to be administrators but can't serve because
they work during the day." HPD requires that ad-
ministrators take its course.
The course, to be given at Bedford Stuyvesant
Restoration Corporation, has already received 30
applications, and, according to officials, may
have as many as 50 night students. This multi-ser-
vice center in Brooklyn is encouraging the pro-
gram as part of an anti-abandonment move.
When the night course was given in the fall, one
Manhattan housing court judge-Antonio Brand-
Veen - enrolled as a student. The city hopes more
judges will participate. At present, the total
number of applicants for all 7-A sessions is
reportedly 500.
Vacant Buildings
If a community group can persuade the city that
a vacant building is rentable, HPD is permitting
them entrance to the 7-A program because, it be-
lieves, this legislation is saving desperately needed
residential buildings.
"When they can convince us that they can run
this abandoned housing, we even take a chance
and give them the seed money," said Shuldiner.
One building in Brooklyn received a $10,000 grant
and was vandalized before the tenants moved in,
but, according to Shuldiner, it has survived and
may enter the 7-A leasing program or one of the
other alternative programs such as the Tenant In-
terim Lease program when it is finally vested. But,
if it is not well organized, it will probably go into
central management.
A number of observers see this .vacant building
aspect of the 7-A program as an anti-displacement
strategy, particularly when seed money is available
to fix up eight to ten-unit buildings. 0
Commissioner Appointed
Joan Wallstein, who has worked since 1978 in the city
housing department's Division of Alternative Manage-
ment Programs, has been named Assistant Commis-
sioner in charge of that unit, following the departure of
Philip St. Georges. The division is responsible for
implementing and overseeing private and community ef-
forts to operate and manage occupied buildings which
were taken by the city for unpaid back taxes.
St. Georges, the first director of the DAMP unit, will
be the Regional Director of the National Co-op Bank,
which will open a New York City office in the near
future. During his two-and-one-half-year term at the
housing department, S1. Georges helped to develop new
forms of management options in response to commun-
ity requests for a role in managing buildings.
"I set some goals when I started," said St. Georges
recently, "to create new programs and help to stabilize
the situation. I think we accomplished them and it's a
good time for me to go." Several new programs
originated during st. Georges's administration of the
unit,induding one involving combinations of commun-
ity and private management firms.
The alternative management programs are in a transi-
tion period at present, with increasing federal and city
pressure to move buildings out of the city's hands and
into tenant ownership. Community groups have insisted
that before buildings are sold, they must have received
adequate repair funds from the city. In the coming year,
the housing department has requested in federal Com-
munity Development funds $43 million for the pro-
grams. Last year the allocation was $30.8 million. 0
Consumer Candidates for
Public Service Posts
An active campaign to place consumer-oriented
representatives on New York State's Public Service
Commission has been launched by a broad coalition of
housing groups, labor unions and political and com-
munity organizations. The coalition has targeted two,
and possibly four, vacancies that will arise on the seven-
member commission early this year. Vacancies are filled
by appointment by the governor who may fill up to four
of the seven slots with members of his. party.
In recent years, the Public Service -Commission,
which is the regulatory body for utilities in t ~ state and
must approve rate increases and set pollution standards,
has become increasingly visible and controversial.
For more information on the P.S.C. campaign con-
tact: People Outraged With Energy Rates, (212)
683-5656 or Statewide Senior Action, (212) 925-0101 or
433-2639.0
Short Term Notes
Rockaways Church Arson
Rebuilding Efforts
In the spring of 1980 four churches with black congre-
gations were struck by arson on the Rockaways Pennin-
sula. The fires all originated in the area of the church
pulpits, and two of the churches were destroyed. Now,
in an effort launched by the Rockaways Interracial
Council, a major fund-raising campaign to rebuild the
fire-damaged churches has begun.
The campaign, known as Fund Our Reconstruction
of Churches Effort in 1981 (FORCE-81), has set a goal
of $300,000 to rebuild two churches that were de-
stroyed, the A.M.E. Baptist and the First Baptist, and
two others that were badly damaged.
The 1980 fires came against a background of increas-
ing concern over anti-black actions in the Rockaways,
where the Ku Klux Klan was rumored to be forming a
chapter and K.K.K. literature had been circulated in
schools.
9
Soon after the fires, the Interracial Council began a
publicity drive to bring out the truth behind the happen-
ings and to stay on top of the investigation. The Council
is made up of local tenant and neighborhood organiza-
tions, and has worked with the assistance of the City
Commission on Human Rights' Far Rockaways Neigh-
borhood Stabilization Program. Donations can be made
to: FORCE-81, c/o Community Board #14, 19-31 Mott
Ave., Rm. 311, Far Rockaway, N.Y. 11691. 0
POSITION AVAILABLE
Associate Director for the Task Force on City-
Owned Property Responsibilities: Staff Task
Force committees on city-owned housing issues;
chair meetings with housing organizations to for-
mulate a common agenda and to devise stra-
tegy; meet with city and elected officials; iden-
tify relevant data and supervise its collection;
monitor issues; write policy statements, testimo-
ny and press releases; supervise staff.
The Task Force Associate Director must be
able to: analyze policy issues; idsntify issues
that should be addressed by task force commit-
tees; and communicate effectively, both orally
and in writing, with community organizations,
city officials and the general public. Salary:
$17,000 to $20,000. To apply, send resume to
Task Force on City-Owned Property, 21 Hudson
Street, Room 500, New York, N.Y. 10013.
Deadline for applications: February 20.
An Equal Opportunity Employer.
CITY LIMITS/February 1981
Out With the Old, In With the ... Older
CITY LIMITS/February 1981
by Howard B. Burchman
10
Stop hoarding Kleenexes! There will be no great
outpouring of grief to mop up as Carter leaves of-
fice. As the Georgians depart, it is widely accepted
that the most interesting aspect of their regime was
the ability to attain power in the first place. Once
power was achieved, they were lost. It was like a
play where the drama ended when the audience
entered.
If Carter's departure does not stimulate tears,
the advent of Reagan could well precipitate suffer-
ing. I'd sure hate to be a tree in a national forest.
Considering the dramatic conservative shifts pro-
jected in government, e.g. ,massive weapons
spending, food as a weapon, and the pillaging of
food stamps, housing and urban programs seem
to be getting off easy. Perhaps this is because
Carter's urban policy was essentially Republican
to begin with.
There is a curious void of gossip within the con-
fusing corridors of Housing and Urban Develop-
ment as to the new administration's urban inten-
tions. Despite extensive quizzing of HUD officials
by transition staff, not a word has been wheezed
on planned activities. And all that anyone seems
to know about Samuel Pierce, designated as the
new HUD Secretary, is that Mayor Koch, in an
outburst of characteristic conviviality to black
people, once told him to shut-up.
Policy rumors are more widespread outside of
HUD. Some of the big ones are: rent control will
be abolished in all cities receiving federal funds;
Section 8 will be replaced by housing block grants;
and urban enterprise zones will be pushed. The
early huffing and puffing over rent control will
probably lose to traditional Republican concern
for local regulatory control. There will no doubt
be a large demonstration of enterprise zones. Re-
publicans seem to love demonstrations as much as
they attract them.
There is widespread belief that the excessive
costs of the Section 8 new construction and sub-
stantial rehabilitation programs will spell their
end. However, an examination of the birth of the
programs following the Nixon moratorium of
1973-74 provides reasons to believe that they may
live yet. At that time the administration intended
to replace the costly and default-ridden programs
with housing allowances. Allowances, like hous-
ing block grants, were billed as cheaper, more
equitable, and default-free.
The Section 8 construction programs sprang
from allowances' rib because allowances (and ,
housing block grants) provide no direct support to
the development industry. It is common to con-
fuse Section 8 with a poor people's program. It ex-
ists for the development industry. The industry
was strong enough to get the program introduced
5 years ago; don't prematurely discount its ability
to retain the gift.
A similar argument holds true for Urban Devel-
opment Action Grants, the centerpiece of the
Carter urban policy. With its reliance on federal
subsidy for private development and profit it is a
perfect Republican urban strategy. There may be a
tilt in the program away from luxury hotels devel-
oped by Atlantan firms to downtown Pepsi bottl-
ing plants, but the concept will remain the same.
UDAG allows the HUD Secretary to approve and
subsidize multi-million dollar projects in prime
urban locations. That is not a piece of political pa-
tronage that anyone will rush to rid themselves of.
One of the few good things to emerge from
Carter's moribund urban policy was the Neigh-
borhood Self-Help Program. But, as the cost cut-
ting craze rages, this little program may breathe its
last. Advocates will argue that neighborhood
groups can be less costly developers of housing, but
it is unlikely that the administration will consider
them part of its constituency. The best hope for
the program is probably the HUD organization
chart. Without the self-help program, the new As-
sistant Secretary for Neighborhoods will have too
little to do, a dilemma that may be solved by elimi-
nating the position altogether.
The early days of the Reagan administration
will likely be consumed by a war of the dinosaurs
as the Senate and White House do battle over the
Davis-Bacon labor standards. With some luck this
battle will consume much of the fervor of the reac-
tionaries and the neighborhood movement might
be able to continue working while the big beasts
eat themselves up. 0
Howard Burchman consults on neighborhood-based
housing and community development projects.
MODERATE HOUSING REHABILITATION
WORKSHOP
Coordinator: CLARA FOX,
Executive Director, Settlement Housing Fund
Course #509 Friday, March 20,9:30 am-4:30 pm. $55.
A full day seminar providing a comprehensive analysis of all aspects of moderate
rehabilitation.
Overview: Concepts, Criteria, Problems.
Clara Fox
Developing and Financing Moderate Rehabilitation Programs-From The Viewpoint of The Public Sector: Ralph Lapadula,
Associate Director of Housing Division, HUD Area Office; Sydelle Knepper, Chief of Project Development, State Housing
Finance Agency; Jeffrey G. Heintz, Assistant Commissioner, Department of Housing Preservation and Development .
Developing and Financing Moderate Rehabilitation Programs-from the viewpoint of the private sector: Barry Zclikson,
Hunterl Joynes; Carol Lamberg, Associate Director, Settlement Housing Fund
Construction techniques and Cost Estimating, Role of the Architect; Working with Tenants in Occupancy: Conrad Levinson,
Levinson & Thaler; Builder-Developer to be announced
Legal Aspects, Cooperative Conversion, Impact on Tenants in Occupancy, Transfer of In Rem Properties to Non Profit Associates
and/ or Tenant Cooperatives: James T. Harris, Harris & Me Gaughey
(212) 741-5690
11
The New School
66 West 12th Street,
New York, NY 10011
CITY LIMITS/February 1981
The Chill-
Deep Freeze in New York by Tom Robbins
The deep-freeze set in on Christmas Eve, and coldest were those in apartment
buildings where, through default or design, no heat rose through the pipes. Despite
extensive programs aimed at no-heat relief, city agencies were swamped and
response was sporadic. At least thirteen died. Was this a natural disaster?
~ n t e r is a housing system's testing ground.
Through spring, summer and· autumn, leaking roofs,
collapsing ceilings and rodent infestation contribute am-
ple discomfort for the denizens of deteriorating build-
ings, but there is no trial comparable to the suffering of
tenants when below-freezing temperatures are inside as
well as out. No single manifestation of building neglect
is as debilitating for tenants, nor as indicative of public
and private delinquency, than the round-the-clock bone-
gnawing chill of a heatless home.
CITY LIMITS/February 1981 12
The arctic cold blew into New York on Christmas
Eve, dropping Christmas Day' s temperature to zero
degrees. That mass of frigid air stayed put atop the
metropolitan area for the following three weeks, allow-
ing only intermittent days of thirty degree relief. By
mid-January, before the season was half over, the
winter of 1980-81 was already 40 percent colder than
last and 18 percent cooler than normal. The City of New
York found itself in a self-declared crisis.
As those who have watched New York struggle
through freezing winters before know, when the ther-
mometer goes down and stays down, people die. Even
last winter, a milder than normal season, New Yorkers
died from the cold. Cold deaths, however, are often
masked as something else. Hypothermia, the elevating
of body temperature due to extreme cold, can result in
heart attack. Pneumonia, triggered perhaps by a simple
cold, is complicated and compounded by a continuing
chill. Rarely is a death simply chalked up to cold ex-
posure, save in cases of homeless people, found frozen
on city sidewalks.
From December through January 16, 665
New Yorkers died from pneumonia . ..
double the number last season.
Despite that medical hesitation, Dr. Elliot Gross,
Chief Medical Examiner for the City of New York, said
that from the Christmas freeze through the third week
in January, at least 13 New Yorkers had died due to the
cold. Dr. Gross said that, lacking a statistician, he had
been unable to keep an accurate count of cold deaths,
but that, beyond that figure, "there have been numer-
ous other deaths where cold was a strong contributing
factor."
The extreme cold didn't act alone as a deadly agent
this winter. On January 6, with the temperature having
stayed below 25 degrees for a week, city Health Com-
missioner Reinaldo Ferrer announced that A-type
Bangkok influenza was at epidemic proportions and
was causing an increase in pneumonia deaths. In the
South Bronx, the patient load at Lincoln Hospital was
overwhelming enough to warrant diverting patients to
Manhattan hospitals. The statistics on pneumonia and
flu deaths bear out the immensity of the epidemic.
From December 1 through January 16, 665 New
Yorkers died from pneumonia, and another 19 from flu.
During the same period last year, 337 pneumonia and
no flu deaths were recorded. Still, little was said public-
ly about the correlation between the huge jump in
deaths and heatless apartments.
Other indicators of the depth of the cold crisis were as
stark. A record 205,000 complaints were taken at the
city's emergency switchboard. Low income New York-
ers, scrambling for heated shelter, besieged the city's
Housing Authority application office in order either to
file applications, or to check up on the status of requests
already made. Whatever else public housing might be, it
is almost always warm. "It's a mob scene down here
everyday," reported a Housing Authority spokesman.
Two National Guard armories, opened at the behest
of Governor Carey, were host to hundreds of families,
refugees from buildings where heat had often been
unavailable since the cold began. Thousands of others
evidently opted to stay put, fearing more for their
vacated homes than for their health.
"We cannot guarantee heat to every New Yorker,"
announced Mayor Koch when January was at its coldest
and newspapers and T.V. were prominently featuring
stories and pictures of freezing tenants. "We cannot
control the weather, but we can do our best to control
its potentially tragic impact," added the Mayor. "We've
applied for federal disaster relief," a high housing offi-
cial told a group of concerned community representa-
tives, "but it's hard to compete with a volcano." Cold-
numbed tenants would not have disputed that the
weather was an act of God, but the calamity of freezing
while inside one's own home was a man-made disaster.
The advent of the cold weather, and the ensuing
heatless apartments, sets multiple gears turning at
dozens of city and private agencies. Ideally, a combina-
tion of technical, legal and material assistance efforts
will yield, in fairly short order, relief and satisfaction.
Unfortunately, it often doesn't work that way.
The first line of tenant defense is the city's central
complaint telephone number. A switchboard of opera-
tors who take and relay complaints of no heat or other
needed repairs. In recent years the complaint taking has
been improved by computerization. But the ability to
take calls and register complaints does not lead on an in-
exorable straight path to rattling radiators. Dispatching
an inspector to certify the problem is not done until an
attempt is made to contact the owner and ask if he or
she is aware of the problem. Should the owner say the
problem is already remedied, or is about to be, a call-
back is made the following day to the complainant to
find out if the heat is now being supplied. In this way,
housing officials claim, one out of two complaints is
resolved. It is also frequently a way correction of the
problem is delayed.
Waiting for the Inspector
For those still unresolved, getting an inspec-
tor out to the site is often the most difficult hurdle. A
basic shortage of inspectors available for work in the
field proved to be the main cause of this during the cold
snap. At the start of December, 382 inspectors, about
two-thirds of whom made actual visits, were on the
city's payroll, down from 456 the previous December,
and from over 600 in 1975. The reduced staff was hardly
equipped to handle a workload that vaulted into the
hundreds of thousands once the freezing weather set in.
In the beginning of January, when Central Com-
plaints was deluged with callers, Mayor Koch gave the
unit a well-publicized infusion of $715,000 to hire more
inspectors. It was already too little and too late.
Overall funding for the city's code enforcement has
declined as well, despite the increasing use of federal
Community Development dollars to substitute for city
tax levy funds. Nineteen-eighty-one's funding of over
$24 million is only slightly more than what it was four
13 CITY LIMITS/February 1981
years ago when the level was $23 million, although two
out of every five dollars spent this year came from the
federal government. City officials point to a reduction
in state funding by the last legislature, but instead of in-
creasing the city contribution to match the chunk
removed by the state, the administration made the deci-
sion to attempt to ride out what was predicted to be a
harsh winter with less funds than were available last
season.
"Taking into consideration just the inflation,"
pointed out Steve Cruz, a housing organizer in Williams-
burg, Brooklyn, "such as the cost of fuel, or what it
costs to replace a burner or a coil, it's plain there has
been a basic reduction in funding."
Out in the streets and neighborhoods, community
groups attempted to meet the swarms of tenants calling
and walking in with horror stories of heatless dwellings.
The groups employed various strategies to shortcut the
snarled city programs and squeeze some assistance out
of an overworked budget. Tenant organizers at the Saint
Nicholas Neighborhood Preservation and Rehabilitation
Corporation in Williamsburg plugged away at the cen-
tral complaint number for 48 hours, then, failing a
response, made calls both to the director of the Emer-
gency Repair Program and the chief of the borough's
inspectors. "Even with all that," lamented an organizer,
"the inspection doesn't usually happen for three or four
days. But, that's a lot better than the two weeks it took
at the start of the season."
On the Lower East Side, housing organizer Hector
Rojas reported an almost total lack of success securing
inspections or follow-up fuel deliveries. His community
office, the Coalition for Human Housing, he said, was
swamped with tenants looking for relief from the cold.
Similarly, in Ocean Hill-Brownsville, tenant organizer
John Welcome announced that "general complaints is
for the birds. We' ve stopped even using that number."
Welcome said he was concentrating on getting immedi-
ate' relief for tenants in emergency situations, using the
Red Cross and the offices of local politicians. Welcome
said he had been trying to secure heat for an elderly cou-
ple who had refused to relocate, but whose landlord had
refused to provide access to a fuel delivery until she
received the month's rent. In a 32-unit building on Buf-
falo Avenue, Welcome added, tenants had been without
heat for three and one half weeks, and had also been
reduced to fetching water from a corner hydrant.
By January 22, the city said it had been able to reduce
the backlog in complaints to two and a half days in
Queens and one and one half elsewhere. Reports that
response time was still running much longer than that
were dismissed by a housing department spokesman as
evidence that "occasional instances" of delay were still
occurring.
Two areas of the city did receive fairly prompt atten-
tion from city inspectors. In Flatbush, Brooklyn,and in
the Northwest Bronx, community organizers used an
CITY LIMITS/February 1981 14
emergency repair 'hotline' which proved to be much
hotter than the one in use everywhere else. Inspections
there generally came within 24 hours as a result of an ex-
perimental program set up in those neighborhoods two
years ago. The program also was intended to cut down
the time it takes to deliver oil or make repairs. Aside
from experiencing difficulty with buildings where heat
was sporadic and where the inspector might arrive at the
lone hour of the day when steam was whistling through
the pipes, John Riley of the Northwest Bronx Commun-
ity and Clergy Coalition said the ten neighborhoods
served by the program were getting inspections quickly
and oil deliveries within two to three days.
Ron Russell of the Flatbush Development Commit-
tee reported that 80 to 90 percent of the complaints
made through his office were getting a 24 hour response.
"The Bronx hotline was established because the
groups put the pressure on through protests and demon-
strations and by thoroughly documenting the experience
of every complaint," said Steve Cruz. "Lately E.R.P.
hasn' t been getting the kind of pressure it used to get.
When we went up to their offices on 125th Street in ear-
ly December with tenants of one building that had been
without heat for weeks, we got action on the repairs that
were needed. Ultimately, that's what it takes."
A suggestion by community groups as well as by
Brooklyn Assemblyman Frank Barbaro, that some ten-
ants and community organizers be deputized to act as
heat inspectors in order to cut down the lag in response
time was apparently rejected by the city as unfeasible,
despite the evident difficulty in finding and holding in-
spectors in the city positions.
One practice of winters past of formally questionable
legality received the state legislature's stamp of approval
last year and is now being widely used. Tenants in build-
ings where all that is needed is a tank of fuel are allowed
to order the fuel themselves and deduct it from their
rent. One catch in the "fill and deduct law", is when
tenants can't put together a big enough rent roll to buy a
tank of fuel. They are then back at the beginning, rely-
ing on the city for assistance.
The Brooklyn Union Gas Company has widely pro-
moted the fill and deduct law in mailings to tenants of
buildings with gas-fired boilers. BUG has set aside staff
workers to assist tenants seeking to purchase their fuel
directly. In some cases, reported Pat Conway of the
Fifth Avenue Committee in the lower Park Slope com-
munity, landlords have gotten wind tenants intended to
make purchase arrangments and have beaten them to
the punch by making last minute payments to the com-
pany.
Two difficulties that have arisen for tenants seeking
to use the new law are problems persuading the Depart-
ment of Social Services to make two-party checks over
to the fuel company, and demands from small oil
dealers for certified checks. In instances of two-party
checks, some welfare offices have advised tenants not to
pay rent if they are not receiving heat, but have not been
willing to assist fuel purchase. Officials of the welfare
department have told recipients they will be represented
in court by D.O.S.S. lawyers should the landlord sue, or
issue a dispossess.
In City-Owned Buildings
L previous winters, many of the hardest hit by
no-heat situations were the tenants of city-owned build-
ings. During the winter of 1978-79, when the city was
coping with an onslaught of buildings seized for back
taxes and wasn't even sure which buildings it owned,
nine persons froze to death in city apartments. Even in
the mild winter last year at leastoneLower East Side te-
nant of a city-owned building froze to death.
The city reports a much improved situation this
winter; however, there are definitely two sides to the
issue. According to William Eimicke, the commissioner
in charge of managing and maintaining the buildings,
the rate of city occupied dwellings without heat is at five
percent, or approximately 200 on a daily average, and
well below that of privately owned buildings.
,"No one could be prepared for the unprecedented
cold spell," said Eimicke, "When it's that cold for that
long, the heating systems just can't take it." Still,
Eimicke maintained the city has made significant im-
provement. Two hundred and twenty four boiler
systems have been entirely replaced and many others up-
graded, spending six million federal dollars in the pro-
cess. The city's program to consolidate buildings in very
poor condition, or with less than one third the apart-
ments occupied has also lessened the number of cold ci-
ty tenants according to Eimicke. As of December 31st,
one thousand buildings had been closed, and, Eimicke
said, of those buildings that have been without heat this
winter, one h,alf to one third were designated for con-
solidation. Asked if those buildings the city intends to
vacate receive the same level of service as others, the
commissioner insisted they did. "But if a heating system
goes beserk in one of them, I'm not going to authorize
its replacement," added Eimicke.
A number of community groups queried confirmed
that there has been an improvement in the maintenance
of city-owned buildings. Some of the best organized
"We've applied for federal disaster
relief," one official said, "but it's hard to
compete with a volcano."
buildings have become tenant managed, and tenants
have used rent dollars to make needed repairs. In others
that suffered chronic heat problems in previous winters,
repairs to boilers over the past eight months have kept
them going.
There are exceptions - possibly numerous 'ones, how-
ever, whether they add up to a significantly different
scope of problems is difficult to determine. "We've
been working with two buildings that are city-owned for
the past month," said Pat Conway of the Fifth Avenue
Committee. "One of them is an eight family and the
other has twenty apartments. Both had sporadic heat in
the beginning of the winter, then over the holidays and
for the following two weeks no heat or hot water at all.
The problem isn't fuel deliveries - those have been fair-
ly prompt and regular, but a lack of preventive work
done on the boilers last summer."
One major area of problems were city-owned build-
ings in urban renewal areas in Manhattan. On the Upper
West Side 16 families in four buildings 'slept-in' at the
local site management office in late December as a com-
bined protest and attempt to find a warm place. Tenants
there suffered through on-again, off-again heating
through the beginning of the winter, then no heat at all
when the temperature plummeted at Christmas. Since
the 'sleep-in', tenants report a much improved situation
in their building. On another nearby site, tenants at two
30 unit buildings have been persistently without heat.
Several of the buildings have ancient coal-fed furnaces,
compounding the diffi'culty of making repairs.
At the Cooper Square Urban Renewal Area on the
Lower East Side, 12 of 20 buildings were without heat
for periods averaging four days, according to tenant or-
ganizer Raul Figueroa.
But one recurrent problem that has haunted the city's
management of its buildings resurrected itself with a
bang at the height of the cold crisis. The Manhattan
District Attorney's office announced the indictment of
the heads of two firms which supply fuel and mainten-
ance to boilers in city buildings in Manhattan and
Brooklyn for allegedly bribing a city official so that he
would look the other way while they shortchanged the
city on fuel. Firms contracted by the city in the past
have been cut out for similar reasons. Last year, a well-
publicized investigation was supposed to have put an
end to the situation. City housing officials were not
15 CITY LIMITS/February 1981
aware how widespread the fuel-shorting might be,
but as of January 22, the two companies, Arcade and
Carrier, were still delivering fuel for the city.
The other side of the performance picture in city-
owned housing is that the whole picture is somewhat
skewed. By rights, there could be more than 25,000 ad-
ditional occupied units managed by the city, had it not
adopted a policy to slow its intake of in rem properties.
Some 3,000 in Manhattan are awaiting title vesting in
the spring, and sometime after that, another estimated
6,000 in the Bronx and possibly as many as 17,000 in
Brooklyn. By the time these buildings are seized many
will be between two and four years past the point when
the city could have legally seized them for failure to pay
real estate tax. It's virtually impossible to know what
condition all these buildings are in at present, although
tax default has proven to be an excellent yardstick in the
past as to the degree of owner maintenance.
Last last spring, tenant groups and others warned the
city that delaying the vestings would spell suffering for
the tenants, particularly during the winter months. The
result of the policy, the critics said, would be that when
the city finally did take title, there would be more va-
cant, unoccupied buildings - an occurrence some sug-
gested the city could be promoting.
The official city response was that taking over the
buildings wouldn't be doing the tenants any favors: with
not enough funds to cope with the buildings it already
had, the city would be back where it was two years ago.
The situation raises the obvious question of how many
of the buildings that have complained of going heatless
during the past month would have been city-owned and
managed had the Koch administration decided to obey
the city's own laws.
Legal Weapons
o a chilly afternoon in January, a city hous-
ing official was shown a copy of the banner headline on
one daily paper which proclaimed that the city was go-
ing to jail landlords who didn't provide heat. "Were
that it were true," murmured the official.
"Every time winter rolls around, one token landlord
goes to jail," sighed a long-time housing organizer. This
winter, so far, one landlord has been sent to jail, and a
bench warrant has been issued for the arrest of a se-
cond. In both cases the moves against the owners were
made by Manhattan Housing Court Judge Harriet
George.
Elsewhere, city lawyers asking judges to use the full
weight of the law to enforce contempt citations have not
been as successful.
The most dramatic example of judicial patience with
a landlord's failure to provide heat came in Brooklyn.
There, Civil Court Judge Carmelo Tavormina, on court
rotation and temporarily assigned to the housing part,
temporized over whether to appoint an administrator to
CITY LIMITS/February 1981 18
take over 254-56 Vanderbilt Avenue in the Fort Greene
section, so that city contractors could gain access to
make boiler repairs. The landlords, Anne and Joseph
Monaco, had blocked the repairmen's entry, first by
threats, and then by building a cinder blOCK wall over
the boiler room's doorway. ,
According to city attorney Abby Gorham, when he
moved to begin trial on January 2, Judge Tavormina
warned him he would not assign an administrator unless
it could be proved that the building could be run at a
profit. Three days later, after another fruitless day in
court by the tenants, 67-year-old John Grimes was
found frozen to death in his apartment. Grimes's death
made the news, as did Tavormina's handling of the
case. What didn't is that the failure of judge's to en-
force the law is not an uncommon occurrence.
Flatbush organizer Ron Russell has been working
with tenants in a row of buildings with 100 apartments
on Woodruff Avenue where, despite an order to the
landlord to get a new burner by Housing Court Judge
Anthony Andreacchi, repeated unkept promises by the
owner to comply have kept the buildings without heat or
hot water for over two weeks.
Shortly after the Tavormina episode, Mayor Koch an-
nounced that sending a landlord to jail for failure to
provide heat could serve as a good inducement to
others. But there was none of the violent condemnation
that has characterized other Koch blasts at Criminal
Court judges for meting out sentences he found too
soft.
Joseph Shuldiner, who, as head of the housing depart-
ment's Evaluation and Compliance unit, oversees its
housing litigation, insists there are ample legal weapons
available to any judge who wants to see a landlord pay a
penalty for contempt. Community leaders and some
politicians have said that the civil fines of $25 per apart-
ment per heatless day are too low to frighten an owner
into compliance. They add that usually the city only
sues for one apartment and the amount collected is neg-
ligible. But, according to Shuldiner, the issue of increas-
ing the civil penalties is a "red herring. If the courts
want to give us a heavy fine," he said, "there is nothing
in their way. Civil contempt is the most powerful wea-
pon there is. A guy goes to jail and stays there until he is
willing to comply."
Shuldiner said the city generally only averages
$300,000 to $400,000 a year in fines collected, although
judgements are made for $2 million to $3 million that
are not collected. "The only asset is the building in most
cases," he said, "and if we get a good administrator in
there we don't want to attach the rents."
At least some of the pressure on thct court system to
provide more effective relief for heatless tenants ap-
peared to be having an effect in January. ''For the first
time ever, that I've seen," said Bess Stevenson, who has
been organizing buildings and representing tenants in
court for many years for the Metropolitan Council on
Housing, "they called all the no-heat cases first in
court." 0
Cold Remedies
A number of programs are available this freez-
ing winter to assist both tenants and owners with
higher fuel and utility payments. All the programs
carry income limitations, or other qualifications,
but most low and moderate income people can
qualify.
The largest aid program is the Home Energy
Assistance Plan (HEAP) which is available in a
number of different forms and targeted at a broad
spectrum of the population. For tenants and
owners who pay directly for fuel, a payment of up
to $300 will be made directly to the providing fuel
dealer for those who qualify. Income limits range
up to $1,079 per month for a family of four,
although the aid declines the higher the income.
Since most tenants in New York City do not pay
separately for their fuel, but are forced to rely on
stoves and electric heaters when the landlord
doesn't send up steam, of important note is the
HEAP non-fuel assistance program. Payments of
up to $150 are available in the form of direct
checks to the utility company for qualifying
tenants and owners, to meet the often astronom-
ical bills following a month of cold and no heat.
Direct HEAP assistance is also available to the
handicapped, aged and those on public assistance
and SSI. There are offices around the city where
HEAP applications are available. Call the Com-
munity Development Agency,433-2143,to find out
where the nearest office is, or call a toll-free na-
tional HEAP number, 800-342-3821, to have an
application sent. Last year New York City failed
to spend a large portion of the heating assistance
funds available, although officials estimated that
large numbers of qualifying tenants and owners
did not apply.
The Public Service Commission has mandated
utility companies to make home visits before
discontinuing services to determine the hardship
of a disconnect. For those with serious health im-
pairments, the department of General Social Ser-
vices will assist with utility payments if gas or elec-
tric are used for heating or operating a life support
system. To find the nearest GSS office, call
553-6393. The New York State Energy Office has
mandated a similar program for fuel dealers . .
A number of other forms of assistance are avail-
able including tax credits and rebates, and, while
none are a guarantee that winter will become bear-
able, they could help take some of the bite out of
the freezing wind. 0
Competing Plans for
Williamsburg Buildings
In the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, a major
whose buildings have suffered sparse ser-
vIces and numerous suspicious fires, has devised a new
plan to hold onto his deteriorating properties.
The landlord, Philip Ritholtz, lost direct control over
one of his buildings, 184 South Second Street, last
month when a housing court judge agreed to appoint an
administrator selected by the tenants to manage the
buildings. Once the judge's resolution to have the build-
ing placed in outside hands became apparent, Ritholtz
sought to have a business associate and fellow local
landlord, Leo Zissman, placed in the position. That
move was parried by tenants who, working along with
Los Sures, a local housing group, obtained a lengthy
record of violations in Zissman-owned buildings in the
area. The court then agreed to name Douglas Moritz,
Los Sures director, as administrator. [See 7-A article]
However, the building now has shown up as one of
Ritholtz buildings for which Zissman is seeking a
cIty nod to get federal Section 8 funds to do total reno-
vation of the properties. According to Los Sures, other
buildings in the submission are also occupied. Under the
program, tenants would be vacated, with the developer
picking up the tab for relocation costs.
"There's no way the tenants want to move out," said
Los Sures organizer Bella Zuzel. "Especially now that
they've finally gotten an administrator in there and have
a chance to turn the building around."
Simply getting the issue before the court was a lengthy
legal struggle, one which tenants felt was unnecessarily
prolonged because William Ritholtz, brother of Philip
and former attorney for the landlord, was in the midst
of a campaign for a Civil Court judgeship at
the tIme. After newspaper accounts of the new judge's
connection to the building were printed, Deputy Admin-
istrative Judge Francis X. Smith barred Ritholtz from
hearing any housing cases in his new job. 0
Classified
Two are available with the Route 2 Community Housing
Corporation (R2CHC), a grass-roots non-profit organization commit-
ted to providing cooperative housing opportunities to low to moderate
income families :
PLANNING DIRECTOR: to oversee the rehabilitation and conver-
sion of 400 State-owned multifamily units to tenant formed
cooperatives, and to assist in the development of new cooperative
housing
EXPERIENCE: at least 4 years of professional housing experience in-
cluding supervision of staff, working with housing related community
organizations and fund raising.
SALARY: approximately $29,000 per year plus fringe benefits.
COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION SPECIALIST: to organize and
educate tenants about housing cooperatives and to assist in resolving
tenant landlord problems. Bilingual (Spanish) abilities preferred.
SALAR Y: approximately $ 10,000 per year plus fringe benefits.
Send resumes to R2CHC, 743 Tularosa Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90026
by February 15, 1981.
17
CITY LIMITS/February 1981
City-Owned Buildings in Private
Management Program Approach Sale Date
by Susan Baldwin
In an effort to step up sales of its unwanted, tax-fore-
closed property, the city plans by early spring to sell off
20 buildings, a total of nearly 900 units, to two contrac-
tors participating in one of its more controversial alter-
native alternative management programs.
Created in June, 1979, the program known as the
Private Ownership Management Program (POMP), re-
ceived $2.1 million this year in Community Develpp-
ment funds to operate and maintain some of the city's
better in rem housing with the aim of selling it to the
managers in a year's time after a modest building treat-
ment plan is carried out.
Under the conditions of the POMP contract, the
small neighborhood-based companies that have been
running the buildings have the right of first refusal. The
two particpating in the planned sale are the Stephen
Leon Management Company in the Bronx, and Lemle
and Wolff, Inc. in Manhattan's Washington Heights.
The Washington Heights buildings have already com-
pleted the required Uniform Land Use Review Proceed-
ings (ULURP) hearings, while the community boards in
the Bronx and Upper Manhattan where Leon's property
is located are presently scheduling local hearings.
Sale of Buildings
"We feel very good about the sale of these buildings,
and we hope the others in the program will be ready
before too long," said Richard Heitler, director of
POMP.
The first to enter the POMP program, Leon's con-
tract was due to end in August, 1980, but was extended
six months in order to make this sale possible. The
Lemle and Wolff property is targeted for moderate Sec-
tion 8 rehabilitation as part of the Washington Heights
Neighborhood Preservation program.
When POMP was first created, city community
groups active in housing rehabilitation were critical of
the fact that this program was to receive federal funds to
fix up some of the city's better in rem housing - hous-
ing that was not available to them. But, now in the year-
and-a-half that it has been in existence, there have been
virtually no complaints.
"I certainly had my doubts about POMP when it was
first announced, but now alII can say is that it seems to
be working," said Lorraine Holtz, district manager of
Community Board #5 in the Bronx where Leon manages
property. "We hear they' re doing a good job with the
property."
"We are pleased with the rehab plans for our build-
ings," said Barbara Leeds, director of the Washington
Heights NPP office. "This is good for the neighbor-
CITY LIMITS/February 1981 18
hood and is part of die urban renewal plan to get every
single city in rem building in some kind of treatment
program."
Newer Contractors
The other newer contractors participating in POMP
are 1700 Development Corporation, a firm organized in
the Bronx by Joseph Bodak to handle troubled proper-
ties; Tecra Management Company, Inc., a company
with substantial minority ownership that has managed
HUD-owned properties; and the Urban Home Owner-
ship Corporation, a minority non-profit development
and management company.
In a recent audit by Comptroller Harrison J. Goldin,
Joseph Bodak was named as owing $435,000 in out-
standing debts to the city's Emergency Repair Program,
under which fuel deliveries and repairs are made to
privately owned buildings. Bodak said his indebtedness
had arisen out of his willingness to take on buildings
with already sizeable E.R.P. liens and that he had con-
tinually made payments according to a schedule worked
out with the city. "The fact that the audit singles out
Bodak is an indication of how little depth they went into
compiling their reports," said Assistant Commissioner
Joseph Shuldiner. "It is absolutely certain that every
penny Bodak owes will be paid back, and on time," he
added.
At present, there are a total of 40 buildings with 1,469
units in the program and, according to Heitler, there is
enough money left from this year's budget to hire one
more contractor.
"The competition has been extremely intense for
these contracts," he explained, adding, "We look into
everything. It's as if they're operating in a fish bowL"
Under the fiscal year 1980 cycle, POMP received more
than 250 inquiries into the program and selected the five
finalists from a narrowed-down list of 75.
Under POMP, the contractor spends the first six
months making major repairs to the property with
federal funds, but during the second six months, the
building is to be run solely from the rent roll. And, it is
during this period that rents are restructured so that the
building will be viable at the time of sale. Currently, re-
structured rents range from $35 to $50-a-room, with
most of them falling into the $40 category.
Restructured Higher Rents
Is POMP having trouble collecting the restructured
higher rents? Not really, Heitler asserted, as POMP has
submitted applications to the Housing Authority for
Section 8 letters for those who cannot afford to pay.
"In addition," he pointed out, "no one in our properties
pays more than 25 percent of his income for rent . .. We
really are providing good, affordable low and moderate
income housing."
The city has not set a pricetag for the buildings to
be sold, but it is thought that they may sell for anywhere
between $700 and slightly over $1,000 per unit. They are
being repaired with average grants of $2,500-a-unit, but
some repairs have only cost $700, while others in fire-
struck and vandalized buildings have cost $5,000-a-unit.
A recent tour of several of the newly admitted POMP-
contractor buildings revealed that they were indeed pro-
viding low-cost, habitable housing.
"I love it here, this is all mine- four big rooms," said
Diane Cooper, a new resident of Marcy Place in the
Bronx. "I feel safe and I don't expect any fires here,"
she added, noting that for the better p'art of two years
she had been moving from house-to-house, "slumlord-
to-slumlord" to avoid fires and rats. Her rent is
$24O-a-month, which she claims, is a bargain for an en-
tirely rebuilt apartment managed by Bodak.
Severe Fire Damage
Tecra's work in 408 West 150th Street in Hamilton
Heights was concentrated on repairing severe fire
damage to the roof and beams from what was deemed
to be arson. On a lower floor, an elderly tenant grum-
bled about paying her rent, and according to Tecra's
Roscoe Washington, this building was most recently in
central management and before that in the hands of a
slumlord so the tenants of this 36-unit building had not
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been paying rent for years. A five-room apartment here
rents for $275-a-month.
And, in 470 Convent Avenue in the same neighbor-
hood, Leon Woods, who pays $175-a-month, com-
plained about his bathroom wall but showed no signs of
moving out.
According to the city's October, 1980,. report on
POMP's in rem housing record, "Occupancy and rent
collection rates for each contract in the program con-
tinue to show consistent improvement. In the month of
June, 1980, occupancy averaged 93 percent and rent col- ·
lection average 86 percent for the program as a whole.
More significantly, those buildings which have been in
the program for six months or more exhibit occupancy
rates averaging 98 percent and rent collection rates of 90
percent."
Future
Commenting on the future of POMP, Heitler con-
cluded, "I know everybody is nervous in alternative
management because they're sure everything will be cut
to ribbons except POMP. But, POMP lives and dies
with the rest of the program and is committed to provid-
ing low-cost housing. We'll all survive together or go
down in flames together."
POMP is slated to receive almost $5 million in CD
monies next year, or it may be entirely eliminated
depending on what level the city plans to fund its alter-
native management programs. 0
19
309 FIFTH AVENUE
NEW YORK, N.Y. 10016
SPECIALIZING IN
GROUP LIABILITY AND
HEALTH INSURANCE
PROGRAMS
Contact: Paul Sourifman
Vice President
(212) 684-4770
CITY LIMITS/February 1981
To The Editor:
While in the past I have not liked what I read in cer-
tain articles and have not particularly agreed with
others, I have found that City Limits was usually fair
and by all means accurate.
After the hatchet job on our block, I feel you ought to
know what has happened and how it happened. There is
one thing we do agree on and this is that there is dis-
placement. Some of it good and most of it bad.
I think that anyone trying to find our block after the
December article would not be able to. First off, there
are only 5 buildings and not lO. There are only 3 deep-
oak doors on the brownstones and mostly there are no
plastic insulators nor broken grattified doors on any of
the "ten" buildings. Maybe he saw the broken doors
on the 5 buildings that "ain't there". Thank God Mr.
Powell does not have to represent me at any tenants'
court. We'd lose so fast you wouldn't know what hit
you. He got one fact straight ... displacement.
There is a bell in Mr. Shannon's apartment. True, he
put it there himself, but it is there and he has pointed it
out to everyone on the block. Mr. Washington does not
live in 15 Berkeley. Not now, nor at anytime in the 8
plus years I have been on the block. Mr. Shannon is the
only tenant living in 15 which is burned out and has
been condemned by the Fire Department. However,
through our Block Association we have kept it from be-
ing torn down. No one else has been in the building
since early October when Mrs. Muir and her son moved.
There has been heat and hot water to all tenants in 15
and 15A Berkeley. Before the new owners took over,
and by the way they are the third owners in a year, there
were periods of no heat and hot water, broken windows
and leading windows. None of the tenants have paid any
rent in months, having taken the landlord to court for
repairs that can't be fixed until everyone is out. The
Block Ass.ociation chased two landlords away for being
slum land'tords, and if this one had not been giving vital
repairs and heat and hot water, we would have gotten
rid of him too.
It is true that one of the apartment buildings went
without heat -for 5 weeks, but The Fifth Avenue Com-
mittee was supposed to be working with those tenants,
and our Association was not aware of it until two of the
tell ants came to me. The next day we had heat over
there.
I would like Mr. Powell to tell me where to find easy
mortgages. They were not easy 8 years ago in this area
and they aren't any more so now. the Puerto Rican
family Mr. Powell interviewed was not here in Novem-
ber, having moved in October. Also 68 Berkeley was
empty over a year ago before it was sold.
Just to set the record straight.
Lew Smith,
Housing Chairman,
Berkeley Place Bk. Assn.
CITY LIMITS/February 1981 20
Getting
a Displacement
Tale Straight
Michael Powell replies: Mr. Smith raises a number of
objections to the article on displacement, few of which
hold water. There most certainly are graffitied doors,
plastic insulators on the windows in cold weather, and
the front doors of 15 and 15A Berkeley Place were
broken in November when I visited. Mr. Smith contra-
dicts himself about the heat supply in the buildings. The
city's Emergency Repair Program has delivered oil on at
least two occasions to tenants of 15 and 15A, billing the
cost to the present ownership because it failed to pro-
vide the fuel. The owners have yet to be chased away by
the block association. Mr. Smith is correct on two
points: Mr. Shannon does indeed live in 15A, not 15
Berkeley Place, although he serves as super for both
buildings. Also; there are not ten buildings on the north
side of the block; nor, are there five, but eight.
The intention of the article was not to -slight the resi-
dents and groups which have aided the distressed ten-
ants on the block, but rather to illuminate the human
costs of gentrification and displacement in a neighbor-
hood that was viable before the current crop of specula-
tors moved in. Mr. Smith's plaint that the tenants of the
buildings have not paid rent, without which the landlord
cannot make needed repairs, is the same kind of back-
wards logic that claims the basic cause of building deter-
ioration is the tenants. Owners are legally obliged to
provide services and repairs, an obligation the current
owners do not escape merely because they purchased the
buildings in an already deteriorated state. As board
member and former. chairman of the Park Slope Im-
provement Committee, a group that has opposed new
and rehabilitated low income housing in south Brook-
lyn, Mr. Smith presumably has a particular interest in
developments on his own block. I wonder if he will fight
so vigorously for the right of the tenants to return at af-
fordable rents after the needed repairs are made in the
buildings?
Finally, at last count, all but two brownstones on the
north side of Berkeley Place have sturdy wooden doors;
if all are not oak, I apologize. 0
To the Editor;
In the excellent article "Community Group Profit-
Sharing" of the January, 1981, City Limits, a factual er-
ror occurred in regard to the profit-sharing of one of the
NSA projects co-sponsored by the Manhattan Valley
Development Corp. The article states that "In the ar-
rangement with Gardel, the minority developer and con-
tractor for the second project, MVDC will receive a
third of the tax shelter profits, Gardel, two-thirds." The
fact is that because of the determination of MVDC to
co-venture with a minority developer-contractor and be-
cause of the difficulty to find such a developer able to
meet the financial requirements, a third party had to be
involved, Mars Normel. Consequently, MVDC entered
into a three-way venture, resulting in tax shelter profit-
sharing between MVDC, Gardel and Mars Normel.
Leah Schneider
Manhattan Valley Development Corp.
Film on city Fiscal Crisis
"Tighten Your Belts, Bite the Bullet", a 48 minute
documentary film contrasting the effect of fiscal crisis
in New York City and Cleveland, Ohio, is now available
for purchase or rental. For information about the film
which focuses on cuts in daycare, hospitals and fire pro-
tection in New York and the struggle to save municipally-
owned power in Cleveland, contact Marty Lucas at
673-1385 or write to: City Crisis Film Group, 208 West
13th St. , New York, N.Y. lOOll. 0
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21
In Rem Tenants Petition City
Members of the Union of City Tenants,an organization
formed last fall by tenants living in city-owned, tax fore-
closed housing to represent them in negotiations with
the city for improved building conditions, have circu-
lated a petition amongst tenants in the Clinton neigh-
borhood of Manhattan. Tenants of 24 buildings have
added their names to the petition which calls on the city
to make needed repairs to bring the buildings up to the
standards called for by the city housing code. The peti-
tion also calls for the approval by tenant associations, in
the form of a written contract, of repair schedules, con-
tractor selection and setting of rent levels.
As an initial step in reaching compliance, the peti-
tioners seek official code inspection of buildings and
apartments, and the creation of a mutually agreeable
timetable for the removal of code violations. According
to David Robinson of the Union, the petitions will be
presented to Deputy Commissioner for Property Man-
aaement William Eimicke in late January. 0
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CITY lIMITSIFebruary 1981
NATIONAL AGENDA Continued from p. J
What, in essence, the Carter's National Agenda com-
mission asks the government to do is simply to recog-
nize, aid and abet a process that has been going on for
years, and that already has powerful adovcates in both
major political parties. The only thing new in this report
is its suggestion that, instead of trying to cover up what
is actually going on by a few, inadequate palliatives such
as Community Development Block Grants, Neighbor-
hood Self-Help Development, Community Reinvestment
Act strictures and the like, the federal government should
give up what little pretense still exists that it is, or wants
to, help the cities and their less affluent inhabitants.
This kind of language, we can well imagine, should be
pleasing to the ears of the Reaganites and their neander-
thal supporters. It is language which cannot be allowed
to go unanswered. Thus far, the only voices heard in op-
position are the predictable (and inherently non-cred-
ible) ones of the public sector bureaucrats who fear that
implementation of such a policy may lead to loss of
their power and jobs.
Opposition has also come from Mayor Ed Koch, who,
while implementing the strategic withdrawal of services
from low income neighborhoods, knows the ultimate
conclusion of such a national agenda spells the loss of
his power base. Although one can talk of welfare mobil-
ity, it is hard to do so for mayors (although it is not in-
conceivable Koch could qualify for a job transfer for-
warding him to Miami as Mayor).
The constituencies of our country's inner-city neigh-
borhoods must get together, without delay, to answer
these proposals. They must point out that the neo-
conservative arguments about the inevitability of inner-
city decline and shrinkage are false and fraudulent: that
what has happened to our cities has not been the result
of the working of a free and inexorable market system,
but rather the barefaced, deliberate and willful interven-
tions of a government structure, controlled and domi-
nated by interests whose goals, objectives and pocket-
books are best served by promoting the suburbs and
sunbelt at the expense of the cities and slums. Anyob-
jective analysis of what our government, at its city and
state as well as federal levels, has done - and is contin-
uing to do - makes this conclusion abundantly clear.
FHA and VA housing programs, the federal highway
program, the starving of our passenger railroads and
urban mass transit, the use of urban renewal to force
minority and poor removal, UDAGs to build luxury
hotels while neighborhood housing crumbles and the
city's infrastructure literally falls apart, social programs
that creat "professional" fiefdoms and pampered
poverty pimps with little, if anything, trickling down to
the supposed beneficiaries: who bears the responsibility
for these? Is it seeming or acceptable for the same
coterie who foisted these policies and programs on us
over the past fifty years now to tell us that, since these
CITY LIMITS/February 1981
were the best that could be done, and they failed, we
must now bow to the inevitable and give up on our cities
and their poor inhabitants?
Is it not significant that the commission asks that its
proposals be adopted as official public policy at the time
when many of our older cities are seeing or about to see
minorities becoming majorities of their populations?
When cities such as Los Angeles, Detroit, Atlanta and
Newark are electing black mayors and even San An-
tonio (the one sun belt city that really belongs in the
frostbelt) could produce a Chicano-Black majority in its
City Council?
Also, how hollow is the real substance of the commis-
sion's report! Have any of its writers visited the slums of
Phoenix or Miami, or been to Watts in Los Angeles, or
talked to the folks at Brothers Redevelopment, Inc.
about the housing and neighborhood conditions in
which poor and elderly Hispanics are forced to live in
Denver, Colorado? Are the burgeoning sunbelt cities so
free of deteriorating neighborhoods, racial discrimina-
tion and urban displacement that locks the poor out of
decent housing?
Have any of them tried to buy or rent a home in the
sunbelt with the resources that an unskilled factory
worker can command?
And what about the job opportunities "out there?"
Are there jobs going begging in Tucson or Salt Lake
City or San Jose or Portland or Enid, Oklahoma, that a
high school dropout from Harlem or Williamsburg or
the South Bronx can fill? Are there indeed, even "better
schools" to educate black and Latino kIds whose
parents move from Bed-Stuy or Bushwick? Are the local
mayors and bankers and developers in Havasu, Ari-
zona, Tacoma, Washington and Palo Alto, California
. going to fall all over themselves welcoming a new gener-
ation of dust bowl iIl,lmigrants from Oceanhill, Brooklyn,
Woodlawn, Chicago or Virginia Park in Detroit and
providing them with decent, affordable housing, ade-
quate municipal services and a list of "help wanted" ad-
vertisements for good jobs waiting to be filled?
Just to ask these questions is to answer them. But
neither the old nor the new regimes in Washington is in-
. terested. The lie, however, must be nailed. Otherwise,
the Carter commission's programs may well become the
. New Urban Policy for the 1980s. Not only will such a
policy continue to distract the public from the real ills of
our older cities and their true causes and appropriate
cures, but it will also take away the few palliatives that
our urban neighborhoods now receive. Pitiably inade-
quate as they are, they are all we have. The Carter com-
mission report may be the sounding of the bell for the
beginning of the fight to eliminate them. The challenge
must not go unanswered. 0
22
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--------------.--------------------------
To: The Editors, CITY LIMITS
115 East 23rd Street, New York, New York 10010
Please enter my subscription to CITY LIMITS.
Individuals and community-based organizations:
o One year $6 (ten issues) 0 Two years $10 (twenty issues)
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and city-wide groups:
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WHOSE NATIONAL AGENDA? Page 2 THE CHILL IN THE CITY Page 12
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