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November 1992 New York's Community Affairs News Magazine


U N I O N B U S T I N G I N T H E S H E L T E R S ?
P O S S E F O R C H A N G E DL O S S U R E S T U R N S 2 0
.
"

I r
An uphill struggle against pollution-
and government-in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
$2.50
C i ~ V L i m i ~ s
Volume XVII Number 9
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2/NOVEMBER 1992/CITY UMITS
Wishful Thinking?
T
hroughout the presidential campaign I kept wishing and wanting
and waiting to hear substantive debate about the future of America's
cities-but it just didn't happen. If the deficit was the crazy aunt in
the basement during the past 10 months, then urban issues were the
bastard son.
Practical matters like low income housing were all but ignored and
even more im portant questions about racism and poverty were completely
shunted aside. They were apparently too disturbing, too divisive, too
perplexing for a campaign of sound bites and simple factoids. So much
for those who said the Los Angles riots would leave a profound imprint
on the national consciousness.
Amid the clutter on my desk is a pitifully thin pile of papers that
comprise the policy statements from the candidates. President George
Bush has just four paragraphs on the topic of poverty. His solutions?
Primarily strengthening the family, putting violent criminals in jail and
giving health care tax credits to poor people. This will "restore dignity,
independence and security for all American families," according to the
Bush-Quayle '92 campaign.
Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton (who looks like he's about to be
President Clinton) doesn't do a whole lot better. His proposals to estab-
lish community development banks and microenterprise loan funds are
a good first step-but only that. Clinton supports a permanent extension
of the federal low-income housing tax credit, but fails to see that direct
federal subsidies for new affordable housing could provide the same
kick-start to the economy that he's proposing with his new plans for
transportation. What's more, his positions on welfare reform and "personal
responsibility" show little empathy or understanding for the daily
struggles of the poor.
It's ironic that the theme of the entire campaign was change-and that
both candidates offer so little of it for cities in their position papers.
Fortunately, position papers and debate statements are not the only
indicators of what an administration will achieve.
There are a few signs of encouragement in the words and ideas coming
from the Clinton camp, where there's discussion of serious federal
investment in mass transit, clean water, energy efficient technologies and
recycling, as well as in Head Start and Job Corps for young people. At a
recent forum on housing issues, Marc Weiss, a senior policy ad visor to the
Clinton campaign, wore a button proclaiming "Housing Equals Jobs" and
said that a Clinton administration would restore funding for housing and
community development to pre-1980 levels over four years. Weiss, who
is the director of the Real Estate Development Research Center at Colum-
bia University, also mentioned the need for more money for capacity
building at community development corporations.
But so far all we've heard is talk. The first 100 days of the next
administration will be the real test.
* * *
We're pleased to announce that we have a new reporter on staff-Steve
Mitra, who joins City Limits after internships at Long Island Ne ws day and
The Chicago Tribune. Close readers may have also noticed that we have
some other new names on our masthead. Seymour Green is our office
assistant 20 hours a week, thanks to the support of a federal labor program
for senior citizens, which pays his wages. Sandy Socolar is volunteering
as a proofreader, using the skills she honed at the now-defunct and much-
missed Guardian. And Faith Wiggins is our new advertising represen-
tative. City Limits is growing in other ways-this is our second 36-page
issue in a row. Enjoy!
Cover photograph of Greenpoint activist Irene Klementowicz by Sian Roderick.
-.
1 I ' ~ f j " 1 1 I I I
FEATURES
Southside Survivors
A look at a 20-year old Williamsburg community-based
housing group-Los Sures. 14
The Politics of Pollution
Trying to put the green back in Greenpoint. 18
DEPARTMENTS
Editorial
Wishful Thinking? ............................................... ... . 2
Briefs
Bronx First ............................................................... 4
New York Leads ....................................................... 4
Squatter Victory ............................................. .......... 5
Federal Rent Subsidies Slashed ...... ........................ 5
Profile
A Positive Posse ....................................................... 6
Pipelines
Homes for the Heartless? ................................ ......... 8
Lost Opportunities ................................................. 11
Local Solutions ............................. .... ..................... 24
Vital Statistics
A Well-Kept Secret ................................................ 26
Cityview
Starting All Over Again ......................................... 28
Review
Outside and Unwanted ........................ .............. .... 29
Letters .. ..... ...... ......................................... .......... ........ 32
Resources Clearinghouse .......................................... 33
Job Ads and Classifieds .......... .... ............................ .. 35
Posse/Page 6
Heartless/Page 8
Pollution/Page 18
CITY UMITS/NOVEMBER 199213
BRIEFS
BRONX FIRST
After seven years of discus-
sions, open hearings, drafting
sessions-and a whole lot of
hoping-a development plan
createO by Community Board
Three in the South Bronx was
recently approved unanimously
by the City Planning Commis-
sion. It is the first community-
initiated plannin_g effort in the
city to receive official approval.
"It's a milestone event," says
John Dudley, the district man-
ager of Community Board
Three, adding that the plan is
"setting the pace city-wide for
what community planning
should be."
Known as "Partnership for
the Future," the plan provides a
framework for the comprehen-
sive revitalization of Community
Board Three, which includes the
neighborhoods of Bathgate,
Melrose, Claremont, Morrisania
and Crotona Park East.
The City Planning Commis-
sion approved the plan's
recommendations for high-
density, mixed-income housing
instead of single-family subur-
bon-style homes like those
recently built in the area.
However, they requested
modifications in the recommen-
dation to promote residential
over industrial development.
Other recommendations that
were approved include creating
a greenway to link Crotona
Park to the Bronx's other major
parks and establishing a pilot
recycling program.
The plan was a collaborative
effort between members of the
community board, community
leaders and residents of the
Bronx, with the Consumer
Farmer Foundation coordinating
efforts and writing the 129-
page plan.
"Our strategy was to work
with the city, not against them,
to force them to include the
community," says Eldred Hill, a
former district manager, now
retired, who initiated the local
planning effort.
Community Board Three is
one of the poorest neighbor-
hoods in New York, ranking
57th out of the 59 community
districts in the city on the bosis
of family income. The area's
papulation has declined enor-
mously in the past 30 years,
4jNOVEMBER 1992jCITY UMITS
Giant Step Fonranl: John Dudley, district manager of Community Board
Three in the South Bronx, says approval of a community-initiated
development plan is a "milestone."
from 150,000 in 1960 to just
58,000 in 1990. Also, avail-
able housing has decreased
from 46,000 units in 1970 to
only 19,600 in 1990, leaving
half the papulation crammed
into high-rise public housing.
The community board plan is
currently awaiting approval by
the City Council. If that is
granted, "Partnership for the
Future" will become a planning
guide for all city agencies in the
area. While its recommenda-
tions are not legally binding,
Hill says the plan provides a
framework that city agencies
"have got to respond to."
Others soy the plan will provide
guiding principles for develop-
ment projects going through the
city's land use approval pro-
cess.
Besides the South Bronx
plan, there are many other
community-bosed plans in
various stages of development
under the "197a" provisions of
the recently-revised city charter,
according to Carol Clark, the
deputy executive director of the
Department of City Planning.
The plans are from community
boards in lower Manhattan;
Chelsea and Clinton; the Upper
West Side; Williamsburg and
Greenpoint; South Brooklyn;
Downtown Brooklyn; as well as
one from Queens and another
from Staten Island. 0 Beth
G .... nfI.ld
NEW YORK LEADS
New York housing advocates
like to applaud their city as a
center for innovation-and the
federal government apparently
agreed recently, awarding the
New York region the greatest
amount of money in the country
for new initiatives to foster home
ownership for low income
families.
"I'm sure we got more than
our fair share," of the grants,
says Adam Glantz, the local
spokesperson for the federal
Department of Housing and
Urban Development (HUD).
Eleven local organizations were
recently awarded a total of $6.5
million that will help build or
renovate 1,500 units of hous-
ing.
Federal officials originally
intended to distribute 'Iust a
handful of grants loca Iy within
the second phase of the HOPE
program, which stands for
Homeownership and Opportu-
nities for People Everywhere.
But the number of applications
prompted them to change their
minds, Glantz says.
The grants are well -timed to
coincide with the presidential
election, but this doesn't dim the
buoyan0' of the recipients,
many of whom haven't received
federal funding for more than a
decade. Summing up many
grantees' feelings, Victor Bach
from the Community Service
Society says, ''This was a
surprise and a delight."
Most of the recipients will use
the money to start turning
neglected city-owned buildings
into tenant-owned, low-income
cooperatives or mutual housing
associations where buildings
are cooperatively owned by
tenants and community groups.
New York City's Department
of Housing Preservation and
Development received the
largest single grant, $5 million,
to implement community-
controlled housing efforts
through the Cooper Square
Mutual Housing Association in
the lower East Side and the
United Tenants Association
Mutual Housing Association on
the Upper West Side.
The other grants are for
planning projects. The recipients
include the Consumer Farmer
Foundation ($320,800); the
Community Service Society of
New York ($197,500); Bedford-
Throop Housing ($194,000); EI
Barrio' s FightbOck ($200,000);
lower East Side Housing
($85,000); the Mutual Housing
Association of New York
($36,800); East Harlem Re-
newal ($80,000); and the
Carroll Gardens Association
($26,700) . One grant was
awarded to the city of Newark
and another to an Albony
housing group.
The largest planning grant,
to the Consumer Farmer Foun-
dation, will be disbursed to four
community-bosed groups in the
South Bronx that are porticipot-
in.g in a foundation-backed
effort known as the Comprehen-
sive Community Revitalization
Program. The groups-the
Banana Kelly Community
Improvement Association,
Promesa, the Mid-Bronx Des-
peradoes and the Mid-Bronx
Senior C i t i z e n ~ Council-will
use the funds to start creating
low-income co-ops in 17 city-
owned buildings clustered in the
South Bronx.
The Community Service
Society grant will also filter
down to a number of groups.
''The purpose of the grant is to
build four local mutual housing
entities and create a city-wide
Mutual Housing Trust," explains
Bach from CSS, who has been
developing the Mutual Housing
Trust concept with the Urban
Coolition and the Urban Home-
steading Assistance Board.
The participating groups
include the Oceanhill-
Brownsville Tenants Association,
the Northern Manhattan Im-
provement Corporation and the
Ecumenical Community Devel-
opment Organization. 0 Usa
Glazer
SQUAnER VICTORY
Persistent community orga-
nizing has forced the city's
housing department to seriously
consider creating a one-time
amnesty to provide leases for
squatters in city-owned build-
ings. The policy shift could save
between 500 and 900 families
from eviction.
Valerie Jo Bradley, a spokes-
person for the Department of
Housing Preservation and
Development (HPD) says the
amnesty is "almost certain" to
become official policy.
Until recently the housing
department has sought to
enforce its Unauthorized Occu-
pant Policy, which states that
people who moved into city-
owned buildings without HPD
authorization after April 1,
1988, are subject to eviction.
Under the proposed amnesty,
anyone who has applied for
legal tenancy or who is listed in
HPD records as an occupant as
of May 1, 1992, can be consid-
ered fOr a lease.
Tenant advocates attribute
the proposed policy shift to a
summer-long organizing
campaign. ''The only reason
they're changing their policy
now is because of the strength
the tenants showed," says Lumi
Hilario, a housing specialist at
the Ecumenical Community
FEDERAL RENT SUBSIDIES SLASHED
In the twilight session of the
102nd Congress last month,
legislators passed a bill that
includes a severe funding cut for
the nation's largest low-income
housing program. The cuts to
the Section Eight program could
have dire consequences in New
York, where the subsidy is the
bockbone of the city's low-
income housing efforts.
"It's awful. It's just awful. I
think it's appalling," says
Roberta Youmans of the Na-
tional Housing Law Project in
Washington.
Section Eight, which is
administered here by the New
York City Housing Authority,
makes market-rate apartments
affordable to low-income
people by subsidizing a large
portion of their rent each month.
Tenants receive the subsidy in
the form of a federal voucher or
certificate and usually live in
privately-owned buildings,
paying about one-third of their
income in rent.
The cuts do not affect tenants
who already have the subsidy.
But funding for new Section
Eight vouchers and certificates
will be about 30 percent below
last year's appropriation if
President Bush signs the bill, as
expected.
The cuts come at a time
when 132,200 New Yorkers
are on a waiting list for Section
Eight housing subsidies-a list
that has grown by 50,000 in
two years-and the city is
becoming increasingly d:pen-
dent on the program for Its
homeless and low-income
housing policies.
For federal fiscal year 1993,
which began October 1, Con-
eress appropriated a total of
$1.2 billion dollars for new
vouchers and certificates to be
distributed nationally. That's
down from $1 .7 billion in
1992. Astonishingly, the cuts
are not simply the result of
budget woes. They occurred in
large part because of the
Senate's frustration over lax
oversight at the Department of
Housing and Urbon Develop-
ment (HUD). In a report accom-
panying the bill, Democratic
Senator Barbara Mikulski of
Marylarid blasted the depart-
ment for "posing a serious risk
to the American taxpayers"
because the program lacks "a
credible data management
system." Advocates criticize
Mikulski for letting bureaucratic
concerns block needed funds for
low-income housing.
Mayor David Dinkins' new
policy for homeless families,
announced in September, relies
on Section Eight to provide
more than half of all planned
permanent housing for homeless
families in the future. The plan
includes 2,600 Section Eight
certificates and vouchers to be
distributed to families in the
shelter system next year, to help
Development Organization who
worked on the campaign, along
with staff from the Metropolitan
Council on Housing, Congreso
Nacional Daminicano, the
Riverside-Edgecombe Neigh-
borhood Association and
numerous families affected by
the city's policy.
In June, activists marched
and protested at the home of
Deputy Mayor Bill Lynch. In
July, they demonstrated at an
HPD office when a group of
"unauthorized occupants" at
537 West 133rd Street-mostly
young women with children-
were locked out of their apart-
ments by HPD. Sixteen families
received leases shortly after
them pay for apartments owned
by private landlords or man-
aged by community groups.
Those subsidies comprise
almost three-quarters of last
year's federal allocation for the
city, and are not threatened by
the federal cuts. But the new
homeless policy signals a
growing dependence on Section
Eight subsidies in city govern-
ment.
In addition, many of the
housing rehabilitation prOlrams
of the city's Department of
Housing Preservation and
Development (HPD) are bosed
on the assumption that tenants
of buildings run by non profits
and private landlords will
receive Section Eight subsidies,
and thus pay moderately high
rents, keeping the newly-
repaired buildings financially
aRoot.
For instance, the owner of a
privately-owned building at 560
West 144th Street received
nearly $1 million dollars in
government funds and low-
interest bonk loons last year
through the agency' s Rental
Rehabilitation Improvement
Program to repair the occupied,
44-unit tenement. The housing
department increased rents in
the building to cover the cost of
maintaining the property; once
the work is complete, a vacant
two-bedroom apartment will
rent for $578. Current low-
income tenants were promised
Section Eight subsidies to help
them afford the increase. Now
these demonstrations.
The fight for tenancy rights
for families without leases in
city-owned buildings began with
a class action lawsuit in 1989
by the Legal Aid Society.
While applauding the
proposed amnesty, Legal Aid
attorney Michael Kink notes that
not all the policy glitches have
been solved. For one, HPD
records are poorly maintained
and may not have an up-to-date
listing of occupants. Also, the
amendments require occupants
to pay bock rent before they
can become tenants, even if
they were living in apartments
with near-uninhabitable condi -
tions. cJ Barbara Fedd ....
the availability of subsidies for
similar projects in the future is in
question.
The Congressional appro-
priations bill was not a complete
disaster as far as Section Eight
is concerned, advocates say,
because it eased some of the
more onerous provisions of the
1990 housing act. Under that
law, the city's housing authority
will have to find 1,600 "volun-
teer" Section Eight recipients to
sign a contract saying they will
work towards paying the full
amount of their rent within five
years. In exchange, they will be
offered incentives including
access to job training, day care,
transportation and other ser-
vices. But if they don' t fulfill the
contract and become fully
independent, they could still lose
their Section Eight voucher at
the end of five years.
The new bill changed some
of the rules for the program,
known as Family Self Suffi-
ciency, by allowing the housing
authority more leeway in
creating incentives and estab-
lishing a right to grievance
hearings for tenants who fail to
become independent. Congress
also pointed out that it was
unrealistic to expect the dis-
abled, the elderly, or mothers of
very young children to take part
in the program, and prohibited
housing authorities from dis-
criminating against them in the
allocation of Section Eight
certificates and vouchers.
Andr.w Whit.
CITY UMITS/NOVEMBER 1992/5
By Elaine Iandoli
The Positive Posse
Youth helping youth-including drug dealers.
C
radling a cassette player pump-
ing rap from the group Main
Source, Raheed Bryant, 16,
trudges along the streets of the
South Bronx. With George Carter, also
16, by his side, he ducks into a
superette on Longwood Avenue to get
some junk food. Then it's back to the
street, to the cracked sidewalks, bro-
ken glass and trash-strewn lots that
pockmark much of the neighborhood.
A group of young men glare and
stop their conversation about a video
game as Bryant and Carter pass a
crowded playground on Dawson
Street. Perhaps another time, the teens
will strike up a conversation with
these same young men, give them
condoms or hand out a sheet detailing
local job opportunities.
The two teens, who call their own
rap duo "Lyrical Assassins," are just
checking the neighborhood, scouting
the scene as part of their work for
Posse for Change.
Now in its second year, Posse for
Change is the reverse image of the
street posses known for drug dealing.
As its name says, Posse for Change is
a tight-knit cadre of young people
working to stop the drug dealing and
self-destructive behavior that's ravag-
ing entire communities in New York.
They've all had some experience with
the drug trade. "It ain't cool no more,"
comments Bryant as he strolls across
a South Bronx field.
Posse for Change is a program run
by Youth Force, a nonprofit organiza-
tion within the Citizens Committee
for New York. With $300,000 from the
New York State Department of Crimi-
nal Justice Services and grants from
four private foundations, there are
Posse for Change groups working the
streets of East Tremont, the South
Bronx, Central Harlem, Bushwick and
Southeast Queens.
The posse is part of a movement
within advocacy circles and local
government to develop dozens of new
programs for the city's youth. In a
departure from 1980s youth policies
that focused on prisons and delin-
quency projects, government money
is now funding everything from late-
night youth centers to counseling
services, street organizing projects and
sports tournaments, all in an effort to
a/NOVEMBER 1992/CITY UMRS
develop young people's talents and
steer them into productive work (see
City Limits, August/September 1992).
"I think they're at the cutting edge
of youth programs," says Michael
"They're at the
cutting edge of
youth programs."
Greene from the Office of the Deputy
Mayor for Public Safety, which ad-
ministers one of the Posse's grants.
"They really respect the skills and
potential skills of the youth they work
with."
Instead of depending on adults,
Posse for Change takes advantage of
the talents of young people who under-
stand their peers. "Young people are
able to talk to other young people, and
have a lot of impact," says Vivian
Brady, the 25-year-old director of the
program. Teresa Francis, a youth
coordinator with the group, agrees.
As she explains, "They dress the same,
they talk the same, the lingo is the
same."
Focus on the Dealer
Posse for Change differs from most
other programs that target drug prob-
lems by focusing on users. Here, the
focus is on the dealer. "We feel that
dealing is just as addictive as using,"
says Keith Hyman, 20, a self-described
former drug trafficker and one of four
full-time youth coordinators in the
program.
Posse members are recruited
through community based organiza-
tions, street outreach and word of
mouth, and they are paid $50 a week
for food and transportation. Some have
had family or friends that used drugs,
while others were dealers themselves.
They know that people deal for
different reasons-money for clothes,
money for rent, power, prestige, re-
spect. Some dealers even use their
earnings to put siblings through
private school or put food on the family
table.
Angel Cintron, a Posse for Change
youth organizer who started dealing
.
.
drugs when he was 11 years old, recalls
giving his family money made from
selling drugs, helping another family
stave off an eviction and donating
cash to fix up a neighborhood park.
But one night, as he stood on the street
with a cousin, a rival pulled a gun.
Suddenly, the drug dealing business
he ran with his cousins lost its thrill.
"I was right by my cousin when he
got shot," says Cintron, a solemn, soft
spoken 18-year old. "I stood there and
watched my cousin get gunned down.
He dropped into my arms."
Cintron later quit his high-level
dealing job. These days, his message
is simple: "All that stuff comes to an
end," he tells a younger generation of
dealers who aspire to make several
thousand dollars a week, like he says
he once did. "It comes to an end when
you're locked up or get shot."
Posse for Change runs three pro-
grams. One concentrates on training
young people to organize events and
projects in their neighborhoods. For
example, posse members in East
Tremont learned how to raise money
and set up their own youth center.
Last summer, with funds from the
state, the city and charities, posse
organizers worked on "Take Back the
Park" projects at Marcus Garvey Park
in Harlem and Putnam Park in
Bushwick. They helped plan movies,
games, and musical events, all in an
effort to keep the parks drug-free.
Persistent Street Outreach
The second posse program-street
outreach-teaches posse members
how to counsel other teens. Peer coun-
selors learn about stereotypes through
role-playing games. They hit the streets
"I stood there
and watched my
cousin get gunned
down. He dropped
into my arms."
in groups of two or three, plan to make
inroads in a neighborhood, and bring
job lists and phone numbers of agen-
cies that can help. They also hand out
condoms and AIDS information. This
year, they plan to develop a tip sheet
on housing and homeless services.
The approach is non-confronta-
tional-and persistent. "You gotta
persuade 'em," Bryant says. "If they
let us talk to them, maybe we can do
something to help them." Another
youth coordinator, Gabriella
Bernardez adds, "You make them see
you do want to help them."
Above all, peer counselors in the
street outreach program are commit-
ted to the neighborhoods. They come
back week after week. It might take
weeks or months to break through the
bravado or fear that dealers have-but
they still keep trying. "If people don't
listen to me, I go to somebody else,"
Bryant says. "I keep going around 'til
somebody listens."
Francis, a student at Borough of
Manhattan Community College, says
street outreach workers don't want to
take over communities or preach to
teens. They just want to lead other
kids away from the things that hurt
them and their neighbors. They want
to show them alternatives-and teach
them about their own power to change.
A third posse program, Strictly
Business, will offer training and
grants-starting this December-to
teens who want to start their own
legitimate business like running
foodstands or selling T-shirts.
Every week, Brady and "central"
posse members meet to talk about
upcoming projects and brainstorm
about new ideas. A different teen
chairs each meeting and the sessions
start with "ice breakers," games or
mental exercises designed to teach
some small lesson, like respect or
commitment to a goal. Posse members
design fliers, make calls to find out
about jobs, or solicit agencies for free
condoms to pass out. A posse group at
the Spofford Correctional Institute
produces a newspaper. An additional
program is planned for an alternative
incarceration center in Central
Harlem. Someday, posse members
hope to operate a "street university"
from a mobile van.
The ultimate goal is to show drug
dealers that they can use their
considerable skills and abilities in a
more productive way. "There is that
raw material there," Brady says.
"There's a lot to build on. It's just
about channeling it in the right
direction. "
::ii "This," adds Cintron, "is a posse
~ that's positive." 0
eli
Elaine Iandoli is a freelance journal-
ist and an urban affairs graduate stu-
dent at Hunter College.
CITY UMITS/NOVEMBER 1992/7
By Aaron Jaffe and Andrew White
Unions in the Nonprofit Shelters:
Homes for the Heartless?
T
he city's largest operator of privately-run shelters for homeless
fainilies is facing a federal investigation of alleged anti-
union activity following a failed, year-long organizing effort
by professional counseling staff in the Bronx. The nonprofit
organization, Homes for the Homeless, operates four of the largest
shelters in the city, way-stations for a total of 520 homeless
families.
The investigation by the National
Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is the
denouement of a bitter fight over union
representation at the Prospect Inter-
faith Family Inn, which climaxed in
July with the firings and resignations
of the counselors that were involved
in the campaign. The investigation by
the board is based on three complaints
filed by former staffers alleging that
management at Homes for the Home-
less illegally dismissed one employee,
transferred another and suspended
yet another because of their organiz-
ingactivities. Under federal labor law,
it is illegal for an employer to penalize
employees for union organizing ac-
tivity.
Eight former employees of the or-
ganization describe tactics by
management that they allege were
designed to destroy the union organ-
izing effort. In the end, they say, all of
those employees invol ved were either
fired, had reason to believe they were
about to be fired, or felt intimidated
by management.
the [former employees'] allegations
across the board are false. In the end,
that's what the conclusion is going to
be."
drug abuse counseling.
The union battle at the Prospect
shelter comes at a time when the city
is slowly moving out of the shelter
business and becoming increasingly
dependent on private, nonprofit
agencies that aren't bound by contracts
with city social service unions. Wages
for professional workers with bach-
elor's degrees in the private shelters
are usually in the $20,000 to $25,000
range, while comparable workers in
city shelters earn between $25,400
and $31,000 and have high-quality
"They've gotten rid of everybody
who was originally in family services
at Prospect. They were threatened by
us," says Christine Iyer, a former coun-
selor and one of the complainants
named in the NLRB charges. "They
just got rid of us because they were
afraid of the union." After partici-
pating in an effort to unionize the
professional staff at the shelter, Iyer
found herself transferred to a new
shelter in Manhattan. She says bitter-
ness about the ordeal drove her out of
the city to New England.
Battling the Bosses: Union organizer Ed Sabol says shelter staffers "didn't want to be treated in
an arbitrary and capricious manner. "
Homes for the Homeless executive
director Ralph Nunez did not return
several calls requesting comment on
the charges. However, a spokeswoman
for the organization says that "all of
a/NOVEMBER 1992/CITY UMnS
Homes for the Homeless runs four
shelters providing private rooms and
intensive social services for homeless
families. The organization received
government grants totalling $15.5
million dollars in fiscal year 1991,
along with another $844,000 in
foundation and trust grants, accord-
ing to the most recent filings with the
state Attorney General. The shelters
provide a variety of services, includ-
ing housing placement, day care, and
city benefits and pensions. Benefits in
the nonprofit sector are notoriously
slim, and employee turnover is rapid,
so payroll expenses stay relatively
low. Yet organizing the workforce of
service-intensive homeless shelters-
a relatively new industry in New York
City-is no easy task, say union
leaders. And the leadership at Homes
for the Homeless, some of them say,
has done all it can to obstruct effective
organization of its professional
employees.
The contest for union representa-
tion at the Prospect Interfaith shelter
began in November, 1990, former
employees say, at a time when Team-
sters Local 917 already represented
the maintenance and security staff as
well as the counselors and housing
placement workers. The latter two
groups, both considered social service
professionals, voted to drop their
relationship with the Teamsters local
that autumn because they felt the
union was neither active nor respon-
sive to their grievances.
One year later, another group of
professionals that had never been
unionized decided to join with the
counselors and housing staff and join
the Communications Workers of
America, which represents several
groups of nonprofit workers, former
employees say. "We felt that the main
office doesn't have the best interests
of the clients in mind so we wanted a
voice in order to stop that," says Scott
Anderson, one of the former housing
counselors. "There were some suspen-
sions of staff [before thatl, and we
realized we didn't have much power,
so we started looking into unions."
Laid Off
In mid-December, 1991, three of
the professional staff were laid off
shortly after meeting with aides to
Nunez to complain about how the
company had handled a case of sexual
harassment at the shelter. The
company told them the lay-offs were
the result of a funding cut. But morale
had already deteriorated, say the
former employees, and the event
steeled them to organize the union.
"They wanted to be treated with
respect, and they were having prob-
lems with that in the most fundamen-
tal ways" says Ed Sabol, the organizer
with the Communications Workers of
America that came to meet the staff
about that time. "They wanted some
security in their positions. They didn't
want to be treated in an arbitrary and
capricious manner and they wanted
some say in the decisions that were
made about their clients."
By the spring, workers scheduled a
staff referendum to decide whether or
not to join the Communications
Workers. Several former employees
say that Nunez, whose main commu-
nication with staffers up to that point
had been through memos, then started
showing up at staff meetings to dis-
courage voting for the union. Dawn
Hymers, a counselor hired in April
1992, recalls that Nunez "made two
trips to the shelter and held meet-
ings ... He said some outrageous things
about unions," mentioning how Grey-
hound workers and air traffic
controllers had lost their jobs because
of union activity, she says. The Homes
for the Homeless spokeswoman denies
that Nunez said anything of the kind.
Major Selling Point
After the Teamsters had been voted
out by the professional staff, the orga-
nization continued telling prospec-
tive funders that the shelters were
Union organizing
in privately-run
homeless shelters
is no easy task.
unionized, according to former
grantwriter Sue Merilees. "Sometimes
funders would ask, 'What is the
workforce like? Is it racially inte-
grated? Is it diverse?' They might ask,
'Is it unionized?' It wasn't like that
was a major selling point. But if they
asked, that was something we could
tell them." Merilees' replacement at
Homes for the Homeless denies that
the organization touted a unionized
workforce at the time.
In the meantime, the organization
replaced the shelter's director. The
new boss, Cid Rivera, promptly began
hiring staff for a new program de-
signed to assist families in danger of
losing their children to foster care.
Former colleagues say that the head of
the new program, a long-time Homes
for the Homeless employee, resigned
when she found she had no power
over who the shelter hired as her staff.
Anderson, Hymers and other former
employees charge that Rivera hired
acquaintances who he knew would
vote against the union. Homes for the
Homeless denies this.
Morale of the professional staff
couldn't have been worse. Suspicions
about the new employees were rife;
older employees say they discovered
they were paid less than the new work-
ers' and charges of incompetence flew
back and forth behind people's backs.
Before long, Hymers says, her super-
visor advised her to look for a new job
"because she thought my job was in
jeopardy" after Hymers expressed
support for the union. Iyer returned
from maternity leave to find that she
had been transferred to a new shelter
in Manhattan. When she got there,
she found Teamsters Local 917 already
installed as the union for the profes-
sional staff there, and fellow workers
told her they had no choice in the
matter, she says. That became the basis
for a fourth complaint filed with the
NLRB, this one against the Teamsters
local, alleging that the union was
recognized without the assent of the
employees. Local 917's representative,
Langston McKay, refuses to comment
on the allegation.
The election to decide on represen-
tation by the Communications Work-
ers was held at Prospect in late May.
On July 20, the Communications
Workers local and several staffers
called in the NLRB, which impounded
the ballots as part of their investiga-
tion. Hymers looked elsewhere, found
a job, and left. Within a matter of
weeks, most of the old professional
staff was gone. "We all left," Ander-
son says, adding that every staffer in
his housing placement department
either quit because they were so dis-
couraged, or was fired.
Minimal Compensation
Now, the former employees are
waiting for the federal investigation
to come to a conclusion. City labor
leaders say that could take more than
a year, although a spokesperson for
the NLRB points out that the board
tries to conclude investigations in a
month or two, and if a court case is
warranted, they often come to a deci-
sion or a settlement in about seven
months. Even if the case goes to court
and the NLRB wins, the compensa-
tion for the former employees would
be minimal. Scott Anderson could
win reinstatement and back-pay plus
interest. The other charges, if pros-
ecuted successfully, could lead to an
admittance of guilt by the employer
and the posting of notices at the shel-
ter saying Homes for the Homeless
won't suspend or transfer workers
because of union activity.
Homes for the Homeless' board of
directors includes some of the leading
liberal lights of New York City ,includ-
CITY UMITS/NOVEMBER 1992/9
ing Gloria Steinem and the Very Rev.
James Parks Morton of the Cathedral
of St. John the Divine. Hartz Group
director and Village Voice owner
Leonard Stern also serves on the board
and was instrumental in the creation
of Homes for the Homeless. (Indeed,
the organization's offices are located
in the Village Voice building on
Cooper Square). Morton, Stern, and
board secretary Harris Barer all refused
to comment for this article.
Labor organizers aren't the least bit
surprised to hear allegations of union-
busting leveled at a nonprofit organi-
zation. It's common, says Jim Guyette
of District Council 1707 , which repre-
sents nonprofit workers in several
industries. He cites other incidents
where he's seen "management firing
people to set an examrle, and then
trying to do an interna campaign to
find out who's pro and who's anti-
union and to eliminate all of those
they feel might vote for the union."
"We find out that these nonprofits
are extremely vicious in their labor
policies, even more so than the for-
"They just got rid
of us because
they were afraid
of the union."
profit private sector," adds Gary
Stevenson, the organizing coordinator
for the Eastern Conference of
Teamsters. "They are the shadiest of
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union busters. These executive
directors have total control. Their
boards are just rubber stamps." Asked
about why one of the Teamsters locals
could have done a poor job represent-
ing workers in the Prospect shelter, he
says that "some locals are more effec-
tive than others," and adds that it is
not uncommon for union locals-from
any union-to respond inadequately
to workers' grievances.
Union organizing efforts in the non-
profit sectors are only just beginning,
at a time when social and health
services are among the very few growth
industries. "It's wide open," says
Stevenson, whose union recently
committed $35 million to an organ-
izing campaign among nonprofit
workers nationwide. "Wages stink,
working conditions are terrible. It has
to be community-based organizing, a
very public effort," he adds, because
the funds for nonprofits are usually
tax dollars funnelled through local
government.
Linda Schleicher of the Social
Service Employees Union Local 371,
which represents city shelter workers,
says that incidents of abuse of workers'
organizing rights in nonprofit,
privately-run shelters underline the
most basic problems of privatization.
"It's a transfer of decent jobs to not
decent jobs," she says. "I don't know
how you can run a better institution
with people who aren't paid
adequately."
As for the family shelters, says
Elizabeth Lynch of the Citizens Advice
Bureau in the Bronx, it's a sad situation
for idealistic young men and women
who go to work with the homeless
"and then they realize that it's an
oppressive environment. People who
are pretty progressive and political go
to work for a place like that, and they
find they're not working for pro-
gressive people. Some places are
better, they treat families better and
it's a lot more open an environment.
Others are like minimum security
prisons." D
Aaron Jaffe is a reporter for the Asian
Wall Street Journal Weekly.
Subscribe to
CITY LIMITS
(212) 925-9820
II
By Miriam Leuchter
Lost Opportunities
Child care subsidies are available for women who
leave welfare and take jobs-but only a few hundred
actually use it.
N
ew York City has a desperate
shortage of affordable day
care-but a government pro-
gram that subsidizes private
day care for mothers who have left
welfare and landed jobs is barely being
used. Thousands of women in New
York City are eligible for the program
but a mere 236 of them took advantage
of it in an average month last year,
according to city officials.
"The fact that we're not using tran-
sitional child care money is outrage-
ous," says Liz Krueger, a leader of the
Welfare Reform Network, a coalition
of advocates. "It's a key, needed
resource."
For once, the problem isn't an
abysmal lack of resources: there's no
limit to the amount of federal funds
available for the program. Instead, the
problem is limited outreach to women
leaving welfare and a complicated
application procedure, according to
advocates and officials.
"When you get down to the level of
individuals, parents are coming off
welfare, going into low wage jobs,
they're not in a position to get quality
day care," says Tony Ward, the director
of Child Care Inc., a nonprofit resource
and advocacy group. "Not tapping in
to [transitional day care benefits] is a
very serious problem."
Sylvia Hunter, the Human Re-
sources Administration (HRA) official
who oversees the program, admits
she's got a problem on her hands. She
states it bluntly: "The transitional
child care benefit is badly
underutilized. "
Bridge to Self-Sufficiency?
Welfare reform efforts became offi-
cial four years ago with the Family
SupportActof1988, which mandates
states across the country to operate
programs to move welfare mothers off
public assistance and into the
workforce. The legislation includes
funding to subsidize day care for the
first year that former welfare mothers
enter the work force or increase their
earnings enough to lose their welfare
eligibility. In effect, the day care money
is meant to provide an essential bridge
helping women work towards self-
sufficiency.
But the rhetoric hasn't translated
into reality. Few people know the
benefit is available. The federal
government requires women to fill
out an application to qualify for the
subsidy. And there are always ques-
tions about what will happen after the
benefit is cut off after a year.
"The fact that
we're not using
transitional child
.
care money IS
outrageous. "
In 1988, the Congressional Budget
Office estimated that by 1991, 280,000
families nationally would receive day
care subsidies each month through
the program. They were wrong. Only
56,000 families used the benefit in
March 1992, according to the federal
Department of Health and Human
Services.
An obvious reason that the day
care subsidies are hardly used is that
few women are able to leave welfare
and get jobs because of the recession,
advocates say. But even in New York,
there's a pool of at least 3,000 women
who have made the transition to
employment, either through welfare
reform programs or on their own
initiative, according to the most re-
cent Mayor's Management Report.
So why aren't many of these women
receiving the transitional day care ben-
efit? One explanation is local budget
shortfalls: even though the federal gov-
ernment pays half the costs for the
program, the state and city administer
the program and divide the rest of the
expenses. "The state is not ready to
come up with that amount of money,"
explains Ward from Child Care Inc.
Complementing this obvious de-
terrent is the fact that few people even
know transitional child care benefits
exist. Potential clients, community
service groups and welfare casework-
ers are all woefully uninformed, the
program's critics contend. For ex-
ample, a 1991 study by the New York
Women's Foundation found that not
one of the 100 women on welfare
interviewed had been informed about
transitional child care benefits by her
caseworker.
Hunter from HRA says she has
stepped up outreach, employing two
staff members to inform other HRA
employees and outside groups about
the benefit. She adds that each wel-
fare center has a trainer that is meant
to be teaching caseworkers about the
program. The benefit is available to
all women who leave welfare for work
and earn a low wage; the cut-off point
for a mother with three kids is an
annual salary of more than $27,900.
JoAnne Freidell, a state official,
adds that about 400 children in
publicly-run day care are also being
subsidized by the transitional child
care benefit. But advocates say this is
nothing to brag about, explaining that
there are very few spaces available in
public day care, so these children are
using day care slots that should be set
aside for families without other
options. As Ward explains, "You
should be talking about expanding
services with this money," not just
rearranging funding resources to
support existing city programs.
Limited Outreach
But efforts geared toward expan-
sion of day care are limited. City
officials are targeting information
about the transitional day care benefit
to families most likely to use it: women
whose welfare cases are closed
because they've gotten a job. Each
week an HRA computer spits out the
names and addresses of all those
people-approximately 100 women.
Then the agency sends them a list of
available benefits and application
forms. It also sends packets to anyone
who requests information on the
program.
Some advocates say this is too con-
stricting an approach, and fails to reach
the hundreds of women who close
CITY 1992/11
their welfare cases without
explaining the reason to their
caseworker. Another prob-
lem, according to advocates,
is that welfare caseworkers
frequentl y make mistakes typ-
ing in the reason cases are
closed, so even fewer parents
eligible for the program re-
ceive information.
The women who do find
out about the program don't
necessarily have an easy time
getting the benefit. They have
to fill out an often-bewilder-
ing application, says Susan
Gewirtz, staff associate at the
Citizens Committee for Chil-
dren. Besides basic require-
ments such as information
about family income,
children's ages, and the type
and cost of child care they're
using, the application also
calls for a month's worth of
current pay stubs and asks
probing questions about the
chosen day care provider.
HRA says it needs that infor-
The L u c ~ Ones: Jacqueline Johnson and her children. Terrance and Deashia. are among the few families
who used the transitional child care benefit last year.
mation to determine whether the day
care operator needs a license.
Hunter estimates that only about
25 percent of the applications her
department sends out draw a response.
On top of that, "50 percent of the
applications that come in are incom-
plete," she reports. "It gets laborious
and logisticall y com plicated to follow
them up and correct them."
Most advocates call for the applica-
tion to be simplified. Beyond that, the
consensus is that more potentially
eligible parents should be informed of
the program. "Everyone who leaves
AFDC should be notified automati-
cally, regardless of the reason their
case was closed," insists Ann Collins
from the Child Care Action Campaign.
Nancy Lehman, a day care expert from
the United Jewish Appeal-Federation
suggests that the city provide informa-
tion in welfare resource centers and
welfare offices, perhaps using video
to reach people while they're waiting
for other services.
Even after a parent applies and.is
deemed eligible for transitional child
care, problems can still easily arise.
For one thing, HRA needs 30 days to
process applications. Add that to the
time it takes to receive and fill out an
application and it's clear that many
parents often wait months to receive
the benefits-even though HRA does
eventuall y reimburse clients for child
12/NOVEMBER 1992/CITY UMITS
care retroactively to the time their
cases were closed.
And the bureaucratic tangle doesn't
stop. After six months in the program,
women must be re-certified to con-
tinue getting benefits. "By that time
we're losing them," Hunter says. "The
re-certification rate is not good-
maybe 50 percent." Both she and out-
A bureaucratic
tangle.
side critics of the system say that
many eligible parents just don't want
to hassle with the system once they're
off public assistance.
"The Gnostic Gospels"
It's difficult to pinpoint exactly how
many women the program has served
over time-and exactly how many are
eligible-because budget cuts and low
staffing levels at HRA mean the agency
has a hard time keeping accurate
records and analyzing whom the
program is reaching. "Transitional
child care money is like the Gnostic
Gospels. It's hard to trace and we're
somewhat baffled by what's going on."
says Ward. In fact, program analysis
at HRA is so inadequate that an outside
nonprofit group-the Citizens
Committee for Children-is taking on
the task.
Advocates say the low utilization
rate of the child care benefit may be
partly the result of bureaucratic
gridlock within HRA. As Krueger from
the Welfare Reform Network puts it,
"They're not mandated to do this.
There are no sanctions, no punish-
ments for not meeting quotas ... .It's
like most things at HRA that aren't the
crisis of the moment-it can go by the
wayside for a long, long time."
All ofthese glitches are indicative
of underlying problems that extend
beyond HRA and encompass the way
the entire welfare reform program is
being run, many say. As Hunter
explains, single parents earning a low
wage and getting the child care subsidy
can still wind up back on public assis-
tance because it's so hard to make
ends meet. "Unless they're lying to
us, people in this program are making
very little money," Hunter says. "How
they can survi ve off welfare is beyond
me."
The issue of survival looms even
larger after the one-year benefit runs
out. Jacqueline Johnson is one of the
few women who are using the trans i-
o
Cl
z
..:
:::;:
8
a::
Cl
tional child care benefit. It helps her
support her two children, Terrance
and Deashia, by picking up most of
the tab for a babysitter while she works
weekends as a cook in a group home
for developmentally disabled adults.
But the benefit is about to run out.
Johnson wants to stick with her
job, which she considers emotionally
rewarding, but she's unsure whether
her pay will be sufficient to meet her
needs, including day care. "It's going
to be tough," she says, acknowledging
that she may be forced to reapply for
public assistance. "If you want to get
people off welfare, you still have to
help them meet their needs." 0
Miriam Leuchter is a freelance writer
living in New York.
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CITY UMITS/NOVEMBER 1992/13
Sou side
Survivors
The Los Sures community group is celebrating 20 years rescuing
Williamsburg from developers and disintegration. Where to from here?
BY NORMAN ODER
T
he housing contrasts in Williamsburg's Southside
are clearly visible on Hewes Street, three blocks
east of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and two
blocks north of Broadway. On the east side of the
street, on a former vacant lot between South Third
and South Fourth
Streets, there's a
brand new six-story
brick building, the
fenced parking lot in
back boasting green
grass and shrubs.
The sign up front an-
nounces thIS as an-
other project of the
Southside United
Housing Redevelop-
ment Fund, also
known as Los Sures,
which has helped
rescue this low in-
come Latino neigh-
borhood from devel-
opers and disinte-
gration.
The scene across
the street suggests
on its 20th birthday, celebrated last month. In the past two
decades, the community-based housing group has taken
on tenant organizing, low income housing development
and housing management, and now straddles all three
roles-sometimes uncomfortably-trying to increase its
professional capacity while staying in touch with the
community. The dwindling supply of abandoned buildings
in the neighborhood
is a testament to the
group's accomplish-
ments-and an im-
portant factor forc-
ing its leaders to find
new ways to further
improve an area that
has been stabilized ...
but is not yet thriv-
ing.
slower progress. The What Next?: Now that most of Williamsburg's abandoned buildings have been renovated,
southern segment is Los Sures is moving into "joint ventures" with other community groups.
I f you walk the
streets of the South-
side, the Los Sures
influence is quite
evident-the group
is currently acti ve in
more than 2,000
apartments in more
than 140 buildings,
a significant chunk
of a neighborhood an unpaved storage
lot, harboring a small boat, random auto parts and a stack
of tires. Next to the lot is a five-storey, early 20th century
tenement typical in Williamsburg, graffiti marring the
face, its inside and outside doors wide open. Los Sures
("The Southsiders") oversees this city-owned building for
22 formerly homeless families, but management doesn't
come easy. Police have conducted several drug busts, and
the pervasive drug dealing drove out the president ofthe
building's tenant association.
But major rehabilitation will begin next May, and Los
Sures housing manager Ana Bonano is optimistic. "Once
the rehab starts, the drugs move out," she says, and tenants
will start to take charge of the building, especially if they
purchase their apartments when the building becomes a
low income co-op.
This block highlights the challenges facing Los Sures
14jNOVEMBER 1992jCITY UMIl'S
that once teetered on the brink of extinction. Without Los
Sures "we wouldn't have any Hispanic community,"
observes Jesus Viera, a long-time community activist who
serves as the Los Sures board's treasurer.
Monsignor Agustin Ruiz of Sts. Peter and Paul Roman
Catholic Church, Los Sures' veteran board chairman,
emphasizes that the renovation has created emotional
bonds. Now, he says, the Southside is a place where
people know each other and can rely on each other.
Lydia Ramos agrees. Three years ago she never let her
kids play in the hallways or outside her building at 227
South Second Street. On the door to her ground-level
apartment, she had installed a Fox police lock-long
metal rods that extend to slots in the door frame-to
provide some protection from the stream of drug dealers
and their customers that filled the hallways.
Now her kids play In response, the
inside and out, resi- boardassertedanew
dents can hold bar- commitment to or-
becues and Ramos ganizing in 1980,
doesn't use the lock. and reiterated that
She says, "Todo ha commitment about
cambiado. Todo es four years ago.
mejor." ("Every- This focus on
thing has changed. community organiz-
Everything is bet- ing is essential to the
ter. ") Thanks to the long-term vibrancy
renovation super- of local organiza-
vised by Los Sures- tions , according to
and the commit- Andy Mott of the
menl of the tenants Center for Commu-
and a brave superin- nity Change, who
tendent-the 20- travels the country
unit building is giving advice to
painted, clean and n e i g h b 0 rho 0 d
features a sturdy groups. An organi-
door that drug deal- CommuniIJ Builders: The staff of Los Sures in front of their offices. Administrator David zation can "decide
ers can't destroy. Pagan is in front. to become more
It's transforma- staff-driven and pro-
tions like this that have helped give Los Sures a good name fessional and implicitly removed from the community, or
across the city, leading community development experts it can decide to go out and do more organizing," he says.
like Marc Jahr from the Local Initiatives Support Corpora- "That's something we really push with groups. If they
tion (USC) to describe it as "a terrific group." But Los don't actively plan to go through that renewal process,
Sures has not escaped growing pains, especially from its then they'll become less relevant."
role as a large-scale housing manager-a polite term for
Down the block from tenants who offhandedly commend
landlording. B
Los Sures, another group of tenants call maintenance ut while Los Sures keeps up the good fight against
workers sloppy, and charge that newcomers pay bribes to greedy landlords, the activist, insurgent spirit of the group
bypass lotteries for new apartment units. Los Sures overall has faded somewhat, replaced by institutional
administrator David Pagan says he's heard such rumors maturity and technical expertise.
but has never been given any proof. For example, Los Sures has stayed on the sidelines in
Around the corner, long-time residents of a handsome, some contentious community struggles. While Los Sures
better-organized Los Sures building have another com- personnel and board members have led local political
plaint: their relatives can't get apartments while, nearby, fights suchas a lawsuit against urban renewalland granted
Los Sures found space for formerly-homeless residents to local Satmar Hasidim and the recent, successful boycott
from outside Williamsburg, some of whom they accuse of of Eastern District High School, Los Sures itself has played
selling drugs. it safe, mostly staying in the background. It's a choice that
Pagan, who oversees a staff of 72 from the bustling Los leaves .some supporters, like Carmen Calderon of the
Sures offices on South Fourth Street, recognizes that South Side Mission, a social service agency, frustrated by
managing troubled buildings can stir resentment, but says the group's reticence.
it's still worthwhile. "In the long run, when the buildings Then again, Los Sures has learned prudence from its
become stable, they will become resources for the commu- involvement, from 1976 to 1980, managing Clemente
nity," he says. Plaza, a city Mitchell-Lama project located outside Los
,;. Ruiz, the Los Sures board chairman, fears that some Sures' main turf. The group attempted to keep a 3 to 1 ratio
residents take Los Sures for granted, and see it as "almost of Latinos to Hasids at Clemente, counteracting Hasidic
a kind of government. They are not aware ... that this has dominance in other projects. The local Hasids sued and
been community work." the out-of-court settlement gave Latinos only 51 percent of
Oneclearsignofthegroup'scontinuingcommitmentto the apartments. After that, Los Sures administrators
the neighborhood is the size of its tenant organizing unit, decided to concentrate on their immediate neighborhood.
led by Barbara Schliff, who is widely respected as one of Thus Los Sures stays focused on the job at hand-
the most effective housing activists in the city. Los Sures rebuilding housing-and ensures that government officials
has six tenant organizers, more than most other commu- aren't miffed by the group. But this may also reduce
nity groups, and they are well-known for forcing local community involvement in the organization. Los Sures is
landlords to make repairs, meet housing codes and treat often credited for its board structure, which is meant to
tenants with respect. include numerous representatives from buildings run by
"Sometimes I think it's my crusade, but it's also the the organization. But that idea works better in theory than
board," says Schliff, explaining Los Sures' commitment to in practice. While the board can have almost 50 members,
organizing. In the late 1970s, when federal assistance was it only had 27 at its peak and currently has only about 15,
cut, the organizing unit suffered, and Schliff says the divided between community activists and tenants. While
organization acquired an overly-bureaucratic reputation. the organization was once board-dominated, Pagan now
CITY UMnS/NOVEMBER 1992115
describes it as staff-driven.
Los Sures staff and board members seem almost resigned
to such low levels of participation. "We just get caught up
in other stuff we're doing," explains Schliff. She and
others concede they must work harder to foster partici-
pation.
Los Sures officials add that the limited community
involvement on the board may also reflect a simple fact:
tenants mainly get involved when their building goes
through rehabilitation. Another explanation could be the
demographic changes in the area. Like several Latino
neighborhoods in the city, the Southside has changed
demographically, but Los Sures hasn't completely adapted.
Dominicans, not Puerto Ricans, now
represent a majority east of the
Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, and a
enormous Community Management Program. An article
from City Limits in December 1976 conveys the giddy
excitement of the times. "The tenants at 149 South Fourth
Street on the Southside of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, have
made history. They recently voted unanimously to take
over management of their building from the city and to
buy it, after a trial period, for $200 a unit. Thus, they are
the first Los Sures tenants ... to elect to buy their building.
More importantly, they rejected an offer by the city to do
$100,000 worth of further work on the building, electing
instead to buy the building in 'as is' condition."
Over the years, Los Sures has continued to grow,
organizing tenants, rehabilitating buildings and managing
both city-owned and privately-owned
buildings. By 1979, Los Sures had sold
two buildings as co-ops to tenants.
significant minority to the west of the
highway. Also, Mexicans, Central
Americans and South Americans have
moved into the neighborhood. Father
Bryan Karvelis of Transfiguration
Roman Catholic Church, a veteran
community activist, says he sees a
touch of Puerto Rican exclusiveness to
Los Sures, whose board is dominated
by Puerto Ricans.
Los Sures officials point out that
there have been Dominicans on the
board, that the group has several
Dominican staffers and that Domini-
cans are widely represented in the
The insurgent
spirit has faded
somewhat,
replaced by
institutional
Now the number is 12. Bonano says
the organizing process that helps turn
city-owned buildings into tenant-
owned co-ops, is at the heart of what
Los Sures is all about. "It would be
good business to buy the building, but
it's not our policy," she says. By own-
ing their own property, she says, "The
tenants change."
So has Los Sures. In the early days,
the group's funding came from a few
management contracts and a federal
job training program. Now they juggle
resources from a range of funders, with
maturity.
buildings. But the mixed populations
leads to inevitable conflict when
tenants choose new tenants. "Guess what-people are
going to favor their own kind," says Pagan. He notes that
Monsignor Ruiz, the board chairman, is of Spanish origin,
and thus seen as unaligned.
The Southside took off afte' the completion of the
Williamsburg Bridge in 1903, allowing Jews and other
white ethnic immigrants from the cramped Lower East
Side to cross the river. Puerto Ricans began building a
community there in the late 1950s and 1960s. By the late
1960s, many landlords let their building deteriorate and
the communi ty was crumbling, threatened by street gangs,
drugs and arson. Meanwhile, other landlords, including
the Kraus Construction Corporation, were renovating
tenements, hoping to attract middle-class tenants who
valued proximity to Manhattan.
Community activists from the neighborhood's two main
churches began to organize. A group called Sur, which
means "south" in Spanish, argued for moderate rehabili-
tation of buildings, not the disruptive and expensive gut
rehabilitation Kraus proposed. And another group, New
Age Realty, tried to organize tenants and convince land-
lords to turn management over to the activists. "We were
not going to be moved. We were going to stay in
Williamsburg," recalls Willie Vargas, one of the original
activists, now a top official at the city's housing department.
Emerging from the two groups was Los Sures, backed by
legal services lawyers and local churches. The group
received the first contract to manage city-owned build-
ings, an experiment that eventually grew into the city's
16/NOVEMBER 1992/CITY UMITS
the bulk of the money coming from the
city. Los Sures "has been very agile at
staying afloat," notes Jahr from LISe.
The group has also become prudent about politics,
navigating the fine line between gaining support from
politicians while avoiding being used as a political base.
Luis Olmedo was the board's first chairman, and he used
that position to run successfully for City Council in the
1970s. Olmedo later tried to set the group's agenda,
according to Vargas. When this wasn't permitted, Vargas
says Olmedo turned against the group. In 1984 the politi-
cian was convicted of attempted extortion and criminal
conspiracy, and was sentenced to a year and a day in jail.
These days, board members have contacts with elected
officials-but the politicians want to assist Los Sures
instead of telling it what to do. For example, state
Assemblyman Vito Lopez helped bring money for a senior
citizens building as well as the new building on Hewes
Street and Councilmember Victor Robles helped bring a
senior citizens meal program to the Southside.
As the supply of abandoned buildings in Williamsburg
has declined, Los Sures has begun to use its expertise
elsewhere, serving as a mentor to community develop-
ment groups in Cypress Hills and East New York. Michelle
Neugebauer, executive director of the Cypress Hills Local
Development Corporation, says she and her counterpart
in East New York chose Los Sures as an advice-provider
because they were impressed with the group's buildings
and its training of staff.
For Los Sures, self-interest accompanies the outreach.
Because "we don't have space, we have to move into joint
ventures," says Bonano. Besides working with smaller
groups, Los Sures is also conside ing teaming up with
other well-established community organizations. Los Sures
and the St. Nicholas Neighborhood Preservation Corpora-
. ~

tion may join forces to
develop housing in the
Broadway Triangle, an
area at the fringes of both
groups' turf.
And while the Latinos
and Hasidim in
Williamsburg have a
fractious history com-
peting for scarce land
and housing, there may
be a rapprochement. Los
Sures and the United
Jewish Organizations,
the main Satmar group,
are planning to jointly
develop an abandoned
building on Driggs
Avenue just below
he was appointed acting
administrator, then took
the permanent job.
These days he com-
mutes from Flushing, ar-
riving before eight most
mornings. Pagan says he
has tried to "simply take
business sense into
decision-making," anal-
yzing proposals ex-
tremely closely. Sound-
ing very much the busi-
nessman, he says, "Any
organization which is
not developing new
product lines will be
doomed to extinction."
Broadway, in an area W
both communities have
claimed as their own. hile people were
Pagan knows Los Sures once fleeing Williams-
might lose control over burg in the 1970s, the
the building-which he community is now rela-
hopes would be split tively stable and there is
among Latino and a huge need for housing.
Hasidic tenants-but Not only are there wait-
thinks the risk is worth ing lists in the thousands
taking. "Those are things for Los Sures-run apart-
we have to deal with," ments, the Southside
he says. faces encroachment
Another area of focus from the Hasidic com-
is the Southside Urban munity to the south and
Renewal Area, where the . .. the Polish immigrant
city is acquiring about ='""' Time: Nelghborhood resldents at a block party for Los Sures' 20th community to the north.
80 parcels of land a few 1 ay. Moreover, Williamsburg
blocks east of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway for afford- may be a victim of its own success. It has become "maybe
able housing. Latinos in Williamsburg claim they've been too popular," observes Calderon, as yuppies and artists
cut out of the deal when urban renewal plots were devel- discover cheap lofts in what New York Magazine has
oped in the past (See City Limits, August-September hyperbolically hailed as "The New Bohemia." (A few of
1991.) but this time they expect to have more input. "I those artists have even wandered into Schliffs first floor
think the interests of the community ... will be accommo- office, complaining of "unscrupulous landlords.")
dated to a greater extent," says John Dereszewski, chair- Observers credit Los Sures with keeping key staff for
man of the local community board's land use committee. decades, which provides stability, and for not only hiring
The New York City Partnership is slated to develop the community residents but giving them excellent training as
housing on the site. Los Sures officials are lobbying to be well. Still, it may take some new blood for Los Sures to
designated as the community sponsors-and for extra regroup and develop new ideas for the future. Thanks to
subsidies to make the housing affordable to locals. a grant from LISC, Los Sures recently hired Cathy Herman,
Los Sures has branched out into economic develop- formerly of Brooklyn Catholic Charities, to serve as a
ment work, revamping Havemeyer Street, the Southside's deputy to Pagan. She's been active in the community for
main shopping street, but it has not moved much into more than a decade. Her mandate? "To tell us what we can
social service projects. While some groups try to separate do," says Ruiz, the board chairman. Los Sures staffers say
housing management from social services to avoid potential they've been too busy to do much long-term planning.
conflicts-of-interest, Pagan says Los Sures is not providing Along with a boost from the new staffer, Los Sures is
social services because the South Side Mission does a hoping a new Democratic presidential administration
perfectly good job. Then again, Los Sures is calling for day would do more for community-based groups. While Los
care and a nursing home on the urban renewal site. "If for Sures may branch out to new projects, housing is still the
some reason it's not being done, then we'll end up doing top priority. When people have housing it gives them a
it," he says. stake in the neighborhood, says Pagan. Then, he adds,
Pagan embodies the pragmatic approach of the mature "you can fight for what you want." n
Los Sures. Measured and earnest, with degrees in account-
ing and finance, Pagan joined Los Sures as a comptroller
in 1979 after working for the city's Office of Economic
Development. After a few years and a few administrators,
Norman Oder is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn who
has written for the Columbia Journalism Review and In
These Times.
CITY UMITS/NOVEMBER 1992/17
The
BY SAMME CHITTUM
W
henever a toilet is flushed on Manhattan's
East Side below 72nd Street, its contents go
straight to the working class neighborhood of
Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
To Upper East Side residents, waste water
is a problem flushea and forgotten. But on Greenpoint
Avenue in Brooklyn, home to the city's largest sewage
treatment plant, the politics of sewage just plain stink.
And the Newtown Creek Water Pollution Control Plant,
renowned for a stench that attacks like a slap in the face,
is far from the only source of air pollution in Greenpoint
and nearby Williamsburg. A walk down Greenpoint
Avenue past the plant reveals a bleak industrial landscape
of smokestacks, factories and streets lined with giant oil
storage tanks that sprout like ominous metal mushrooms
behind barbed-wire topped fences. The area is ringed by
railroad tracks, elevated highways and industrial no-
man's lands.
These two neighborhoods are at the center of the city's
waste disposal network. The sewage treatment plant re-
ceives about one-fifth of the city's waste water, and the
district contains one of the largest collections of garbage
transfer stations in town. Greenpoint is also home to a city-
run garbage incinerator, and a massive new incinerator is
slated for construction in Williamsburg before the end of
the decade.
In the middle of this near-biblical blight of environ-
mental ills are brick tenements, modest row houses and
mom-and-pop stores that are home to nearly 160,000
people, many of whom have moved in
recent years from hopelessness to an-
The emerging conflict places the needs of the neighbor-
hood directly at odds with the needs of the city-as they
are perceived by city officials-in a tough battle that
mirrors others going on all over the country. Greenpoint
doesn't want any more pollution, yet officials want to
expand the plant to improve sewage treatment, comply
with the federal Clean Water Act and reduce the filth in the
city's rivers and canals.
Still, there is some hope that common ground exists.
National environmentalists say there are creative solutions
that can accommodate both the city and the neighborhood,
adding that scientific innovation, government flexibility
and improved communication can lead to both cleaner
water and a cleaner community. But will the city ever
come around to this point of view? Local activists like
Irene Klementowicz are losing patience. She asks, "How
long do you want me to stand still while you're peeing in
my shoes?"
RChard Newman is Region Two wat'" pwgram director
for the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
His office is within whiffing distance of the Newtown
Creek sewage plant, which processes, on average, about
310 million gallons of sewage every day. The plant doesn't
do its work very subtly. "Newtown is a real stinker,"
Newman concedes.
In the late 1980s, following years of neighborhood
complaints, Newman's agency filed suit against the city
demanding that the Department of
Environmental Protection (DEP) up-
ger to strident environmental activ-
ism. Their aim: to put the green back
in Greenpoint. Twelve months ago, it
looked like they were making some
headway. The city had just begun a
court-ordered, $850,000 Environmen-
tal Benefits Program to fund work on
potential solutions to the neigh-
borhood's woes.
So far, however, the small but
important experiment to combine the
expertise and resources of government
with the energy of activists has been
Can grassroots
environmentalists
find common
ground with city
government?
grade the 30-year-old plant and cut
back on the sewage flow that was
pushing it over capacity. The lawsuit
resulted in a 1988 court order outlining
necessary improvements.
It was about that time that residents
of the nearby neighborhoods began to
come together to combat the environ-
mental ills afflicting them, including
the nearly 1,000 industrial firms that
spew hundreds oftons of toxic pollu-
tants into the air, and a 20-million-
an exercise in frustratjon. While city
bureaucrats promote an agenda of
building bike paths and farmers' markets, the leaders of
neighborhood groups say their top priority is establishing
a moratorium on any expansion of the local sewage plant
and other waste facilities, something the city refuses to
even discuss. As a result, the Environmental Benefits
Program had reached an im passe by the end of the summer.
lS/NOVEMBER 1992/CITY UMITS
gallon underground petroleum lake
created by leaking storage tanks. The
ethnically diverse communities of
Greenpoint and Williamsburg include a remarkably stable
population of Puerto Ricans, African-Americans, Orthodox
Jews, whites, Eastern Europeans and recent Latino
immigrants. They have had a reputation for activism since
the early 1970s, when residents began a long and success-
ful fight to halt housing abandonment and stabilize small

business-and lost a campaign to preserve health care
services. In the late 1980s, many community leaders
shifted their focus toward the environment. Even as the
city promoted a plan to build a new garbage incinerator
here, and researchers uncovered details about the toxins
in the air and water, residents educated themselves and
began to fight back.
The state judge who ruled against the city and its
sewage treatment plant in 1988 recognized the strength of
the community activists, and ordered the city to finance
an $850,000 Environmental Benefits Fund to support
citizen environmental efforts in the community. With the
money behind them, residents expected to work together
on a formal assessment of local environmental problems,
and a plan to reduce them. Early participants created a
Citizens Advisory Committee to consolidate their power.
So far, the committee has created a forum for people
and organizations to meet, devise strategies, define goals
and even look at data compiled by city environmental
regulators. But in the 12 months that the Greenpoint-
Williamsburg Environmental Benefits Program has been
underway, the obstacles placed in its path have seriously
restricted its ability to change the status quo.
Foremost among criticisms is the charge that the
program's basic structure is inherently flawed, with the
city government playing an administrative and guiding
role and the state overseeing the whole enterprise.
Community residents contend that the rules of the
game-established by the city's DEP-demand that the
citizens of Greenpoint and Williamsburg sit politely and
talk about minor community improvements while the city
continues to plot massive construction projects-like the
new incinerator and the sewage plant expansion-that
can only further damage the environment. It is not
surprising, then, that many of the participants feel like
Sitting Bull being asked to follow the U.S. Cavalry. "The
distrust of the DEP is high and the DEP deserves that
distrust, " says Inez Pasher, a Greenpoint social worker
and environmentalist.
Many participants see the city as a privileged partner
em UMITS/NOVEMBER 1992/19
that will benefit from undermining the program. "It's to
their advantage to keep the Citizens Advisory Committee
as loose as possible," says Mark Farran, chairman of the
citizens committee. Former co-chair John Mensing, a
longtime activist who recently left New York City, says
DEP not only failed to midwife the program, but preferred
that it be stillborn. "They have no interest in seeing citizen
environmentalism flourish in Greenpoint," he says. "They
want it to fail."
The project's halting progress gives ample ammunition
to the most bitter critics. Only $110,000 of the allotted
$850,000 in city funds for the program has been spent.
Money to pay the citizens committee's bills has been slow
in coming from the mayor's Office of Management and
Budget. A consultant hired by the citizens committee
went six months without a paycheck. By summer's end, a
citizens' liaison office intended to take complaints from
the community still lacked a phone. Yet city officials will
only blame the delays on accounting problems at the city
budget office.
In addition, members of a Technical Advisory Commit-
tee, scheduled to meet every four months, have met only
twice in a year and have had little ongoing contact with
citizens after a promising first meeting with them several
months ago. Technical experts like Paul Hill of the National
Institute of Chemical Stud-
ies in Charleston, West
Virginia, which has done
extensive research and
community outreach in
heavily industrialized
communities in several
states, have a wealth of re-
sources to offer. Hill has
submitted one report. But
Elizabeth Roncketti, who
lives in Greenpoint, says
the community wants
more. "All these [technical
advisory 1 people expressed
tremendous enthusiasm for
getting involved. Where the
hell are they?" she asks.
"We feel the DEP is keep-
ing them from us."
the 30 health districts in the city. Rates of leukemia and
cancer of the nervous system in boys are also among the
highest in the city. The risk of contracting these types of
cancer in the district is 50 percent higher than in the city
as a whole, the study says.
A local development corporation completed a $10,000
survey of area industries with funds from the program,
and the city compiled two citizen's guides on environmen-
tal law and city policies and procedures. Work has begun
on gathering information on several kinds of pollution in
the community, and Nancy Kassim Farran says she got
hold of data on the nearby city incinerator that she never
was able to obtain in the past. Yet many of the participants
on the citizens committee say the reports and guides and
other small achievements are barely consolation for 12
months' work. "Very little has gotten done," Pasher says.
Mark Farran agrees. "We're sort of in a quagmire," he says.
As a student. Reinerio Hernandez was a campus ,.dical.
He was expelled from Cornell University because of
repeated arrests during anti-apartheid demonstrations,
and at the University of California at Berkeley he orga-
nized a minority student
advocacy group in the city
planning program. On his
office wall at DEP's Office
of Environmental Quality
hangs an award from
former co-workers that
honors him as "Most Likely
to Start a Revolution." At
the end of the summer, it
became Hernandez' job to
prevent a revolution among
Greenpoint and Williams-
burg environmental activ-
ists fed up with the min-
iscule progress of the
Environmental Benefits
Program.
Hernandez is a deputy
director of the DEP division
responsible for the pro-
gram. He is the latest of
several administrators
assigned to work with the
community, but he is the
first to give the local
activists any reason to
believe he's really commit-
ted to the project. Appar-
ently, the neighborhood
people say, the city finally
woke up to the fact that the
court order required that
os: the $850,000 be spent
ffi within two years-or come
g up with the same sum again
a:: and start over-and put an
Still, the first 12 months
of the program haven't been
a total wash. Of the
$110,000 spent so far,
$45,600 paid for a study by
the city's Department of
Health and the medical
school at the City Univer-
sity of New York, profiling
incidences of cancer,
asthma and childhood lead
poisoning in the neighbor-
hood and putting the
community's environmen-
tal ills on the front pages of
the city's newspapers. The
researchers found that
Greenpoint and Williams-
burg have the highest rates
of stomach cancer out of
Dangerous Neighboltlood: Residents of Williamsburg and Greenpoint are
among the most likely in the city to suffer some forms of cancer.
able administrator on the
job. Hernandez vows to
infuse energy into the
20jNOVEMBER 1992jCITY UMITS
moribund effort. "I
want to get this pro-
gram running. I want
to fix problems," he
says. Starting in Sep-
tember, he has held
monthly meetings
with the citizens com-
mittee, and issued
comprehensive min-
utes that outline
where the various
participants are hop-
ing to go with it.
"There's clearly a pos-
sibility that the un-
derground oil could
be disturbed and fur-
ther damage the wa-
ter table," she says.
Klementowicz and
Roncketti soon
founded the Con-
cerned Citizens of
Greenpoint to stop the
city from sneaking
plans to expand the
sewage plant past the
community.
He says he recog-
nizes that excluding
all discussion of the
moratorium issue
limits the agenda of
the program. But he
champions one of the
program's primary
goals-the creation of
a computer database
Battling Bureaucracy: Mark Farran says the Environmental Benefits Program is "sort of
in a quagmire. "
But at the same
time, they want the
city to deal with odor
problem as soon as
possible. The DEP has
a short-term "stabili-
zation plan," a $60
million project to con-
tain the screens that
of pollution information based in the community board
office-and says it will be a powerful tool for neighbor-
hood residents. He has other priorities as well: Getting the
community liaison office up and running, boosting local
recycling efforts, and converting empty lots into commu-
nity gardens. He also says the program will provide
environmental education projects for local schools, plan
community forums on environmental issues, and push
DEP to improve pollution monitoring and enforcement.
But even a well-intentioned environmental ambassador
from the city has a thin line to walk in negotiating with
citizens while the generals at DEP layout the blueprints
for new city facilities . He must work against the backdrop
of an environmental cold war between the city and the
neighborhood. Ian Michaels, a DEP spokesperson,
acknowledges that his agency's refusal to discuss the
moratori um on construction of the incinerator and expan-
sion of the sewage plant could cost the involvement of
some effective community organizers. "We have to hope
that people can see this program as separate from the issue
of a moratorium. This program isn't the forum [for that],"
he says. "Those are political decisjons made at higher
levels beyond the people running the program."
But on Greenpoint Avenue, no one can get away from
the fact that the sewage treatment plant is a high-profile
issue. "The odor there is so overwhelming, it seeps through
brick buildings," says Roncketti.
Three years ago, Irene Klementowicz read a notice in a
newspaper that the Army Corps of Engineers and DEP
were proposing to expand the Newtown Creek plant. She
immediately called the community board, which called
for a public meeting with elected officials and the agen-
cies. "It was like, wait a minute, what's going on? Doesn't
anybody know what's going on?" recalls Klementowicz.
She says what shocked her the most was the city's plan to
bore holes for pilings and tanks deep into the Greenpoint
soil, which is severely contaminated with oil plumes.
filter solids out of the sewage, install scrubbers and other
controls to cut the rotten stench. But right now all that's
being tackled is paperwork. Completion-and relief from
the implacable odors-is still four years away, says Martin
Gelfand of the agency's Plant Design Division.
Yet the massive plant's problems are even more com-
plicated. Sitting on a 32-acre site adjacent to Newtown
Creek, the plant treats waste from a 24-square-mile drain-
age area that takes in the West Side of Manhattan below
14th Street, the East Side below 72nd Street and Brooklyn
north of Eastern Parkway, as well as part of Queens. For
years, it ran well above capacity, spilling barely-treated
waste water into the creek. But even when it does all it can
to treat the city's sewage, it doesn't do enough. Newtown
Creek is the most outdated plant the city has, and the water
it discharges hasn't passed federal standards for 20 years.
"It's kind of held together by spit and baling wire,"
Newman says.
Of the city's 14 water treatment plants, 11 provide
"secondary" treatment, which in most cases achieves state
and federal standards. Two more are currently being
upgraded to secondary treatment. But Newtown ... well,
Newtown won't be capable of secondary treatment until
well into the 21st century.
And the city doesn't want to just improve the plant.
They say they want to expand it, because the city hasn't
been capable of handling all its waste for years, especially
when rain storms deluge the interconnected system of
storm sewers and waste pipes. The "whole soup of pol-
luted runoff and raw sewage goes directly into the water
without treatment," as one environmentalist explains.
Original designs for the upgrade and the expansion of the
Newtown plant-to 360 million gallons per day-have
been scrapped because they included deep aeration tanks
like those built into the new North River sewage treatment
plant in West Harlem, which also has severe odor prob-
lems. So DEP has started all over again, compiling lists of
possible engineering consultants. "Basically we're back to
1988," Newman says. "We're no place. We're on hold. "
If conventional shallow tanks are used, the city will
have to buy land alongside the current site, which would
CITY UMITS/NOVEMBER 1992/21
push the construction
schedule-if there was
one-back even fur-
ther. And the plant
will have to continue
operating during con-
struction, because it
processes such a huge
quantity of the city's
waste. Current plans
call for 14 years of
planning and con-
struction. But in real-
ity it could take even
longer, officials say.
sewer hook-ups to the
overburdened sys-
tem, including
requirements that de-
velopers provide for
conservation and on-
site sewage treatment,
is another possibility.
This has already been
championed by Man-
hattan Borough Presi-
dent Ruth Messinger
in her recent negotia-
tions with Donald
Trump over the pro-
posed Riverside
South development
on the Upper West
In the meantime, the
thick, black and oil-
sodden water of the
East River at the mouth
The Big Stink: The stench from the Newtown Creek sewage treatment plant attacks
like a slap in the face.
z Side. Another idea is
to construct sewage
holding tanks at treat-
ment plants to store
the overflow during
of sludge-choked Newtown Creek sustains no life form
higher than a sludge worm. The city has outlined its plans
for eventually complying with the Clean Water Act with
a combination of plant expansions, upgrades and conser-
vation efforts, along with steep increases in the water rates
to help pay for it all. The most high-profile part of the
program is the installation of water meters in residential
buildings allover the city. The meters allow the city to bill
water users for the amount of water they actually use,
rather than a rough estimate, thus encouraging building
owners to cut back on water use to save money. (The
metering program has drastic side effects for low income
housing. See City Limits, October 1992 and May 1992).
Environmental organizations say the city isn't doing
enough to promote conservation, and is irresponsibly
pushing plant expansion as a long-term solution. "The
city has to go well beyond metering alone, " says Eric
Goldstein of the Natural Resources Defense Council, who
is keeping an eye on the Environmental Benefits Program
in the neighborhood. He and others propose a massive
incentive program for low-income homeowners and land-
lords, to cover the cost of new, water-conserving bathroom
fixtures like low-flow toilets and showerheads. Others,
including DEP staffers, are developing proposals for edu-
cation and outreach to apartment dwellers citywide.
Among the most effective, proven ideas is recycling
"gray water," or water already used in sinks and showers,
so that it is that water that flushes the toilets. Gray water
systems can be set up fairly simply in an apartment, or
building-wide, as has been done in some modern office
developments.
Restraint on new development that threatens to add
heavy rains. The most effective solution, reconstructing
the sewer system to separate storm drainage from sewage
pipes, is prohibitively expensive.
The city's embrace of conservation as a primary goal
rather than new sewage plant construction would ease the
tension in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, but few of the
participants in the program there expect that to happen.
"It's like at halftime now," Goldstein says. "The final
score's not in but there are reasons to be concerned about
the breakthroughs that have not been made."
What I'm saying is, 'No mme in my back yard,'" adds
a forthright Klementowicz. She and other members of the
citizens committee say they are willing to go to court over
the issue, and want the Environmental Benefits Program
to pay for a lawyer that can advise the community of its
rights-something the city is unlikely to approve.
Cathy Verhoff, director of operations at NRDC, is in
charge of efforts to reach out to community groups. She
says the clearest evidence that the city has to sit up and
deal with its waste problems in a more creative way is the
citizen activism in Greenpoint and Williamsburg. "Even
environmentalists can get worn down after awhile," she
adds "But you can't wear down somebody who's living in
the middle of it. The city has no choice but to sit down and
find a common ground with them." D
Samme Chittum is a freelance reporter based in Man-
hattan. Keith Rushing contributed additional reporting.
ADVERTISE YOUR JOB OPENING IN CITY LIMITS
Reach thousands in the nonprofit community!
Call: Faith Wiggins at (212) 925-9820 Deadline: The 15th of the month before publication.
22jNOVEMBER 1992jCITY UMITS
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_ UmIIO BYaffWT

eitv
Starting Small
Fighting Incineration from the Schools
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___ 0 _11 _
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eirv
BURIED ALIVE:
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CITY UMITS/NOVEMBER 1992/23
By Steve Mitra
Local Solutions
A new federal program takes a neighborhood
approach to reducing infant mortality. But are
communities involved in decision-making?
W
hen you talk to officials at
the Bronx Perinatal Consor-
tium about high infant
mortality rates, they bring
up the lack of parks and community
centers in poor neighborhoods. When
you talk to the Urban League about
feeding malnourished babies, they
offer to show you a class about
preventing teenage
pregnancy. When
Kenton Kirby of the
Brooklyn Perinatal
Network is asked
about inadequate
health services for
mothers-to-be, he
launches into a
discourse on uproot-
ing poverty.
These people
program's goals are hopelessly
unrealistic. And some question
whether the decision-making process
for the program reflects its community-
based vision. Healthy Start is over-
seen by the private, nonprofit Medical
and Health Research Association
(MHRA) and will be implemented by
three neighborhood-based organiza-
mortality rate in America is 9.1 per
thousand.
Changing Attitudes
A decade ago many experts called
for a medical solution to high infant
mortality rates and government money
paid for new facilities such as
intensive care units for newborns. The
result was a nationwide stabilization
of the infant death rate.
But high infant mortality rates
continued in poor communities. "We
realized then that most of the improve-
ments that could come from tech-
nology had been had already," says
Peter van Dyke, senior medical advi-
sor for the Health Resources and Ser-
vices Administration. "We had made
as much progress as
we were going to
make."
Gradually, during
the 1980s, the focus
shifted towards alle-
viating broader prob-
lems connected with
poverty. These in-
clude everything from
the lengthy waiting
times in public hos-
pitals to the lack of
drug treatment avail-
able for pregnant
mothers to the com-
plicated maze that
prevents many from
~ taking advantage of
8 public assistance pro-
~ grams.
aren't diverting
attention from the
real issue. While
medical and techno-
logical advances
used to be the favored
approachfor reduc-
ing infant mortality,
experts now say com-
munity rebuilding is
the answer. They
look for solutions in
day care, housing,
On the Ball: Healthy Start will fund recreational facilities as part of a comprehensive
plan to cut infant mortality.
l!l "If anything, infant
mortality is a reflec-
tion of social prob-
and drug rehabilitation. In response,
the federal government started a pro-
gram last year called Healthy Start,
which aims to pump more than $25
million into Mott Haven, Central Har-
lem and parts of Central Brooklyn.
The goal? Cutting infant mortality in
half in just five years.
"It's very ambitious-we're look-
ing at a holistic approach here. We're
looking at [improving] the quality of
life ... associated with poverty," says
Cynthia Pinn, executive director of
the Bronx Perinatal Consortium, one
of the organizations carrying out the
program.
While community advocates and
public health experts welcome the
new federal money and embrace the
holistic approach, some are also
raising questions. Most say the
24/NOVEMBER 1992/CrrY UMrTS
tions. But the systems for community
input at the privately-run MHRA are
not adequate, according to some health
advocates.
The three communities chosen for
the Healthy Start program are in dire
need of help. More than one-third of
all the women in Mott Haven, Central
Harlem and the Bedford-Stuyvesant
and Crown Heights neighborhoods of
Brooklyn live below the poverty line,
and nearly one-third of all families
survive on public assistance. The level
of infant deaths in these communities
can only be compared to the Third
World: 20 per thousand in MottHaven,
27 per thousand in Central Harlem
and 15.3 per thousand in Bedford-
Stuyvesant and Crown Heights. These
rates are similar to those in Kuwait
and Sri Lanka, while the overall infant
lems," says Jean
Pakter, the deputy director of the
maternal and child health program at
Columbia University. "For instance,
if a woman lives in poor housing
conditions or is in a shelter situation,
it creates stress. And stress is the major
cause of high-risk prematurely born
babies."
This new thinking culminated with
a 1989 federal task force on infant
mortality recommending community-
based solutions, which in turn hel ped
create Healthy Start.
But even as many experts in public
health praise the basic ideas behind
the program, they question Healthy
Start's ambitious goals and the extent
that community members are involved
in decision-making. "No one doubts
the intentions of the program. But our
main concern is how do you use the
community input? What good is it if
all the decisions are made by a select
group of people?" asks Susan Lob,
director of the Prenatal Care Steering
Committee, a maternal and child
health advocacy group.
These questions make Healthy Start
officials bristle with indignation.
"We're really trying to make change,"
says Michelle Drayton, the Healthy
Start project director. "The focus
should be on that."
Public Money, Private Organization
Drayton's employer is the source of
this contention. She works for the
Medical and Health Research Associa-
tion, the official grantee of Healthy
Start for New York City. In order to
circumvent its entrenched bureau-
cracy, New York City applied for the
federal program through a private not-
for-profit corporation instead of
through a public agency like the
Department of Health. .
Founded 35 years ago as a research
group, the MHRA started funding
clinics for maternal and infant care in
the 1970s. Its role grew as it began
taking over projects normally handled
by the city. Most recently, MHRA was
in the spotlight when it received $22
million in Ryan White Act funding for
services for HIV patients and their
families. Using the MHRA for Healthy
Start raises a touchy question that
officials there prefer to brush aside:
When public money is pumped into a
private organization, how can the or-
ganization be held accountable to tax-
payers?
MHRA officials argue that the orga-
nization is accountable to the public
though a "consortium" of consumers,
community based organizations,
medical providers, and health care
advocates. "This is a very partici-
patory ... open process," says Lucille
Rosenbluth, president ofMHRA. "The
issue of accountability is addressed."
And ostensibly it is: the "consor-
tium" tops the management chart for
Healthy Start. But it is merely an advi-
sory body, which meets once every
three months. Vicki Breitbart, a board
member at the Prenatal Care Steering
Committee and a member at the
consortium, says the meetings have
not been used to get any feedback
from the community, but rather by the
governing board to disseminate infor-
mation. All the executive decision-
making is handled by a management
and governance committee, chaired
by Rosenbluth. About a year into the
planning stage, this inner sanctum
consists mostly of officials in city
government, and does not include any
people who will use Healthy Start,
something needed for the program to
work, everyone acknowledges.
"Community involvement and
empowerment at all levels is critically
important," says Judy Wessler of the
Children's Defense Fund's New York
City office.
In the Neighborhoods
Still, away from the management
of Healthy Start and into the neigh-
borhoods, it's clear that there's been a
real effort to reach out to the commu-
Healthy Start aims
to pump $25
million into Mott
Haven, Central
Harlem and
Central Brooklyn.
nity. The organizations contracted to
operate Healthy Start-the Bronx
Perinatal Consortium, the Brooklyn
Perinatal Network, and the Urban
League-have spent months since last
November holding tens of meetings in
which community members were
invited to air their views on infant
mortality.
"We went door to door, putting up
posters, talking to people," said
Kenton Kirby, a community coordi-
nator for the Brooklyn Perinatal
Network. "We had pretty good turn-
outs .... We filled community halls."
What came out of the process were
elaborate five-year plans that direct
funds mostly towards already estab-
lished community networks, allow-
ing them to expand services.
In the Bronx for example, funding
will go towards operating a health
education mobile van in collabora-
tion with Lincoln Hospital-a van that
has already been purchased but isn't
being used because of the lack of funds.
Other programs include hiring
housing advocates to help residents
get access to affordable housing,
providing start-up funds for informal
day care centers, and constructing a
clinic for pregnant teens.
In Brooklyn, the money will go
towards referral services for a net-
work of health care providers, setting
up a "one-stop" multi-service center
with day care facilities and medical
and educational services in collabo-
ration with St. George's Episcopal
Church, and the assistance of
community-based groups.
In Central Harlem, under Georgia
L. McMurray, a consultant hired by
the Urban League for Healthy Start,
"family life" classes will be held in
conjunction with the Children's Aid
Society, and one-stop centers and
mobile vans similar to the other
programs will be deployed.
So far, all of Healthy Start exists
only on paper. Each of the three areas
has hired a handful of employees as
project directors and outreach people.
The actual implementation will start
by the end of this year. For the plan-
ning stage, the program was funded to
the tune of $1.9 million. For the sec-
ond year, which started in October,
funding has been approved for $5.4
million, according to MHRA officials.
For the third, fourth and fifth years,
the MHRA has asked for $19 million
from the federal government, but
doesn't expect to be funded at that
level: the funding of $7.3 million
approved for the first two years was
significantly less than the $9.3
requested. Rosenbluth says she has
"serious concerns" about getting
adequate funding from the federal
government.
For their part, some Healthy Start
officials admit the lack of community
involvement in their executive
committee, but say they are working
to correct it. "This is an issue that did
come up," says Ngozi Moses, director
of the Brooklyn Perinatal Network
which administers the program in
Brooklyn. "We are addressing itnow."
According to Drayton, bylaws to
increase the level of community
representation in their management
and governance committee are now
being written.
But medical experts say-gi ven the
scope of the program-that Healthy
Start has a limited chance of success.
"I don't know how realistic it is to
solve all these problems," says Dreyer
at New York University. "However,
this is a program that is at least trying
to address the issue." 0
CITY UMITS/NOVEMBER 199212&
A Well-Kept Secret
Nonprofit organizations are a key part
of the city's economy.
I
f your firm has no profit margin,
and it's not traded on the stock
exchange, it's nowhere, right?
Wrong. In fact, one of every 12
working New Yorkers works for a not-
for-profit corporation. That's 450,000
people working for 19,500 organiza-
tions. Compare that to the securities
industry, which employs about
115,000 people. And nonprofits are
no small part of the city's economic
engine: In 1989, nonprofits spent more
than $31 billion, about the size of the
city government's entire expense
budget. These and other figures from
a recent report published by the Fund
for the City of New York, the Nonprofit
Coordinating Committee of New York,
and the city government, provide a
glimpse into the importance of this
"hidden" sector.
In a time of recession and slashed
government budgets, non profits have
taken up much of the city's slack in
providing needed community
services. And, like the traditional role
of government, they've stepped in to
provide employment to women and
people of color in a time when the city
is laying people off. So it's fitting that
government contracts provide most
of their subsistence. Of government
money, income from the city is greater
than the sum of both state and federal
sources. Housing and local develop-
ment groups get about 70 percent of
their funding from governments, and
abouthalfofthis from the city. Almost
no nonprofits rely heavily on corporate .
donations.
While nonprofits come in all sizes,
the largest hospitals and universities
provide most of the jobs. The average
number of employees in a health-
related organization was about 250
while the number for housing and
local development corporations was
seven. Sixty of the largest companies
employ 43 percent of all people work-
ing in nonprofits.
A big portion of not-for-profits are
neighborhood-based. About 70 per-
cent of all housing groups, 65 percent
of religious organizations, and over
half of all social service organizations
do their work in city neighborhoods.
Yet there is wide disparity among
different neighborhoods: While
neighborhoods like East Harlem and
Washington Heights have a high
density of religious and social service
organizations, Brownsville and
Highbridge are poorly served.
Neighborhood-based nonprofits
reflect the diversity of the city. Fifty
percent of the people in those groups
are African-American, Latino and
Asian. Female employees comprise
67 percent of the nonprofit workforce.
The revelations about obscenely
high salaries and costly perks at United
Way gave executives at nonprofits a
bad reputation, but few people are
becoming rich in this sector. About 40
percent of all nonprofits pay their
executive director less than $35,000 a
year. Less than four percent pay more
than $150,000. Among neighborhood-
based organizations, none pay their
director over $150,000 according to
the study, and about 90 percent pay
an annual salary up to $50,000. About
45 percent pay between $20,000 and
$35,000. And it's not as if people
forgo higher salaries for the benefits:
about 40 percent of nonprofits do not
provide personnel benefits to their
staff. And about three-quarters of all
nonprofits use volunteers.
More than half of all non profits are
in Manhattan where most of the arts
organizations, trade associations, and
foundations are located. Brooklyn has
the largest percentage of housing and
religious organizations. Social and
health services organizations, and
schools are evenly distributed across
the boroughs. 0 Steve Mitra
Where Nonprofits Get Their Money
Social Service
HousingILDC
4.6%
5.8%
Government E3 Earnings D Indiy. Cont. [IT] Other III Foundation Corporate
26/NOVEMBER 1992/CITY UMns
HeaHh
4.3% 1.1%
Not-for-Profit Workforce By Race
Social Service Organizations HousingILDC Foundations
2% 3%
o White African-American Hispanic ~ Asian
Over-Worked and Under-Paid?
Directors' Salaries in the Nonprofit Sectors
Social Service Organizations HousingILDC
Health
50%
50% 50%
43%
lit
40
40
40
II: 34%
:8 30% 30%
.!
30
30
30
II:
~
CI
20
20
20
'S
t,
10
10
10
~
0
~ 0
0
l.
I
:II:: :II:: :II:: :II::
+
:II:: :II:: :II:: :II:: :II:: :II:: :II::
+
."
5:
."
5:
:II:: :II:: :II:: :II::
+
'"
ro-
5: ~
."
5:
."
5:
:II::
~
."
5:
."
5:
I
11)
iIt iIt :Ii:
...
'"
~
5: '"
ro-
.
... 11)
iIt iIt
... 11)
iIt iIt
...
II: :II:: :II::
5:
11)
.
...
.
...
:5
~
." ." II: :II:: :II::
5:
II:
:II:: :II::
5:
'"
11) ro-
:5
~
." ."
11)
:5
~
." ."
11)
11) 11) 11)
'"
11) ro-
'"
11) ro-
:I
:I
11) 11) 11)
:I
11) 11) 11)
!I
!I !I
Source: The Nonprofit Sector in NYC, published by the Nonprofit Coordinating Committee.
CITY UMITS/NOVEMBER 1992/27
By Harold DeRienzo
Starting AllOver Again
S
ome years ago I wrote an essay
with my colleague Harriet
Cohen in which the first line of
the original draft read, "The
housing movement is dead. " At
Harriet's prompting, the offensive and
disturbing statement was removed. In
retrospect, I believe that was a mistake.
Stop the Self-Delusion
Continued allegiance to a notion of
a vital housing movement, or the civil
rights move-
ment that
spawned it, is
pure self-delu-
sion. Until we
confront that
truth, we will
continue to
place our faith
in tactics that
worked in the
1960s and
1970s but are no
longer relevant.
Work under-
way at the re-
cently-revi ved
Task Force on
...............
tile ..... fill tile
CoasuIer F .......
F ........ , widell
.......... cam. II .,.
....... , ........
.........
City-Owned Property illustrates this
reality. After a 10-year hiatus, the task
force has reconvened to promote a
realistic and comprehensive policy
for the thousands of buildings the city
has acquired since the 1970s from tax-
delinquent landlords.
The attempt to formulate such a
policy is not new. The difference
between what we're doing now and
what we did in the past is the involve-
ment of tenants living in the build-
ings. Nearly 3,000 families were
interviewed for a survey of the
buildings that is being overseen by
the Housing Environments Research
Group at the City University of New
York.
The results are being compiled and
will serve to inform whatever recom-
mendations we come up with. This,
in part, is the recognition of what we
have to accept and work with: any
effort by the task force is sure to fail if
those affected are not included in that
City View is a forum for opinion
and does not necessarily reflect
the views of City Limits.
28/NOVEMBER 1992/CITY UMITS
effort and the proposed outcome.
The reality we labor under ,
however, threatens to frustrate our
ultimate success. In order to reach
tenants in city-owned buildings, the
task force decided to hold a series of
local forums to facilitate a meaningful
dialogue between advocates and
tenants.
But making these forums happen
isn't easy . We assumed that local
community groups would organize
the forums. But in the entire city, only
two community-based organiza-
tions-NDI in the Bronx and Oceanhill
Brownsville Tenants Association-
have agreed to sponsor forums.
Perhaps the groups are overworked
and understaffed, and getting in touch
with tenants in local city-owned build-
ings is a low priority. Or maybe some
people have completely given up on
tenants in city-owned buildings-one
director of a community group asked
one of my workmates what was the
point of organizing buildings that are
filled with drug dealers.
At a recent meeting of the Task
Force on City-Owned Property, a frus-
trated Tom Gogan, the former director
of the Union of City Tenants, debated
the strategy we should adopt. His point
was that we have to call attention to
city policy for what it is: racist and
anti-local control. As he put it, this is
the approach that will capture atten-
tion, motivate people and help start a
movement.
Enough of Headline-Grabbing
The simple fact is that we have
focused for too long on short-term
headline grabbing. How often do our
various campaigns simply fizzle out?
How many marches are conducted in
front of the yawning public and highly
trained police? How many lawsuits
are generated and either supplant or
take the place of local mobilization?
How many hearings are conducted
before public bodies and the majority
of those who testify on the "right side"
of the issue are lawyers?
These questions must be addressed
if social and economic justice is to
gain any respected place on the na-
tional agenda.
In his recent book, "Who Will Tell
the People: The Betrayal of American
Democracy," William Greider relates
a conversation he had with J. Hunter
O'Dell, one of Martin Luther King's
"early lieutenants in the movement."
Greider notes that "the civil rights
movement acquired its 'authority' to
articulate large political aspirations,
not because network television came
to Selma or Birmingham, but from the
hundreds and even thousands of meet-
ings in black churches, week after
week, across the South over many
years."
He then quotes directly from O'Dell,
who says, "The power of any move-
Putting social and
economic justice
back on the
agenda.
ment for democracy is always depen-
dent on reciprocal relations between
the mass of people and their leader-
ship."
The lessons here are clear. Until a
"reciprocal relationship" exists be-
tween the people and our so-called
leadership (myself included), our
voices are less than legitimate and apt
to be ignored. We must accept the
need to start all over again. Commu-
nity-based organizations should be
the analog to the Southern black
churches that started the civil rights
movement. Unfortunately, many of
these groups have turned into little
more than local surrogates for city
government.
Beyond Organizing
The typical response to criticisms
about the deficiencies of community-
based housing groups is a call to orga-
nize, organize, organize. But we are
beyond this.
The political landscape has gone
through massive changes. Local insti-
tutions have lost their connection to
people in their communities. The
paths toward power are radically
skewed, shutting out low income,
working class city residents. The
strains of daily life have changed per-
spectives and hardened people even
continued on page 30
By Eric Weinstock
Outside and Unwanted
"The Visible Poor: Homelessness In
the United States," by Joel Blau,
Oxford University Press, 1992, 235
pages, $22.95, hardcover.
"The Women Outside: Meanings and
Myths of Hom elessn ess, "by Stephanie
Golden, University of California Press,
1992,319 pages, $25, hardcover.
A
s homelessness grew in the
1980s, academics and policy
analysts raced to write articles
and books about it. Many of
these studies were not based on the
real problems and causes of home-
lessness and so did not add much to
public debate or contribute to useful
public policy. However, Joel Blau and
Stephanie Golden have both written
books that transcend their roots as
academic works and offer intellectual
structure for advocates.
Joel Blau, a professor at SUNY Stony
Brook's School of Social Welfare, has
produced the best economic analysis
of homelessness that I've read. By
starting with simple questions, he
comes up with obvious, logical and
important solutions.
In tracing the history of homeless-
ness, Blau finds that the 1980s are
unique because homelessness grew at
a time when the economy and the
nation were supposedly prospering.
Generally, during times of economic
dislocation, such as the Great Depres-
sion, society sees homelessness as a
"natural phenomenon" and homeless
people are far less stigmatized. In the
1980s homelessness was harder to
explain, so its victims were burdened
with the supposed responsibility fo'r
their condition. Blau points out the
extreme illogic of this blame-the-
victim mentality. After all, if the
homeless are responsible for their
condition, then in the 1980s, "for some
mysterious reason, a sizable group of
citizens suddenly became irrespon-
sible at the very same time."
Blau contends that focusing on the
other problems of homeless people
such as drug addiction, mental illness,
and alcoholism is simply beside the
point. The demographics of the home-
less population do not explain their
lack of housing. After all, there are
drug addicts, alcoholics and mentally
ill people who are well-housed and
will continue to have homes. Focus-
ing on the human frailties of homeless
people is just another way to blame
them-rather than a regressive
society-for the lack of affordable
housing.
New York-Too Generous?
The main focus of "The Visible
Poor" is the government's-and in
particular New York Ci ty' s-response
to homelessness. New York has spent
more and done more than any other
city, yet it seems no closer to solving
The best economic
analysis of
homelessness
I've read.
its homelessness problem. City
officials appear bewildered that the
problem has not disappeared. There-
fore, they claim, the problem must be
that New York has been too generous,
that it is encouraging people to become
homeless. Even if the city's contention
that people are entering its horrible
shelter system vol untaril y to get hous-
ing is sometimes true, that is begging
the fundamental question: Why do
people need a city apartment? Why
are apartments so scarce and expen-
sive that people can't afford to rent
them on their own?
Blau focuses on the basic question
of why poor people do not have enough
income to pay for housing and why
government is too poor to provide it.
Instead of pointing to flaws in the
latest version of the city's housing
capital spending program, Blau looks
to tax policy and the nexus between
government and business for an
explanation. Tax breaks designed to
retain businesses and jobs in the city
end up transferring resources from
public needs to private owners. The J-
51 tax incentive program helped pay
the costs of converting Single Room
Occupancy apartments from a low
income housing resource to coopera-
tives and condominiums for the
wealthy. Another example is the421a
property tax benefits given to luxury
developments (prior to the changes in
the law for construction after 1987)
which helped provide cheaper
housing for the wealthy. In addition
the conversion of the New York City
economy from an ailing manufactur-
ing economy to a thriving service
economy enabled the upper classes to
prosper-while the poor and home-
less were unable to find sustenance.
Blau notes that capitalism demands
that welfare benefits pay less than the
lowest income wages in order to create
an "incentive" to work. In the 1980s,
the elimination of jobs in the manu-
facturing sector reduced the wages of
the working poor. Therefore, the value
of welfare benefits had to fall as well.
Blau's solution is deceptively
simple: match social and economic
policy to social and human needs,
thus redistributing wealth from the
rich to the poor and reversing the
1980s economic policy. Blau believes
that the potential for social activism
and change is great once a coalition of
the majority realizes it cannot benefit
from the current system. While I hope
that I am wrong, I must disagree with
his conclusion. Despite the current
economic misery and the public'S
desire for change, I don't percei ve that
the American people are ready to incur
the short term higher costs of creating
a humane society.
Stephanie Golden, in "The Women
Outside," has actually written three
books in one. The first is a touching
and interesting account of her work
with homeless women in a volunteer
shelter. No reader can help but be
drawn into the author's quest to
understand and assist the individuals
housed there.
Golden then links her work with
homeless women to the role of women
in society in general-a feminist analy-
sis of female homelessness. But one
does not need to be a feminist to
recognize that the roles society assigns
to women influence the impact and
duration of their homelessness.
Refusal to Help Themselves
Golden, as a social service provider,
writes that she is often stymied by the
passivity of homeless women. While
the bureaucratic maze that society
requires recipients to navigate before
benefits are granted is difficult, Golden
is nevertheless struck by many of the
women's inability or refusal to help
themsel ves. But the reali ty is that even
CITY UMITS/NOVEMBER 1992129
as conservative commentators
complain frequently about how
welfare creates dependency, our entire
conservative society influences many
women to be totally dependent on
males. Left to their own devices by
di vorce orfamily illness, some women
are unable to cope and become home-
less because they have never learned
how to take an active role in their own
welfare.
Describing the premise for the third
"book," Golden writes, "I started my
thinking for this book with the single
idea that the bag woman is the modern
witch." This theme is explored
extensively and is supposed to unify
the book's disparate parts. However,
the analogy falls short: Although
witches were-and homeless women
are-outcasts of society, witches
served societal needs to reinforce
patriarchy and to scapegoat ills.
Homeless women do not serve this
purpose. Some women may stay in
bad marriages orrelationships because
they fear becoming homeless; but
homeless women do not serve as
powerful demonesses to keep rebel-
lious women in line.
When Dan Quayle and conserva-
tives try to suppress women, the
"witch" they use is the "liberated"
women who can successfully compete
with men and does not measure her
value solely by her role or potential
role as a mother. Instead of being
treated as a powerful figure endowed
Starting AllOver Again
continued from page 28
further along the spectrum of cyni-
cism. Organizing is not the answer, at
least for now.
We need to begin a new dialogue.
Instead of focusing on specific cam-
paigns, we need to listen to concerns.
We need to formulate the moral and
economic themes that can cross class,
gender, cultural and ethnic lines. We
need to revive or invent local institu-
tions that can reconnect citizens to
avenues for political participation.
This is what we're aiming for at the
Task Force on City-Owned Property,
where we're starting back at square
Now we meet more
insurance needs than ever
for groups
like yours.
For nearly 20 years we've insured tenant and community
groups all over New York City. Now, in our new, larger
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Richards and Fenniman, Inc. has always provided extremely
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We've been a leader from the start. And with our new
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Richards and Fenniman, Inc.
123 William Street, New York, NY 10038-3804
Your community housing insurance professionals
30jNOVEMBER 1992jCITY UMITS
with magical powers, the homeless
woman is ignored by the patriarchal
hierarchy. Murphy Brown, NOW,
NARAL and female gay rights activ-
ists are today's witches. 0
Eric Weinstock is an economist and
former city housing official.
one, talking to tenants, holding speak-
outs and advocating better policies
for city-owned buildings. We want to
put the interests of tenants at the cen-
ter of our efforts. It's an experiment,
and it may fail for lack of resources or
lack of interest on the part of local
community-based organizations. But
who knows? If the time is right, we
may succeed in planting the seeds of
a future citizens' movement. 0
Advertise in
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During its inaugural year (1993) the Forum will be published in the Spring and Fall and
contain 150-200 pages of information from across the country-analysis of innovative
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CITY UMITS/NOVEMBER 1992131
Invisible Hand I
To the Editor:
Seymour Durst's response (August-
September 1992) to your
recycling, "The Green Alternatlve,
offers much insight into Durst's dark
side and his disgust with government-
run programs. He raises the battered
flag for the supreme o.f the
marketplace, as if anyone stlll belIeves
there ever was an "invisible hand of
god" responsible for those ploys.
Behind all the sword rattling, Durst
still wants his streets clean and the
dirt put "someplace." he says,
they can incinerate the stuff.
The incinerator's waste m the form
of toxic ash must still be landfilled,
but now, due to its
powers as leachate, mll:st be specIfi-
cally contained and momtored forever.
In other words, it becomes an
ic burden on this city's grandchIldren.
"Deferred consequences"
again. Who will take responsIbIlIty
for this time bomb?
There is, however, an agenda larger
than clean streets, real estate and gov-
ernment. The fact is, we live a
planet with finite resources, whIch
imposes limits, a radical concept in
our consumer-oriented economy.
Durst, as many others of the "business
first" persuasion, would have us
ignore this larger agenda.
Nature's bounty has limits. Humans
take advantage of these
simple use-we It, J';lnk It,
incinerate it. IncmeratlOn IS the
horribly accurate metaphor
industrial society's absolutIOn for ItS
consumptive sins. Recycling is its
counter-metaphor. It represents much
more than a technological "alterna-
tive strategy." It is a moral imperative
that counters the deferred conse-
quences of our current policies. It is a
small step in the right direction. .
However, it is evident that recychng
is a corrosive concept to our consumer-
oriented economic order.
dominant power brokers. and medIa
will depict it as a burden by
radicals. To succeed, recychng
advocates must neutralize the
opposition's depiction of the "burden"
and substitute in its place the message
of a common mission.
Ernest R. Bitzer
Brooklyn
Tackle the Issues.
Invisible Hand II
To the Editor:
Congratulations on your great
October 1992 issue. Keep up the good
work! .
In regard to the proposed NeIgh-
borhood Ownership Works program,
the following concerns are raised by
the proposed regulations. Does the
program intend to pe.rma-
nent affordability? What If the dISPO-
sition rent is higher than tenants can
afford? Does the omission of virtually
all meaningful tenant input reflect a
mere oversight, or the desire to
the present from makmg
an informed chOlce? .
Affordability and decency m
housing must be the first principles of
governmental and citizen efforts to
preserve-and
of low income housmg untllit meets
the need. "The invisible hand" of the
private sector was supposed to do
this-but has obviously failed.
Kenny Schaeffer
Office of State Assemblyman
Edward Sullivan
Manhattan
\-,- >'
. U b p>lannm' g. Public Administration. Health Policy and
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32/NOVEMBER 1992/CITY UMITS
THE CITY LIMITS
RESOURCES CLEARINGHOUSE
"ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND COMMUNITY BANKING"
City Limits is expanding the scope of the clearinghouse-
as well as pamphlets, handbooks and guides, we're also listing
reports and publications.
To list your resource with the clearinghouse, call 925-9820.
"Making CRA Work For You: A Guide For Community Organiza-
tions," by Kathy Thelin. The Woodstock Institute. $10.
"The Business of Self-Sufficiency: Microcredit in the U.S. ," by
Valjean McLenighan and Jean Pegge. The Woodstock Institute. $10.
"Banking in the Public' s Interest: Promoting Community Develop-
ment with the Public Deposits of Cities and States." The Woodstock
Institute. $10.
"In Her Own Image. " Lists films and videos made by women world-
wide on social, economic, environmental, and empowerment issues,
and tells you how to order them. Media Network. $7.50 + $3 postage.
"Act Justly." Outlines how to create an economic justice agenda for
women. Church Women United. $2.
" 1992 Directory of Microenterprise Programs." Directory lists agen-
cies which provide financial and technical support formicrobusinesses
to women,people of color, and low-income communities. The Aspen
Institute. $10.
"The Neighborhood Works. " Monthly magazine covers urban com-
munity development issues in Chicago and nationwide. $30 one year
subscription.
"Commercial Area Revolving Funds for Preservation," by Peter H.
Brink. Guide covers the legal aspects, funding, resale, financing, and
promotion of revolving funds in commercial areas. National Trust for
Historic Preservation. $5.
"Using the Community Reinvestment Act in Low-Income Historic
Neighborhoods," by Jennifer Blake and Stanley Lowe. National Trust
for Historic Preservation. $5.
"Does America Need Cities? An Urban Investment Strategy for
National Property," by Joseph Persky. Economic Policy Institute. $12.
"Community Development Corporation Profile Book." National Con-
gress for Community Economic Development. $20.
"National Directory of Corporate and Foundation Support for Com-
munity Economic Development." National Congress for Community
Economic Development. $20.
"Serving Our Nation's Communities." A I5-minute video introduc-
tion to the field of community economic development. National
Congress for Community Economic Development. $45.
"Human Services: An Economic Development Opportunity . A Manual
For Economic-Based Enterprises," by Thomas Rodenbaugh. National
Congress for Community Economic Development. $25.
"Resources Newsletter." Quarterly newsletter devoted to community-
based economic development. National Congress for Community
Economic Development. $39 one year subscription
"Changing The Odds." Survey of community development groups and
funding sources. National Congress for Community Economic Devel-
opment. $5.
"A Place In The Marketplace," by Renee Berger and Carol Steinbach.
Explores the CDC niche in economic development projects from real
estate to business development. National Congress for Community
Economic Development. $10.
"Taking Hold: The Growth and Support of Community Development
Corporations" by Robert Zdenek. National Congress for Community
Economic Development. $10.
"The Community Reinvestments Act: A Citizen' s Action Guide. "
Center for Community Change. $5. Free for community-based orga-
nizations.
"Community Development Block Grants: A Basic Guidebook for
Community Groups." Center for Community Change. $4. Free for
community-based organizations.
"The CRA Reporter. " Quarterly newsletter. Center for Community
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"Community Link." A new computer network designed for organiza-
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Subscription includes two newsletters. Center for Community Change.
Request brochure for more information.
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"The Community Loan Fund Manual. " Guide for starting or managing
a community loan fund. Institute for Community Economics. $45.
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CITY UMITS/NOVEMBER 1992/33
PROFESSIONAL DIRECTORY
Barry K. Mallin
Attorney At Law
A decade of service representing
community development organizations
and low income cooperatives.
72 Spring Street, Suite 1201
New York, N.Y. 10012
Telephone 2121334-9393
DEBRA BECHTEL - Attorney
Concentrating in Real Estate & Non-Profit Law
Title and loan closings All city housing programs
Mutual housing associations r l Cooperative conversions
Advice to low income co-op boards of directors
100 Remsen Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201, (718) 624-6850
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LAWRENCE H. McGAUGHEY
Attorney at Law
Meeting the challenges of affordable housing for 20 years.
Providing legal services in the areas of General Real Estate,
Business, Trust & Estates, and Elder Law.
217 Broadway, Suite 610
New York, NY 10007
(212) 513-0981
WILLIAM JACOBS
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Over 20 years experience. Specializing in nonprofit housing &
community development organizations.
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Management Advisory Services Tax Consultation & Preparation
Call today for free consultation
77 QUAKER RIDGE ROAD, SUITE 215
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34jNOVEMBER 1992jCITY UMITS
TURF COMPANIES
Building Management/Consultants
Specializing in management & development
services to low income housing cooperatives,
community organizations and co-op
boards of directors
329 Flatbush Avenue
Brooklyn, N.Y. 11217
Rebecca Reich
718/857 -0468
C ommunity D evelopment legal A Sistance C enter
a project of the Lawyers Alliance for New York, a nonprofit organization
Real Estate, Corporate and Tax Legal Representation to Organizations
Tax Syndications Mutual Housing Associations
Homeless Housing Economic Development
HDFCs Not-far-profit corporations
Community Development Credit Unions and loan Funds
99 Hudson Street, 14th Fir., NYC, 10013 (212) 219-1 800
COMPUTER SERVICES
Hardware Sales:
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Software Sales:
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Services: Network/Hardware/Software Installation,
Training, Custom Software, Hand Holding
Clients Include: Acorn, ANHD, MHANY, NHS of NYC
Morris Kornbluth 718-857-9157
LOREN BAILY & ASSOCIATES
The Lawyers Your Organization Needs!
"Before your non-profit organization ends an
employment relationship with a senior staff
member, let me talk to you about your rights and
responsibilities, the legal consequences of your
decision, the steps you should take to protect your
organization and the risks of litigation exposure. "
295 Madision Avenue, NY, NY 10017212-986-7468
ASHOK MENON
Attorney at Law
Representation of HDFC Coop Boards
Commercial Leases Coop, Condo & House Closings
Purchase & Sale of Business Non-Profit Corporations
Wills, Trusts and Estate Planning
875 Avenue of the Americas, Suite 800
New York, NY 10001
Tel : (212) 695-2929 Fax: (212) 695-1489
PROGRAM MAUGER, NEW YORK OFFICE. Maintain New York office for
San Francisco-based nonprofit low income housing financial inter-
mediary. Position requires loan packaging, working with nonprofit
developers to structure financing, fund raising, administration. Sal-
ary range: mid 40's to mid 50's. Send resumes to L1HFICF 605
Market Street, Suite 200, San Francisco, CA 941 05. EOE. No calls
please.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PHILADELPHIA HOUSING AUTHORITY. To lead the
management and operations of the Authority by improving indi-
vidual and organizational responsibility and accountability, thereby
restoring public confidence in PHA's ability to provide safe and
quality public assisted housing to residents of its properties. Con-
tact: Monroe "Bud" Mosely, Isaacson, Miller Inc. 334 Boylston St. ,
Suite 500 Boston, MA 02116 (617) 262-6500 (617) 262-6509 fax.
COMMUNITY ASSOCIATE. Chelsea-Clinton Community Board seeks
energetic person with good administrative, typing and communica-
tions skills to answer phones, do typing, mailing, interact with
public, and assist with community projects. Spanish, interest in city
government a +. Resume to Community Board #4,330 W. 42nd St. ,
NYC 10036. Salary low 20s, excellent city benefits. Equal Oppor-
tunity Employer.
NEW PARTY INTERNSHIPS. The country's newest, most exciting
grass-root political party needs your mind, heart and sweat. Help
change the country for the better. We need your help with exciting
organizing campaigns now underway in Queens. Position available
immediately. Sense of humor helpful. Call (201) 795-2013.
CONFERENCE COORDINATOR. City-wide housing nonprofit seeks con-
ference coordinator to organize cooperative housing conference.
Previous experience in grassroots andlor professional conference
organizing, strong computer and writing skills required. Six month
position with possible extension at $25,000 annual salary. Mail
resume and writing samples to Lee Farrow, UHAB, 40 Prince
Street, New York, NY 10012.
RECYCLING OUTREACH ORGANIZERS. The Brooklyn Borough President's
office seeks pit organizers to work with various city and community
agencies promoting participation in the curbside recycling pro-
gram. Applicants should be creative self starters, experienced
community organizers, familiar with recycling, solid waste mgmt
policy and env. issues, and available for evening meetings. Re-
sume, cover letter to Dir. , Human Resources, Bklyn Boro Pres
Office, 209 Joralemon St. Bklyn, NY 11201. EOE.
CLASSIFIEDS
COMPLETE BOOK KEEPING SERVICES AVAILABLE. Experienced person
with strong accounting background and computer skills. Will pro-
vide computerized bookkeeping, financial statements and other
management reports. PIT, per diem or on a contract basis. Reason-
able rates. Call (908) 819-9388. Leave message for Peter.
SEEKING ATIORNEY. For consultation toward possible lawsuit on
longstanding housing dispute with city. Have all relevant records on
the matter. Leave message at (212) 478-9557 or P.O.B. 388,
Stuyvesant Station, New York, NY 10009.
BankersliustCompany
Community Development Group
A resource for the non.,profit
development community
Gary Hattem, Vice President
280 Park Avenue, 19 West New York, New York 10017
Tel: 212,454,3487 FAX 454,2380
CITY UMITS/NOVEMBER 1992/35
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1992 Affordable
Housing Conference
and
Annual Meeting
of the
Neighborhood Preservation Coalition
of New York State, Inc.
November 15 .. 17,1992
Radisson Hotel
Poughkeepsie, New York
Workshop Topics Include:
The HOME Program DHCR Community Services Bureau Update
Housing Programs for People with AIDS Community Reinvestment Act
Rent Administration Low Income Tax Credit Fair Housing.
Co' Sponsors:
New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal
Federal Home Loan Bank of New York
State of New York Mortgage Agency
New York State Housing Finance Agency
For Registration and Hotel Information, Contact the Coalition Office at (518) 432,6757