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rooklyn's Borough Park trumpets its successes to whomever will listen. While the
Brownstone Belt gets the publicity, Borough Park is where Brooklyn's hottest real estate action is
to be found. A community that suffered a massive post-war exodus of Jewish families, and again in the
'60s and '7Os as many Italians beat a similar suburban retreat, Borough Park last year boasted the most
housing starts in the city. While Brooklyn lost population over the last decade, Borough Park with an
increasing population of Hassidic Jews, has been a substantial gainer.
Government funds have given that growth a major boost. Last summer, Housing and Urban Develop-
ment Secretary Samuel R. Pierce made a rare community appearance at the annual dinner of Borough
Park's leading neighborhood group, the Southern Brooklyn Community Organization. SBCO, and its
parent, Agudath Israel of America, had "demonstrated for all the world the power of partnership," said
guest of honor Pierce who left behind a surprise gift of $5.5 million for new senior citizen housing.
"Right on Borough Park!" cheered the Daily News last January on the occasion of another federal
grant to the community.
Indeed this community where new brick three-family homes line the side streets, where a network
of over 40 yeshivas swell to hold more than 20,000 students, and where major new temples and institu-
tions are under construction, has much to cheer about.
But the gusto with which the bustling community's boosters proclaim its merits suddenly vanishes
at the mention of the price its older and low income residents have paid to make way for this growth.
That's the other part of the recent history of this highly religious and insular community, the details of
which are spoken of little within the community, and outside of it never. But the flip side of Borough
Continued on Page 20
iiIiiIL __________________ -----------)[l
City Views
A Question of Tax Equity ................... 3
The Price of Slower Tax Foreclosures ......... 5
The City's Arson Cover Story . . .............. 7
Short Term Notes
State Aid for Homeless Housing .. . ...... . ... 9
Economic Pick-up Misses the Homeless ...... 10
Seek Damages From SRO Converter ..... . ... 11
New Building Tenants Face Decontrol .... .. .. 12
Loftlords Lose Legal Point ............ . .... 13
North Brooklyn Holds Onto Its Red Caps ..... 14
Hoboken's Rehab Loophole ........... .. ... 15

1>0 You C.l"Y OFFlC.'AL7
CITY LIMITS/January 1984 2
Legislation: Washington
Congress Eyes Tax Subsidy Changes .. .. . . .. 17
Sondra Thomas: A West Side
Neighborhood Advocate .... ... ... ......... ... 19
BORO PARK'S UNTOLD STORY .. .. ..... . . .... . 20
While Brooklyn's Borough Park boasts of growth and success,
low income minority and older residents have paid a high price
in harassment and displacement.
Letters . ... . .... .. .................. . ......... 29
Resources/Events . . .......... .. .. . ......... . . 30
Workshop .............................. . .... 31

IIIi.. :....
Volume IX Number 1
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Cover photo by Jim Mendell
The Stock Transfer Tax:
A Question of Tax Equity
'fen Socl o<i1rge
Stock bdmge
Wall USA.

1 -1-BC
AMruf(f !lUI.:
$q{l,EB1.tm. W
By Susan Hibbard
ity organizations, church groups and
labor unions conce'':led about the decline in
city services and rising unemployment have
joined together to fight for tax equity. The
newly-tormed coalition, S.T.o.c. (Start TaX-
ing Our Corporations) , is demanding that
WaH Street pay its fair share.
Total city expenditures were reduced by
22 percent between 1976 and 1982, while
city services have rapidly been declining.
Since 1975, the number of sanitation workers
has been slashed by 24 percent, firefighters
by 15 percent, and police by 25 percent. The
subway system is collapsing. This year
alone, there have been 16 derailments as well
as increases in track fires, crime, and
delayed trains. Housing costs, homeless-
ness, and the number of dilapidated apart-
ments have skyrocketed. Hospitals and
clinics are facing cutbacks while one out of
every five mothers are getting late or no
prenatal care. Services shrink and New York
City's unemployment rate is almost 10
percent .
We need to improve city services and stop
CITY LIMITS/January 1984
widespread unemployment to make our
economy viable. We must increase New
York City's budget to provide services
without further burdening already struggl-
ing individuals and businesses. The New
York and American Stock Exchanges have
achieved record profits despite the current
recession. During the first four months of
this year, transactions on the New York and
American Exchanges rose 89 and 143 per-
cent respectively. And, according to the
Securities Industry Association, the in-
dustry has increased its profits 500 percent
over the past five years.
We propose rolling back the rebate 50
percent on the Stock Transfer Tax. This tax
is a levy on the sale of stock on the New York
and American Exchanges. It was first pass-
ed in 1905. The State Legislature voted to
phase it out in 1978 and although still on the
books, the tax is now rebated in its entirety.
If the tax had been collected this year, it
would have generated $1 billion in additional
revenue. (According to the Municipal Assis-
tance Corporation, last year's rebate
amounted to $947,881,000.)
The Stock Transfer Tax Coalition's pro-
posal to rollback the rebate 50 percent would
add $500 million to the New York City
budget annually. This amount of money
could pay for all of the following: 5,000
teachers, 1,000 sanitation workers, childcare
for 25,000 children, 1,500 firefighters,
restore 50,000 dilapidated apartments, open
city libraries a full extra day, 1,000 police,
eliminate the minimum fee for health care
clinics, and save 10c on the subway fare. The
tax on a $20 transfer of stock would be ap-
proximately 2.5C and the maximum tax on
any transaction would be $350. Transfers of
stock would be taxed at a rate of .1 percent
maximum and for multi-million dollar
transactions affected by the $350 cap at rates
much lower. One should note that banks, in-
surance companies and the wealthiest 1 per-
cent of the population account for the vast
majority of stock transactions and the pro-
posed rate of taxation is clearly less than the
8.25 percent sales tax paid by all city
The securities industry has always been
solidly opposed to bringing back the Stock
Transfer Thx, but top officials of the New
York Stock Exchange have clearly stated that
the exchange would not move out of New
York. As a matter of fact, according to at
least 17 major surveys, business location
decisions are made on the basis of quality
and cost of education, labor, energy and
transportation, the state of the physical in-
frastructure, the availability of capital and
access to materials and markets. By allow-
ing City services to decline, we are driving
businesses out and making New York less
We Cover The -Other New York .
424 West 33rd Street, New York, N.Y. 10001
attractive to new business.
When we pay our taxes, the city keeps
them. When the securities industry pays, the
city rebates 100 percent. It isn't fair. S.T.o.c.
is urging a 50 percent rollback of the rebate
by first introducing a measure into the City
Council. This measure, co-sponsored by
Councilmembers Ruth Messinger, Sal
Albanese, and Miriam Friedlander has
already gained support of the New York
Community Action Network, the Council
of Churches (Brooklyn) , Gray Panthers
citywide, The City Project , West Side
Citizen Action, SSEU Local 371 of District
Council 37, Assembly member Joseph Fer-
ris, the Metropolitan Council on Housing,
the Queens Citizens Coalition for Political
Alternatives, Peoples Firehouse, Church
Women United in Brooklyn, the Village
Independent Democrats, Central Brooklyn
Independent Democrats and many others.
S.T.O.C. has begun targetting Council
members in key districts to win support for
this resolution, starting with members of the
Finance Committee. We will be engaging in
massive door-knocking efforts and letter-
writing campaigns to improve City servi
and alleviate rampant unemployme
through greater tax equity.O
For more information, contact Susan
Hibbard at S.T.O.C. at 608-5500 or by
writing S.T.O.C. c/o NYCAN, 25 Ann
Street, NYC 10038.

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CITY LIMITS/January 1984

Pay the Price of
Union of City Tenants demonstration, 1982.
ANUARY 1984 MARKS the seventh anniversary of New
York City's "fast foreclosure" law. That act, Local Law
#45, was intended to improve tax collections and short circuit
the cycle of landlord disinvestment and abandonment by
allowing the city to foreclo e after only one year of property
tax arrears.
Despite this law. the owners of multifamily buildings who
lose their property in 1984 will be three to seven years behind
in their tax payments. Whatever happened to the promise of
fast foreclosure? How have city delays in vesting (taking title
to properties) affected tax collections and housing in the city?
The Quiet Death of the Fast Foreclosure Law
Before 1fJ77, the city could not begin a tax foreclosure ac-
tion on any property until it reached three years in property
tax arrears. Many properties would hit their three-year delin-
quency mark just after a borough-wide foreclosure action.
and wait in limbo for three to four more years before the city
finally seized them. Fiscal analysts linked the foreclosure
delays to the city's low property tax collection rate of 93 ; .. ;r-
cent. Many public officials and community activists argued
that the delays simply allowed more time for the landlord to
milk the building, and left the city with more deteriorated
properties in greater need of expensive repairs.
Local Law #45 was supposed to address both the tax
problems and the housing problems by moving faster to seize
By Susan Reynolds
tax delinquent properties. It had two early results: faster
foreclosures and vast numbers of newly city-owned proper-
ties. In a nineteen-month period, from May 1fJ78 to January
1980, the city foreclosed on delinquent properties in all five
boroughs. For the first time, some of these properties were as
little as two years in tax arrears (See chart). Other parcels
which had just escaped the previous foreclosure cycle were as
much as five years in arrears.
Faster foreclosure also meant more city-owned proper-
ties: 15,600 new tax parcels in 1fJ78 and 1979 alone. By 1979,
HPD was managing 11,700 vacant and occupied residential
buildings, at a cost of $80 million per year. The administra-
tion quickly became unwilling to bear what it perceived as
the costs of its new tax and housing policy. With auctions of
occupied buildings shut off, each newly foreclosed occupied
building could be a long-term cost burden to the city.
So city officials began to argue that the cost of fast
foreclosure was astronomical, and they put on the brakes. In
1979 and 1980, not a single new foreclosure action was ini-
tiated. The city also began to dramatically increase the time
lag between filing an in rem (tax delinquent) list and actually
foreclosing on the delinquent properties. As the chart shows,
the second cycle of foreclosures since enactment of Local
Law #45 will take three-and-half years instead of nineteen
This policy returns city foreclosure policy to the pre-IfJ77
days. It meets the letter of Local Law #45, which allows (but
does IlOt require) foreclosure after one year's delinquency but
totally evades the spirit of that law.
Despite the Delays, Improved Tax Collection
At the December, 1983 in rem oversight hearings of the
City Council , Commissioner Anthony Gliedman of the
Department of Housing Preservation and Development gave a
customarily glowing review of the one year in rem law as
both a tax enforcement and housing tool. Due to the fast
foreclosure law, he suggested, the delinquency rate for prop-
erty taxes has dropped to about 3 percent.
The sharp drop in the delinquency rate is certainly an
established fact. When the one year in rem law was passed in
1fJ76-77, the percentage of unpaid property taxes approached
7 percent. In IfJ77 -1fJ78, the percentage ?ropped to 4.7 per-
S CITY LIMITS/January 1984
First Manhattan May, 1978 2-5 years
Cycle: Bronx August, 1978 2-5 years
Brooklyn April-August, 1979 2-5 years
Queens December, 1979 2-4 years
Staten Island January, 1980 2-4 years
Second Manhattan September, 1980-May, 1981 3-5 years
Cycle: Bronx September, 1981 3-5 years
Brooklyn August, 1982-July, 1983 2-6 years
Queens PROJECTED: February, 1984 4-7 years
Staten Island PROJECTED: March, 1984 4-7 years
Third Bronx PROJECTED: June, 1984 3-6 years
Cycle: Manhattan PROJECTED: Spring, 1985 4-8 years
cent, and in the next year it fell again to 3.2 percent. With
some fluctuations, delinquencies have indeed stayed well
below four percent since the fast foreclosure law. HPD's In
Rem Report for 1982 estimated that the city has collected
almost $530 million in additional property tax revenue since
IfJ77 because of the decreased delinquency rate.
But is this increased tax collection the product of the
toothless threat of the fast foreclosure law or other factors?
No city agency or official has done the analysis which could
definitively answer that question. Officials in the Department
of Finance have suggested a number of possible reasons for
the increased payments, ranging from the psychological im-
pact of the one year in rem law, to the increase in the l:ity's
interest charges on back taxes to 6 percent above the prime,
to the improving real estate market in some sections of New
York City.
Despite the improved collection rate, the City's Depart-
ment of Finance continues to press for slightly faster
foreclosures, because' each deadline brings more last-minute
tax dollars into city coffers. However, the past three years
have shown that fast foreclosures are not necessary to main-
tain a minimally acceptable rate of property tax collection.
The tax collection incentive for actually implementing the
one-year foreclosure law has apparently disappeared. The
other side of the problem has not.
The Uncounted Costs of Delays
Whatever the tax consequences of the slowdown in "fast
vesting," the housing and social costs of delaying vestings are
obvious at a neighborhood level. A 1981 study by the Task
Force On City-Owned Property documented that residential
buildings overdue for foreclosure had more hazardous code
violations, more heat and hot water emergencies, and a
higher rate of vacancies than buildings which were not yet tax
delinquent. All of these problems eventually surface as costs
CITY LIMITS/January 1984
to the city: increased repairs when the buildings finally are
foreclosed, family support in welfare hotels, emergency
repairs, medical treatment of children and elderly people sick
from the cold, lost tax revenues from depressed assessments
on the surrounding properties.
800 Fox Street is a concrete example of the costs of
delayed foreclosure. The five-story walk-up, at the corner of
Fox and Longwood in the South Bronx, is over three years
delinquent in property taxes, and owes the City some $29,000
in taxes, liens and water and sewer charges. For years, the
property has been handed from one irresponsible landlord to
another. A year ago, a fire in the top floor emptied the
building, except for two storefronts on the ground floor - a
grocery and a numbers operation.
According to Getz Obstfeld, executive director of Banana
Kelly Community Improvement Association, the building is
now used for three purposes: "They rent out part of it to
alcoholics, junkies and other undesirables, part is occupied
by a sweatshop or some sort of illegal manufacturing, and the
third part is used by the prostitutes from Hunts Point and
their johns." The building is on a "key corner," said Obstfeld.
Banana Kelly and the South Bronx Housing Corporation have
rehabilitated a number of buildings in the surrounding blocks,
and one block away, P.S. 39 has recently been rehabilitated as
a community center and in rem management office.
"Something needs to be done about it, but we've been stymied
because it's not city-owned;' concluded Obstfeld.
Every poor neighborhood has uncounted buildings like
this one, which blight the neighborhood or have been lost
forever as housing because of delayed foreclosures. Yet
because these costs have never been calculated, totalled and
listed in the city budget as "C'osts of Slow Foreclosures,"
quicker foreclosures are considered too expensive to be
seriously considered by city government.
~ ~ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
The Immediate Future
During each year, the office of Deputy Mayor of Opera-
tions Nat Leventhal sets the foreclosures schedule,
negotiating among the involved city agencies. According to
HPD Deputy Commissioner Joe Shuldiner, Queens and
Staten Island will probably be foreclosed in February and
March of 1984. Although Manhattan is usually next in the
foreclosure cycle, that will not be the case this year. Bronx is
scheduled for foreclosures in summer of 1984, with Manhat-
tan following in fall of 1984 or spring of 1985.
Despite community suspicions, Assistant Corporation
Counsel Hyman Weber claims that the delay of the Manhat-
tan vesting does not represent a deliberate decision. His ex-
planation was that actual foreclosures follow the same order
as the filing of the in rem lists. Minor delays in the Finance
Department's preparation of the Manhattan list caused the
Manhatrtln action to be ftled about six weeks after the Bronx,
said Weber. As the chart indicates, the properties in these
boroughs will be from three to eight years in arrears when
they are finally foreclosed.
As the city ignores the costs of allowing the devastation
of its low and moderate neighborhoods to continue, and
allows foreclosures every three years to become the rule, peo-
ple in impacted neighborhoods and a number of elected of-
ficials have been seeking alternatives. There have been
renewed efforts to implement existing provisions for direct ci-
ty receivership of abandol)ed buildings. A bill to allow
foreclosure of individual buildings which threaten the health
and safety of tenants is receiving serious consideration in the
City Council Housing and Buildings Committee. While city
government may have partially resolved its low tax collection
dilemma, neighborhoods and tenants are once again losing
ground to a disease for which a major part of the cure is
already in hand.D
Susan Reynolds is Assisant Director of the Association of
Neighborhood Housing Developers and staffi the Task Force
on City-Owned Property, a project of ANHD.
New York City's Arson Cover Story
By Harriet Cohen
Tn the space of one week in early Novem-
ber, the city rnnde two not unrelated
policy announcements. It unveiled a
$300,000 Decal Plan to improve the image
of the South Bronx and it released an HPD
Report to the Mayor to improve the city's
sagging image on arson prevention. Both
are cover-ups - one agraphic display of the
city's abdication of its responsibility to hous-
ing and neighborhoods, the other a written
document which essentially does the samp.
The Decal Plan has been widely publicized
and disclaimed by a spectrum ranging from
South Bronx residents to media editorials.
The Repon to the Mayor received only one
news account and is worthy of more atten-
tion, not so muchforits content, butforwhat
it tried to conceal.
At the fire and police departments, in
academia, insurance company boardrooms
and on the streets, there is little consensus
on how to interpret arson statistics. Lists of
motivations may be as short as five - i.e.
vandalism, profit, revenge, criminal con-
cealment, pyromania - or as long as 22, but
no one agrees on how many of the annual
arson fires fall into each of these categories
and what the order of rank is. A 1979 US
Department of Justice Study lists vandalism
as the number one cause, and profit as
fourth; the NY Property Insurance Under-
writers Association thinks vandalism is first
7 CITY LIMITS/January 1984
and profit second; in The Invisible Bankers.
an expose of the insurance industry, Andrew
Tobias says revenge is the prime motive with
profit running a close second.
Studies and statements that attempt to
vy up arson statistics by motivations are
based on who gets caught - who is in jail
or who is seeing a psychiatrist. This is of
course an extremely limited sample which
underestimates significantly the profit
motivated who usually do not get caught, or
if they do, manage not to get convicted or
to serve prison terms or to seek help. In
general, for every 100 cases of arson, 9 peo-
ple are arrested, 2 are convicted and 0.7 go
to jail. These are most often the revenge ar-
sonists and pyromaniacs who do not , like
the professional profit seekers, work to con-
ceal their crime through hired torches and
colluding insurance brokers, or labyrinths
of paper and ownership transters of the vic-
timized buildings.
Rush to Judgement on Arson Cases
Despite the universal uncertainty on the
subject of motivation and the accepted short-
comings of any theory, Commissioner An-
thony Gliedman of the city's Department of
Housing Preservation and Development has
recently issued a Report to the Mayor that
essentially defies what is shared by experts
on the field. In alluding to an unnamed na-
tional study that estimates that 50 percent
of all arsons are motivated by revenge-type
factors, the Report cunningly concludes that
this too is the predominant cause and leading
percentile in NY. Commissioner Gliedman
can then say ': .. we will always face a signifi-
cant level of arson activity which is not sub-
ject to preventative and thus get
himself in large measure off the hook.
The Report to the Mayor, dated November
1, 1983 and entitled An Analysis of Arson
in Residential Buildings, was written to
satisfy a mandate in the new J-51 Tax Abate-
ment and Exemption Law passed by the
State Legislature in June. It called upon
HPD to submit to the Mayor an analysis of
residential arson and to specifically examine
the causes for it and the effect of housing
market changes and tax abatements and ex-
emptions on arson incidence, and to make
legislative and regulatory recommendations
for arson deterrence.
Upon careful review, the Report to the
Mayor seems to have been written over a
five-day period and reads like a college term
paper for Arson 101 . While it starts by
stating that "arson is a complex matter not
CITY LIMITS/January 1984
susceptible to any simple analysis," it goes
on to present a rather sophomoric one. It
uses no citations, quotes or references for
its half-baked interpretations and only par-
tially digested subject matter. Profit-
motivated fires, for example, get short shrift
in the Report, and no mention is made of the
fact that these arsons, unlike the other types,
can be controlled. Nor do they note that ar-
son for. profit accounts for the majority of
all arson attributed property damages and
insurance claims.
The Report does, however, state that it
relies heavily on interviews with people ac-
tively working with the arson problem on
a daily basis - fire marshalls, district at-
torneys, police investigators, community
groups, insurance underwriters and the ci-
ty's Arson Strike Force. This gives the im-
pression that such people, some of whom
are specifically named on the back page of
acknowledgements, concur with or provid-
ed information for the analysis and conclu-
sions. While this writer convened a group
of community anti-arson workers at HPD's
request for a two-hour session, nothing in
that discussion addressed the issue of
motivation. What was submitted is a laun-
dry list of community concerns and pro-
posed arson prevention measures including
systematic code enforcement and housing
court reforms. Some of these suggestions
show up in non-commital statements in the
Report's recommendation section; only time
will tell ifHPD takes the initiative to imple-
ment them.
The Report also relies heavily on the
18-month Study of the Arson Strike Force
on Arson and Government Assisted Hous-
ing Rehabilitation Programs. Completed
this summer and released in early
September, this study looked at connections
between arson and suspicious fires and the
city's Participation Loan, Article SA Loan
and the J-51 Tax Abatement and Exemption
Programs, and the federal Section 8
Substantial Rehabilitation Program. It con-
firms long known correlations and points
out problems in HPD's very own backyard.
Readers of The Village Voice. City Limits
and even The New York Times will
remember the strange and strained release
of this study, and the hastily called press
briefing that all but angered the assembled
reporters for its back-pedaling and
disavowals. At that session both Commis-
sioner Gliedman and Arson Strike Force
Coordinator Patrick Hoey attempted to of-
ficially orphan this in-depth work. They
tried to discredit its contents by claiming it
"didn't accurately determine statistical
significance" and announcing that HPD had
already corrected for much of the abuse.
The handling, or more accurately the
mishandling of both the ASF Study and the
Report to the Mayor reveal the explosive
natUre of the arson issue and its relation to
the city's housing policies and practices.
Commissioner Gliedman says "I believe that
the city has now implemented many of the
basic measures needed to combat arson .. :'
This is clearly not the case. Much remains
to be done, the first step of which is a for-
thright acknowledgement that a problem ex-
ists. Instead of debating arson incidence,
HPD and the ASF must work harder, rather
than easing up and pronouncing victory long
before it has arrived. The city must, for ex-
ample, take leadership to face down the in-
surance industry on its underwriting and
claims practices; it must work actively in the
state legislature for corporate disclosure of
all parties of interest in residential proper-
ties and public access to it; it must develop
and implement an effective code enforce-
ment program that will stem the building
deterioration that encourages arson; and it
must develop loan applicant review stan-
dards that detect developers who have con-
sistently defaulted on their responsibility as
landlords. Nothing in the Report to the
Mayor suggests that the city is seriously
moving in the direction to make such
measures happen.
Without an articulated and aggressive
anti-arson policy and program agenda, city
residents whose homes and neighborhoods
are being destroyed will continue to
challenge the city's commitment to stop the
burning. 0
Harriet Cohen is director of the New York
Neighborhood Anti-Arson Center.
~ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Community Groups Build for the
Homeless With State Aid By Sharon McDonnell
izations in New York City were among
thirty-nine nonprofit organizations and
municipalities statewide awarded a total of
$12.3 million in state grants to house the
homeless in a variety of programs serving
the elderly, families, mentally disabled and
youth late last year. About 2,500 people are
expected to be housed in the units created,
which can either be permanent housing or
emergency shelters. .
The grants, awarded by the State Depart-
ment of Social Services, marked the first
round in the state's long-range four-year $50
million Homeless Housing and Assistance
Program, signed into law by Governor
Cuomo last April .
In one case, a community group was
awarded a $500,000 grant to transform a va-
cant , city-owned Lower East Side building
--.into a low income co-op, while the city was
}usily engaged in seeking a developer for
market rate housing through its "dollar s a l e s ~
program. Housing officials had already re-
jected several would-be homesteading
groups for the old-law tenement , known as
the "Cube Building," on the corner of Second
Avenue and East First Street, in recent
years, citing a lack of funds. This past June
local residents picketed a city tour for
developers after the latest low income
homesteading proposal was denied.
"In football parlance, I believe it's called
an end run," quipped Valerio Orselli , direc-
tor of the Cooper Square Development
Committee which received the state grant.
"We beat them." The building, in fact, passed
the final hurdle in the city's land-use review
process in December, and language was
added to ensure its development for home-
less families only. The renovation into 20
one- to three-bedroom apartments. which
will bear a carrying charge of $50 per room
and a purchase price of $750, will be financ-
ed through a $1.2 million package including
Participation Loan funds, a mortgage, and
"sweat equity." Preference will be given first
to homeless families in the Cooper Square
area. and then the Community Board 3 area,
willing to pitch in to renovate the units,
!specially the "hidden" homeless doubling
up in Housing Authority projects or
cramped in single-room-occupancy hotels.
Delia Delgado, left. and Linda Jean Sainz. of tile Youth Action Program, in front or buildings at U9th
Street and Second Avenue which the group will renovate as housing for homeless youth, using a stale
Orselli said.
Housing for Homeless Youth
For its proposal for permanent housing
for homeless youth, Youth Action Program
in East Harlem won a $300,000 grant for a
city-owned building at East 119th Street and
Second Avenue. The project will provide a
program of support services, including job
training, for youth aged 18 to 25 without an
active drug or alcohol problem. who may
have an arrest record but whose "major pro-
blem is just homelessness," according to
Delia Delgado, coordinator of the Homes
Away From Home program. While Homes
Away From Home currently operates five
temporary group apartments nearby, an
urgent need was felt for permanent housing
since the youth face enormous difficulty in
locating apartments upon leaving, she
One program already in operation, the
Woodstock Hotel for the elderly on West
43rd Street , endured a "long, hard,
miserable battle" for funds for nearly a
decade until awarded a $835,000 grant, said
executive director Elizabeth Trebony. The
funds will be used to renovate four floors of
the twelve-floor hotel, removing all code
violations and adding bathrooms. The funds
will mean rooms made habitable for over
100 more seniors, added Trebony, who said,
"This is going to save us."
A loan for the same amount, she noted,
would have entailed debt service resulting
in a rent increase of more than $60 a month
for tenants, who pay an average monthly rent
of $150. This would have priced most
CITY liMITS/January 1984"
tenants, whose sole income is SSI payments,
out of the Woodstock, she said.
Mothers with young children in need of
emergency and transitional housing will be
able to find it in a project which will house
about 25 families in Bedford-Stuyvesant in
Brooklyn, operated by the American Red
Cross, thanks to a $480,000 award. The Red
Cross is currently scouting several sites in
search of one which will carry the funds fur-
thest, according to Jack Doyle, director of
disaster services.
Noting that the 2,200 homeless families
housed by the city in privately-owned hotels
or shelters typically find unsanitary, over-
crowded, often dangerous conditions with
no cooking facilities or play areas for
children, Doyle said the facility would
feature a warm, supportive environment
with communal kitchens and a dining room
as well as a 24-hour staff. Funds will also
sought for a day care center, he said.
Meanwhile, a community residence hous-
ing mostly mentally disabled persons who
can function with limited supervision is to
be developed in central l-Iarlem by the
Bowery Residence Committee, with the
help of a $380,000 grant. House,"
which will serve 24 psychiatric outpatients
and an additional 10 persons contingent
upon the needs of the Harlem community,
will offer basic skills training, vocational
rehabilitation, and other support services,
and will include communal bathrooms, kit-
chen and dining room. The State Office of
Mental Health will also provide operating
funds for the residence. Ongoing discus-
sions are now being held with the local com-
munity board to select an appropriate site,
according to program director Mike Bucci.
Economic Pickup Misses
the Homeless, Sap Study
report released in early November by the
National Coalition for the Homeless,
charges that although an economic recovery
is taking place, the number of homeless pe0-
ple has in fact increased.
According to the report, an economic
recovery is measured by the rate of growth
of the Gross National Product (GNP) ,
which is the total value of all goods and ser-
vices sold in the economy. But the major
causes of homelessness - lack of low in-
come housing, cutbacks in public
assistance, unemployment and the de-
institutionalization of mental patients - are
not measured in the GNP or in any other in-
dicator of an economic recovery.
Most of the information in The Homeless
and the &onomic Recovery is based on in-
terviews with workers at emergency shelters
in nine different cities throughout the coun-
try. And each city - New York,
Washington, D.C., Cleveland, Detroit ,
Chicago, Phoenix, Denver, Los Angeles,
and San Francisco - seems to be telling the
same story: homelessness is still with us.
In New York City, during the past year,
the number of homeless families has more
than doubled. In addition to New York Ci-
ty's Human Resource Administration whose
16 emergency shelters house almost 5,000
homeless men and women, the city is cur-
CITY LIMITS/January 1984
rently housing over 2,000 families in 50
hotels. According to the report , in 1982, 950
families were being sheltered in temporary
facilities by the city; by the summer of 1983.
the city ran out of hotel space and at one
point was paying for over 280 families to live
in motels in New Jersey. During the fall of
this year, the number of homeless families
has continued to increase. And city officials
and other service providers say that up to
3,500 homeless families may be in need of
shelter this winter.
The report charges that the lack oflow in-
come housing is mainly due to federal cut
On Manhattan's Upper West Side, a joint
venture of the West 87th Street "100" Block
Association, Goddard-Riverside Communi-
ty Center, and the Settlement Housing Fund
has received a $250,000 grant to acquire the
Capitol Hall , an occupied 250-unit SRO
hotel at 166 West 87th Street. The nonprofit
housing corporation, which has had an op-
tion to buy the hotel from its owner for a year
now. indicated recently they were "very
close" to purchase. The $3.3 million
development planned for the hotel- now
two-thirds full-will involve a moderate
rehabilitation and the enlargement of many
rooms, with no displacement of any current
tenants. 0
Sharon McDonnell is afreelance writer on
community issues who is also employed with
Assemblyman Pete Grannis, chainnan o/the
Assembly Housing Committee.


backs. In 1981, the federal government
al10cated $32 billion for low income hous-
ing programs - by 1983 the amount had
been cut to $15 billion. As a result , most low
income households are forced to pay more
than half their incomes for shelter and
sometimes must choose between food or
The report concludes by saying that since
most shelter residents are not directly in-
volved in the economy of the country, they
will continue to remain without a permanent
home despite the economic recovery. D
Rachel Sanchez
State Seeks Damages
From SRO Hotel Converter
By Hank Perlin
week long "reign of terror," a real estate
developer illegally evicted over 50 tenants
from a West Side single room occupancy
hotel and then converted the building to a
luxury cooperative at a profit to the
developer of over one million .dollars,
charged State Attorney General Robert
Abrams in a recently filed lawsuit.
The suit, filed in November in State
Supreme Court in Manhattan, seeks an
order prohibiting the developer, Alan
Sackman, and his associates from ever again
eUing any securities in New York State. It
I also seeks damages and restitution for the
I former tenants of the 189-room Hamilton
Hotel at 315 West 99th Street, which was
converted to 33 cooperative apartments and
renamed the Paramount.
Sackman, the recipient of almost $16
million dollars in real esate tax abatements
from other developments, is also currently
converting two other former SROs where
owners used heavy-handed methods to drive
out tenants.
Following the purchase of the Hamilton
Hotel by Sackman and his associates on
January 7, 1981, the complaint charges,
residents were subjected to "daily verbal and
physical threats, harassment and intimida-
tion." Tenants were beaten and physically
removed from the building, locks and doors
were removed and electricity, heat , hot
water and elevator service was terminated,
according to the Attorney General.
Tenants' rooms were broken into and their
property stolen or thrown away. One tenant's
cats were placed in boxes and left on Broad-
way. Another tenant, one of the last to leave,
was attacked by four building employees
who threatened to throw him out of a win-
dow, then beat and forced him out of the
uilding. On January 25th, the front door
Jf the building was chained and padlocked
to prevent access by the few remaining
tenants, and within two days, the building
The "vast majority" of the Hamilton
tenants, who had lived in the SRO for up to
18 years, were poor people who lived on
disability benefits or publ ic assistance,
Abrams said, and some moved based on
false representations that they would be
given money and rooms in nearby hotels at
comparable rents. Several Hamilton
residents were unable to find other housing,
according to Abrams, and joined the ranks z
of the city'li homeless.
The co-op conversion plan was accepted I
for filing by the Attorney General on ... :i
February 25, 1982, the complaint states,
based in part on a sworn statement of the
same date by Sackman in which he stated,
"No harassment of prior tenants was used
in vacating (the) premises."
First Suit by Attorney General
This is the first suit brought by the At-
torney General that addresses harassment in
SRO hotels and in which a permanent in-
junction is sought against the sponsors of a
co-op conversion plan based on harassment,
according to Assistant Attorney General
Lawrence Albrecht, who prepared the case.
It is also the first time the Attorney General
has sought individual damages for tenants
in this type of case.
"It reflects a policy commitment by the At-
torney General's office to investigate allega-
tions of harassment when conversion plans
come in," said Albrecht. "We hope it sends
a clear signal that allegations of tenant
harassment will not go unchallenged."
The other defendants in the suit are
Sackman's wife Barbara, Max Moskowitz,
former owner and manager of the Hamilton,
real estate developers and Sackman
associates Teddy Krain and Jakir Rotblat ,
and Al Hawkins and Jack Grant, who were
allegedly hired to empty the hotel .
To date, over 20 Sackman co-op or con-
dominium conversion plans have been ac-
cepted for ftIing by the Attorney General's
office, Albrecht said. Sackman has also
received nearly $16 million in J-51 tax
abatements and exemptions for the conver-
sion of approximately 40 other properties
he owns, according to a 1982 study con-
ducted by the New York Public Interest
Research Group and City Councilwoman
Ruth Messinger.
Sackman is involved in several other
buildings in which there have been allega-
tions of harassment, decreased building ser-
vices and assaults on tenants. He, Krain and
Rotblat own the former Arvia Hotel at 605
West 112 Street, where efforts to empty the
building culminated in the shooting death
of a tenant's brother in front of the building
by an alleged employee who was later
sentenced to eight years in jail for the
shooting. The building is now being con-
verted to high priced apartments.
Sackman has also signed a contract to buy
a now empty SRO hotel at 175 West 85th
Street from Tony Postiglione, who pled
guilty to two counts of coercion and one
count of conspiracy in connection with his
efforts to empty this hotel and two other
buildings. Postiglione is now serving a one
year jail sentence.D
Hank Perlin is a tenant organizer at the
Side SRO lAw Project.
CITY LIMITS/January 1984
New Building
Face a
By Sharon McDonnell
will be unforgettable for thousands of
tenants in buildings built in the past decade
under New York City's tax incentive pro-
gram for new apartment construction. For
the first time since the program was created,
rents in those buildings will graduate from
their stabilization phase and explode to free
market levels unless a proposed state bill
passes this session.
Buildings constructed under the program,
which are mainly in affluent areas such as
Manhattan's Upper East Side and midtown,
with a smattering in the Village and West
Side, are placed under rent stabilization for
the duration of a 10-year gradually declin-
ing abatement a landlord receives on his real
estate taxes, according to Section 421-a of
the Real Property Law, enacted by the
legislature in 1971. A landlord pays no taxes
the first year, 10 percent ofthe taxes the se-
cond year, and so on until he pays all taxes
the last year.
About 4,000 apartments are scheduled to
lose rent stabilization protections when their
building's 421-a abatements expire in the city
fiscal year 1984, among over 20,000 apart-
ments whose owners' abatements will expire
over the next few years. Tenants will be at
risk when their current kases expire, accor-
ding to city housing officials. During the
abatement period, landlords are entitled to
an extra 2.2 percent rent increase in addi-
tion to standard stabilization rent hikes.
Owners are required to inform tenants
through a rider to the lease about this extra
levy and the nature of the 421-a abatement
period. But some landlords have not col-
lected the extra rent increase, and most
tenants seem to have been unaware of the
transitory nature of their rent stabilization
Over 40,000 apartments have been built
CITY LIMITS/January 1984
.'01 E. 79th Street. a building comtnacted under the city's 421-a tax abatement pnlgl'"llm. where residents
face rent decontrol.
in the city under 421-a since its inception.
However, those built before January I , 1974
will not lose rent stabilization even when the
abatements expire since they are protected
under the Emergency Tenant Protection Act
of 1974, an appeals court ruled in a lawsuit
concerning a building at 400 East 54th
Street, whose abatement expired in 1982
(Berkeley Associates Co. v. Goldberg) .
Coalition Formed
A 421-a Tenants Coalition has formed
recently to alert tenants of thei r predica-
ment , and is stuffing mailboxes in affected
buildings with notices, starting in the Village
area. According to Joan Beranbaum, a
member of the steering committee, "Hard-
ly any tenants were aware of the loss of rent
stabilization. I don't think most tenants
would have moved into these buildings if
they had known about this. At the time, the
housing crunch wasn't the way it is now:"
The coalition is rallying support for a bill
which would continue rent stabilization after
the abatements expire, sponsored by
Democratic Manhattan Assemblymen Steve
Sanders and Pete Grannis, chairman of the
Assembly Housing Committee, and by
Manhattan Republican-Liberal Senator Roy
Goodman. Grannis has termed the bill one
of his "top priorities" to be reported out
his committee this session. Its chances in th ...,.
upstate Republican-dominated Senate,
however, are uncertain. Last year, the bill
~ ~ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
remained stuck in the Assembly Ways and
Means Committee after passing the Hous-
ing Committee, and failed to pass the Local
Government Committee in the Senate.
As to strategy if the Sanders-Grannis-
Goodman bill fails this year, Beranbaum
replied, "We haven't reached that point yet
where we would consider a compromise."
Some Buildings Going Co-up
The fact that some of the 421-a buildings
are now undergoing co-op or condominium
conversions has thrown a whole new light,
and considerable pressure, on tenants' deci-
sions to buy their apartments. The largest
single 421-a structure, Continental Towers
at 301 East 79th Street , received a "red her-
ring" for an eviction condo plan last sum-
mer from the owners, American Invsco, the
Chicago-based condo empire headed by the
Gouletas family, which includes former
governor Hugh Carey's wife Evangeline.
"All through the plan was this underhand-
ed threat that if we don't buy, our rent will
go sky-high," complained Niki Stern, a non-
buying tenant. Faced by an insiders' price
tag of $182,155 for a one-bedroom on one
hand and whatever the market can command
for a luxury East Side high-rise when the
abatement expires in late 1985 - in short,
anything - on the other, tenants are caught
between the proverbial rock and a hard
place. At Mill Rock Plaza , a 310-unit
building at 345 East 93rd Street, tenants are
in the throes of a non-eviction co-op plan.
In another building at 518 East 80th
Street, a landlord who failed to collect the
2.2 percent rent hike over the past nine years
has suddenly started to collect it by attaching
the required rider to lease renewals. Such
belated collection is permissible, according
to HPD counsel Larry Finkelstein.
The 421-a program has been criticized in
a 1980 audit by the State Comptroller for
rewarding housing construction which
Loftlords Lose Legal Point
legal challenge against the city's year-
old Loft Board in early December. In a suit
filed by five individual loft residents and
Lower Manhattan Loft Tenants, New York
County Supreme Court Judge Bruce McM.
Wright ruled that the New York City Loft
Board exceeded its authority by writing a
regulation sanctioning eviction of tenants
who do not use their loft as their primary
This is the first decision to date in lawsuits
that challenge the regulatory powers of the
Loft Board, the city administrative agency
created by the state's 1982 Loft Law to bring
an element of certainty into the bitter
landlord-tenant relationships in these
formerly illegal multiple dwellings.
The judicial decision against the Loft
Board's primary residence regulation cites
the fact that the right to evict a non-primary
resident from a rent-controlled or rent-
stabilized apartment is a specific provision
set forth in each of those laws. In the Loft
Law, such a provision was not included. Of
the Loft Board's decision to enact this evic-
tion provision Judge Wright stated, "it must
be concluded that the Loft Board has step-
ped through an administrative Looking
Glass, there to engage wonders never con-
. mplated and thus excluded by the text of
Article 7-C ofthe Multiple Dwelling Law."
Judge Wright called the regulation "a
'policy' declaration that is the territorial im:
perative ofthe Legislature and not that of an
administrative body such as the Loft Board."
"We call upon the Loft Board to recognize
the implicit message in this important deci-
sion," said Rebecca Solomon, spokesperson
for the Lower Manhattan Loft Tenants Steer-
ing Committee. "For over a year, the Loft
Board has been dealing with issues out of
context, and seeking ways to evict tenants
and add bitterness and confusion to this
housing nightmare." She called on the Loft
Board to proceed with the issues before it
by "following the law instead of revising it."
"This Board was supposed to resolve the
outstanding issues, not create new ones,"
noted Solomon. "We fear the Koch admin-
istration has been directing the Board to ap-
pease landlords rather than administer the
law set out by the State to legalize the
thousands of illegal residential rental units
that these landlords own." The loft landlords
have hired a variety of powerful attorneys
and lobbyists to attempt to sway the Board,
including Peter Piscitelli of the firm of Con-
dello, Ryan and Piscitelli , the former head
lobbyist for the Koch administration.
Board Set Lowest Heating Standards
Tenants are particularly angered by a Loft
Board heat regulation that gives loft resi-
dents the lowest heating standards of any
class of tenants. Unless the temperature dips
below 40 degrees in the evening, landlords
don't have to give any heat after 6 p.m. , and
The 421-a Tenants Coalition may be
contacted by calling 807-6077, or by
writing them at 70 Greenwich
Avenue, Suite 308, New York, N.Y.
generated sufficient profits to have been ac-
complished without a subsidy. Nearly two-
thirds of units completed under the program
from fiscal years 1975-79 were in Manhat-
tan , while the majority of these Manhattan
units were in areas with the top 25 percent
in income in the U.S. 1970 Census, accor-
ding to a 1982 study by the New York Public
Interest Research Group. The NYPIRG
study also found almost half of the $362
million reaped in 421-a tax benefits for hous-
ing finished by fiscal year 1981 enriched a
select group of only 10 developers, headed
by Leonard Litwin. Litwin alone earned $33
million in 421-a tax abatements. 0
if the temperature does drop below 40, heat
need only be supplied to keep the interior
at 50 degrees. "This is heat for potatoes, not
people," said Solomon, "the Loft Board
either doesn't care, doesn't understand, or
doesn't want to disappoint Koch's friends the
Tenants are also concerned that the Loft
Board has delayed action on some issues for
over six months, including the right of
outgoing tenants to sell improvements they
made to their lofts, the process for legaliza-
tion of the hundreds of loft buildings in
violation of state and city dwelling codes,
and code enforcement. Another tenant law-
suit challenging the Loft Board's interim rent
regulation of last December has been sitting
before a judge for over eight months with no
The tenants in this case were represented
by Jeffrey Ween, and individual landlords
named in the case, including New York
University, were represented by the promi -
nent landlord firm of Rosenberg and Esti s.
In a related sequence of court actions this
month, the longest-running loft case,lipkis
v Pikus, appears to have finally been decid-
ed in favor of the tenants. The landlord's ap-
peal claiming that the loft law did not apply
to tenants in three Walker Street loft build-
ings has been denied, and a $16-million
Federal case brought by the landlord against
the tenants has also been dismissed.D
CITY LIMITS/January 1984
North Brooklyn Holds On to its Red Caps
By Jobo Duffy


'" Red Caps Inspect IU"SOII eideDce In WIllIamsburg.
HE COMMUNITY OF Greenpoint- Greenpoint-Williamsburg.
Williamsburg has grown accustomed Red Cap is a special program of 50 fire
to receiving no Christmas presents from the marshalls who respond on a 24-hour basis
city. This year will be different. The peo- to all fires .. They acquired a reputation for
pie are looking forward to a "present" for their work in the Bronx in reducing struc-
Christmas, from Fire Commissioner Spin- tural fires and increasing the number of ar-
nato. They expect him to announce an ex- rests made for arson. So effective were they
tension of Red Cap Task Force 2's stay in that a community group in the Bronx, Nor-
Community Board N1. Of course the fact thwest Bronx Community and Clergy
that the Community Coalition for Red Cap Coalition, went as far as threatening to
twisted Santa's arm didn't hurt. chain themselves to the Red Cap van to
One only has to look at some history to keep them in their neighborhood.
see why residents have put up such a fight Seeing this, the Community Coalition,
to acquire and retain Red Cap in this area. comprised of Los Sures, People's Fire-
During the 1970s arson and fire contributed house, St. Nicholas Neighborhood Preser-
to a 24 percent decline in the area's popula- vation, People's Community Association
tion. This has been coupled with full scale and Concerned Residents of Williamsburg
deterioration and . housing abandonment. felt they would be a welcome addition to
Preliminary statistics from the Arson Strike the ongoing anti-arson work of the groups
Force rate Greenpoint-Wtlliamsburg first in in the Coalition.
arson fires for Brooklyn with 243 fires be- The Community Coalition began a let-
tween January and October of 1983. ter writing and petition campaign and gain-
Yet statistics can't describe the fear and ed the support of all local politicians in a
suffering felt by neighborhood residents successful attempt to set up and station Red
who have experienced fires. In September Cap in Greenpoint-Williamsburg.
of 1982, one adult and three children died On September 26, Red Cap began their
in an arson fire on Guernsey Street. Since work in the area. Preliminary fire depart-
then, people have lived with a daily fear ment statistics show a 24 percent decrease
of fire. It was these conditions and feelings in structural fires, and 21 percent decrease
that led to the formation of the Communi- in arson fires in a one month period. Red
ty Coalition for Red Cap in June of '83 to Cap has also made a number of arrests: five
work to pressure the city to find a second for Arson, two for False Alarm and two for
Red Cap unit and to station it in Reckless Endangerment.
CITY LIMITS/January 1984
Yet once again statistics don't reveal the
whole picture. Less than one month after
Red Cap was here, arson struck close to
home. A building at III Berry Street was
firebombed on a late Friday night. The
building is right next door to the People's
Firehouse. Red Cap arrived in force.
Luckily, no one was injured and dam,!ge
was minimal. Two weeks later a suspect
was arrested and made a confession. It was
this quick response that gave area residents
a feeling of security.
Fire marshalls have begun monitoring
buildings at 256-262 South Fourth Street
in response to a request from Los Sures.
Organizers there pointed to the many fires
in the building within the last six months.
The .owner, Wolf Genuth, has been fre-
quently cited for violations in his many
Williamsburg bujldings. The managing
agent of the South Fourth Street buildings
has, in return, complained to the police of
being harassed by the Red Caps who have
been in daily contact with the tenants.
One other interesting aspect of Red Ca
was pointed out by Zully Rolan of St. NickS
who said, "Red Cap has a better
with community folks. There is less sus-
picion towards them." Since they have been
in CBNl they have spoken to community
groups, tenant associations and block
clubs. They have begun daily surveillance
of trouble spots and have responded to
arson-prone buildings.
Red Cap was set to pull out of CBNl on
December 15 after a three month stint. But
the people wouldn't hear of this. At a pro-
gram of 100 people, Adam Veneski chair
of the People's Firehouse, "We will
do whatever it takes to keep the Red Caps."
So once again a letter writing campaign
was begun to keep Red Cap for three more
The Coalition would also like the time
to initiate a joint training session to educate
residents in arson prevention and fire mar-
shalls in housing rights. The Coalition is
also participating in the Brooklyn Anti-
Arson Thsk Force set up by Borough Presi-
dent Howard Golden . An increased
cooperation between city agencies would
improve the effectiveness of fighting arson
for profit and housing deterioration. 0
John Duffy is a community organizer fo
the People's Firehouse active in Arson
Prevention. He grew up in the South Bronx.
Hoboken's Tenants
Still Fall Through
a Rehab Loophole
By Diane Camilleri and Judy Stone
ants, small homeowners and communi-
ty groups seeking to curb the city's grow-
ing tenant displacement caused by huge rent
increases imposed by landlords and specu-
lators, failed recently in their attempt to pass
an amendment to the municipal ordinance
on rent control which would have limited
one of the more severe speculative practices.
The proposed amendment, sponsored by
Councilman Robert Ranieri, would have
plugged one serious loophole in the current
law, that of the exemption from rent control
granted to apartments which are "substan-
tially rehabilitated."
Hoboken's rent control ordinance, which
applies to multi-unit dwellings, limits an-
nual increases (exclusive of tax surcharges)
to 7 Vz percent to tenants who continue in oc-
cupancy, and limits increases to 25 percent
when occupancy changes. Capital improve-
ment charges are wholly passed along to
tenants as are tax increases, and landlords
are guaranteed an 11 Vz percent return on
This law was passed in lW7 and slightly
amended in 1980 when rents were lower,
and the pressure on the housing market
brought about by high income households
looking for an affordable alternative to
Manhattan was only beginning to be felt in
a major way. The purpose of the substantial
rehabilitation exemption was to stimulate the
rehab of Hoboken housing stock and thereby
help revive the then declining community
by rewarding investment. Now, however, the
pressure of high income housing demand
has become overwhelming, and speculation
and displacement have become rampant. In
this market, the "substantial rehabilitation"
Hoboken condominium conversion site.
provision has been used to undermine the
overall intent of the rent control which is to
~ stabilize occupancy and protect tenants and
, ; the community.
An Investment-Displacement Strategy
This provision states simply that if an in-
.. -""....r.. vestor spends 100 percent of the assessed
~ value of a building on capital improvements,
" apartments are exempt from rent control for
, 13 months. Hoboken's tax practices, how-
~ . ever, have produced a situation where apart-
ment buildings are grossly underassessed-
often at just 20 to 30 percent of market ~
value - while the tax rate on assessed values ~
is high ($183.29 per $1,(00). A building with it:
a market value of $100,000 may be assessed ~
at $20,000 to $30,000. An investor can pur- ~
chase the building with a cash outlay of ~
CITY LIMITS/January 1984
$10,000 to $20,000 and mortgage, spend
an additional $20,000 to $30,000 (the assess-
ed value) in "improvements," and charge the
new market-rate rents affordable by the new
. bidders for Hoboke!"s housing.
. This results typically in the wholesale
displacement of the low to moderate income
. (often elderly or minority) families who oc-
cupied the building prior to renovation. A
related loophole is that most . buildings
which are subject to this investment/
displacement strategy are old and in poor
condition due to years of neglect, and the
investment in "improvements" may often be
only the amount required to bring the
building up to code. .
These low assessments also allow
speculators to spend very little and do no
more than superficial "improvements" to
qualify for the substantial rehabilitation ex-
emption. There are no guidelines in the law
about the necessity of the work or its quali-
ty, or ceilings on how much the landlord
should pay for -specific items or labor.
Landlords can force tenants to accept new
sinks even if the current one is perfectly
good, and maybe better. Nor is the landlord
obliged to seek competitive bidding or con-
form to price guidelines for labor and
material. In fact, the more that is spent on
an item, the easier it is to reach the low
qualifying threshhold.
It is not hard to see how the law can lend
itself to collusion between some unscrupu-
lous landlords and their contractors. Indeed,
in some cases, landlords are their own con-
tractors and set what prices they like. Often
it is unclear how much of the work is done
in order to meet state and local housing stan-
dards and therefore required by law, how
much is routine maintenance and repair, or
how much can legitimately be claimed as
part of the substantial rehabilitation work.
The provision is so loosely worded that all
of these qualify to meet the exemption
The amendment proposed by Councilman
Ranieri, and supported by all of Hoboken's
tenant groups and representative communi-
ty organizations as well as some small
homeowners, sought to address those con-
ditions which undermine the intent of the
original law. The proposal allowed an
crease in rent to an investor in exchange for
investment. But at the same time, it
restricted those increases to levels that at
least some of the present tenants might be
able to afford.
The amendment proposed to spread out
CITY LIMITS/January 1984
. HVLLO, ('1\"'.
LI'IN 0 7
fl\y LluHr
t3VLS ..
the owner's recouping of his investment over
five years for vacant apartments and ten
years for occupied ones, with that increase
becoming a permanent part of the base rent.
Right qow, in most cases of
rehabilitation, landlords can get all their
money back in less than two years and en-
joy tremendous profits after that. Overall,
the amendment attempted to make several
reforms: it would increase the threshhold for
qualifying for substantial rehabilitation to
somewhere near the building'S market
value; moderate rent increases; encourage
substantial rehabilitation in empty, not oc-
cupied apartments, and set some guidelines
about what would be treated as a capital im-
provement as opposed to standard main-
tenance or repair.
More' generally, Ranieri's amendment
sought to insure reasonable profit and still
make it possible for some current tenants to
remain in Hoboken. It guaranteed a return
on investment but put limits on skyrocket-
ting rents and displacement.
Voicing the Speculators' Ideology
After three stormy hearings, the amend-
ment came to a vote and was defeated, 6 to
3. In the aftermath of this defeat, opponents
of speculation and displacement are pur-
suing other strategies and attempting to
influence the proposed re-writing of the
entire rent control law. However the
behavior of the landlord/speculator forces
bears some examination. The chief argu-
ment against the reform was that even this
minimal interference with the "right" to
make unrestrained profit "would have far
reaching effects." It would bring about
deteriorated neighborhoods, hurt small
' businesses and tradespeople arid cause lost
jobs. "The primary industry of the city-
housing,-would go bankrupt," it wa
charged. Similarly, it was said that the
amendment would "betray local homeown- :
ers' investment ... create a lowering of all
property values." Banks, an anti-amendment
speaker warned, "will fear lending
again ... our local businesses will into a
decline." One speaker even said that if some-
one doesn't own their home, they have ab-
solutely no rights to it.
Here we see that the organized landlord
group has become increasingly ideological.
Profit, in their view, is the sole determinant
of what is beneficial to the community. They
resisted the possibility that there tight be
other approaches which might benefit every-
one-tenants, homeowners and investors-
by fostering stability and measured growth.
Instead, they chose superprofits in an
overheated inflated rent spiral- a bubble
which could burst at any time. The result is
a fear of displacement for tenants and in-
creasingly higher taxes for small home-
owners. The speculators put forth the posi-
tion that the welfare of Hoboken is deter-
mined by the level of their profits. It will be
up to the tenants and the rest of the com-
munity to refute this and offer alternative
criteria for our common welfare. 0
Diane ' Camilleri and Judy Stone ar
Hoboken tenants.
Legislation: Washington
By Rev. Donald Sakano
adjounfrnent last November 16th, it
managed to pass a major piece of housing
legislation -The Housing and Urban-Rural
Recovery Act of 1983 - but left a number of
other significant matters hanging in thin air.
The three items that Congress has to wres-
tle with when it returns in January all have
to do with that wonderful world of budget
wizardry known as tax expenditures. At a
time when government assisted housing has
been brought to its knees by devastating
budget cuts, the Congress may yet deliver
a series of low blows by limiting or
eliminating certain tax expenditure housing
The three programs that are walking a
tightrope in Congress are (1) mortgage
revenue bonds for first-time homebuyers;
(2) Industrial Development Bonds (lOBs)
for multi-dwelliog housing; and (3) Section
167 (K) rapid depreciation benefits for low
and moderate income rehabilitation
The Hidden Subsidies
If you've read this far without falling
asleep or turning the page at the mere men-
tion of the words, you're probably ready for
a working definition of tax expenditures.
Most simply, they are expenditures of the
United States Treasury in terms of what it
does not receive in revenues because of tax
deductions, credits and deferrals allowed by
law. It is a crafty form of subsidy in that it
usually goes unobserved by the general
public. Unlike direct appropriation of funds
that Congress allocates for this or that pro-
gram, tax expenditures are relatively invisi-
ble and not subject to debates about spend-
ing levels in relation to competing needs.
The use of tax expenditures in real estate
and housing finance are well known. As ex-
pressions of public policy, these benefits
supposedly are attached to activities that
warrant support or enjoy special favored
status. The largest tax expenditure is one that
most people take for granted and, in fact ,
think is theirs by virtue of divine right - the
homeowners' deduction of real property
taxes and mortgage interest payments from
federal income tax.
This popular "subsidy program" is virtual-
ly the federal government's only entitlement
Iyes a Risky
program. Beneficiaries do not have to pass
a means (income eligibility) test and it can
apply to second homes and vacation houses.
It is sobering to learn that more has been ex-
pended in tax benefits for homeowners in
fiscal year 1983 than bas been spent in direct
outlays for low and moderate income hous-
ing programs since the beginning of the
government's involvement in the 1930's!
lax expenditures are no longer as safe
from the budget cutting axe-as in years gone
by. First of all, the Office of Management
and Budget is required to estimate in the
federal budget all indirect as well as direct
costs to the Treasury. Also, there's a whole
new breed of people on Capitol Hill who are
determined to harness the monster budget
deficit without raising new taxes or cutting
back on military spending. In the face of
$200 billion shortfalls, Congress will
become increasinglytesty over tax expen-
diture policies and practices.
Even the sacrosanct homeowner tax
deduction may be the subject of serious
debate in the near future. Another source of
concern for tax reformers is in the area of
tax shelters. These provisions, written by
Congress into the Internal Revenue Code,
allow wealthy investors to shelter income
from other sources. Presently, however, the
spotlight in Congress is focused on the
extraordinary growth of the tax-exempt
bond programs.
The following is a breakdown of the ma-
jor issues that will face the second session
of the 98th Congress which convenes in
1. The Mortgage Revenue Bond Tax
Act of 1980 allows states and localities
to issue tax-exempt bonds primarily to
reduce the interest rates on loans by banks
to first-time homebuyers. The laws that
allow housing finance agencies (such as the
State of New York Mortgage Agency-
SONYMA) to issue these bonds expired on
December 31st. Congress failed to extend
the "sunset" date in the law, thereby paralyz-
ing the entire program.
Mortgage revenue bonds work by attract-
ing investors in the 50 percent tax bracket.
They accept a yield that is below conven-
tional rates because the income from the
bonds are tax-free. Meanwhile, the capital
raised from the bonds can be invested in
CITY LIMITS/January 1984
reduced-interest home mortgages.
This program enjoys great popular sup-
port across the country and broad-based en-
dorsement in Congress. However, the
Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Sen.
Robert Dole (R-Kan) , conducted a series of
hearings that produced persuasive evidence
that the bonding method of subsidizing
home mortgages is inefficient and wasteful .
There was a strong sentiment within the
Committee to allow state and local finance
agencies to exchange their bonding authori-
ty allocations for tax credits that could be
used by qualified homebuyers to reduce
their personal income tax obligation.
The House Ways and Means Committee,
chaired by Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D-lll),
incorporated the extension of the Mortgage
Revenue Bond Tax Act into a controversial
reform tax bill, H.R.4170, that failed to get
reported to the floor of the House of
Representatives before Congress went home
in November. Attempts to get the extension
of the program enacted as a separate
measure is being stiffly resisted by
Rostenkowski as a strategy not to weaken
support for his other reform measures in
2. Industrial Bond refurm
is another feature of the Rostenkowski tax
bill. Ifpassed as proposed, H.R.4170 would
impose restrictions on a state or locality in
issuing tax-exempt bonds through the IDB
program. These bonds are used to raise low-
interest capital for various projects, in-
cluding the development of stadiums, con-
vention centers, shopping malls, industrial
parks and multifamily housing. In the case
of housing projects, the law requires that at
least 20 percent of the units produced by tax-
exempt bond financing be set aside for
households who are at least 80 percent of
the area's median income (thus the term
The reform tax bill proposes a $150 for-
every-person-living-in-state cap on the total
expenditures for IDB's in each state. Under
this cap, housing would be forced to com-
pete with many other private and public pur-
pose needs and, of course, limit the amount
of housing that could be produced through
the tax-exempt financing method. Through
the strenuous efforts of housing advocates,
Chairman Rostenkowski agreed to remove
multi-family housing bonds from under the
cap - at least until Congress comes back
to re-consider the entire biB package.
However, a dark cloud is gathering over the
future of housing bonds and will steadily
CITY LIMITS/January 1984
grow darker until Congress is decisive about
what to do about lOBs. The controversy
over capping tax-expenditures and the status
of housing bonds is by no means over. It's
an anything-could-happen battle when Con-
gress takes up the matter in the Second
Session. '
3. Sec. 167(K) Rapid Depreciation: This
tax shelter mechanism draws. capital from
wealthy investors to low and moderate in-
come rehabilitation efforts. It uses an "ac-
celerated" method of calculating the deduc-
tions for depreciation, the presumed decline
in value of buildings because of wear and
tear. Since investors generally are seeking
the maximum tax loss in the early years of
a project, opportunities that allow higher
write-offs in the early years and lower ones
later on become very attractive draws for in-
vestment capital.
Sec. 167(K) expired on December 31st.
Bills were urgently introduced to extend the
program just before the November adjourn-
ment but the issue got stuck with all the
other tax expenditure issues.

The clear message of housing advocates
in Washington is that this is no time to
withdraw or limit existing tax expenditure
programs for housing. However, we must
start a process whereby we can propose ef-
ficient and more manageable ways to reduce
the cost of housing finance. But until there
are workable substitutes in place, the cur-
rent tax-exempt bond and depreciation
allowance programs must remain intact.
The National Low-Income Housing
Coalition will be sponsoring a Conference
from June 24-27 to continue the process of
framing a new national housing policy.
Mark these dates in your calendar and get
prepared to help forge ideas on how hous-
ing should be produced, financed and
managed in this nation. In the meantime,
recognizing that a bird in the hand is better
than nothing, contact your Congressperson
and U.S. Senators and tell them to (I) extend
the "sunset" provision for mortgage revenue
bonds (2) oppose a cap for multi-family
IDBs and (3) extend the 167(K) deprecia-
tion benefit for rehab. 0
Reverend Donald Sakano is Director of the
Office of Neighborhood Preservation of
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of
New York, and is on the board of the Na-
tional Low Income Housing Coalition.
Staten Island
conjunction with the NAACP Legal
Pefense & Educational Fund, filed class
action suits in December in the Federal
District Court against four realty com-
panies in Staten Island on behalf of three
black families who were denied rentals
along the North Shore area of the borough.
A five-month investigation conducted by
the Open Housing Center, a nonprofit fair
housing organization, confirmed e.vidence
of a consistent pattern of racial discrimina-
tion being practiced by four realty firms:
Century 21-Papp Realty, Showcase Realty,
Sauerhoff-Kessler Realty Corp. and Real-
ty World-Rachel Gannon Realty.
Plaintiffs Robert and Gloria Smith,
Elissa and William Rice, Timothy and
Aracelli Ming are suing for $75,000 each
in compensatory damages for violations of
their civil rights and $100,000 each in
punitive damages. They will also seek relief
on behalf of the Open Housing Center to
recover expenses incurred during the in-
vestigation and identification of racially
discriminatory practices that denied rental
services to the black families.
The three black families charge that they
have been denied rentals in the Staten
Island communities of Willowbrook,
Manor Heights. Graniteville, New
Springville, Westerleigh and Bulls Head by
the realty companies charged, who en-
couraged the plaintiffs to consider locations
in predominantly black areas of the
"These families, employed, middle-
income blacks, sought satisfactory housing
for months in Staten Island and were con-
tinually denied access to available housing,"
said Lowell Johnston, Legal Defense Fund
First Assistant-Counsel, representing the
black families.
Betty Hoeber, Director of the Open
Housing Center, pointed out that "the ex-
periences of these families show the solid
wall of racial discrimination that shuts
blacks out of housing in Staten Island
which is available to whites, in complete
violation of the rights guaranteed under the
Fair Housing Act."O
ndra Thomas: A West Side Neighborhood Advocate
Sondra Thomas, an early and ardent
opponent of urban renewal displacement
on the Upper m-st Side, died of a stroke
on December 29, 1983. At the time of her
death, at the age of 56, she was director
of the Clinton Housing Development
Corporation, a position she had held
since 1978. She was formerly the ex-
ecutive director of the Strykers Bay
Neighborhood Council, and also served
as director of Community School Board
Three. Her earliest organizing ex-
perience was on behalf of District 65 of
the Distributive U-Vrkers of America.
Thomas is survived by her husband,
Regan Ted'Thomas, and her son, lei
frey, 24.
The following remembrance was writ-
ten by Sandra Abramson, Rev. Thomas
Farrelly, Matthew Forbes and Doris
housing for low and moderate in-
come residents in New York City'S gen-
trifying neighborhoods lost a champion
with the sudden death of Sondra Thomas
on December 29, 1983. The very men-
tion of "Site 30" or "crispy wires" to any
one working in housing immediately
conjures up Sondra's image, pacing the
corridors of City Hall waiting to testify
before the Board of Estimate.
Committed to the idea and practice of
collective action, Sondra devoted her life
to organizing people. ~ e t h e r around
labor issues or housing for the poor and
displaced, her energies were focused on
teaching those of us who felt powerless
in the face of big business and govern-
ment, that there was strength and power
in working together. Sondra was a good
neighbor to have around. She was active-
ly involved in the battle for school
decentraJjzation so that her child and
other children could have improved
education. When she was dislocated
from her West Side home, Sondra joined
her neighbors to form one of the first
low income cooperatives in New York
Having experienced the threat of los-
ing her home to Urban Renewal she
became the champion of the dislocated
families. Along with Father Harry
Browne, Esta Armstrong, Lynn Shea and
so many others, Sondra fought each bat-
tle to find a home for every displaced
person in the West Side Urban Renewal
Area. When the smoke cleared, more
than 2,000 families were housed in their
own neighborhood with a rent they could
afford. First as an officer and then, as
Executive Director of Strykers Bay
Neighborhood Council, she led that
community through many struggles for
the poor and powerless. It was her ex-
traordinary ability to research, to mar-
shal facts and then to organize them
clearly that enabled city and federal at-
torneys to win a legal victory for public
housing on Site 30 in the West Side Ur-
ban Renewal Area. So thorough was the
victory that it was upheld by the
Supreme Court of the United States. The
city's current decision to deny the west
side the low income housing it had won
found Sondra right back at a December
community meeting denouncing that
For the past five years she worked as
Executive Director of the Clinton Hous-
ing Development Company. She helped
guide that organization through the very
difficult beginnings of the Community
Management program for city-owned
buildings and then the 510 Demonstra-
tion Program. The 510 program to
develop cooperatives for low and
moderate income families was an im-
possible task. Yet Sondra guided it
through to completion with the expert
help of many dedicated people. The pro-
ject also provides 88 units of Section 8
housing. She became a neighbor to the
people of Clinton. When the people in
the Tenant Interim Lease buildings were
threatened with the loss of their homes,
Sondra gave herself unselfishly to their
cause. She dedicated countless hours
supporting and advising all involved.
On December 16 of last year Sondra
was part of a loan closing for the 510 Co-
ops. It was a job done, she said. She
looked back over the past twenty years
and said, "We have accomplished a lot in
our time: the relocatees housed in the
West Side, Site 30 victory and 138 apart-
ments in Clinton. We've done a lot and I
am content. It's time to move on."
Sondra saw clearly what life could and
should be like in New York City. She
had a conscience and a moral indigna-
tion that would not let her sit on the
sideline. She had an eloquence to speak
for what was right and the courage to
fight for it. She had the feistiness to take
on all comers big and small for the sake
of those who could not do it for
themselves. She was unafraid of con-
troversy because all that she did and said
was based on a deep love and an unben-
ding conviction in her cause. We have
lost a giant, we have lost a champion. 0
CITY LIMITS/January 1984
CITY LIMITS/January 1984
By Tom Robbins
Photos by Jim Mendell
Continued from Front Cover
Park's current success has been a ruthless expansionism, marked
by often brutal dislodging of longtime residents. Those activities
have left city-funded community groups inert, housing court
judges strangely befuddled, and local elected officials suddenly
drastically near-sighted. In spite ofthe sizeable dimensions of the
problem, it remains officially unacknowledged and totally
unpenalized by government.
Even many of those who have witnessed and opposed
Borough Park's ongoing tenant displacement have fallen behind
the community's veil of silence. Some of that reluctance to speak
out is borne of a distrust of how such news would be handled by
an outside world perceived as intolerant and hostile; some stems
from a simple fear of the wrath which could and has befallen those
who have protested.
As the son of an older couple who finally fled their building
after three years of harassment said in requesting their anonymity,
"The men who did this are not the nicest of p e o p l e . ~
In spite of the silence which has cloaked the ouster of many
of Borough Park's older and poorer residents, some of the pieces
are beginning to emerge: a block-long loo-apartment four-story
complex vacated in less than a year after stray dogs were let loose
to roam the corridors, windows boarded over in occupied apart-
ments and a barrage oflate-night threatening calls urging residents
to flee; another walk-up where gas was shut off just before
religious holidays so that orthodox tenants could have no food
prepared for the holid?y; a four-story where the water line to the
building was neatly severed with an acetylene torch and a vacate
order thus secured.
In each of these buildings, as in other stories unearthed in
Borough Park, owners had different plans in store for them: the
first building was demolished-eight three-family large bedroom
homes, specially designed for orthodox households, are under
construction with $300,000 pricetags on them; the second building
is - ironically - about to be rehabilitated into government-
subsidized senior citizen housing, although it held twenty most-
ly older tenants before they were driven out; within three months
after the third building was emptied, plans were filed to establish
a synagogue and a mikvah (religious baths) on the ground floor
while reconditioning the apartments above.
Numerous other Borough Park buildings have come under
similar onslaughts. A few have fought back and survived. Most,
however, appear to have been emptied, and made ready for new
use. There is no overall picture of this pattern of tenant harass-
ment and no one is keeping track.
From outside the community, two tenant organizations have
worked with Borough Park's troubled buildings, but only on a
catch-as-catch-can basis. Within the community, those who are
charged with aiding tenants are either limited by neighborhood
and religious politics, or are often on the same side as the
harassers. The Southern Brooklyn Community Organization,
Borough Park's major local developm'ent group which was
launched with Ford Foundation funding in 1976, receives a
$7S,OOO-per-year contract from the city to assist landlords and
tenants. It is the most logical candidate to aid or mediate for trou-
../ bled buildings. Yet in case after case, SBCO has been found to
fiave-ignered-the-most brutal-harassment-anct, in -some-instances-.
to have encouraged and profited by it.
The attack on Midwood Gardens, the 700-unit, eleven-
building complex which was virtually emptied of all but a couple
dozen of its tenants by last year, opened a back door to what was
happening in Borough Park. The blind eye turned to the deliberate
sacking of those buildings by every local elected official, the stag-
geringly slow and impotent response by housing and civil court
judges, the hesitancy on the part of even the most activist wing
of the city housing department to confront it, and the direct role
played by SBCO in sponsoring the conversion of the complex (one
it refused to openly acknowledge), all raised significant and trou-
bling questions about the manner in which Brooklyn's fastest grow-
ing community was being transformed.
These are some of the stories found in answer to those
The Siege of 50th Street
. The emptying of 1314-SOth Street, a four-story 20-unit walk-
up just off Borough Park's busy 13th Avenue shopping strip was
the nastiest action in the whole community," according
to Jack Friedman, a political gadfly who heads the Borough Park
Community Council.
1314 embodied all the contradictions of Borough Park's growth
and accompanying displacement: in the name of a religious
organization, developers demanded the older, devoutly Jewish
(although not Hassidic) tenants to leave. What transpired, between
1980 and the spring of 1983, led one tenant, a survivor of
Auschwitz, to describe as worse than her concentration camp ex-
perience; and, in the opinion of people who knew him, it led to
the premature death of the Talmudic scholar who organized his
fellow tenants. Yet, after three years, when the owners finally made
a financial settlement on the last four tenants, one woman returned
the greater part ofthe money she was given. Her own religious
scruples would not allow her to take money from a congregation.
In 1314's crowning irony, the owners have won city and federal
approval and funding to do a $1.3 million rehab on the building,
transforming it into subsidized senior citizens housing.
"From the first minute they bought the house, they wanted
to get rid of the regular tenants," recounted one who eventually
left. "They told us they'd bring in homeless people from the Bronx
who are very scary looking." A 3S0-pound man known variously
as Blumenberg or Bloom, "said he had big experience with these
kind of things. He did it at [South] Second Street, Ninth Street
in Williamsburg, at 48th Street in Borough Park."
Bill Colton, a tenant attorney and associate of the Bensonhurst
Tenants Council who worked with the tenants for a period, was
present when those threats were made. They followed numerous
fruitless efforts to get a hearing in housing court. "You won't see
me in court anymore," warned Blumenberg. "He said he'd freeze
the tenants out, which he did," said a resident. "Even with the
Passover cleaning coming and going," recalled a tenant, "we had
no heat or hot water."
A "super" was installed who made no repairs but played music
full-volume day and night. He told complainers, "The music is
good for you."
At one point, having cleared tenants out of the ground floor
apartments, a yeshiva for very young boys was installed. Aside
from the new chaos this brought, tenants were assured that if they
stayed, there would never again be heat after S p. m.
On the morning before Shavuoth,.a religious holiday, gas lines
1314-SOth Street: The city's rent control ofrICe described its emptying as
heinous and inhumane .. :' But the conRregation that owns the
building got funding to rehab it for subsidized housing for the elderly.
were cut, making it impossible for residents to make preparations.
The gas company told tenants the lines had been tampered with.
By the spring of 1982, for periods of days at a time, all water was
shut off. Tenants, many of them over sixty, lugged pails of water
upstairs from the fire hydrant in the street.
Yitzchok Santo, at the time the director of the senior citizens
center at Borough Park's YM-YWHA, recalls that Harry Berger,
one of the most active participants at the center and a tenant at
1314-SOth Street, didn't come on several occasions because he was
ill. Although it came out that he had gotten sick from having no
steam in his building, "Harry didn't give me the kind of opening
to help him," said Santo.
"Harry was a traditional educated Jew," according to Santo.
He went to yeshiva in Vilna, a center of orthodox learning in
Poland before the war. He owned a Vilna Shas - a rare edition of
the Talmud, the possession of which is a mark of privilege and
esteem among the orthodox. Arriving in the U.S. before the
holocaust, Berger made his living as a foreman in a leather-<:utting
On the morning before Shavuoth,
gas lines were cut, making it impossible
for residents to make preparations. The
gas company told tenants the lines had
been tampered with.
factory. After retirement he studied the Talmud daily with a group
of other students at the Temple Emanu-EI, Borough Park's oldest
synagogue, and worked with other seniors at the center. .
To those who knew him, he had a keen sense of justice. "Harry
was a battler, a struggler," said Santo. "He was a mensch in the
21 CITY LIMITS/January 1984
fullest sense, committed to his people without overestimating their
aOTIifies. The concept of 'choseness' had nothing to do with
superiority to him, but with a mission."
Eventually, when Santo began seeking information about
housing problems from seniors at the center, Berger came for-
ward. "Harry said, 'Look, start with my building because my
landlord doesn't give heat and he wants me out so he can convert.'"
The owner of Berger's building, the Congregation Ishmartem
Veasisem, is associated with one of Borough Park's major Hassidic
sects. "I'm a Shomer Shabbos [an observer of the rules of the Sab-
bath] person - the same as his landlords," said Santo. "I was in-
dignant . I felt real disappointment and hurt."
In December, 1981, housing court judge Arthur Aaron, after
a year of granting adjournments to 1314's owners, said aloud in
court that he just didn't know what to do with the case. Recalled
a tenant: "The judge said, 'I'm so happy, I go for vacation and I
don't see this case anymore.'"
apartments; the owners are now appealing their harassment fine
and are hopeful that state Supreme Court will find that payment
sufficient atonement.
During the three years it took to dislodge 1314's residents, they
found few allies. City Councilman Noach Dear, then District
Manager of Community Board 12, told tenants it was "out of his
hands." Dear said last month he had only known of the building
towards the very end, and that "the lead tenant was a f r a u d . ~ Jack
Friedman of the Borough Park Community Council , said he made
calls to the city on the tenants' behalf but got little response. The
Borough Park Housing Senior Citizen Project , a group created
to assist the elderly in the neighborhood, apparentl y did defend
the tenants, although director Marvin Schick declined to di scuss
that building nor others, saying, "publicity would not be helpful."
Friedman lamented the situation, but said, "The issue is gone,
the people are out."
Those who survived the siege <It 1314-50th Street are still
pondering what befell them, how it was that they got caught in
the rush towards development in their neighborhood. "IfI had had
a little luck," sighed one tenant who left her entire family behind
at Auschwitz, "ifI could have prayed with [the owners'] wives at
the same shul . .. perhaps it would have helped us .. :'
That heatless weekend in 1314, which marked the beginning
of Hanukkah, Harry Berger lay down and died. His death was
a result, his friends said, not so much from the heatless winter
days and nights endured under the congregation's management,
as the frustration and torment involved in fighting it. Berger's wife,
Ruth, for whom he had cared during her illnesses, died at the end
of the week. SBeO Backs Out
Berger "was a strong man, a brave man," recalled one of his Two blocks further down 13th Avenue, another four-story
fellow tenants. "It was the aggravation. If this didn't happen he walkup is also shuttered and vacant while families come and go
wouldn't have died. His wife, she too would be alive today if not from the spanking new brick three-family homes next door. There,
for these gangsters, bandits .. :' at 1312-52nd Street, owners accomplished in a few weeks what
In July, 1983, the city's Office of Rent Control found the took three years at 1314-50th Street. Purchased by Meyer
owners of 1314-5Oth Street gUilty of harassment and levied a Weinberger in September, 1979, within two months violations in
$16,150 fine. It did not, however, find individual owners culpable, the building started to mount . The tenants, a mixed lot of older
but the congregation itself as an entity, along with the managing Italians and Jews, started an action in housing court with the aid
agent who no tenant recalled having ever seen. Charges against of the city's housing litigation department.
the individual trustees of the congregation were dismissed for lack A consent order to make repairs was signed, but quickly ig-
of evidence. nored. On January 23, 1980, tenants saw two men supervised by
Tenants, however, knew who to blame. Henry A. Roth, a a large red-headed Hassidic man in the basement. Telephone, elec-
developer already found guilty of harassment in buildings on West tricity and heat went off. That week, a contractor called by the
42nd Street in Manhattan, was one trustee whom tenants cited. city's Emergency Repair division was "just a couple of turns of
Roth's fellow trustee, Alexander Jacobs, was another. Legal ser- the bolt away" from resupplying heat to the building when police
vices attorney Steve Bernstein and tenants also point to Leibel called by the owners chased him away.
Lederman, a co-owner of Midwood Gardens, who although not In the beginning of February, all gas meters were removed,
listed as a congregation trustee, was believed to be providing finan- although tenants' accounts were up to date. On February 7th, water
cial backing. Roth's office denied any involvement with the was CUL The next day, city housing attorney Abby Gorin went
building and attempts to reach other trustees were unsuccessful. to 1312 with an inspector. They found connecting pipes to the boiler
The Office of Rent Control wasn't able to get through to the sheared off, apparently with an acetylene torch, and the main
owners either. Neither they nor their attorneys, in fact, showed water pipe from the street similarly severed. Later, the boiler itself
up for any of five hearing dates at rent control in the fall of 1982. was removed. Although owners claimed vandalism, all the
Instead, they arranged a private meeting with Rent Control's then- valuable copper piping was ignored in favor of almost a ton of
chief litigation attorney, Harry Michaelson, where they pleaded boiler scrap iron worth perhaps $100.
their innocence and said they were only "volunteers." On February 14th housing court j udge Bertram Cohen asked
In his findings, hearing officer Paul Blank wrote: "It is ax- the owner's attorney whether or not the building was habitable.
iomatic that corporations do not act alone, but. .. through their When Gorin objected, insisting an inspection of the premises be
officers. It is only the paucity of the record in this regard which ordered, he was sharply rebuked and threatened with contempt.
prevents laying the blame for the conduct .. . at the doorstep of A few days later, on the basis that there was no running water,
those individuals who have masterminded and perpetrated the a vacate order was placed on 1312, although at the time there were
cruel, heinous, inhuman and illegal .. . conduct on the hapless still 19 tenants in the bUilding.
tenants over the past few years." Unlike other buildings, the Southern Brooklyn Community
The proposal to create 23 units of subsidized housing for the Organization apparently did make an initial attempt to aid
elderly at 1314-5Oth Street was submitted toHUD on June 23, 1983, 1312-52nd Street. It brought owner and tenants to a Bet Din- a
shortly after additional federal Section 202 funding for senior rabbinical court used to settle disputes. No relief was won,
citizen housing was released for New York City under pressure however, and SBCO dropped away. After 1312 was vacated, at-
from Senator Al DJ\mato, a staunch Borough Park supporter. At torney Gorin told SBCO director Rabbi Shmuel Lefkowitz that
that time, attorneys for the congregation concluded a settlement his organization's decision to back out of the building had been
with the last four tenants, paying them $7,000 apiece to vacate their irresponsible.
CITY LIMITS/January 1984 22
Jewish Press ad, Dec. 24, 1982. 13U-S2nd St.: Someone cut oIf and electric; after a vacate order was Issued, site plans were flied for religious facUlties.
According to Gorin, who worked on an Israeli kibbutz and
studied at Tel Aviv University, Lefkowitz responded, "It seems,
Mr. Gorin, that you are not concerned with Jewish education."
Although it was rumored 1312 would be reborn as a yeshiva,
shortly after the building was emptied, the
Congregation Paer Meshulom Tash filed plans to create a
synagogue and mikvah on the ground floor. The congregation suc-
cessfully got the buildings department to expedite approval so that
the facilities could be readied for the High Holy Days. Yct. today,
1312 stands empty.
Rabbi Lefkowitz returned no calls for this article.
Institutional Expansion
There is no park in Borough Park. Lodged between the
elevated train running along McDonald Avenue on the east, and
bisected by the New Utrecht Avenue el on the north and west,
the attraction of the spartan grid of Borough Park's numbered
streets and avenues now, as at the beginning of the century, is
as a refuge. Its earliest arrivals were better-off emigrants from
the Lower East Side, seeking a giant step into assimilation. They
settled in the brick and stucco homes along the side streets where
they were joined by many Italian families, some of whom stiJI
remain along the community's eastern and western edges.
In the late 1940s, the government-assisted suburban boom
made Borough Park's advantages pale. But the huge void left
by many departing Jewish families was slowly, and then much
more rapidly, fiUed by war refugees. Many of these holocaust
survivors were highly orthodox and Hassidic. Although most
refugees went to Williamsburg, many came to Crown Heights
and Borough Park, the next rungs up the economic ladder.
The population boomed in the seventies. Departing from
Williamsburg, the Bobuver Hassidim brought, by police
estimates, as many as 4,000 followers to Borough Park. The
swelling population encountered skyrocketing housing costs and
a shortage at both lower and upper ends of the market.
While lower income shelter needs got short shrift, Borough
Park's most recent struggle has been to provide local alternatives
to the large homes luring better-off families to orthodox com-
munities on Long Island and upstate. But recent SBCO-
sponsored co-op offerings, in apartment buildings such as "The
White House," have out-priced the market and wound up being
sold at fractions of the original prices.
More popular have been the new three-family homes for which
Borough Park's community board recently won a zoning change
allowing greater height and density. Accompanying the housing
demand has been a need to house numerous orthodox facilities
in the community.
The growing demand for religious institutional space helped
shape the market pressures in Borough Park which brought down
1312-S2nd Street and 1314-SOth Street.
"It's a residential-intensive neighborhood," explained Mar-
vin Schick. With the growing number of Jewish groups in the area,
there's been an increasing need for space, yet Schick has argued
that there are adequate vacant buildings to suffice.
To get that point across, Schick placed an ad in the name of
his Borough Park Housing - Senior Citizens Project in the Jewish
Press of December 24, 1982. In the sole public outcry against what
was happening, the ad caUed on mosdos - religious institutions-
to buy only vacant buildings; to avoid the tenant harassment that
had already occurred. Community insiders say the ad produced
a stormy response and Schick himself speaks of threats to defame
23 CITY LIMITS/January 1984
him throughout the community. He now eschews all publicity for
his project and steers clear of buildings where powerful communi-
ty groups are involved. He also keeps his distance from the com-
munity. operating out of a lower Manhattan office. He insists.
however. there has been improvement. due to marketplace
factors. The displacement of elderly and poor tenants has
diminished enormously." argues Schick.
Actually. evidence shows the problem to be spreading. New
York City's corporation counsel is currently suing a congregation
for harassment in the way it has seized a building at 203 Avenue
F on Borough Park's eastern edge and threatened residents there.
Jerry OShea. the director of the Flatbush Tenants Council is
fighting a similar battle on Avenue I in Midwood.
If anything. Borough Park's market has gotten increasingly
hot. One nearly-vacant apartment building on 53rd Street off of
14th Avenue recently sold to a congregation for an astonishing
$500,000. There, a landlord named Joseph Fischer cut services
to the 32 tenants of 1441-53rd Street until only eight of them are
left. Jack Friedman of the Borough Park Community Council had
been appointed the building's 7A administrator, but was barred
by Judge Aaron from renting vacant apartments. Aaron later
removed Friedman and appointed Norman Shilling, a Brooklyn
landlord with a poor record of building management but excellent
rate at getting lucrative court appointments.
In court, Aaron advised owner Fischer on how to legally
apply for permission to vacate the building. Fischer, who ap-
parently didn't quite get the judge's drift , sent the city's building
department plans for a new single famil home he wanted to build
on the site. The plans were in Hebrew.
With Shilling providing no management, the remaining
tenants are stymied, caught between a congregation eagerly
awaiting their removal and a housing court bent on accommodating
it. Sold once in 1982 as vacancies mounted to a partnership which
included Joseph Goldburd, an active local realtor and major con-
tributor to SBCO and Noach Dear's city council campaign, it was
sold again as tenants dwindled, for a half-million dollars to the
Congregation Tifereth Israel of Forest Hills. On behalf of the con-
gregation, Rabbi Devorah Liefer filed an application on August
24, 1983, to convert the ground floor to synagogue and mikvah
and create 25 new apartments above.
Sometimes what's sought from Borough Park's older
multifamily dwellings is not the building but the land. Such was
the case with 5501-14th Avenue, a grand, block-long, loo-unit
building which boasted twin turrets and an exterior grass court-
yard enclosed by a low brick wall. It was a building that caught
the eye of everyone in the community and few failed to notice its
rapid deterioration, or to register shock when bulldozers came
to destroy it.
Detai \ of 550l's downfall are sketchy. The building - really
four connec: '!d structures - was bought by Charles Katz and Steven
Farkas in 1981 . Katz is a major Borough Park landlord and Farkas
is a leading realtor and developer of the long, three-family brick
boxes sprouting along many side streets. Tenants were told to
move, that there would be no heat or services for those who stayed.
There weren't. There were also reports that stray dogs were set
loose in the corridors and that windows in occupied apartments
were boarded over. At any rate, there were apparently no tenant
organizations available to help. "After they had called everyone
else," says Larry Jayson, an organizer with the Flatbush Tenants
Council , his group got a call from the tenants in March, 1982.
Only six to eight tenants remained. Ten days later, said Jayson,
they too were gone. As soon as the buildings were razed, Katz
and Farkas began laying the foundations for eight three-family
brick homes, complete with succoth porches and other orthodox
CITY LIMITS/January 1984 24
Jewish needs. Selling prices are in the range of $300,000. Katz
and Farkas are carrying out their construction project under their
corporate name, "Joy of Life Enterprises."
The decline and fall of 5501 doesn't mean such descents are
inevitable. The Flatbush Tenants Council proved that in two other
Katz and Farkas buildings which came under similar attack. In
early 1982, tenants at both 5315-15th Avenue and 1320-47th Street,
both apartment buildings, started getting threatening phone calls.
"No one could say the calls were coming from Farkas and
Katz," said Larry Jayson, "but the words were: 'You'll be out by
the end ofthe winter. You won't get any heat:" FTC met with the
owners and got an agreement to make certain repairs. A few
months 'later, when few of those repairs had been made but the
threats continued, 12 tenants filed charges of harassment at the
Office of Rent Control. After two hearings, Farkas and Katz sold
both bdildings. The threats ended and today the new owner is pro-
viding services.
FTC was also able to halt the emptying of another Borough
Park walkup apartment house at l681-49th Street. The yeshiva
which purchased it made local landlord Abram Landau the
manager. Landau cleared out the ground floor first , but FTC and
the tenants stopped him there. Today, Landau is grudgingly sup-
plying heat and services.
In the sole public outcry against what was
happening, the ad called on mosdos -
religious institutions - to buy only vacant
buildings; to avoid tenant harassment.
The ad produced a stormy response.
No Local Voice
While FTC pinch hits for the ever-absent SBCO, it also steps
cautiously in Borough Park's volatile turf. Though it helped break
the juggernaut of harassment in a few places, it has been nowhere
to be found in many others where owners have booted tenants from
pillar to post .
While slumlord Frank Sciaccia turned 510 Ocean Parkway,
a prominent multifamily building at the comer of Ditmas Avenue,
into what FTC's Jerry O'Shea termed a "toilet," FTC helped the
mostly Black residents fight back. But when SBCO's newly
created Ocean Parkway Development Corporation decided to pur-
chase the building, empty and rehab it, FTC obligingly stepped
aside. O'Shea. after warning tenants they would be on their own
henceforth, joined the board of the development group. (The
brand-new group had no difficulty landing a one-year $25,000 con-
tract with the city housing department.)
That kind of exception makes clear that FTC's occasional
stand-in role is no substitute for a bona fide local neighborhood
organization willing to make its presence and demands known.
The closest Borough Park ever came to having such a group
was the Borough Park Tenants Council founded in the early lOs.
Launched with the assistance of the Maimonides Hospital Men-
tal Health Center, the group vigorously contested the
neighborhood's slumlords. But the council faded away after
Maimonides cut off funding for its tenant organizer at a time when
institutionally-backed displacement was beginning. Today, the
Maimonides Center provides individual tenant counseling one day
a week but carefully draws the line at building organizing.
Maimonides itself, which sits astride Borough Park's northern
border, is the community's biggest employer and industry. As cen-
tral Borough Park becomes increasingly expensive, more and
more younger Hassidic families are moving into the area where
BEJo"OKE: (left) S50J-I4th Avenue, a IOO-unit building, as owners Charles Katz and SteYeR Farbs emptied It In April, 1982. AFTER: One or
eight three-family homes now under construction on the same corner by Katz and Farkas' "Joy or Life Enterprises."
housing abandonment took a heavy toll over the past decade.
SBCO is sponsoring the creation of Section 8 subsidized hous-
ing at two rehab sites near Maimonides on Tenth Avenue near 44th
Street. Jack Friedman of the Borough Park Community Council
described the tenant displacement which preceeded the Section
8 construction as "very vicious."
"We tried to playa role," said Friedman, "but there were just
five or six tenants left, most of them older Jewish people. One
had a handicapped child. They were getting their water from the
hydrant." Friedman is convinced that the Southern Brooklyn Com-
munity Organization alerted the owners of the buildings to the
rehab plan, thus setting the harassment in motion. Whether or
not that's so, SBCO's work in the Maimonides area is with the
medical center's blessings and the two have an increasingly
mutually beneficial relationship-one that would be severely
hampered by an active, Maimonides-backed tenants group.
At the Community'S Fringes
Another of Borough Park's fringe areas rapidly being rechan-
neled is the section called "the Lower Forties" - the streets from
45th to 39th Street along 14th and 15th Avenues. It was the pool
halls of the Lower Forties which orthodox parents strove to keep
their children out of in Borough Park's early years, and it was those
blocks from which many Italian families departed in the 1960s
and ";Us. And it was there that arson and owner abandonment took
a heavy toll as an influx of Hispanics and other new arrivals
entered the community.
But last year, one of Borough Park's largest Hassidic sects,
the Bobuver, announced massive new plans for the lower forties,
focusing on two blocks between 41st and 43rd Streets along 15th
Avenue. According to the Boro Park Voice, the publicationofthe
Council of Jewish Organizations of Borough Park which the
Bobuv helped to launch, that "blighted slum" will be "transform-
ed to a bustling complex comprising a brand new yeshiva building
and a row of completely renovated spacious co-op apartments."
Few read that article with more interest than the current
residents ofthose blocks. The plans provided the missing link in
a more than three-year campaign to push those mostly Hispanic
tenants out of their own neighborhood.
In July of 1980 the city's housing litigation office went to court
on behalf of one of those newly orphaned 15th Avenue buildings,
number 4206-10, a twin five-story walkup. "There was no heat
or hot water and there had been some suspicious fires," recalled
city attorney Herb Somers. With just 12 of 20 apartments still oc- -
cupied, the city sought a 7A court-appointed administrator to take
over the building. City attornies were astonished, however, to find
a SBCO employee, Herman Silverman, appearing on the witness
stand for the owners. Silverman stated that he had taken the city's
own 7A administratorship course and that 4206-10 was not a
suitable building.
"He presented himself as an expert on the subject," said at-
torney Howard Arenz who now heads the litigation unit, "yet he
admitted on cross-examination he had never been to the building,
didn't know its repair needs and had no idea of the rent roll."
What irked Arenz most was that under SBCO's $75,OOO-per-
year community consultant contract it was supposed to be work-
ing along with the housing department . Arenz fired off an angry
memo to HPD's community development office which is charg-
ed with monitoring SBCO's contract. Yet there is no record that
SBCO was ever brought to task for the court appearance and the
group continues to receive one of the largest contracts in the city.
Three times housing court judges threw out the city's suit on
4206-10, ruling that the proper parties in the alphabet soup of realty
companies which owned the property had not been served. By '
then it was too late to save the building, and attorneys for the
owners claimed the last remaining tenants were paid offto leave.
This past July, the owner behind all the initials, the Bobover
Yeshiva Bnai Zion, emerged to file building plans to construct
a school and a large dining room on the site. Construction is now
underway. Continued on bottom of next page.
25 CITY LIMITS/January 1984
- - -,
Midwood Gardens: An Investment in Displacement
Borough Park's biggest tenant
displacement story is the four-year saga
of the destruction of a cluster of eleven
buildings on the neighborhood's
southeastern fringe. There, the
neighborhood's bitterest tenant dispute
. may earn SBCO its richest reward so far.
Although the downhill slide of the
7OO-apartment complex known as Mid-
wood Gardens began under the neglect-
ful ownership of Brooklyn landlord
Rubin Schron, the day-to-day sacking of
the buildings took off once real estate
developer Lawrence Rezak and two part-
ners, Howard Weiss and Leibel Leder-
man, purchased the property in mid-I979.
Violations in the buildings leaped from
45 to over 500 within one year; 43
suspicious fires took place within just
two years. By the winter of 1982-83, the
number of tenants had dropped to 35, the
rest having been burned-out, pushed-out
or bought out. As this winter began, leiS
. than one-half of those tenants remained
and most of these were threatened by a
vacate order reinstated by a supreme
court judge shortly before Christmas.
Rezak told HPD officials in 1981 that
he had been brought into the Midwood
Gardens operation at the behest of the
Southern Brooklyn Community Organi-
zation. In a successful effort to dissuade
the city from seeking the appointment of
a 7A administrator for the badly-
deteriorating buildings, Rezak said that
the plan was, in conjunction with SBCO,
either to convert the buildings into large
co-op apartments for orthodox families,
or to make it into subsidized homes for
the elderly or Russian emigrants.
Rezak told city officials that SBCO had
suggested landlord Kenneth Noonan as
"just the building manager needed" for
the Midwood Gardens job. Noonan, an
ex-marine whose two-fisted style of te-
nant harassment has earned him criminal
assault convictions and multiple building
fines, went to work for Rezak.
gone on there in two years."
City housing authorities, along with
O'Shea, complained. Then-city housing
code enforcement chief Joe Shuldiner
suggested that Rezak file before the ci-
ty's rent control and stabilization offices
for permission to vacate and decontrol
the apartments. No such application was
made. As city efforts to force repairs
were quietly softpedaled, the emptying
of the complex proceeded apace. Rezak's
sole gesture of good faith was to fire
In the fall of 1982, a sign appeared on
the now totally empty buildings lining
both sides of 52nd Street. It proclaimed
that the renovation of the site would be
undertaken under the sponsorship of
Despite this, SBCO's leadership stayed
purposefully evasive about their role in
the complex. Questioned in March,
1983, Director Shmuel Lefkowitz in-
sisted any South Brooklyn involvement
was limited to offering relocation
assistance to remaining tenants. "Our
organization is not involved with this,"
Lefkowitz told City Limits.
That was untrue. In August , 1982,
SBCO had struck an agreement with
Rezak and his partners to market 300
proposed condominium apartments to be
developed at Midwood Gardens. The
apartments will sell for an average price
of $155,000. SBCO, through a new enti-
ty called Borough Park HAND, will
receive a $450 fee per apartment for
assistance "in developing the strategy and
resolving numerous problems relating to
the project."
In addition, Borough Park HAND will
get a three percent commission for each
unit sold, while Rezak covers all
marketing costs. If the first phase of Mid-
"Within two weeks," said Flatbush
Tenants Council leader Jerry O'Shea,
"Noonan did more destruction than had
fOrtion ola block-long mural adorning the
abandoned 52nd Street section of Midwood
Gardens: A prettified future for a bitter dispute.
. wood Gardens is successful, and prices
are increased, HAND's share will in-
crease to four percent. SBCO thus stands
to earn between $1.5 million to $2 million
from the emptying and converting of
Midwood Gardens. 0
Across the street from where the new yeshiva is now rising,
tenants of two other buildings are hanging on. There, managing
agent Michael Bluth told tenants at the beginning of the summer
they would get neither heat nor services this winter. He has been
largely true to his word. Represented in housing court by legal
services attorney Elaine Fink, tenants have forced some minimal
CITY LIMITS/January 1984
repairs. Even these, however, are being done by ripping old parts
out of vacant apartments and installing them in occupied ones.
Bluth has told tenants confidently, "You're going to have to move
anyway. I don't know why you're going to court ."
Tenant leader Maria Cardona read the Bora Park Voice arti-
cle, entitled "Good News! Two New Projects Underway on Fif-
teenth Avenue," and learned that her building is slated to become
large family co-ops which had, in fact, already been sold.
"I feel like I'm living in someone else's apartment," she said
somewhat incredulously, "they're just waiting for us to be out."
Cardona has lived eight years on the block and has watched
her neighbors' buildings be picked off, one by one. "I decided when
they came to this building, they wouldn't get it so easily. We weren't
going to sit here and wait to be thrown out." She is acutely aware
that, as Hispanics, she and the remaining tenants have no friends
with local pull. "They simply don't consider us part of the com-
munity," she says angrily.
"I feel like I'm living in someone else's
apartment," said the tenant somewhat
incredulously, "they're just waiting for us
to be out."
While there is at least some local covert sympathy for the
white, mostly Jewish victims of Borough Park's expansion, there
is virtually none to be found for those who are Hispanic or Black,
nor even an acknowledgement that a problem exists. "No
Hispanics who are cooperating are lX!ing pushed out," insists Jack
Friedman, one offew local residents to aid displacement's victims .
. Lost in the Courts
That kind of conscious disenfranchisement by the majority
of the community is also felt on Borough Park's southern edge.
There, the expanding housing demand of large Hassidic families
has created the rationale (and profit motive) for emptying the vast
Midwood Gardens (see sidebar). It is also perhaps what lies
behind the three years of torment suffered by tenants at 1958-5Oth
Street, a five-story walkup where a tangle of mortgagees-in-
possession, a court-appointed receiver and fee owners have all
refused to provide services. Instead, a tenant organizer has been
physically attacked, the receiver has hired Court Street's biggest
political gun to block any expenditures by tenants, and the only
heat supplied in the past year has come from the city's Emergen-
cy Repair Program which already has a $17,000 lien on the
1958-5Oth Street shares several parallels with its neighbor,
Midwood Gardens. When landlord Rubin Schron sold that com-
plex in 1m, he shed 1958 as well. The new owner, Mendell
Bobker, promptly told tenants - some of whom had lived there
over 40 years - they should leave or "purchase" their apartments
for several thousand dollars.
The Flatbush Tenants Council began working with the tenants
in 1981 and organizer Clark Gebman helped them use rent monies
to repair collapsing ceilings and leaking roofs. In the fall of 1981,
after Bobker had still failed to correct over 220 violations, he was
fined a whopping $95,000. Bobker, however, failed to pay.
Instead, the building was passed first to a mortgagee named
Florencio Gomez, a superintendent at a nearby apartment building
who is believed to represent other financial interests, and then
to a receiver, Max Britvan. Britvan, who is vice president of the
Brooklyn Real Estate Board, is also an owner and building
manager of such ill repute he was supposed to have been barred
from getting any more receiverships. Britvan, however, pulled one
more out through Supreme Court Judge Edward Pincus, and, in
another Midwood Gardens parallel, hired Kings County
Democratic Party secretary William Garry as his attorney. Garry
is using his supreme court clout on Midwood Gardens owner
Lawrence Rezak's behalf as well .
!nlyn Clear, Ieft, ..... C-..... allMI-.. St.: teBMlscaupt
In a political squeeze play by 0WDeI'S and courts.
While the five members of Carmen Santos's family - eleven
years in the building - and Evelyn Glasser who grew up in the
building, and nearly forty other tenants went without heat or hot
water through almost two winters, Garry and Britvan got a suc-
. cession of Supreme Court judges to bar them from using any of
the rent money they have collected. As he did in Midwood
Gardens, Garry sought an injunction against any tenant collabora-
tion. "It's a very egregious example of the way the law can be us-
ed," said lawyer John Ben Asher of Legal Aid who, along with
Jeff Arendt, has been doggedly representing the tenants.
Even though tenants offered to give December's rent to the
receiver if heat would be provided, Garry and his assistant, Ar-
nold Ludwig, refused any payment short of all the back rent.
What makes 1958-5Oth Street distinct from the hundreds of
other brutal stories which flood Brooklyn's housing court each
day is that it is part of Borough Park's peculiar pattern of displace-
ment, the victims of which are like los desaparecidos - the disap-
peared - of Argentina: about them nothing is officially known,
therefore no one can help.
Each victimized building tells the same story: pleas to
political and community offices for assistance rebuffed with the
excuse that there is nothing to be done. This massive default in
tenant assistance stretches from groups like SBCO and COJO -
the Council of Jewish Organizations - to assemblymen, city
councilmen and district leaders. Of all Borough Park's political
representatives, only state Senator Martin Solomon, who briefly
represented the tenants of 1958-5Gth Street in court, could be found
to have shown even the slightest interest in the tenant disaster taking
place around them.
CITY LlMlISJJanuary 1984
A Political Disinterest
The representative presumably best-versed in the housing
problems of his neighborhood, by virtue of his previous term as
community board district manager, is City Council member
Noach Dear. Dear, however, says that "The problem is not so much
tenant harassment," in Borough Park, "but a shortage of housing."
Either way, though, it's an area outside of Dear's province. "I'm
not a tenant counsellor;' he insists.
Dear, who claimed to have only minimal knowledge of
the cases presented to him, was elected to office on a campaign
financed by those who have profited from Borough Park's displace-
ment. Midwood Gardens owners Lawrence Rezak and Leibel
Lederman together contributed $1,500 to Dear. Henry A. Roth,
whose involvement in emptying 1314-5Oth Street was noted by
former residents, gave $3,000. Charles Katz and Stephen Farkas's
"Joy of Life Enterprises" contributed $1,500. Dear's campaign
treasurer, Irving Kanarek, is one-third of the partnership controll-
ing Eastway Construction, a company that has done substantial
development work in the community, although it still owes the
city over $3,000,000 in defaulted municipal loans. Kanarek gave
Dear's campaign !)i/,5::'':; anc another $5,000. Given such
support, it hll.rdly seems surprising that tenants find
Dear unmoved and unavailab;
Borough Park is not alone ir its housing and tenant problems.
Older and poorer tenants are paying a similarly tortuous price in
other communities where the re3J estate market has risen rapidly
CITY LIMITS/January 1984
around them. Nor is institutional expansion and its accompany-
ing harassment unique: such august entities as Columbia Univer-
sity and Grace Church have, at one time or another, chalked up
wretched housing management performances. As FJ'C's Jerry
O'Shea says, "These are corporate considerations."
But in Borough Park's particular experience, the ravages of
displacement occur where no local advocates have sprung open-
ly to the defense. Only a handful of dedicated city and legal ser-
vices attorneys - and the occasional intervention of an puts ide
group - have supplied what is ultimately a thin and inadequate
line of defense.
Also peculiar to Borough Park is the far-reaching alliance
between a major government funded organization charged with
providing tenant aid, and those bent on depriving tenants of their
rights. But the Southern Brooklyn Community Organization re-
mains totally unchallenged, and the violations of tenant and human
rights continue to mount.
Those who knew Harry Berger - one of the casualties of
the siege of 1314-5Oth Street - say he was proud to be living in
a place where Jews had been reborn. If so, it was a pride he shared
with many others. But the tragedy of Harry Berger is that he lost
his place in that community, in the same way that hundreds of
h.ave lost theirs. In his Jewish Press advertisement against
displacem ... :!l, lvid ' V1'l Schick wrote: "The klal [the community
of'>elicvers] cannot be built I n misery of the individual."That
meSf: has yet to be hei1rd.O
No Trust Fund Position Yet for Council
Dear City Limits:
Your magazine is mistaken in stating that the Citizens Hous-
ing and Planning Council has taken a position against the Hous-
ing Trust Fund. We have not taken any position whatever. Several
of our board members are advocates of the fund, and several have
expressed private reservations; so far as I know, no board member
has publicly and officially opposed the fund. Certainly, Citizens
Housing as an organization has not.
We have postponed discussion until our long-time board
member George Raymond, a strong proponent of the fund, can
attend our meeting and argue persuasively in the fund's favor.
When asked to testify at the September 1983 hearings, we em-
phasized the importance of thinking through the problems of im-
plementation, rather than supporting or opposing the fund in the
Implementation is no minor matter. San Francisco's fund has
been much praised, but it is not limited to low income housing.
Indeed, it can finance luxury housing, and has already supported
a law school dormitory. As such, it is probably not the kind of
fund CHPC would support . Much as we wish to see new housing
programs, we do not support all programs blindly without con-
-s.i.!:Iering whom they will benefit and at what cost.
"Until our board votes on a specific proposal, we have no posi-
tion beYond my testimony which said, ''The trust fund may be the
device we are all looking for. But its details must be thought
through carefully to ensure that the fund works. The history of
New York City social programs is littered with the remains of ex-
cellent ideas whose details were not worked out in advance of im-
plementation. Let's not make the Housing Trust Fund another o n e . ~
Surely all agree that we want a trust fund that works.
Julia Vitullo-Martin
Director, Citizens Housing and Planning Council
In a July 14, 1983 New York Times article by Martin Gottlieb,
Julia Vitullo-Martin, identified as the director of the CHPC, is
quoted as saying that the establishment of a housing trust fund
would "basically be a perversion of the process of zoning" because
it "coerces
contributions from developers. ~ regret having at-
tributed those apparently personal opinions to the organization
which she represents. Hopefully, when the CHPC does adopt
a stance, it will be one that takes greater account of the massive
housing needs of this city's low income communities.
Dear City Limits:
Many thanks for the sample copy of City Limits. Have en-
joyed reading the issue, and enclosed please fmd $9 for a year's
sub. As you no doubt know, we belong to the National Coali-
tion for the Homeless. In fact , we are doing a book on
homelessness. Your magazine will be a real source. I was born
in Brooklyn, so I can relate to the scene quite easily. My wife
and I teach sociology in a Quaker college here in Wilmington.
Thanks again.
Jim Young
Wilmington, Ohio
Dear City Limits:
Please check your records. I sent payment last May and my
check was returned. Aside from that, I think your magazine is
great and plan to continue getting it to keep in touch with not
only New York City, but future trends in housing. Thank you.
Gil Synder
Riverside, California
Dear City Limits:
Thanks for the November issue. I enjoy the magazine,
especially tenants' rights and neighborhood organizing
Robert Mcloughlin
Dear City Limits:
I love your magazine. Keep up the good information. rm a
member of Lower Manhattan Loft Tenants.
Julie Finch
... a quarterly journal for housing activists and community
organizers. Thepa(esof SHELTERFORCE am ta in informatiolt,
news and analysis that can't be found in any other housing
Rent Control, Condomania,
Displacement, Government
ProlJl'ama, Houlinll Court ...
Buildinll a Tenant Union,
NOIlotiatinll with Landlord.,
Winninll Rent Control, PuJlinll
a Rent Strike ...
New. and AnalYlil of hou.inll
Itrullill .. around the country
and abroad
Book Review. , From the
Grao.roots, Facts and FiIlUJU,
Legal Developments, Filma,
Jobo ...
SUBSCRIPTION: $8.00 for 6 i..u.. SAMPLE COPY: $1.50
name __________________ ~ __ ~ - - - - - - - - -
address. ___________________________ _
city _____________ state _______ zip __
SHELTERFORCE, 310 ~ i n St. , E;ost Or;onl'" N. J. 0701.
CITY LIMITS/January 1984
r::::r Meeting on Rent Overcharge Strategies for Jobs. Film, Clockwork: The
Mobilization: A citywide meeting to plan Making of the American Workplace by
a flnal four-week campaign to meet the Eric Breitbart. Speakers: Prof. David M.
deadline on rent overcharge filings will be Gordon, New School; Prof. Stanley
held on March 3rd. Rent stabilized tenants, Aronowitz, CUNY Graduate Center.
many of whom are paying rents higher than March 2: Immigration: Strategies for
those allowed by law, face a March 31st Slide show by NY Chinatown
deadline to me protests at the Conciliation '=i History Project. Speakers: Harry
and Appeals Board or their current rents Schwartz, Chinatown Garment Industry
become unchallengeable. Sponsored by the Study; Prof. Saskia Sassen-Koob, Queens
New York State Tenants and Neighborhood College. March 23: Voter Registration:
Coalition, the meeting will be from noon Strategies for Power. Film: Vote Power.
to 4 p.m. Call 964-7260 for location.O Speakers: Council member Ruth Mess-
r::::r Strategies at Six: Four monthly
forums with visual presentations, spon-
sored by the New York Area Planners' Net-
work. Feb. 10: Economic Recovery:
inger; Congressman Major Owens; Prof.
Francis Fox Piven, CUNY Grad. Center.
All forums are Fridays at 6 p.m. at the
CUNY Graduate Center, 33 W. 42nd
Street, 3rd FIr. Studio. 0
Subscribe to the
Association of Neighborhood Housing
a . digest eX iate breaking information on: Legislative
Developments, Housing, Budget News, Neighborhood
. Economic Development and Fundraising.
,';Ed"weekly carries a calendar listing
-aitiClallfearings, demonstrations, conferences and
..... bhope.
o Individuals and community groups: $20/1 year.
o Citywide nonprofits, banks, foundations,
government agencies: $35/1 year.
Please send me a subscription to 1be Weekly .
Make chCck payable to:
Association of Neighborhood HowiMg Developers.
Send to: Weekly Reader, ANHD, 424 W. 33 St.
New York, NY 10001.
Sorry. combiIIatloll subscriptioru to Nf!ol!kiy
. .1tdJJer iIIId(;ity LiIIIiU are no /oliger:. !{vailabk.
CITY LIMITS/January 1984 30
~ ~ _________________ r - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ~
Tenant Organizer/
Housing Manager
Seeking experienced, bilingual individual to
organize and develop tenant associations in city-
owned buildings; assist tenants through building
rehabilitation processes; train tenants for
cooperative ownership and self-management; work
as liaison between tenants and maintenance staff.
Requirements: Bilingual- Spanish-English;
minimum two years tenant organizing experience;
excellent writing and oral communications skills.
Salary: $15,000 plus good benefits.
Send resume to: Zully Rolan
St. Nicholas Community
Mgmt. Program
11-29 Catherine Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211
The Mayor's Office of SRO Housing seeks staff
for the Family Hotel Inspection/Improvement
Program" Monitors will coordinate multi-agency
inspections of hotels housing displaced families,
seek correction of conditions and monitor enforce-
ment follow-up.
Qualifications: Bachelor's degree or eqUivalent
experience; good organizational and writing skills;
keen observational and analytical abilities.
Experience with homeless and/or low income
families preferred.
Salary is $17,000.
Operations specialist needed for the same program
to: develop and maintain computerized record
keeping and tickler systems, draft reports and
Qualifications: Bachelor's degree or equivalent
e)Cperience; excellent writing skills; experience lin
office systems and computers essential.
Salary: $19.000.
Send resume to: Betsy Haggerty
Mayor's Office of SRO Housing
51 Chambers St. Rm. 1202
New York, NY 10007
Experienced leader sought by community agency,
Central Brooklyn. Program involves tenant organiz-
ing, building management, security patrol, com-
mercial and coinm"nity revitalization. Supervisory
experience and competence in program deSign,
proposal writing, and familiarity with reporting re-
quirements of government agencies and founda-
tions essential. Submit resume to:
Search Committee
249 Fenimore Street
Brooklyn, NY 11225
.An Equal OpportUDlty Employer
Neighborhood based, non-profit organization.
FundrQising, staff supervision, budgeting,
financial management, work with active
neighborhood Board of Directors. Minimum 2
years supervisory and administrative ex-
perience essential. Experience with community
development issues helpful. Minority candidate
encouraged to apply.
$25,OOO/yr., liberal benefits.
Resumes to:Fifth Avenue Committee,
94 5th Ave., B'klyn, N.Y. 11217
City-Wide tenant union is looking for a staff
organizer. Responsibilities include but not
limited to organizing bUildings, workshops and
demonstrations, staffing office and going to
housing court. Fluency in Spanish and organiz-
ing experience preferred, committment to
building a movement and flexibility a must.
For more information plea118 call
598-4900. 1 :30-6 p.m.
Aggressive, efficient, courteous knowledgeable
superintendent. Location: Manhattan, Upper
West Side. Must possess license for operating
#6 Boiler. Retired supers please apply. Must be
capable of servicing 49- to 70-units. Worthy
applicants please. Phone 663-7951, leave
Saga of the West
Side Squatters
Growth Agenda for
the Eighties, Pt. I
(Pt. U photocopy in-
cluded with this
Send me these specially-priced issues of CITY LIMITS:
$1.50 each, 3 for $4.00, 4 or more $1.00 per copy.
NaDle ____________________________
____ __
Thtal Number of Copies ____ Amount Enclosed __ Make checks payable to: CITY LIMITS.
Send to: BACK PAGES, CITY LIMITS, 424 West 33rd St. NY, NY '10001

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