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IURUARY 1999 $3.00
URB AN AF F AIRS N ( W S M A6 AZ IN (
Inoverloaded F amily Court, the city
takes away the kids first and asks questions later
I ACO RH - ~ - B RAH - - ~ C- ~ H ES O UT • IS H O M ES TEADIN G DEADj
nyone running for office anywhere in the 1990s has paid lip service to treating
citizens as "consumers" entitled to customer-is-always-right treatment.
But parents in New Family Court seem to be exempt from that dictum;
they're still treated like a cross between criminals and welfare recipients.
Most parents accused in neglect and abuse cases are forced to wait around for hours in
court before a judge sees them. Over time, the adjournments and continuances add up like
unpaid bills and many parents wait months- even years-longer than necessary to be
reunited with children the city has taken away.
1n our cover story this month, the first product of an ongoing col-
laboration between City Limits and our own Child Welfare Watch,
reporter Alyssa Katz documents how the courts have become over-
whelmed. She finds, in part, that the city has been flooding the court
with every conceivable child neglect case-including relatively
minor incidents that could be dealt with out of court.
In his interview with Katz, city child welfare chief Nicholas
Scoppetta admits that if lawyers and court officers had been more
efficient in obtaining timely information on cases, some of these
cases would never have been brought to court.
Scoppetta s recognition of the problem needs to be transformed into action. After all, he
is describing a system in which the number of judges has not been increased in nine years.
Meanwhile, the number of neglect cases has doubled in two years-largely because of
Scoppetta s aggressive prosecution strategy.
The city does deserve credit for becoming more responsive to the danger signs that pre-
cede the severe abuse or neglect. But there a second priority the system has failed to
heed: the importance of getting parents the services they need to keep their kids at home.
That means Scoppetta, a tough former mob prosecutor who was raised in a Bronx
orphanage, will have to exhibit a new kind of courage, political courage. First, he must
lobby his own administration for greater child abuse prevention money. Then, got to
throw his weight behind family-friendly court reforms. And, finally, he must encourage his
legal staff to become more discriminating about the cases they bring.
The fall was an awarding season for our writers. Ron Howell won the New York
Association of Black Journalists 'first prize for in-depth reporting for his profile of
Brooklyn Assemblyman Al Vann, which appeared in our November 1997 issue. Howell
bested out some auspicious competition, including the New Henry Louis Gates.
And the plaudits keep coming in for Kevin Heldman s undercover expose of a city psy-
chiatric ward. The American Psychiatric Association has awarded Heldman a certificate of
commendation, citing his "dedication and personal sacrifice. "
The magazine is a finalist for an Utne Readers award for reporting excellence.
This editorial will be the last I will write for City Limits. Beginning next month, I switch
from editing the magazine to overseeing publications produced by our think-tank, the
Center for an Urban Future. I would like to thank the writers, editors and photographers
who have provided their time, hard work and friendship over my nearly three years here.
Cover photo by Mayita Mendez
City Limits relies on the generous support of its readers and advertisers. as well as the following funders: The
Robert Sterling Clark Foundation. The Unitarian Universal ist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock. The Edna McConnell
Clark Foundation. The Joyce Mertz-Gilmore Foundation. The Scherman Foundation. The North Star Fund. J.P.
Morgan & Co. Incorporated. The Booth Ferris Foundation. The Annie E. Casey Foundation. The New York Community
Trust. The New York Foundation. The Taconic Foundation. M& T Bank, Citibank. and Chase Manhattan Bank.
Volume XXIV Number 2
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Since the late 1970s, the city's Tenant Interim Lease program has been
helping low-income renters become apartment owners. As TIL celebrates its
20th anniversary, advocates are fighting charges that the program is a waste
of tax dollars. By James Bradley and Glenn Thrush
TIL the Politicians Got Involved
One 28-unit building has become a battleground for a group of upper Manhattan
power brokers. And then there's Rosie O'Donnell's brother. By Philip Shishkin
The city's child welfare agency is funneling borderline cases into an
already overwhelmed Family Court system. The result is more kids are in foster
care-and they're staying in limbo longer. By Alyssa Katz
ACORN Branches Out
For ACORN, protesting for the housing and economic rights of
communities is easy. Providing social services-and getting paid big bucks to do it-
has been a new challenge. By Kemba Johnson
Clinically Oppressed L-...,;8=-__
Pregnant immigrants are shunning prenatal care for fear of deportation.
What are they afraid of! By Idra Rosenberg
A Park Slope battered women's shelter is reaching out to two very
different groups of women: lesbians and Arab Americans.
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Eric Groomer 11IIlY
be evicted from his
Bowery SRO hotel
room because his
White Bouse Affair
ric Groomer looks over toward the
White House Hotel, where he stays,
and sighs. This Bowery single room
occupancy hotel has been a decent
home to him for the last 11 months.
But lately, with the threat of eviction hanging
over his head, it's become almost more trouble
than it's worth.
At the White House, one of the few remaining
SROs on the Bowery, about 220 men pay $10 a
night to stay in six-foot-long cubicles. It's clean,
it's relatively safe, and until recently, it was a fair-
ly stable home for Groomer, a 50-year-old, out-of-
But during the last few months, an unexplained
welfare benefit shut-off has left him and 50 other
White House men on the verge of eviction.
The city welfare office used to provide
Groomer with $85 for living expenses like food
and a $215 monthly housing allowance, which
covered most of his $300-a-month rent. Like most
of the other men, he got his check from the
Waverly Center branch of the city Human
Resources Administration (HRA), a center that
recently converted from an "Income Support
Center" to a "Jobs Center." That bureaucratic
change, many welfare advocates claim, has been
accompanied by an increase in benefits being arbi-
Last August, with no warning or explanation,
Groomer's housing allowance simply stopped
coming. Over a period of several months, so did
the checks for the other men, say White House
employees. Groomer reports that he called his
caseworker "about 80 times" since the checks dis-
appeared, but he got no explanation.
Groomer and many of the others sought help
from Urban Justice Center attorneys, who con-
vinced the White House to hold off on evictions
while they worked to get the checks restored. UJA
lawyer Patrick Horvath says the only explanation
he was given was that a new employee at HRA
had been giving benefits improperly. In November,
with rent on some cubicles six months behind, the
White House started handing out eviction notices.
"Waverly is painting this as some sort of fraud
prevention," Horvath says, "when it's actually that
they don't know what they're doing." One HRA
employee, who refused to give her name, read City
Limits a December 2 memo from headquarters
stating that "a clearance was obtained" to start giv-
ing White House rent subsidies again. A few
weeks later, some of the 50 men had received their
checks. Groomer is still waiting for his.
Now, Eric Groomer has to figure out how to
come up with the back rent he owes: $831, due by
January 4. "I don't where I'm going to get [it]," he
says. "I'll have to go back to court again. I don't
know what'll happen, but it'll definitely slow me
down again before I'm trying to get out of here
and work." -Annia Ciezadlo
Briem·· .......... ------..........
t's the pony tail, the earring and the Mao
hat with the little red star that most people
first recall, even for those that knew him
in his later career as an investment banker.
Philip St. Georges, who jump-started the
New York City homesteading movement in his
youth, died on December 5 of heart failure while
playing a game of tennis. He was 47.
Born in Westchester County, Connecticut, and
educated at Yale, St. Georges started working at
housing rehabilitation with an East Harlem youth
gang, the Renigades, during the early 1970s. In
1974, he co-founded the Urban Homesteaders'
Assistance Board (UHAB), built on the do-it-
yourself principle of sweat equity-a term some
say St. Georges coined. His daily experience
amidst the rubble and dust of homesteading pro-
jects throughout the city convinced him that, given
the opportunity, New Yorkers could help solve
their own housing problems.
In 1978, St. Georges was appointed the first
assistant commissioner of the city's newly created
Department of Housing Preservation and
Development. Shorn of his pony tail and leaving
the hat behind, Commissioner St. Georges still
made good on his activist past, working with resi-
dents and community organizations to start up
new programs to help tenant and community
groups manage city-owned buildings. With a boy-
ish smile, quick wit and overhand handshake, he
was also a fierce advocate for resources in a cash-
Three years later, the founders of the newly
minted National Consumer Cooperative Bank
sought a manager who could tend to both the
consumer and the bank in the organization's
name. St. Georges fit the bill. His new career in
banking took him to Mutual of New York and
finally KPMG Peat Marwick. All along invest-
ment banker St. Georges did for retail coopera-
tives, shopping centers and small grocery store
chains what he had done for tenants and hous-
ing cooperatives before-providing help
instead of hand-outs and keeping institutions
responsive to the needs of those they were
meant to serve.
He is survived by his wife of 20 years, Wendy
Faxon (the first director of the Tenant Interim
Lease program at UHAB), and their children,
Luke and Kate Faxon-St. Georges. His family has
established the Philip St. Georges Fund to support
educational opportunities for poor children. For
information about a New York memorial service
or contributions to the fund, call UHAB at 212-
479-3300. -Andrew Reicher
The late Philip St. went from housing rehabilitation to investment banker, helping to invent
the urban homesteadmg movement and even the term "sweat equity. "
hen the city's Administration for
Children's Services announced
last spring that it would start
using a neighborhood-based
system for foster care and adop-
tion services, child welfare advocates were
delighted. By running the system with a geo-
graphical focus-that is, keeping kids who live,
attend school and have friends in the Bronx in
Bronx foster homes-the hope is that the transi-
tion in and out of foster care will be easier for
kids and their families.
But a handful of child welfare agencies that
focus on kids with special needs-like Orthodox
Jewish children or teen parents-worry they'll get
shut out by the new regionally based contracting
process. That new scheme, to be put in place this
winter, will offer only a few contracts to citywide
groups, mostly for programs that serve disabled
"How can a Chinese-speaking family living in
the Bronx access preventive care if there are no
caseworkers that speak the language or understand
their culture?" asked Yim King Tsui, director of
Asian Family Services for the Chinese-American
Planning Council, at a recent City Council hearing
on the contract process. "Looking at the [contract]
from a minority client's perspective, services will
be totally cut off."
In another example, the incarcerated mothers
program run by Edwin Gould Services for
Children provides support for kids whose moms
are in jail. According to program director Sister
Mary Nerney, the new contracting rules may make
it impossible for its $3oo,OOO-a-year ACS grant to
Nerney says it's "ridiculous" that incarcerated
mothers won't be considered a specialized popu-
lation. She explains that the group helps children
and mothers deal with the particular stresses of jail
visits, arranges day care, housing and after-school
programs for the family taking care of the child,
and acts as a go-between with the corrections
department. ''There's no way every preventive ser-
vices pregram could do what we do," Nerney says.
"Specialized agencies will have to make
alliances with general providers," says ACS
spokesperson Leonora Weiner, who acknowledges
that neighborhood-based agencies may need the
help of specialists. Wiener suggested that, under
the new system, organizations like Nerney's might
be able to subcontract with geographically based
agencies. -Juan Castillo
.z ...... ----------.... --------------.. Briem
ITS[§}@1j.f(/! IN ONE MAYOR'S HEROIC MISSION TO DUMP CITY GARBl\GE NEAA NEW JERSEY BEACHES!
fter seven years in her $2,280-a-
month co-op apartment at Sutton
Gardens on the Upper East Side, Gail
Bianco was surprised this September
when her landlords gave her a mere
three weeks notice that they would not be renew-
ing her lease.
But that was nothing compared to the shock
she got when she asked for more time to clear out.
Five days later, she and her husband were
given a sublease agreement demanding $3,000
rent for the month of October and an additional
$3,000 security deposit. And for every day they
stayed past the end of October, they would be
charged $500 a day-a total of $15,000 for the
month of November.
"I was stunned," says Bianco, who contends
that she never missed a rent payment, a claim her
building manager contests. "We had expected to
be there for many, many years. I was upset and
angry that they were giving us such short notice.
We didn' t deserve this kind of treatment. We'd
been there for seven years. It was more than
unethical. It was nasty."
It may have been nasty, but it probably wasn't
illegal. The Biancos are now locked in a court bat-
tle over September's rent, but the landlords, Sutton
Associates, say it's completely within their discre-
tion to refuse to renew the lease and charge any rent
they want, since the apartment's not rent-stabilized.
"When [the landlords] hadn't heard from her at
the end of August, the decision was made to put
the apartment on the market," explains Sutton
Gardens managing agent Mike Noble, who claims
the Biancos got renewal notices in both April and
Questioned about the $500-a-day offer, Noble
justified the rate: ''That's what it would take to
rent a hotel space that size"-approximately
1,100 square feet. ''This is not some little old lady
living hand to mouth," he continues. ''These are
people who paid $2,280 a month for an apart-
Angelita Anderson, executive director of the
City-wide Task Force on Housing Court, says
more co-op renters are getting kicked out as the
sales market heats up. "We've seen this practice,
where people have to pay these enormous sums,"
she says, "but this is the most outrageous sum I
have ever seen." -Aaron Clark
he national Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention happily
reported in December that teenage
girls who have babies are a now less likely
to become teen mothers the second time around. Between 1991 and 1997, the
second-birth rate for teen moms fell by 21 percent, according to CDC Director
Jeffrey Koplan. Overall, the rate of births to teen mothers dropped by 15 per-
cent during the same six-year period. The CDC also reported that the fastest
declines in birth rate were among young black teens. -Glenn Thrush
tor Francis X.
Monck says that
often a woman
won't come in for
prenatal care unless
someone she knows
says it's safe.
Frightened away by the specter of deportation,
immigrant mothers are less likely than ever to come
in for prenatal care. By Idra Rosenberg
ritza Norville answers the
phone at the Brooklyn
Caribbean Women's Health
Association with only a gen-
tle, inviting hello. She knows
better than to ask for a name.
At the four CWHA clinics in Brooklyn
and Queens, 50,000 women a year come in
for free gynecological and prenatal care.
Many are immigrants, and many are in this
country illegally. And since the immigra-
tion and welfare laws changed two years
ago, Norville says, more and more of the
women who call are so scared of getting
deported that they refuse at first to give
their names to the doctors and nurses who
In New York, all low-income women
are entitled to free prenatal care under the
state's Prenatal Care Assistance Program
(pCAP) which provides checkups, pre-
scriptions and hospital care during preg-
nancy. It's a smart public health measure-
prenatal care reduces infant mortality and
birth defect rates. It betters the odds for a
safe pregnancy and delivery for the mother.
And it's cheap: According to a 1994 study
from the California Elected Women's
Association for Education and Research,
every dollar spent on prenatal care saves
three dollars in health care expenses in a
baby's first year.
"Prenatal care is absolutely critical,"
says Francis X. Monck, the administrator
for the Ambulatory Surgery Center of
Brooklyn, in Sunset Park. His program
offers prenatal medical treatment and
nutritional counseling as well as planning
for the child's well-being after birth.
There are often times when a mother
could benefit from government help, he
says, but they flatly reject the suggestion.
"There's a tremendous amount of fear that
they'll be sent away."
megal immigrants have always been
wary of taking advantage of government
services for fear of deportation. But over
the last two years, word has spread among
undocumented women that simply going
to the doctor can get you thrown out of the
country. It has frightened many women
away from getting the prenatal care they're
entitled to and need. And thanks to a mis-
application of the federal rules by the
Immigration and Naturalization Service
(INS) and the State Department, even legal
immigrants are leery of using programs
such as Medicaid. They have heard that
taking advantage of these benefits may
prejudice their citizenship applications.
"Before coming here, many of our
patients have previously gone to emer-
gency rooms, but got scared and left,"
Norville observes. "We let them know it is
not a risk to come in."
, 'If you are going in to get help, they
say you'll get sent back and your
kid will stay here and get adopt-
ed," says one CWHA client, recalling the
scare stories she heard while pregnant last
year. "All the people around me were say-
ing that. I didn't know if it's true, but I was
The woman, an 18-year-old undocu-
mented immigrant from Trinidad, fol-
lowed her mother's advice to ignore the
neighborhood rumors. A close friend rec-
ommended that she get prenatal care at
CWHA, which gives its clients a letter
guaranteeing their anonymity. Even so,
she was still nervous about going into the
clinic. '1 was scared that then I wouldn't
get my green card, but you don't know if
it's true or not. You got to find out for
yourself," she says now.
Since 1996, the realities of health care
have changed dramatically for immigrants,
making it much harder to differentiate
rumor from policy. The changes in eligi-
bility for publicly funded health care are
quite clear: Under the new rules, undocu-
mented immigrants can now only get
emergency health care and public health-
related care like vaccinations. In New York
State, thanks to a lawsuit that defined the
unborn child of an immigrant as a citizen,
pregnant mothers are also eligible for pre-
But reporting policies-the rules that
govern when and where a health care
worker is supposed to report an illegal
immigrant-have yet to be sorted out,
thanks to different philosophies at differ-
ent layers of government. New York City
has long told its health care workers not to
report a patient to the INS unless the per-
son is a criminal or a danger to the public.
But recent interpretations of the 1996 fed-
eral immigration law changed that. That
law says that no state or city government
can prohibit a government employee from
reporting, meaning that while federally
funded hospitals and clinics can't force
workers to turn over undocumented
patients to the feds, they also cannot pre-
vent an employee from doing so.
The new federal policy would apply
only to clinics and hospitals run by the city
or state government. But because New
York State still uses federal money to fund
PCAP, undocumented immigrants who use
the program are technically at the mercy of
their caretakers. On the New York State
application for prenatal care, however,
there are still no questions about citizen
In New York City, the story is even less
clear. The Giuliani administration med a
lawsuit to block implementation of the
federal law, which is now in appeals. So
technically, at least, the old city policy of
not reporting to the INS still holds for now.
"But we are in a precarious state," says
Margie McHugh of the New York
Immigration Coalition, which does legal
counseling and lobbying. "If a worker
wanted to report someone, the law would
be on their side."
According to McHugh's organization,
so far no woman in New York State has
been caught and deported simply for
applying for health care. But the fear is
still very real. "Every woman wants health
care, and they know it's there," says
CWHA executive director Yvonne
Graham. "But when people come to the
U.S. and [start] doing better, they will not
risk anything. If that means not accessing
prenatal care, they won't do it."
Graham says that some women will try
to scrape together money to see a private
doctor, or visit traditional healers. But in
general, clinicians report, many undocu-
mented immigrant women do not consult
with anyone during their pregnancy until
there is an emergency, or they are about to
Women who do come in are afraid to
explain necessary facts-like where they
are from, when their baby was conceived,
how long they've lived in the country-
says Roseanne McCauliff, director of
migration services for Catholic Charities.
"People are not willing to speak. It limits
the help we can offer," she says. "In the
last six months it has been almost impossi-
ble. Even when you tell them they will
remain anonymous, the answer is no. They
are just too frightened."
ince the early 1990s, infant mortality
in New York City has fallen faster
than it has in generations. For exam-
ple, the infant mortality rate for Hispanics
in New York City dropped 25 percent
between the late 1980s and the early
1990s, according to the city Department of
Health. The decline is extraordinary, say
pediatricians, since large-scale health
immigrant might get turned down for a
green card or citizenship for having used
public health services. The State
Department even held some legal immi-
grants at the border who wanted to re-
enter the country, trying to make them pay
back past Medicaid charges.
Health and Human Services declared
that this was a direct violation of Medicaid
protocol and after a confrontation within
the Clinton Administration, both agencies
officially backed off from these practices
in December 1997. But the damage was
done. Many legal immigrants still fear that
using federally-funded services will hurt
their chances for citizenship, and there are
"Th,y say you'll "t s,nt back, and your
kid will "t adopt,d. All th, p,opl, around
m, w,r, sayin, that. "
trends like infant mortality usually change
But according to a study from CWHA,
some women and babies in the city may
actually be worse off. When Graham
looked at city data, she found that infant
mortality rates increased in certain com-
munities during the mid-1990s, especially
among newly-arrived Spanish- and
French-speaking Caribbean immigrants.
Pediatrician Andrew Racine, an expert
in New York City infant mortality trends,
points out that it's unwise to use the expe-
rience of one or two neighborhoods to
make big conclusions about infant mortal-
ity. But he . readily agrees that prenatal
health care is a problem in the immigrant
community. "Even if [access] is not statu-
torily limited," he says, "the perception is
there that it is."
Even legal immigrants may be afraid
to take advantage of government-funded
prenatal care, thanks to wrong-headed
State Department and INS procedures
instituted after the 1996 reform. When
immigrants apply for permanent residen-
cy or citizenship, they undergo an evalua-
tion that determines whether they are like-
ly to become a "public charge"-a dead-
beat. After the new laws were passed,
State Department and INS officials started
emphasizing Medicaid records in the pub-
lic charge evaluation, implying that a legal
reports that INS workers still tell immi-
grants that Medicaid claims may be held
The New York Immigration Coalition's
Mark Lewis complains that as these fears
have intensified, immigration officials
have done little to set the record straight.
"We want the federal government to plain-
ly state that Medicaid cannot be used for
public charges," he says.
And he blames city and state govern-
ment for failing to make things easier
locally. "New York has not reached out to
immigrant pregnant women to come in for
prenatal care," Lewis says. He points out
that Massachusetts changed its application
to be less intimidating to pregnant women.
'The New York State Health Department
said they'd consider it, but nothing's been
done as of yet."
Clear government policy is important,
but clinics will have to work hard to undo
the damage that has already been done.
Monck points to his facility's weekly
workshop, where women can talk with
each other about their experiences with
health care. "I can tell them 'til 1'm blue in
the face that it's safe," he says, "but until
they hear it from someone with the experi-
ence, they don't quite believe me." •
Idra Rosenberg is a Manhattan-based
Jacqueline Jaber is
one of only two
counselors in the
One Brooklyn group serves battered women in two of the city s
most tight-knit communities: lesbians and Arab immigrants.
by Dylan Foley
ne night, while Barbara was
asleep in her New York City
apartment, her girlfriend
attacked her, stabbing her in
the forehead. She survived
the attack with 50 stitches, but that was
just the beginning of her ordeal. For
Barbara, a lesbian, the battered women's
shelter she fled to wasn't much of a
She was sent to an out-of-state
women's shelter where the staff instructed
her not to teU the other residents that her
attacker was a woman. They also made
about lesbians, breaking
their promise of confi-
dentiality and telling
other shelter residents
she was gay. Then they
failed to protect her
when she was insulted
and humiliated by the
Luckily, Barbara was
transferred back to
Brooklyn to a shelter that
specializes in helping
battered lesbians. There
she got counseling, sym-
pathy and help in finding
safe permanent housing.
The women's shelter
that Barbara went to is
run by the Park Slope
Safe Homes Project, a
women's program that
started with a small group
of women offering spare
bedrooms to other
women running from
their abusive husbands. It
has since evolved into a
profit with 13 staff mem-
bers, a hotline and two
And as the demo-
graphics of the women in
southern Brooklyn have
changed, the organization
adapted to fit. "In the
beginning Safe Homes
primarily served middle-
class white women," says
Cynthia Dansby. "Now
we get women from all
over the city. We are see-
ing younger women who've had their chil-
dren young. We've had women who've
been on the streets."
The lesbian project that helped Barbara
started up in the early 1990s, and Safe
Homes has since begun a specialty pro-
gram for another new Brooklyn communi-
ty: immigrant Arab women. The two pop-
ulations are very different, but both run
into trouble in the battered women's social
services system. For lesbians, domestic
violence is still a taboo subject. They have
problems getting their legal rights recog-
nized, and the police and shelter system
are unresponsive, even hostile. For Arab
women, there is intense cultural isolation,
a lack of Arabic-speaking social service
workers and discrimination.
Recognizing that a one-size-fits-all
attitude no longer works for domestic vio-
lence prevention and counseling, the Safe
Homes Project developed programs that
are specially suited to the changing needs
of Brooklyn women. And as the women
who staff these programs have discovered,
it takes a particular mix of compassion and
pragmatism to get these women the help
esbians often have a difficult time
in social services and legal systems
that are designed for heterosexual
couples, says Safe Homes staffer Judy Yu,
a young, politically active lesbian. Cops,
judges and social workers are often
unsympathetic or even downright rude.
"One of our clients was applying for
welfare," remembers Yu. "The social
worker said 'You let yourself get beaten up
by a woman?' and started laughing."
Yu says that police officers can be
especially difficult. "Police often don't fol-
low domestic violence procedures when it
involves two women," she says. "Some
cops think it is funny-it's a 'cat fight.'"
Or worse, they wiU misjudge the situation
and charge the wrong woman. "They go
by stereotypes," she says. "They think the
butch is always the abuser."
But police help is key. A woman with
an abusive husband can quickly get an
order of protection through Family Court,
which does not require criminal charges
against the abuser. Since New York City's
domestic partnership program has no legal
standing in Family Court, only lesbian
couples that have legally adopted each
other's children have access. For other les-
bians, the order must be obtained through
criminal court, meaning that a criminal
case must be initiated against the ex-lover,
says Nadya Rosen, a caseworker with Safe
Homes' LesbianIBilTrans Women's
Project. For a victim to get an order of pro-
tection, the batterer must commit an
arrestable offense in the eyes of the law.
In Barbara's case, even the criminal
courts were of little help. Though charged
with attempted murder and convicted of
assault, Barbara's ex-girlfriend was sen-
tenced to only one day in jail. Barbara's
advocates say the judge was somewhat
sympathetic to the older woman and was
unwilling to give her a long jail term.
'There is a sense that women do not
believe women can be as violent as men,"
Rosen says. According to the Federal
Bureau of Investigation, one in four het-
erosexual couples have abusive relation-
ships. The Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence
Project (AVP) finds that gay couples aren't
much different: They estimate one in five
homosexual relationships is abusive.
As with straight couples, domestic vio-
lence takes many forms: beatings, insults,
rape, tyrannical jealousy. But gay couples
are also vulnerable in more public ways.
"For a lesbian, domestic violence can take
the form of forced 'outing' by her partner,"
explains Diane Dolan-Soto, domestic vio-
lence program coordinator for the AVP. "If
a woman is outed as a lesbian, she may lose
her job or other necessary supports. If she
is a mother, disclosing that she is a lesbian
may mean risking the loss of her children."
Most traumatic of all, a lesbian victim
of domestic violence who charges her part-
ner with abuse may be accused of being a
traitor to feminism or lesbianism. 'There
is definitely an element of not wanting to
bring more stigma on our community,"
says Rosen. "By naming the violence, we
are seen as reinforcing the stereotypes
against 'out' women.
"A lot of us in the queer community are
feminist," she adds. "It is hard, when you
are political, to see your friend as a poten-
tial batterer. This traps women who are
abused, when their community says they
To bring attention to the domestic vio-
lence problem in lesbian relationships, the
Safe Homes staff and volunteers hold sen-
sitivity trainings for other shelters through-
out the city. They post fliers in popular
women's hangouts in Brooklyn and
Manhattan, and run a support group for
lesbian, bisexual and transgender sur-
vivors of domestic violence-the only one
of its kind in Brooklyn.
he experience that Safe Homes
counselors had working with the
close-knit lesbian community
helped prepare them to begin work with
some of Brooklyn's newest immigrants,
Arabic-speaking women from North
Africa and the Middle East. Some of the
same issues--cultural isolation and insu-
larity-are common to both groups, but
Arab women have an additional difficulty:
finding social workers that speak their lan-
guage and understand the rules of Middle
Eastern Islamic culture.
Safe Homes hired Jacqueline Jaber last
year to work with women in Brooklyn's
growing Arab communities in Bay Ridge,
Sunset Park and Park Slope, a population
now topping 100,000 people. With just
word of mouth and no advertising, Jaber's
women now make up 8 percent of the 740
clients Safe Homes sees each year. Jaber,
who speaks Arabic, works with a core group
of 30 women, running support groups and
translating for her clients as they try to work
their way through the city bureaucracy.
Jaber, a gregarious Palestinian
American with a hearty laugh, was raised
in Brooklyn in a very religious Muslim
family. "I was the eldest of 10 children and
my mother was often sick," she says. "I
grew up talcing care of people." Jaber her-
self was in an arranged marriage that pro-
duced four children; she is now divorced.
Most of the women Jaber works with-
including Palestinians, Moroccans, and
Syrians-come from very traditional
Muslim families. Some wear shara'a, the
full-length gown and head scarf. Jaber must
be able to negotiate dozens of different vari-
ations on nationality, class and cultural
upbringing. 'The Syrian women tend to be
more educated," she says. 'The Yemeni
women often come from small villages and
may speak only a local dialect of Arabic."
One of only two Arabic-speaking
domestic violence counselors in New York
City, Jaber is busy. 'There are no city ser-
vices for Arabic speakers," she says. So
she also gets calls from non-Muslim Arab
women, and has even helped the
American-born wives of Middle Eastern
men. 'The problems with Arab men are
the same [when they have] American
wives-there is physical and economic
abuse. They are controlling."
Jaber explains that her job isn't to
change the women that come to her sup-
port group, but rather to provide them with
options. ''Many of these women do not see
verbal abuse as abuse," she says. "I give
them other points of view." She exposes
her clients to liberal interpretations of the
Koran, discussing their religion and how
they view the violence in their lives. They
must understand, Jaber says, ''the Koran
does not justify domestic violence."
For many of Jaber's clients, the biggest
problem is that they don' t know how to use
Non .. Profits.
Low .. Cost
Over 20 Years
914 .. 654 .. 8667
"Polic,oft,n don't follow dom,stic
viol,nc, proc,dur,s wh,n it involv,s
two wom,n. 50m, cops think it is
funny-th,y think it's a 'cat fi,ht. '"
New York City's support systems, which are
nothing like the traditional ones they know
from home. "If there is domestic violence in
their native country, men from both families
will meet with the local sheik to resolve the
issue," she explains. "They do not have that
support here." Much of Jaber's time is spent
waiting in offices to translate for her clients,
weathering impatient and harsh comments
''The public assistance people ask why
my clients dress in shara'a, why they have
so many kids," she reports. ''These are
things they would never ask a black or
Latino woman." Jaber says she has to
answer even stupid questions politely to
get the job done. ''They ask me what I
think about Iraq, or 'When you say
Palestine, don't you mean Israel?' I don't
have time to educate them. I have to get on
to the next task."
One of her clients, Fatima, is a 33-year-
old Palestinian woman with six children
who now lives in Sunset Park. She had her
rust kid at age 15, and came to New York
City at age 19. But her relationship with
her husband, a store clerk, deteriorated
after four or five years in New York. Soon,
he abandoned the family, coming back
regularly to beat up and yell at his wife. "I
felt I had no options," Fatima says through
a translator. "In our culture, you listen to
Jaber got Fatima the order of protection
that keeps her violent husband away-
Jaber reports that enlisting the cops is often
very helpful, in part because many Arab
men may be afraid of deportation. Jaber
also suggests another reason:
"Because they were raised under
repressive regimes, they listen to men
in uniform," she says with a chuckle.
She got Fatima on welfare, and
Safe Homes is finding her a new
apartment. "God willing, when the
housing comes through, I will study
English and, of course, get a job,"
"Because I had no chance to be
educated, I hope one of my children
will go on to higher education," she says.
"I hope my daughters will have good rep-
Both Yu and Jaber admit that dealing
with the complexity of these particular
brands of domestic violence is difficult,
even exhausting. But both also report that
the work can be rewarding, partly because
they can see concrete results in women's
lives. "I am proud of the work I do," says
the pragmatic Jaber. '1 am helping my
"We've painted a pretty dark picture of
queer women being battered," admits Yu.
"But they do survive. It is a testament to
their strength." •
Dylan Foley is afrequent contributor to
Request for Proposal (RFP)
The Edward W. Hazen Foundation is now accepting proposals for the Spring 1999 funding cycle
from grassroots and community-based organizations that use the tools of advocacy and organizing to bring about
systemic change in public education. The Foundation seeks to fund the following types of programs in nine targeted
geographic areas, including New York City; Philadelphia; Baltimore; Washington. D.C.; Miami/Dade;
The Mississippi Delta; Chicago; Texas; and los Angeles .
• New or emerging parent and community organizing initiatives that foster educational equity and improved student achievement
• Community-based advocacy efforts that have the potential to affect change in educational policies and practices that enhance
equity and accountability.
• Training and leadership development initiatives that provide parents in low-income communities with knowledge, skills. and
opportunities to participate in meaningful decision-making at the school and district levels.
Grassroots and community-based organizations in targeted geographic areas are encouraged to submit a proposal to
the Foundation. A copy of the proposal guide can be obtained by calling (212) 889-3034 ext 21.
The deadline for receipt of proposals is MONDAY. MARCH 1. 1999. USeed" funding and multi-year grants ranging in size
from $20.000 to $75.000 will be announced in June 1999. Approximately $500.000 will be awarded.
4RRBSTBD DBVBLOPMBHT: FIRST IN A SERIES ON CITY HOUSING POLICY IN RETREAT
o one, save a few meteorologists obsessed
with global warming, was expecting 75-
degree weather this December.
Carlota Reyes certainly wasn't. So she
found herself one recent afternoon in the
scorching basement of her apartment build-
ing in Washington Heights learning how to
tum down her boiler to compensate for the
long Indian Summer. Unlike most apartment dwellers in the city,
Reyes and the other tenants in her 35-unit building own the apart-
ments they live in-so they want to keep expenses low. "We're
spending too much money on oil," she says.
Had it not been for the city's Tenant Interim Lease (TIL) pro-
gram, Reyes probably would have just opened her windows and
let the landlord's money waft out. But 12 years ago, Reyes signed
up for TIL, a city housing program that provides low-income ten-
ants with funding to renovate their buildings if they agree to take
over and manage the apartments as co-ops.
TIL is one of the city's most successful community develop-
ment initiatives, having transformed more than 600 dilapidated
buildings over the last two decades and brought thousands of poor
and working-class tenants into the ranks of homeowners hip.
But if the program has been a paradigm of tenant empower-
ment, Reyes' building is also an example of the traumas TIL can
visit on residents who are unprepared for the rigors of manage-
In Reyes' case, the problem was that the first generation of
elected tenant leaders had poor oversight over the building'S
finances. Due to their bad financial planning-and the failure of
the city to properly train tenant leaders-the building's taxes and
bills piled up a six-figure debt. Finally, when Reyes was elected
head of the tenant association, she started untying the financial
knots, putting in the six-hour work days that are typical of com-
mitted tenant-managers. Still, it was only by securing a $160,000
her and 78
loan from the Community Servke Society that she was able to
keep the building from being repossessed by the city.
Reyes notes that for the second year in a row, no one stole-
or even vandalized-the Christmas tree in the lobby, a barometer
of her success. "We' re going to save this building," she says with
absolute certainty, eyes locked on a reporter. "Everything is' done.
Insurance. Inspections. New boiler. New roof. The windows are
going to be fixed. People are happy."
On balance, most TIL tenants are happy with the program. But
as supporters celebrate TIL's 20th anniversary, critics are ques-
tioning how well-managed the buildings-and the program-are.
In September, City Comptroller Alan Hevesi delivered a per-
verse anniversary gift: a scathing audit reporting that many of the
program's buildings suffer from poor oversight and deteriorating
conditions. "Simply stated, a large number of these buildings have
not succeeded in any way, shape or form," wrote Hevesi's audi-
tors. "Many of the buildings have ... deteriorated and are proba-
bly in the same or worse condition than before they were reno-
TIL's ills, Hevesi reported, stemmed from confused manage-
ment, insufficient guidance for newly formed tenant-run co-ops
and general sloppiness in the operation of the program. The prob-
lems mean that TIL buildings now owe millions of dollars in back
But the report hasn't provoked the city Department of Housing
Preservation and Development (HPD) to pull the curtain down on
the program, to the relief of tenant activists. "TIL is considered to
be one of the basic programs in HPD," an high-ranking agency
officials told City Limits, echoing the opinion of several other
agency sources. "It is considered to be essential by this adminis-
Instead, the program may be facing an even bigger challenge.
Soon, there may few buildings left to renovate.
Since the Giuliani administration stopped seizing tax -delin-
quent apartment buildings four years ago, the stock of apartment
buildings available for TIL has dwindled. And that means within
a few years-nobody is exactly sure when-there will be no more
city-owned buildings for tenants to take over. Meanwhile, TIL
supporters must compete with the city's other housing preserva-
tion programs for the trickle of apartment houses still in the
"I get the feeling that when the Giuliani administration leaves,
they're going to be turning out the lights on TIL and the rest of
HPD, for that matter," says Joe Center, a longtime housing activist
on the West Side and Harlem.
he Tenant Interim Lease program, and its core phi-
losophy of involving tenants in reclaiming their
neighborhoods, is a product of an era when New
York City'S government lost control of its ability to
deal with the wholesale disintegration of its poorest
New York City'S housing problems during the 1960s and
1970s were rooted in white flight and the concentration of poor
blacks and Latinos in substandard housing. But it was the city's
palsied response that made the crisis a cataclysm.
Until the late 1970s, the city repossessed buildings when land-
lords were delinquent with tax payments. The buildings were then
auctioned off to new owners, giving the city a quick way to recov-
er tax cash. But many of the buildings were bought up by specu-
lators who purchased them for a pittance, then did little more than
collect rent. Few invested in maintenance or repairs and, ulti-
mately, the rotting apartment houses would be repeatedly repos-
sessed and auctioned off.
Trapped in this cycle of abuse, hundreds of buildings became
so run down-scarred by vandalism, water damage and fires-
that even the poorest tenants abandoned them. Around that time,
a handful of guerrilla homesteaders began occupying and reno-
vating discarded buildings. Eventually, they started organizing
tenants, spreading the mantra of self-help and neighborhood
Considering how unprepared city bureaucrats were at the time,
it was inevitable that housing officials would, at some point, turn
to the homesteading movement for help. "No one sat around a big
table and planned this," explains Harry DiRienzo, a pioneering
homesteader in the South Bronx who helped found Banana Kelly,
one of the most successful community revitalization groups to
emerge from that era. "It was the height of the housing movement
and the city's attitude was, 'You wanna take over some buildings?
Hey, go knock yourself out. We don't want 'em.'"
The program·started off modestly, in the Cathedral of St. John
the Divine, with homesteading veterans counseling interested ten-
ants in the art and craft of hardscrabble rehab. Originally, resi-
dents would do the renovations themselves, using their "sweat
equity" to get the buildings into habitable shape. As the program
gained momentum, the city combined local tax revenues with fed-
eral grants to gradually increase the amount of repair dollars per
unit from $2,000 at the time to around $45,000 today. "It was very
exciting-we had 10 to 20 buildings coming into the program
every month," recalls Andrew Reicher, executive director of the
Urban Homesteading Assistance Board (UHAB), which was
formed to provide technical help for squatters in the early 1970s.
"It was one of those rare coincidences: The city wanted this to
happen, the tenants did, and the housing community did."
(As a matter of full disclosure: Reicher is City Limits' board
president and sublets space to the editorial staff. However, at the
behest of its board, City Limits has always maintained a policy of
strict editorial independence.)
Since the first building made through renovation into tenant
ownership in 1980, the program has grown steadily. About 50 new
buildings now enter TIL. program each year, while another 50
graduate out. At the moment, 173 buildings are in the pipeline,
and 60 are waiting to have their applications to enter the program
To get into the program now, residents in city-owned buildings
form a tenant association, elect officers and establish bylaws and
guidelines. When 60 percent of a building's residents agree to join
the co-op program, the group applies. If their application is
okayed, at least half of the tenants must go through a series of ori-
entation and training classes run by UHAB and other nonprofits,
where tenant leaders are taught financial management, mainte-
nance, and repairs.
In the meantime, tenants collect rent, pay for minor repairs,
accrue a small rainy-day reserve and file their financial paperwork
with HPD to prove that they are up to the task of running a co-op.
Once the agency agrees, it releases the rehab money.
The renovations can take two to three years, and then tenants
can purchase their apartments at the bargain-basement price of
onverting a building from a run-down city-owned
rental property to a private co-op is a difficult and
dangerous enterprise. TIL doesn't always assure a
According to Deputy Comptroller Roger Liwer of
Hevesi's office, 28 of the 45 TIL buildings that went co-op
between July 1995 and 1996 are in tax arrears. Fifteen of those
buildings are in danger of tax foreclosure and a potential return to
city ownership, he says.
All told, TIL co-ops owe $15.3 million in back property taxes.
The problem, the comptroller's office concluded, was poor man-
agement on the part of tenant associations. Many are unwilling to
raise rents-known in the co-op world as maintenance fees- <l:
when the buildings need more money. The tenant-owners take ~
The city did
and a DC-
run a build-
money slated for water bill or property taxes and spend it on
repairs or other unexpected expenses.
At the root of the problem, Hevesi alleges, is that HPD has
overestimated the rent rolls of many buildings before handing
them over to tenants. In one instance, auditors found that a rent
roll had been estimated at four times its actual cash flow.
HPD, in a pointed response sent to City Limits, argued that
Hevesi's calculations failed to mention that just 18 of the 352
buildings cited as tax deadbeats in the audit accounted for one-
third of the total Tn. tax bill.
Still, HPD's TIL director Elba Ramos conceded in the letter
that debt wasn't the program's only problem. "Indeed, there are
sold Tn. buildings in tax arrears and disrepair," she wrote.
Some Tn. tenant-owners-especially those who were accept-
ed to the program before HPD had become so generous with its
repair budget-say the agency handed them damaged goods.
On the third floor of 41 Convent Avenue in Harlem, eight ten-
ants work diligently every day running the 79-unit St. Agnes
apartment house, a 90-year-old grand dame of a building.
HPD's fIX-Up job, which ended when the place was sold to the
tenants in 1995, wasn't enough to undo the damage done by
decades of indifferent landlords and government ownership. The
elevator runs on an antiquated electrical line that results in astro-
nomical Con Ed bills. The plumbing is poor, residents say, hiking
water rates and sewer bills.
"The city said to us, 'You either buy it as is, or it will go back
to the city,'" says Sophie Johnson, president of the tenant's asso-
ciation. "We've struggled too long for that to happen again." So
far, Johnson and her small cadre of neighbors have done well:
They have hired their own security, accountant, bookkeeper and
clerk and are now shopping for a loan. They're also considering
raising rents to do new repairs.
Other buildings have not been so lucky. Since Tn.'s inception
116 buildings-12 percent of t h ~ total admitted into the pro-
gram-have failed and fallen back into city management.
Ut all of these problems pale in comparison to the
threat posed by the city's new anti-foreclosure policy.
The four-year-old moratorium on seizing buildings,
part of the Giuliani administration's budget-cutting
strategy, has made for an ironic situation. For years,
tenant advocates complained bitterly about the shoddy upkeep of
city buildings. Now, they fear that without any new city-owned
tax delinquent properties, there will be no more free buildings to
In the last year alone, the city has shed nearly 250 buildings
with some 4,000 units from its portfolio. The competition to enroll
the remaining buildings has become fierce-and will get more
intense as the supply dries up completely during the first years of
the next century.
The most intense competition for buildings has taken place
between TIL and the three-year-old Neighborhood
Entrepreneurs Program (NEP), which uses government money
to renovate buildings that are later handed over to pre-selected
private landlords. TIL supporters have long feared that NEP, run
by the powerful New York City Housing Partnership, would
siphon off the best remaining buildings. In reality, almost the
opposite has happened: NEP tenants have been taking advantage
of their right to opt out of their program and into Tn.. "We're
seeing a lot of that," says UHAB's Andrew Reicher. "The ten-
ants would rather get into an ownership program than go back to
a private landlord."
In fact, HPD sources tell City Limits that the flood of NEP
buildings into Tn. has gotten so large that about 80 buildings were
accepted into the tenant ownership program last year--compared
to the annual average of about 50.
Nonetheless, if TIL is going to continue to justify its share of
buildings, the program will have to rehabilitate its own image.
And that will be hard to do.
lt is likely that Tn. will always be one of the city's most chaot-
ic housing programs, simply because it is more ambitious. It is a
petrie dish of big ideas, philosophical flourishes and competing
objectives, including tenant empowerment, building repair, com-
lij munity building, homeownership and, now, budget cutting.
~ "With Tn., self-management requires commitment and
~ skill," says Jackie Wilson, head of the United TIT., Coalition of
Jl Harlem. "Democracy is slow. If you want everybody to take
part, it takes time."
By contrast, NEP and another housing preservation pro-
gram called the Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP)
rely on the expertise of seasoned landlords and community
groups to do the most difficult work and, hence, will always be
more streamlined enterprises than TIL. But neither of these
programs can accomplish what TIL does when it works: build-
ing neighborhoods and providing permanent homes for low-
"There's a lot of pain and suffering, but I'm happy," Carlota
Reyes says. "To me, this has been a powerful experience, con-
vincing people that we can save this building if we really want
to. The doors are open, if you're willing to solve the problem.
But your mind must be open." •
oes politics play a role in
New York City's community
housing programs? If you
want an answer, just check
out the window dressing on
the apartment building at 515 West
174th Street in Washington Heights.
Instead of nice nonpartisan cur-
tains, the tenants have shaded their
windows with the smiling campaign-
poster visage of one Adriano Espaillat,
the young Dominican assemblyman who
represents the district. The reason for
Espaillat's presence on the premises is
that he and the city's other Dominican
elected official, Councilman Guillenno
Linares, have decided, as part of their
ongoing turf war, to wage a battle for
this city-owned apartment building.
Over the last two years, the two
rivals-along with a cast of supporting
players that includes a handful of upper
Manhattan's better-known politicos-
have swamped the tenants in a sea of
confusing acronyms-NRP (the
Neighborhood Revitalization program)
and TIL (the Tenant Interim Lease pro-
gram) chief among them.
It all began in the summer of 1996,
when the city Department of Housing
Preservation and Development (HPO)
sent otT letters to the tenants telling
them they had been selected for NRp, a
program that sells city-owned build-
ings to local community development
groups. In this case, the local group
was none other than the Community
Association of Progressive Dominicans,
known by its Spanish acronym ACOp, an
organization with close ties to Linares.
The notice puzzled most of the ten-
ants, except for a chain-smoking, rum-
drinking fifty-something named Manny
Alvarez, the unofficial tenant leader,
who immediately decided that it sound-
ed like a set-up. "It hit us like a ton of
bricks," he says, not hiding his basic
suspicion of Councilman Linares'
motives. "They made deals over there.
Linares was behind it."
A key Linares ally admits Alvarez is
probably right. "I can't see ACOP doing
it without Linares at least signing off on
it," says fonner assemblyman Brian
Murtaugh, who lost to Espaillat in 1996.
Alvarez says he was wary of NRP's
reputation for hiking rents and relocat-
ing tenants while major repairs took
place in a building. So he shared his
opinion with his fellow tenants, orga-
nizing them to apply for TIL, a tenant
ownership program that he says would
have resulted in more modest repairs
and no relocations.
There is some truth to this. NRP
overhauls do sometimes involve gut
rehabs and TIL repairs can often be
done without the same level of disrup-
tion or displacement.
By December 1996, Alvarez con-
vinced all but two of the building's 23
tenants to sign a petition asking HPO to
place the building in the TIL program. At
some point he contacted Espaillat and
enlisted his support-an easy sell con-
sidering the assemblyman's longtime
rivalry with Linares.
Then the counter-offensive by the
pro-Linares forces began. Around
Christmas that year, representatives
from a local management company met
with the tenants and made the case for
NRP. Soon after, another vote was
taken. This time nine of 19 tenants pre-
sent reversed their TIL verdict and
voted for NRP. Because 60 percent of a
tenant association must vote "yes" on
a TIL referendum, HPO officially nUect-
ed the TIL application.
Most of the tenants, however,
remained thoroughly befuddled. "I
don't know anything, I don't know,"
says Pedro Palafox, who has lived in the
building for 16 years. To this day he
says he has no idea what either pro-
gram would mean to his life.
Since then, the battle has continued,
with an increasing number of tenants
siding with the TIL camp-at the direct
behest of Espaillat, who spends the
occasional Saturday lobbying them
personally. The dispute became even
more intensely political, not to mention
personal, when Linares decided to back
Isabelle Evangelista, an ACOP board
member, against Espaillat in last
September's Assembly primary. Up
went the Espaillat posters at 515 West
174th Street; down went Evangelista in
a humbling defeat
Still, it appears that Linares and
Evangelista will prevail. HPO has stead-
fastly refused to take the building out of ~
NRP. The city hopes to begin moving ~
tenants out in the next few months, but
many of them now say they won't
To help them stay, Espaillat and
Alvarez have enlisted the legal help of
yet another local pol, failed State
Senate candidate Daniel O'Donnell,
brother of talk-show smurfette Rosie.
And so the guen;lIa war continues,
with most of the tenants telling City
limits they're still confused. For his
part, Alvarez has vowed to fight reloca-
tion until they drag him out in cuffs. "It's
a war," he says. -Philip Shishkin
By Alyssa Katz
n Jana Newton's Bed-Stuy experience, in-your-
face attitude is a survival skill. Newton has loads
of it-if something pisses her off, she'll let you
know at jackhammer decibels. When she was
younger, bad judgment got her a Child Welfare
Administration case file after she left her two
small children with an aunt and started doing
drugs with a party crowd. Once she cleaned up
and the kids carne back home, she says, "I swore
to myself that they would never go back." But
that outrageous attitude-plus an apartment that
she admits was fIlthy, "a fucking monstrosity"-
would get her children taken away again five
years later and give Newton a two-year educa-
tion in the lessons of Family Court.
Nobody has ever accused Newton of turning her hot temper on
her kids, and she is fiercely protective of them. The problem was
simpler: Newton and her last caseworker just didn't get along. Her
caseworker didn't approve of Newton's freewheeling parenting
style or her admitted marijuana use. For her part, Newton was
frustrated that her requests for help to buy clothes for her kids
weren't getting met.
By November 1996, Newton was pregnant, unemployed and
having problems with her boyfriend that occasionally turned vio-
lent. Even though she was trying to make a better life for her
line up outside
Family Court to
make their 9:30
ready for a day
After nearly two
years of Family
Jana Newton and
her kids are
kids-getting involved iIi school tutoring and breakfast programs,
for instance-her estranged mother filed a report to the
Administration for Children's Services (ACS). The complaint
turned the tension to disaster.
When the caseworker got to Newton's apartment, it was a
mess, with trash bags and clothes everywhere. She was given a
few days to .clean up. But Newton called the worker the next day
in a fury. "I cursed her out, calling her every name in the book,"
she remembers. ''That night, six cops came for my kids."
A few days later she was in Brooklyn Family Court., facing alle-
gations that her apartment was dirty, that she smoked marijuana
daily, that there wasn't enough food in the house, that the kids had
missed nine days of school, and more. As is her right, Newton asked
for her children to be returned home while the case was working its
way through hearings, a process that could take eight months to a
year. Her request was rejected. Newton's lawyer cut a deal: The
children would live with their grandmother while the allegations got
sorted out. They would stay there for almost two years.
Along with thousands of other families around the city, Jana
Newton and her children were swept up in a crusade to overhaul
This story was the the city's child welfare system. The effort began at the end of
result of a collabo- 1995, when the city child welfare agency was reborn as ACS, an
ration between attempt to fix a system that had become nationally infamous for
City Limits and allowing six-year-old Elisa Izquierdo to die at the hands of her
the Child Welfare
Watch, which will Since then, in its drive to ensure that no child in the city suf-
provide a report on fers neglect or abuse, the agency has hauled thousands of New
this topic in York City families into court.
January. To obtain Now, judges and a cumbersome legal system are left to sort
a copy, call (212)- out truly negligent parents from sloppy housekeepers, the inci-
479-3345. dental spankers from murderous time-bombs, the rehabilitation-
'-_____ ..J ready from the addicts who will ignore their children.
"Caseworkers are so scared now
that they don't offer any preven-
tive services," says one recently
departed ACS attorney, who
requested anonymity. "Removals
are done way too quickly, without
any investigation ... I would fight
so hard not to ftle certain cases.
But then my supervisor would
make me ftle it, or ACS would.
And the case would get ftled."
The flood of cases arrives in a
Family Court that cannot give
them the attention they need. A 50
percent surge in new child neglect
petitions over the last two years
has nearly overwhelmed the sys-
tem, forcing judges and lawyers to
take on unworkable caseloads and
make critical decisions about chil-
dren's lives without sufficient time
In the year Elisa Izquierdo
died-just as crack's legacy was
fading-Family Court placed
about 8,000 children in foster
care. In 1997, the number had
increased to 11,958. Amid this
foster care frenzy are many fami-
lies that should never have been
split up in the first place. Now,
they must wait far too long to be reunited.
arents walking through a Family Court metal detector
for their 9:30 a.m. call have no idea when their cases
will be heard. So they wait, and wait-in Manhattan's
garish vaulted chambers, on institutional wood benches
in Brooklyn, in Queens' claustrophobic waiting rooms.
"You're sitting there for fi ve hours, and then you're in front of the
judge for five minutes," explains Luis Medina, executive director
of St. Christopher's-Jennie Clarkson, an agency that contracts
with ACS. "People who've had their kids removed suddenly find
themselves in a culture where time doesn't matter."
Court dates are anywhere from a few weeks to several months
apart, and parents have to go back to court repeatedly. In 1996,
nearly a quarter of families had to wait more than six months
before getting a trial.
It's all supposed to work sensibly. An attorney representing
ACS attempts to prove that neglect or abuse has probably taken
place. (Contrary to popular impression, neglect cases outnumber
abuse cases by about nine to one.) Evidence might be positive
drug tests or a child's hospital records; witnesses include social
workers, cops, family members and the parents themselves.
Parents are represented by court-assigned attorneys, and a Legal
Aid "law guardian" advocates for the child. At the end of the trial,
the judge decides whether the allegations have held up.
Usually, they do. In 1996, 88 percent of cases ended up estab-
lishing neglect or abuse, either through a judge's finding or a par-
ent's admission. But criminal court's high standard of proof does-
n't apply here. ACS attorneys, aided by caseworker investiga-
tions, don't have to prove much to keep a child in foster care: A
probability of neglect is enough.
Besides, in Family Court, judges have an incentive to keep fami-
lies in the system, and parents have an incentive to cop' to the charges.
"Judges want jurisdiction over a parent, because they want to exer-
cise caution and control," explains Lauren Shapiro of Brooklyn Legal
Services, who represents parents. ''Without a finding, the parent goes
away and ACS can't continue supervising them."
Knowing that the odds are against their clients, parents'
lawyers will often advise them to own up to charges right away,
and start working on getting their kids back. Just under half of all
parents decide to forego trial.
If a case results in a finding against a parent, a judge will hold
a disposition hearing an average of two months later. The hearing
decides whether a kid will remain in ACS's care or go back home
under agency supervision. At this point, about three out of four
kids are kept in foster care.
rarely taken seriously before. Everything from insinuations of
parental mental illness to reports of children being left alone for a
couple of hours may wind up in front of a judge.
'They're trying to bring everything to court and let the court
decide," acknowledges Judge Gloria Sosa-Lintner of Manhattan.
"But 1 don' t think they're accusing people unjustly-most of
these cases are sustained."
Parents' attorneys disagree. 'The system is absolutely biased
against parents," says Edwina Richardson, who's represented
them for 10 years in Manhattan Family Court. "I see cases that all
parties once would have thought were junk cases or nonsense now
being taken seriously by the court." Marijuana use, for instance,
never used to be a big issue. "Now," she says, "it's being used to
take children away."
Sounds straightforward, if unpleasant. But in a stressed-out =1============================
Family Court, something usually goes wrong. Sometimes a par-
ent, lawyer or caseworker can't be found. Other times, a case-
worker hasn't completed an investigation in time for the disposi-
tion hearing. And sometimes, if a parent has been arrested on
charges of neglect or abuse, the parent's lawyer might ask that the
Family Court hearing be delayed, so that evidence from that hear-
ing won't wind up in the hands of a D.A.
The system is set up to ensure that children aren't beaten or
killed. But it also keeps some kids who aren't in that kind of dan-
ger away from home for months or even years. "Separation is
traumatic," says Medina. "In the vast majority of neglect cases,
most kids, despite their circumstances, experience a debilitating
sense of losing controL There's a fear that anyone can knock on
the door and take them away. And more often than not, in the
mind of the child it's 'What have 1 done wrong?'''
n 1995, the courts heard 6,658 new neglect cases. Two years
later, 9,986 cases were flied. Abuse cases rose 43 percent in
the same period. Judges, attorneys and child advocates
agree: ACS, much more than its predecessors, routinely
removes children from their parents.
Blame the media, says ACS Commissioner Nicholas
Scoppetta. "If you look at the numbers of reported cases of
neglect and abuse, you can almost plot them against the high-pro-
flIe cases," he says. He adds that training sessions that teach
health care workers, teachers and other "mandated reporters" to
recognize and report neglect and abuse have inflated the number
of cases his agency must investigate. But he also acknowledges
that, in about a fifth of all cases, kids removed from their parents
will end up at home or with relatives within a few months.
"Some of those removals absolutely had to go through that
process," Scoppetta says. "But others go in and out of the courts.
If we had more information at the beginning of cases, we might
have been able to decide not to put the child through the system."
Trying to close the information gap, ACS has created a Queens
pilot program that brings community members to a meeting imme-
diately after a child has been taken away from home. A teacher
could recommend ways to cut down truancy, or a pastor might sug-
gest a neighbor who could help with child care. Since June, out of
the 25 families in this program, 14 managed to stay out of court,
and ACS plans to expand the the program later this year.
But without more substantial changes, family advocates insist,
there will still be too many kids taken from their parents unneces-
sarily. 'The media attention on abuse resulted in a backlash of
more removals," says Shapiro. "It's a very different attitude now.
ACS workers and lawyers admit that there's no flexibility any-
more. It's just removal ." Attorneys for both children and parents
say that ACS is splitting up families over allegations that were
We CaD Work It Oat
acing a case load crunch and the
promise of worse yet to come (see
"Adoption Fast Track"), New York's
family courts are following a national trend
toward mediation. If an ambitious pilot pro-
ject works, it could be set up throughout the
system, ushering in the biggest change in the
child welfare court system since the New York
Family Court was born in 1962.
Starting this winter, Manhattan Family
Court will begin using non-adversarial "pre-
trial conferences" to hash out problems.
Parents, attorneys and a referee will sit down
together during the first month of a case and
try to come to agreements. Ideally, with in-
depth information on each family, the confer-
encing will allow the players to immediately
generate a plan to re-unify the family, if that's
the goal. One hope is to prevent unnecessary
foster care placements.
"People [will] have an opportunity, before
they've hardened their minds about what
should happen, for a family to give all partici-
pants a chance to talk," says Jane Spinak of
Columbia Law School, who used to head Legal
Aid's family court operations. "Judges are
starting to believe that people who are being
told that they are unable to care for their chil-
dren should be given the chance to say, 'No, I
can. Let me have input in how I structure the
next year of my life and my child's life to solve
the problem.'" -AK
has two daugh-
ters at home, but
ments have post-
another one of .
her children back
Agency sources say that ACS enforces a strict policy: Unless a
caseworker can convince her office's chief that a case shouldn't be
filed, reports of suspected neglect or abuse from mandated reporters
must be brought to court. "Our jobs got harder and harder because
some of the cases got stupider and stupider," says the ex-agency
lawyer. 'There was less and less proof, and worse and worse inves-
tigations by the caseworkers. Sometimes it was embarrassing."
'They' re bringing cases that should never really come to
court," agrees Leslie Abbey, who represents children in the Bronx.
She points out that many of these cases could have been resolved
by providing services to parents and children. Jana Newton's
attorney, Cheryl Solomon, says her client's experience is a perfect
example. "She needed counseling-she was overwhelmed,"
Solomon says. "But that didn't happen. She was basically told,
' Your mother says you're doing drugs, pee in a cup.'"
Child welfare advocates say that the Giuliani administration's
decimation of preventive services-notably the Family
Rehabilitation Program, which provided treatment to drug users
as an alternative to foster care-has also funneled more families
into court. 'There's no longer any ACS drug money. That's very
bad policy," says Mike Arsham, executive director of the Child
Welfare Organizing Project. "You'll spend $15,000 a year to put a
child in foster care but not $5,000 to treat their parents? It doesn't
CS may be sending kids to court in order to help them,
but the policy, by swamping the system with cases,
seems to be having the opposite effect. The pressure
and the pace are intense, and every case suffers. Most
hearings last between five and 15 minutes, and fre-
quently have to be cancelled for lack of usable evidence. For a
case that goes to trial, families must wait through as many as nine
Family Court is also clogged with custody battles, domestic
violence cases, juvenile delinquency hearings and-thanks to new
enforcement laws-an increasing number of child support pro-
ceedings. It all added up to 230,000 cases in 1997, a third more
than the court saw 10 years ago.
In 1997, 44 judges handled more than 41,000 child protective
cases, each one requiring multiple hearings. Manhattan heard
1,458 new neglect cases in 1995; two years later, 3,247 came in.
In Queens, new neglect and abuse filings increased by 75 percent
between 1996 and 1998; in Staten Island, 126 percent.
The system is not equipped to handle the volume, especially the
high-maintenance neglect and abuse cases. 'The child protective
caseload in Manhattan has gone up 55 percent since the beginning
of 1996," says Judge Richard Ross, chief of that borough's Family
Court. "And we have the same number of judges, the same number
of lawyers as before. What do people think is going to happen?"
What the courts desperately need, everyone agrees, is more
bodies to handle the influx. Under the scrutiny of the tabloids-
which sued and won access to the once-closed courts-judges are
pressured to play it safe with the 40 to 60 cases they hear each day.
"We're experiencing a tremendous surge in filings," reports Judge
Cira Martinez, who oversees five-and-a-half judges who hear
neglect and abuse cases in the Bronx Family Court. "We could use
one-and-a-half more judges."
Some of the parents' court-assigned lawyers are hacks whose
disrespect for their struggling clients is evident. Others are dedi-
cated crusaders for family reunification. None have had a raise
since 1985. "We're losing a lot of good people," laments Richard
Beaman, a longtime Bronx attorney for parents.
And none have the resources to provide real representation.
Parents' attorneys work out of a tiny shared room in each court-
house, with no access to support services. 'That's my office, over
there," says Manhattan lawyer Bill Anshen, pointing to a pay
phone in the hall. The lawyers are
AWOL about a quarter of the time
in Bronx and Manhattan cases,
often because they're tied up in
another courtroom. They can file
motions on parents' behalf, but
they rarely do-even motivated
lawyers [md that many judges
deride the request as a burden.
"I met with my lawyer for 15
rninutes-total-the whole year I
was in there, two minutes at a
time," says Sandra J. (she asked
that her last name not be used),
who got her youngest daughter out
of foster care last fall. A year
before, Sandra had been over-
whelmed with drug problems. She
was lucky-after a close scare with
the law, she got treatment and a
job, and knew enough about the
system to tell her lawyer the impor-
tant details as soon as she met him.
Attorneys follow their clients
only through the end of the dispo-
sition hearing. After that, parents
are on their own. "Lack of continu-
ity in representation is a terrible
problem," says Nanette Shor, a
Bronx Legal Services attorney who
routinely picks up cases where
children have languished in foster
care because their parents had inadequate counsel. "A new attorney
will come on at later hearings," she explains, ''but significant things
have often happened that they know nothing about. Parents aren't
getting advice on how to end their children's placement."
Meanwhile, the Legal Aid attorneys who represent the kids'
interests stagger under caseloads that average 300 to 400 children at
a time. "A manageable level would be half that," says Jonathan
Roman, a Bronx Legal Aid lawyer. Part of the burden, Roman says,
is that children's attorneys don't just do law. They also serve as
deputy social workers, making sure the kids get the services they
need. Often, they also become lay experts in child psychology, ask-
ing a judge to order a psychiatric evaluation for a kid that seems
depressed, or speech therapy for a developmentally delayed toddler.
art of the problem is that the child welfare agencies that
contract withACS can't keep up with the courts. Judges
are supposed to size up needed services, parent-child
visitations, and long-range family goals during the
hearing, but they contend that they often can't get the
information they need from the agencies. The Vera Institute found
that in two-thirds of the Bronx and Manhattan cases it surveyed,
ACS and its contracting agencies didn't provide written case
information to the courts.
Judges often order parents into programs like drug treatment,
counseling or parenting classes. But in many cases, an agency
fails to make effective arrangements. The orders don't get carried
out, and the court usually doesn't find out about the lapse until the
parent shows up for review many months later. "If services
haven't been provided, they're not ready to have their children
back," Shapiro says. ''Then the case doesn't come back for anoth-
er year. This is why kids are lingering in foster care."
Because agencies can't be counted on to comply with court
orders, children's attorneys say they're sometimes reluctant to
recommend that their clients get sent back home, even when they
believe that a family might be ready to be reunified: Without
being sure that a caseworker will be there supervising the family
closely, it's just too risky.
Getting services is just as difficult when kids are still in foster
care. In one horrible case, an abused 17-year-old girl was virtual-
ly forgotten by an agency for months. Currently in foster care, she
had recently been returned to her Bronx mother by a Pittsburgh
uncle, who had custody of the girl since infancy, locked up in the
house and out of school. She was also sexually abused.
The court ordered up badly needed services for her, including
counseling, tutoring, vocational training and special ed enroll-
ment. Three months later, nothing had happened. "She sits at
home and does nothing," her law guardian announced angrily at a
November court hearing, asking a judge to hold a caseworker in
contempt. The judge gave the worker one last chance, and
In this chaotic system, one minor set-back can set off a chain
reaction of delays. Absent parents, witnesses or lawyers, missing
information or services, a crowded docket-anyone thing may
cause a judge to adjourn a hearing and reschedule it for the next
convenient date. Systemwide, that's now typically six weeks to
two months later. In the Vera Institute's sample, Bronx cases a v e r ~
aged five adjournments before they finished; Manhattan cases,
"Every time I turn around, it's 'Case adjourned,'" says Aloma
Johnson, a Bronx mother of four whose two infants were put in
foster care after they tested positive for cocaine at birth. The tod-
dler has already been adopted, but now that Johnson is certified
clean, she is determined to get her other daughter back. Her case
has been adjourned nine times so far. "So that's another three
months gone past, and another three (continued on page 31)
Adoption Fast Track
ew York's family courts are now
overloaded. Later this year, they
could go completely haywire. That's
because New York is starting to implement
the Adoption and Safe Families Act, a federal
law that turns up the heat on families and
Until now, the child welfare agency and
the courts had two goals: first, to prevent fos-
ter placements, and second, to reunify par-
ents and children who do wind up in the foster
care system. Under the new law, the courts
must track families in one of two directions:
back together, or apart for good.
The law also requires social service agen-
cies to start the legal process toward adop-
tion after a child has been in foster care for 16
months. The law's clearly at loggerheads with
a court system that typically sees months of
acijournments in each case.
Courts will be required to hold an extra
session within the first year of placement to
decide whether children should be heading
homewards or toward adoption. "How do I
explain to a parent who goes into 1S-month
drug program that the agency will have to
start a termination proceeding in 16 monthsl"
asks Joe Gatti, who has represented parents
in the Bronx since 1972. "There are no second
Judges are trying to play it cool-"I think
it's going to put us under a certain amount of
time and work pressure that doesn't exist
now," says Manhattan chief judge Richard
Ross. But family lawyers are predicting
mayhem. "I don't understand how we're
going to follow that law," marvels Bronx
children's attorney Leslie Abbey. "The court
can't even get their case done in 16 months."
Child advocates are also concerned that the
law will create a population of legal
orphans, whose parents' rights have been
terminated but who have little chance of
being adopted. -AX
known for its
this soup kitchen.
4 maJor foundation needed orga-
nizers for a community-building
project. They turned to Hew
York's friendly neighborhood
By Kemba Johnson
andra Hernandez uses her Mott Haven, South Bronx
neighborhood as an exhibit of the power of community
organizing. The first display is right next door to her
Four years ago, when the city was looking to find a new owner
for six buildings on her block, she pulled together a cadre of resi-
dents to make loud demands on the doorstep of the city housing
agency. After some negotiation, they were able to get what they
wanted-a landlord that gives back to the community. He has
come to community meetings, paid for a band and food for a
recent block party, and even provided Hernandez with a free base-
ment office for a community center.
A quick walk down 139th Street yields more evidence of orga-
nizing's might. At an imposing, lO-story brick apartment building
in the middle of the block, Hernandez helped organize a tenant
association that convinced the federal Department of Housing and
Urban Development to repossess the 114-unit building. Several
neatly fenced empty lots down the street are the products of a
march on the city Sanitation Department.
In front of PS 40, a school maintenance man complains to
Hernandez that the fencing crew missed a garbage-strewn lot next
door. He says the local community board is ignoring his calls.
"No, no, that's not going to work," Hernandez tells him emphati-
cally. "What we need to do is go down there with some people.
Then this will get clean.ed up."
But Hernandez isn't in all this alone. She's a community leader
for the Bronx chapter of the Association of Community
Organizations for Reform Now, better known as ACORN. During
its 15 years in New York City, ACORN has helped squatters claim
derelict city-owned property, forced bankers to invest in low-
income communities, and organized a war against the city's work-
It's also developed a reputation for no-holds-barred tactics-
getting results through adversarial campaigns against bankers,
politicians and bureaucrats using confrontation and concession
rather than consensus. ACORN, unlike most social service non-
profits, scorns charity. Their goal is to help poor people seize
So it's a little surprising to hear that, for the last two years,
Hernandez's neighbors have looked to ACORN for drug rehab,
domestic violence counseling and job training.
The tactical change comes courtesy of the Edna McConnell
Clark Foundation and its $15 million Neighborhood Partners
Initiative. The foundation tapped ACORN and some of the biggest
South Bronx and Central Harlem community development and
social service groups for a seven-year experiment in organization-
al cross-dressing. So ACORN is learning about social services,
and the Highbridge Community Life Center, Mid-Bronx Senior
Citizens Council, Rheedlan Centers for Children and Families,
and Abyssinian Development Corporation are taking the plunge
The program is ambitious, trying to assemble a range of orga-
nizations, and trying to solve a wide range of social ills in these
neighborhoods simultaneously. "One of the different approaches
that we took is that we decided to work through a diverse array of
lead organizations, not just CDCs, not just service providers,"
explains Nancy Roob, the project's former director at Edna
McConnell Clark. ''We were interested-as an explicit part of the
design-in understanding the experiences of different kinds of
But this arranged marriage between traditional neighborhood-
building and confrontational organizing hasn't always been easy,
and the experiment is still underway. ACORN has struggled at
times to incorporate the project, both ideologically and practical-
ly, into its work. And the other groups are fmding that organizing
a low-income community isn't as easy as they might have
he Neighborhood Partners Initiative is part of a rela-
tively new field called comprehensive community
initiatives. CCls have become a darling of the foun-
dations during the last 10 years, with the Annie E.
Casey, Ford, Rockefeller and Enterprise Foundations spending
tens of millions of dollars on them around the country. They
usually have a geographical focus, pouring money into an array
of programs in one neighborhood. Unlike many foundation-dri-
ven projects, they last five years or more. And they attempt to
go to greater lengths to involve the local population in decision-
making along the way.
Call it want you want--community building, community
development, even empowerment-the idea is that to transform a
neighborhood, neighborhood people need to be in charge.
"Community development is always a goal. Whether or not
[CCIs] achieve this is another story," says Patricia Jenny, project
director at New York Community Trust, a local foundation that
focuses on community projects. ''Part of it is knowing if the idea
of the project is to have people sitting on boards .. . or to build the
capacity of individuals to have control over their personal lives."
Yet, from their inception, CCIs have been almost exclusively
steered by community development corporations and social ser-
vice organizations. And according to many critics, these profes-
sional nonprofits don't truly give residents the ability to hold their
own against government, businesses and other private interests.
"You' re talking about fundamental change in the amount of
resources going to an area and in power relations," says Rebecca
Stone, research associate at Chapin Hall, which helps foundations
tells Matt Haven
got to organize-
then protest-to get
local lots like this
one cleared up.
ACORN is hoping
to keep Mott
to the dogs.
evaluate CCIs. "You need community organizing to effect that
But the foundation world tends to be cautious, preferring to
fund consensus-building projects. In-your-face organizing can
scare off potential business and government partners. "Consensus
organizing involves all kinds of stakeholders, [including) bankers
and businesses," explains Larry Parachini, a consultant for grass-
roots organizers. "Foundations see community organizing as a
potential problem for that kind of collaboration."
So Edna McConnell Clark was bucking the trend when they
asked ACORN to get involved in their initiative. The foundation
was impressed with ACORN's work, and saw that in the Bronx
they'd been able to get results working with the city housing
agency. "You have to have resident engagement. You can't
improve a neighborhood over the long term without it," says
Deborah Thompson, who currently directs the initiative. "You
have to have an organizing strategy to do community building."
The decision cut both ways. The four community development
groups, with little experience in organizing, were expected to part-
ner with small neighborhood grouplets like tenant and block asso-
ciations, and if necessary create new organizations. The founda-
tion even paid for consultants and workshops to teach the non-
profits how to rally a neighborhood.
Then, other than requiring that the groups set specific, concrete
goals, Edna McConnell Clark tried to stay out of the picture. The
foundation didn't set an agenda-tbe communities had to do that.
ven though the foundation promised a grassroots
approach, ACORN was leery. Staffers were intensely
worried that the project-and the big budget--could
undercut ACORN's basic organizing mandate.
Uncommon among nonprofits, ACORN is structured more
like a union than a charity. In addition to getting grants from foun-
dations, churches and government, 35 to 40 percent of the Bronx
ACORN chapter's budget comes from internal fundraising and
five-dollar-a-month memberships. Members are considered to be
owners of their local chapter: They set the agenda and decide what
issues to focus on.
But when the Edna McConnell Clark money came through,
some ACORN staff became worried that the group was selling
itself out. "Many organizations started out as organizers doing
campaigns. Then they metamorphosed into social services groups
and community development corporations," explains Bertha
Lewis, lead organizer in the Brooklyn ACORN. "With the foun-
dation funding, they were beginning to lose their identity." Even
Helene O'Brien, the former Bronx lead organizer who had wooed
the foundation to begin with, was a little a nervous.
A lot of the worry was over the size of the pot: ACORN gets
about $200,000 a year from the foundation. About a quarter goes
for administrative overhead, and the rest is salaries-for a job
developer, a housing director and a social services organizer.
"Staff organizers were concerned about what the foundation agen-
da was, versus the neighborhood agenda," says Eric Thompson,
current lead organizer in the Bronx. "A foundation puts all of that
money into a neighborhood; you wonder what's on their agenda."
And some of it was simply ideological. New York ACORN has
certainly done more than organize: They run two public high
schools, a loan counseling program and the ACORN Housing
Company, which has renovated more than 500 units of housing.
But for some ACORN staffers, providing social services means
labeling community residents as sick and needy people, rather
than people who can help themselves.
More specifically, despite the group's long history in the com-
munity, some Mott Haven residents were afraid they would
become meddlesome. "Members felt if we did social service,
we'd turn on them, because that's what social workers do," says
O'Brien. "Members were scared we'd take their children away."
O'Brien says her worst fears have turned out to be unfounded,
CITY LI MITS
but she has had to make other allowances. In Mott Haven, ACORN
members can attend local meetings whether or not they've paid
their dues-in a sense, Edna McConnell Clark has already paid
their way. But O'Brien worries about what will happen five years
from now when the funding ends. So she still asks residents to pay
something at meetings-if they don't have five dollars, she'll take
their best offer. "I even once accepted $1.10 in dimes," she says.
So staff and members sat down with Roob and others at Edna
McConnell Clark to make sure that the foundation wouldn't
intrude. ACORN also created a neighborhood advisory board to
determine which issues they should tackle. Projects have includ-
ed a Hiring Hall, which keeps resumes of Mott Haven residents on
fIle for potential employers, and a taskforce to work with the local
precinct on police brutality and crime.
The Hiring Hall project actually grew organically out of
ACORN's organizing efforts against big New York City corpora-
tions like Viacom, Tune Warner, ABClDisney and Marriott. As a
result of ACORN's protests, the companies have promised to pro-
vide more jobs for residents in low-income communities. The
Hiring Hall helps the companies keep this pledge-and keeps job
creation tied to organizing. "If people just passed through and we
never see them again working on any other issues, we will serious-
ly question whether the Hiring Hall makes sense," says O'Brien.
But for most of ACORN's other programs, the organization
has avoided feeling like they've sold out by partnering with estab-
lished, independent social service providers for drug rehab pro-
grams, job training and English as a Second Language courses.
They also cooperate with a women's support group that uses yoga,
meditation and discussions to help abused women. And when
community members come into the office for referrals for classes
or services, they get an earful from ACORN organizers about
other issues and carnpaigns.
But partnering up hasn't been a smooth road. The group
wound up in a dispute with St. Peter's, a local Lutheran church
where Hernandez is a deacon. When O'Brien first sought Edna
McConnell Clark funding, she sat down with church members,
among other local leaders, to talk over community concerns. As a
result, when the money came through, the church leaders felt enti-
tled to some of the funding for their after-school program, food
pantry and soup kitchen.
"When the money came in, everybody went crazy," Hernandez
says. Tempers flared when the church demanded that ACORN
hire only local residents to staff their projects, and the group
ACORN maintained that the Edna McConnell Clark money
was intended less as direct support for groups, and more as a
resource for ACORN to use its techniques to help others.
Eventually, the group ended up giving the church a $15,000 grant
it had received to run a summer program. It also put St.' Peter's on
its list of partners for money from the Fund for the City of New
O'Brien deftly puts the fight in the context of building com-
munity pride and an activist attitude. "It's good that the group felt
entitled and secure enough to come up to ACORN and say, 'That's
ours,'" she says.
bile ACORN struggled with the details of social ser-
vice delivery, the other four groups in the project
have faced the opposite identity crisis. These groups,
with a history of building housing or providing ser-
vices, were now being asked to become organizers-to deal with
grievances, power dynamics and personalities.
For 20 years, the South Bronx's Highbridge Community Life
Center has been offering services: an after-school program, GED
courses and English as a Second Language. In order to learn orga-
nizing, they hired ACORN's O' Brien to teach them how.
Now, community residents are called members, not clients.
And Lori Savron, the program's project director at Highbridge,
says the group has made more significant changes, like becoming
more open to activists tactics and strategies. This year, the group
tried its hand at an ACORN-style action, protesting at a South
Bronx post office over inefficient mail delivery to the Highbridge
community. Postal officials promised to change mail routes in the
neighborhood, and residents are now working for a larger, more
Savron was hired by Highbridge to organize, but she fmds that
her work is physically and even emotionally cut off from the rest
of the organization, making it difficult at times to integrate her
project with the group's classes and services. Her counterparts at
the Abyssinian Development Corporation report a similar experi-
ence. "We didn't feel like we fit in," Savron says.
And outside the office, the organization's social-services
image can be confusing, says Savron. The community has had
trouble adjusting to this new focus of the organization, tradition-
ally a problem-solver. "People recognize Highbridge as a social
service group. That means they expect that you come and we help
you," Savron says. "We had to keep saying, 'We're not going to
fix your wall for you. We'll help you get it done yourself.'"
Although Abyssinian has developed housing in Central
Harlem for years, its organizers found that local residents had a
hard time believing the group would do them much good. Many
other agencies had come into the neighborhood, making promises
they'd failed to keep. 'There was distrust among the residents,"
explains Pat Simmons, the project director of Abyssinian
Development Corporation's program. 'These blocks had been
promised a lot. Other groups came in and made promises and
went away." Abyssinian's answer was to set up a neighborhood
advisory group that grapples with issues like economic develop-
ment, youth services and senior housing.
s far as ACORN's Bertha Lewis is concerned, the Bronx
group's experiment with CCIs and social service work
hasn't set a bad precedent, notwithstanding a few set-
backs. Lewis has been watching the program closely, to
see if she might be able to replicate it in Brooklyn. In fact, the
biggest problem she sees is getting foundation interest-and
money-to follow her to Kings County. '1 don't know if founda-
tions would try the same program in Brooklyn," she says. 'The
South Bronx is very sexy. East New York and Bed-Stuy have had
If O'Brien has her way, however, the idea might go a lot fur-
ther than Brooklyn. O'Brien just started a new job, as national
director of all of ACORN's lead organizers, and she's been float-
ing the social services concept around.
And Edna McConnell Clark wants the idea to catch on with
other funders. "We hope foundations learn lots of lessons: the
implications of working in a small area ... and the priorities of orga-
nizing," Thompson says.
With the push for CCIs nearly a decade old, some observers
say the time has come for community organizing. This work
must begin soon, they say, or the comprehensive experiment
won't be worth the time and money. "Foundations have been
hearing from several groups, 'How do you expect us to do this
work without organizing? How can we organize without it being
part of the funding?'" says Chapin Hall's Stone. "It's time to fish
or cut bait." •
.. -.-.... ...... -
Many immigrants arrive with strong and dis-
tinct kinship, village, trade and fraternal ties. But
for the Fuzhounese, there are few traditional orga-
nizations that cut across class lines, so
By Michael Hirsch
"Forbidden Workers: Illegal Chinese
Immigrants and American Labor, " by
Peter Kwong, The New Press, 1998,
273 pages, $24
he going rate for smuggling an illegal immigrant
from China's Pacific coast port towns of Fuzhou
and Wenzhou into the United States has hit
$47,000. Big Sister Ping, the "smuggling Queen of New
York," has made some $40 million off the business,
observes author Peter Kwong. Her trade has "practically
emptied out several villages around Fuzhou."
She and thousands of other "snakeheads" have created an
industry whose scope and profits rival the international drug
trade. But unlike drug trafficking, the transport in human con-
traband is vital to American business interests. "Forbidden
Workers" argues that supplying this cheap labor to a world
economy increasingly focused on flexible, decentralized pro-
duction serves business by eroding working conditions,
depressing wages for all workers and destabilizing American
unions. Kwong has written perhaps the single best book on
working people in years.
"Forbidden Workers" focuses on a population that arrives in
the U.s. horrendously in debt to traffickers and fearful of depor-
tation, easy prey to victimizing employers and gangsters, and
ignorant of the larger world outside. This is where Kwong's
descriptive and analytical powers are sharpest. New York's
Chinatown papers are simply the local editions of Hong
Taiwan or mainland China sheets, so information about life in
the rest of the city is a lUXury. Federal legislation imposing
sanctions on companies that hire illegals is virtually toothless.
Because of the threat of deportation, appeals to civil authorities
put workers, not owners, at risk. And the New York State
Apparel Taskforce, set up to investigate employer abuses, is a
paper tiger with just five inspectors on its payroll.
Kwong, who teaches urban planning at Hunter College and
directs its Asian-American Studies program, doesn't blame
immigrants for wanting to come to the "Golden Mountain."
Instead, he focuses on the Taiwanese crime syndicates, the pri-
vatizing Chinese government, opportunistic U.S. employers
and operators of what Kwong calls the "ethnic subcontracting
system." It is this system of hiring and exploiting illegal immi-
grants that makes labor "cheap" by giving today's bosses the
leverage they need to compel home work and child labor, with-
hold wages and routinely violate the minimum wage laws.
Given this, Kwong asserts that "the undocumented
Fuzhounese immigrant workers are not that different from the
rest of the American working people-they only happen to be
on the breaking edge of the crumbling working-class structure."
organizing is difficult When these
workers are inspired to protest-
when the Chinatown restaurant staff
workers or the Sunset Park garment
workers take on the owners, tong
leaders and snakeheads---they pro-
vide useful organizing lessons for
the whole labor movement.
Unfortunately, Kwong's nar-
rative gets tongue-tied when he
begins to describe his most cut-
ting edge ideas. A key argument,
which I am sympathetic to, is
that unions have been negligent,
and even complicit, in allowing
industries through the ethnic
subcontracting system, to
move "more and more high-wage jobs into the
'secondary sector' crowded with workers competing for lower
wages." In other words, many unions, in order to hold onto their
existing contracts in highly competitive industries-like corpo-
rate cafeterias and light manufacturing-are lubricating the gen-
eral wage slide by negotiating deals that match the inferior wage
and working conditions offered by non-union subcontractors.
That's a gutsy point of view, given New York City's left polit-
ical culture, where any union leader with the thinnest progressive
credentials gets a free ride. Just look at how many wet kisses
were plastered on the new Working Families Party-including
some in the pages of this magazine-despite a vaporous agenda
featuring the legislative goal of raising the state minimum wage.
As Kwong documents, such standards are widely unenforced.
Ginning up a legal minimum won't prevent unionized employers
from re-creating the conditions illegals now face in non-union shops.
Because the argument is controversial, it needs to be tacked
down with the same elaboration and care Kwong gives to his
portrait of the Fuzhounese. But his critique rests on throw-away
lines about "organized labor's racial hierarchy" that confuse
form with content.
Kwong also rants about a union leadership that "no longer
knows how to mobilize, being too old and ethnically different
from the rank and me, yet it is unwilling to give away institu-
tionalized power to a new ethnic group." To paraphrase Lenny
Bruce, the union tops don't have to know how to organize, as
long as they've got some men and women on staff who do.
Given how Kwong excoriates traditional Fuzhounese leaders, it
is bizarre that he would place any hope in ethnic succession as
a road to more responsive union leadership.
Just how union leaders went from organizing dervishes to
today's back-slapping suits that fear challenge from everybody-
not just new ethnic groups-Kwong doesn't explain. Still, it takes
courage and smarts to promote the idea that "an elitist from-the-top-
down organizing approach" cannot work and that militant, democra-
tic unions are a precondition for any political turnaround. •
Michael Hirsch is a City Limits contributing editor who
regularly writes on labor and political issues.
ant an affordable home? Move to New York City.
Okay, that might be stretching it, but a quick look at a
new guide to community development corporations
(CDCs) nationwide would leave you with that impression. New
York is so far ahead in nearly every aspect of nonprofit housing
development that half the time the city's stats don't even fit on the
graphs. For example, through work with the Enterprise
Foundation, New York's developers put up more than 21,000 units
of affordable housing from 1991 to 1997. The next closest city is
Dallas, with 3,500. New York has 50 nonprofits capable of creating
more than 10 units per year; Chicago trails a distant second with 15.
The l20-page book, published by The Urban Institute, takes
the pulse of the CDC field in the 1990s. It focuses on the
National Community Development Initiative, a multi-founda-
tion effort that has raised $120 million in grants and loans to
help strengthen the work of CDCs in 23 cities.
And while New York leads by a long shot, the rest of the
country is catching up fast, as most cities have seen an increase
in the number and effectiveness of local CDCs (NYC has held
steady). In 1990, about 16 percent of federal housing dollars
went to nonprofit projects. By 1997, that figure had risen to 37
percent. Devolution aside, funding sources such as the creation
of the federal HOME program in 1992 show that CDCs have
become an established industry.
The report also examines the future of CDCs, including a
discussion of the risks of branching out from housing develop-
ment into social services and economic development. Of special
note to serious wonks are dry but thoughtful sections on what
makes a successful CDC, what local governments can do to
help-and why they often don' t-and the future of funding.
"Community Development in the 1990s," $10, The Urban
Right Wing Flap
onservative think tanks have had a stranglehold on major
issues such as welfare reform, taxation and education for the
past twenty years-yet no one knew it They work behind the
scenes, generating policy rhetoric and partisan facts that they
feed to the media and elected officials from Brooklyn to
"The Assault on Working Families," a new booklet by the
American Federation of State, County and Municipal
Employees, is an effort to unmask the most powerful right-
wing associations. The report presents a valuable chart identi-
fying progressive, conservative and neutral policy institutes in
all 50 states and a lengthy run-down of major reforms in states
across the country.
Unfortunately, the report is enshrouded in an "us vs. them"
tone, with many issues getting a distorted, disingenuous spin.
''The assault on government appeal(s) to the perception that
government is inefficient," reads one passage. "A favorite 'solu-
tion' to these alleged problems advanced by radical groups is to
introduce 'market principals' (a.k.a. privatization)." You do not
have to allege that government is inefficient. Often, it .is. Also,
despite the title, virtually all of the case studies and analysis
focus on assaults against labor rather than families.
"The Assault on Working Families," AFSCME, 2024524800.
eeling blue because you don't have enough data to really
push the processing power of your new Pentium IT? Well,
the Institute for Education and School Policy has the
answer: A new CD-ROM with budgets and expenditures from
every single school in New York City.
That's right, every dollar of the $9.2 billion 1997-98 public
school budget is broken down for each of the 1,178 schools and
programs within the system-from text books to school safety,
from energy costs to drug prevention strategies. The actual
expenditures from 1996-97 are there as well. It's the perfect tool
to see how much your local school spends on computers, or to
compare schools in low-income and wealthy districts. Or just to
peek at how much your kid's principal makes.
"School Based Budget and Expenditure Reports, " free,
Institute for Education and Social Policy, 2/2-998-5880 . •
$50.000 Total Volume of Multifamily Loans to CDCs in 23 Cities
1!Bi 1007 l!l18 1!119 1!BI 1001 1002 1003 1994 1995 1900
SOURCE: The lJriJan Institute
and a wave of
ment to com-
ply with fed-
the late '80s
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Lawyers Alliance for New York has a staff of skilled lawyers
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____ ( continued from page 23)
months, and another three months," she says. "It adds up. If peo-
ple were in court when they were supposed to be, she could come
All along, New York State Chief Judge Judith Kaye has been
agitating for major court reform, including merging all of the
state's courts into one stream1ined system. For Family Court,
which historically has received less than its fair share of resources,
that would mean a chance to get more judges when caseloads
become intolerable. But the change would take a state constitu-
tional amendment, derailed in the legislature last year.
For now, Judge Kaye is making smaller moves. Last year, the
Manhattan, Bronx and Brooklyn Family Courts were split into
four divisions, including one dedicated to child protective cases.
Lawyers say the new system makes it easier to be in the right
courtroom at the right time, cutting down on adjournments. It also
means that time-sensitive juvenile delinquency hearings don't
push child protective cases off the calendars.
Since last March, Manhattan's Family Treatment Court has also
developed a new drug abuse referral program. Working with Judge
Sosa-Lintner, lawyers and social workers plan and monitor drug
treatment plans for parents. While parents' attorneys say it can be a
struggle to protect their clients' rights in a courtroom driven by con-
sensus, they're also pleased at the chance to help parents get ser-
vices and get out of the system as quickly as possible. Since 75 per-
cent of all parents in Family Court are there because of drug prob-
lems, the project could evenually have far-reaching impact.
ut Jana Newton wasn't so lucky. In order to speed
things up, she took her lawyer's advice and admitted
neglect, copping to the dirty home but denying the mar-
ijuana allegation. Solomon, her attorney, asked a judge
to order random drug tests that would prove her client's
sincerity. But since Newton didn't have a phone, she couldn't be
summoned for random tests. Instead, the court order meant she
had to show up at a Manhattan child welfare agency every single
morning for two months.
When she gave birth in June 1997, ACS took her baby away
from her in the hospital, simply because she still had an open case.
Back in court two months later, her caseworker recommended that
Newton's children be kept in foster care because of her "explo-
sive" personality. After the hearing adjourned, Newton raged at
the caseworker again, and this time, she was arrested for making
verbal threats. "She's such a great personality, but that doesn't
work in the courtroom," admits Solomon. "I tried to tell the judge
that Jana's reaction was normal-if someone were threatening to
take my kids, I wouldn't say, 'I consent.'" Says Newton, "I was
never humble. Why should I be? They were taking my kids."
Newton returned in October for the fIrst part of her disposition
hearing and in December for the second. In February, the judge
ordered that Newton and her children could again have unsuper-
vised visits, but it wasn't until May that the court learned that the
agency had failed to make arrangements for the visits. The case
wasn't closed until June, when the court sent Newton's baby back
home with her, provided she continue with counseling and ran-
dom drug tests. Her other children came home in August.
Since then, Newton's child welfare agency seems to have for-
gotten about her. She stopped going to counseling and hasn't been
asked to take a drug test once. Apparently, her Family Court night-
mare is over, but Newton is still angry about the ordeal. "I had no
one on my side," she says. "My kids were taken for a dirty apart-
Alyssa Katz is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer.
TECHNOLOGY SUPPORT COORDINATOR for Legal Support Unit of Legal
Services for New York City. Provide training, consultation and technical
assistance for LSNY staff; coordinate task force; develop online legal
research and information sharing systems. Applicants should send
cover letter, resume and work sample to: Andrew Scherer, Director,
LSNY LSU, 350 Broadway, New York, NY 10013; ascherer@legalsup-
COMMUNITY ORGANIZER for city subway and bus riders. The
Straphangers Campaign is looking for a full-time organizer to help New
Yorkers fight for safe, decent and affordable subway and bus service.
The campaign is a leading voice for New York City's five million daily
transit riders. It is a project of the New York Public Interest Research
Group, a student-directed organization. The organizer's activities will
include: recruiting and motivating volunteers, speaking to community
groups, assisting in building coalitions for transit, and helping to over-
see volunteers surveying service. NYPIRG is an equal opportunity
employer. We are seeking a diverse group of applicants. Salary is com-
mensurate with skills and experience. Full health benefits are provided,
along with two weeks' paid vacation. Send resume to: Gene Russianoff,
9 Murray Street, NY, NY 10007. Fax: 212-349-1366. Or e-mail: gruss-
STAFF ASSOCIATE. Community Training and Resource Center is a housing
preservation organization that provides information, training and tech-
nical assistance to housing groups, neighborhood associations and
social service agencies. CTRC seeks a well-organized college graduate
with excellent writing and communications skills to manage our
Landlord Training Program. This program targets Brooklyn and
Manhattan landlords who are first-time offenders of New York heat and
hot water codes. Working knowledge of WordPerfect for Windows, Excel
and Microsoft Office required. Experience with nonprofit social service
group preferred. Salary: $30,000. Send resume and cover letter to:
Kevin Ryan, Community Training and Resource Center, 90 William St.,
Suite 1200, NY, NY 10038. Fax: 212-227-1125.
F-T DEVD.OPMENT ASSOCIATE, Fundraising. Innovative Brooklyn-based
community development corporation seeks organized self-starter to
develop and implement fundraising, constituency-building and commu-
nications initiatives. Job description may include: conceptualizing and
creating events; writing proposals, reports, solicitation letters and
press releases; editing publications; and coordinating volunteers for
growing agency with $1.5 million budget, 30 staff. Requirements
include solid experience in at least two of the following: events, solici-
tation of individuals, grantwriting, media & publications, and supervis-
ing volunteers. Also experience with non profits, diverse constituencies;
occasional availability in evenings; good computer/database manage-
ment skills. AA/EOE. $30,000/benefits (negotiable). Cover letter,
resume, writing sample to: Rfth Avenue Committee/Associate Search,
141 Rfth Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11217. Or fax to:
REGIONAL ADVOCATE. Private nonprofit seeks energetic college graduate
for entry-level position. Assist in the enforcement and implementation
of federal, state and local laws pertaining to veteran and disability
rights issues. Requires ability to analyze policy, educate, problem solve
and follow up. Direct contact with municipal officials and community-
based organizations. Excellent communication skills and access to
automobile required. Salary: low- to mid-$20,000s. Send resume, writ-
ing sample and salary requirement to: Eastern Paralyzed Veterans
Association, 75-20 Astoria Blvd., Jackson Heights, NY 11370,
Attention: Advocacy Director.
PROGRAM DIRECTOR for Senior Center. Bilingual Spanish/English.
Responsible for recreation/education programs, volunteers, record-
keeping. $26,000; excellent benefits. Fax cover and resume to R.
Carel, 212-927-5612. (continued on page 32)
(continued from page 31)
The Center for Urban Community Services, Inc. (ClICS) has the following
positions available in its innovative job training and employment
program sening tenants of supportive housing.
VOCATIONAL ENTTTlEMENTS SPECIALIST. This is a direct service para-
professional providing up-to-date information on the impact of
earned income on entitlements to program participants and staff.
Responsibilities: coordination of entitlements services to partici-
pants, on-going review, analysis and counseling regarding partici-
pants' entitlements status and options, aSSisting participants in reg-
ulatory compliance, and provision of groups and workshops to staff
and participants. Requirements: bachelor's degree, 2 years' experi-
ence. providing direct services or advocacy support to low-income
entitlements recipients including 1 year providing vocational experi-
ence. An associate degree and 3 additional years of relevent experi-
ence or a high school diploma and 5 additional years of relevant
experience will substitute. Appropriate written and verbal communi-
cation skills required. Bilingual Spanish/ English preferred. Salary:
$29,000 plus competitive benefits. Resumes to Hilary Botein,
CUCSjThe Times Square, 255 W. 43rd Street, NY, NY 10036.
SUPPORTm EMPlOYMENT SPECIALIST. This is a direct service para-
professional providing counseling and job coaching to participants
with multiple barriers to employment. Responsibilities: vocational
planning and assessment, VESID application preparation and coor-
dination, job development, on-site job coaching, and provision of
groups and workshops to staff and participants. Requirements:
bachelor's degree, 2 years' experience providing vocational ser-
vices to persons will mental illness. An associate degree and 3
additional years of relevant experience or a high school diploma and
5 additional years of relevant experience will substitute. Excellent
written and verbal communication ski lls required. Bilingual
Spanish/English strongly preferred. Knowledge of VESID process
strongly preferred. Salary: $29,000 plus competitive benefits.
Resumes to Susan Black, CUCSjThe Rio, 10 Ft. Washington Ave.,
NY, NY 10032. EEO. CUCS is committed to workforce diversity.
SENIOR PLANNER. Pratt Institute Center for Community and
Environmental Development (PICCED) seeks an experienced planner to
provide project-specific technical assistance and training in neighbor-
hood planning and development finance to nonprofit community-based
housing and community development organizations in NYC and vicinity.
MS in planning plus 7 years' experience in hands-on low-income com-
Chief Operating Officer -NYC Non-Profit
NYC school reform organization with a
$10 million budget seeks a Chief
Operating Officer. The individual we
seek should be a hands-on manager.
(S)he should be able to identify areas
needing improvement, devise strategies,
and aggressively implement changes.
Should be creative, energetic and
proactive with strong organizational skills
and the ability to train and manage a
diverse and talented staff.
The Chief Operating Officer assists the
President in directing the activities of the
organization incl uding directing the
development, management and
evaluation of school reform programs;
overseeing the agency support
departments; supervising vice presidents
for programs; and overseeing
organization staffing and internal
operations. Duties include assisting in
overal l program planning and budgeting,
regular monitoring of and assessing
administrative requirements, overseeing
the organization's personnel and staffing
needs, seek improvement in operations
and monitor implementation of new
designs, policies and procedures,
helping to maintain harmonious 'MJrking
relationships with interested education
The successful candidate must have
seven years of senior level program or
operations management. MA, M. BA or
M.PA degree or equivalent with a
concentration in nonprofit management
preferred. Practical experiences with
large urban school systems and
knowledge of urban education policies
helpful. We actively seek applicants who
reRect the diversity of the city's student
Salary is negotiable based on
background and experience. Excellent
benefits package. Resumes and cover
letters, including salary requirements
should be sent to: I'NPS, 96 Morton
Street, HcwYork, HcwYork 10014,
Attn: COO. EO£
munity development, housing development finance (including use of
Low-Income Housing Tax Credits) and related policy issues are
required. Must have facility with planning and development computer
applications (Lotus/Excel , Dbase, Word, Mapinfo, etc.). Salary to $45k
plus benefits for this grant-funded position. Send resume and cover let-
ter to: Associate Director, PICCED, Pratt Institute, 200 Willoughby
Avenue, Steuben 2, Brooklyn, NY 11205. EOE.
ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT. The Open Society Institute (OSI), a private
operating and grantmaking foundation, seeks experienced person to
provide administrative support for its Network Women' s Program,
which promotes advancement of women' s rights and equality.
Responsibilities include: handling correspondence, telephone
inquiries, coordinating conferences, tracking program database and
files, acting as liaison between NY and overseas offices. Requires: BA;
minimum 3 years' administrative experience; excellent written, verbal ,
organizational and computer skills; and ability to operate well in fast-
paced professional environment. Send letter, resume, salary require-
ments, 3 references immediately to: Open Society Institute, Human
Resources, Code AA/ NWP, 400 W. 59th Street. New York, NY 10019.
Or fax: 212-548-4663. Open Society Institute is an Equal Opportunity
OFFICE MANAGER. Waterfront nonprofit seeks office manager.
Administrative, accounting, database, word processing skills required.
Minimum 3 years' administrative experience. Resume, cover letter to:
Whelan Associates, 66 Berkeley Place, Brooklyn, NY 11217.
PROJECT DIRECTOR. MSW for new effort by independent, progressive
consumer advocacy group to organize relatives of nursing home resi-
dents to press industry adoption of proven innovative approaches and
"best practices" to improve quality of life and care for residents. Salary
. $32K+benefits. Resume/ cover letter to: Friends and Relatives of
Institutionalized Aged, 11 John St., #601, NYC 10038. Fax: 212-732-
SOBRO a leader in Community Development is seeking develop-
ment professionals: DEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATE to write grants, iden-
tify funders, evaluate programs, produce newsletters and promo-
tional materials. DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR to lead fundraising efforts
for economic development, housing, job training and youth pro-
grams. Positions require excellent writing skills and the ability to
handle multiple tasks under deadl ine pressure. Send resume,
cover letter and two writing samples to: K. Hill , SOBRO, 370 E.
149th St. , Bronx, NY 10455.
DEVB.OPMENT ASSOCIATEIGRANT PROPOSAL WRITER for Good Shepherd
Services, a social service and youth development agency that works
with over 10,000 NYC children and families annually. Develop and write
proposals for government agencies and private funders, prepare con-
t ract documents and write correspondence, research new prospects,
and work as member of Development Dept. BA and word processing
required, previous writing experience and knowledge of Raiser' s Edge
preferred. Send resume and cover letter to: C. Williams, Good
Shepherd Services, 305 7th Ave. , 9th FI., NYC 10001. Or fax to 212-
CLIENT SERVICES SUPERVISOR. 4pm-12 midnight. The American Red
Cross in Greater New York has an immediate opening for a profession-
al to work in our transitional facility for 90 homeless families (women
and children). You will work with and supervise a team of Client
Services Workers, including human resources management, perfor-
mance assessment, effective communication and the transfer of infor-
mation. You' ll also supervise the crisis management functions of staff.
Some weekend work required. Requires aBA, 4 years' experience in a
social services setting, 2 years' supervisory and previous residential
experience. We offer a salary of $30,000 and a comprehensive bene-
fits package. Please mail/fax resume to: American Red Cross in
Greater New York, Employee Resources Dept.-CSS/ DM, 150
Amsterdam Ave. , NY, NY 10023. Fax: 212-875-2357. An EOE
CASEWORK SUPERVISOR. The American Red Cross in Greater New York
has an immediate opening for a professional to work in our transition-
al facility for 90 homeless families (women and children). Responsible
for the coordination and supervision of our comprehensive social ser-
vices program includi ng: supervising caseworkers, intake assessment,
service plan development; providing counseling, crisis intervention,
advocacy, referral and rehousing assistance to resident families; over-
seeing and developing your staff and coordination of on- and off-site
ancillary services. An MSW and 2 years' experience in social services
with high-risk families; 1 year' s supervisory experience; knowledge of
family dynamics, substance abuse and housing issues required. We
offer a salary of $36,000 and a comprehensive benefits package.
Please mail/fax resume to: American Red Cross in Greater New York,
Employee Resources Dept.-DM/1129, 150 Amsterdam Ave. , NY, NY
10023. Fax: 212-875-2357. An EOE M/F/D/V.
LRE PROGRAM COORDINATOR. Attorney-at least 5 years' experience, 2 in
education law-sought to spearhead LRE advocacy initiative at premier
education rights organization. Coordinator will spearhead campaign to
compel BOE to begin widespread compliance with federal law. Will carry
small caseload, but main duties are creation and implementation of LRE
strategies as well as dissemination of information to legal community
and parents about LRE. $46,000 with generous benefits package. EOE.
Mail, e-mail or fax resumes to: Jill Chaifetz, Executive Director, Advocates
for Children, 105 Court St., Suite 402, Brooklyn, NY 11201. Fax: 718-
624-1260. E-mail: Jchaifetz@arcus.net.
PARALEGAUrENANT ORGANIZER. Counsel Bronx and Brooklyn low-i ncome
tenants in HUD-subsidized buildings to be refinanced. Competitive
salary and benefits. Resume and writing sample to M. Green, Legal
Aid, 953 Southern Blvd., Bronx, NY 10459. Fax: 718-842-2867.
PROGRAM ASSOCIATE, Program for New York Neighborhoods. Working
with the Program Director, the Associate will participate in the design
of program directions and strategies, analyze grant requests, develop
memoranda to the Board recommending grants for funding, monitor the
implementation of grants and technical assistance efforts, make site
visits to grantees, and participate in community-based program activi-
ties supported by the Foundation. Candidates should have experience
in community or organizational development and program design, and
the ability to work with diverse racial and ethnic communities.
Knowledge of New York City, nonprofit organizations and neighborhood-
based organizations is critical. Superior written and oral communication
skills and track record of effectively communicating with diverse audi-
ences required. Bachelor's degree required; master' s degree pre-
ferred. ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT. Responsible for providing admin-
istrative support to the PreSident, organize meetings sponsored by the
PreSident, arrange travel , handle grants management, and track grant-
making and administrative budgets for the President ' s office.
Candidates must have excellent organizational skills and the ability to
manage multiple tasks in a fast-paced environment. Excellent verbal
and written communications skills required. Extensive knowledge of
Microsoft Word. Salary commensurate with background and experi-
ence. Excellent benefits package. Mail or fax resume with cover letter
to: The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, 250 Park Avenue, New York,
NY 10177-0026. Fax: 212-986-4558. For the Program Associate posi-
tion in the New York Neighborhoods Program, please include a two-
page writing sample with your application.
NEW YORK DIRECTOR OF LENDING AND PORTFOLIO MANAGEMENT. Senior
manager sought to direct lending and portfolio management of com-
munity development lender. Duties include: lending oversight, portfolio
monitoring, credit administration, new product development, fundrais-
ing and marketing. Required: minimum 5 years' management experi-
ence, lending background. Salary DOE, excellent benefits. Resume to:
Low Income Housing Fund, 74 Montgomery St., Suite 250, San
FranCiSCO, CA 94105. UHF values diversity.
POLICY ASSOCIAn: for Economic Development. The Center for an Urban
Future, a New York-based policy think tank (the sister organization of
City Limits magazine), seeks a policy associate to work on job creation
and publ ic higher education issues. Duties include research, writing,
government relations and some community outreach. Candidates must
have strong writing and interpersonal skills. CUF fosters an entrepre-
neurial, creative and neighborhood approach to policy development and
seeks like-minded candidates. Please visit our web site at www.citylim-
its.org/cuf before applying. Compensation: $28,000 - $32,000
(depending on experience) plus benefits. Send resume and two brief
writing samples to Neil Scott Kleiman at 120 Wall Street, 20th Roor,
10005. Fax: 212-344-6457.
COUNSnOR, Adult Literacy Program. Handle intake and student support
for a community-based program. Help to create a welcoming and com-
fortable atmosphere for students. We're looking for someone who will
feel comfortable working in an environment where decisions are made
jointly by students and staff. 24 hours per week, some evening hours.
BA or equivalent life experience. Experience working with adults in a
community setting. Bilingual (Spanish-English) preferred. Send
resumes to: John Gordon, The Open Book, 503 5th Ave., Brooklyn, NY
11215. Or fax to 718-965-9473.
Citywide nonprofit seeks motivated self-driven YOUTH
DEPARTMENT.DlRECTOR Train and work with high-risk youth; raise and
manage department budget; liaison with government/community agen-
cies; proposal writing, program development and budget responsibili-
ties; manage multiple projects. BA plus 5 years' experience (youth pro-
gram training and administrative preferred); excellent communication,
training and management skills; bilingual a plus. Salary based on expe-
rience. EOE. Resume, salary writing sample by 1/11/99 to: MC,
CCNYC, 305 7th Ave. , FI 15, NYC 10001. Or email@example.com;
please include ythdir in subject line. (continued on page 35)
The Countryaide Exc:baDae (CE), a nonprofit organization in the Hudson
River Valley, NY (I 111. hours north of New York City), seeks a Program
Manager to sustain, enhance, and expand its unique services. The CE fields
teams of interdisciplinary professionals (lawyers, planners, economic devel-
opment specialists, engineers, bankers, etc.) with experience in the best
practices of community planning, environmental and cultural conversation,
and economic development to help coirununities across the United States,
Canada, and the United Kingdom develop economic and environment-
related strategic plans, programs, and projects to energize community
well-being and maintain a healthy environment.
The Program Manager (PM) will review communities wishing to access
the CE program, coordinate with and train local organizing .committees,
assemble teams of experts to visit and analyze the selected communities,
and coordinate recommended and follow-up action plans and projects.
The PM should possess an undergraduate degree (graduate degree
preferred> in a related field; 10 years of professional experience working
with community-based or regional organizations, government, or quasi-
public agencies; and project leadership experience involving managing!
scheduling deliverables and logistics, assembling project teams, and
delivering presenrations. Travel <35"") is required, including periodic
evenings and weekends. A full position description can be viewed at
All inqairiea, nominations, reAUlles and cover letten may be
.ubmitted in confidence to Monroe "Bud" Moaeiey, Vice President,
at Isaac8On, Miller, 334 Boylston Street, Suite soo, Boston,
MA o:an6. Telephone: 6J:7-:a6:a-6SOO1 Fax: 6J:7-:a6:a-6S091
By Matthew Ulterino
veryone knows that, for decades, New York was the country's leader in fresh government ideas, major
public works, stunning architecture and cutting-edge planning. But today, despite a few Trumped-up
embarrassments, nothing much is going on.
As a planner, I'm tired of reading about Portland's green-
ways and growth boundaries. Boston and the "Big Dig."
Chattanooga and its electric buses and eco-industrial parks.
It's time for New York to recapture the headlines for bold
and daring public works. My ideas may not cure all of the plan-
ning and development ills of this great city, but they might
make other cities stop and take notice. And as New Yorkers,
that's all we really want anyway.
42nd StrNt Log Flum •. Bemoaning the horrific traffic
between the United Nations and the Javits Center, transportation
planners have long been pushing for a trolley across this fabled
street. Unfortunately, as anybody can see, it would probably
wind up stuck in traffic behind a clot of crosstown M42 buses.
Why not float transit riders overhead in plasti-log comfort?
Gridlock -be-gone with this latest tourist attraction! Cities across
the country are building themed urban entertainment and amuse-
ment zones as fast as architects can draft them. The flume would
one-up everyone else-rides that actually get us somewhere.
Program. There are two
things that New York certainly has no
shortage of: bridges that need
need real jobs. Don't tell
me that we can't improve on the blue
and gray splotch motif of the Manhattan Bridge. The public
can even vote on the designs, ensuring the new look isn't an unap-
pealing post-modern aesthetic like "Blue/Gray Splotch #1."
Compost Skyscrap.r. With Fresh Kills closing in just
three short years, the Department of Sanitation needs some for-
ward thinking, pronto. One seldom-mentioned, environmental-
ly friendly idea is composting-but where to store the ripening
goop? The answer: a giant midtown silo clad to resemble a
famous NYC landmark, a symbol of both New York's glorious
architectural history and its contemporary concern for the earth.
City parks would get a steady supply of natural fertilizer, and
politically aware community gardeners can buy New York
City's fmest biodegradables.
Ruling Class Subway Cars. Here's how to save Joe
Taxpayer a little dough while easing traffic congestion. No more
publicly funded cars for our elected reps, mayoral appointees
and judges. It's Metrocards for everyone. Recently, I heard
Planning Commissioner Joseph Rose laud our transportation
network and the fine shape it's in. Well Joe, come join us.
Stadium HomHhadlng. Using other major league
towns as a guide, expect the Yanks and Mets to get new taxpay-
er-subsidized ballparks. But if the public has to pony up, why not
rip a page from the urban homesteaders' book and exchange
sweat equity for season tickets? Any able-bodied sports fan can
give up evenings and weekends to pour concrete, lay sod and bolt
down the bleachers. The reward? A box down the first base line.
Cov.rnor's Fantasy Island. A twofer,
solving both the pre-
dictable challenges to
the city's new sex-
the need for
a credible plan
for the obsolete
Coast Guard station on
Governor's Island. Rezone a portion of the island as a haven for
X-rated video parlors and strip joints. Purveyors of porn get to
exercise their constitutional right, and the rest of us get to exercise
on new ballfields, jogging paths and parkland. There could even
be a nude beach, to bridge the transition between the two zones.
It blunts the NIMBY issue-it's nobody's back yard. It gives
the mayor an income-generating activity, which he claims is
needed to fund an island city park. And the convenient harbor
location makes it perfect for Fleet Week . •
Matthew Ulterino is a planning consultant on economic devel-
(continued from page 33)
Coalition for the Homeless, a prominent nonprofit agency helping over
3,000 homeless New Yorkers daily, seeks two energetic seasoned pro-
fessionals reporting to the Executive Director: DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR
OPERATIONS. Directs Finance Office with a $6.5 million annual budget,
and Administration Office, including human resources, property man-
agement, procurement and information systems. Directs annual strate-
gic plan and budget preparation. Oversees fiscal controls, personnel
policies/practices, and contract/regulatory compliance. Excellent com-
munication, supervisory and leadership skills. Minimum 5 years' senior
management experience. DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR DEVELOPMENT.
Oversees a multifaceted fundraising operation. Directs a 3-person
development staff in special events, corporate SOlicitation, founda-
tion/government grants, a $1 million direct mail campaign and major
gift campaigns. Spearheads the Board of Directors annual giving, and
cultivates new donors and funding opportunities. Excellent communi -
cation, supervisory and organizational skills. Minimum 5 years' devel-
opment experience. Competitive salary and excellent benefits. EOE.
Women and people of color strongly urged to apply. Send cover letter,
resume and salary history to: Search CFH@CRE, 90 Washington Street,
27th Floor, NY, NY 10006.
PROJECT DIRECTOR, Greater Williamsburg Collaborative. Economic devel-
opment, employment and community-building initiative seeks Director to
lead existing community-based, mUlti-agency collaborative. Responsible
for planning, project management, supervision, fundraising, administra-
tion and own portfolio of projects. Entrepreneurial team player with strong
management skills, ability to handle heavy and diverse workload, and
experience in one of the Collaborative' s focus areas needed. Submit
resume/cover letter to: N. Lasher, St. Nicholas NPC, 11 Catherine St.,
Brooklyn, NY 11211. Or fax: 718-963-1905. Other employment-related
position in a demonstration welfare-to-work program also available for
experienced individuals. Submit resume/cover letter as noted above.
HOUSING DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR. Community-based organization in Fort
Greene, Brooklyn seeks self-starter to implement and supervise afford-
able housing development projects. Excellent organizational , writing and
computer skills. Housing, financial packaging and supervisory experi-
ence required. Competitive salary commensurate with experience. Send
resume to: PACC, 201 Dekalb Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11205. Fax: 718-
POUCY ASSOCIATE. Children's Defense Fund/NY is the New York office of
one of the nation' s foremost children's advocacy organizations. Working
under the supervision of the Senior Policy staff, the Policy Associate will
focus primarily on issues related to child health. The Policy Associate will
assist in developing advocacy agendas, research projects and reports; pro-
duce policy analysis and recommendations for policy makers and public;
develop educational materials for various targeted audiences; and organize
constituent groups around issues for education and advocacy. Knowledge of
children' s poverty issues and graduate degree or equivalent experience
required. Excellent writing, research, computer skills. Ability to speak pub-
licly, think creatively and take initiative. Salary: $35-$40,000, DOE, plus
excellent benefits. Send resume and cover letter to Melinda Dutton,
Children's Defense Fund/ NY, 200 Church Street, 3rd Floor, NYC 10013.
DIRECTOR OF ADMINISTRATION AND RNANCE. Harm Reduction Coalition
seeks a team leader to oversee operations of a $1.3 million national non-
profit organization dedicated to progressive public health issues around
drug use. Responsible for all aspects of finance and administration.
Collaborate on organizational development, program planning, and maxi-
mizing resources. Manage human resources including supervision and
accountability. Fiscal officer and supervisory experience a must. MIP Fund
Accounting software knowledge a plus. MA or comparable experience.
Available immediately. Salary commensurate with experience. Great ben-
efits. EOE. Open until filled. Visit www.harmreduction.org for information
on HRC. Send cover letter and resume to: Search Committee, HRC, 22
West 27th Street, Ninth Floor, NY, NY 10001. No calls please.
PROGRAM DIRECTOR. Brooklyn CBO seeks a highly organized profession-
al to manage youth and immigration assistance programs. Must have
exceptional writing and organizational skills, and be able to work with
young people. This is a great opportunity for a creative person to build
and shape new programs. Requirements: BA and two years' experience
managing or development programs. Must be a self-starter and have
demonstrated ability to see projects through to completion. Salary to
$35,000, depending on experience. Send resume and cover letter to
FDC, 1616 Newkirk Avenue, Brooklyn, 11226. Or fax to 718-859-2298.
BOOKKEEPER. Brooklyn CBO seeks highly organized bookkeeper with
some accounting experience. Full- or part-time. Salary based on experi-
ence. Send resume and cover letter to FDC, 1616 Newkirk Avenue,
Brooklyn, 11226, or fax to 718-859-2298.
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the right direction
father and son team that is work-
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do the tough things it takes to be responsible contr?ctors 'and build-
ing mcmagers. The Chase Manhattan Bank's commitment to have a
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Through innovative financing programs and relationships with people
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Group of affordable housing and local
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:.......................... Community Development Group
CHASE. The right relationship ·is everything. SM
© 1997 The Chase Manhattan Bank. Member FDIC. Equal Opportunity Lender r=:r