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Short Term Notes
File Suit
In Rem
Sometimes it is all that tenants of
owner-abandoned, tax-foreclosed build-
ings can do to figure out just who is col-
lecting the rent. But when the rent goes
up, tenants usually make it their business
to see if that's legal. In the case of nine
city-owned buildings in northern
Manhattan involved in a two-year-old
program to let private firms manage
some city residential buildings, tenants
have gone to court to challenge a new
round of rent increases.
In a lengthy Ii-point complaint,
tenants representing 179 of the 294
apartments in nine buildings in the
Washington Heights-Inwood section of
Manhattan, have charged that a rent
hike instituted with the approval of the
city housing department in July by the
manager, Lemle and Wolfe, a real estate
firm, is illegal because the apartments
should be under the rent regulatory
system. Although city-owned property is
exempt from rent regulations, the com-
plaint challenged the buildings' actual
The new rents, which some tenants
began paying in August, resulted in in-
creases that ranged from nominal for
some residents to about 300 percent for
one Post Avenue household. On August
CITY LIMITS/October 1981
31, New York County Supreme Court
Justice Charles Tierney issued a tem-
porary restraining order that returned
rents to their earlier level pending a full
hearing, now scheduled for early Oc-
The tenants also charged that the city's
move to place them under private
management violated their right to equal
protection under the law in that tenants
were not offered the option of a different
form of management. The buildings
were seized by the city for tax arrears in
1978 and have been managed since
November, 1979 by the firm of Lemle
and Wolfe under terms of the city's
Private Ownership Management Pro-
gram (POMP). Launched two years ago,
POMP's aim is to get some of the city's
better tax foreclosed stock back on the
tax rolls. Under its guidelines, private
management have contracted to operate
properties and, using federal Communi-
ty Development funds, repair systems
and apartments. Upon successful com-
pletion of the contracts, the private
managers are offered first right of
refusal to purchase the buildings. As of
early summer, approximately $300,000
in federal funds had been spent on the
northern Manhattan buildings for
"We weren't asked if we wanted to go
into a private management program,"
recalled Joe Mucciolo of 685 Academy
Street who heads a committee of
representatives from the nine buildings'
tenant associations. "We were never in-
formed that the Tenant Interim Lease
program was available," said Muccioli.
Another of the city's alternative man-
agement buildings, the interim lease pro-
gram offers tenants an eleven month
lease and varying amounts for repairs.
Tenants pledge to purchase the buildings
at the end of the lease or following a
Regina Bilotta, director of POMP,
challenged Muccioli's assessment. "At
the time there was no organized tenant
group," she said, adding, "We felt we
had to do something to save the build-
ings." She denied the rent restructuring
plan caused undue hardship for resi-
dents, noting that Section 8 federal rent
subsidies were available for eligible
tenants. She also said a "rent phase-in"
had been offered for those who needed
it, as well as relocation assistance.
Residents have responded that the
two-month phase-in is "totally
unrealistic" and that the prospect of
relocating tenants, some of whom have
lived in the building for 30 to 40 years, of-
fers little comfort.
Arthur Steinman of Lemle and Wolfe
expressed surprise at the legal action. He
stressed that his firm is not the buildings'
owner. Steinman acknowledged that, if
and when the buildings are purchased by
Lemle and Wolfe, further renovation
will take place and, he said, at that time
rents are likely to be raised once more.
So far, Steinman said of his company's
POMP involvement, "I don't see how
Lemle and Wolfe has received anything.
The [federal assistance] money we re-
ceived was put into the buildings. We
didn't get five cents."
Jack Dunn, director of the Inwood
Preservation Corporation, which has
helped tenants organize against the rent
increases called the private management
program "a giveaway."DT.L.
Rents , Set Loose
in Jersey City
The City Council of Jersey City, New
York's 225,000 resident neighbor and the
magnet for a growing overflow of invest-
ment from New York's volatile real es-
tate market, voted September 1 to loosen
the reigns on rent regulated apartment
owners. The move, which took effect
immediately, allows permanent rent
decontrol of apartments in five to seven
unit buildings as soon as they become
vacant. In addition, the new measure de-
controls rents in new, private construc-'
tion and rehabilitated buildings that in-
crease in assessed value by 100 percent or
more. In larger multiple dwellings, under
the measure, an apartment's rents are al-
lowed to reach market levels upon
vacancy, then are regulated for the
length of the resident's tenancy. The
changes affect about 60,000 tenants.
The new system was spearheaded, by
Mayor Gerald McCann, a Democrat
elected last November who cited
increasing building abandonment and a
declining tax base to justify the change.
McCann told the New York Times on
the day of the Council vote: "I want tax-
payers to come to our city. I want buying Tenant Unity Day
property in Jersey City to be a good in-
vestment. tt
Norbert Herold, President of the Jer-
sey City Tenant's Committtee, a renters' Tenant organizations from around
advocacy and organizing group, charac- the city will gather on October 24,
terized the decontrol measure as a har- from 1 to 4 PM, in Manhattan's
binger of massive tenant displacement. Madison Square Park for an afternoon
"Gentrification is happening downtown of tenant unity. The Tenant Speak-
now," he commented, "and it's defi- Out, which is being coordinated by the
nitely one of the things behind this-be- Metropolitan Council on Housing, is
sides landlords just wanting to make -designed to express support for
more money." According to Herold, al- ' strengtheJled tenant protections and
though McCann vocally supported va- rent control legislation, particularly the
cancy decontrol during his previous comprehensive Flynn-Dearie tenant
tenure in the City Council, he down- protection bill. Invited speakers include
that bill's sponsors, Assemblyman John
played the issue during last fall's mayor .
campaign. Dearie (D-Bronx) and State Senator
. John Flynn (R-Yonkers), as well as
A hastily organized city-wide group mayoral candidate Frank Barbaro and
called the Coalition to Save Rent tenant leader.s. Last year's Tenant Uni-
Control, condemned the' new system and ty Day attracted nearly 2,000 par-
began a petition drive to bring the rent ticipants. For details on this year's
control question before the city's voters. _ event, and to register organizational en-
the Jersey City charter, 15 percent dorsernents, contact the Metropolitan
of all registered voters' signatures Council on Housing at (212) 598-4900.
needed to compel a referendum on such
a question. A spokesperson, for the
Coalition said- the petition validating
process should be finished by late
October.DT.L. /
Cover Photo
SHORT TERM NOTES .......................... 2
GARDEN APARTMENTS ...................... .4
POWER ...................................... :8
CO-OP BANK ON ITS' OWN ............ ' ,' ....... 10
Public Housing
Housing Authority's Domain ................. .' .... 11
Life in the :' ............................. 11
Public Housing: Making the Choice ................ 17
LOFfS FOR WHOSE LIVING? .................. 20
The War
of the
Amid charges of harassment
and intimidation and a rapidly
approaching financial
crisis, thousands of Queens garden
. apartment dwellers are trying
to cope with their
landlords' co-op plans.
'M arie Allison, crippled, frail, and almost totally blind,
. hobbled down the ill-lighted staircase of her second
floor home and balanced herself with her cane on what was left
of the front door stoop. Eighty-years-old and a two-time stroke
victim, Allison is a 2O-year resident of a Queens garden apart- .
ment complex where the developer is pushing hard to convert
some .400 rental apartments into expensive one and two-family
homes. Outside her door uprooted sidewalks, open ditches,
missing stoops, and exposed gas mains make the neighborhood
resemble a war zone. '
Her neighbor, Gail Benzman, a vice president of the tenants
association and a vigorous opponent of the conversion, said,
"Is this any way to treat the seniors here? She had her strokes
CITY LIMITS/October 1981 4
beCause she has to live in so much fear. If [the developer] keeps
harassing her this way, she's certainly going to die."
Known as Central Gardens Apartments, this thirty-three-
year-old complex has been a battlegrolind for more than two
years between tenants, developers and . managers. The cam-
paign may represent the worst of the brushfIre wars being
fought across the borol!-gh in garden complexes
where owners are chasing the quick profIts they can realize by
the rental units into one and two-family homes or
cooperatives and condominiums.
The city counts 99 of these garden complexes, housing some
24,000 families and about 100,000 people. While the Central
Gardens apartment battle may be an extreme example of the
clash between owners and tenants, the city is looking anxiously
at what could turn into one of the largest displacement pheno-
menons since the heyday of urban renewal.
A city task force formed in August 1980, to deal with the
onslaught of conversions produced a ~ t u d y that underscored
what was already known: that no easy solutions existed for
curbing the conversions. It also pointed out that there are both
"good" conversions and "bad" ones.
The report suggested that existing low interest federal loan
programs could be useful, as well as Section 8 rent subsidies.
But it questioned the long term financial feasibility of the low
income co-op route at least one tenant group is pursuing. Its
strongest r'ecommendation was state legislation to extend code
enforcement activities to the apartments to reduce tenant
Hastily Built
But since issuing the report the task force, composed
primarily of officials from the office of the Queens Borough
President and the _city housing department, has not met for
several months. and, according to a spokesperson at the
Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the
garden apartment issue has been "placed on a back burner"
for the time being.
Built after World War II to house veterans and their
families, the garden apartment complexes were constructed
hastily and on a huge scale to help meet that era's serious hous-
ing shortage. Some of them were built under Section 608 of the
National Housing Act which allowed for the relaxation of
building code standards so that more units could be built
quickly and cheaply. Now, over thirty years later, the buildings
need major structural and systems repair. and critics of the
conversions contend that the developer/converters are, at best,
doing cheap, quick, cosmetic rehabilitative work.
Nor do the tenants have the same protection others facing
conversion have. Orlando Artze, an aide to Congressman Ben-
jamin Rosenthal, Democrat-Liberal of Queens, said the garden
apartments had somehow "slipped through the cracks" when
legislation was being developed at the state level to protect
tenants in cooperative and condominium conversions. Rosen-
thal is currently calling for a two-year moratorium on all
cooperative and condominium conversions across the country.
In the state legislature, Assemblyman Ralph Goldstein,
Democrat-Liberal of Queens, has been introducing legislation
since 1978 to include the garden apartments in the same regula-
tions covering the cooperative conversion of regular apart-
ments. It has passed the Assembly but has been blocked each
year in the State Senate by a strong real estate lobby. He has
also supported a moratorium bill, which has died in the Hous-
ing Committee of the Assembly.
Villas, Queens Style
smokescreen behind which Gilman has persuaded the city's
Conciliation and Appeals Board, the arbiter for rent stabilized
apartments, to remove the entire complex eventually from the
stabilization system because of the upgrading and conversion.
The C.A.B. attached stipulations to protect stabilized tenants,
but even that guaranty hasn't helped in the face of what the
tenants say has been non-stop harassment.
Gilman, they also maintain, didn't even wait for the C.A.B.
approval, but started months earlier turning off boilers, break-
ing through walls and windows, tearing up sidewalks and cut-
ting gas and telephone lines.
Tenants responded by filing suit against Gilman and, accor-
ing to DCU'id Ng, their attorney, the suit is a test case that will
have a major effect on the future of the garden apartments.
During a recent visit to Central Gardens Gilman was reluc-
tant to be interviewed, but volunteered that he plans to charge
from $100,000 to $150,000 for l:ris one and two-family homes
and that he is not sympathetic to the tenants or their needs.
They will have to go, he insisted, because they will never be
able to afford his housing.
Most of the regulation imposed on Gilman by the C.A.B.
has apparently been sidestepped. Tenants and their attorney
charge that nominal monetary relocation benefits, the provi-
sion of a block of 40 units for the remaining senior citizens
and, notably, granting tenants in occupancy at the time of con-
version two to three-year leases irl "habitable rental units com-
parable to units they presently occupy" have all been ignored.
"In addition to all the harassment and costly time in court
fighting him, Gilman has not lived up to any of his C.A.B.
stipulations," said Iris Cord;Jy, president of the tenants
association. "There is no end to what I can tell you, but, I
worry, come November, that there will be only ten families
here because I can assure you there will be no heat-the same
as iast year." At present, about 140 of the original 402 tenant
families are left on the site, while some 262 apartments stand
vacant. And, to date, no new families have moved in, although
some are expected within the next few weeks. Corday's experi-
ence has spurred her to help form the Queens Garden Apart-
ments Tenant Coalition which is trying to organize tenants in
this housing throughout the borough.
Oaks and Heather
In two much larger complexes-Glen Oaks Village, with
some 2,900 units on the Nassau County border and Heather
Gardens with 1,400 units in the Bayside section-tenants have
also been combatting cooperative conversion. Battles between
tenants and developer/owners smolder but have not reached
the raging inferno proportions of Central Gardens.
While readers of the real estate sections of New York's Sun-
day papers are being offered "a great opportunity ... a chance
to live in your own cooperative garden home," the rent strike
which began in December, 1980 in Gerald Guterman's Glen
Oaks continues. The 350 tenants on rent strike and their
Despite grandiosely redubbing Central Garden Apartments lawyer, Richard Creditor, spend most of their time in housing
the "Villas of Forest Hills" to attract homebuyers, tenants court.
charge that developer Sol Gilman has performed only a minor "They've called out inspectors to play down our problems,"
face lift in the name of substantial demolition and major insisted Bernice Siegal, head of the tenants union and C<K:hair-
rehabilitation. This work, they say, has provided a person of the Queens Garden Apartments Tenants Coalition.
S CITY LIMITS/October 1981
"We've even tried to settle with Gutennan, but he's refused.
... Now we're in court where the judge is calling us individual-
ly, case-by-case. This is not the way to handle us." She also
said that tenants believe Guterman's political connections have
been hampering their case. Gutennan's lawyer is Irwin Robert
Brownstein, a former state supreme court judge and former
state senator. Gutennan himself is active in Democratic Party
politics and has been a prominent supporter of Controller Har-
rison J. Goldin.
While Gutennan refused to discuss his plans for Glen Oaks
and other conversion projects he is undertaking, his sales office
admitted thatit has sold "slightly over" 1,000 units at Glen
Oaks and that prices r:ange from $23,664 for a standard one-
bedroom apartment to $65,000 for an eight-room duplex.
The fear at Glen Oaks is that Gutennan may put the con-
verted cooperatives back on the rental market if, he canot sell
them, 'and that new tenants will not be covered by rent
stabilization since the apartments were removed from the rent
regulatory system when they were converted.
According to Siegal, tenants are holding $500,000 from the
rent strike. "We understand that he has had to spend better
than $200,000 in legal fees to fight us," she asserted. "This is a
costly battle."
Guterman is no longer the owner of the 1 ,400-unit Heather
Gardens, and the tenants that remain there continue to receive
services and pay rent. But, according to a city report, decline
there began with Guterman's October, 1977, purchase. The
project is now in a complicated receivership shared between
East New York and Jamaica Savings Banks.
Heather Gardens represents the sort of anomaly many of the
complexes pose: its deteriorated, tin-sealed buildings are across
the street from homes selling for upwards of $100,000. Work
has begun, said resident Sharon Kosofsky, on the 400 vacant
units Gutennan cleared of tenants years ago with the plan of
selling them as one and two-family homes. Funds for his pro-
ject ran out, but he still owns rights to part of the property
whose fate is to be determined in court sometime in early Oc-
Different Conversions
Although conversions in the garden apartment complexes
have been frequently seen as a vehicle for tenant displacement,
an innovative plan at the 30-year-old 746-unit Park Drive
Apartments in Kew Gardens is attempting to avoid just that
problem. The plan would keep all families in their homes as te-
nant cooperators, a choice tenants didn't make until they were
convinced it was their only option if they wanted to remain.
"We struggled to keep the complex as rental housing, but it
started to become obvious that this couldn't last," said the
ebullient 23-year-old Robyn Fisher, one of the tenant
organizers with the Kew Gardens Tenants League who was
born and raised in the complex. "We've been on rent strike on
and off," she said, "but we needed a more permanent solu-
Tenant leaders in this tightly-organized community started
Mrs. Marie Allison on her stoop at the "Villas of Forest Hills," formerly Central Garden Apartments.
CITY LIMITS/October 1981 6
In his conversion moratorium legislation, Con-
gressman Rosenthal has included ,a stipulation favor-
ing the sale and conversion of rental property such as
Park Drive to bona fide tenant organizations. In his
argument for. self-help co-oping, the Congressman
-stresses the importance of removing the "middle
man" or the developer/converter and therefore, the
huge profit made at, the expense of the tenants.
Currently, the Hon's share of the pot of gold in
conversions comes ffom landlords selling to
developers/converters, not tenants, and paying only
16 percent in capital gains taxes on the assessed value
of the property at the time of the transaction. There
is no incentive for landlords to seD to tenant groups
now, because under the present statute the capital
gains tax on a sale is 50 percent, not 16 percent
of the assessed value. Rosenthal is pushing for a
change in the law that would permit the same tax ad-
vantage in sale to tenantS as is presently allowed in
sales to middle men.
to talk about tenant-controlled or self-help cooperatives after a
developer expressed interest in buying the complex and sub-
dividing it into thirds with one and two-family homes,
cooperatives and rental housing.
Although their plan is still in the talking stages, tenants
believe they could purchase their apartments for approximately
$1,000 per room. The tenant population, which has a large
number of elderly residents, is about evenly made up of 'whites,
blacks and Hispanics.,
Gerald Guterman also owned Park Drive at one time, flip-
ping it back and forth between himself and developer George
Mehlman. Mehlman wound up in jail, convicted of an
embezzlement, scheme involving investors in the complex, and
the project's mortgage was foreclosed upon. The court ap-
pointed a receiver at that point in arch of 1980 who was John
A. Zaccaro, a Manhattan real estate agent and husband of
Queens Democratic Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro.
Tenants have faulted conditions under b,is management, but
they have been most adamant against his plans to quickly have
the project sold to satisfy banks and creditors.
The tenants narrowly avoided a bankruptcy sale on
September 16 when they agreed to turn over $85,000 in rent
strike money to Zaccaro and have their attorney, Martin
Berger, help work out a plan to payoff the claims against the
Meanwhile, aided by Clara Fox and Carol Lamberg of the
Settlement Housing Fund, as well as representatives of the
Borough President's office and Orlando Artze, tenants met
with Housing Comissioner Anthony Gliedman to discuss the
possibility of getting a federal Community development-
funded loW interest Participation Loan to rehab the complex's
major systems.
Lamberg said the group had approached Citibank to provide
the permanent fmancing and that what the tenants need at this
point is time to put together a workable fmancial package. The
Fund believes a moderate rehab can' be carried out in 21
months. .
Should their ideas pan out, Park Drive tenants may
demonstrate that the future of this endangered species-the
garden apartment tenant-is not all doom and gloom. But
most tenants are faced with far Jess pleasant conversions and
observers are hopeful that some legislation with teeth in it wil1
soon be adopted.
"I have nothing against a landlord rehabbing his property
but it should not be done on the backs of the people,':
Assemblyman Goldstein "We have lost thousands of
units of rental housing to conversions and what's left on the
market is fast becoming only luxury housing. We have a crisis
here in Queens, but nobody does anything to protect the
tenants on the city level. .. The Borough President doesn't do
Mayor Koch won't even talk to us. Ultimately,
WIll happen to all those displaced people? Who knows, maybe
we'll be contributing to the shopping bag ladies." 0
- Robyn Fisher, a tenant organizer at Park Drive apartments.
Sharing Con Ed's Power
he desire of every consumer of_electricity in New York Ci-
ty is .to. unplug Con Ed. The utility's history stanqs as an
unending memory of misfortune; systematic pollution, debili-
tating' blackouts, and an addiction to rate increases. Most
recently, a senes of fires in the belly of their nuclear dinosaur at
Indian Point have eroded the reputation of the institution most
New Yorkers love to hate.
Several large New York apartment complexes have parted
company with the utility in recent years, adopting "cogen,era-
tion" systems that produce both electric power and heat for
residents at relatively cheap rates. Con Edison has failed to
support these as it has stood in the way of
renewable resources of all kinds-with a stubborn defiance.
This on the singular principle that the law has decreed electrici-
ty to be a commodity sold within a monopolized market. But
the cogeneration trend continues, and regulatory changes may .
soon challenge the wisdom of Con Edison.
Richard Stone, the housing manager of Big Six Towers, a
1,000 unit apartment complex in Woodside, Queens, can point
to the progression of numbers that suggests that some dreams
can be captured. Stone's complex has built a $2 million power
plant that includes six generators (four diesel, two gas) and can ,
produce four megawatts of electricity. The accounting projec-
tions appear quite favorable; the first year of operation ac-
crued a total cost of $391,000 including payment of interest
and amortization of debt. Last year, Con Ed charged $582,515
for the exact consumption. Each family living in Big Six
Towers will save $300.
original blinking light bulb, finds further resistance within the
executive committees of the utility industry. State utility com-
missions, while empowered to adjust rates based on a showing
of proper cost, cannot brandish their swords at utilities to
make them replace incompetent management. The managers
of the Three Mile Island Plant, which did more to discredit
nuclear power than an army of anti-nuclear dissidents, still
have their jobs. t
The alchemy at work in Big Six Towers is "bottom-cycle co-
generation." This process captures the waste heat, produced
either by an industrial process. or an electric plant for use in
heating or cooling a building. Another apartment complex in
Queens, Rochedale Village, has installed its 0'Yfi generators,
which are f)fed by natural gas which it purchases from
Brooklyn Union Gas Company. Three-quarters of the energy
in the fuel burned is delivered as heat into the outdoors. But at
Rochedale, the heat is not lost but reclaimed, then piped
smoothly through. the buildings' arteries to heat water. The
electricity internally generated by Rochedale's system, costs
4.54: per kilowatthour. Last year, Big Six Towers paid 9.24: per
kilowatt hour for Con Edison power. In 1979, Rochedale Villge
saved 560,000 gallons of scarce fuel.
Starrett City, a self-contained Brooklyn residential comm-
unity comprising 46 high-rise buildings, associated schools
and shopping centers, has opted for cogenenJ,tion as well,
building 6,000 kilovyatt generators. Starrett City's system
not only supplies electrical heating, cooling and domestic hot
water needs for the 22,000 residents, but exchanges energy
resources with the 26th Ward Water Pollution Control Plant, a
municipally owned treatment plant iocated less than a thou-
sand feet from the housing '
For Stone's managing tasks, several broad principles survive
the rigors' of the balance sheet. He concludes that savings flow
from thiee streams, "the fact that we waste little energy, hav-
ing an energy efficiency ratio of 75 percent compared to Con
Ed's 25 percent; that the fIXed costs are not as great since Con
Ed carries a great deal of unnecessary plant and equipment and
we use the steam which ordinarily goes up Con Ed's stacks. to
supply hot waters and to supplement the boilers for roo'm
') Methane gas, unused by the treatment plant, is piped to the
generator to be used as a supplerhental'boiler fuel to reduce the
dependence on fossil fuels so wearisome to engineers in charge
of all manner of power projects. Up to 160,000 cubic feet of
methane is cons,umed per day.
Yet Starrett City's project manager Barbara Tillman quickly
ConEd is indeed burdened by excess baggage. The utility
possesses some 48 percent excess generating capacity; virtually f
half of their distibutioI) system remains idle during a typical
day's consumption. Delivering electricity is simply a secondary
function for the company. As regulated by the Public
Commission, the utility is guaranteed a 12-15 percent rate of
return on capital invested in plant and equipment. The com-
pany can take advantage of a dazzling array of tax benefits that
may be deferr as long as the utility continues to invest in con-
struction projects. Con Ed currently tucks a $3 billion distribu-
tion system comfortably away inside its already swollen $5.7
billion rate base. The incentive to retire dilapidated equipment,
bits and pieces of which harken back to the era of Edison's
discovered the snake in the garden. Built in to the design, were
a series of redundancies protecting the plant from a power
blackout. Starrett City's peak needs are 1 ,000 kilowatts; its
system can produce 18,000 kilowatts. Most generators operate
with a 50-55 percent excess capacity. "It is' simply cheaper to
overinvest in plant at the outset," explained Ms. Tillman,
"since Con Ed's back-up rates are utterly prohibitive. The
utility wants $300,000 just to hook us into the gnd." The only
need a generator would have for the utility would be in an
I. emergency. Last year, Starrett City suffered not one minute of
down-time; the lights never blinked.
CITY LIMITS/October 1981
on Edison's failure to support cogeneration is self-
defeating. The more on-site electrical generation is al-
lowed to bloom, the less capital will be needed for an already
bloated generating and distributing plant. Brooklyn Union Gas
estimates that some 2,000 megawatts of power might be pro-
duced through cogeneration, fully 20 percent of the entire cur-
rent Con Ed capacity and almost half the utility's average daily
need. Were commercial buildings, hospitals, universities and
housing co-ops allowed to proceed with construction plans,
Con Ed would cease to exist as a primary producer of electrici-
ty, allowing New York City to enter the 20th Century.
The California Public Utilities Commission recently led a
cavalry charge into the desert of utility regulation by
establishing a natural gas rate for industrial and institutional
cogenerators equal to the rate Pacific Gas and Electric pays for
gas used as boiler fuel. The state has the potential to produce
an additional 6,000 megawatts of electrical energy without
building a single coal, oil or nuclear plant. To stir up the
vinegar, the Public Utilities Commission penalized that utility
by $7 million for failing to pursue the cogeneration option.
The New York Public Service Commission is now engaged
in hearings on the same isue. A formidable army of potential
cogenerators have been rattling the regulatory doors, including
the baronies of New York's landed gentry: the Empire State
Building, Rockefeller Plaza and the World Trade Center.
Suburban Tennis Courts, the Health and Hospital Corpora-
tion, and the City University of New York have heard the first
faint whispers from engineers and consumer groups that the
monopoly might be broken. When ' the word is finally out,
when the bricks and beams drop from the rickety Con Ed
foundation, then Perhaps New York may take these first steps
toward drafting an energy policy based on consumer, not cor-
porate, needs.
Richard Schrader is the Director of the Energy Project of New 0
York StateWide Senior Action Council, Inc. B
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of this organization and the exempt status for Federal income tax purposes have not
chilnges during the preceding 12 months.
Extent and nature of circulation: Average number of copies each issue during
preceding 12 months. Actual number of copies of sin,le issue published nearest to
filing date: Total number of copies printed: 2000; 2000. Paid Circulation: I. Sales
through deale" and carriers. street vendors and counter sales: 4SO; 411. 2. Mail
subscriptions: II SO; 943. Total paid circulation 1600; 13S4. Free distribution by mail
carrier. or other means: samples. complimentary. and other free copies SO; SO. Total
distribution: 16S0; 1404. Copies not distributed: I. Office use. leftover. unac
counted for spoiled after printing: 27S; 410. 2. Returns from newsagents: 73; 134.
Total: 2.000; 2.000. I certify that the 'statements made by me above are correct and
complete. Ronnie Spence, Business Manager
Public Utility Review Board
The Public Utility Review Board, a board created
by the City Council to study methods to lower elec-
tric rates, recommended that the Power Authority of
the State of New York (PASNY) acquire Con Ed's
generation and transmission equipment. PURB's
history has been marked by stormy and sometimes
unn.iIy skirmishes among board members and more
frequently, between the Board and an ever-stingy,
often wavering City Council leadership. According
to PURB estimates, electric rates could be reduced
by 25070 in 5 years ' given further access to hydro
power, local on-site generation, removal of
dividends, and PASNY's comfortable fmancial posi-
tion. Richard Schrader will take a more detailed look
at PURB Public Power and Con Ed in the next City
Limits. 0
CITY LIMITS/October 1981
Co-op Bank Is Qn Its Own
ust three years after it was launched
by Congress, and only 18 months
since it officially opened its doors, the
National Consumer Cooperative Bank is
being unceremonioUBly ousted from its
federal nest and ushered into the hostile
world of the private capital markets. The
question now is, can a non-government
bank with a special mission remain sensi-
tive and useful to the groups and the
cause for which it was established?
The answer to that question will be
provided only after a series of fairly hec-
tic procedural moves are made to carry
out the ownership transfer ordered by
Congressional amendments passed in
August. Another part of the picture will
also emerge if Congress, as the bank
hopes, sticks to its current plan to make
one last injection of funds-currently
slated at $53 million-for the coming
The bank was initiated in 1978 by the
National Consumer Cooperative Bank
Act to provide the same fmancing for
cooperatives that the government has
provided for farmers. The bank's major
tool has been its Title I loans made at
market rate.
Technically, what is transpiring at the
bank is the conversion of government-
held stock into bank debt. The bank
must begin repayments on that debt in
1990, and retire the entire amount by
2020. That conversion, to take place of-
ficially on December 31, will make the
bank a privatel'non-profit operation at-
tached to government only by the three
dIrectors out of 15 the President will con-
tinue to name, as well as the sizeable
federal debt it will carry.
Shareholding cooperatives are now
beginning the process of nominating can-
didates for nine of the twelve seats they
will elect. Three members of the board
were elected by stockholders in June.
Currently, there are 136 of the one hun-
dred dollar-apiece shares outstanding, all
belonging to co-ops that purchased them
with their equi,ty dollars upon receiving
CITY LIMITS/October 1981
bank loans. An October 9th deadline has
been set for new stock purchases by co-
ops who want to vote for the directors.
Another part of the/ bank, which some
critics have said has yet 'to achieve its
original goal, is the office of Self Help
Development and Technical Assistance,
or Title II. The Self Help fund is the
special arm established to fmance co-ops
not eligible for regular loans. Its limited
funds are targeted to help low income
co-ops get going and as an aid to those in
trouble. A continuing controversy over
how those funds should be spent will
now shift, under the new amendments,
as the Office of Self Help becomes a
private, non-profit foundation governed
by its own board, possibly overlapping
with that of the bank. Troubled from the
start by delayed organization and under-
funding, the unit's ability to survive as
the bank embarks on the high seas of
private borrowing will be a major issue
that shareholders will be raising with
candidates for the Board of Directors.
"We're already hearing many voices
calling for [the bank] to act more like a
bank," commented Charles Savitt of the
Co-op Development and Assistance Pro-
ject which has monitored the bank's pro-
gress. And for some advocates, that
trend implies a fiscal conservatism at the
expense of fledgling, or borderline, low
income cooperatives.
Should Congress deliver the $53
million for this year-$47 million for Ti-
tle I ~ d $5 million for Title II-it would
bring the bank's government funding
level close to $200 million, one third
short of the $300 million the government
was expected to lend by 1985. Sup-
plementing those funds must come from
borrowing in the same private money
markets in which other banks compete
and through the sale of mortgages the
bank holds to a secondary mortgage
"It's not going to resemble the bank
everyone thought it 'would be a year
ago," reflected Philip St. Georges, direc-
tor of the bank's Mid-Atlantic Regional
office. "However," he added, "it will
still be the first place that co-ops go for
borrowing.' ,
How much there will be, its cost and
which co-ops will be able to afford to
borrow is open to question. One break
for housing co-ops came in the amend-
ment which extended to 1985 a cap of
thirty percent on the amount of loans the
bank can make to housing cooperatives.
Thus far, the bank has made 80 percent
of its loans for housing. With such a
large portion of the bank's loan port-
folio tied up in housing loans it is ex-
pected that the bank will move to diver-
sify, if only because tying so much
capital up in long term mortgages can be
a drain.
On the other hand, housing loans can
be used to raise other capital and bank
hOUsing director Ed Kirschner told the
Housing 'and Development Reporter in
August he expected to see the bank's
housing investment grow to one to two
billion dollars in order to help payoff
the federal debt.
According to St. Georges, bank hous-
ing loans for.low income co-ops will have
to be leveraged with other sources of loW'
interest capital. But the size of that pool
of dollars is also rapidly diminishing as
federal cuts take effect. DT .R.
Forty five years ago, New York .Oty pointed the way for the nation in
the construction of decent, safe and sanitary housing. The city's Hous-
ing Authority grew to manage an empire of vast proportions and is
widely reputed to be the most successful provider of assisted low income
housing in the country. But its growth has slowed, many of its projects
are aging and in need of repair, and the Housing Authority is criticized
roundly from both sides of the political spectrum. In the age of the
"free market," can public housing hold on? Does anyone want it to?
Housing Authority's
By Tom Robbins
hen reference is made to the state of 19C<ll public hous-
ing authorities around the country, the caveat, "except
for the New York City Housing Authority," is almost in-
evitably added. Nationally, the country's fIrst and largest pro-
ducer, owner and manager of subsidized low income housing
enjoys an excellent reputation. It's a reputation many of its
tenants might fault, but while dozens of housing authorities
have shuttered and closed down apartments and buildings, and
others, such as Boston's, have plunged into default and re-
ceivership, the mighty New York City Housing Authority can
proudly proclaim its developments are fully occupied.
Its waiting list of applicants, currently far above 150,000
Continued on p. 12 11
In the
By Tim Ledwith

raffIc on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway cuts noisily
along the Red Hook peninsula's northeastern edge, ef-
fectively separating the tired waterfront community from the
rest of Brooklyn and, some local residents say, the world. Not
far from the ramshackle piers and warehouses that are rem-
nants of the area's more prosperous days sit the Red Hook
housing projects. Taken together, the two adjacent develop-
ments consist of 28 buildings and house about 7,700 residents;
half of them are under 21, over 70 percent are black, almost a
quarter are Hispanic. The Red Hook families' average yearly
income hovers around $7,000, and about a third receive public
Continued on p. 14
Domain FROM P. 11
families-a figure officials insis,t would at least triple were any
substantial program of new construction mounted-is testi-
mony that the "projects" continue to be much sought, after.
Major expansion and new construction ceased in the early
seventies-a poor municipal bond market slowed things con-
siderably and President Nixon's 1973 moratorium on funds for
federal subsidized I housing put a lid on construction activity
that has never been effectively removed.
\ Presently, the Authority has 3,258 apartments under con-
struction, 920 of them "gut rehabilitation" of existing housing,
mostly city-owned, tax-foreclosed buildings. Another 3,584
units are under construction, 773 of which are rehabs. It's a lot
of activity for some cities and authorities, but for the organiza-
tion that has built nearly 170,000 apartments it's fairly small
potatoes. And, for a city where thousands of families live in
substandard, dilapidated housing, it barely makes_a dent.
Right now, however, it is all the Housing Authority can do
to manage its 163,000 apartments, keeping them heated and in
decent repair. The spectre haunting the Authority's headquar-
ters at 250 Broadway is gradually falling behind the day-to-day
short tenp repair, to the point where small jobs, left ul}done,
become big ones, then system-wide catastrophes. "That's what
has done in the other authorities," noted Housing Authority
General Manager John Simon:
his summer Congress adopted a change in income eligibili-
ty levels for public housing-a change that is contro-
versial and, according to the Authority, potentially devastat-
ing. Congress opted to limit entrance to public housing to
families at or below fifty percent of the area's median income,
underestimated the amount the price of fuel oil would rise over
the year. With fuel decontrol, that situation is worsening.
The Authority has compensated by making central office
cuts, not filling vacancies" juggling employees onto frrmer
budget and generally cutting "softer" ,' program cost.
Mostly, "softer" spells the social service aspect of the Authori-
ty budget, particularly community and daycare centers. Skilled
tradesmen, however, have also been reduced in number. "In
the short term, those things are bad," said Simon, "but in the
long run they can be crippling."
, The changing picture of support is also interrupting
one of the Authority's most important programs: shifti,ng the
subsidy-poor state and city-built projects into the federal sup-
port program. Forty five of the Authority's projects have been
fully transferred from the state and city rolls and have received
needed federal modernization. funding as a result. The
Authority Transfer Program, however, is !;lOW stalled, and 18
state constructed and seven city-built projects.have yet to make
the needed crossover.
How bad could the future be? "The first impact" from
heavy reductions in its operating subsidy, said Christian, "is
the cutback on services. Then we'd have to start closing projects
But Christian believes that would never happen. "I can't im-
agine they'd allow a $3 billion investment just go down the
drain." Noting that it would take an estimated $9 billion to
recreate the housing it rules today, Christian insisted the
Authority would weather its current fiscal crunch, just as it has
weathered others. He frrmly rejects some options being tried by
other Authorities, such as selling off buildings as cooperatives.
"That's a charade," he snapped. "If tenants can't meet the
fair market rent, how can they meet the carrying costs on a co-
,and said local authorities could fill no more than 10 percent of S orne of that confidence in the face of seemingly impending
their vacancies with families earning more than that. The gloom, sounds almost like bravado. But then, today's offi-
and the city's CongressIonal delegation have argued cials descend from the "founders" of public housing in New
fairly strenuously that the NYCHA's income mix of tenants is ,York, a ' troupe of innovators whose sheer determination
unique. To compel it to further limit entrants' income would helped launch public housing as a concept and build it, brick-
mean admitting an overwhelming welfare population and driv- by-brick, in the midst of a depression, into a reality. Along the
ing out the majority of working families. Whether or not the way, New York City's commitment to decent, safe and
dynamic works in that fashion, federal Housing and Urban sanitary housing created the models on which other national
Development Secretary Samuel Pierce, Jr. has agreed to ex- efforts were based. Added to the federal program was state
ercise "the full flexibility" allowed him under the statute. "I sponsored and subsidized housing in 1939, and a city effort in-
think he'll do ' whatever he can," said Housing Authority itiated in 1937. ' ,
Chairman Joseph Christian. If the Authority were forced to When Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia stood with Governor
rigidly comply with the new regulations, he said, the resulting Herbert Lehman and Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt to open the
change in Authority populations would severely affect his ,ambitiously-dubbed First Houses on the Lower East Side in
operation. "Our thrust," added Authority spokesman Roy 1937" a promised federal commitment had yei to materialize.
Metcalfe, "has been to reach out and get the upwardly Instead, with the benevolent involvement of Bernard Baruch,
mobile." the financier who made the Authority a low interest loan, and
Whether public housing in New York is still playing that role Vincent Astor, who sold hls buildings along East Third Street
is up to question. But it is clear that any hopes that it can sur- at bargain' price, as well as the labor of hundreds of W.P.A.I
vive are pinned to what General Manager John Simon employees, the city's and the country's frrst low income sub-
describes as "the basics." sidized housing was built.
For the last year the Housing Authority has operated with By the time the U.S. Housing Act of 1937 established the
only 85 percent of the federal operating funds it should be tools by which public housing would be subsidized New York
, receiving. That cut resulted not from a Republican-spawned in- City was already off and running on two more projects in
cision, a Carter administration gaffe that badly Harlem and Williamsburg. Between 1938 and 1944 the
CITY LIMITS/October 1981 12
Left to right, Governor Herbert Lehman, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt and Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia at First Houses opening, /937.
3 N.Y.C.H.A. built more than 10,000 apartments in projects
that remain the largest in the domain.
By tapping the new state-floated housing bonds, the
Autl;iority built, amongst other projects, another 3,500 units
alongside the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a major spur for which
was the approaching Anierican entry into World War II. In the
severe housing shortage that followed the end of the war, the

Authority was able to produce housing out of each of its fund-
ing pools. Under the state program, between 1945 and 1949,
24,000 apartments went into planning and construction.
The approach to public housing was noticeably affected by
the National Housing Act of 1949, which proVided vast sums
for slum clearance and allowed for construction of new middle
income housing as well as low income. The N.Y.C.H.A. con-
tinued to construct new housing on a major scale, but a large
part of it was now iIJ locations that private developers didn't
Although the pace of new construction didn't slacken during
the fifties and sixties there was a gradual shifting from the
"superblock" concept-where the economy of scrue helped
keep the costs of low income housing low;-to sites scattered
around the city.
t became glaringly apparent in the middle 19605 that both
the state and city subsidy programs under which the bulk
of the Authority's housing was built were leaving major gaps in
the needed operating budget. As operating expenses grew, the
burden on th; Authority, which was supposed to meet
those needs from 'rents also grew. By 1977, when a transfer
program for those projects was fmally implemented by Con-
gress, that deficit had grown to $65 million. Congress's ap-
proval of the Authority Transfer Program allowed troubled
projects to come under the federal subsidy program and also
provided much-needed modernization
The federal projects didn't escape the enormous jump in
operating costs and twice, in 1969 and again in 1974 under the
, Housing and Community Development Act, federal contribu-
tions were increased.
Very low income tenants of public housing also received
assistance in 1970 in the form of the Brooke amendment, spon-
sored by Senator Edward W. Brooke of Massachusetts. That
law capped the amount of their income tenants should pay in
rent at 25 percent, and provided the rental assistance for the
Authorities to go with it. The cap was enacted but the promised
funds fell victim to the Nixon moratorium. So in many
authorities around the country, even more so than in New
York, the Brooke amendment widened rather than decreased
the gap between operating expenditures and rents.
A similar problem, this time for public housing renters at the
other end of the income range, was resolved at that time, when
Congress ruled that rather than being forced out once their in-
comes surpassed the upper end of eligibility, tenants could opt
to pay more and stay. The change, though important, carne
after many had already left because of the income limits.
Recent years have seen the Authority involved in a variety of
housing services that represent a far cry from the stereotypical
public housing project. The Authority now owns and manages
over 500 FHA-foreclosed one, two and three-family homes
and under Project Home is attempting-with limited suc-
cess-to sell them to residents.
It also 'undertook a role in the city's crisis-level workload of
tax-foreclosed buildings when it agreed to take over manage-
ment of i ,300 units in occupied buildings. That experiment has
not worked well, with the Housing Authority being unhappy
about the low level of repairs they are budgeted to provide for
the buildings before they are sold to the tenants. A few of the
buildings will be bought by the Authority and managed as
public housing. Somewhat more beneficial has been the
Authority's gut rehabilitation planned for 1,500 units in vacant
city-owned buildings: The Authority expects to take over more
buildings for rehab adjacent to its projects.
Despite this, there are few, plans for major new projects.
Developments continue to get smaller-and there is an em-
phasis on low rise buildings, such as the Authority's latest ef-
fort planned on sites in Bushwick. Overall, the future seems to
foretell a holding action for the country's biggest housmg
authority: a time of just trying to hold its own against increased
operating costs and an administration disenchanted not only
with the costs, but the concept, of low income housing. 0
13 CITY LIMITS/October 1981
In the Projects.

FROM P. 11
Brenda Cyrus, a small, energetic resident of the Red Hook
East Houses, was recently elected president of the project's
tenants association. Cyrus moved to Red Hook from Crown
Heights while pregnant in 1970 because, she says, her former
landlord would not allow children in his building. Like more
than a third of the family heads in her project, Cyrus is a single
"Red Hook has a bad reputation," she said one recent mor-
ning, sipping coffee while her two sons romped in a far corner
of the Cyrus' two bedroom apartment. "They seem to have
put more undesirable people here-drug pushers and so on-
so the cops don't respond when something's going on here.
People who were here years ago say the police would give you a
fine if you rode a bike on the grass. Now it's different." She
left to quiet down the children and returned. "You know," she
continued, "I always have to wonder where my kids' energy is
going to around here."
Later, walking around the project's grounds in a loose-fit-
ting blue windbreaker with "NYCHA TENANT PATROL"
emblazoned in yellow on the back, Cyrus was sought out by
neighbor after neighbor. Some told her about apartment prob-
lems, notably slow repairs and overdue painting and plastering
work. Many talked about the progress of Tenant Patrols-
Housing Authority-sponsored efforts to deter crime and
beautify common areas-in their buildings.
Cyrus was quick to emphasize signs of progress in the six
story, 41 year old Red Hook East buildings. She pointed out
several buildings' hallways and entranceways, recently trans-
formed from institutional grayness in a surprisingly effective (if
superficial) combination of Tenant Patrol elbow grease and
Authority paint. She pointed out the development's new win-
dows, installed in many buildings under the federally funded
modernization program. "It should be better with these," Cyrus
said. "Last year I had my oven on every other day."
Despite hopeful signs, though, the project's shortcomings
are striking. "These are old buildings," Cyrus explained, "so
things are falling apart." Meanwhile, the Red Hook East
operating staff, responsible for maintenance, caretaking and
groundskeeping, is seven workers of its proper Author-
ity-designated size. Some building entrances are completely
dark and foreboding at night. The Red Hook developments'
two day care centers cannot hope to handle a population of
about 1,000 children under age six. The nearby public library
branch, a windowless, one story affair that looks more like a
bunker than a seat of learning, has had to reduce its' operation
to a few hours daily.
In spite of the dual problems of isolation and apathy, Cyrus
sees tenant organization as a viable way to deal with most of
Red Hook'.s difficulties, and her personal combination of
toughness and warmth may indeed sway many residents who
would otherwise give up the effort. "We have 50 or 6Opeople
CITY LIMITS/October 1981 14
in the tenants association now," she remarked, "but it's hard
to get people motivated. There's been/so many promises."
he Red Hook developments aren't the most troubled proj-
ects operated by the New York City Housing Authority,
the public corporation that runs all the city's public rental
housing, but they rank among a substantial number of other
"problem projects." In that sense, the Red Hook experience is
typical. But the quality of life in the domain defies
generalization by virtue of its sheer scale: 263 developments
consisting of 170,000 apartments in the five boroughs, plus
more than 30,000 subsidized units in private, leased housing.
The city-wide public housing stock ranges in size from Long
Island City's 3,149 unit Queensbridge project to the 123-family
First Houses on the Lower East Side to a scattered collection of
'smaller, rehabjlitated multiple dwellings. The vast physical
plant even includes about 500 one and two-family homes,
repossessed by the Federal Housing Administration in years
past and now operated as public housing for "upwardly
mobile" families. Conventional projects range in age from 45
years to a few months; in style, from townhouse to high-rise; in
location, from convenient to remote.
And the program's physical dimensions are matched by an
awesome human tide. According to figures released by the
Authority early this year, the projects house over half a million
people, including 290,000 blacks, 138,000 Hispanics, 57,000
whites and 20,000 other residents. Nearly half the
made up of minors. 57,000 tenants are elderly. A third of all
resident families are headed by single parents. The Authority's
numbers put the amount of residents receiving public assis-
tance at about a quarter of all families, a figure that explodes
one very popular myth about the city's public housing popula-
The stated mission of that vast population's landlord is
"to develop, provide and maintain decent, safe and sanitary
housing for low income New Yorkers." NYCHA Chairman
Joseph Christian recently asserted that, despite a shrinking
operating budget, the Authority continues to fulfill its official
responsibility and meet a traditional need. "The private sector
has always been unable to construct affordable housing for low
income people," Christian said.
The New York Authority is widely reputed to be the most
successful public landlord in the nation (although cynics.mght
point out that the competition is none too tough) and, as Chris-
tian proudly put it,' 'We've never lost a uriit." In light of the
monumental abandonment problems which have plagued
many public housing authorities around country, the New
York projects' virtually non-existent vacancy rate amounts to a
significant accomplishment.
Yet the question of quality remains, and in a housing system
so large' and diverse, neither the daily. challenges faced by Bren-
da Cyrus and her neighbors nor the ringing phrases of the
Authority's public relations department can be expected to
answer it.
t 45, the Autb.ority is feeling the effects of an early old
age. Many older projects, like Red Hook, are among the
system's largest, and for years operating dollars have failed to
keep pace with the stock's aging process. Mark Rosenberg, an
employee at Fort Greene's 37-year-old Whitman Houses, at-
tributed many of his development's problems to that im-
balance. "A lot of it is money," he reflected, "As_the physical
plant gets older, you have to spend more money, not less. "
Yet the Authority's workforce trudges along. Between field
staff and outside contractors, 147,000 painting and plastering
jobs were reported complete last year. The system's Emergency
Service Division handled 233,000 jobs. Worker-days expended
on electrical, plumbing and other skilled assignments
numbered in the tens of thousaIlds.
At 1980's end, however, the Authority reported a city-wide
backlog of over 125,000 work tickets for project maintenance,
glass-work and skilled repair jobs. The Authority said last
year's average response time for maintenance complaints was
about five days. Long-time residents recall the days when a
complaint to management in the morning prompted a repair-
man's visit after lunch. A worker in one aging high-rise placed
the wait at his project for non-emergency repairs close to two
weeks, adding, "There's no question that during the last 20
years the level of services has deteriorated."
While the degree of declining services varies Wildly around
Brenda Cyrus, tenant leader in Red Hook Houses, Brooklyn.
the city, and despite a low turnover rate in the Authority's Civil
Service workforce, short-staffing ' is in evidence. Leslie
McHenry, who lives in the northeast Brom.'s 30-year-old
Parkside Houses, said staff vacancies at that still well-kept
complex last "an average of six months or better." An
employee at a South Bronx project cited the same average hir-
ing gap. "They say there's no layoffs," lie complained, "but
what's the difference? It's attrition." The hiring problem, the
worker added, transcends mere numbers: "We feeL it because
we're being asked to do more work with short staff. When a
caretaker finds this mountainous amount of work, he may just
say 'forget it.'" And, he concluded, for the 25 percent of
Authority workers living in public housing, as well as other
employees who act as "sponges" for tenant discontent,
deteriorating conditions have hardly boosted morale in recent
The major federal program available to ease such conditions
by modernizing 'older projects is known as the Authority
Transfer Program, and surprisingly, in some places, it has
spurred fervent tenant opposition. ATP is the mechanism
through which former state and city-subsidized developments
have been transferred to the federal pipeline in recent years
(about 90 percent' of New York's public housing is now either
federalized or in the transfer process). When a project enters
the transfer ' program, it is guaranteed modernization money
for specified fixtures, such as windows, garbage compactors,
floor tiles or mailboxes. Under federal guidelines that mandate
an "income mix," maximum allowable income standards are
lowered for all new tenants (the highest allowable income for
four-member families applying to federally-subsidized
developments is $16,510 yearly; in state and city-aided projects,.
it's $18,150). That "income mix" has been the focal point of
tenant opposition in some developments, and the controversy.'
is telling. .
espite the promise of modernization, many tenants at the
Bronx's 31-year-old Pelham Parkway Houses last year
unsuccessfully fought their transfer from city to
federal funding. According to a June, 1980 story in'the Bronx
News, which later editorialized on their behalf, residents in the
1,260 family project opposed the move in fear "that once the
federal government comes in, low income families and welfare
recipients will pour into the project." The story went on to
relate the Pelham tenants association president's remarks at a
meeting on the issue. "We have the right ,to be members of a
middle-income housing project," she was quoted. "For if not,
where do we go?"
The Pell}am Parkway families generally earn more than
other public housing tenants; their average reported income of
$10,600 last Year compared with a system-wide average of
$8,200. In 1980, the Pelham project had a percentage of
families receiving public assistance that was one-tenth the
overall welfare level in public housing. And the Authority'S
demographics show that, as of early this year, the complex's
unique character wasn't purely economic. Its proportion of
single parent families is reportedly a quarter of the city-wide
average. At 30 percent, its population over 62 is nearly thre
times the projects' overall level. And in a system that was
reportedly over 80 percent black and Hispanic,
tenancy was nearly 80 percent white.
15 CITY LIMITS/October 1981
Courtyard oj Borinquen Plaza in Bushwick. Brooklyn,
population of working-to-middle class whites may become
less and less of them, it seems, are biting at all.
learly, with so many New Yorkers waiting to get into
public housmg, a lot of families are convinced that life
will get better in the projects. In light of a tightening rental
market, price is a big attraction. Rents for most project
residents are capped by law at 25 percent of their income (a
new federal measure will raise that limit to 30 percent over the
next few years). The average monthly rent per public unit, with
utilities, is under $150; this for apartments that are generally
warmer and better maintained than the limited stock of com-
~ AcommOnl
invoked cause for the changing quality of life parably priced private housing.
in public housing-one that many Pelham residents And beyond the provision of housing, the system offers a
~ would undoubtedly confirm-is its changing population. And modicum of social services, though they have suffered'under
::::> during recent decades, the shift has in fact been radical. Since fiscal pressures in recent years. 150 community centers are
~ their inception, the projects have been swept by the ebb and operated in the projects, more than half funded by the
~ flow of New York's population as a whole. They have reflected Authority and the rest by outside sponsors and tenant associa-
!3 to the extreme a current of change in the city's poor and work- tions. The system has 62 Head Start programs as well, but their
~ ing class communities; drifting from a mostly white tenancy in enrollment of 8,700 is dwarfed by an overall pre-school aged
~ the 1930s and '40s to today's overwhelmingly black, and grow- population of more than' 47,000.
<: ing Hispanic, population. People entering the system generally do so for reasons that
"When we first moved in here the place was about five per- differ dramatically from those of past tenants. The families of
cent black and 93 percent white," recalled Leslie McHenry, ex-servicemen filled the projects during post-World War II
who has lived at Parkside Houses for nearly 25 years and now years in response to a severe housing shortage, and in that way
heads its tenants association: Parkside is currently composed their situation was similar to the current one. But for many of
of roughly equal groups of black, white and Hispanic those residents, life in the projects was transitory; as families
residents. grew in size and income, the p r i v a t ~ market beckoned. "They
The public housing system's racial concentration is as strik- .had more options," Phyllis Spiro said of earlier tenants in
ing as its shifts of population. While many formerly middle in- Brooklyn's projects. "People moved out when the Kings Bay
come projects like Parkside retain a fairly integrated character, Mitchell-Lama opened. A lot moved out to two-family homes
most public tenants today live in racially polarized develop- in Canarsie."
ments. And in the more diverse projects at least, the white Today, the public developments more often provide a refuge
population is aging. than a stepping-stone, as ' residents move from sub-standard
Like the system as a whole, Parkside last year had a white housing in surrounding neighborhoods. Emergency relocation
population that was over 50 percent elderly; its bustling senior from that housing into the projects is commonplace. "It's a
center, sponsored by the Human Resources Administration, step up for them," said Leslie McHenry of most new tenants.
fills daily with it sea of white faces. As for Parkside's non- McHenry believed the change in tenancy had encouraged a
elderly white residents, McHenry said, "the last white family decline in services because, she noted, "people moving in now
moved here four years ago." don't expect as much, don't know their right to get a habitable
An Authority spokesman explained that the system's general apartment."
racial polarization results largely from the fact that public Raising residents' expectations, many people in the system
DOUSing projects naturally reflect surrounding neighborhoods. agreed ,may be a key to the projects' future:particularly in light
Phyllis Spiro, who has lived at the 81 percent white Sheepshead of a national political drift away from such public enterprises.
Bay Houses since 1957, isn't convinced. "Whites are never of- As Don Cavellini, a housing assistant who works at Melrose
fered all-black houses," she asserted, adding: "People know Houses in the South Bronx, reflected: "The only way the pro-
the projects in their neighborhoods, yes, but nobody at Hous- jects can work ultimateiy, or housing can work, is if the tenants
ing will tell them about projects out of their neighborhoods." feel they control it and have a stake in it." Leslie McHenry
The Authority denies any suggestion that it has engaged in agrees, worrying that in the absence of strong tenant organi-
racial steering. Qualifled applicants are given three chances, ac- zation, "the projects will become a dumping ground." But, she
cording to the Authority, to accept apartments in different pro- quickly added, the burden of maintaining safe, decent housing
jects offered on the basis of available vacancies. Failing that, for a diverse population can't be placed squarely on residents'
they are said to be remanded to the end of the program's backs. "When you have friends downtown," she asserted in
150,OOO-plus waiting list. Said Authority Chairman Christian: reference to Authority headquarters at 250 Broadway, "the
"Everyone gets three bites at the same apple." In any case, the pressure is applied downtown. So no matter what anybody tells
steering question with regard to the system's once prevalent you, that's where the responsibility is."O
CITY LIMITSIOctober 1981 16
Public Housing: Making the Choice
By William A. Price
Construction of government-fmanced public housing is the heroic in concept and in energy expended but statistically
only way to provide permanent decent housing for low-income miniscule.
families in the United States. That distrust has not escaped Sternlieb's notice: "The fight
This conclusion can be from almost 50 years of against public housing, large scale public housing, was not a
history of public housing, l?ut to advocate public housing today fight led by the right; it was a fight led by the Left." It was not
is to run into comments such as that of urban analyst George always so. On the Lower East Side there is ai, 771 unit housing
Sternlieb who said recently: "The concept of housing the poor project named after Charney Vladeck, a socialist who was ap-
in new facilities is pure romance. There ain't enough money, pointed to the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA)
there isn't that order of priority. The way we've housed the when it was first set up in 1934. There were others.
poor typically is in terms of used housing." The trickle-down In this period of Reagan cut-backs, it may be "pure
theory. But with gentrification so widespread, there's more romante" to call for massive construction of goveniment
trickling up than trickling down. funded public housing. But it may be just as romantic to call
New York City's public housing alone has a population of for a halt to escalating war budgets as more and more people
600,002; almost equivalent to the entire population of 678,974 believe the threat to our well-being is external rather than inter-
in the city of San Francisco. \ naI. But for those who seek change in our society, whether we
It is hard, indeed, to find a housing "activist" working in the like it (;f not, we at least have an obligation to look seriously
depressed areas of the country's large urban centers who will for a housing program we would carry through if and when we
view public housing, "the projects,'" as anything but can. This is the time to make that evaluation-on the basis of
anathema. The thrust of the "movement" of the 1960s-and reality, not stere,otypes.
since-has been introspective, largely rniddle-dass, anti- Public housing's successes have been quiet and rarely em-
bureaucracy, anti-establishment and addicted to the concept of phasized in the media. Its failures have been flamboyant and
"small is beautiful" -or at least within grasp. Many claiming highly publicized. The record of local public housing
radical roots have into the neighborhoods to perform authorities has varied across the country. The NYCHA boasts
sweat equity and rehabilitation projects which are frequently that every single unit it ever constructed is still in use. But in
17 CITY LIMITS/October 1981
The 2,740 unit Pruitt-Igoe projecl in SI. Louis in the process of its 1976 demolition.
Massachusetts, the Boston Housing Authority with 4,500 of its
165,000 units empty, was placed in receivership in February,
1980, by a State Superior Court judge who cited "indescribable
condttions" in the BHA developments and "incalculable
human suffering."
And the image that many have of public housing is that of
the Pruitt-Igoe development in St. Louis and the four-color
magazine photographs showing the dynamiting of one of the
ll-story, block-long buildings on a '57-acre site that Architec-
tural Forum has praised for its design just a few years before
and predicted it would "save not only people, but money."
Leonard Downie Jr., in his book, "Mortgage on America,"
comments: "Clearly pu.blic housing in the United States has
been programmed to fail." It doesn't have to be.
Certainly the record is erratic. But tucked away in smaller
cities across the country like Elkhart, Indiana, are public hous-
ing developments that succeed and which are not easily distin-
guishable from condominium developments further out of
town. On Staten Island, there is one project for the elderly
with-yes, in New York City-single story bungalows not un-
similar to a Florida retirement community.
For a look at how public housing has developed-and at
some of its problems-check out this chronology:
1937: Passage 'of the landmark Housing Act of 1937 under
the New Deal administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt; though
much amended, still the basic law. Joseph Fried comments in
"Housing Crisis U.S.A." that: "In its early days, public hous-
ing was rarely thought of as 'black housing' originating as it
did during the Great Depression in which sO many of the poor
were working-class white families victimized by a collapsed
CITY LIMITS/October 1981
1969: "On February 10, 1969, to the great displeasure of
Mayor Richard Daley and other of the Chicago
Judge Richard Austin held that the Chicago Housing Author-
ity had intentionally chosen sites for fiunily public housing with
the purpose of maintaining residential separation of the races
in Chicago. The judgement order issued five months later
generally required future public housing in Chicago to take the
form of low-rise, scattered site projects white
neighborhoods." This case was Gautreaux vs. Chicago Hous-
ing Authority.
1971-1972: A months-long bitter dispute in Forest Hills,
Queens, focusses on the difficulty of achieving scatter site
housing in a predominantly white com,munity. Jerry Birbach,
president of the Forest Hills Residents' Association, com-
ments: "They're transplanting a malignant rumor to a healthy,
viable community." Jimmy Breslin comments: "These three
buildings we speak of were designed originaUy as an attack on
the the heart, of the great problem that the nation faces
and cannot handle: poverty and race." The, argument was
.resolved by cutting three 24-sfory towers down to twelve stories
each and by giving the community substantial control over ten-
ant selection. By 1981, the NYCHA claims the resultant proj-
ect is working "beautifully." But such scatter-site projects, .
universally successful when they can be built, are nonetheless
vigorously opposed by many white communities.
1973: President Richard M. Nixon declares a moratorium on
federal for housing and urban nmewal citing "high-
cost, no-result boondoggling by the federal government."
1974: Congress passes the Housing and Community
Development Act of 1974 which contains; in Section 8 of Arti-
cle 201, the most prominent current vehicle to provide low-
'income housing, and which, the NYCHA has commented,
18 .
"was based on the premise that the private sector of housing
would more naturally house low-income families without the
major social and political disruptions which were perceived to
be endemic in the conventional public housing program."
1980: The U.S. Comptroller General issues a "Report To
The Congress" that public housing serves "a more diverse
group" than Section 8 and: "For units of the same quality,
public housing is the least costly alternative over a 2O-year sub-
sidy life and it results in housing projects which are likely to
provide service for much longer than privately owned Section 8
units." This report, prepared by the General Accounting Of-
fice, calls for an "increase in the use of the public pro-
gram which is the least expensive method." It is also perma-
nent housing as contrasted with the 2O-year life of Section 8.
The GAO concedes "practical restJ;aints to greater use of
public housing such as local resistance, program image and
management problems in some large housing authorities."
This is, of course, a selective history dealing with a subject at
once complex and simplistic. The complexity is in the variety of
. funding apparatuses and in analysing the indirect (tax expen-
ditures, for instance, which are various forms of tax write-offs
and tax abatements) vs. the direct costs which are the Ipore ob-
o vious flow of tax dollars, as well as any analysis of populations
served, and so on. The simplicity is in tbe fact that throughout
this history is the maneuvering around what Breslin calls, "the
center, the heart, of the great problem that the nation faces and
cannot handle: poverty and race."
As of 1980 we have a new debate in the era of Reaganomics.
Most Washington observers agree that Section 8 "is dead." In
the few years of its existence, it has provided windfalls for
developers and banks (through mortgage interest rates). But, in
a time of officially proclaimed austerity, it has built
mitments of $128 billion of future expenditures in existing con-
tract agreements for existing programs. ,There will be Hell to
pay in the Senate!
Over a long period of years, there is no doubt that the
Gautreaux decision of 1969 is to the housing world what
Brown vs. Board of Education of 1954 which required the
desegregation of public schools has been to the world of educa-
tion. After all, if there had been no housing segregation, there
would have been no school segregation. 0
The cost of Section 8 over a period of years is immense,
much higher, as the GAO notes, than public housing. This is
the price paid for the entry of the private sector into the low-
income housing market. And with the reluctance of communi-
ties to accept "scatter-site" housing, this is the price, in the
long run, of racism.
So we have come full circle. If Section 8 dies-or is
killed-because of its extravagance, we are left with the one
prograni which over the years, for better or for worse, has
shown the capability of providing substantial amounts of hoUs-
ing for low-income families. This program is publically;-
fmanced public housing.
The Gautreaux decision of 1969 set the framework for a
confrontation which runs deep in this country's basic dilemma,
that between integration and separatism. When HUD pro-
posed a modest program to float Section 8 certificates away
from a local administering authority so that they could be used
to promote "social mobility" and "spatial deconcentration"
on a regional level, separatist Black organizations opposed the
proposition as one that would disperse the Black community
and thereby destroy its political base in the ghetto.
The argument is furious. Richard Cloward and Frances Fox
Piven say: "The Achilles heel of housing programs has been
precisely our insistence that better housing for the Black poor
be achieved by residential desegregation. This ideal glosses over
the importance of the ethnic community as a staging area for
groups to build the communal solidarity and power necessary
to compel eventual access to the mainstream of urban life." In
response, Whitney Young Jr., the late executive director of the
National Urban League.called this "self-imposed apartheid." .
There are many other parts of the puzzle. One of these is the
subtle shift over many years from the concept of public hous-
ing as the fulfillment of society's responsibility to workers who
could not afford rents in the private sector to the concept of
public housing as a way of "warehousing" the poor who are
increasingly neither .wanted nor needed in the work force con-
sidering the changes in that work force which favored young,
white, college-trained professionals. In this case, the housing
issue is joined to the struggle to provide jobs and education in a
society whose economic system is turning relentlessly to one of
"hi-sci" technology dominated multi-national corpora-
tions. .
The higher the costs of Section g have meant that for the
available money, fewer units of low income housing could be
provided. At the same time the program has provided profits
for developers and lending institutions that would not other-
wise be iIi the low-income housing business. Racism-a
prevailing factor in the chronology listed above-has fulfilled
its historic function. It has deprived the many for the profit of
the few. .
The simplest economics should inform us that when low-rent
housing is in short supply, pressure is created to force all other
rents up, and mechanisms will be found to by-pass even the
strongest rent-controllaws. So the fight for rent control should
be joined with the fight for low-rent housing although fre-
quently it is not.
If the image of public housing held by many is one of dull,
warehouse-like monotony, the image of its administrators is
also that of 'entrenched and stodgy bureaucrats.
It might surprise some, therefore, to see some of the
dramatic innovations in public housing design. And to fmd this
comment buried in a lengthy New York City Housing Authori-
ty analysis of its own "Legislative and Fiscal
the largely improvisatory days of the construction of First
Houses to today's intricate maze of complex legislation, there
has transpired a social movement which this City and this na-
tion ignores at its peril."
And from NYCHA Chairman Joseph J. Christian, the
"ultimate, bureaucrat" who has said that' the success of the
New York City Housing Authority can be attributed in large
measure to the fact that 900/0 of its employees are in civil ser-
vice. comes this: . "We are now in a' position to incorporate all
we have learned, from our successes and from our failures, in-
to the design of housing and communities which will set new
standards ... and let us add to this the hard experience of the
Maybe we should listen! 0
CITY LlMITSlOctober 1981
On the Lower East Side
Lofts for Whose Living? By Chuck DeLaney
C... you picture lht'
South Bronx a. aD arttsts'
cofony, a sort 01 SoHo
DOrthf You can't. Well, the
Kecb .... uked
Lot'1Ie. the executive ell-
IW!tGr of the Sou&h Broru
Bfl4evelopment to
UIInk about convertlnc
abandoned IChoois and okl
fu&orlM Into apartmentA
aacl studloa for anlats.
'"There Is no more crea-
tive community .. far ..
revttaUzinc a nelpbor-
hood tbat'. down and out,"
.ad &he .ay . "Look
what tMy"ve done 1ft SoBo
aDd bow tMy've ehanpd
CUD&oa &ad 80IIIe
pen. 01 the EUt VWap.
The area 8'Ound
thNi and Ie uplltt;ed.
o *


East 8th Street buildings, site of city's loft-steading proposal. Banner, by local residents, was removed by officials before tour for developers.
Sign says: Esta Tierra Es Nuestro (This Land is Ours).
ew York City loft-dwelling artists
expected some help from the Koch
administration this year. Having listened
to some t0l;lgh-sounding talk from the
Mayor, many eagerly awaited the
Mayor's imminent attack on the land-
lords' loft scam and his support for resi-
dential rights legislation. The rights bill,
however, was scuttled and instead, artists
zot an offer to resettle the Lower East
Side by converting abandoned, city-
owned tenements into loft co-ops. So
far, the initial response to the develop-
ment end of the Mayor's comprehensive
Lofts Policy has been limited and both
artists and Lower East Side residents re-
gard the development with concern.
In early August, New York's Depart-
ment of Housing Preservation and
advertised a request for
proposals for "Artists Homeownership
Sites," accompanied by a press release
containing the Mayor's pithy sUJl1Illary
CITY LIMITS/October 1981
of the. artists' painful career as pilotfish.
Site One, eleven buildings on East Eighth
Street between-Avenues B and ' C, and
Site Two, six buildings on Forsyth Street
between Rivington and Stanton, could
provide up to 140 loft-type units. While
local community groups had oeen
briefed that such a plan might be forth-
coming, the sites were not general knowl-
edge until the early August announce-
ment. Proposals were due six weeks
later, one week after Labor Day.
"It is the goal of this 'program to pro-
vide live-work [sic) housing for artists of
moderate reads page 1 of the
proposal, which estimates that finished
units should sell for $40,000 to $50,000.
While the proposal noted that developers
could use federal Section 235 mortgage
interest subsidies and other available
government assistance, it stressed that
there was interest in proposals using
, other means of financing. Development
must feature criteria for proving
the purchaser of the rehabilitated co-op
or condo unit is an artist and the design
I'lans must be for open housing of a
minimum of 1500 feet per uQit.
On the September 15 deadline date, 20
proposals were submitted to Assistant
Housing Commissioner Janet Langsam,
who is in charge of the project. She ex-
pressed pleasure with the proposals,
describing them as "all rery profession-
ally done, containing a \ot of work and
thought. " Proposals wet;e evenly divided
between submitte by developers
and those from groups f artists. Some
proposals were for two or three
buildings, while developers' proposals
tended to address an entire site. At least
one proposal was submitted to develop
both sites. A decision is expected "cer-
tainly by the -end of the year, if not
sooner," according to Lrngsam.
, One proposal came a group of
artists, all but one of whom already live
in lofts. One member of that group now
lives in a loft building where tenants and
landlord are already tied up in court and
services have been sporadically withheld
in the past year. His wife is a composer,
and he had a show of his paintings in
SoHo last year. He would only talk
anonymously. Having spent a solid
month filling out the proposal, he
observed, "If they were going to ask ar-
tists to submit proposals, the forms
should have been much clearer. A lot of
the material we had to submit was
wasted energy-the core of the proposal
was about five pages. There were a hun-
. dred pages of information that might
concern developers with a big plan, but
not us."
This group had known each other be-
fore the proposal request came out, and
had attended City auctions with an eye
toward buying something. I "If the
buildings go to artists," reasons my
friend, "I think the idea has a chance of
at least benefitting artists. My whole
reason for doing this is that now is no
time for renting loft sp,ace in Manhattan.
They're kidding themselves if they give
the buildings to a developer. They're
hulks, in terrible condition." He figures
his group, including several skilled
carpenters tha,t can do most finishing
work, can just complete the project
within the city's proposed price range.
"Even then, we won't be able to do it
without some kind of loan," he ob-
The question of whether financing will
be available for these projects, and many
of the questions regarding the alleged
special housing needs of artists, will enter
into an evaluation of this projett after
HPD announces the results of the RFP.
There are some general questions
raised by the announcement of the "ar-
tists homeownership" concept. Natural-
ly these focus on the neighborhood
selected for the program. Gentrification,
already rampant in the East Village, has
put the other areas of the Lower East
Side on alert. During visits to the Eighth
Street site arranged by HPD for the peo-
ple interested in the proposal, local
residents expressed their concern directly
to HPD ' officials and interested
developers. Signs and banners which had
decorated the exteriors of some of the
buildings were quickly removed, but the
residents visited the workshops that were
run at the housing department's 100
Gold Street offices to help potential ap-
plicants master the form. In addition to
hearing more about the neighborhood
from residents, applicants were also ad-
dressed spontaneously by loft activist
Mario Pikus, a defendant in the land-
mark loft case, Lipkis v. Pikus. "I told
the artists to stay put in the neighb9r-
hoods where they are," explained Pikus,
"not to move into somebody else's
neighborhood to develop places for the
gentry to park their Mercedes."
Some applicants noted that the infor-
mation sessions were lacking in certain :
basics as well. In some buildings in the
sites there are no staircases, so planning
had to proceed from "typical" floor
plans and without a chance to inspect the
basement or roof of a building. Artists
who submitted proposals felt that if
there had been a longer time between an-
nouncement of the program and the
deadline more groups of artists could
have submitted proposals. Over 250
forms were purchased from HPD after
the announcement of the program, and
only twenty proposals came in.
local community," she explained. Fried-
lander worked with groups in the For-
syth Street area to gain some Housing
Authority funds for low-income and
senior citizen housing after the area
residents expressed concern about the,ar-
tists' project. .
Along with local Friedland-
er rejects any justification of the project
based on economic integration: "That's
no longer needed here, it's taken place,
we need to anchor low-income residents. "
Concerns have also been expressed by
the local Community Board and other
groups. The press has been receptive to
the neighborhood's side of the story, and
a sidebar developed
when Adam Purple, the purple-clad
bicycling gardener familiar to many New
Yorkers turned out to be a tenant in the
Forsyth Street site,- where he also main-
tains his garden.

There seems no end to the ideas real
estate can develop for the enterprising
artist. New York Magazine reported this
summer that the Catskills are the next
hot area for displaced New York artists,
and o!le landlord is advertising lofts in
Crown Heights/ at $375 a month that are
tenement floors. with the walls ripped
out. He'll supply the materials, the artist
supplies the work, the leases are short
Concern of neighborhood residents
also generated a proposal. "There are
local artists, although they don't all have
slides of their work," explains Harriet
Cohen, a neighborhood resident and
local housing activist who worked with
other residents to prepare a proposal that
was submitted by four local groups-the
Coalition for Housing Development,
Land, Pueblo Nuevo and the Joint Plan-
ning Council. The proposal, titled "How.
the Other Half Could Live" would pro-
vide 107 units, principally two and three
bedroom apartments, for low income
neighborhood residents on Site One. A
: and there's no rent control.
, portion of the proposal is devoted to
refuting the general rehab economics ad-
vanced by the City, and the proposal is
backed with statistics and a profile of the '
neighborhood. Financing for this project
should come, according to the pro-
posers, via a combination of City partici-
pation loans, tenants' sweat equity, and
federal community developnient Illoney.
"Expensive artists' housing is not
what this neighborhood needs," com-
mented City Councilmember Miriam
FJ,iedlander, who represents the area. "I
love artists housing, but it must be at a,
level the artists can afford and which
also addresses the housing needs of the
The artists 'looking at buildings in
Loisaida do so with tears in their eyes.
The developers have long had dollars in
theirs. Whether this "Artists Homeown-
ership Program" will increase the rate at
which essential character and appearance
of Loisai da disappears is not clear.
"I wouldn't want me moving into my
.' neighborhood," noted one loft tenant,
"but I'm already here. Believe me, all
, you residents of low and middle-income
neighborhoods that fear the onslaught of
artists-we'd rather stay where we are.
In fact, if the City had any decency
about it they would settle the loft mess .
and let us stay put. Importing us to the
East Village? It's like releasing sterile
medflies in an orchard-I don't think
we're supposed to reproduce." 0
Chuck DeLaney is a member of Lower
Manhattan Loft Tenants, an organizing
and lobbying group for loft dwellers.
An Anti-Arson Tool for
By Harriet Cohen
There is a vast arsenal of weapons employed against poor
mainly minority neighborhoods. Some, like the bulldozers of
urban renewal have generally been retired. Others get replaced
or reconditioned. A few, however, have become time-honored
tools. Arson is one of these.
Never a priority on government or private agendas for
elimination, arson in New York City last year
alone, acc.ording to Fire Department figures, were numbered at
9,234. Th'ose flames consumed 50 lives, caused $100 million in
property damage, absorbed over $80 million of the municipal
budget, and layed waste to thousands of housing units.
The major push for preventing arson and punishing those
responsible has come from organizations in the affected com-
munities themselves. Now, in New York City, a new city-wide
resource organization has been launched to aid those
grassroots efforts.
The Neighborhood Anti-Arson Center (NAC) was created
to support ongoing prevention activities as well as to help
groups establish "early warning systems", initiate arson
awareness campaigns and advocate for changes in government,
banking and insurance industry practices that impede arsOl].
The Center's activities focus on arson-for-profit, the chief
cause of the spiralling arson fires in New York and other cities.
Fires intentionally set to collect inflated insurance claims, stem
financial loss or to clear buildings for rehabilitation or demoli-
tion have escalated as neighborhood change has accelerated.
But unlike fires set as revenge, vandalism or other personal
reasons, economically-motivated fires can be controlled by
reducing the financial incentives .and increasing the risks of
detection. So .far, however, the actors in the most strategic
positions to do this have not met the challenge. Insurance com-
panies have been slow to change corporate practices that in-
advertently promote arson-for-profit. Public safety agencies
have failed to develop arrest and conviction rates that would
serve as deterrents.
In respOnse, neighborhood groups have initiated their own
solutions. In Boston, for example, the Symphony Road Tenant
Organizing Project developed a direct action and prediction
approach that led to the conviction of a city-wide arson ring of
landlords, developers, lawyers and police and fire officials.
The Boston model has been refmed into an arson "early
warning system" based on recognizing the cycle of deteriora-
tion in buildings before they are burned. Building history can
tell much of the tale: previous fires, numerous title transfers,
large tax arrears, multiple code violations and a high vacancy
rate all indicate an arson-ripe building. By spotting these signs
early, buildings can be matched with appropriate in-
tervention and prevention strategies.
CITY LIMITS/October 1981
The Boston early warning system is now being introduced in
New York Citj, allowing arson-prone neighborhoods to focus
resources on high-risk buildings. The system I also serves as a
valuable tool for understanding a neighborhood' s housing
stock and local real estate practices.
The Neighborhood Anti-Arson Center has
a steering com-
mittee of orgaruzations and deeply involved in prevention ef-
forts: People's Firehouse, Flatbush Corporation,
Crown Heights Progress Council and the Northwest Bronx
Community and Clergy Coalition. The Center is assisting these
groups in developing early warning programs as well as pro-
viding a forum for the,exchange of information and resources.
The Center will expand to provide technical assistance to other
groups that want to integrate an anti-arson perspective into
their ongoing neighborhood preservation wort Located at the
offices of the AssociatiQn of Housing
J)evelopers at 424 West 33rd Street in the Center
can be reached at 239-9414 for more inform,tion. D
Harriet Cohen is the director of the New York Neighborhood
Anti-Arson Center. I
... a quarterly iournal for housing activists
organizers. The pages of SHEL TERFORCE
news and analysis that can' l be found in any
, I
Rent Control, Condomania,
Displacement. Government
Programs, Housing Court...
Buil(ling a Tenant Union,
Negotiating with
Winning Rent contrOI'J:llin
a Rent Strike ...
News and Analysis of h using
struggles around the_ untry
and abroad
Book Reviews , From the
Grassroots, Facts and Figures.
Legal Developments, Films,
Jobs ...
SUBSCRIPTION: $8.00 for 6 issues SAMPLE dOpy: $1.50
name ________________
address ______________________________ _
city state zip __ _
SHELTERFORCE. 380 Molin SI., East Orange, No) . 07018
To the Editor:
Loan Program has gr()wn into a major moderate income hous-
ing producer iI1 New York City.
Secondly, Citibank has taken the lead in working with the
Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and
the city to develop a program for the use of FHA 223F mort-
I read with interest the article "Reinvestment: Enter the gage insurance which will enable a borrower of rponies for
Commercial Banks" in the June-July issue of City Limits. As multifamily housing rehab to access long-term mortgages
Citibank's representative at the meeting with the Coalition ' money at a fIxed rate of interest of 711z percent. The Govern-
Against Redlining, sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank and ment National Mortage Association, which is making these
the Comptroller of the Currency, described by Tim Ledwith in funds available, has committed $15 million to New York City,
the article, I can attest to the accuracy of what he wrote. partly due to the lobbying efforts of Citibank. At the present
However, I was disappointed at what he didn't write about the time Citibank has two loans under review by FHA' for the
meeting, because he leaves the impression that the commercial mortgage ' insurance, and once FHA has approved the in-
banks are doing nothing. surance, we will move forward with GNMA. .
On the contrary, at the meeting I personally spoke on the af- . _ These are only two examples of Citibank's 'Continuing effort
firmative efforts Citibank is undertaking to address the issue of to fInd to a major problem in metropolitan New
,rehabilitating New York's multifamily housing. c,iticorp Com- Is the, solution drawn out and mired in bureaucratic
munity Development has assisted in the renovation or con- hurdles? Yes. Are people of good will doing enough? Prqbably
struction jof 21,000 units of housing through $409 million in not. Mr. Ledwith is correct-high interest rates, tenants' in-
construction loans, seed money and long-term mortgages from ability to absorb higher rents and deferred maintenance on
1971 through 1980. pousing are all serious hurdles. But, for him to ignore
Of equal importance is the fact that staff members of dtibank's comments at the Coalition meeting does not give
Citicorp Community Development and Citibank's Flatbush recognition and support to those people within the banking
Community Banking Pilot made a major time commitment in system who are seeking to find viable solution,s.
working with the Department of Housing and
Development to streamline the for the Participation
Loan Program so that the program was more workable for
banks, owners and the city itself. As a result, the Participation
Janet W. Thompson
Citibank Urban Services/Community Affairs
Assistant Vice President
Section 8 Housing Workshop
Instructor: Carol,Lamberg, Associate Direc-
tor, Settlement Housing Fund
An analysis of Section 8 of the Housing
and Community Development Act of 1974,
as amended, with emphasis on the perspec-
tive of the new administration. Topics in-
clude: legislation and regulations issued by
HUD; financing and development of new
construction and substantial rehabilitation;
the moderate rehabilitation and existing
housing programs; rent up and manage-
ment. Among the speakers: Linda Field,
housing consul1ant; Lee Goodwin, member
of the Presidential Commission on Housing;
Kathy Meyerson, director, Moderate Reha-
bilitation Program; Edward Davis, Assistant
Commissioner, NYS Division of Community
Renewal; other financing experts and pub-
lic officials.
Course #514. One-day. Friday, November 6,
9:30 am-4:30 pm. $55.
Housing Finance
Instructor: Frances Levenson, Vice presi-
dent for Urban Housing. New York Bank
for Savings '
An overview of the difficulties in meeting
the housing needs of low and moderate
income families in New York City. Experts
from banking, government, and community
organizations discuss innovative financing
techniques, including new mortgage de-
vices; the use of government subsidies,
funds and guarantees; the role of pension
funds, tax shelter syndications, tax exempt
bonds and secondary mortgage markets.
Course #513. 6 Tuesdays, 5:50-7:35 pm.
Begins November 24. $80.
66W 12S1 N.Y 10011 741-5690
CITY LIMITS/October 1981
Homesteading Buildings Open
The successful completion of four tenant-managed and
rehabilitated Manhattan Valley buildings.and their sale as low
income cooperatives could point the way towards an expanded
program that is a modified version of sweat equity. Last month
the four buildings. located at 985, 987, 989 and 993 Anister-
dam Avenue and containing 36 apartments, were purchased by
their residents for $250 per unit after receiviI1g approximately
$5,000 per apartment from the city for basic systems repair.
The program under which the rehabilitation of the aban-
doned buildings was carried out, the Demonstration
Homesteading Program, currently has 8 other buildings slated
to receive funds. Some of them are buildings which were in the
city's sweat equity which called for a much larger city
contribution for rehabilitation. The shift to the Demonstration
program came after funds ' were eliminated for sweat equity.
According to program director Nancy Travers beyond those
buildings already selected, available funds will be targeted for
buildings in need of only moderate rehabilitation. The Amster-
dam Avenue buildings received, in addition to $180,000 from
the city for new heating equipment, plumbing, doors, windows
and wiring, $4,000 for materials from each homesteader. They
also received $15,600 from the Consumer-Farmer Foundation,
directed by Meyer Parodneck and Martin Young and extensive
technical assistance from the Urban Homesteading Assistance
Board. d
IWe Can Save You Moneyu
Minority Owned
Distributor of
Thermal Break
Alum DHA2.5
H P90 Windows.
Also storm win-
, dows and doors.
Conference Planned
Lerner, VVaIker,
1960 Broadway I
In November, on Friday the 13th,
students from the City University of New
York and members of the NYC Mobili-
zation Against Displacement will co-
sponsor an all day conference on the
unlucky plight of low and moderate in-
come renters in gentrifying neighbor-
hoods-as well as possible ways to keep
ten,anrg in their homes. The conference
will be held from 10 AM to late after-
noon in the CUNY Graduate Center
Auditorium at 33 West 42nd Street in
Manhattan. r
Part of the day's ' program will be
devoted to a presentation of several case
studies of displacement in its different
forms, including move-outs caused by
co-op conversions, the status of Single
Room Occupancy tenants and residents
in city-owned buildings, and others. For
further information on the event, call
Ray Rodriguez at the Pratt Institute
Center at (212) 636-3486. Of
CITY LIMITS/October 1981
New York, New' York 10023
Attorneys at Law (212) $73-7900
Tenant Representation I
Here's How
Saves You
Dollars I
'. Customized Energy Audits
Recommendations With Under 3 Ye1r Paybacks
General Contracting For Retrofit
Heat Distribution Balancing
Energy Management Design
-and Installation I'
' C 4 East 34th Street
I dust
' I New York, NY 10016
n nes nc 212689-4499
Complete Energy Efficiency For Buildings
Tax Strike in the Bronx
A Bronx apartment building seized by the city for back
taxes, then sold to tenants as a low income cooperative, is go-
ing back into tax arrears, this time as a political protest.
The "tax strike" by the tenants who are now cooperative
owners of the 12-unit building at 2674 Valentine Avenue in the
Bedford Park section of the Bronx, is being waged to
dramatize the need for further city assistance to tenants trying
t,o manage their own buildings. In a letter to Mayor Koch the
tenants said they were withholding payment of their property
taxes in order to "highlight the situation." The letter urged the
Mayor to provide those city-owned buildings being managed
by tenants under the Interim Lease program a five year tax
abatement. Noting that the city, through its 1-51 program, has
recognizeti the incentive that tax abatements give to owners to
upgrade their property, the cooperative said "the same com-
mitment should be given to tenants" as to landlords and
Calling their own building's journey through abandonment
and tax seizure to cooperative status a "success story" because
of $25,000 in federal Community Development funds used to
repair its basic systems, the tenants said most other liluildings
were not as fortunate.
"In stark contrast;" the letter said, " ... is the reality of the
bulk of the TIL [Tenant Interim Lease] buildings. In the past ,
year an average of only $500 per dwelling t:mit has been applied
to renovation work in the TIL buildings. Because of this most
of the buildings that are approaching sale are in a far more
fragile economic condition than our own."
NEW YORK, N.Y. 10016
Specializing in
Group Liability, Health
Insurance Programs and
Fidelity Bonds
Contact: Paul Sourifman
(212) 684-4770
Tax relief is one of several measures which have been rep-
eatedly urged by tenants and community organizations in order
to help assure the long-term economic yiability of city-owned
buildings that are being sold to tenant groups. Other measures
called for include access t9 low interest loan funds, shortening
the approval time for federal Section 8 rent subsidies, and a
firm policy of sales to tenants at $250 per apartment.
The tax demand, however, conflicts with a major ,aspect of '
the city's policy regarding the buildings: placing them back on
the tax rolls. Taxes at 2674 Valentine Avenue are approximate-
ly $1,700 per year and tena8ts there said they expected to meet
with city housing officials to discuss their position. Thus far,
approximately 1,800 apartments have been sold to tenants and
community groups and the housing department has consistent-
ly pressured groups to purchase their buildings more rapidly.
The Valentine Avenue tenants were one of the first five groups
to purchase their building from the city last year.D T.R.
"Transformed Houses"
Transformed Houses, an exhibition of color photographs
and drawings of popular domestic architecture will be on
display at Parsons School of Design Exhibition Center, 2 West
13th Street, in Manhattan from October 1 to October 24. The
exhibit, photographed by Camilo 1. Vergara, documents the
p r o c e ~ s e s through which single-family, standardized houses
undergo changes in form. The Center is open 9 AM to 9 PM,
Monday through Friday: 9 AM to 6 PM on Saturday. D
(212) 8759700
550 Hamilton Ave., Brooklyn
CITY LIMITS/October 1981
Outreach to, and identification of housing resources to
disabled, handicapped consumers. Minimum B.A.
Call: Sara Kolodny (212) 265-6530
Settlement HOUfing Fund
New York. N.Y. 10019
Salary 16K
Description: Financial management. Light con-,
struction building site monitpring and coordination.
Administrative assistant skills.
Send resume to:
Northern Manhattan Improvement
601 West 18lSt .
New York, NY 10033
Contact: Jack Woolams
Chemical Bank's
Community Organization Cqordinator
-Organize tenant and block associations f
-Supervise work of full time & student
-Initiate and/or support various communitY self-help ,
projects in areas such as safety, parks
_ Provide workshops and conferences for Iqcal tenants,
landlords, and merchants on issues of mutual concern
- Assist in the development of a neighborhood promo-
tiona I campaign
BA, MSW preferred. Fluen,t or bilingual in Spanisb.
Organizing experience; preferably in the ar as of hous-
if')g or self-help. Diplomacy; energy and l
Salary up to $16,000, depending on experi$nce. Excel-
lent benefits. Flexible time, the job can be part time
three days a week or full time until ,FebruafY.
Send Resume To Beth Rosenthal I
Executive Director
Washington Heights-Inwood Coalifion
21 Bennett Avenue #3
New York, NY 10033 . I
Ur"bari Finance Representatives:
caring as you ca!e
your most Important clIents.
, . I
Services for small businesses
and housing concerns:
- SBA Certified Lender
, - Construction Financing for Low
and Moderate Income Housing
CITY LIMITS/October 1981
Chemical Bank's
Urban Finance Department
140 Broadway
New York. N.Y. 10015

Member FDIC
Work Shop
Field Coordinator: The Urban Homesteading Assistance Board is
seeking a ful l-t ime person, Spanish-speaking required, to work as a
field coordinator with the Tenant Interim Lease Program. Maj or
responsibili ty is to provide direct on-si te management t raining to ten-
ant associati ons seeking to manage their own bui ldings. Previous
housing experience required. Salary $13,000. Please submit resume
to: UHAB, 1047 Amsterdam Ave., New York, N.Y. 10025.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR-Boerum Hill area Community group.
Requirements: community organizi ng, housing experie-nce, previous
work with tenants, write proposals. Bi lingual Spanish/English. Salary
SECRETARY-Part time, $4,000_ Good typing_
COMMUNITY ORGANIZER-Tenant, housing organizing experience
Full time. $10,000.
Send resumes to: Accion Latina, 151 Bond St., Brooklyn, NY
11217. Contact: J . Ambia 383-5942, R. Rivera 643-1811 .
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR-Background in housing, community/pro-
gram development and fundraising. 3 years minimum experience at
supervisory and managerial level. College graduate preferred. Salary:
$25,000 (neg.). Send resume to: Board Search Comm. c/o Harry
DeRienzo, 936 Kelly St., Bronx, NY 10459.
SECRETARY-$11,000 per year. Typing; correspondence; filing;
assist. with bkkpg; perform other secretarial tasks as required. Must
be acc. w/figures & typing and attentive to details. High Schl diploma
or equiv. 1 yr. FT secty exp; 40 wpm. Will consider other satisfactory
combinations of education, ski lls and expo Preference to Cl inton resi-
dent. Send resumes to: CHDC, 664 Tenth Ave., NYC 10036. Attn:
Sondra Thomas.
Urban Housing Specialist-$18K
Coordinate program to identify buildings for rehabilita-
tion for co-op ownership and/or resident home owner-
ship for low and mid-income Clinton residents.
Research and prepare financial and tenant data, act as
liaison to government and private lending institutions;
prepare and negotiate loan applications_
Qualifications: SA, one year paid experience in housing,
community organizing, urban development, urban plan-
ning or H.S. diploma or equivalent plus 5 years full time
experience as described; excellent writing skills; enjoy
working with community people. Clinton resident pre-
Send resumes to:
644 Tenth Ave.
NYC 10036
Attn: Sondra Thomas
To: The Editors, CITY LIMITS
424 West 33rd Street, New York, New York 10001
Please enter my subscription to CITY LIMITS.
Individuals and community-based organizations:
o One year $9 (ten issues) 0 Two years $15 (twenty issues)
Private businesses, foundations, firms, banks, government agencies, officials and city wide
o One year $25 0 Two years $40 Corporate sustainers 0 '$50 0 $75 0 $100
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Enclose check or money order for $ ___ , payable to ANHD / CITY LIMITS
inquire about special rates for low income
Where are New York City's neighborhoods going?
aty Limits tells you.
Yet, there Is a growing network of
.. - -. . - -... _-- groups and individuals who are tack-
Our neighborhoods are chang-
ing . .. fast.
The pressures are as complex as
they are immense. Owner abandon-
ment has emptied over 200.000 apart-
ments throughout New York City since
1970. Yast city tracts remain rubble-
strewn and vacant . Thousands of
buildings stand empty and decaying.
Some neighborhoods. however . are
experiencing a revitalization so rapid
and intense that long-time residents
are faced with displacement . Rents
are skyrocketing. Co-op and
condominium conversions claimed
16.000 rental units in 1980 alone.
ling the dilemmas facing our com-
munities. They are turning lenders'
" redlines" into green ones. aban-
doned housing into tenant-managed
buildings and rubbish heaps into
They are also fighting for the right
of low income tenants to remain in
their homes as real estate values
escalate. and insisting that there is
another side to neighborhood housing
besides speculators' profits.
Join the thousantls of informed peo-
ple who read and rely on CITY LIMITS.
" .. . heartfelt thqnks to CITY LIMITS
for providing relevant and important
reporting of events not easily
obtainable from any other source. "
and Liz: Sostre,
Tenant Organiz:ers
" . . . does for what New
York magazine do s for the trendy
elite ... provides s rvice. facts . ideas.
information ... a consumer guide for
the conscience. " 1
Jack Ne1ield, Village Voice
" .. . essential reading for me as a
' citizen and as a t Jacher-researcher. "
Herbert J. Gans,
Columbia University
" . .. the bible f dr anyone concerned
about housing, hdusing budgets,
policy, legislation and the plight of
tenants in New York City."
Ruth Messinger,
CIty Council Member
" .. . an invaluaole tool and forum in
New York City's struggle to preserve
decent housing ... an important link
between governr;rrent and organized
community people."
Carol Bellamy, Council President
CITY LIMITS the magazine that
for six years has /provided news and
analysis of what is happening to our
communities and/ why.
The sale of city-owned buildings: to
tenants or landlords? .. The uphill
struggle of the National Consumer
Co-op bank . . . Saving through fuel -
buying plans . .. Evicting the landlord
... Is there fair housing in New York
City? . . The battle for open space.
These are just a few of the stories
CITY LIMITS covered in the past year .
In the coming mbnths we will con-
tinue to look at these and many other
issues. We hope you'll join us.