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June/July 1991 New York's Community Affairs News Magazine $2.

P O W E R P L A Y E R S : L I S C A N D E N T E R P R I S E
R E D I S T R I C T I N G D I S A S T E R D A N T I - C A R A C T I V I S T S
W hat C an Be D one?
CirJl Limirs
Volume XVI Number 6
City Limits is published ten times per year,
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City Limits (ISSN 0199-0330)
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Editor: Doug Turetsky
Associate Editor: Lisa Glazer
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Copyright to 1991. All Rights Reserved. No
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Painful Breaks
e've heard a lot lately from the Dinkins administration about
sharing the pain of the city's fiscal woes. Neighborhoods have
been told to expect wrenching losses of services and munici al
labor unions are being warned about massive layoffs. But what
pain are the financial and big business communities sharing?
Sure, they'll be paying some higher taxes-but all of us will. At the
same time, many of the big tax breaks that have benefited major corpo-
rations, real estate concerns and financial institutions remain in place.
And they're worth tens of millions of dollars a year.
Take the Industrial and Commercial Incentive Program. Last year it
cost the city $59.3 million in lost tax revenue. The beneficiaries included
such needy folks as developers William Zeckendorf Jr. and Ian Bruce
Eichner and the Holiday Inn hotel chain. Even McDonald's and White
Castle fast-food outlets have shared in this bounty. During the six years
the program has existed the city has forgone nearly $200 million in tax
revenues-a sum that could have paid for a whole lot of drug-treatment
centers or homes for the homeless.
But the giveaways don't end there. Last year the city also lost out on
some $59 million in property taxes from the World Trade Center. The
trade center is owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey,
which makes Payments in Lieu ofTaxes (PILOTS). In 1990 these payments
totaled less than half of what a private developer paying full taxes would
have paid. The state legislation that makes this arrangement possible
never expires.
There's a special irony here. The Port Authority built the trade center
with money it made from floating bonds. The Wall Street bondholders
who are profiting from the trade center are the same class of folks who are
jacking up the interest rates on the city's own bonds. Talk about double
dipping on misery.
And there's a similar story over at Battery Park City, where the Battery
Park City Authority paid roughly a quarter in PILOTS and other payments
of what the full taxes to a private owner would have been. Cost to the city's
coffers last year: some $80 million.
These three examples alone amount to nearly $200 million in tax
revenues that stayed in the pockets of the wealthy. Isn't it about time that
Mayor David Dinkins started really talking about sharing the pain?
* * *
City Limits Wins Again ... and Again: City Limits is bringing home two
more journalism awards. Lisa Glazer has won a Sidney Hillman Foundation
award for her outstanding reporting on the plight of families after leaving
the city's welfare hotels. And the New York Metropolitan Chapter of the
American Planning Association is presenting us with its third annual
journalism award for our coverage of planning issues. (Previous awards
went to Paul Goldberger from The New York Times and Brendan Gill from
the New Yorker; some interesting company for City Limits.)
* * *
Outward Bound: After more than five years, the past two and a half as
editor, Doug Turetsky is leaving City Limits. Doug is too modest to bring
attention to this fact, but under his leadership City Limits has had an
exceptionally strong and stable few years. After Doug leaves, Associate
Editor Lisa Glazer will be taking control of the magazine. 0
Correction: In last month's issue we neglected to name the housing
department photographer whose picture we spread across pages 12
and 13. It's Larry Raccioppo.
Cover photograph by Mel Rosenthal
The Wrong Medicine?
The city pays $400 million a year to medical schools and
teaching hospitals for doctors in the municipal hospitals.
It's a bitter pill to swallow. 12
Painful Breaks .......................................................... 2
Chopping and Changing ...... ...... ............................. .4
Auction Stopped ............. ................... ........... ........... 4
City Wins AIDS Funds ............................................. 5
Freewheeling Visionaries ........................................ 6
The Go-Betweens ..................................................... 8
No Place for Kids ................................................... 17
City View
Cut and Paste Council Districts ............................. 20
California Dreaming ............................................... 21
Freewheeling/Page 6
Go-Betweens/Page 8
Medicine/Page 12
Broken windows and falling
ceilings in dilapidated buildings
may remain perilous because
the city is cutting back on
housing code inspectors and
changing the way the remaining
inspectors are assigned.
The housing department
has 273 housing code
enforcement inspectors,
according to spokesperson Roz
Post. There are plans to cut 110
positions, but these have not
been finalized, she says.
"It's a disaster," says Anne
Pasmanick from the Community
Training and Resource Center.
"It's going to be a field day for
landlords. This signals to me
that they [the housing depart-
ment) are removing code
enforcement from their
Inspectors visit residential
dwellings to ensure they meet
the safety standards of the city's
housing code. If an inspector's
report lists violations, this can
form the basis of a lawsuit
brought by tenants or housing
department lawyers to press the
landlord to make improvements.
Pasmanick from aRC says
that with a reduced number of
inspectors, the housing deport-
ment will only send staff to
inspect buildings with heat
emergencies and other dire
cases. When judges in housing
court require veritication of poor
conditions as a justification tor
withholding rent, inspectors will
not be able provide this service.
As a result, says Pasmanick,
"More peaple are going to get
The inspectors that remain
are being reassigned to new
posts in boroughs where they
have not been working. Post
says this is a move to prevent
corruption, adding that it will
also familiarize the inspectors
with housing conditions
throughout the city.
The Civil Service Bar
Association (CSBA), which
represents the attorneys who
oversee the day-to-day enforce-
ment of the city's housing code,
argues that the transfers will
result in diminished service to
the tenants the code is designed
to protect.
"This will prevent a lot of
Tenninal condition: Cutting the city's housing inspectors will allow
landlords to let more buildings fall into disrepair and increase
litigation from moving forward,"
says Abbie Gorin, a housing
department lawyer who is a
member of the CSBA. "It will be
difficult for new inspectors to
pick up where old ones left off,
especially in complex cases
where hundreds of repeat
violations are at issue." He
adds that corruption will not be
prevented because inspectors
inclined to take bribes will do so
regardless of where they're
The rotation plans led to
arbitration proceedings between
the housing department and the
CSBA, with the housing
department ultimately going
ahead with their plans. Post
says the rotation is now being
implemented.o Joanne
The co-op conversion of two
financially unstable apartment
buildings is on hold following
an investigation of the co-op
sponsors bX the state attorney
general's office.
The buildings, .410-.418 E.
1 3th Street and 1.42-1 M W.
109th Street, are owned by
Solomon Borg and Abraham
Mendel. An auction of
apartments in the properties
was after the attorney
general's office discovered that
the sponsors withheld vital
information from the offering
plan-including the fact that
both properties were in
'We became aware that
certain information hadn't been
disclosed," saxs Richard Barr, a
spokesperson for the attorney
general. 'We entered into
discussions with the sponsor
with the sponsors and they
agreed to indefinitely postpone
the auction."
The auction wqs an attempt
to sell enough apartments to
complete the co-op conversion.
Under state law, 15 percent of
the apartments must be sold
before the conversion goes into
Tenant groups charge that
the sponsors also harassed
tenants in the building. One
letter to an East 13th Street
tenant from the super reads,
"Contact me or I ruck up
everything serious." Another
tenant, who took the landlord to
court, alleges in an affidavit that
the super and the building agent
threatened to beat him up and
shortly afterwards his apartment
was broken into.
Franca Branchiesi, a tenant
in the 109th Street building,
says she and other tenants have
been on three separate rent
strikes against Borg and
Mendel's company, MB
Management. "It's very
disturoing and distressing," she
says. "You have to
struggle for basic repairs."
Despite some improvements
done to prepare the building for
co-op conversion, Branchiesi
says that within apartments,
walls are crumbling and there
are numerous leaks.
Calls to MB Managementwere
not returned.
A number of tenant groups-
Good Old lower East Side
(GOlES), the Cooper Square
Committee and Co-op Watch-
are the attorney
general's office and the
Manhattan District Attorney to
look more closely at Mendel
and Borg's operations. They say
it's particularly important to stop
the auctioning of apartments in
shaky buildings. ''This is a real
shotgun approach," says Janet
Freeman from Co-Op Watch.
''These auctions panic peaple.
They think they're buying
something very cheap, out it's's very frightening."
Barr from the attorney
general's office says, ''The
matter is under review." 0 Usa
New York City has been
granted an additional $17.6
million in federal funds for AIDS
services programs. The money,
provided under the Ryan White
Comprehensive AIDS Resource
Emergenc:r Act, supplements
$15.8 million awarded to the
city earlier this year.
Although the latest grant is
$7 million less than r ~ u e s t e d
by' the city, the cut will not
effect the service plan developed
last winter by New York's HIV
Health and Human Services
Planning Council. The process
of awarCling contracts and
starting projects takes time, so
expenditures on actual services
won't begin until significantly
later than the beginning of the
grant period, which was April
1 . Since the services originally
planned for with $40.7 million
in Ryan White Act funds will be
in place for less than one year,
the reduced funds will still cover
the costs of operating the
original one-year plan.
The 42-member HIV
Planning Council, which
includes city officials, AIDS
activists and HIV positive
people, originally allocated
$22.6 million for health, $10.9
million for social and $3.7
million for mental health
services for low-income New
Yorkers with AIDS. (See City
Limits, April 1991.)
New York City was among
15 cities nationwide deemed
hardest-hit by the AIDS
epidemic competing for
supplemental funds under the
Ryan White Act. The city
received a basic grant of $15.8
million under the act and
applied for an additional $24.9
million in funds.
But as New York receives
new federal AIDS funds, the
Dinkins administration is cutting
the city's own funding for AIDS
services. Mayor David Dinkins
has proposed cuts in AIDS
spending as well as other health
and social spending that will
seriously erOde the infrastructure
on which services for people
with AIDS and HIV depend, say
members of the planning
council. They point to such
moves as the elimination of
drug-treatment programs as an
example of the kind of cuts that
will have a strong impoct on
many people with AIDS.
Further complicating the
council's work is the uncertain
situation at the Mayor's Office
on Health Policy, which
oversees the HIV planning
council. Carmen Rivera, who
headed the mayor's health
office and served as chairper-
son of the council resigned last
March. 'We don't know what
the people at City Hall are
planning," soys Tom Petro, a
policy analyst for the mayor's
health office. 0 Michael
A farewell party for Doug Turetsky
June 21, 6:00 p.m.
40 Prince Street
Food, music, day care
Cost $5
By Cory Johnson
Freewheeling Visionaries
Transportation Alternatives promotes car-free cities
where people can walk, bike, play ... even garden.
harlie Komanoff says that he's
going to eliminate every auto-
mobile in New York City. But
the brown-bearded 43-year-old
doesn't steal cars, nor strip them,
smash them or burn
them. He just wants to
ban them. Good luck,
you say? "We know the
idea sounds crazy at
first," says Komanoff,
president of Transpor-
tation Alternatives, an
anti-car advocacy
group. "But imagine
your street with no
moving cars. Imagine
that same street with
no parked cars. That's
a street where a child
can play, where old
people can sit, where
you could have
curbside gardens. We
think that could and
should happen."
move the cars faster. But that doesn't
work. For more than 50 years it's been
proven that providing more roads
leads to more vehicles using those
roads. The only way to eliminate
Auto-Free Cities.
Not bad for a bunch of bike fanatics.
Transportation Alternatives' numer-
ous small successes are due to a care-
fully crafted, three-part strategy to
achieve their ultimate goal. All of
their activities aim at either increas-
ing membership, winning incremen-
tal gains for bicycling and walking, or
generating public knowledge about
their cause. Their best efforts do it all
at once.
Case in point: Their campaign
seeking auto-free zones
in Central Park and
Prospect Park. This ef-
fort is crucial to Trans-
portation Alternatives.
It's their first ever au to-
reduction campaign,
and a high profile cam-
paign at that. The
group is well aware that
their recent achieve-
ments have given them
a "can't fail aura" that
could easily fade.
"With every victory,
we have persuaded
people that we are or-
ganizationally effec-
tive," says Komanoff.
"We aren't thought of
as a group of people
who bangs our heads
up against walls. We
bang our heads up
against doors."
His group, made up
of bicyclists, pedestri-
ans and other environ-
mentalists, has been
fighting to get rid of
cars in New York for
nearly 20 years. It
doesn't bother them
Car chase: Jon Orcutt leads Transportation Alternatives' protest for an auto-free
Central Park. Car-Free Parks
Turning the city's
that this ultimate goal is still an awful
long way off. "We don't define suc-
cess as the abolition of all automo-
biles in city limits-we see it as steps
in that direction," says Komanoff.
"And we are gaining in strength and
numbers with everyone of those steps.
Restricting auto use is about more
than just making New York a more
livable city; it's very much about the
greenhouse effect, the situation in the
Middle East, acid rain, global
warming .. . Human powered transpor-
tation is the answer to a host of world
Komanoff, a Harvard-educated
economist who runs an energy con-
servation consulting business, says
the auto-free city is an idea whose
time has arrived. "It used to be that
rush hour was only an hour, that when
there were too many cars on the roads,
they would just build more roads to
congestion is to create an area where
congestion cannot occur."
Minor Miracles
Imagining New York without lim-
ousines clogging up the avenues may
take a leap of faith, but Transportation
Alternatives has been remarkably
consistent in delivering minor
miracles for cyclists. They won full-
time bike lanes in Central and Pros-
pect parks, wider curbside lanes on
Manhattan avenues, ramped paths on
the Brooklyn Bridge. They also made
River Road in New Jersey's Palisades
Park accessible to cyclists, opened a
ramped passage across the George
Washington Bridge and are protesting
the current use of bike lanes by traffic
on the Queensboro Bridge. Setting
their sights beyond local scraps and
struggles, in May they organized the
First International Conference for
two largest parks into
auto-free areas may be a hard door to
open, but Transportation Alternatives
is giving it a good push. They've al-
ready completed a letter-writing cam-
paign, compiled 8,000 signatures on
their car-free parks petition and en-
listed the support of politicians inclu-
ding Manhattan Congressman Ted
Weiss, Manhattan Borough President
Ruth Messinger and City Council
Member Ronnie Eldridge. The re-
sponse from the city's transportation
department? The usual bureaucratic
shuffle-they've commissioned a
study to examine the effects of traffic
elimination in Central Park.
"This isn't going to come down to a
study," insists Jon Orcutt, 27, Trans-
portation Alternatives' executive di-
rector. "It's going to be about politics."
So now there are weekly protests at
Central Park, an attempt to build a
larger, louder constituency for their
cause. Handing out leaflets at an April
protest, Orcutt chats with a slickly-
attired bicyclist on a high-tech white
bike, promoting the organization. Just
then a runner approaches from the
opposite direction, takes off her
Walkman and starts whistling and
clapping. "No cars anywhere," she
shouts. "I'm already a member!"
If their organizing has worked well,
Komanoff says it's not because of the
lengthy experience of Transportation
Alternatives' founders. "I've never
been an organizer before," says Kom-
anoff. "So if this is working better or
worse than other advocacy efforts, I
couldn't tell you. But we have man-
aged to gather a dichotomy of people
that cuts across all boundaries, it's a
rainbow, old people, young people,
all races and economic backgrounds.
We've really struck a chord."
Soaring Interest
The chord emanates in part from
the phenomenal recent growth in bi-
cycling, a fact that doesn't have to be
proven to anyone who has attempted
a weekend stroll across Central Park
this spring. This soaring interest has
brought new members to Transporta-
tion Alternatives. Their paid mem-
bership has almost quadrupled in the
last five years, reaching a high ofl,300,
and their two publications, the New
York City Cyclist and Auto-Free Press,
now have a combined print run of
nearly 20,000. "We've gotten big
boosts from Earth Day and the Ameri-
can Youth Hostel's five-borough bike
tour," explains Komanoff. "There are
a lot of people who would like to use
their bikes more if they could."
A study by the Department of
Transportation that illustrates that
point is proudl y brandished by Trans-
portation Alternatives. Completed in
1990, the study of 688 Manhattan of-
fice workers found that 28 percent of
those surveyed would bike to work if
there were safe bike lanes, parking
space for bikes and shower facilities
at their workplace. The response was
even higher-49 percent-for those
who lived within 10 miles of their
workplace. "But the government en-
courages the use of automobiles," says
Komanoff. "Tax breaks are given to
car owners, to corporations with
parking facilities, the government
spends billions on the infrastructure
for automobiles, fixing bridges .. .1 bet
bikes wouldn't wear out the
Williamsburg Bridge." 0
Cory Johnson is a freelance writer and
a triathlete.
Writing 0 Reports 0 Proposals 0 Newsletters 0 Manuals 0 Program
Description and Justification 0 Procedures 0 Training Materials
Research and Evaluation 0 Needs Assessment 0 Project Monitoring and
Documentation 0 Census/Demographics 0 Project and Performance
Planning and Development 0 Projects and Organizations 0 Budgets
o Management 0 Procedures and Systems
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1I""I'a II
By Doug Turetsky
The Go-Betweens
The Local Initiatives Support Corporation and the
Enterprise Foundation are attracting private investors
to the poorest communities-but the new partner-
ships have their costs.
n an amazingly short period of about
12 months, a ramshackle, fire-
scarred building on the Lower East
Side was transformed into a safe
and clean home for 18 low-income
families. One tenant, pausing to talk
in the white and brown tiled lobby of
77 Avenue C, describes his new home
in a single word: "Outstanding."
The story of 77 Avenue C is no
aberration. Over the past four years,
dozens of buildings have been under-
going similar transformations in many
of the city's poorest neighborhoods.
It's all part of a program that links city
funds to private capital under the aegis
of two organizations-the Local Ini-
tiatives Support Corporation (LISC)
and the Enterprise Foundation. LISC
and Enterprise engineer the renovation
deals and put the projects in the hands
of nonprofit community groups.
The Local Initiatives Support Cor-
poration and the Enterprise Founda-
tion are creatures of the Reagan era.
Both were born as the Reagan admin-
istration slashed federal support for
housing programs. LISC was formed
permanent force in their communi-
ties. Supporting the low-income
housing efforts of some of the biggest
local development groups in the city-
st. Nicholas Neighborp.ood Preserva-
tion Corporation, Los Sures and
Banana Kelley Community Improve-
ment Association to name a few-is
one means to that end.
For Enterprise, the main goal is the
development of housing for the poor.
"The mission of Enterprise is to assist
in providing decent and affordable
housing for the poor of this country
and assist people out of the cycle of
poverty," says Bill Frey, who head's
the foundation's New York office.
LISC and Enterprise work as inter-
mediaries and they've paved the way
for the renovation of some 3,200
apartments in the city, and plans are
now being finalized to begin work on
1,200 more units. In a city where de-
velopers often complain that it's nearly
impossible to get work done, LISC
and Enterprise have succeeded, with
the city's housing department, in cre-
ating a program that gets buildings
renovated quickly and within budget.
And they've lured investments total-
ing $110 million from local banks and
corporations-money that filters into
the hands of neighborhood-based
Miracle on Avenue C?: Private investors primed the renovation of this building for low-income
Despite these advantages, the LISC
and Enterprise program has its critics.
They say the public-private partner-
ship creates an extra layer of bureau-
cracy that controls funding and
focuses attention on housing devel-
opment and management-at the
expense of grassroots community
organizing. In the rush to create
affordable housing, local groups may
be trading their community roots-
and activist politics-for the promise
of corporate cash.
in 1980 by the Ford Foundation; En-
terprise in 1982 by developer James
Rouse. True to Reaganite fashion, both
groups focused their programs on pri-
vate investment.
Though there are numerous other
similarities between the two groups,
there are also differences. The Ford
Foundation helped establish the
nation's first community development
corporation (CDC) and LISC's princi-
pal goal is to strengthen the CDCs that
have sprung up across the country
over the past quarter century. "We
start with the CDC, not low-income
housing or economic development,"
says LISC's Marc Jahr.
By providing money and technical
assistance, LISC aims to make these
local development groups a stable and
Enterprise works with a broad range
of local nonprofit groups, not just
community development corpora-
tions, and they're willing to spend
time helping groups with little previ-
ous management or development ex-
perience. (LISC has recently started a
"capacity building" program for
groups with little development expe-
Tax Deal
LISC and Enterprise's ability to at-
tract corporate investments mush-
roomed in 1986 with the creation of
the federal low-income housing tax
credit. Through the use of these tax
credits corporations began to invest
in a big way and LISC and Enterprise,
which have nationwide programs,
expanded their New York efforts.
The corporate investments targeted
for the city are pooled into a finance
entity called the New York Equity
Fund. A corporation makes an invest-
ment in the fund, generally between
$1 and $5 million, which is paid over
a period of seven years. Such sums are
invested for more than good works-
investors earn federal tax credits with
a rate of return equaling about 15 to 20
The Equity Fund is a separate en-
tity from LISC and Enterprise, though
its board of directors is comprised of
members from the two intermediar-
ies. The fund is essentially a banker,
making loans for the projects under-
taken by LISC and Enterprise. And
like a banker, it takes something off
the top to pay for its own operation. In
the case of the New York Equity Fund,
roughly 11 cents of each dollar in-
vested goes to covering the fund's
operating costs.
The Equity Fund also borrows
money from banks, which in turn it
lends to LISC and Enterprise projects.
These funds, which are known as
bridge loans, cover architectural and
construction costs until the mortgage
loan kicks in at the completion of the
project. According to Joe Center, who's
Ecumenical Development Corporation
is finalizing arrangements with Enter-
prise for the renovation of six build-
ings on West 125th Street, just 55
cents of every dollar invested in the
New York Equity Fund actually winds
up in the projects. Some advocates
argue that straightforward grants
would be cheaper and plow more
money directly into housing devel-
Credit Worthy
LISC and Enterprise generally get
the credit for driving the renovation
projects forward because of their abil-
ity to attract private investments as
well as foundation support. In fact,
public funds make up the bulk of the
money. In the West 125th Street
project, nearly two-thirds of the funds
for the $3 million renovation comes
from the city's capital budget-loaned
to the project at just one percent inter-
est. Federal funds are also part of the
financial package. In general, the New
York Equity Fund provides about a
third of a project's funding.
The LISC and Enterprise projects
don't come cheap. The average reno-
vation cost is about $84,000 per apart-
ment. But rents are kept relatively
affordable under rules connected to
the federal tax credits. A two-bed-
room apartment for a three-person
family (rents are tied to the number of
people in a household as well as the
size ofthe apartment) rents for $422 a
month. The tax credit rental restric-
tions stay in effect for 30 years, though
in the first projects it was just 15
But the tax credits pose other re-
strictions that are troubling to some
community groups. The projects must
be run as typical rentals-no mutual
housing associations, limited-equity
co-ops or other tenant ownership or
management arrangements. After 15
years the community group that spon-
sored the renovation can buy the
building and convert it to tenant con-
trol, assuming there's enough money
in the building's reserve fund to swing
Bankers Trust Company
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the deal.
For groups born out of tenant
organizing and advocacy, the role of
manager who must balance building
services with the bottom line and pro-
tect investor capital is not always
easy-or desirable. Abdur Rahman
Farrakhan of the Oceanhill-
Brownsville Tenant Association cau-
tions that many of his colleagues are
losing their sensitivity to the commu-
nity while trying to appease the tax
credit program investors. "We will be
the Donald Trumps of the ghetto,"
says Farrakhan, who's group is cur-
rently working on a project with En-
These concerns are a classic ex-
ample of the tensions that develop
when community organizing groups
become developers. Some groups, like
the Williamsburg-based Los Sures,
have managed to maintain a strong
organizing tradition while steadily
expanding their management and de-
velopment operations.
But some groups have changed
course as they've increasingly worked
with intermediaries. Once known as
the Mid Bronx Desperadoes, the MBD
Community Housing Corporation has
assumed a decidedly more establish-
ment name and taken on a major-
and controversial-role as the
developer of middle-income housing
in one of the Bronx's poorest neigh-
Part of this process is embedded in
the nature of the intermediaries them-
selves. The two groups both have dual
roles: On the one hand they are ad-
vocates for community groups; on the
other hand they are the investors' in-
surance that their capital will be spent
prudently. Major foundations and
corporations generally feel far more
comfortable doing business with in-
termediaries who's boards of direc-
tors are composed primarily of
business executives and operate with
a traditional top down hierarchy than
some feisty community group based
in a scruffy storefront.
Because of such factors , LISC and
Enterprise are growing rapidly across
the nation. Recently a new joint pro-
gram was announced-the National
Community Development Initiative-
with $62.5 million in hand. The Pru-
dential Insurance Company
contributed $15 million as did the
Lilly Endowment and Rockefeller
Foundation. Several other foundations
kicked in sizable sums as well.
As LISC and Enterprise grow and
prosper, direct funding for commu-
nity organizations is drying up and
local groups are becoming dependent
on the intermediaries, sometimes for
their very survival. But the LISC and
Enterprise program is not necessarily
the one that's right for many commu-
nities. The intermediaries essentially
see the problem of poverty in terms of
inadequate capital and resources, not
as an issue of a lack of power and
control. It's enough, in their scheme,
to trickle funds down into poor neigh-
borhoods through a set of tightly con-
trolled development programs.
In a time when there's little money
for low-income housing or commu-
nity development coming from
Washington, LISC and Enterprise are
playing a valuable role. But their ef-
forts are also diverting attention-and
energy-from the underlying eco-
nomic and political factors that pre-
vent the elimination of poverty and
homelessness. D
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he rong
The Health and Hospitals Corporation hands out more than $400
million to private institutions that provide doctors for the city's
hospitals. Some say it's money ill spent.
t's a classic urban nightmare: Saturday night at a New
York public hospital. You've thrown out your back
and you're lying on the floor of an overcrowded
emergency room. A young mother bounces her baby,
trying to stop the bawling. A stabbing victim emits a
low moan. Homeless people are roaming the hallways,
there aren't enough nurses and ever,y available bed is
being used. How long will it take to see a doctor? Any-
where from a few hours to a few days.
This worst-case scenario isn't al ways played out at New
York's municipal hospitals, but the city's public health
system is experiencing severe stress every single day of the
year. The agency in charge of the chaos is the Health and
Hospitals Corporation (HHC) , a bureaucratic behemoth
with a budget of more than $2.5 billion. Created in 1970,
the corporation oversees 16 hospitals, scores of neigh-
borhood clinics, the Emergency Medical Service and six
home health care agencies. It employs over 49,000 city
workers and its facilities are the site of more than four
million patient visits per year.
HHC's impressive scope of operations pales beside the
enormity of its task. Public hospitals serve the poorest
people in the city, and this group is steadily growing: In
1975, nearly one in seven New Yorkers lived below the
poverty line; today that number has climbed to about one
in four. Within this group is a wide array of patients-
crack babies, homeless people with AIDS, sick prisoners,
drug abusers in search of treatment, the mentally ill and
the indigent, not to mention the 1.3 million New Yorkers
who simply can't afford health insurance.
Problems are compounded at city hospitals because the
medical profession has become increasingly specialized
and many low-income New Yorkers find it nearly impos-
sible to find a family doctor, let alone afford the fees. This
means that diseases that could be prevented aren't, and
the emergency rooms of public hospitals are overflowing
with patients suffering with everything from aches and
pains to asthma, tuberculosis, broken bones and gunshot
Most of these trends are fairly
well known-and beyond the
city's immediate control-but
there' s another, lesser known
situation that contributes to
medical gridlock. Each year, the
Health and Hospitals Corporation
pays more than $400 million to
prestigious medical schools and
private teaching hospitals for the
provision of doctors and senior
staff at city hospitals. Known as
affiliation contracts, these ar-
rangements have profound impli-
cations for health care in New
York-and they're one of the few
areas where the city can actually
make changes.
"The priorities of the medical
schools are not necessarily HHC's
priorities," explains Anjean
Carter, a health care analyst for
the Community Service Society. Referring to basic medical
treatment for men, women and children, she says, "Primary
care is the kind of care most people need, yet primary care
is at the bottom of what the medical schools are interested
in. They're more interested in research and medical spe-
"There's an institutional imbalance in the whole health
care industry-between actual community needs and the
high-tech training and activity that goes on-and that's
reflected more than anywhere else in New York City," says
Robb Burlage, a founding member of the Health Policy
Advisory Center (HealthPAC). "Affiliation contracts are
the inner spine of activity."
Spinal Adjustment
Policy experts and health advocates have been arguing
for years that this spine should be reshaped so it bends
towards primary care, but progress so far has been mini-
mal. While hospital emergency rooms provide a wide
Up 1IlIiIIIt .... well: Many New Yorkers need
basic medical treatment, but the medical
schools and teaching hospitals are more
interested in specialty medicine and research.
~ ~ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ~ ~
range of treatment, including primary care, much ofHHC's
resources are directed toward highly specialized hospital
treatment for extremely ill patients, and many medical
students use these patients to learn lucrative medical
specialties such as radiology and surgery. In 1988, a mere
20.2 percent of the 2,228 graduate medical students in
residency programs in HHC hospitals were training in
primary care areas such as family practice, pediatrics and
general internal medicine, according to a study compiled
by the Community Service Society.
Two years ago, the board of the Health and Hospitals
Corporation formally approved a strategic plan that em-
braces the need for community-based, primary care. "HHC
has an agenda for the next decade," reads the corporation's
latest annual report. "It must become a community-oriented
health care system. We believe it is the only viable meth-
odology that allows us to address growing health care
needs ... Furthermore , it focuses on the right issue-how to
keep people out of the hospital by keeping them well."
Like a glacier, the plan is a significant-but slow-
moving-force. The pace of change should come as no
surprise, considering the players. Despite a hefty budget,
HHC is a lowly city administration and the medical
schools and teaching hospitals occupy a unique position
of clout and prestige in the city. "You have to think beyond
medicine," explains Eli Ginzberg, a medical economist
from Columbia University. "This is part of the ongoing,
dynamic relationship between a weak city and powerful
sub-interest groups."
In recent years, 21-year-old HHC has been trying to flex
it's administrative muscles, but it's been hard to shake the
weakling reputation. Established as a semi-independent
public benefit corporation, HHC has never lived up to its
promise. It was meant to make health care delivery an
efficient and apolitical process but the system is still
plagued by red tape and patronage. Because City Hall
controls the corporation's finances-plugging deficits and
grabbing surpluses-there's little incentive for produc-
tivity. Matters aren't helped by the fact that investigations,
exposes and political infighting have led to the dismissal
or forced resignation of numerous top employees.
After 14 months on the job, HHC's new head, Emilio
Carrillo, age 40, has emerged as a target for muckrakers
following allegations that he took loans from his subor-
dinates and used his city credit card for personal expenses.
But despite scandals and severe budget-slashing, Carrillo
has also propelled the corporation forward-hel ping HHC
move towards financial independence, aggressively pro-
moting the strategic plan and openly standing up to the
affiliates, many of whose contracts are up for renewal this
"We're giving a tremendous amount of money and
responsibility to the medical profession and we've made
it very clear to those that we contract with that we must
have community-based, primary care," he says. "Some
affiliates are more open to this idea than others. Well,
we're open to the idea of new affiliates coming in. We're
going to have to look wherever we can to find the services
we need."
Dual Identities
The bleary eyed doctors at Bellevue Hospital have two
identification tags attached to their white coats-one is for
Bellevue Hospital/Health and Hospitals Corporation, the
otheris for New York University Medical Center. Welcome
to the world of institutional affiliations.
The Bellevue-NYU Medical Center connection is just
one of more than a dozen affiliation arrangements between
public hospitals and private institutions. Each one has a
unique and complicated history, but all have one thing in
common: They're very expensive. In 1989, for example,
HHC paid nearly $37 million to Columbia for medical
staffing at Harlem Hospital; more than $41 million to New
York University Medical Center for providing doctors to
Bellevue, Goldwater and Gouverneur; and a whopping
$53 million went to the Catholic Archdiocese's medical
school, New York Medical College, for services at Lincoln,
Metropolitan and Bird S. Coler hospitals.
People in favor of the affiliations like to compare them
to close marriages, with both partners benefiting from the
arrangement. Critics of the system describe them more as
an annexation. Either way, it's clear that when the affili-
ation system started in 1961, there were reasons for both
sides to be interested. At that time, the municipal hospi-
tals were in the midst of a doctor shortage and serious
questions had been raised about the quality. of medical
care. They needed new, high-quality doctors. For their
part, the medical schools and teaching hospitals were
having financial troubles. An annual cash infusion looked
good, and they could always use a new stream of patients
for their students to practice on.
The affiliation brainstorm came from Dr. Ray Trussell,
who was head of the city's Department of Hospitals, the
precursor to HHC. In a 1963 report, Trussell stated, "To my
knowledge, no large city is facing its public medical care
responsibilities ... with such a clear-cut philosophy of the
respective roles of the public and private sectors and how
they can work together for the mutual benefit of both."
How mutually beneficial the contracts truly are has
been a source of debate. "You've got a public hospital
system paying $400 million to a private system ... and
institutions serving a minority population contracting
with institutions that are primarily white. It's been a
politically sensitive issue for quite a long time," concedes
Bruce Vladeck, who runs the United Hospital Fund and
sits on the HHC board.
Despite these misgivings, the affiliation contracts did
solve the doctor shortage and improve the quality of care
in the city's hospitals-but a new set of problems emerged.
From their origin in 1961 all the way to 1983, the multi-
million dollar contracts were little more thiill letters of
agreement between the two institutions. How many doc-
tors were provided, what type of work they would do, how
many hours they were paid for, even what amount of
salary they would receive-all this was left to the affiliates.
With the affiliates getting so much freedom, it would
seem logical that HHC could at least supervise the contract.
After all, this is how it works when government contracts
out for everything from consultants to cleaning. Not so
with the self-governing medical profession. To top off the
arrangement, in the early years the affiliates even oversaw
the contracts, a classic example of the fox guarding the
chicken coop.
As the result of this very limited accountability, un-
known sums of money have been frittered away. "Until
Close scrutiny: HHC is starting to demand more accountability from the
recently the corporation was very lax in enforcing the
contractual relationship," says VIa deck from HHC's
board. "The issue is when affiliate x bills hospital y for a
certain amount of services, are they actually providing
that amount of services. The answer is: Nobody knows. By
and large, HHC is just not very careful."
Questions about wasted money abound. A state
comptroller's report from 1986 found lapses in attendance
for physicians from the Long Island Jewish Medical Center
and the New York Medical College who were working at
Queens and Lincoln hospitals. When the comptroller's
staff asked the medical supervisors about these doctors,
the supervisors were often unsure of their whereabouts.
Health care advocates say that because many of the aIflliate
doctors hold numerous part-time positions, it's extremely
difficult to keep track of who is working where and when.
Another area of ambiguity has been the use of HHC
space and patients for research projects led by doctors
F.mIIy doctoring: A 1988 study found that just 20 percent of the doctors
in city hospitals specialized in primary care.
from the affiliate institutions. According to a city
comptroller's report filed back in 1982, "HHC has lost
what could amount to tens of millions of dollars ... because
it has never billed the affiliates for the cost of space rental
charges for research activities conducted at its facilities."
Following this report, a policy was instituted, but it's far
from glitch-free. According to the state comptroller's 1986
report, Queens Hospital billed the Long Island Jewish
Medical Center $224,063 for research space used during
1983. As it turns out, the billing was incorrect, and only
about half that amount was owed. But how much did Long
Island Jewish end up paying? A mere $6,000.
Trips to Sweden, Hawaii
Money has also been lost through lax supervision of
travel and education policies. According to the city
comptroller's report, HHC paid for doctors to attend
conferences in Sweden and Hawaii, even though regula-
tions stated that travel outside the continental US was
prohibited. Additionally, doctors and their spouses had
courses in topics such as interior design, French, math and
piano playing reimbursed by the corporation.
Fred Winters, a spokesperson for HHC, responds that
the comptroller's reports are outdated and irrelevant. He
says that the hours doctors work, the amount of rent due
for research, and the costs incurred for extra classes and
travel are now the subject of close scrutiny. These days, he
says, HHC still pays for some work-related classes and
travel, but the executive director of each hospital is re-
sponsible for making sure this falls within strict guide-
lines. "This is the smallest part of the affiliation contract-
just 1.5 to three percent," adds Winters. "It's not a big
deal." How much does three percent of $400 million come
to? Some $12 million-not exactly small change at a
corporation laying off more than 400 employees.
As well as conferences and extra classes, the contracts
also allow the affiliates to charge HHC for chauffeurs that
drive doctors between city hospitals and the medical
schools and teaching hospitals. When asked how much
money was spent on this service, Winters was unable to
provide details. "This is the smallest part of the smallest
part of our spending," he says. "I have no idea how many
drivers there are and no way of finding this out for you. I
can't begin to understand why you want to focus on this."
Since 1983, there's been some tangible accountability-
tightening-but there's still a long way to go. An 82-page
contract has been drafted, with sections outlining the
affiliates' responsibilities to the Health and Hospitals
Corporation, but there are no hard guidelines on exactly
how many primary care doctors the hospitals should
have. HHC's Office of Affiliations and the executive di-
rectors of the hospitals oversee the contract, which is a
step forward, but the amount of money paid to doctors is
basically still set by the medical schools and teaching
Still, larger issues loom over these specific items.
"There's a couple of levels on which people criticize
affiliation contracts," says Charles Brecher from the Citi-
zens Budget Commission, a business-funded watchdog
group. "There's the relatively narrow contract enforce-
ment tact, that there ought to be better monitoring of the
contract. But there's also the idea that they aren't a good
programmatic fit with the major role of HHC as family
doctor to the poor. The affiliates train fancy, high-tech
doctors who have a bias not to do community health care.
They're not interested in primary care. I think that is a fair
criticism of the affiliation program."
The way this bias works can be seen in HHC's five
Neighborhood Family Care Centers: East New York,
Cumberland, Segundo Ruiz Belvis, Sydenham and
Morrisania. These family care centers serve areas with
dire health needs and were created as a way to increase
community-based care. Because almost all of the centers
are mostly staffed by hospital doctors, the affiliates have
a fair amount of control over operations-and the centers
are languishing. "Underutilized, understaffed, unsup-
ported and overlooked," is how they're described by the
United Hospital Fund's City Hospital Visiting Committee.
Despite all these criticisms, there's another point of
view. "The affiliation system has done more good than any
other system for health care in New York City," says
Martin Begun, an outspoken associate dean at the New
York University medical school. "There's a lot of gossip
about rip-offs, failure to identify community needs,
enormous costs and little benefits. But I can assure you the
city gets it's money's worth."
Begun says that medical students work long, hard
hours and deserve every penny they earn. He acknowledges
that some doctors may turn up late or not at all, but says
they're the rare exception. "You're dealing with profes-
sionals," he says. "They know what they're meant to be
When asked about how the medical schools are going to
get behind the new community-based, primary care em-
phasis at HHC hospitals, Begun becomes hesitant. "I hear
about this but I don't think it's going to happen," he says.
"Medical schools are educational institutions. They're
not necessarily part of the health care system. We expose
students to a number of options including primary care
and community medicine but the number of students
doing internal medicine is dropping. They're going into
esoteric specialties-radiology, surgery, orthopedics."
Begun says it's not right to blame the medical schools
for broad, systemic problems. Can they help it if students
have huge loans to repay and are interested in lucrative
specialties, which can pay twice as much as primary care
work? Is it their fault that government and insurance
companies provide better reimbursement rates for spe-
cialties than primary care? And are there any better alter-
natives than the affiliation system?
Part of the response comes from Sue Kaplan, the execu-
tive director of the New York State Council on Graduate
Medical Education, which was established by Gov. Mario
Cuomo to promote primary care. "At each point in the
system there' s a responsibility for pushing this agenda [of
primary care] forward," she says. "It really.isn't put
all the onus on medical schools and teachmg hospItals-
they're responding to what medical students 'Yant
their institutional needs and it's a very complIcated mIX.
But I don't think that excludes anyone actor in this play. "
Contradictions, Opportunities
If the medical schools aren't interested in increasing the
training they provide in community care, some critics say
the city should simplify matters by hiring their own
doctors, or contracting to independent groups of doctors
known as professional corporations. Three hospitals-
Coney Island, Woodhull and Coler-are currently using
this arrangement. Others say this is unrealistic, and ad-
vocate continuing to push the perimeters of contract
negotiations. For better or worse, says Burlage from
HealthPAC, "affiliation contracts are really the only place
where we can negotiate terms of care and training. At the
moment there are severe contradictions. But there are also
opportunities. "
It's all a question of political will, and ifHHC can truly
stand up to the affiliates-and get backing from City
Hall-then these can
erwise, it will be busmess as usual, WIth the affIlIates
benefiting and patients suffering from lack of basic care. 0
"Cajolery About Primary Care"
In New York City, Emilio Carrillo, the head of the
Health and Hospitals Corporation, has started to
demand that medical schools pay more attention to
primary care. He's following in the footsteps of
David Axelrod, the assertive state health commis-
sioner who resigned recently after a stroke. These
efforts are not making the medical schools happy, as
can be seen from this report to the New York Acad-
emy of Medicine:
" ... Our quarterly meetings with the State Commis-
sioner of Health feature histrionic statements rang-
ing from saber rattling to painfully transparent cajol-
ery especially about primary care .. .in developing
sites for primary care, we just do not believe it is
useful for our medical students to be assigned to the
standard urban hospital Medicaid clinic .... to have
our students visit a site where the homeless are
located, at 6:30 p.m., will serve no useful purposes
for the patients and will be an unsatisfactory educa-
tional experience for our students .. . most of the deans
are unwilling to establish Departments of Family
Practice ... the illness patterns we face require much
more sophisticated training. " -From a Jan. 10,1991
presentation by Nathan Kase, head of the Associated
Medical Schools of New York.
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By Mary Keefe
No Place for Kids
Parents are clamoring for day care, but the city's centers
have room for only 12 percent of the eligible kids.
ower income families are no dif-
ferent than any other: parents
want the best for their children
whether they live in a Loisaida
tenement or an Upper East Side co-
op. When it comes to day care, parents
want accessible, safe, nurturing care
from someone they can trust.
But for many of New York's poor
and working class parents, the city's
public day-care system, run by the
Agency for Child Development (ACD),
can be a bureaucratic nightmare. Par-
ents struggle to find basic information
about enrolling their children in day-
care centers and often must bear inter-
minable waits before a child care slot
becomes available.
Access to day care may be the single
most important step for parents look-
ing to move beyond public assistance.
But a day-care bureaucracy that pro-
vides little information about avail-
able programs and far too few spaces
for those who need them feeds a sys-
tem that blames the poor for their
You feel like you're on trial."
Parents like Whittaker must wrestle
with a child care bureaucracy that
seems to believe lower income par-
ents are unable to make choices about
care for their children. According to
Mimi Abramowitz, a Hunter College
it's another wait in the endless line of
govermnent offices they must visit to
receive help.
Many parents say these centers
aren't much of a resource. They say
ACD workers often provide incom-
plete or wrong information. Phones
sometimes go unanswered for days at
a time and paperwork is continually
Scarce Space
But if more parents did get the
information they need and sign up for
ACD day care, they would join the
This makes parents like Maureen
Gannaway angry. "[Women living on
welfare] want to do something, but we
don't know where to start. We sit back
and say, 'I don't know what to do with
my kids.' They don't let us in on
anything and then they make us the
fall guy and say, 'They don't want to
do anything. '"
Uncaring bureaucracy: Kassandra Whittaker says the day-care system "makes you feel like you're
on trial. "
Still, Gannaway was lucky. By
chance she found a model program
for welfare recipients that includes
extensive child care information-a
rare opportunity. Now her son is in a
day-care center he loves and she's had
a year of job training. "I would have
gone [to school] earlier, but I didn't
know my options," she says.
But many parents--even those who
get their children into day care, re-
main frustrated. Says Kassandra
Whittaker, a single parent who's son
is enrolled in an ACD program: "Par-
ents need to feel more in control and
more part of the decision-making,
more a part of the system. But when
you go to ACD you don't feel part of
the team to get your child in day care.
professor and author of a book on
women and welfare, in much public
policy today there's "a deep distrust
of the capability of poor families, es-
pecially those headed by women, to
raise their children properly."
When parents try to find subsi-
dized day care they often hit brick
walls. Some 67,000 people called an
ACD help line last year, but the agency
only managed to "service" one-third
of them. Parents often go to city-run
day-care centers in their neighbor-
hood to try to arrange for care. There
they are told they have to sign up at an
ACD Resource Center-and there are
just seven scattered throughout the
city. For working parents that can
mean a day off work, often without
pay; for public assistance recipients
14,000 children already on the waiting
list. City-subsidized day-care centers
have spaces for some 45,000 kids-
just 12 percent of those eligible.
Spaces for infants and toddlers are
the most scarce. Only about four per-
cent of those seeking care can find it.
For pre-schoolers, some 35 percent
can find day care.
Waiting lists are most unbearable
in neighborhoods swelling with large
numbers of young, low-income fami-
lies. In areas like Washington Heights,
Flatbush and parts of the Bronx and
Queens, it's almost impossible to find
city-subsidized day care. One direc-
tor of an ACD day-care center close to
downtown Brooklyn says children
come from as far as Rockaway, Queens,
dropped offby parents that then go on
to Manhattan to work. That means
costly commutes and long subway or
bus rides with young children.
Competitive Pressure
Now there's more pressure than
ever on the city's day-care system
because of the welfare reform rules
that went into effect last October. Low-
income working parents now must
compete for the limited number of
day-care spaces with public assistance
recipients who are required to join
job-training programs. Under the new
rules, ACD gives welfare parents a
higher priority for day-care assistance.
The city had planned to create 1,260
child care slots to meet the added
demand for day care, but has delayed
the plan to save money during these
fiscal hard times.
Now the poor most battle the poor-
Bringing Home the Spoils of War
he oil-laden clouds hang not just over Kuwait but over the entire Persian
Gulf corifl,ict, covering the most noble proclamations in a coat of grime. Was
the conflict about defending democracy, restoring the rule of law, protecting
the weak? Or did the U.S. agenda have more to do with economics: protecting
. markets, controlling oil prices, defending U.S. arms manufacturers from the
incoming peace dividend?
r N-;"-. .;;.; .. ; , In a May special issue, Dollars & Sense
I ISSUE FREEl I examines the economic causes and conse-
I OStart my S'Ubscription. Enclosed is $16.95. I .1" he ,n ' t +; l ' .
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: : .Ittllun & SeilSe
est for the few day-care slots that
become available. For parents like
Williamsburg mother Idalmi Pagan
it's a battle that could thwart her hard
work. It's been more than a year since
Pagan, who works full time and goes
to school at night, applied to ACD for
care for her three-year-old son. "I al-
most failed a course because I was so
distracted," says Pagan. Now her baby-
sitter is quitting by the summer. "I'm
getting desperate," says Pagan, add-
ing that officials just tell her working
parents are a low priority.
Even when working-poor parents
get subsidized care, it doesn't neces-
sarily come cheap. They pay for care
on a sliding scale. For Sandra Blades,
a computer operator, that amounts to
$218 a month for her two kids, one of
whom attends part time. But after
paying rent, that only leaves the fam-
ily $170 a month for food, clothing,
transportation and other necessities.
What happens when poor parents
don't know about the city's day-care
centers? Or they can't get their kids
in? Or the sliding scale slides too
high? For those who don't have fam-
ily or friends that can fill in, it often
means turning to unlicensed day-care
providers. For some, it may mean
leaving young children home alone.
And for still others, it may mean aban-
doning jobs for the welfare rolls.
continued on next page.
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Making Day Care
The actual number of day-
care spaces in the city's child
care system has stayed roughly
the same for more than a decade.
It will take all the creativity city
policymakers can muster to
break that barrier.
The Agency for Child Devel-
opment has a set of rules and
procedures far more cumber-
some than those followed by
private day-care providers. Ac-
cording to some experts, by
streamlining those rules the city
could integrate the public and
private systems. The city could
then purchase space in private
centers or could issue vouchers
to eligible parents who could
use them to buy private day care.
ACD now does this on a very
limited scale.
All state and federal child care
money now goes directly to ACD.
Some advocates suggest opening
up that funding stream so non-
profit agencies or community
groups that want to open up day
care centers could apply directly
for the funds rather than having
to appeal to ACD.
Expanding family day care-
individuals licensed to care for
children in their homes, now
accounting for 17 percent of the
city' s day-care spaces-could
help ease the shortage for in-
fants and toddlers.
There are no vouchers for
family day care but some advo-
cates say ther should be. And a
new state law may encourage
unlicensed family day care pro-
viders to legalize.
For years ACD has been un-
able to build or acquire new fa-
cilities for group care. But now
there's a plan, sponsored by the
Local Initiatives Support Corpo-
ration (LISC) , a national group
that secures funding for housing
development, and Child Care
Inc., a child care advocacy orga-
nization, that would link the
construction of day care centers
to housing being built by local
community groups with LISC
funds. The plan calls for up to
15 centers serving as many as
1,000 children. (See related
article, page 8.) 0 Mary Keefe
continued from previous page.
But there is hope for improvement.
Last year, Congress passed the most
important child care legislation in a
generation. Millions of day-care dol-
lars will begin to flow into the city this
fall. (See City Limits, March 1991.) City
policymakers are under the gun to
change a system that has long been
The Dinkins administration faces
an important test when it comes to
day care. It's a test the city can't afford
to flunk. As one mother says, "It's
important for the city to invest in us
for the future." 0
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I.OWEST Premiums
FAST Policy Renewals
By Elliott D. Sclar
Cut and Paste
Council Districts
his is a time when City Hall has
precious little to provide for
New York neighborhoods, so
it's absolutely essential that
government supports political and
social enfranchisement as strongly as
possible. Un-
fortunately, if
the recently
released redis-
tricting propos-
al is allowed to
stand, if will
dash any hope
for the vital,
political activ-
ism this city
This is no
small matter as
New Yorkers
may be the most
politically dis-
enfranchised citizens in the United
States. New York City contains more
people than 41 of the states, yet until
charter revision, they were essentially
governed by eight officials elected to
the Board of Estimate. The 35-mem-
ber City Council was involved in the
political process but was little more
than a step-child. All this was changed
by the new city charter, which abol-
ished the Board of Estimate and cre-
ated a newly powerful City Council
with 51 members, to be elected on the
basis of neighborhood districts.
The Big Loser
When the City Districting Commis-
sion crafted their proposals, three cri-
teria seem to have been at work. Two
were explicitly mandated by the
charter and the third was dictated by
politics. The charter required that
districts reflect the city's ethnic, ra-
cial and cultural diversity and that
they also respect neighborhood geog-
raphy. Politics required that district
boundaries do minimal political harm
City View is a forum for opinion
and does not necessarily reflect
the views of City Limits.
to incumbent City Council members.
The proposed districts prove beyond
any reasonable doubt that these three
goals cannot be met simultaneously.
In the redistricting process so far, the
lobbyists for the incumbents and the
advocates for diversity have won out.
The big loser was neighborhood in-
tegrity. If this loss isn't redressed,
incumbency may prove a worthless
prize and diverse representation could
be a meaningless gesture.
Why? Because neighborhoods are
the key to a strong, healthy city.
Vibrant neighborhoods pump cash,
talent and energy into the urbane
metropolitan core. New York has a
variety of neighborhoods, some strong,
others fragile. It is a matter of the
highest strategic priority that the social
and political infrastructures of these
areas be enhanced in every way.
This is not going to happen if the
redistricting commission's prelimi-
nary proposals are adopted. The odd-
shaped geographic forms that the
redistricting commission has put for-
ward as political neighborhoods are
at sharp variance with the districts
established for community planning,
schools, police, fire and sanitation
services. These districts were pains-
takingly developed to efficiently serve
the neighborhoods that make up the
city. Furthermore, since the mid-
1970s there has been a continuous
effort to make these slightly differing
districts mesh with each other.
It is difficult to believe that a coun-
cil member whose only connection to
a neighborhood is some narrow isth-
mus extending from someplace
neighborhood residents rarely venture
will really reflect a community's
concerns on central issues such as
traffic, school performance, real estate
development and crime. Yet it is
precisely the shared experience with
such concerns that mold local resi-
dents into the politically active
neighborhood advocates who provide
the only hope for pulling New York
City through what could become the
worst fiscal crisis of its history. Be-
cause ofthis, council districts must be
as similar as possible to the established
community planning and municipal
services districts. This is the only way
that districts can link neighborhood
life to the larger political life of the
Without any similarities between
community planning board districts
and City Council districts, it's easy to
predict problems. For those with re-
sources, disenfrachisement will serve
as a further spur to leave the city. For
those without resources, city life will
be beset by even greater political apa-
thy and cynicism. The best intentions
of the voters who adopted the new
charter will be effectively thwarted.
Welfare for Low-Level Politicos
Without identifiable and account-
able local political leaders, neighbor-
hood groups will turn to the less
democratic politics of the local bu-
reaucracy to get things done. The
council will then be viewed as noth-
ing more than a welfare institution for
the care and feeding of a lower level
political types and not as an institu-
tion to lead the city and its communi-
ties. Once it loses its popular
legitimacy, it will be difficult for even
the best-meaning council members to
stand up to the powerful economic
and political forces that comprise the
city's "permanent government."
Even the noble goal of having a City
Council that reflects the city's diver-
sity will be quickly lost. The pastiche
of small areas, which the redistricting
commission used to draw districts in
which minority candidates could ap-
parently win, are sufficiently small
that it is even questionable whether
they will remain demographically
stable beyond the first election. Con-
sequently, no one can honestly pre-
dict how these configurations will
work beyond the next few years. It
would have been far better to respect
neighborhood history and integrity.
A little bit of patience and these
neighborhoods will be a sure reflection
of the city's many hues. 0
in City Limits.
Howard Sonner.
(212) 439-4707
By Eric Weinstock
California Dreaming?
"City of Quartz: Excavating the Future
in Los Angeles, II by Mike Davis, Verso,
1990,462 pages, photographs, $24.95.
or New Yorkers anxious to follow
the call to "Go West," Los
Angeles is the city of many
dreams. From gold-starred
fantasies on Hollywood Boulevard to
the eternal summer of Zuma Beach,
LA may seem to be the urban prom-
ised land. But as Mike Davis portrays
in "City of Quartz," nothing could be
further from the truth.
"City of Quartz " is a comprehensive
history of Los Angeles, the city that
"Brings It All Together," according to
its official slogan. But it's Davis who
brings it all together in this book,
taking the reader from the barrio to
Rodeo Drive, from membership in the
Crips and Bloods to the Hillcrest
Country Club. In this way, Davis makes
a compelling case that Los Angeles
functions as both utopia and dystopia,
the heaven and hell of the Ameri-
can-and capitalist-dream.
Brecht and Eazy-E
In addition to his grasp of LA's
economic history, Davis discusses the
literati imported or raised in the movie
industry including the experiences of
authors such as Bertolt Brecht, James
Cain, Raymond Chandler, Joan Didion,
Bret Easton Ellis and Nathaniel West.
Davis is conversant with music from
jazz great Charlie Mingus to the Beach
Boys to rappers Eazy-E and NW A,
along with movies from "Chinatown"
to "Mad Max."
Davis explores LA's shifting power
structure, its development and
architecture, its place in the US and
world economy, its ecology, its police
force and the Catholic Church. Despite
his leftist ideological base, Davis goes
far beyond any simplistic Marxist
approach to these topics. He gives the
reader the intricate details and
descriptions that make LA come to
Common Ground
Although LA has an anti-develop-
ment group named "Not Yet New
York," the two cities share much in
common. Both have rapidly growing
homeless and poor populations. Both
cities had commercial construction
booms in the 1980s that transformed
their skylines. New York's Cardinal
O'Connor is matched in his conserva-
tism by LA's Archbishop Mahony.
David Garth has practiced his politi-
cal wizardry in LA's mayoral elections
as well as New York City'S. Donald
Trump, frustrated by New York's
refusal to embrace his 125-story
colossus, has plans to build it facing
the Pacific. Ethnic conflicts in Flush-
Los Angeles
functions as
both utopia
and dystopia of
the American
ing over development and political
turf are echoed in Monterey Park,
North America's first Chinese major-
ity suburb.
But Los Angles may also be moving
ahead of New York in some ways. The
race hate found in Howard Beach and
Bensonhurst also exists in the orange
groves and sunny climate of LA. White
flight, blockbusting and discrimina-
tion have made many New York
neighborhoods highly segregated.
These patterns are reaching another
level as LA becomes, in Davis' words,
a city of "secessionist suburbs and
burgeoning barrios."
Suburban Split
In LA County, areas are allowed to
secede and pay a fee for government
services still provided. This allows
suburbs to gain control over land use
and zoning without having to incur
the overhead costs of creating their
own government (the major concern
holding back Staten Island in its
"flight" from New York City's
This has led to fierce battles be-
tween restrictive zoning advocates and
developers. Many environmentalists
and planned growth advocates in New
York and Los Angeles are genuinely
motivated by their desire to see
appropriate development and the
creation of low-income housing. But
these groups have been joined by
racists and property owners eager to
see their neighborhoods "preserved"
from low income, nonwhite residents.
The inherent, and at times explicit,
racism of "no-growth" advocates is
laid bare by Davis. The same people
who brought us Proposition 13 (the
late 1970s California tax revolt that
foreshadowed the Age of Reagan and
our current fiscal woes) are now fight-
ing hard to stop any new development
in LA.
Opposing "no-growth" and restric-
tive zoning are developers who are
generally uncaring about the environ-
ment, infrastructure and community
concerns as they plan more
megaprojects for the wealthy (while
pretending to be concerned about the
poor). In the strange calculus of
interest-group politics and economic
forces, the construction unions, eager
for work, have been instrumental in
helping their longstanding industry
foes defeat growth limitation
As Davis notes, the jobs versus
environmental quality polls and
debates are misdirected. "It is not
surprising that poor people, especially
renters, will choose jobs over envi-
ronmental quality when the two are
artificially counterposed. If it were
the only choice offered, most people
would also opt to cut their toe off
rather than their leg. Such dubious,
but ubiquitous survey methods only
reveal people's relative anxieties, not
their substantive opinions."
One of the best aspects of "City of
Quartz" is that it makes California's
geography come alive even if you've
never made it west of the Rockies (or
the Hudson River for that matter).
Don't understand Carson's Burbank
jokes? Always wondered where
SepulvadaBoulevardis? Feelingnos-
talgic for the days of Joe Friday and
Sam Yorty? Then "City of Quartz" is
a must read-and a helluva lot cheaper
than airfare. 0
Eric Weinstock is the director of the
housing research project for the
Community Training and Resource
Center and an adjunct instructor in
economics at Brooklyn College.
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