The Neighborhood Front

Groundbreaking has finally begun on
the Baltic Street commercial and residen-
tial project of the Fifth Avenue Commit-
tee in Brooklyn's Park Slope. The pro-
ject, many years in the making will con-
tain 50 townhouse-style frame houses
with two rental units apiece and a super-
market. The project was a prized political
pium for several Brooklyn politicians
who attempted to amend the Fifth
Avenue group's plans several times, final-
ly succeeding in eliminating the low in-
come housing it originally was to contain.
Developer Louis Rosenberg, who con-
tended against the group for development
of the entire project, was finally awarded
the contract to build the supermarket por-
tion. Last month he celebrated the
groundbreaking, but neglected to invite
the community group which sponsored
the housing. Fifth Avenue Committee is
planning its own celebration. Just how
much Brooklyn's politicians liked the
Baltic Street project was also evidenced
when Butler Street, which runs through
the site, was rerouted and reappeared on
official drawings as a cuI de sac named
Gregory Place. The origin of the street's
name has now been revealed to be from
Housing Commissioner Anthony Glied-
man's ten-year-old son, Gregory.
Neighbors, who told the community
board they preferred Community Place
as the name for the street, didn't
begrudge him the honor, but thought
Flatbush a better place for the sign .

A project to encourage the adoption of
zoning and land use policies that benefit
low and moderate income people as they
facilitate private market development has
been launched by the Metropolitan Ac-
tion Institute. The group, under a grant
from the New York Community Trust,
will be developing a series of "indu-
sionary" proposals for application to
New York City. It welcomes input and
comment from the community. Call Phil
Tegeler at 564-5313 for information.
CITY LI M ITSIDecem ber 1982
The city's Home Improvement Pro-
gram, which began last spring making
loans available to owner occupants of
one- to four-family homes for repair of
their homes, have reached a low interest
rate of eight percent. So far, 400 home-
owners, according to the city housing
department, have made improvements
through use of the loans. Although banks
which administer the loans have made ap-
proval difficult in many areas because of
rigid qualifying criteria, community
groups throughout the city are helping to
screen applicants for the loans. The low
rates, said Housing Commissioner Glied-
man, mean that 1,500 more loans can be
made this winter. Call HPD at 566-0371
for information.

SEBCO Development Corporation in
the Hunts Point section of the South
Bronx has become a participant in the
city's Private Ownership Management
Program under which better, tenanted
city-owned buildings are managed by a
private company and eventually purchas-
2
ed. SEBCO, chaired by Rev. Louis
Gigante, will operate four buildings in its
area.

The Association of Neighborhood
Housing Developers, which is comprised
of 27 community nonprofit groups in
New York City, elected new officers at its
annual retreat in October in Kerhonkson,
New York.
Galen Kirkland, Associate Director of
the West Harlem Community Organiza-
tion, was elected President, succeeding
Gary HaHem of St. Nicholas
Neighborhood Preservation in Brooklyn.
Alice Paul, executive director of
Astella Community Organization in Con-
ey Island was elected Vice President,
Rebecca Reich, director of the Fifth
Avenue Committee in Brooklyn was
elected Treasurer, and Gary Hattem,
Secretary. The group's annual retreat,
which drew over eighty weekend par-
ticipants, established policies and direc-
tions for the group for the coming year. 0
Contents
The Neighborhood Front ............................ 2
Editorial .......................................... 4
Letters ........................................... 5
Short Term Notes
Mr. Wilson Comes to Washingon .................... 6
Waste Burning Delayed . .................... .. ..... 7
Sandy Ground Gets Designation ..................... 7
Companies Sue for Transit Dollars .. , ................ 8
Fallout on St. Felix St .... . ..... ' . . .. ... ............ . 8
Pueblo Nuevo is Begun . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 9
Columbia Adds to Its Empire ....................... 9
Artists' Housing Plan .. . . . .. . .. . .. . ........ . ..... 10
Public Housing Funding Still Uncertain . ~ .............. 11
East Brooklyn's Second Rising ....................... 12
Ground was broken for a second 'New Jerusalem' last month; launch-
ed by a fiercely independent coalition of churches that scrapped the old
rules to achieve what their community needed.
Brownsville's New Jerusalem ........................ 17
How and why Brownsville grew, and how it was foresaken.
Tenants Win $250 Sales ............................. 18
Three years after a city pledge to sell tax-foreclosed apartments to them
for $250 apiece, tenants have won the right to actually buy. But a city
'tax' on resales flawed the victory.
Evolution of a Sales Policy .......................... 19
No Refuge in the Bronx ............................. 21
Indochinese refugees have encountered some ofthe city's harshest ur-
ban ills: lead paint poisoning is epidemic among their young in the
aging buildings w here they have been placed.
The West Side Renewal Story ........................ 27
Manhattan's Upper West Side is still, twenty-five years later, awaiting
completion of the urban renewal area. The needed political bat tie to do
so, however, is still unwaged.
Unequal Neighbors Gain a Powerful Tool .............. 30
Homeowners have made effective use of the new appeals process for
property taxes.
Judge Voids City Rent Hikes ......................... 34
A recent court ruling may' force the city to obey the same rules in
managing its in rem buildings as private landlords do.
No Refuge in the Bronx
3
CITY LlMITS/December1982
CITYLIMI1S
Volume VII Number 10 '
CilY Limits is published ten times per year,
monthly except double issues in June/ Juiy and
August/September, by the City Limits Com-
munity Information Service, Inc., a nonprofit
organization devoted to disseminating infor-
mation concerning neighborhood revitaliza-
tion. The publication is sponsored by three
organizations. The ~ p o n s o r s are:
Association of Neighborhood Housing
Developers, Inc., an association of over two
dozen community-based, nonprofit housing
development groups, developing and ad-
vocating programs for low and moderate in-
come housing ,and neighborhood stabilization.
Pratt Institute Center for Community and En-
vironmental Development, a technical
assistance and advocacy office offenng profes-
sional planning and architectural services to
low and moderate income community groups.
The Center also analyzes and monitors govern-
ment policy and performance. '
Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, a
technical assistllllce organization providing
assistance to low income tem:.nt cooperatives in
management and sweat equity rehabilitation.
City Limits welcomes comments and article
contributions. Please include a stamped, self-
addressed envelope for return of man'uscripts.
Material in City Limits does not necessarily
reflect the opinion of the sponsoring organiza-
tions. Send correspondence to: CITY LIMITS,
424 West 33rd Street, New York, N.Y. 10001
Postmaster send change of address to: City
Limits, 424 W. 33rd St., New York. NY 10001.
Second-class postage paid
New York. N.Y. 10001
City Limits (ISSN 0199-0330)
Editor ...... , , , , , , , , .... , . , , Tom Robbins
Assistant Editor, , , .. , , . , , , , , . Tim Ledwith
Assi$tant Editor. , , , .. , , . , , .. Susan Baldwin
Marketing Director, . , . , , . , , . , ,Jim Mendell
Design and Layout, . , . , , , . , , . Louis Fulgoni
Copyright '1982. All Rights Reserved: No por-
tion or portions of this journal may be reprinted
without the express ,written permission of the
publishers.
CITY LlMITS/December1982
Editorial
The $250 Sales 'Victory
The $250 sales price is won. The temporary defeat of a pro-low income co-
op resale policy should not obscure the importance of this victory. Nor should
it keep those who waged and won the battle for the right of low income
tenants to own their apartments from receiving the applause they have
earned-or from continuing their efforts.
The editorial board of City Limits congratulates that well-organized tenant
and community coalition which has shown what the neighborhood housing
movement can and will accomplish when facing the critical issues that unite
all our diverse elements.

How to Close the Gap
While this current chapter of the sales price saga was drawing to a close,
an issue of related and overriding importance was staring most people in the
face from the front pages: Mayor Koch and his $341 million budget gap. But
buried in the city's own rhetoric at the Board of Estimate was a hi nt of a novel
approach for helping to close the gap. It was not of the "slash and burn" type
proposed by the mayor, nor was it the charade of the confiscatory forty per-
cent recapture of resale profits. Instead it was the continuous reference to
the substantial ,investment of Tenant Interim Lease residents and the low
cost and efficiency of alternative management programs.
Because TIL buildings are so inherently cheaper for the city to operate
than those in its central management division (the Task Force on City-
Owned Property showed in 1981 how TIL saves the city $1,192 for each
apartment) they now save $6.1 million. This $6.1 million is the value of the
sweat, time and money invested by the residents.
' What if one quarter of the 23,000 apartments now centrally managed were
added to TIL? These, '5,770 units would save $5.9 million in tax levy funds, $5
million in federal Community Development funds and $5.8 million in in-
creased rent collections would be reinvested in the buildings. This would
yield a net savings to the city of $6.9 million. The now doubled TIL program
could generate $2.7 million in sales, and ultimately, $1.4million in real estate
taxes. That's our modest contribution. Add these TIL savings to that tax
revenue resulting from the elimination of unnecessary tax abatements and
exemptions for luxury residential construction and renovation and commer-
cial development, and the total savings to the city is exactly $341 million, ...
Interesting!
4
"
j
Cover photo by
Louis Nazario ©
Why We Need Waste Burning
To The Editor:
An article in last month's City Limits, "A Waste-to-Energy
Plan Looms Over Brooklyn," concludes with the suggestion
that New York City develop "an integrated waste
program," beginning with a "returnable bottle law" and in-
cluding recycling. The City's current plans for a waste-to-
energy plant at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, an<;l for other such
elsewhere throughout the five boroughs, is presented
in your article as conilicting with such a program.
This conclusion is simply mistaken. The New York State
Bottle Bill. which will go into effect on July 1,1983, is the out-
. come of a year of intensive Sanitation Department and Koch
Administration efforts. We anticipate a six to eight percent
, reduction in the waste stream as a result of the law, accom-
panied by a significant increase in recycling activities, en-
couraged by a regularly available flow of glass, aluminum, fer-
rous metals and polyester containers. We encourage other
waste reduction and recycling programs.
The basic issue, which your article loses sight of, is that New
York City generates enough garbage to fuel multiple waste-to-
energy facilities while at the same time recycling most materials
that could economically be diverted from the waste stream. We
need to do both, because we are very rapidly running out of
landfill space. We will lose forty percent of our present disposal
capacity in three short years when the Fountain Avenue landfill
in Brooklyn closes; our remaining landfill, Fresh Kills, in
Staten Island, will be filled before the year 2000. This crucial
need for new waste disposal capacity - not, primarily,
because of the energy gained from waste - is the reason the
City has proposed a waste-to-energy plant at the Navy Yard.
Contrary to assertions by persons quoted in your article, the
"mass-burn" combustion technology proposed.for the Navy
Yard plant is far from experimental; three hundred and fifty
similar plants exist in the United States and throughout the
world. Nor is "a major breakthrough in waste recovery" on
the immediate horizon. Unlike mass combustion facilities,
refuse-derived fuel plants, which convert the organic fraction
of the waste to a fuel product that can be used in a dedicated
boiler, have an unsuccessful record of operation. Several of
these RDF plants have been closed due to explosions and pollu-
tion problems resulting from poor materials handling
technology. Bio-enzymatic processes, suggested by some, have
never been implemented on a commercial scale. Scaling up
from the roughly one ton a day plant now being tested to the
plants of several thousand tons per day (or even hundreds)
needed in a city like ours is likely, under the best of cir-
cumstances, to take upwards of ten years. Even so, it is ques-
tionable whether such plants would offer real advantages over
.'
existing technologies that have thirty to forty years of commer-
cial experience. Nevertheless, these technologies bear watching
and may eventually be viable. However, movi'ng forward now
- before our landfills are completely filled - does not prevent
the City from employing any superior technology that may
emerge in the future. Implementation of waste-to-energy proj-
ects - beginning with extensive environmental analyses '- is
simply the only way of avoiding the collapse of one of our most
fundamental environmental control systems, waste disposal.
Norman Steisel
Commissioner
Dept. of Sanitation
Commercial Rent Crisis
To the Editor:
The article [in the November, 1982 issue] by P.J. Kamens
on the landlord challenge is most interesting, but the picture
taken from Winnie Winkle comic strip refers to "Bill's"
landlord's demand for a 300 percent increase on Commer-
cial rent . .
This is in fact another issue entirely and one that I must
say is a horrendous situation. The landlords have come out
and shown their greed even for the greatly needed "Mom
and Pop" stores. We are actively concerned with tne plight
of these small business people.
John F. Bringrrian
Executive Director
Concerned Citizens
" .
Save Money Ttlis Winter!
Start-to-finish services at
reasonable prices'from NY's citywide
nonprofit energy conservation experts.
call 675-1920

5 CITY LIMITS/December 1982
Short Term Notes
Mr. WilSOn Comes to
A
FTER THREE STRAIGHT
years of fire from the real estate
lobby's heavy artillery, rent control ad-
vocates in Washington have managed to
hold off federal measures geared toward
penalizing cities with rent regulation. But
the lull is only temporary, for this year's
election results foretell at least one major
new strategist entering the fray during the
1983 Congressional session-and not in
the tenants' ranks. Meanwhile, more
localized guerilla campaigns against rent
and eviction protections are going strong.

On the national front, tenant advocates
in Washington are not-so-anxiously
awaiting the arrival on Capitol Hill of San
Diego's Mayor Pete Wilson, Senator-
elect and champion of American property
rights. With this newest Republican big
gun from the West comes the promise of
future Federal attacks on local rent con-
trol, if his record is any indication.
Two years ago, Wilson led the suc-
cessful efforts to defeat a referendum on
instituting rent control in his hometown.
In that campaign he warned that violating
the free housing market would make San
Diego look like the South Bronx. A hon-
cho in President-elect Reagan's urban
policy transition team, Wilson strongly
advocated the denial of federal housing
and community development aid to cities
with rent regulation. Several variations
on that theme have surfaced in the halls of
Congress in recent years. Since these in-
itiatives all either narrowly lost or simply
died with the housing bills to which they
were attached (and since the members of
Congress who are actually willing to de-
fend rent protections on their merits
could caucus in a Capitol Hill phone
booth), tenant observers are jittery about
the damage an eager, nationally known
figure Wilson may inflict.
CITY LlMITSlDecember 1982

While that national battle continues
local tenant organizations remain locked
in their smaller, but equally epic struggles
against property owners determined to
defeat community-based rent control
campaigns. Such determination was
detailed in a recent issue of Multi-
Housing News, a national trade publica-
tion for realtors and builders. In it, an ar-
ticle headlined "Low-Key, Broad-Based
Action Can Conquer Rent Control"
documented the remarks of two avid rent
control foes at a National Association of
Home Builders seminar on the subject.
The seminar, entitled, "Rent Control:
Fighting It, Surviving It," was moderated
by Madison, Wisconsin realtor Norman
D. Flynn who, MH News reported, ex-
horted his colleagues to "become
politically active" in the quest against rent
protections. According to the article,
"flynn pointed out that political action
can work to overcome rent control, and
can prevent it."
To illustrate his point, Flynn cited a
. successful campaign to lobby the local
city council against a rent control initia-
tive in Madison. "Any city council can be
lobbied if its done cooly and shrewdly,"
he reportedly urg¢ the crowd. "If you
spend the time and energy, you will win 99
out of 100 times," he added.
The realtor was reported as following
that assessment with a description of his
"Committee for More and Better Hous-
ing," Madison's anti-rent control coali-
tion of "major lenders, the chamber of
commerce, realtors, property managers
and industry owners along with builders
and developers." Notably, the very first
strategy point this coalition adopted in
Flynn's words, was that" A low profile is
important. Owners and managers have a
bad reputation and must avoid a self-
serving image."
6
The strategist was quoted later in the
article, however, bolstering that image,
ominously instructing his charges: "You
must understand your opponents'
background. Find out who their friends
are. We have a file on each council
member."
How low-key can you get? 0
Tim Ledwith
What Reagan is Doing
to Housing
Two good analyses by housing ac-
tivist/author Chester Hartman have been
published recently. "Housing Allow-
ances: A ' Bad Idea Whose Time Has
Come" appeared in the November/
December Working Papers, and the
housing chapter of the recently issued
book, "What Reagan is Doing to Us"
give a good perspective on what new'
federal housing policy has been hatched,
and what is on the way. For reprints of the
articles, send a self-addressed stamped
envelope (20¢ for" Allowances", 37¢ for
the chapter or both) to Chester Hartman,
Institute for Policy Studies; 1901 Q
Street, N.W., Washington, D.C.
20009.0
. Correction
In the November, 1982, issue of City
Limits, in the article "A Wary Public
Examines the Plan," the following
paragraph should have read:
Gerges said that housing around a
similar facility developed and operated
by the same developer, Universal Oil
Products-U.o.P.-in Chicago, has
been abandoned and is being torn
down. 0
waste luming Delayed
T
HE FUTURE OF THE PRO-
posed $300 million resource
recovery plant planned for the Brooklyn
Navy Yard remained in limbo following
the October 28 Board of Estimate
meeting when Mayor Koch withdrew bids
for three contracts totaling $560,000 to
underwrite work there.
The contracts had been repeatedly laid
over at the board for several months. The
day before the board meeting, hundreds
of residents of the Jewish Hasidic com-
munity in Williamsburg, which opposes
the recovery plant, demonstrated outside
City Hall against the project.
Koch's action came after he was unable
to hold City Comptroller Jay Goldin to
a vote in favor of the project, and, there-
fore, lacked a majority to pass the con-
tracts.
In a statement, explaining the with-
drawal, punctuated with angry innuen-
does, the mayor said: "We do not have
the necessary votes to pass" these con-
tracts now .. " but the Brooklyn landfill
must close in 1985. "That's why we ad-
vocate this plant."
Referring to the Hasidirn's pressure
against this project at the Navy Yard Site,
he added, "I am sure -that Jay Goldin's
decision will make him more popular in
the Williamsburg community," where
the Hasidirn live.
In response, Goldin, who had voted six
times for earlier contracts for the recovery
plant, said the mayor was "wrong" to try
to build the plant in the "heart of the
most densely populated area in
Brooklyn."
Referring to the city's proposal for'
building in his 'densely populated, im-
pacted neighbOl hood," Rabbi Chaim
Stauber, a leader of the Hasidic group,
said, "We came down to city hall to pro-
test beeause this is not a clear-cut sanita-
tion issue. It has much broader implica-
tions ... Why," he also asked, "do they
want to build this 1 00 yards from our
homes? The community would be up-
rooted. There is no fail-safe system."
This community is currently building
homes priced between $250,000 and
$300,000 on vacant urban renewal land
adjacent to the proposed site.
At October 28 Board oj Estimate. meeting.
If constructed, this plant would be one
of at least ten new installations around the
city to handle the near crisis garbage load.
At this site, the city had proposed to burn
the garbage to produce stearn which Con
Edison planned to purchase.O S.B.
Historic' Designation for Sandy Ground
After more than a decade in the at-
tempt, residents and friends of Staten
Island's Sandy Ground have succeeded in
attaining historic designation for the area,
one of the nation's oldest free black com-
munities. As of November, Sandy
• Ground was listed in the National Regis-
ter of Historic Places.
The designation lent hope to residents
who fear the community's historic char-
acter may be violated by encroaching
development in the borough's southern
region (see "Staten Island's Sandy
Ground Holds On To History," City
Limits, June/July, 1982).
The national registry does not prevent
new construction on the site, but it will
force developers to provide complete ar-
chaeological and historical records about
any land they plan to use. Residents ex-
7
pressed hopes that these provisions would
discourage developers from building in
the immediate area.
Meanwhile, the Sandy Ground
Historical Society, the major advocate of
the community's preservation, is pro-
ceeding with its attempt to obtain city
landmark status, which would guarantee
more comprehensive development
restrictions.
The history these efforts are geared
toward preserving started in the middle-
19th century, when Sandy Ground was
first settled by oystermen and their
families who left the Chesapeake Bay
region because of laws enacted to restrict
their trade. They flourished by fishing in
the then-rich Prince's Bay and the Arthur
Kill waters, providing an early example of
black economic development and in-
dependence in America.O T.L.
CITY LlMITS/December1982
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Fallout
on
St. Felix St.
After five years of community con-
troversy and negotiation, a major,
federally-subsictized housing cons truction
project for low and moderate income
people finally broke ground this fall in
downtown Brooklyn, But on October 28,
part of the plan, which calls for the crea-
tion of% units of "infill housing" built in
the vacant lots on three Fort Greene
blocks, came tumbling down-literally.
That afternoon, workers were in the
process of reinforcing the foundation of a
building adjacent to one of the excavated
lots when, as project developer Abraham
Shnay put it, they "heard the building
creaking." The workers scrambled away
from the site, and several hours later an
entire rear section of 39 Saint Felix
Street's foundation toppled into the adja-
cent hole (see photo).
The three-story brick row house, which
had been renovated over the last several
months and was about to be occupied
after years of vacancy, was closed off, as
was an adjoining occupied home that was
structurally weakened by the shock.
Despite 39 Saint Felix's precarious ap-
pearance, Shnay said, " The odds are we'll
probably be able to save it." The
developer added that the underpinning
procedure which sparked the collapse was
"routine" and speculated that "the
building had some severe structural pro-
blems." ,
In any case, the hapless renovators of
number 39 and other street residents ex-
pressed hopes that Shnay's optimism was
justified. 0 T.L.
CITY LlMITS/December1982
Rear view oj dama;e ,to St. Felix Street building.
Companies Sue for Transit Tax
The saga of the real estate transit
tax---=--a now-defunct measure that was
designed'to subsidize. the city's mass tran-
sit system by taxing the sale of high value
commercial buildings-continued in No-
vember on three fronts: two companies,
due refunds from the tax's retroactive
repeal last spring after a: spectacularly
short lifespan, sued the city for $600,000
they paid under the measure; transit of-
ficials cited a shc)J:tfall in tax revenue they
had hoped to collect over the last year,
and prepared for early December negotia-
tions to raise fares; and the Governor-
elect expressed hope that the transit tax
might be reinstated next year.
The two companies suing for refunds,
KMGA, Inc. and Marvella, Inc., were
among the 58 individuals and corpora-
tions that paid about $9 million under the
transit levy, which lasted from October,
1981 toApril, 1,982, and taxed the capital-
gains (Profits) on commercial property
sales above $1 million. City officials
acknowledged (hat none of the refunds
due under the tax's unusual retroactive
8
repeal had yet been paid. "The [state]
Legislature will have to go back and pro-
vide a means of making the refunds,"
Finance Commissioner Philip Michael
told the New York Times.
Meanwhile, the board of the Metropol-
itan Transportation Authority examined
the effects of a $250 million gap in tax
revenues from a series of transit-
financing measures passed along with the
doomed property tax back in 1981. One
member told the media he hoped the tran-
sit fare could be kept under a dollar.
And providing the month's one glim-
mer of hope for transit riders and ac-
tivists, Governor-elect Mario Cuomo,
who had cited the transit tax's fall as an
example of real estate industry influence
during the Democratic primary' and
general election campaigns, said during
an interview on the Cable News Network:
"Oh, I'd like to see them [ s t a t ~ legislators]
pass the capital-gains tax."
Transit tax advocates could only hope
that Cuomo's good intentions would not
be derailed in Albany. 0 T.L.
Adds to Its i
A UNIVERSITY WHICH
.,.....,. ,... has been gobbling up
buildinls, sinaIe-room-
._.JpcIs, and shops to pursue its
CXi-.Pt'_ policies in Manhattan's
*1IlIliI.* He;pts mend its ways and
__ to the needs to .the

.,mat Columbia University,
___ tax-exempt property
._:."t. York City and owner of
of all residential
..... ia Momiopde HeiJhts, claim-
ed. • pdlased a SRO
hOreI.: _Carlton Residence at 362 River-
.. OrMand West 1'*h Street, in order
to it into a student dormitory.
Oreg Fusco, vice-president
of CMDm.mity affairs' at Columbia, the
UDivQty bas "chanaed the way it ap- .
proacbei this kind of question" since
Sovern became president of Col-
UI1iNJwo years. ago. Previous building
inflamed community feeling
aaaiiist Cblumbia, which did not consult
. neiahborhood residents before forging
ahead to add to its domain.
This time around, the institution faces
elected officials and community residents
Nuevo Is
& NOTHER GROUNDBR£AKING
4tbat brought ten years of planning
aDd w.- to a close last month quietly
. toot place just below Houston Street on
die Lower East Side. Bulldozers leveled
die last remainina "njldinp on the site
where 172 units of new housina called
PUIbIo Nuevo will rise alona Stanton
sa.. bordered by Ridae and Pitt. The
.,.of this project, conceived as replace-
IDCiDt bousina for low income residents
IiviDa in the urban renewal area's rickety
tenemeGts, has been one of community
itcadflStDeSS in the face of financial set-
bKb and sownune"tal obstruction.
11Ie reot-subsidized apartments were
oriaiDaIly desipcd as sinJIe rows on each
of six stories alonJ elbow shaped cor-
who are deta'mined to
into makina a contributiOa -to the
neiShborbood's desperate need for
affordable bousina. Support of CoIwn-
bia's purchase of tbeCarllon wiD not be
atanted. they contcDd, unless CoIQmbia
rese.-ves lO perWDt of die hotel for low
and moderate income
auarantees the 18 remainiq tenants can
Slay; promises. their rents .. remain
under rent srablli,.tion lIr.:ftbt control;
and COIT_ d die buildiDI
includina cPt
Assembl)$Ul Edward ... d
the SRO T.-rs' Ri.Pts in
fact, are reqUCltinaafuU
Carlton, which has 260 -.adIs and moe
apartments, be reserved for low and
moderate income housing.
Accordina to Paul Selden, on the steer-
ing committee of the SRO Tenants'
Rights Coalition, ''The issue for us is the
destruction of low income hous-
ing ... Columbia has such a horrible
. record in the past, that if they've turned
over a new leaf, they should do it respon-
sibly. We don't feel that lettina 28 tenants
stay on is an indication of responsibility. "
ridors. There was a hefty dose of three-
and four-bedroom units to accommodate
the larac famities whole homes were
demolished, most of them a decade 189 •
The plan, which offered Ught, ventilation
and space, in COIltrast to much subsidized
bousina, was slowly whittled awalt. by
housing bureaucrats citina flSClll and
replatory COIIStraints. Eventually the
take-it-or-1eave-it offer to the community
was a standard pubic bousiDs box, with
more, but far smaller apartments. When
the City PIannina Ovnmission passed the
project in its fiaal review in· 1980, some
members noted that it was only die deter-
mination of the community to have some
decent bousin& that prevented them from
rejecting the admittedly flawed desian.
9
Jf Columbia the Cartton fl'Olll
ct.!veloper Lew F.ptterman, president of
the Next City .. who has COD-
verted several West Side SRO's to luxury
housing, it is reneaing on its PFOIIIiIIe
made a year ago to the community _ it
would buy no more SRO's, sail _
Kappner, chairman of the TenaJiI M-
viSory Board. composed of
Heights residents and Columbia offidak.
Kappner, also former chairman Of

"the board was not informed by COlumbia
of its prosPective purchase of the Carlton,
but gained wind of the plans from the
IegisJators.
Fusco, who contends the promise of
buying no more SRO hotels was a
"misunderstanding," said Columbia was
willing to concede to the community's
demands except for the provision few 20
percent low and moderate inc<>qJe hous-
ing.
The university did not intend' to buy
any more SRO's beyond the cartton, he
added. "But, six months ago we didn't
think we'd be buying this one."[J
Sbaron Md)onliell
Fortunately, while undid
the innovative plan, it coUldn't diSiltusion
the community that hatched it. The
Pueblo Nuevo Housing and Develop-
ment Association continued to
press for neighborhood improvementS •. as
weD as construction of housina that
gave the group its focus. For more than
ten years the persistence and doggedness
of board members Nestor Cortijo,
Donny Canaelosi and others, past
and present l>lanning directors Kay
Crampton, Lisa Kaplan, Dan GutmlD,
Dennis Boody and a host of orpnizers
made it possible for the community to
bold on against a disinterested and often
hostile bureaucracy.
By late spring Pueblo Nuevo expects to
open its doors to its f1l'st tenants.D T.R.
,CITY LIMITSIDecember 1982
T
HE MAYOR'S CONTROVER-
sial program for artists' housing in
the Lower East Side has passed one
obstacle and will probably be heard at the
Board of Estimate at the beginning of the
new year. The plan was approved by local
community board #3, in late October,
despite a no vote on the plan by the
board's housing committee and two pre-
vious full board votes to reject the plan as
formulated.
The board meeting on October 26th,
was characterized by bitter debate and
accusations, reflecting the intensity that
has grown around the artists' home own-
ership program in area. The plan has
become another fierce battleground in the
struggle between low and middle income
people, and between the organized Jewish
community mainly located below Grand
Street and Hispanic and Black residents
and their supporters.
The city's plan would construct 120 ar-
tist cooperatives out of abandoned city-
owned tenements. The lofts would sell for
approximately $50,000. Renovation of
the buildings on two sites, East Eighth
Street and Forsythe Street, would be
heavily aided by federal Community
Development loans. Five artist groups
will develop 51 units in seven buildings,
and two developers will build 69 spaces in
nine buildings.
Following its community board ap-
CITY LIMITS/December 1982

proval, the plan moved quickly to the
City Planning Commission which heard
day-long testimonies on November 10th.
The Commission is due to decide by mid- .
December.
An article in the October issue of Oty
Umits, "Artists' Housing: Promise or
Threat?" described the dilemma created
as artists and low income residents com-
pete for housing and resources. The Koch
administration plan has sharpened
already growing frictions.
Com ",unity residents offered these
arguments in opposition to the project at
the hearings:
• The real need in the community is
for housing for low income families.
Previous plans for the same buildings,
proposed by local community groups,
were rejected by the city.
• The project will cause a wave of sec-
ondary displacement, as upscale develop-
ment drives rents upwards. This gentri-
fication process is already rapidly under-
way in the area yet, no city plans to retain
affordable housing have been made.
• The plan would use an extraordin-
arily high level of subsidy for the creation
of middle income housing. It calls for
$3.5 million of Participation Loan
Funds, 14 percent of the city's entire
budget for that program. The subsidy per
co-op is $30,000, two-and-one-half times
the $12,000 cap the city places on other
10
Pro.jectS. . .. ....:011
• There bas bei:D noaffinnative_w
markdina for the project despite
neishbortiood'. OYetWbelmingly
World makeUp •
• The CoDunullity·s attempts &0
modlf)I the to present altematiw
plans and sites. beeD totally ipored
since 1980 when tlie plan was first pro.
opponents said that the moat
pUina bas beaD1IIe
speed with which it bas raced alona, &lid
the apparent doged «votion the ...,.
and the housing departmeIlt have given it.
That pace and backiaa is in marked COIl·
trast to the slugish trek of low incoaw
projects proposed for the same 8'N&t
many of which have fallen by the wayside
due to lack of funds Or po8tiaIl backina·
lkfore the community board vote, an
ArtiSts' Speakout" was beld bY a group
opposed to the plan called Artists for
Social Responsibility. There, the Lower
Manhattan Loft Tenants,the Foundation
for the Community of Artists, as well
other individual artists spoke against the
plan. Several of the artists who are par.
ticipating in the C(K)p proposal spatte as
well in a vain attempt to convince the
community that their presence and proj·
ect was not a threat. Some- participalits
suuested further taIks aimed at rmeting a
compromise.
Although a majority of the community
board members from the East Side north
of Grand Street remained opposed to the
project, some others who had voiced
earlier opposition chaqed their positon
at the last minute. Andrew Korothy,
director of the Boys Oub. whose organi·
zation was awarded a building
at a low purchase price two days after the
vote, said he had come to realize the pro.
jeer was in the best interests of the com-
munity. He denied any link between the
city award and his vote switch.
As it headstoward a conclusion, thear.
tists' housina pregram may prove to be a
decisive battle in the rCal estate war 11MtI.
ing the Lower East Side.oT.R.
>WI_1i figt
nItion .... ..
""-hubs in 1981. ... a
prime tarpt, n,q IS it does iD-the lace
of free market Siace thaD.
America's 3;1 IlilIiOB ........
tenants have sta(ted to feel the financial
CI1IDdl, in the fqrm of ctedinina services
ad "600,000 of
'-DtI Jive the domain of the NeW
\Wit Cty Housina Authority, which
recently lost and is DOW appeaIina a legal
to federal housina
for rent and ocher ten-
ant 10 help rill the
void III the meantime, no rent hikes are
".in8tituted in the New York aty
systetn, thouih tenants and management
alike- frJ:e an uncertain t'inaacial future.
The seeds of .the rift between federal
and local housing officials were by
department of Housing and UrJ?an
Development regulations issued in July of
this year. The new measures, which were
slated to take effect on August I, stipu-
lated that the nation·s 2,800 public hous-
ing authorities should raise rents from 25
of tcoaIlts' annual income to 30
percent over five years. Under the HUD
ObItr, WIdch reflected housing legis18tion
pIisIed in Cooaress last ' year, new public
tenants would immediately pay
ren't at the 30 percent rate, and present
residents would pay 27 percent this year.
The federal edict would also alter the cur-
rent definition of "income" which serves
as a basis for rents; tenants would no
longer be allowed to deduct work-related
expenses from the annual tally.
LoCally, the rent increases and income
restrictions were stalled when the housing
authority and Legal Aid Society filed a
suit in Federal District Court to prevent
them. based on HUD's alleged pro-
cedural shortcomings. "HUD regula-
tions are supposed to call for a 30 day
period for tenants' review and
comment," said Roy MetalIf, a housing
authority spokesman. "'That's the legal
point here."
But Federal Judge Mary Johnson
Lowe didn't see the point. Her early
November decision acknowledged that
the rent hikes might -cause "irreparable
harm" to indMdual tenants, but declared
that federal officials had not violated
govemment procedures or tenants' con-
stitutional rights, and so cleared the way
for the new rules to take effect.
Metcalf -said the Lowe ruling was being
appealed in the US Court of J\ppeaIsand,
pending a decision there, "no rent in-
creases have yet been instituted for
anybody" in the New York City system.
Even in the event of the appeal's failure,
Metcalf added, uncertainty will still sur-
round the issue. The prospect of re-
fIgUring rents for all 170,000 households
in the projects poses "an enormous ad-
ministrative problem, at I/)est," Metcalf
lamented.
"Hurts The Working Poor"
While the new federal rules' eventual
implementation is considered highly pro-
bable, even by their opponents, the legal
holding action now in progress reflects
fundamental between
federal public housing policy-makers and
local officials and residents; the latter two
groups having been thrust into an alliance
of sorts by the federal squeeze. While
Reagan Administration plans call for
eventually selling off much of the public
housing stock and, where that isn't possi-
ble, raising rents closer to market levels,
New York officials emphasize the impor-
tance of maintaining the projects' stabili-
ty by attracting and keeping "upwardly
mobile," working families. And current
authority rents, which still average about
$150 a month, provide no small attrac-
tion. Of the impending federal changes
affecting income and rent calculations,
Metcalf said: "This really hurts the work-
ing poor. Who knows? Maybe they'd be
better off going on welfare."
Leslie McHenry, who heads the
Parkside Houses Tenants Association in
11
.... lPdt speo""k4.
,*0 .HUD regulations miaht have
from suspidons that public hous-
mg restdents don't repQrt their income
honestly. While some tenants undoubted-
ly do fail to accurately refXlJ'l family in-
come, she said, "The vast majority of .
tenants in public housing are honest, and
I don't feel it's right to penalize
everybody for the wrongdoings of a
few." As for the new rules' potcmtial ef-
fect, McHenry added: "Those people
who are complying honestly, I see them
getting hurt."
"Next Ilia Hardie"
Regardless of the rent dispu..,' fiaaI.
OUtcome, the projects' fmancial f*ture
makes clear that somebody is bound to
get hurt. Operating subsidies and moder-
nization funds traditionally providtclby •
the federal government were cut this rJSC81
year, and the subsidies arrived nine
months late, draining the authority's
reserves. Already, the cuts have resulted
in some service cuts, including less fre-
quent painting and refrigerator replace-
ment. But on t'talance, spokesman Met-
calf observed, "For fiscal '83, we didn't
do too bad in Congress. At least we didn't
get devastated like we thought we would.
The next big hurdle win be fiscal '84."
Barring any dramatic moves in Con-
gress, the prospects fot · public housing
next year are dispiriting. The budget win
contain no funds for project moderniza-
tion (which has been used in New York to
renovate basic building systems, in-
cluding the high rises' chronically trou-
bled elevators), new construction or "Sec-
tion 8" rent subsidies, which- are to be
replaced by a rent voucher system with
fewer tenant protections. And next year's
limited federal support will come in the
form of block grants, placing greater
political pressure on local housing
authorities.
Therein lie the New York City Housing
Authority's less idealistic motives for op-
posing federal policy. As resources dwin-
dle and services decline further, project
residents are bound to be prompted
toward increased tenant organizing.
Already, there is widespread dissatisfac-
tion about the use of rent hikes to com-
pensate for the loss of government com-
mitment. Said McHenry of Parkside
Houses: "There has got to be a better
way." O Tim Ledwith
CITY LIMITS/December 1982
By Jim Sleeper
It was a housing activist's dream: five thousand
"grassroots" people standing together on inner city land
hitherto ",planned" only for urban shrinkage, a vast prairie
stretching just beyond the edge of a housing project, a
church, an under-utilized school, a park; five thousand peo-
ple;- mostly black and low income, holding hands with the
mayor, city council president, housing commissioner, and .
borough president, focused together in the peculiar concen-
tration of prayer as a minister intones, "Be Thou unto us a
tower of strength to those who would put obstacles in our
path." Five thousand people chanting thunderously,
"Mayor Koch, We Love New York! Carol Bellamy, We
Love New York! Howard Golden, We Love New York!"
and breaking into triumphant cheers as a bulldozer roars,
breaking ground for the flTst four models of more than
owners making 516-20,000 a year.
A housing activist's dream, except that in East Brooklyn
in late October, where the dream came true, there were no
housing activists present, no veterans of the city's communi-
CITY LIMITS/December 1982
12
ty housing movement on the speakers' platform or in the
crowd. Yet there was Mayor Koch, reaffirming the city's
commitment to assemble and convey the fourteen square
blocks to East Brooklyn Churches absolutely free of cbarae;
to assume the costs of street, sewer, and other infrastructure
repair; to give each home a direct SIO,OOO Community .
Development subsidy; and to grant new owners the fullest
tax abatement possible. And there' was I.D. Robbins, the
builder and curmudgeonly columnist so often critical of the
commUnity housing movement, on retainer with EBC as
chief consultant, staking his reputation on the project's suc-
cess.
Community Boards? A year had elapsed since EBC
leaders had handed Borough President Golden their resigna-
tions from those bodies where so many worthly housing in-
. itiatives are sandbagged. EBC deals directly with the mayor
and his commissioners. No community board would play
politics, in any case, with the hundreds if not thousands of
determined people the churches could bring out to ULURP ,
hearings if necessary.
There were more surprises. For the first time in a good
while, at least in this observer's memory, community people'
were dealing with politicians from a eaI strength that left
room for courtesy toward the politicians as individuals. As
if in a civics text come to life, the people here were instruct-
ing their elected representatives, not the other way 'round.
Housing commissioner Anthony Gliedman was introduced
portentously as the one "who has the power to create red
tape or cut it, to clog the way or clear it." The only outright
muscle-flexing carne from Tom Chadwick, president of
EBC's parish council of 42 local churches, who quipped,
"We have all the big leaders here. Big deal!" to general
laughter and applause. Even the "big leaders" chuckled
amidst the general goodwill.
The most challenging observations came from Celina
Jamieson of EBC, who emphasized that the organization's
Nehemiah Plan, named for the biblical prophet who rebuilt
Jerusalem, is only part of an agenda that transcends hous-
ing. "It should be clear that EBC is bigger than anyone can
imagine," she cried. "We are more than a Nehemiah Plan,
we are about the central development of dignity and self-
respect. All our projects, including Nehemiah, are only a
means toward that end." Jamieson reminded her listeners
that EBC's track record, credibility and growth have had lit-
tle to do with housing so far; smaller but important vic-
tories, like cleaning up local food stores, securing hundreds
of new street signs, spurring the renovation of Highland and
Betsy Head parks, and cleaning vacant lots have taught peo-
ple the importance of working together in what even the
meekest of the pastors involved call a "power
organization. "
o "We are an organized and powerful people of God!"
i2
..: thundered Pat Ottinger of the Quee s Citizens Organization,
~ which brought a large, mostly white delegation to the rally.
'"
§ Like EBC, QCO works with the Industrial Areas Founda-
~ tion, founded by Saul Alinsky, to train community leaders
5 for extensive organizing; the Queens group turned out more
~ than two thousand middle class homeowners and tenants for
@ a gubernatorial primary debate between Ed Koch and Mario
Cuomo last summer, a fact the mayor must have
remembered as he sat listening to Ottinger in Brownsville.
"Our trip to Brooklyn today has reinforced our belief thai
there is no boundary between us," she cried. "We are all
one neighborhood, one great city. Your struggles are OUf
struggles. Your heartaches are our heartaches. Your victories
are OUf victories." One couldn't help wondering whether
Koch and Bellamy, who divide their time among hostile con-
stituencies, were accustomed to hearings words like these
backed up by such numbers.
Our Roots Are Deep Roots
As if no sacred cow of the community housing movement
were safe, EBC chair Rev. Johnny Ray Youngblood took up
the term "grassroots" and ripped it apart. "Contrary to
common opinion, we are not a grassroots organization," he
intoned with a magical, preacherly persuasion that seemed
to summon its strength and "Amens" from the intestines of
his listeners. "Grass roots grow in smooth soil. Grass roots
are shallow roots. Grass roots are tender roots. Grass roots
are fragile roots. Our roots are deep roots. Our roots are
tough roots. Our roots are determined roots. The roots of
EBC have fought for existence in the shattered glass of East
New York, in the blasted brick and rubble of Brownsville, in
13
The Nehemiah Plan:
Size and Costs
Project Dimensions
This first phase of the Nehemiah Plan consists of 1,000
row houses, with 70 per square block on a total of 13 square
blocks. Each house will be two stories with basements and
pitched roofs, containing two or three bedrooms. The two-
bedroom houses are 1,000 square feet; three bedroom units
will be 1,200 square feet. The homes will be small, measur-
ing 16' x 30'. They will have brick fronts, firewalls and air
conditioner sleeves. There will be off-street parking and
three-step stoops.
Project Costs
The first crop involves 250 homes. The cost to the buyer is
expected to be $40,000 for a two-bedroom home. The low
price reflects a no interest construction loan from the
churches which will yield a seven percent savings. The land,
given by the city, is free. The city is also not charging for
removing landfill for the excavations. Other savings result
from the large scale of the plan and the soft costs - ar-
chitects, lawyers and consultants - who are performing
for a third of thdr normal fees.
The actual mortgage is $25,000 - the cost less a $5,000
down payment and $10,000 no interest loan from the city.
The group is expecting to bring in mortgages at ten percent.
These will either come via the Stae of New York Mortgage
Agency (SONYMA), tbe city's Housing Development
Corporation (which needs legislation to permit it to sell
bonds on Nehemiah's behalf) or else a consortium of in-
surance companies. The grand total should yield monthly
carrying charges of $300 to $400 per home. The project is
being totally planned, designed and marketed by East
Brookl Churches.O J.S.
CITY LI M ITS/December 1982
the devastation of central Bushwick. Our roots are deep in
this city. And so we say to you, Mayor Koch, We Love New
York!"-and onward, the crowd roaring as one. It was a
funeral for planned shrinkage and the fashionable cynicism
and despair which give it credibility.
* * * * *
Well, all right, there is this $12 million capital pool for no-
interest construction loans, put up by the national parent
bodies of east Brooklyn's churches. And, yes, there was the
muscle of Bishop Francis J. Mugavero, the extraordinarily
compassionate and far-sighted leader of Brooklyn's 1.5
million Roman Catholics. He got EBC its audience with
Koch last spring when the city was presented with the
Nehemiah proposal. But each of these powerful interven-
tions still comes back to the remarkable organizing effort
which made the bishop and the heads of the other domina-
tions pay heed. "Why haven't the churches done anything
like this before now?" asked one housing activist. Why, in-
deed, have they done it now? '
Two important answerS,come to mind, and, for housing
activists, they both seem worth pondering. The first has to
do with the claim that "church roots" are deeper than the
"grassroots" of some radical rhetoric. While the community
housing movement has often made alliances with the "pro-
gressive" clergy of certain local churches, it has generally
failed to effect the full marriage that trust in the people
might advise. EBC is different, then, first, because its vision
comes in part from the religious devotion of political
Inoderales. The' Rev. John Heinemeier of East Brooklyn's
Lutheran Church of the Risen Christ, a progressive with
strong ties to the community housing movement, emphasizes
that his denominational parent body, the Missouri Synod of
the National Lutheran Church, is theologically conservative
by any standard. Yet it was the Missouri Synod which sent
its leaders to Brooklyn for discussions and a tour, and which
made the first substantial commitment, of $1 million, to the
interest-free loan pool. "I'd say that for them this commit-
Reverend Johnnie Ray
Youngblood, pastor oj
St. Paul's Community Baptist
Church and EBC chairman.
ment is the biblical 'cup of cool water,' the message of
Jesus tnat if we find someone without shelter or food, we
should help," he explains. "The basic Gospel imperatives
are at work in the Missouri Synod."
Organizing for Family and Church
Ed Chambers, who took over the Industrial Areas Foun-
dation after Saul Alinsky's death, 'has written that "organiz-
ing for family and congregation" is the only way most
Americans can tap their own deepest strengths and loyalties.
In poor neighborhoods, particularly, the church is often the
only institutional structure of unconditional caring and trust,
a midnight fastness of life amid the blasted brick. But
Chambers cautions that because "we have given over con-
trol of much of our Ijves (including tasks formel"ly exercised
by families) to 'experts' who are only fronts for institutions
of greed and unaccountable power," churches have lost ef-
fective institutional power of their own; without such power,
"families and churches withdraw, backbite, blame each
other, or perhaps experiment with fads-ignoring their
history and strength."
The Builder and the Deacon
By Yvette Moore
In 1977 when former builder-turned-Daily News col-
umnist J.D. Robbins began his printed crusade proclaim-
ing low-cost, owner-occupied row housing as the answer
to New York City's housing problem, a church deacon
friend of mine picked up on it and followed the column
faithfully. And naturally so. Someone was finally saying
what he wanted to hear: that there was a way to build
small homes so that he would be able to afford one.
In a nutshell, Robbins' argument was that for half of
the money and less than half the social problems he said
were created by densely populated high rise apartment
buildings, the city could build new single family owner-
occupied homes and neighborhoods.
Robbins admits that, even with generous subsidies, not
all families would be able to buy a home. But he does not
believe that the government's major tool for affordable
housing, Section 8, was created with low income people
CITY LIMITS/December 1982
14
in mind. "Section 8 was a bail-out scheme for builders,"
he said. It cost the city twice as much to build Section 8
developments than to build row houses and three to four
times more social problems are created.
Another program that earned his wrath was the city's
Community Management program for tax-foreclosed
buildings managed by local community groups. The costs
of the program, he said, are also far too high. It was far
better to build anew.
"There's a law in housing called Robbins law. The true
cost of a house is the cost per year for useful life, " he
said in a telephone interview recently. "If you rehabilitate
a house for $10,000 and it lasts one year, then it costs you
$10,000. If it lasts 10 years then it costs you $1,000.
New owner occupied, low density homes, hold the best
hope 'for the future. As a former builder, he insisted it
could be done, even challenging the city to give him a
2OxlOO foot plot 'on 'the South Bronx's Charlotte Street
This analysis was bound to pastors like
Heinemeier, John Powis, Ernest W ite, and James Spengler
when they began meeting several ye s ago to consider the
problems of East Brooklyn-the more so because they were
attracted by the successes of the Queens Citizens Organiza-
tion, then already working with Chambers and the Industrial
Areas Foundation. "The churches bring the religious values,
and we at IAF bring democratic values," explains organizer
Mike Gecan, whom East Brooklyn hurches hired after a
two-year interim relationship with IAF. The foundation's
message to the churches was at first startling. As Gecan
summarizes it, "We said that you h ve to be able to prove
you're serious about power by raising a lot of money and in-
vesting it in the training of leaders who are in it for the long
haul." You're not just hiring a cou Ie organizers in other
words, but committing yourselves to a way of life that in-
volves empowering a community, the churches were told.
By assessing each of their families $5.00 dues (later raised
to $10.00 as tangible gains were maae), the churches ac-
cumulated $10,000 and convinced eir national parent
bodies to grant a total of more th $100,000 additional
seed money to enable them to ente into a "sponsoring com-
mittee" relationship with IAF over a period of two years.
The money sent the best potential leaders the ministers could
find to weekend and 1O-day training sessions; close to 100
East Brooklynites have now wrestl d with problems of run-
ning meetings, approaching political and institutional leaders
with needs and requests, and organizing public "actions"
and evaluating them. In a kind of ipple effect, the training
continues in dozens of parish and block meetings over the
two-year period, coupled with spe ific organizing efforts
around local issues.
At a recent meeting at St. Barntas Episcopal Church in
East New York, for example, IAF's Stephen Robertson led
ten of the congregation's activists a strategy session for a
dues and recruitment drive based j identifying local
needs. ! .
where he would produce, at his ow expense, a home for
$36,000.
So what about the Section 235 program? Section 235 is
a program in which the federal go ernment subsidizes in-
terests rates when small homes are uilt for families with
moderate incomes ranging from $ 1,000 to $30,000 a year.
Sounds like it would be right up Robbins' alley right?
Wrong. Well, it could have, only t)ecause it's bogged
down with politics and bureaurcracy. Signs announcing
new private homes have been plan ed on Herzl Street in
Brownsville for almost two years ow, but no homes
have come up. "They're not going to come up because they
can't be sold," said Robbins. "Batt planning. They're
small targets."
What slowed down the city, he rote in his column,
was that the hou.5ing department as run by clubhouse .
hacks from Brooklyn.
Which brings us to the last l component of Rob-
Nay-sayers and backsliders are kept out; "It isn't a harsh
personal judgment when that happens," Grecan explains;
"you have to produce by agreed-upon standards. "
The second answer to the question of how churches
became involved, then, moves beyond religious values to in-
tensive training in organizing skills. In over 100 house
meetings, involving perhaps 2,000 people, the search for a
consensus about community needs led at first to concern
over local food store quality. "We isolated ten stores-Key
Food, Consumers, Met Foods, others," Gecan recalls.
"Their managers were pretty scared to see groups of ten
EBC inspectors show up with badges and evaluation forrns
more elaborate than the city's, walking around checking up
on Ifiold, broken merchandise, overpricing, freezers not
freezing, etc. Customers would mill around and join with
the inspectors."
Seven of ten stores signed agreements right away. The
three managers who refused to sign letters of agreement
were invited to an EBC Delegates' Meeting where, before
250 people, they were called down the aisle and told
their stores would be effectively closed down by church
Mike Gecan, Industrial
Areas Foundation
organizer with EBC.
bins theory for small homes and stable neighborhoods.
You've got to think big. A block of nice homes can't
change things.
"Do you know how many buildings were built in New
York City in 1925?"he asked.
"No."
"Guess."
"I don't know. O.K. 1,000."
"100,000 were built in New York City between 1925
and 1926! The next housing boom was in '63 when
60-70,000 houses were built."
And so, when Ed Chambers, director of the Industrial
Areas Foundation, the organizer for East Brooklyn
Churches, read I.D. Robbins' columns it clicked with the
plans of East Brooklyn Churches. They approached Rob-
bins to talk about their plan to build 5,000 homes in East
Brooklyn. Now my deacon friend may just get the house
he's been wanting. 0
15
CITY LIM ITS/December 1982
boycotts if they refused to sign now. All three did, and EBC
completed its fIrst signifIcant victory.
An Investment Pays Off
It was this and other successes with matters of concern to
parish members themselves, combined with the commitment
evidenced in dues-paying and the intensive training with
IAF, which turned the heads of the parent church bodies
when EBC approached them after long talks with developers
like J.D. Robbins about housing. Heinmeier says the Mis-
souri Synod's trailblazing commitment rested, as well, on
close relationships of trust developed with its several pastors
in East Brooklyn over the years. But most of all, it was the
coupling religious values with the exercise of power that im-
pressed church leaders and brought their own power into
play to the point where City Hall felt compelled to respond.
Not surprisingly, a lot of groups have since tried to get a
piece of Nehemiah's action in East Brooklyn. "We've been
approached by solar power people, a congressional housing
committee wanting to hold hearings, even by the American
Enterprise Institute," laughs Gecan. "Some of them want to
show what you can do without government aid, but we
don't want to lend ourselves to that at all. We've got to get
the first houses up and occupied before we can consider any
other proposals; even the good ones, like energy conserva-
tion, are a distraction in the first phase." EBC hopes the $12
million loan pool can be recycled to build a total of 5,000
homes, though the initial commitment with the city is for
1,000 and the first phase involves constructing 250. .
The importance of government's cooperation is clear, not
only from the commitments the city has already made, but
also from the continuing search for a long-term low interest
mortgagor-EBC is shooting for 10 or 11 percent-like the
State of New York Mortgage Agency or the quasi-municipal
Housing Development Corporation, which Commissioner
Gliedman chairs. The city's participation in the project
hasn't been peaches and cream; EBC has held press con-
ferences and rallies at critical moments when the city seemed
to be wavering 011 process matters. Because it saves on "soft
costs" (Robbins and the architect, for example, are working
for a fraction of what the market would bear) as well as
land and interest, EBC expects to out-perform the
city/federal Section 235 program homes, the construction of
which the city administration has long made a point of
pride. The Nehemiah houses are expected to cost $45,000
each, compared to close to $70,000 for 235; could there be
some jealousy on the part of bureaucrats in the city housing
agency? Might the Koch administration lose interest in the
project now that the mayor has lost his gubernatorial bid?
Why didn't the mayor bring more press with him to the
goundbreaking rally last month, missed by all three dailies
and every television station? Why did Commissioner Glied-
man emphasize to this reporter that even 5,000 church
members weren't necessarily fully representative of the East
New York/Brownsville community? Why, during his brief
remarks to the rally, did Gliedman emphasize that Reagan's
cuts left many others in need whom "we dare not forget"?
All these questions would make any housing group edgy,
but, as Rev. Youngblood reminded the people, "Our roots
CITY LIMITS/December 1982
16
are deep roots." AsCelina Jam· eson explained, EBC·is much
bigger than Nehemiah alone; it'is tightly organized and
ready to be mobilized across a broad range of issues growing
from the concerns of committed parish members. EBC can-
not be simply defunded, disenfranchised, and blown away.
To the socialist objection that the Nehemiah Plan rests on
an idiosyncratic contribution of $12 million by church
bodies with limited resources, EBC has this answer· the plan
is the product of religious values and democratic organizing
skills which are replicable, and which are the obviduS
precondition of any more far-reaching transformation of the
nature of capital investment in this country. The agendas of
IAF, EBC, and QCO are clearly agendas of empowerment,
empowerment of the community working people whom
housing activists claim to serve. Just as political strength af-
forded room for a certain courtesy toward public officials at
the October 31st rally, so the assurance of growing economic
power affords room for a certain moderation of rhetoric
which still contains the power to transform. The Nehemiah
Plan brochure concludes:
"This is a free enterprise venture. It has an American
character of local ownership and design. It would raise the
level of local services. It would help scores of thousands of
working and non-working poor who presently live in the
community by introducing a greater mix of homeowners in-
to an area glutted with high-density high-rise structures. It
would be rooted in the biblical thrust of rebuilding the walls
and being rid of reproach-the reproach of living in
devastation, the reproach of poor services, the reproach of
violence and crime, the reproach of people in a state of
siege, the reproach of mainline and local religious bodies on
the defensive rather than envisioning and reconstructing new
cities, new institutions, new communities. It is a mission and '
ministry in the eighties."
So it was that at the October 31st rally, one felt that, 'by
God, the people had spoken. I couldn't just leave the area
after the rally was over, but walked around the rubble
awhile under cloudy skies, diverted by a wild delight. 0
Jim Sleeper is a free lance writer who has covered t h ~
political development of Brooklyn's neighborhoods in
several publications including the North Brooklyn Mercury
and the Village Voice.
Children at the East Brooklyn
groundbreaking
t;gremony on October 3/,
Brownsville: A New Jerusalem Atop the Old
"Ye see the distress that we are in, how
Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof
are buried with fire; come let us build up the
wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a
reproach. . .. But ... they laughed us to
scorn, and despised us and said, What is this
thing that ye do? Will ye rebel against the
king? '
Then I answered them, and said unto
them, The God of Heaven he will prosper us;
therefore we his servants will arise and
build .. . " The Book of Nehemiah 2:17
By Toby Sanchez
F
lYE THOUSAND PEOPLE, REPRE-
senting 40 congregations allied in the
"Nehemiah Plan" of the East Brooklyn
Churches, witnessed an important religious
and historical event in Brownsville on Oct-
ober 31, 1982. Ground was broken for the
first group of 5000 houses which the churches
hope to build in Brownsville, East New York,
Ocean Hill and Bushwick. Just as in the Book
of Nehemiah, people gathered to rebuild a
city that had been destroyed and to show the
political skeptics that it could be done.
It is fitting that the churches chose
Brownsville as their first site. Hailed in the
early twentieth century as "The Jerusalem of
America," the area between Rutland Road
and Junius Street, Pitkin Avenue to Uinden
Boulevard was for many years the site of the
second largest Jewish community in the
United States. In 1866 Charles Brown, a real
estate ,entrepreneur bought four farms from
the descendants of the original Dutch settlers
and broke them up in to 25 x 100 foot lots
(Thirty years earlier John R.
East New York with the hope that
It would nVal New York City as a commercial
and manufacturing center.)

As the transportation system developed in
the eastern end of Brooklyn, thousands of
Jewish immigrants, most of them piece
workers in the needle trades, moved to
Brownsville from the overcrowded Lower
East Side. These early settlers did not displace
anyone, were probably among the 10,000
persons displaced by the construction of the
Williamsburg Bridge and Delancy Street.
They moved into frame house which had
been quickly and cheaply constructed. The
area grew so fast that Jacob Riis called it "a
nasty little slum," in 1899, but the population
explosion had only just begun. In 1900 the
residents numbered 66,000 (up from 29,000
in 1890.) The Williamsburg Bridge opened in
1903; the Manhattan Bridge opened in 1907.
The Canarsie line connected Junius Street
with Manhattan in 1906 and the Seventh Line
was extended to New Lots in 1920. As a result
the population reached 177,605 in 1910 and
304,330 in 1925. Schools, synagogues and
businesses grew apace. Pitkin Avenue the
, main shopping street, had 372 stores its
14 blocks in the 19205, doing $90 million of
business. Its showpiece, Loew's Theatre,
held 3,700 seats and cost $3 million.
The majority of the settlers of what was
now the 26th Ward of Brooklyn were Jewish,
but there were also sizable numbers of Ger-
mans, Irish, Italians, Russians, Poles,
Greeks and Blacks.
As their incomes rose, people moved out to
East Flatbush, Eastern Parkway, Crown
,Heights. After World War II the population
declined steadily, falling to 185,207 in 1958.
as people moved to F1atbush, Canarsie, Mill
Basin, Long Island and Westchester.

The fifties and sixties in Brownsville mir-
rored Melrose, Morrisania, Tremont,
Harlem, the Lower East Side, Cleveland, St.
Louis and other cities. People ran from den-
sity and small apartments before the
minorities arrived. Others ran when they saw
the first dark face. A poorer population in-
herited the aging buildings, but expenses
went up and tenants' incomes did not. Then
came disinvestment, lack of code enforce-
ment, redlining and abandonment. FHA
scandals left the private houses vacant and
vandalized. Twenty-six publicly owned high
rises and some medium rises, mostly low in-
come, provide the only occupied housing in
Brownsville today. Eleven thousand families
look out from 118 public housing buildings
on a sad landscape of lots filled with
broken bricks and shoulder high weeds and a
few still standing vacant buildings. They live
17
in a neighborhood of high unemployment
and high crime, poor health and low voter
participation.
One hundred years after Brownsville's frrst
creation and as it embarks on its second, one
wonders why most of the area was destroyed
rather than periodically renewed. In other
neighborhoods children grow up and move
away, old residents sell or die and are replac-
ed by others, who preserve or replace the
housing. Except for the elevated lines and
Pitkin Avenue, the visible history of
Brownsville has disappeared entirely.

The conventional wisdom has several
things to say about neighborhood change. "I
was the flight of the Jews ... it was the en-
trance of the Blacks ... it was the racist
landlords who, once the minorities came,
milked the buildings until they almost fell
down and then walked away ... it was the
connivance of the City, which didn't enforce
the laws ... it was the insurance companies
which paid off claims without question as the
owners burned the buildings ... it was rent
control and the do-gooders who protected
the tenants and killed the buildings ... it was
the banks that invested in Florida but not in
new boilers in Brooklyn or the Bronx." But
the sociology of cities and the economics of
real estate investment are not the whole
answers. The hopeful, ever-expanding
American economy that led CharleS' Brown
to develop Brownsville in the 19th century
had changed radically by the time the minori-
ty residents arrived. The whole economy of
working class New York was moving away.
This expanding economy created Brownsville
and the other working class neighborhoods
when American industry needed low wage
workers; it destroyed the Brownsvilles when
itreplaced American workers with machines
and with Third World piece workers in no-
tax, no-tariff, no-union zones in other
countries .

Let us hope that the new Brownsville being
created by the East Brooklyn Churches in the
waste lands between the projects will again be
known as a Jerusalem and a Golden Land,
but that this time it does not disappear. And
let us also hope its children have the freedom
, to move up to another class and out of the
area, if they wish, as the first residents did,
but just as importantly, that they find their
old neighborhood so pleasant and varied in
its population, housing and cultural at-
mosphere that they will choose to stay there
because it is a "good" neighborhood. 0
Toby Sanchez works at ANHD and says that
she and her husband "honeymooned" at 394
Christopher A venue, where Nehemiah's first
houses will rise, from 1954-57.
CITY LiMITS/December 1982
Tenants Win $250 Sales Pledge
By Susan Baldwin
• FfER WRANGLING FOR
ftaImost three years over the sales
price for low-cost tenant cooperatives in
its poorer neighborhoods, the city is on
the verge of adopting a policy that will af-
fect the immediate future of some 5,000
low and moderate income residents in
city-owned buildings and could set resale
policy for the next 25 years.
Tenants in buildings enrolled in the
city's alternative management programs
have won the right to purchase their
apartments for $250 free and clear. Fear-
ful that tenants in "hot" real estate areas
might become speculators and make
windfall profits, Mayor Koch has in-
troduced a resale policy to the Board of
Estimate that requires 40 percent of any
profit from buildings where apartments
are assessed at $2,000 or more, to go to
the city.
An alternative proposal, initiated by
the community and sponsored by
three board members, would restrict the
resale price, guarantee an equitable return
to the tenant and nonprofit housing co-
operative, and keep the price within the
range of low and moderate income
buyers. Led by City Council President
Carol Bellamy, the other resolution spon-
sors are Manhattan Borough President
Andrew Stein and City Comptroller Jay
Goldin.
"They're going for the jugular vein
with this 40 percent policy, and if they
push it too hard, the people won't buy
now," asserted Alpage Terrell, a tenant
leader at 4 West 105th Street, a 35-unit
building in the city's tenant interim lease
program. "We never have enough money
for repairs, the larger expenses and oil are
a struggle, and now they're saying if a
tenant sells an apartment for $4,000, he
has to give 40 percent back to the city.
That's too much. We need the money for
the building."
Said Father Thomas Farrelly, pastor at
the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic
Church in Clinton and a long-time urban
renewal fighter on Manhattan's West
Side, "We want the people to stay in the
communities ... , but they will be priced
CITY LlMITS/December1982
But There's A Catch
out if this recapture goes through. The 40
percent should stay in the buildings where
it belongs."
In what is viewed by many as a major
concession to tenants-the $250 price
tag-the mayor has agreed to extend it to
all neighborhoods, including those such
as Clinton and Chelsea in Manhattan
where real estate values are escalating and
where the current battle is focused. He
has also said that other tax-foreclosed
properties in these "hot" areas may enter
alternative management and be sold at
the same $250 price. Skeptics, however,
have expressed doubt as, they claim, it's
who you are and whom you know that
will determine if your building is selected.
Ten-Hour Marathon
The mayor's decision came on the heels
of a ten-hour marathon before the Board
of Estimate October 28 where tenants ap-
plauded the price but found the restric-
tions unacceptable. During that stormy
session, which began at 4 pm and ended at
almost 2 am the next morning, 120
tenants testified in favor of the $250 sales
price but against the mayor's restrictions.
Just past midnight, Deputy Mayor
18
-.
Nathan Leventhal, the architect of the
city's alternative management programs
and the low-cost cooperative plan when
he was housing commissioner, appeared
in the board's chambers and announced
the mayor's concession of the $250 price.
At the same time he urged the approval of
the mayor's 40 percent proposal.
"The mayor's position as of a year ago
was that buildings in areas such as this
area [Clinton) should be sold at market
value," he said, adding, "This represents
a reversal of that decision . . . and so long
as there are . .. sales from tenants to
tenants, the profits should be shared. We
think it's only fair that we should recoup
a portion: 40 percent. That's the ra-
tionale. I hope you will consider this and
the implication of these sales."
As Leventhal finished, one tenant mut-
tered, "We've just been threatened, but
in real nice language."
The deputy mayor made it clear that
the tenants should accept this proposal
and went one step further. He warned
that if this policy were not approved, the
mayor could and would refuse to sell the
buildings to the groups. If this does hap-
pen, the tenants are concerned that their
On November 18th, the Board of
Estimate approved the Mayor's sales
policy. The resolution grants to aU Tenant
Interim Lease and Community Manage-
ment tenants the right to purchase their
apartments at 5250 apiece. The move also
upheld the 40 percent city recapture of
• resales of apartments that are appraised
above 52,000. Auorneys for the tenants
questioned the legality of the move, term-
ing it a tax the city could not lawfully im-
pose. Although the recapture provision
marred the tenants' victory, the finaliza-
tion of the S2S0 price represented the
defeat of administration moves for three
years to oust tenants from marketable real
estate areas. The resale issue appears
destined to wind up in court as the first
apartments are resold. The tenant-
supported resolution lost by only one
vote, 6-5. The failure to gain the votes of
Borough Presidents of either the Bronx or
Brooklyn, where the city has many in rem
buildings, stemmed from a mayoral pro-
mise to those officals that buildings there
would not be appraised above $2,000.
buildings will be sold at auction or
possibly banished to the city's central
management.
The mayor's proposal was laid over to
the November 18 board calendar when
the alternate proposal was first to be in-
troduced. The community represe -
tatives are hoping to get the necessary
votes-six of a possible II-on the board
to postpone this resolution to the
December 2 meeting. Under board rules,
they would need nine votes November 18,
the first time at the board, to win tl)e
resolution. Presently, their proposal only
has the five votes of the three board
sponsors.
"We know the city has budget pro-
blems, but how can it expect to solve them
by squeezing out pennies from us," said
one tired but irate tenant leader at the Oc-
tober 28 meeting. "They need several
hundred millions of dollars. Why don't
they go after the real speculators who get
all tax abatements?"
"We read that the city must raise the
tax abatement from $7 million to $11.5
million on the Woolworth building be-
cause ofa 1977 agreement," said Reuben
Schafer, president of the Strycker's Bay
Neighborhood Council, whose group
represents six TIL buildings awaiting sale.
"If it's powerless to refuse Woolworth,
the city has no right to renege on
agreements made with tenants about their
buildings in 1978."
According to a newly published report
on J-51 abuse by the New York Public Ip-
terest Research Group and Council-
woman Ruth Messinger, Democrat-
Liberal of Manhattan, this program
rewarded owners with $280 million in tax
exemptions and abatements in the fiscal
year, ending June 30, and an additional
$20 million in the current year.
Long-time observers and participants
in this uphill struggle to develop a viable
sale policy cannot fathom where the city
came up with the 40 percent recapture
figure. During the 1979 sales sweepstakes,
the city refused to establish a resale
policy, arguing that it did not want the en-
cumbrance of monitoring its implementa-
tion. In fact, in 1980 when the debates on
this issue resumed, the only board
member and city official who suggested a
recapture price was the comptroller, Jay
Goldin. His proposed bite for the city was
50 percent.
'Shuttle Diplomacy'
Asked where the figure came from,
James McManus, the Democratic district
leader in Clinton who prides himself on
running "shuttle diplomacy" between
Mayor Koch and the community, said, "I
really don't know. Maybe they pulled it
out of the air, although I'm sure they can
back it up with some figures."
Referring to the mayor's proposal
several days before the November 18
meeting, Deputy Mayor Leventhal said
firmly, "It's the mechanism we put in
place to get our share of the profit. It only
applies to apartments appraised for over
$2,000. If the housing company wants to
keep the $250, itcan .... We are giving up
millions of dollars of buildings. We stand
by our proposal." At the October 28 ses-
sion, when asked about the recapture
figure, he suggested that the city had been
somewhat influenced by the city's middle
income Mitchell Lama resale formula.
Meanwhile, one tenant, Ray Vasquez,
who resides at 326 West 17th Street in
Chelsea, an area beset by inflated real
estate and overnight gentrification, said
the tenants' hope for ownership would be
lost under the mayor's recapture plan
because the city, not the tenant, is in-
sisting upon holding the tenants' shares to
the building to scuttle any possible at-
tempts at couldn't even
get a loan this way," he explained, "be-
cause the bank would say there's an en-
cumbrance on the building." D
19
Sales
Policy
Battle
Pre-1972: Housing and Development Admin-
istration - forerunner of Department of
Housing - Preservation and Development -
operates two barely functioning programs for
managing and selling buildings to tenants or
community groups. No uniform sales policy.
Prices range from $50 per unit to $5,000 in
desireable areas.
1972-1977: Foreclosure of private properties
for tax delinquency allows three years of ar-
rears. In 1976, city owns 2,500 residential
buildings; in 1977, 3,500. City's basic tool for
returning buildings to private ownership is by
public auction.
1972-1975: A "Sales Policy of Convenience"
developed by Department of Real Estate Com-
missioner Ira Duchan. Prices are $200 per oc-
cupied unit, $100 for vacant units. At least 40
buildings are approved for sale by Board of
Estimate under this policy. Prices were more
where DRE perceived higher sales value; lower
where nonprofit groups negotiated extensively.
1975: "Policy of Convenience" breaks down:
sales are made on ad hoc baSIS, program by
program, building by building. Sales take
many months to accomplish, are a major pro-
gram hurdle and "administrative nightmare."
CITY LIM ITSIDecember 1982
October, 1977: Logjam eased by a memo of
understanding between RDA Commissioner
Thomas Appleby and Department of Real
Prvperty Commissioner Stephen Fisher. If
valued below $1,000 per unit, HDA sets price;
the administrator selling a given property."
November, 1978: Board of Estimate votes to
resume auctions if stringent regulations for
screening purchasers are instituted.
if above, DRP sells at appraised value. Policy City Limits cover, January, 1980
never formally agreed to by Fisher and never
publicly announced. . ,
January, 1977: City Council votes to reduce
period from three years to one.
HPD selected to over management of resi-
dential buildings.
1977-78: Various studies fault auctions of tax-
foreclosed buildings. Study by Tony Gliedman
and Barbara Elstein shows 59 percent of
buildings sold between 1972 and 1974 never
paid any taxes after sale. Unreleased study by
Planning Commissioner John Zuccotti finds
that four years after real estate auctions, 94
percent of the buildings were.in arrears, 54 per-
cent were eligible for vesting and 44 percent
were no longer viable housing, while 25 percent
paid no taxes at all.
February, 1978: Moratorium voted by City
Council on sale of certain vacant land and
buildings to dampen speculation.
April, 1978: City Planning Commission
outlines no-auction policy in some areas,
restrictions to one- and tWO-family houses in
others.
I
May, 1978: First tax seizure in Manhattan s,ince
change in law triples number of city-owned
buildings to 10,000; 54 percent are vacant.
May, 1978: New head of Direct Sales program
William Smith cites lack of sales policy as bar-
rier to implementation of alternative manage-
ment programs. Noted wasteful, excessive
staff time consumed by negotiations.
August, 1978: Under new Tenant Interim
Lease program, first tenants sign leases to
manage, and eventually buy their buildings as
low income co-ops. Other alternative manage-
ment programs begin as well.
September, 1978: HUD conditions continued
use of federal Community Development funds
for in rem property on vastly increased sales of
buildings.
October, 1978: Comptroller Harrison Goldin
issues audit of Community Management Pro-
gram and requests sales policy. " ... public
outcry behooves HPD to settle the·sales policy
issue once and for all."
October, 1978: Report by HPD's Sales Policy
Working Group, headed by Assistant Com-
missioner Philip St. Georges, proposes new
guidelines: in areas eligible for Community
Development, price should be $100 per vacant
unit, $200 per occupied unit. Suggests a for-
mula in non-CD eligible areas to gear sales
price to tenants' ability to pay. Most buildings
in management and repair programs are in
CD-eligible areas. Sample appraisals of 31
buildings are close to $100/$200 formula.
Report notes that' appraisals are easily
manipulated and are generally used to 'cover'
CITY LIMITS/December 1982
March, 1979: City is now owner of 37,000 oc-
cupied apartments, eight percent of all residen-
tial property in the city.
March, 1979: Board of Estimate unanimously
okays a general sales price of $250 per unit in
CD-eligible areas. Requires HPD approval of
subsequent resale for three years. Some com-
munity groups protest lack of restrictions on
resale voicing fear that some tenants will be
tempted to speculate. HPD responds that $250
per unit is "not a subsidized price," therefore,
"resale restrictions are not appropriate."
August, 1979: Mayor Ed Koch tells heated
Town Meeting in Clinton area he will not per-
mit tenants to buy at $250 and then turn a pro-
fit.
August, 1979: Board of Estimate votes to
resume auctions.
October, 1979: Three TIL buildings on W.
35th St. near site of planned Convention
Center receive HPD letter refusing to sell at
$250 and offering "fair market price." Letter
states: " . . .it is currently HPD policy to sell
city-owned properties located in viable private
market areas at market value. Such value may
be determined by appraisal, public auction, or
other mechanism . ....
December, 1979: Board of Estimate orders
HPD to formulate specific policy regarding
resales. Manhattan Borough President An-
drew Stein cites speculation rumors.
December, 1979: There are 350 buildings con-
taining 8,000 apartments in TIL and Com-
munity Management programs. Sales prospec-
tus for co-ops is snagged between HPD and
state attorney general's office.
February, 1980: Board of Estimate endorses
amendment to March, '79 sales resolution.
Community Management program buildings
have a 15-year resale bar without HPD permis-
sion. Individual tenants sell for original price,
share of building-wide assessments; additional
profit retained by co-op. After three years,
20
tenants get purchase price plus up to $1,500 in
improvements to apartment and up to 30 per-
cent additional profit, if building approves.
TIL buildings can't sell for ten years without
HPD okay. Individual tenants get purchase
price, assessments, documented improvements
and up to 30 percent additional profit with co-
op approval. After two years, tenant may sell
for the above plus 50 percent of profit if co-op
approves. Comptroller Goldin faults policy,
urges city recapture of CD investment; pro-
poses 50 percent of resale profit go to city.
March, 1980: Terms and conditions for sale of
city property at public auction are approved by
Board of Estimate.
May, 1980: Auction sales of vacant residential
properties are resumed.
June, 1980: First five TIL buildings are sold to
tenants for $250 per unit and less.
June, 1981: Washington Heights building sold
for $167,000 at auction. Other properties com-
manding high prices as well.
AugUst, 1981: Strict entrance requirements for
TIL are instituted; buildings must be on stable
blocks in improving neighborhoods and have
ability to reach 85 percent occupancy within six
months.
October, 1981: The eight alternative manage-
ment programs comprise 650 buildings with
15,000 units. The TIL program has 5,800 units.
March, 1982: Eleven Clinton TIL buildings
begin disposition procedure (ULURP) with no
sales tag attached. HPD sales director Monica
McAdams writes to their attorney specifying
sales pricesof$9,500to $13,000 per unit, based
on appraisal. This offer is rescinded, but no
other price is suggested.
June, 1982: Six TIL buildings in Chelsea area
join 12 Clinton buildings in sales pipeline but
without a price tag.
July, 1982: Board of Estimate delays decision
on sale of 12 Clinton buildings and six Upper
, West Side TIL buildings until after the
September gubernatorial primary in which
Mayor Koch is a candidate. City Council
passes resolution backing $250.
September, 1982: Seven fully-occupied Clin-
ton buildings with long-term residents ' are
rebuffed by HPD in attempt to enter TIL pro-
gram.
. October, 1982: Over 300 tenants and sup-
porters at Board of Estimate meeting. Tenants
win $250 sales. pledge from Mayor, and also get
city promise to allow new buildings to enter the
program and ·get $250 price so; however,
Mayor demands 40 percent of resale profits on
apartments appraised at $2,000 and above. A
counter-resolution by City Council President
Carol Bellamy, Goldin and Stein that would
cap resale price, allowing fair return to tenants
for improvements, is tabled.
November, 1982: Alternate resale resolution
fails at Board of Estimate, vote of 6-5. Legal
challenges to new policy vowed by tenant
groups. 0
No Refuge in the Bronx By Julia MacDonnell Chang
Lead paint poisonings strike Indochinese refugees.
W
HBN TANKIM ENG, A YOUNG CAMBODIAN
mother of three, arrived in the ronx last year as part
of a federal effort to aid victims of war. famine and oppression
in Southeast Asia, she came with the promise of political
freedom and economic opportunity. I was a chance to begin
life over again. ,
What Eng did not expect was that her beautiful dark-haired,
dark-eyed son Eng Meng, now 18 months old, would become
poisoned by peeling lead paint in the East 193rd Street apart-
ment in which a federally funded resettlement agency placed
them.
Eng said through a translator that Her son was hospitalized
for two weeks for lead poisoning tr atment during the last
year. But the boy may be just one of an arming number of In-
dochinese refugee children in the nortrwest Bronx who have
been struck in recent weeks by lead po'soning, a known cause
of irreparable brain damage. '
The discovery of lead poisoning in the refugee children
spotlights two little-noticed housing p enomena in New York
City. One is that, in spite of publicity and legislation several
years ago to prevent lead poisoning, it remains a virulent threat
to the city's poor. The poisonings are also dramatic evidence
Copyright 1982 City Limits
that many of the refugees currently being resettled in New ".
York's neighborhoods are being placed in run-down buildings
operated by negligent landlords with inadequate safeguards by
the federally-funded agencies that placed the refugees there.
The Lead Poisoning Epidemic
Ten Indochinese children, most under the age of three, all
living in a single neighborhood, have been hospitalized for lead
poisoning treatment since late July, according to data gathered
by the Lead Poisoning Prevention Project of the Montefiore
Hospital and Medical Center.
At least eight"more such children with high blood lead levels
are being cared for through outpatient clinics, according to the
same data.
"It is an epidemic in this area of the Bronx," said John F.
Rosen, M.D., professor of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein
College of Medicine and creator of the 110spital's Lead Poison-
ing Prevention Project.
The one-year-old project has conducted systematic pre-
screenings ' of children in the neighborhoods surrounding
Montefiore on East 210th Street. In addition, it has monitored
follow-up care, provided education to the families of victims
21 CITY LIMITS/December 1982
and attempted to have lead hazards removed from the child-
ren's apartments.
While the Centers of Disease Control in Georgia derme lead
poisoning as any blood lead level higher than 30 micrograms
per deciliter of blood, Rosen said children with levels three
times that have been found through project tests.
Rosen cautioned, however, that Indochinese children are
not the only recent victims of lead poisoning. Rather, he said,
more than 100 neighborhood children of all races have been
hospitalized for lead poisoning treatment during the past 14
months. Scores more_are being monitored through outpatient
clinics, he said.
Maxine Golub, coordinator of the project, theorized that
the refugee children, because of their poor health when they ar-
rive in the United States, are more susceptible to lead poison-
ing. "If they are nutritionally deficit," she said, "it seems to in-
crease their ability to absorb lead. It is very serious."
Neither Rosen nor Golub would venture a prognosis for the
poisoned children. But Rosen said a single lead poisoning crisis
can result in "impaired intellectual development and a range of
other abnormalities."
Whatever its long-term toll, Rosen called lead poisoning
"entirely preventable."
It is "directly related to housing," he said. Among both
refugees and American-born children, it can be traced to the
same culprit: exposed lead-based paint in residential buildings.
"People who have a decent place to live don't get lead
poisoning," Rosen said.
Placement Agencies
While poor housing is viewed as the chief cause of toxic lead
levels in all of the children, apartment selection for the refugee
families has been entrusted, by the State Department, to a
handful of federally funded voluntary agencies.
Since early 1981, according to State Department records, a
dozen voluntary agencies-so-called "volags" -have received
more than $108 million in federal funds to place some 200,000
Indochinese refugees throughout the country.
The volags receive a federal grant of $525 for each refugee
they resettle. That fee is supplemented by private donations
and by contributions from states and municipalities.
Amdng the volags placing' families in the Bronx are the
International Resc4e Committee (IRq, the Hebrew Immigra-
tion Assistance Service (HIAS) which operates in New York as
the New York Association for New Americans (NY ANA), and
the American Fund for Czechoslovak Refugees (AFCR).
In the 1981 and 1982 fiscal years, according to State Depart-
ment records, IRC received $12.3 million for its national Indo-
chinese resettlement programs; HIAS received $7.4 million
and AFCR received $3.2 million.
Financial records of the national resettlement effort were
readily available. But it could not be determined, through
interviews with numerous federal and voluntary agencies, just
how the northwest Bronx was selected as a resettlement area.
Nor could anyone provide exact figures on the number of
refugees c':lfrently living there. Estimates ranged
between 1,400 and 2,000.
The resettlement has been a windfall to some local landlords
CITY LIMITS/December 1982 22
whose rundown properties were largely vacant before place-
ment agencies brought them a guaranteed full rent roll and
tenants unable to complain about repairs and lack of services.
One owner of two refugee-filled buildings on Andrews Ave-
nue has ignored two years' worth of city taxes to the tune of
$17,756 and a $65,623 bill for emergency repairs provided by
the city while collecting a monthly rent roll of $11,000. Mean-
while, 235 violations on his properties are outstanding.
An examination of the process by which refugees were plac-
ed in buildings where lead poisoning occurred shows that the .
refugees - made vulnerable by their poverty, by their inability
to speak English and by the mysteries of a foreign urban
culture - were unprotected by what resettlement officials in-
sist are elaborate mechanisms to insure their sooth assimila-
tion into this country.
Moreover, city health and building codes, developed to pro-
tect all residents from lead poisoning and a range of other
hazards, were simply not enforced.
* * * * * *
J
UST OVER A YEAR AGO, IN A DIMLY LIT BASE-
ment room of Our Lady of Mercy R.C. Church off Ford-
ham Road, representatives of the volags placing families in the
Bronx met with community people to discuss their resettlement
program.
They came at the request of neighborhood activists and
clergy who were concerned about the sudden presence of hun-
dreds of Indochinese refugees in the neighborhood. Many
worried about the refugees' apparent lack of necessities like
warm clothing and decent shelter. Others wondered why exist-
ing community resources had not been tapped 0 help ease the
refugees into neighborhood life. .
Jack O'Connor, then chief administrator of Montefiore's
Family Health Center on East 193rd Street, expressed the feel-
ings of many in the room.
"We want to know who these people are and how they got
here," he ,said. "We want to where they 'fill be staying.
We also want to know what they want and need from us. We
want to help them. But we need help to do that."
Arie Bierman, coordinator of NY ANA's Indochinese place-
ment program, said Cambodian refugees were being resettled
in the area as part of what he called "cluster" projects.
In such clusters, he said, refugees with like backgrounds are
moved into the same buildings and neighboring buildings.
They find comfort in their familiarity with each other, he said.
Ultimately, he said, "new neighborhoods" can result.
Asked why neighborhood resources had not been tapped,
Bierman said, "We've found that a low profile is the best
way."
Public assistance, Medicaid and food stamps are expedited
for those with refugee status, Bieman explained. As a result,
he said, tensions frequently arise among competing groups "in
neighborhoods where demands for social services are high.
"We're concerned about community relationships," he
said. "We don't want to create community tension."
Housing, agency officials went on to say, is the key to any
resettlement plan. Large numbers of vacant apartments are re-
quired, they said. And, because refugees survive initially on
welfare, they said rents must be low - not much above the
$223 per month welfare maximum.
What they look for, said the of lcials, are "marginal"
buildings in "transitional" neighbornoods.
Marginal is an oft-used euphemism for "just barely
liveable." And transitional usually means "going down hill."
But during that meeting, resettlement officials argued that the
words would mean the reverse.
By infusing large numbers of recent refugees into such
buildings in such neighborhoods, they theorized, whole sec-
tions of decaying urban neighborhoods would be revitalized.
Community activists at the meeting believed them. .
Most left with a feeling of warmth and camaraderie toward
their new neighbots.
Marginal Buildings
Tankim Eng's building mocks theories about creating new
communities through settlements of refugees. On a recent visit
at dusk, there were no lights in any public areas. As night fell,
the halls were plunged into total darkness. Babies could be
heard crying behind doors in the eery blackness.
On a subsequent visit, hallway lights w!!re on - only to
reveal eyesores common to such so-dilled marginal buildings:
cracked plaster and peeling paint, broken windows and stair
treads, smashed mail boxes and graffiti-covered walls. One
roof fire door on the double-wing building was barricaded shut
from outside with nailed-down wooden planks.
The building, 365 East 193rd Street, has 107 outstanding
building code violations, according to city records. Ten are so-
called "C" violations which are considered imminent hazards.
NY ANA, Bierman says, has moved more than a score of
Cambodian refugees into the building.
Despite its dismal condition, 365 East 193rd Street may be
typical of the buildings in which refugees have been housed.
Another NY ANA building, 2f1J7 Jerome Avenue, has 83
outstanding violations including seven C violations. Two
children in the building have been confirmed as lead poisoned.
Another nine have elevated levels of lead in their blood.
An International Rescue Committee building where at least
two children, one an infant, were confirmed as lead poisoned,
3110 Bainbridge, has 20 outstanding violations including two
C's.
But a pair of 21-unit buildings on Andrews Avenue, which
AFCR has filled with Indochinese refugees, might win the
violations jackpot. 2316 Andrews boasts 186 outstanding
violations including 52 C's. Its sister, 2322, hJlS 50 violations,
with 13 C's.
Despite these lengthy lists of building code violations, there
is no record that the city took any action against the buildings'
owners. No fines were levied. In fact , in most cases, city inspec-
tors never followed up their initial findings of violations by
return inspections to certify corrections.
Golub and a nurse-practitioner took preliminary blood
samples from 31 children and infants in the buildings at a card
table stationed in the lobby of 2316 one afternoon last month.
The tests showed that 14 of the children have blood problems;
a second test series will sort out which children are iron-
deficient and which have "dangerously high" levels of lead in
23 CITY LIM ITSlDecember 1982
their blood. Golub expects at least half to show lead poisoning.
Problems at the buildings come as no surprise to organizers
witlJ the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition.
All, they say, have histories of difficulties including non-
provision of basic services like heat. Yet efforts to organize the
buildings in recent years have been stymied, they say, by the
transient nature of the tenant populations. Now, the language
barrier has brought organizing to a halt.
Andrews Avenue 'Paradise'
On a recent visit to 2316 and 2322 Andrews Avenue, wide
open street doors and gaping holes in the foyer meant for win-
dows offered an invitation to passing thieves and vandals. Ceil-
ings and walls were covered with a network of deep cracks. Old
paint hung down in strips. Marble steps were broken.
Mailboxes were twisted and open.
Chilly gusts scattered debris that had gathered in shadowy
corners of the foyer and the stench of sewage filled the air.
Outside, in the alley between the buildings, was its apparent
source: a murky pool about 10 inches deep that ran the length
of the building.
Apartments in the buildings showed similar neglect.
Yet, there are no vacancies. Except for a handful of apart-
ments, the tenants are rent-paying Indochinese refugees placed
there by AFCR. Rents, say tenants, are about $275 a month.
"It may look like a hovel to you, but to them it's paradise,"
asserted Sharon Bottrill, director of local placements for AF-
CR's New York office, when questioned about the conditions.
"They're happy."
During telephone interviews, Bottrill and Tania Wremenko,
head of AFCR's national Indochinese resettlement effort, said
they had inspected the buildings and that the apartments were
"fine."
A week later, during the interviews at the buildings, the
women b l ~ e d tenants for much of the evident disrepair.
Local clergy and tenant organizers tell a different story. The
buildings, they say, were almost empty and were in a
deplorable state before the refugees began to move in in early
1981.
"The buildings were bad," said Carmen Pietri, an organizer
with the University Heights Community Coalition. "They still
are."
"I've been very disturbed by what I've seen there," said the
Rev. James Galligan, O.S.A., a priest at nearby St. Anthony
of Tolentine R.C. Church. "There has been no heat, no
nothing in those buildings."
Two years ago, Pietri said, the eight remaining tenants in the
buildings organized a tenants association and took then-owner
Jason Pravda to court. They succeeded in having a 7 A ad-
'ministrator appointed, Pietri said.
Through that process, rents are diverted from the owner
to a court-appointed manager who runs the building from
rent income.
"As soon as the landlord stopped getting rents," Pietri
said, "he sold the place."
"It was never a Class A -building," said Pravda recently,
who added that he was surprised that refugees had been
placed there.
CITY LIMITS/December 1982 24
Neighboring landlord Frank Carpenito, who owned 2295
and 2296 Andrews Avenue at the time, bought the buildings
for an undisclosed price and promptly -took the 7 A ad-
ministrator back to court.
"He told the judge he was fixing up the apartments for
refugees," said Pietri. "He said he wanted to help them start a
new life. The judge believed him."
Efforts to reach Carpenito for comment were unavailing.
Pietri said her contact with the buildings was then severed,
largely because of the language barrier.
Carpenito's salvation for the two nearly empty, seriously
deteriorated buildings came via AFCR's former
subcontractor, Brother Trinh Hao of the Indochinese
Friendship Association.
Hao, a Vietnamese refugee and a Christian Brother, said he
moved into 2296 Andrews Avenue in August 1979, shortly
after he came to the United States.
Hao said he encouraged Carpenito "to get more buildings"
to make way for the masses of Indochinese refugees expected
as a result of the Refugee Act of 1980.
Hao even went so far as to sign a contract with Carpenito.
Besides telling Carpenito he could fill all his vacancies, Hao
said, "I guaranteed Mr. Frank that rents will be paid for one
year. If the refugee failed to pay, my agency would pay."
As a condition of the contract, Hao said, "Mr. Frank put in
new sinks, new bathrooms, new windows."
Pressed about the apparent long-term disrepair, Hao con-
ceded that he'd last visited Andrews Avenue in late 1980 -
before Carpenito bpught 2316 or 2322.
Asked how in that case he could be sure apartments were de-
cent, Hao said, "I got his (Carpenito's) assurance."
Through what he termed a "gentleman's agreement" with
AFCR, Hao said he received $350 per refugee of the $525
AFCR received from the State Department. In that manner, he
said, he helped resettle more than 1,200 refugees in New York I
City-at least 400 in the Bronx.
"It was never enough," he said of the money, explaining
that each refugee received rent money, clothing, cash and fur-
niture through his agency. He stopped doing placements, Hao
said, when his agency's deficit reached unmanageable levels.
Although he had stopped doing placements, Hao admitted
that he had been barraged by complaints about sporadic heat
and hot water on Andrews Avenue. "I had many problems
with Mr. Frank last winter," he said.
Carpenito, Hao said, complained that tenants had
destroyed taps in bathrooms causing leaks and costly repairs.
"Mr. Frank told me he couldn't afford too much heat or hot
water," Hao said.
The theme of destruction by tenants was repeated by Bottrill
ana building manager Andre Turk.
Turk, during an interview in his office at 2296 Andrews,
blamed the river of sewage on disposable diapers. Bottrill said
it was caused by refugees throwing garbage out their windows.
The river was drained shortly after interviews for this story
began.
The gaping window holes, they said, resulted from refugee
children breaking the windows. The holes were boarded over
and fllied with makeshift plastic windows after Bottrill and
Wremenko were interviewed.
Despite evidence to the contrary, Bo trill and Turk also in-
sisted the apartments were painted freq endy." At a minimllm
every two years," said Turk.
Cambodian tenants, through a Khmer translator, said their
complaints to Hao and AFCR about building conditions had
fallen on deaf ears. Bottrill and Wreme ko said they had never
heard any complaint&.
"We can't provide babysitting services," Bottrill said of the
situations. They are free, she noted, to move anytime
they want to.
But one English speaking Khmer, f • iliar with the plight of
tenants in the buildings, said few are aware of their rights.
Fewer still, he said, can read or unders and their leases.
"They just sign," he said. "And they never skip paying rent
because they are scared.
"In our country," he added, is more bad
than here. So my people don't want 0 complain. But this
land is free. We can protect our right. Only there is nD .one
tD help us."
A Lack of Enforcement
Officials .of IRC, AFCR and NY in interviews that
they did nDt avail themselves .of any pu lie recDrds that might
have documented problems at the buU ings. NDr, they said,
did they cDntact any .of the neighborhood housing .organiza-
tions which gather informatiDn abDut buildings an,d landlords.
Rather, they said, they relied on inspections .of
buildings. In spite of the very .obvious of peeling paint
in some of the buildings, the volag officials said the possibility
.of lead poisoning did not occur to them.
Although nDne of the agency officials who were interviewed
said they had cDntacted the city in an effDrt to improve
building code enforcement, they were quick to complain about
its laxity.
"You blame us," said AFCR's Bottrill. "Why don't you
ask the-city why they don't enforce their own laws?"
Bierman, who lives on Fordham Road in the Bronx, said,
"Our experience with the bureaucracy is that it doesn't do any
good to check violations. Unfortunately, the city does nothing
about them."
"Besides," he added, "if we went by printouts (of viola-
tions), the only buildings we could use would be some luxury
buildings that we couldn't afford."
Bierman said he chose 365 East 193rd Street himself after in-
specting it two years ago. I t was in good condition at the time,
he said. He pinpointed its deterioration to sometime during the
,
past year. '
"We haven't moved anyone in there since it's become bad,"
he said.
Before families moved in, he said, he extracted promises
from then-owner George Schwartz, a Greenwich Village den- .
tist, that repairs would be made. Those promises were nDt
kept, Bierman said, .
Now, he said, NYANA has volunteer sDcial service interns
working in the building to insure that basic services, like heat
and hot water, are provided. I
Meng Huot, Tan Kim Eng, in/ant Suzanne and Eng Meng, 18 months. Lak Theng. Eng
Meng was hospitalized for two weeks for lead paint poisoning contracted in the apartment at
. /65 east /931' Street.
25
CITY LlMITS/December.1982
"fhese people have been through hell," he said of the
refugees. "We don't want them to go through another hell
now that they're here."
* * * * * * *
T
HE CAMBODIANS, LAOTIANS AND VIET NA-
mese of the northwest Bronx account for only a handful
of the 500,000 Indochinese refugees the State Department has
resettled throughout the country since the fall of Saigon in
1975.
As refugees have been placed across the far stretches of the
continent, a labyrinthine bureaucracy, much of it created
originally to accommodate Eastern European immigrants: has
adapted itself in order to handle large government contracts
for resettlement of the Asians.
A handful of volags perform all the tasks of resettlement
from connecting with refugees at camps along the Thai border
to etting them up in housing here. The State Department
monitors their activities until the refugees arrive in the United
States. Then the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in the
federal Department of Health and Human Services takes over.
With assistance from ORR, individual states devise refugee
aid programs. For example, New York State's Refugee
Assistance Program, through competitive bidding, contracts
with pnvate agencies to provide a range of services for refugees
including language classes and job training and placement.
In New York City, the Human Resources Administration
also plays a key role because most refugees immediately receive
public assistance. Currently, there are Khmer-speaking and
Viet name-speaking case workers assigned to deal only with
refugee!>.
As one federal bureaucrat put it, "No agency has overall
responsibility for refugee resettlement. We all take a little piece
of the action."
Yet no one in that vast bureaucracy could be found who had
ever visited any of the buildings where children became lead
poisoned.
The North Bronx is not the only area where refugees are be-
ing decamped without regard to the health or safety of their
shelter. In a report in the Village Voice last spring, Wayne Bar-
rett described the conditions of several dozen refugee families
- Haitians, Afghanis as well as Khmers - who had been plac-
ed in equally squalid housing in Brooklyn's North Flatbush by
some of the same relief agencies. The problem is citywide, and
probably nationwide.
For most refugees, the journey to the Bronx was long and
hard. It began in flight from the murderous skirmishes be-
tween Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge and the Vietnam-backed forces
of Heng Samrin. Spouses, parents, siblings, and children died
from disease or were killed during lengthy treks to Thai border
camps. Rice fields were destroyed and food shipments con-
fiscated. Near starvation was a way of life.
The camps themselves, where hundreds of thousands waited
for permission to resettle, were a nightmare world of death and
disease.
Khai I Dang. Mak Mun. Nong Samet. Sa Kaeo.
The names evoke shudders in those who survived long waits
in them.
CITY LIMITS/December 1982 26
Shelters were tents, cartons, plastic lean-tos. Stoves were pits
dug into the ground. Plumbing was non-existent. Dysentery,
malaria and malnutrition were endemic.
Given those conditions, AFCR's Sharon Bottrill may have
been right when, speaking of 2316 and 2322 Andrews Avenue,
she said, "This is heaven compared to what they're used to."
But this 'heaven' is closer to a unique kind of hell: the
landlord-created and officially-tolerated negligence which
threatens the health and safety of thousands of poor New
Yorkers. This is the 'heaven' the land of the free has offered. 0
Julia MacDonnell Chang is a freelance writer who lives in a
tenant-owned building in the Bronx.
The Lead Paint Epidemic
Montefiore's Dr. John F. Rosen developed the hospital's
outreach lead paint poison prevention project jn response to
findings that the malady struck young children, even below
the age of six and caused decreased intellectual functions
and other irreparable damage. The project, which operates
in ao area of the city where health department data show
one of the lowest rates of lead poisoning,has tested 500
children in the past year and found 100 of them to be lead
poisoned. Those alarming figures are emerging from the
Northwest Bronx - not from what the city long ago pegged
as its "lead belt" in central Brooklyn where lead poisoning
cases reached over 1,000 in the past ten years compared to
the Northwest Bronx's 249. What Rosen's outreach efforts
have found in the neighborhood's aging apartment
buildings is that lead paint poisoning is far more prevalent
than most have chosen to believe.
Next month, Oty Limits will describe what activities
Montefiore's team has undertaken, and what local laws
regarding lead paint hazards are-and are not-being en-
forced. 0
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A
LMOST THREE YEARS THE CITY WON
the legal right in a landmark United States Supreme
Court decision to build low income ho sing on a rubble-strewn
lot in the controversial, unfinished 25-year-old West Side Ur-
ban Renewal Area on Manhattan's Uper West Side, this bat-
tleground still stands vacant. Plans fO(1 its development appear
to be further away from execution than they were when the
lawsuit to block it began 12 years ago.
At the same time, the developer selected 17 years ago to
build this 160-unit public housing co plex on this site which
once was home to 200 squatters is rea y to go. "It's alive, but
we can't get off first base," Max: ell Goldpin, head of
development and acquisitions for the developer, Lefrak
Organization, said recently. "But something will finally be
done when the city feels enough press e."
The general consensus among long-tlflle observers is that the
legal battle was won - admirably an thoroughly - but the
political one was never waged. Now they warn, it is
perhaps too late, to begin an offensive on this front.
Brought in 1971 by the fashionable, 273-year-old
Episcopalian Trinity School, the laws 't charged that the con-
struction of low income housing across the street from the
school would "tip" the neighborhood or bring in an excessive
number of socially undesirable tenanr and thereby set in mo-
tion a process that would force middle land upper income peo-
ple to flee from the community. It c0,Ptended that the city
27
had failed to deal with the environmental impact of the socio-
economic class that was to inhabit the new building.
Implicit in the suit was that low income people constitute an
environmental hazard and that racial or class quotas are
necessary to preserve a neighborhood. What it did not address
was the displacement of some 9500 low income families to
achieve this new urban mix.
Although the city overcame the suit in court, it w,as a hollow
victory. "You might say that the city wanted to appeal the case,
to win a general point," said one observer "so that it could
have the flexibility of building or not building low income
housing if it wanted, but the chances of this ever happening are
far less plausible than if the case had been won in 1972" when
the political climate supporting low income housing was better.
Site 30
For the past decade, Site 30, as the location for the housing is
known, on , Columbus Avenue between West 90 and 91st
Streets, has proved well situated for an enterprising Christmas
tree entrepreneur, who for a few months each year does a
flourishing business. This year promises to be'no as
the urban renewal machinery lumbers along with no comple-
tion date in sight.
Many speculate that at best the memory and good intentions
of the promised subsidized housing will be used as bargaining
chips to insure a reasonable development plan for the remain-
CITY LIMITS/December 1982
ing, undeveloPed sites. These include a number of lowrise,
tenement buildings intersecting Columbus Avenue in the high
West 80s, presently inhabited by low income famjlies who have
fought to remain in their homes.
This year marks the fifth anniversary of the founding of an
organization, known as the United Tenants Association,
whose membership includes many of these tenant families who
banded to save their city-owned homes from demoli-
tion and high-rise luxury construction. Some are related to the
214 squatter families who returned to the urban renewal area in
1970 after their.homes had been demolished and occupied Site
30 until 1972 when they extracted a promise from the city to
build low iucome housing there.
For some time, UTA has had plans to rehabilitate the
buildings they now occupy as affordable, low-rent apartments.
Although they thought these plans were guaranteed under and
incorporated into the Fifth Amendment - the city's most re-
cent addendum to the urban renewal plan -little has happen-
ed except further deteriorati<;>n of their buildings. Developed
by the local Community Board 7, the amendment outlines a
general scope of work for completion of the nine remaining
sites in the urban renewal area.
2,500 Units
Approved by the Board of Estimate in November, 1979, this
fifth amendment to the original 1962 renewal plan reaffirms an
even earlier commitment to 2,500 units of low income housing.
This does not, however, include Site 30 as the lawsuit was still
pending when the specifications were drawn. It is also already
out-of-date. A $1 million community management contract
CITY LlMITSlDecember 1982 28
for the UTA buildings with the city called for by the plan never
materialized.
Ultimately, the Fifth Amendment was never approved by
the federal government even after an extensive and thorough
environmental impact study found it to be acceptable. Instead,
the city opted to receive a final grant payment of $1,071,849
and sign a close-out agreement December 24, 1981.
The original renewal plans atJirst called for 477 units of low
income housing, then 800, and finally 2,500 after considerable
negotiating during the early years. It also includes 4,200 middle
income and 2,800 market rate apartments. According to
available statistics, 1,070 units of public housing have been
provided to date. In addition, a total of about 1,000 units
under the Mitchell Lama and other government
programs were built.
20-Square-Block Area
Begun in 1958 under the Wagner administration, the West
Side Urban Renewal Area comprises 2O-square-blocks bound-
ed by West 87th and 97th Streets and Central Park West and
Amsterdam Avenue. Prior to the adoption of the plan, some
"" 20,000 people lived in a vital, economically and socially mixed
neighborhood. Now, they fear, as development and gentrifica-
tion increase,the pressure on the city has mounted to renege on
; promises to provide replacement low income housing in favor
cc of the more profitable, market-rate, high-cost development.

:t: "I have been here since 1969, and before that 1 lived in other
0..
places around here, and now I am too tired to give up. 1 will not
move," insisted Lucila Velez, president of UTA who lives in a
six-and-one-half-room, low-rent, city-owned apartment at 103
West 88th Street. "The only thing we don't have is money,"
she asserted, as she recalled her struggle to stay on the Upper
West Side. Velez added, "They don't . want us here now
because we are poor people, but we are not going to the
Bronx."
According to Velez, her building is a one and could be
put in good condition if the city would commit itself to an
ongoing modest repair and maintenance program. The city has !
made an on-again, off-agajn proposal to use the federal Sec-
tion 8 moderate rehabilitation program for the buildings.
The program is a IS-year federal rent subsidy program
under which each qualified or eligible tenant would pay no
more than 30 percent of his/her income.
In July, 1981; at a special, emergency meeting with city hous-
ing officials the UTA tenants were told that the program had to
be implemented immediately if the buildings were to be saved.
Sixteen months later, after a majority of tenants, including
the leadership of UTA, filled out the necessary forms the pro-
gram has not been implemented, although the city is now mak-
ing renewed efforts to fire it up.
William Price, a 22-year resident of the urban renewal area
and founding officer of UTA, said' 'Really, what they are talk-
ing about is taking our apartments and rearranging the rooms
- moving the bathtubs back into the kitchen." He also
pointed out that "rearranging" would mean cutting apart-
ments in half, leaving some as air-shaft residences, in order to
fit the family size within the federal government's apartment-
size requirements. Price,who has lived in a seven-room apart-
ment at 61 West 87th Street since 1964, suggested that these
I
I
plans might result in the forced relocation of a substantial
number of families. Price advocates management of the
buildings by the New York City Housing Authority, which, to
date, has been reluctant to enter the picture.
The UTA is currently looking into the feasibility of utilizing
other city programs, including the Tenant In.terim Lease pro-
gram, to maintain these buildings.
CONTINUE
One group that wields considerable political clout on the ur-
ban renewal site is CONTINUE. Established in 1967, the
Committee of Neighbors to Insure a Normal Environment is
an organization of middle class homeowners and tenants,
claiming membership of some 4,000 families. It maintains that
the urban renewal area is already "saturated" with subsidized
housing and that additional construction or rehabilitation of
such housing under the Fifth Amendment plan would only
serve to drive the middle class out of the area by "tipping" the
ratio in favor of lower income families.
Co-plaintiff with the Trinity School in the 1971 federal suit
against Site 30, CONTINUE took the battle to the Supreme
Court when Trinity dropped out. It also brought another
lawsuit in State court in February, 1980, in which it contended
that the "further impaction of additional low income
families ... can only make the situation worse and will even-
tually lead to cancelling out gains already accomplished by the
expenditure of hundreds of million$ of public and private
funds to upgrade the area. "
In a recent newsletter, CONTINUE called on the city to
relocate the current identifiable low income families residing in
the urban renewal area, particularly those in the UTA
buildings, in subsidized units in already existing housing, (for
which there are very long waiting lists) or in market rate
buildings planned for the future that are to include 20 percent
low income units.
The broadside said "[the tenants] should be informed that if
they did not accept the new housing they would lose their rights
to remain in the WSURA."
According to Steven Kunreuther, co-chairman of the group,
the UTA buildings should be torn do n or sold "as is" for at
UTA building at 103 W. 88 SI.
29
least $35,000 an apartment, not rehabilitated as low income
housing or sold to the tenants under the city's $250-a-unit,
cooperative sales arrangement. Although his organization is
still embroiled in three lawsuits against low income develop-
ment in the area, Kunreuther has urged that both sides sit down
at the "bargaining table and get this squatter movement
behind us."
CONTINUE's influence on city policy regarding UTA was
evidenced by the freeze of the group's community manage-
ment contract at the Board of Estimate,largely due to inaction
by housing commissioner Anthony Gliedman. "They knew
for years they would welch on this agreement," said one
observer who witnessed the Board's failure to move on the
contract fromt he inside.
Outspoken critics of the city's handling of both the UTA
contract and the tenants' current housing dilemma, as well as
its refusal to reendorse the development of Site 3'0 as low in-
come housing, have warned that these community sore spots
could erupt in clashes further impeding the completion of this
overwrought urban renewal area, which is already 12 years
behind schedule.
"It is my understanding from a few years ago that it is still
under the jurisdiction of the Housing Authority and is
designated for low income housing," said Councilwoman
Ruth Messinger, Democrat-Liberal of Manhattan. "But we
must move ahead with these other sites, particularly the UTA
sites. We are trying to work closely with UTA" to insure an ar-
rangement that is workable for them.
In the meantime, Site 30 is still earmarked for 160 units of
public housing with an annual federal allocation of $6 million.
According to a Housing Authority spokesman, who
hesitatingly confirmed his agency's sponsorship of the project,
no development plans are imminent. "Yes, we still have it, but
with today's inflation, what will $6 million buy? " he asked.
Ironically, Lefrak, the designated developer, h ~ said it
stands ready to accommodate any plans - low income or lux-
ury - just by using the same model "subject to
modifications." The developer is just waiting for the last
political wind to blow across the still empty block. 0
CITY LIMITS/December 1982
By Gene Russianoff
T
HE INEQUITIES OF NEW YORK CITY'S PROP-
erty tax system are notorious. A host of studies, including
one by the New York University graduate School of Public Ad-
ministration which was commissioned by the city itself, have
found that homeowners in poorer and minority ·
neighborhoods pay unfairly high property taxes. And the most
recent state legislation affecting the system failed to provide in-
centives to rectify such discrimination. Yet things may be look-
ing up for homeowners in the city's less affluent communities,
and their hope lies in a new way to appeal unfair tax
assessments.
After the 1981 legislative session's close, advocates 'of prop-
erty tax in Albany saw little reason for hope. The major piece
of property tax legislation passed during the session failed-to
address the unfair status quo in municipalities like New York
City. State legislators appeared to have ignored the NYU
study's finding that the city's assessment system was' 'hideous-
ly inequitable" and "a sign that we have a city government that
doesn't work." Qverall, the prospects for property tax reform
in 1982 were bleak . .
But the following spring, the cit¥ Finance Department em-
barked orr a major program of assessment reform, Between
FeBruary and May of this year, the finance agency lowered
assessments on 50,000 one- and two-family homes. Property
tax bills for those homes fell an average of $188, and most
reductions occurred in the low and moderate income neigh-
borhoods which have been the victims of residential over-
assessment. According to Finance Department Commissioner
Philip Michael, the agency lowered more home assessments in
CITY LIMITS/December 1982 30
Unequal Neighbors
Gain a PoW'erful Tool
1982 than it had in the previous 20 years combined.
What caused the turn-around? A little known bill signed in-
to law in 1981 with little fanfare. It has become a powerful tool
for residential assessment reform in the city.
No-Lose Proposition
The bill, sponsored by state Assembly member Daniel
Feldman, Democrat of Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, and state
Senator John Flynn, Republican of the north Bronx, created a
new kind of small claims court in which homeowners could
challenge their property tax assessments. For a $25 fee,
homeowners can appeal Tax Commission decisons to an in-
dependent hearing officer appointed by the state Office of
Court Administration. If successful, the homeowner can have
his or her fee refunded.
The .court is also a no-lose proposition fqr homeowners.
State law prohibits the Tax Commission or small claims court
from raising an assessment.
The small claims assessment court revolutionized the rules
of the property tax assessment game by providing a remedy for
the individual inequities facing tens of thousands of
homeowners. The choice it posed for city officials was clear:
either move to reform unfair residential assessments or face a
tidal wave of individual challenges.
Past Challenges Rejected
In the past, the city had nothing to fear from homeowners
who challenged their taxes. Their grievances were heard by the
New York City Tax Commission, whose seveR commissioners
, .
are appointed by the mayor. Over the years, the Commission's
purpose became to turn down homeowner chal1enges whole-
sale. In 1981, for example, the commissioners "reviewed"
grievances by some 5,000 homeowners and rejected out of
hand all but 1,062 of these. Most of the few "winners" were
given tiny reductions; substantial relief was limited to a very
small number of homeowners whose properties had suffered
major structural damage. The Commission simply did not
want to hear about assessment inequality.
Homeowners spurned by the Commission had little
recourse. For a legal appeal to the State Supreme Court, a
homeowner needed an attorney, and even if he or she could
find one, the high cost and slow pace of justice made the right
of appeal an illusory one. So the word spread throughout the
city's working class communities: it was a waste of time to
challenge your property taxes.
The roadblock to a fair hearing was in itself one of the major
reasons why the city's property tax system was so poorly ad-
ministered. Since the city felt no heat from any independent
administrative or judicial body, it could thumb its nose at
homeowners with legitimate assessment grievances. Indeed,
invoking a classic Catch-22, the city often pointed to the lack
of homeowner appeals as "evidence' l of how basically fair
property taxes were.
Furious City Campaign
The small claims court law has changed that, providing
homeowners with an impartial appeals process. But earlier this
year, realizing the potential impact of that process, the city
31
or her property tax
.. for doing so:
... tent C)1l your last tax bill. It
year if you have not receiv-
Manv homeowners
mCSSlmeDts because their' property tax
to their bank.
fotmd by calling the borough offices
Bureau: the Bronx,
Manhattan, 566-3400;
Qut ... Island, 390-5295.
as follOWS; Your
estlmate of your home's full
yOllir of assessment.
3. The of assessment for one-, two- and
in New York City is about 18 percent.
If your ofUle$$Jllent is higher. you have grounds
for ¥0Qr' assessment on the basis of inequali-
tY. .. MWouJd save on your tax biII if you
wete :common level·as follows:
A. home's fuU market value
muidPliedl}yt8Percent eqUQIs Figure A. The current
propertytUfakis SS.9S per $100 of assessed value.
B. Amldtiplled by .0895 equals Figure B. This
figure is What)'9Uftax bill would be if your assessment
were at lite common level.
C. nus •. ,-'s taX bill minus Figure B equals
ings on if yOU assessed at the common
.level.' .
Y)'OUt __ -btsed on comparable pro-
........ ' ..... wfIkh have receatly been sold-is
•• " tile eun'elIt market. Eighteen percent
of tUt VWtJs $9.-. 1lIat's the amount you are sup-
PQ!8ed. ....... At •• 95 per one hundred
...... _ ....... $886.OS; But last year the
dty _,. .... _ St,400. The $513.95 difference is
what ,.. be time to cbalJenge your
hIx.
4. If dle •• is unequal, a challenge can be filed
with dltNew . 'I TuCommission at the borough
•• ' OffJtesbetween January}5 and

S. If the. tax Qmu:nission decision is unfavorable, it can
be appealed to the new SmaI1 Oaims Assessment Review
Court in .. June.
OR the appeals process, write for
Challenging Proper-
Quide,NYPIRC,
CITY LIMITS/December 1982
mounted a furious campaign to get the law repealed or
postponed.
In January, 1982, Mayor Ed Koch met with state Assembly
Speaker Stanley Fink, Democrat of Canarsie, and state Senate
Majority Leader Warren Anderson, Republican of Bingham-
ton, and urged the exemption of New York City from the small
claims legislation. They turned him down . .
Finance Commissioner Michael then met with the bill's
sponsors to obtain a delay in the law. Michael told the New
York Times: "The purpose of the law is laudable, but it would
be an administrative nightmare" because as many as 200,000
overassessed homeowners CQuid go to court seeking reductions
that could cost the city $70 million. Again the legislators refus-
ed to alter the law, leaving the city with no choice but to avoid
the "administrative nightmare" by lowering assessments on its
own.
The New Lots Experience
The idea for the new small claims appeal process emerged
largely from the experience of one neighborhood - New Lots,
Brooklyn. That community's struggle to achieve property tax
justice both before and after the new law's implementation il-
lustrates why the law was needed and how a community has
made It work.
Three years ago, Mary Ann Johnson filed a challenge to the
$1,800 yearly property tax bill on her Pine Street two-family
home. She felt the $20,000 assessment on her home was out of
line with assessments on more expensive homes in more af-
fluent areas. In fact, had Johnson's home been assessed at the
citywide average (about 18 percent of market value), her
assessment and tax bill would have been cut by half.
In 1980, the Tax Commission told Johnson she was "crazy"
to challenge the assessment and rejected her case. She came
back to the Commission in 1981 with 32 neighbors, but lost
again. Tax Commissioner Sanford Razales told Johnson and
her neighbors - and the Daily News - that it was the' 'Com-
mission's policy that it is proper to assess home at a rate be-
tween 30 and 40 percent" of market value.
But this year, following passage of the small claims law, the
story was different. The Finance Department's tentative
assessment roll, issued in February, lowered the assessments
for Johnson and her neighbors by $5,000 each, resulting in
$450 annual tax bill reductions. Johnson and 150 of her New
Lots neighbors filed challenges with the Tax Commission and
received an additional $100 per year off their tax bills. And 16
local homeowners who felt their homes were still overassessed
sued in the new small 'claims courts. Faced with an independent
hearing officer, city officials finally admitted that a correct
assessment was 20 percent of market value. All the home-
owners won additional reductions, as well as refunds of their
$25 filing fees.
In the wake of these reductions and continued community
demands, Finance Commissioner Michael further lowered
assessments in homes throughout the New Lots neighborhood.
When the dust had settled, over 1,000 homes had received a
total of $3.8 million in assessment reductions. New Lots had
fought City Hall and won $350,000 a year in property tax
relief.
CITY LIMITS/December 1982
32
City Officials Conflict
Over Small Claims Option
TWo CITY OFFICIALS RESPONSIBLE FOR
..I. property tax assessments disagree about the extent of
property tax inequality and the effect of the new small
claims court review procedure on assessments.
Pluup Michael, the city's Finance Commissioner,
whose agency sets the tentative assessments in the first
stage of the taxing process, attributes recent
in the tax system to the Finance Department's own ac-
tivities. "Last year the Finance Department decreased the
assessments of 50,000 properties and increased
assessments for an additional 100,000 properties,"
Michael stated. "We announced our plans for these
reassessments six months before the small claims court
bill was adopted!' This year the Finance department in-
tends to adjust the assessments of more chan 200,000
small properties, Michael said.
Michael denied that the new small claims court has had
any impact. "Only 70 properties out of 200,000 bothered
to ask for small claims relief," he asserted. "This
dicates the fundamental fairness of the assessments."
Betty Mann, president of the Tax Commission, the ap-
peals body which reviews property assessments, had a dif-
ferent view. "You take practices that are 100 years old
and apply them to 650,000 one-, two-, and three-family
homes, which vary widely in value. You have only 150
assessors; some neighborhoods are deteriorating and the
new tax system can't keep up," said Mann.
She added that the small claims court review has had
an impact on the Tax Commission's work because ac-
curate commission decisions save the city money. Proper-
ty tax rates depend on the tax roll fInalized by the com-
mission. Mann explained; if total assessment value
decreases as a result of Tax Commission cmallenges, the
tax rate is adjusted so that the same amount of revenue
can be generated. Assessments successfully appealed
through the small claims court are lowered after the roll is
finalized and the tax rate set; and this, Mann noted,
results in a loss of tax revenue.
Mann also said that assessments have been fairer this
year and attributed the improvement in part to the new
state law which creates a separate tax category for
one-three-family homes. As a result of the legislation,
Mann said. the Tax Commission is no longer required to
review the assessments of small properties by applying the
same high 'ratio of assessment to market value that is ap-
plicable to commercial property and multiple
dwellings.DP.J. Krsl.
Discrimination Remains
The success of the New Lots residents and others around the
city this year does not spell the end of discriminatory residen-
tial assessment problems. Many homes in lower income and
minority communities remain highly overassessed. A study
released by the New York Public Interest Research Group in
October documented that over 203,000 one- and two-family
homes were significantly overassessed. The report, "City of
Unequal Neighbors," also found that many of the 50,000
homes that did receive reductions in 1982 still remained
overassessed. The study concluded that the 20 New York City
communities most in need of reassessment were: Lavonia and
Pelham Parkway in the Bronx; Brigh on Beach, Sunset Park,
Crown Heights, Canarsie, Remsen Village, Highland Park,
Lefferts Gardens, Ocean Hill and Bushwic!c in Brooklyn;
Bayswater, Far Rockaway, Springfield Gardens North and
South and St. Albans in Queens; and Graniteville, Stapleton,
Mariner's Harbor and Port Richmond in Staten Island.
The 1982 New Lots experience was unique'. Few neighbor-
hoods had been involved in a year running battle with the
city over assessments. Few homeowners had the experience
and property tax awareness of the New Lots residents, and
none had ever tasted victory. As a result, "only" 75 small
claims cases were heard in 1982. The statistic is not so surpris-
ing when one considers the newness of the law and the tradi-
tional absolute futility of challenging assessments before the
Tax Commission.
Whether homeowners in other overassessed communities
will receive tax justice in 1983 largely upon the
mayor's and finance commissioner's commitment to con-
tinued property tax reform. A preliminary answer will take
shape when the Finance Department issues its tentative assess-
ment roll on January 15, 1983.
In the past, the city's assessment mil would have been the
final answer, but the rules have been changed for good. If
overassessed homeowners aren't given a fair shake by the city
this year, they will be able to go and get it. And that is exactly
what residents in organized communities from Far Rockaway,
Queens to Pon Richmond, Staten are preparing to
do. D
Gene Russianoff is an attorney who Iworks on property tax
issues with the New York Public Research Group.
33
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CITY LIMITS/December 1982
Judge Voids City Rent Hikes
Tenants of city-owned buildings no longer 'a class apart'
Tenants protest city rent hikes at Federal Court March 5, 1982.
Tenal'\ts suffering under the crunch of
the city housing department's hefty rent
hikes in city-owned buildings won a big
battle in October in New York State
Supreme Court. Judge Sheldon S. Levy,
in an unprect,dented decision, ruled Oc-
tober 11 that rent increases imposed by
the city's Department of Housing Preser-
vation and Development in four Bronx
buildings were illegal and made a mock-
ery of tenants' due process rights. If the
decision stands, tenants in all city-owned
buildings, regardless of program, will be
the winners.
The four buildings in question - 1171,
1175, 1179, and 1186 Clay Avenue -
were enrolled in the city's alternative
management program and were hit,
effective February, 1982, with rent in-
creases ranging from 50 to over 200 per-
cent. Some tenants sought help from
Bronx Legal Services and the Union of
CITY LIMITS/December 1982
City Tenants, a tenants group that in
January, 1982, had gone into Federal
Court to seek an injunction against rent
increases in four other city-owned
buildings. That case led in May, 1982, to a
decision by Judge Milton Pollack which
asserted that HPD had complied with the
tenants' due process rights.
In contrast to the Federal court's deci-
sion, State Court Judge Levy's opinion
fully supported the tenants' contention
that their state constitutional rights had
been abrogated. HPD had argued that in
rem tenants - tenants in tax-foreclosed,
city-owned properties - should be con-
sidered as a class apart, immune from the
protections afforded tenants in public
and private housing throughout the state.
Taking account of the city's contention
that increases are needed to return the
buildings to the tax rolls, Levy argued
that temporary city ownership provided
34
By Tom Gogan and Dave Robinson
no legal foundation for treating in rem
tenants differently from other tenants
with regard to their due process rights and
protections.
Stressing the' 'basic right of shelter for
all human beings," Levy wrote, "There is
no reason in law, logic or practicality why
in rem tenants should be treated dif-
ferently from their public or private
counterparts in this vital regard."
Rapid rent increases are a central com-
ponent in the city's strategy of temporary
management and eventual sale back to
the private sector. So-called "market"
rents will supposedly ensure the build-
ings'return to profitability, or in HPD's
vocabulary, "economic self-sufficiency."
In "viable" neighborhoods, the city will
couple some repairs and rehabilitation
with the rent increases.
But HPD's developing tactics of triage,
test cases point out, just as readily will tie
rent increases to practically no mainten-
ance at all, thereby accelerating the pro-
cess of enforced abandonment in
buildings and neighborhoods the city no
longer deems worth saving - at least for
the current inhabitants who are invariably
black, Hispanic, and poor.
One remarkable aspect of the Levy
decision in today's conservative at-
mosphere of Reaganomics and Right-
leaning jurisprudence, is this judge's firm
grasp of the process which has led to the
current "in rem crisis." Levy wrote,
"The intrusive institution of in rem land-
lordship ... must still be administered by
the city with circumspection, with com-
mon sense and with due care and con-
sideration for the basic constitutional,
statutory and human rights of the tenants
involved. This is particularly so, since
such tenants, through no fault of their
own, have frequently become victims of
greedy and rapacious former landlords
who have 'milked' and then abandoned
both buildings and tenants."
In short, Levy contends that "decent
affordable housing" is a goal of some
relevance that is guaranteed by law under
the state constitution and the city charter.

The fight against HPD's rent increases
has been brewing for a long time. Back in
the spring of 1979, a broad coalition of
tenants and grassroots activists had
fought against passage in City Council of
Intro. 594, the Koch administration's bill
that gave HPD full authority to raise
rents in city-owned buildings. The key
here was the bill's elimination of rent con-
trol and rent stabilization protection for
in rem tenants.
Passions ran so high against this bill
that nearly 200 tenant activists jammed
the Council balcony, forcing City Council
President Carol Bellamy to call the tac-
ti.cal police to restore order. This resulted
in some minor injuries and one arrest. But
the Council ignored the unanimous citi-
zens' mandate and gave the mayor what
he wanted. It remained for Judge Levy to
begin to undo the damage.
Although the city did not begin to
implement across-the-board increases un-
til two years later, it was poised to do so
and quietly did begin raising rents in its
alternative management buildings where
the logic of "economic self-sufficiency"
was less likely to be questioned .
The dam finally broke in October,
1981. All the "Management in Partner-
ship" program buildings, plus the new
batches of in rem properties vested in the
Bronx, were subjected to substantial in-
creases by November and December,
1981. Even now the exact number of af-
fected tenants is unavailable to all but
HPD's inner circles. As for the buildings
in the Bronx in central management
alone, one HPD source claims that
"only" 981 tenants have had to pay
substantial rent increases.

There are countless examples to illus-
trate the points argued in this landmark
case, but the bottom line still remains the
city's failure to resolve the conflict in-
herent in its housing policy. With median
incomes of $6,800 per year, most tenants
in city-owned buildings are simply unable
to pay rents high enough to make the
buildings truly self-sufficient, much less
profitable to the private sector. Even low
income, cooperative, nonprofit housing,
never the city's top priority, fails to ad-
dress the contradiction of descending real
incomes versus ever-rising operating
costs.
In a for-profit world, the choices are
limited. The city will continue pushing
tenants-around and forcing people out; its
"consolidation" program, whereby
buildings are actively emptied, will mor-e
and more dominate its policy toward in
rem housing; the "planned shrinkage"
and outright destruction of low income,
mostly black and Hispanic communities
will continue apace.
Judge Levy's decision could pave the
way for in rem tenants to counterattack
HPD. It certainly, in the judge's own
words, elevates the tenant with the city as
landlord to full status under the law.
As City Limits went to press, Judge
Levy had not delivered his order for im-
plementing his decision, but tenant ad-
vocates are hopeful that it will reflect the
same strong language as his decision. 0
Tom Gogan and Dave Robinson are te-
nant organizers and active in the Union of
City Tenants. The union can be reached
at 947-0001.
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