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April 1991 New York's Community Affairs News Magazine $2.

M A n H E W L E E : H O M E S T E A D E R S ' S T O R Y
eirJl Limirs
Vol ume XVI Number 4
City Limits is published ten times per year,
monthly except double issues in June/July
and August/September, by the City Limits
Community Information Service, Inc., a non-
profit organization devoted to disseminating
information concerning neighborhood
Association for Neighborhood and
Housing Development, Inc.
Community Service Society of New York
New York Urban Coalition
Pratt Institute Center for Community and
Environmental Development
Urban Homesteading Assistance Board
Board of Directors *
Eddie Bautista, NYLPIICharter Rights
Beverly Cheuvront, NYC Department of
Mary Martinez, Montefiore Hospital
Rebecca Reich, Turf Companies
Andrew Reicher, UHAB
Tom Robbins, Journalist
Jay Small, ANHD
Walter Stafford, New York University
Pete Williams, Center for Law and
Social Justice
* Affiliations for identification only.
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City Limits (ISSN 0199-0330)
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Editor: Doug Turetsky
Associate Editor: Lisa Glazer
Contributing Editors: Mary Keefe,
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Copyright 1991. All Rights Reserved. No
portion or portions of this journal may be
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City Limits is indexed in the Alternative Press
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One More Time
ike hamsters on a wheel, those folks who blame rent regulation for
nearly every ill befalling New York have once again launched a
campaign to dismantle the system. But this year, unlike previous
years, they have an unusually good chance of succeeding.
Now they're armed with a new study that contends rent regulations
generally benefit the rich instead of the poor. The landlord lobbyists from
the Rent Stabilization Association are leading the assault on Albany,
where the regulatory system is again up for legislative renewal.
But it's not just this new study that gives them a better shot than usual
at convincing Albany legislators to undo the more than 40-year-old rent
regulation system. The Census Bureau, busy with the 1990 census,
conducted only an abbreviated version of the triennial housing and
vacancy survey that helps justify the continued need for regulations. And
reports of declining rents and increasing vacancies in the press add fuel
to the landlords' rhetoric that the regulations are unnecessary as well as
contributing to the decline and fall of New York.
As usual, though, the landlords' stats only tell part of the story. Let's
take the basic argument at face value: Well-off tenants with rent-
regulated apartments are getting the best end of the deal because they're
paying much less in rent than they can afford, For example, a family with
an income of $100,000 and a snazzy regulated Upper West Side apart-
ment that rents for a $1,000 a month is paying just 12 percent of their
income for rent. In fact, even if they were paying three times that amount,
they'd be paying less percentage-wise than many low-income New
Yorkers. But it's really a moot point-regulated or not, the apartment is
totally unaffordable to families earning the city's median income of
$20,000 (based on the city's 1987 housing and vacancy survey).
Landlords contend that by deregulating apartments the system will
become fairer and rents more affordable-a claim that sounds an awful lot
like some sort of voodoo economics. Buildings constructed since 1974
don't fall within rent regulation unless the owner received tax breaks or
public subsidies. But no one's noticed a spate of newly constructed
unregulated apartments that are affordable to the poor-or even average
income New Yorker.
Granted, the rent-regulation system is hardly perfect. But landlords
aren't doing anything to help their claims that rent-regulations are
strangling profits and forcing them to let buildings crumble into disrepair.
If most property owners really were doing so poorly, they'd be falling all
over each other to stick their books under our noses.
Contrary to the landlord lobby's hyperbole, rent-regulation remains
the best means of protecting all New Yorkers from rent-gouging. Albany
legislators must stand up to this year's onslaught.
* * *
We want to offer our belated best wishes to Bonnie Brower, who has
resigned as executive director of the Association for Neighborhood and
Housing Development. For nearly a decade, Brower was an energetic
proponent for a sane and equitable housing policy in New York. Her
strident brand of leadership will be missed.
* * *
Correction: In "Opportunity Knocks" (March 1991), we wrote that the
Temporary Commission on Early Childhood and Child Care Programs is
"led" by Antony Ward. Ward is actually executive director. The commis-
sion is "led" by its chairman, Sanford Weil, who doubles as CEO of
Primerica Corporation.
Correction II: We inad vertentl y omitted Stephen Strah's article, "Making
Work," from the contents page last month. But it's in the issue on page 19.
We regret the error. 0
Cover photograph by Tom Robbins
Worlds Apart
Racial steering has been part of life at the city's
housing projects for years.
One More Time ...................... ........ .......................... 2
Rockaway Project Beached? ................................... .4
Manny Hanny Challenged ....................................... 4
Salter Square-Off? .................................................... 5
YMCA Lockout Loophole ................ .......... .............. 5
Court Aid .............................................. .... ................ 6
Disaster Relief ........... ............. ............................ .. .... 8
City View
Invasion of the Home Snatchers ............................ 19
Our Town .. ... ..... .. .. ... ... ....................... ............ ..... ... 20
Housing Court/Page 6
AIDS Money/Page 8
Worlds Apart/Page 12
Nearly nine months after the
city chose Oceanview Associ -
ates as the developer for a huge
publicly owned beachfront site
in Rockaway, Queens, the
project seems to have hit rough
waters. The sale of the area
known as Arverne is still not
completed and additional city
subsidies may be needed to turn
plans for the massive develop-
ment into reality.
"We're still dealing with
fundamental issues," says
Department of Housing
Preservation and Development
Commissioner Felice Michetti,
who is negotiating with
Oceanview. These issues include
the sale price of the land and
the extent of the developer's
obligation to build sewers,
roads and schoals for the new
Harvey Schultz, the former
commissioner of the Department
of Environmental Protection who
now heads Oceanview, says,
"All aspects of the financing are
under discussion," including a
bigger investment by the city.
Schultz adds, ''We're negotiat-
ing our business terms in a
totally consistent manner with
what was approved by the
Board of Estimate."
Despite the lengthy negotia-
tions, both Schultz and Michetti
appear confident the project will
move forward. He describes the
project as a "partnership
between the city and ourselves."
The oceanfront site has been
vacant for more than 20 years.
Oceanview Associates was
selected as the developer of
Arverne after a long and hotly
contested process. Some of the
city's largest developers as well
as a nonprofit group seeking to
build the nationally acclaimed
Nehemiah-style homes vied for
the site. Oceanview offered $90
million for the land, proposed
building 10,000 units and
promised to cover up to $300
million in infrastructure costs.
The townhouse and midrise
building apartments would be
affordable to families with
incomes of at least $60,000
annually. The city earmarked its
proBt from the sale of the
Arverne property for building
lower income housing nearby.
On the beach: Will the city keep Ocean view's Arverne project afloat?
But terms of the deal began
to change when the Board of
Estimate, at its last meeting
before being disbanded,
reduced the project by some
2,500 units. At the same time,
the city agreed to cover
approximately $138 million of
the infrastructure costs.
Comptroller Elizabeth
Holtzman, who cast the sole
dissenting vote against the deal ,
questioned how the city would
afford these new costs and also
was suspicious of Oceanview's
plans for financing the project.
"For weeks I have been trying to
obtain from city officials and the
developer some details of the
level ot public sector financial
support this project requires. In
recent weeks the financing
scheme seems to have changed
dramatically. Discussions now
seem to include a greater city
contribution than originally
contemplated," Holtzman
warned last August, noting
Oceanview had suggested the
city' s Water and Sewer
Authority Roat a bond to
provide funding for some of the
infrastructure work.
Oceanview Associates is a
partnership of two large
development groups: Forest City
Ratner Companies, which is
building the Metrotech complex
and recently became a partner
in the Terminal project
in Brooklyn, and Park Tower
Realty, which is slated to build
two mammoth office towers as
part of the Times Square
redevelopment plan. Each of
these projects is subsidized by
the city. 0 Doug Turetsky
Only one penny of each
dollar deposited into Manufac-
turers Hanover Trust branches in
Harlem is reinvested into the
community, according to a bank
activist group. This charge is the
basis ot a challenge to Manu-
facturers Hanover's plans to
purchase 10 Goldome Bank
According to a report issued
by the Citywide Responsible
Banking Alliance: MHT, which is
spearheading the challenge,
Manufacturers Hanover is red-
lining the Harlem community
while maintaining business ties
to South Africa. From 1986
through 1 989 deposits have
averaged $105 million at each
Harlem branch but loans
amounted to a mere $100,000
"Harlem's African-American
and Hispanic residents invest
millions of dollars of their
savings in MHT's three Harlem
branches and they get nothing
in return," says Jasmine
Hopper, a banking alliance
member and program director
of the Community Coalition for
Fair Banking.
But Judy Walsh, a spokes-
woman for Manufacturers
Hanover, says the coalition fails
to look at the complete line of
services the bank offers to low-
and moderate-income commu-
nities. "It's not only mortgages
that should be looked at here,"
says Walsh, adding that the
bank will not comment specifi-
cally on the charges because
Manufacturers Hanover has not
yet completed its review of the
coalition's study.
Walsh also points out that
just a few days before the
coalition presented its report,
the Federal Reserve Bank of
New York gave Manufacturers
Hanover the highest possible
rating for meeting the credit
needs of the communities in
which it does business. Manu-
facturers Hanover was the first
major bank to be reviewed
under the tougher Community
Reinvestment Act standards
made part of the congressional
savings and loan bailout bill .
Donna Katzin, the director of
the South Africa program of the
Interfaith Center on Corporate
Responsibility and member of
the citywide coalition, gives
Manufacturers Hanover credit
for a number of local and
international initiatives, but says
the bank's relationship with
South Africa contradicts these
efforts. While Manufacturers
Hanover has not made loans to
South Africa for some five
years, the bank continues to
provide corresP9ndent services
to help South African banks
convert currency for interna-
tional trade. Katzin describes
these services as "the vehicle
through which the South
African banks do business with
the rest of the world. "
Walsh counters that by
providing correspondent
services, Manufacturers
Hanover is able to push for
change in South Africa. ''We're
in complete agreement with
what these [anti-apartheid]
grou'ps are doing. We just have
a different means to accomplish
that end. We're a long-time
opponent of apartheid," says
Manufacturers Hanover has
filed an application with the
state banking department and
the federal reserve system to
buy 10 Goldome Bank branches
and their assets. The deal is
worth an estimated $1 .4 billion.
The banking alliance has
submitted its to the
application to the tederal
reserve board of governors and
the Federal Reserve Bank of
New York. They filed the
challenge under state and
federal CRA guidelines.
Manufacturers Hanover' s
response to the challenge is due
to be delivered to the federal
reserve as City Limits goes to
press. D Doug Turetsky
Some 55 South Bronx
homeowners thought they were
buying into a suburban-style
dreom of a private home and a
backyard. Insteod, the new
homeowners find their publicly
subsidized homes are racked
with construction problems.
Mildewed walls, rusty door
and window frames and soggy
insulation are evidence of faulty
construction, says Allie Graham,
president of the homeowners'
association. The Salter Square II
homes, built under the New
York City Partnership'S new
homes program, cost $98,000.
Each home received $25,000
worth of city and state subsidies.
Joseph Perri, an engineer
hired by the homeowners, ex-
plains that because the houses
are smaller than average and
are built closely together they
create a trap for moisture. Un-
able to escape, the moisture
condenses on inside surfaces of
exterior walls. Perri also notes
that some walls completely lack
"Workmanship was poor
and they didn't design it cor-
rectly/' says Perri, who provided
the homeowners with a five-
page report on suggested solu-
tions to the problem.
Mario Procida, president of
Procida Construction, which
built the homes, acknowledges
the problems but blames them
on bad design. The buildings
were designed by the Mannat-
tan-based architectural firm of
Wechsler, Grasso, Menziuso.
"It is clearly a design defi -
ciency/' says Procida, adding
that his compony is now plan-
ning to implement a "substantial
portion" of the engineer's pro-
posal. These plans include add-
ing additional ventilation to the
walls and.basement crawl
spaces, changing the interior
fan units and constructing a
ventilation system in the roofs of
all 55 homes. The 1 3 most
severely damaged homes will
undergo additional repairs.
Salter II is the second phase
of a single-family home project
in the Morrisania section of the
South Bronx. The project on
Fox, Simpson, Home and Free-
man streets has been opposed
by some housing and commu-
nity activists who think single-
family homes are inappropriate
and underutilize land than could
become the site of homes for
many more families. The MBD
Community Housing C o r ~ r a
tion is the local sponsor of the
The first phase of Salter
Square has also had water
problems. Water there seef>s in
from the outside because of
porous masonry. Procida Con-
struction has attached aluminum
siding to some of these homes to
prevent seepage. D Tracey
The YMCA is considering
selling its largest New York City
residence and already has
relocated most of its 45 long-
term tenants.
Most permanent tenants of
the Sioone House YMCA in
Chelsea, some of whom had
resided there for 20 years,
snatched up an offer to move to
an Uf>per West Side YMCA
complete with air conditioning,
cable television, a swimming
pool and $200 stipend. The
alternative, however, looked
grim: The six holdouts face
As their eviction battle creeps
through the courts, a bill to
exempt YMCAs from the city's
eviction law is winding through
the City Council. If passed, lock-
ing out tenants would no longer
be a crime for the YMCA and
other nonprofit groups that rent
to "members" in New York City.
The bill's crafters had the
YMCA in mind but other
nonprofits could easily comply,
says Anne Teicher, deputx
director of the Mayor's Office
on Homelessness and SRO
Housing Services, which 0r-
poses the bill. "It really wil open
the door to all sorts of
nonprofits/' says Teicher. The
city's Department of Housing
Preservation and Development
also opposes the bill.
To housing activists, it all
sounds familiar. Gov. Mario
Cuomo vetoed a 1985 bill that
would have exempt the YMCA
and certain nonprofit groups
from the state's comprehensive
anti-eviction laws. The bill fared
worse in 1986 and 1989, never
making it to the governor"s
desk. Opponents have no doubt
a city victory would provide
ammunition for yet another
Albany attempt.
"Should the City Council
enact this bill, they [YMCA
executives] will take it to AI-
bany/' warns Saralee Evans,
project director of the West Side
SRO Law Project.
But the man behind the city
version denies the Albany con-
nection. Anthonr Caracciolo, a
vice president 0 the Prospect
Park YMCA in Brooklyn, says he
pushed for the bill because his
own YMCA's tenants failed to
pay $92J27 in rent in 1990.
At the advice of City Council
"Ieadership/' Caracciolo af>-
prooched one of the council's
most powerful members,
Herbert Berman, who chairs the
finance committee. Berman does
not represent the Prospect Park
YMCA's district or sit on the
council's housing committee. "I
don't know shit from shineola"
about housing, says Berman,
the bill's prime sponsor.
But the YMCA is entitled to a
hearing, Berman emphasizes. "I
don't believe any issue is so
sacrosanct that we shouldn't be
free to raise the issue."
Meanwhile, Sioone House is
seeking a new type of tenant:
the young, backpack swinging
traveler, says James Kirschner,
a YMCA spokesman. But even
as it pursues this new clientele,
YMCA officials are keeping
their options open and have put
the building up for sale.
Kirschner denies that ousting
Sioone House's long-term
residents has anything to do
with preparing tor the sale of
the 1 AOO-room building.
"There are people who have
been calling it home for years
and we really don' t have the
facilities and staff to make it a
long-term home/' says
Kirschner.D Eve Heyn
.. ,.....
NYC .......... F .. II, Count


0 ,.....,28,1 ..
"' -....y 28, _I
,.... ..
(IR SIaeIter ., ..... )
, ......
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Includes adutts In special residences
By Kimberleigh J. Smith
Court Aid
The City-Wide Task Force on Housing Court offers
help to tenants in a slipshod court system.
n the dingy hallways ofBrooklyn's
housing court, tenants facing
eviction sit on hard plastic chairs,
shifting their weight in irritation,
shuffling papers in
panic. The court is over-
crowded, overheated
and underlit.
Court calendars are
read and instructions
meted out in an arcane
legalese. Tenants don't
have a legal right to an
attorney, and most can't
afford to hire one, so
confusion, frustration
and helplessness
Amid the mass con-
fusion is a small island
of sanity: A simple
wooden table covered
with handout sheets in
English and Spanish and
staffed by helpful vol-
unteers from the City-
Wide Task Force on
Housing Court. Created
10 years ago, the task
force has set up similar
tables in every borough.
They're a lifeline for
tenants and an advocate
for change in a court sys-
tem that is widely re-
nowned for slipshod
Last Chance
judges are often eager to decide a case
as quickly as possible-most take less
than 15 minutes. Unless tenants know
their rights-and the right questions
haven't paid the rent because land-
lords aren't making repairs or provid-
ing heat and hot water. Unless they
know how the court system works,
the tenants' reasons for withholding
rent can be lost in the shuffle.
"When a person walks into that
court, the first thing the judge says is,
'How much do you owe?' We more or
less tell the tenants how to conduct
themselves, and it gives them a sense
of confidence, because when they walk
into that courtroom most
of them are scared to
death," says Hall.
"The courts are deal-
ing with people who
generally don't have a
lot of say in things," says
Maria Mottola, execu-
tive director of the
citywide task force. "It's
like they're playing a
game. One person knows
the rules and the other
Studies by the task
force-compiled from
the court's own statis-
tics-have shown that
tenants in housing court
cases are overwhelming
poor and black or Latino.
Many are single women
with children. The task
force attempts to hook
tenants up with other
groups or city agencies
that can offer help."We
make a tremendous
number of referrals to
local community
groups, to legal services
and the Human Re-
sources Administra-
tion," explains Mottola.
"In a place like housing
court, just having infor-
mation and knowing
what your rights are is
empowering. "
"We save a lot of
people from being
homeless, just by giving
them ideas and tactics,"
says Kenneth Hall, a co-
ordinator for the Brook-
lyn arm of the citywide
task force. "It's a scary
Help amid havoc: Aida Serrano (left) and Luce Lugo from the Manhattan Task
Force on Housing Court.
Participatory Approach
The task force-a coa-
situation for everyone," he says.
"There's a much greater need than
the task force is able to address, but
they have bitten off a big piece," says
Andrew Kelman, director of housing
for Queens Borough President Claire
Shulman. "Without them, the magni-
tude of the problem would be much
With a tremendous backlog of cases,
to ask-it's easy to be railroaded into
an agreement without knowing the
Last year the city's housing court
handled some 300,000 cases. About
290,000 were petitions to evict ten-
ants, with housing court the only bar-
rier between many of the tenants and
the streets. A good number of these
cases revolve around tenants who
lition of more than 100
of the city's community groups, legal
services organizations and housing
advocates-grew from a small, volun-
teer group of Bronx tenant organizers
and housing advocates. The task force
is now structured like a wheel, with a
mini-task force in each borough the
spokes. Together, the task force spins
forward, without directives from the
"We're all tenant advocates, so
we're used to setting tasks and doing
them," says Deb Howard, a volunteer
at the Brooklyn tables who works full-
time for the Pratt Area Community
Council (PACC). Area tenant and
housing advocacy organizations like
PACC volunteer their full-time staff at
the tables a few times a month.
Howard, who has volunteered with
the task force for close to a year, says
an informal structure helps the orga-
nization work in and around the bu-
reaucratic bottleneck of housing court.
"There are not many officers and
very few formal positions," says Bar-
bara Schliff, a task force volunteer
and the lead organizer at Los Sures, a
community group in Williamsburg.
Noting the lack of hierarchical struc-
ture, she adds, "The meetings we have,
we decide who will chair, we discuss
what we have to discuss and we go to
Fundamental Reform
"I think part of the formula is that
the people who are in the coalition are
people who actually work in housing
court," says Aida Serrano, a coordina-
tor for the Manhattan Task Force on
Housing Court and staff member for
the citywide task force.
"It's a base for sharing information.
If you're a volunteeratthetable, what-
ever it is you learn at the table you can
take it back to your job."
In addition to working with indi-
vidual tenants, the task force pushes
to fundamentally reform the problem-
plagued housing court system. A cor-
nerstone of the effort is a 1986 study of
the court the task force deems one of
"When a person
walks into that
court, the first
thing the judge
says IS
'How much do
you owe. '"
its major accomplishments. The study,
"Five-Minute Justice: Ain't Nothing
Going On But The Rent," revealed
that while 78 percent oflandlords had
legal assistance in court, just 20 per-
cent of tenants had a an attorney
present; that many of the pretrial
conferences and hearings lasted less
than 15 minutes and that most of the
cases observed were resolved through
stipulations, many of which had been
written by the landlord.
One of the task force's primary
efforts has been toward mandating
the right to counsel for those who
cannot afford an attorney. The task
force has also lobbied vehemently for
stronger code-enforcement protec-
tions, urging that building owners
must correct serious violations of the
city's housing maintenance code and
must be current with their real estate
taxes before filing an eviction case. It
has also demanded the use of plain,
multi-language court forms that can
be easily understood; a revision of
pretrial hearing procedures to pre-
vent unfair negotiations from being
made in the hallways; and a require-
ment that judges use computers to
identify violations so that tenants can
withhold rent until those repairs are
How effective is the task force?
Apparently too effective for some. The
Rent Stabilization Association, a
landlord advocacy group, has recently
set up its own table at the Manhattan
court house, and apparently intends
to soon have them in the other four
boroughs as well. If imitation is the
highest form of flattery, then the City-
Wide Task Force on Housing Court is
meeting its goals. 0
Kimberleigh J. Smith is a reporter for
the City Sun.
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By Michael Broder
Disaster Relief
An uneasy alliance seeks federal funding
for AIDS services.
he late Ryan White, a young
Indiana boy who contracted
AIDS during a blood transfu-
sion, was hounded from school
by small-minded community mem-
bers. His valiant effort to lead a nor-
mal-but abbreviated-life while
battling AIDS was memorialized by
Congress in the passage of the Ryan
White Comprehensive AIDS Resource
Emergency (CARE) Act of 1990.
While the passage of the CARE Act
was a symbolic step forward, Congress
has put little money behind the act,
which targets services to low-income
people with the HIV virus. Now, New
York and the 15 other metropolitan
areas hardest hit by the AIDS epidemic
are battling for a chunk of White's
federal legacy.
Total funding this year under the
act for metropolitan regions like New
York, which qualify for special AIDS
"disaster relief' money, is just $86
million. Half of that sum is disbursed
by a formula that allocates funds ac-
cording to the incidence of AIDS in
the region. New York will receive
$15.8 million under this formula. The
city is now vying for more than half of
the additional $43 million in funds,
but efforts have been hampered by
bureaucratic constraints and a gruel-
ing group decision-making process.
Federal Appeal
To qualify for the additional funds,
city officials had to prepare a grant
application. "Through this applica-
tion, the City of New York is appeal-
ing to the federal government for more
help. Because to effectively combat
this epidemic the City of New York
requires substantial federal assistance,
not mere tokenism," Mayor David
Dinkins said after signing the city's
grant request in February.
The final application was the result
of an exhausting two-month process
undertaken by the New York City HIV
Health and Human Services Planning
Council. The planning council mem-
bers, appointed by Mayor David
Dinkins under guidelines mandated
by the congressional act, joined city
health officials, people with HIV, AIDS
activists, community leaders and
service providers in a sometimes un-
easy alliance.
Under any circumstances, such a
planning and allocation process
would be a difficult task. Given the
history of acrimony among city offi-
cials like Health Commissioner
Woody Myers, AIDS activists from
ACT UP and service providers, the
task seemed daunting. Further prob-
lems were created because Congress
decimated the act, reducing funding
from $880 million to a paltry $350
million. The vast scope of the city's
Too often, AIDS
policy is driven by
the interests of
people in the
field, not by the
needs of people
with AIDS.
AIDS crisis and the diversity of inter-
ests on the 40-member planning
council also led to a working atmo-
sphere that was often tense and some-
times bitter.
"In some ways the process was
doomed to faiL" says planning coun-
cil member Richard Elovich, a recov-
ering intravenous drug user, ACT UP
member and one of the organizers of a
clean needle exchange program oper-
ating in city neighborhoods for more
than a year. Elovich characterizes the
council as a "mosaic of self interest,"
where members with divergent agen-
das competed for time and attention.
But in the end, Elovich and other
members agreed the process was es-
sentially successful and the council
filled an important need in the AIDS
community. As Ronald Johnson, a
council member and executive direc-
tor of the Minority Task Force on
AIDS points out, there has been no
structure in which people with HIV /
AIDS, AIDS activists, service provid-
ers and public officials could meet
and exchange ideas and find common
ground. "The HIV planning council is
a first step" towards this, says John-
Wish List
The complete plan submitted by
the New York City HIV council re-
quests $22.6 million for health ser-
vices, $3.7 million for mental health
services and $10.9 for social services.
The planned budget also allocates $1.6
million for use in Westchester,
Rockland and Putnam counties-part
of the New York City region-and $2
million for administering the council
itself. More than half the money
needed under this plan would have to
come from the competitive applica-
tion process.
One of the most hotly debated issues
among the HIV council members was
how to target the funds and services
geographically and among the HIV
population. While it was clear that
the CARE Act intended funds to reach
the poor, uninsured and traditionally
underserved, it was not clear how
best to fulfill that mandate.
The council eventually agreed to
use data on geographical distribution
of AIDS cases prepared by the Health
Systems Agency of New York City
(HSA) to determine where the inci-
dence of AIDS was highest and
members of targeted communities
were most concentrated. HSA identi-
fied 20 neighborhoods that, while
representing only 45 percent of the
city's population, account for 75 per-
cent of the low income and minority
AIDS cases, 75 percent of the IV drug-
related cases, 73 percent of cases
among 13 to 24 year olds, 72 percent
of the cases identified in the past two
years and 71 percent of the cases
among women. These neighborhoods
include East New York, Bedford-
Stuyvesant and Crown Heights as well
as the Upper West Side, Gramercy
Park and Murray Hill.
Housing Help
Although the CARE Act funds are
targeted specifically for health and
social services, the planning council
did attempt to link some ofits plans to
the housing needs of people with
AIDS. "We asked ourselves, given the
restrictions, how could we not nec-
Pennies from Washington: Congress decimated funding for an AIDS services bill.
Peter Smith, president of the Part-
nership for the Homeless, believes the
planning council-of which he is not
a member-did not adequately ad-
dress the needs of homeless people
with AIDS. He notes that all the pro-
viders of housing services represented
on the council operate programs that
are eligible for funding from the city's
Human Resources Administration's
Division of AIDS Services (DAS). He
charges that these members, interested
in additional funding for their own
organizations, only pushed for hous-
ing programs that are eligible for DAS
"The vast majority of homeless,
who are not eligible for DAS housing,
will get nothing" from the programs
in the council's service plan, says
If there was one sure area of agree-
ment among the council participants,
it was displeasure with the role of the
federal government. The feeling was
pervasive that what was being divided
was not a pie, nor even a slice but only
a scattering of crumbs. "I am annoyed
as hell at the feds for passing this
legislation with great public fanfare
and then starving it," says planning
council member Dr. David E. Rogers,
Q. a professor of medicine at Cornell
~ Medical Center and vice chairman of
~ the National Council on AIDS.
~ But planning council members like
al Elovich also point a finger of frustra-
tion at the Dinkins administration.
Elovich cites mixed messages coming
from City Hall and excessive time
wasted rewriting drafts of the council's
by-laws. And he charges that mem-
bership on the planning council was
marred by "tokenism"-Elovich is
one of only three people in the 40-
member group who is either HIV-
essarily create new housing slots but
improve on the housing alternatives
that exist for homeless people with
AIDS in New York City," says Regina
Quattrochi, a planning council mem-
ber and executive director of the AIDS
Resource Center.
Plans for enhancing current hous-
ing for people with AIDS include add-
ing mental health services, occupa-
tional and recreational therapy and
transportation services; a hot meals
program for people living in com-
mercial SROs; and technical assistance
to community-based organizations for
housing development. While these
measures would not increase the
availability of housing, they could
improve the quality of life for people
in existing AIDS housing.
AIDS Housing Money-Dead on Arrival?
But only the hot meals program
and a small fraction of the supportive
services are allocated from the $15.8
million already granted to the city-
the rest would come from the supple-
mental funds the council is hoping to
In addition to federal funds for
health and social services for people
with AIDS, the city is vying for
funds under the AIDS Housing Op-
portunities Program passed by
Congress last October. But so far no
funds have been allocated to the
"It's there on paper only at this
point," says Sharon Myrie of the
Mayor's Office on Homelessness
and SRO Housing, referring to the
housing program. No money was
included for the AIDS housing
program in President George Bush's
recent budget proposal.
Congress authorized the expen-
diture of up to $156.5 million in the
upcoming fiscal year when it passed
the new AIDS housing legislation.
But advocates like Kathleen
Yasuda, a policy analyst with the
National Coalition for the Home-
less, are pessimistic about the
chances for Congress actually al-
locating the money during its cur-
rent session.
If the program was fully funded,
New York City would be eligible
for as much as $25 million. Ac-
cording to the Partnership for the
Homeless, there are about 8,000
homeless New Yorkers with AIDS.
D Michael Broder
positive or a former IV drug user.
"Too often, AIDS policy is driven by
the interest of people in the field, not
by the needs of people with AIDS,"
says Elovich.
Positive Results
Despite such criticisms, Elovich
says, "I think this council was very
successful." That view is seconded by
Glenna Michaels, who's consulting
firm, Michaels Associates, was hired
by the city to staff the council and
perform the nuts-and-bolts mechan-
ics of putting the application together.
decimated the
act, reducing
funds to a pal try
$350 million.
"Given the short time frame and the
complexity of the issues, the outcome
was very good," she says.
But Michaels concedes that in many
respects the development of the ap-
plication and the decisions about ser-
vices were staff driven. "There wasn't
time for the painful process of democ-
racy," says Michaels, who was re-
sponsible for ensuring that the pro-
posal met federal guidelines and that
the city get the most money possible.
At the final council meeting before
the February 15 application deadline,
members were seeing a full draft of
the application for the first time. There
was little time to carefully review the
detailed document meant to be New
York's best shot at getting supplemen-
tal funding. After leaving the council's
hands the proposal still needed may-
oral approval and possible revisions
before being sent to Washington. Two
weeks after the application was sub-
mitted, council members had yet to
see the final version.
Although the plan is complete,
there is still plenty of work for the HIV
council. Now its emphasis switches
to implementing the plan and
promptly and effecti vel y spending the
dollars finally appropriated by the
federal government. When it comes to
next year's appropriations, warns
Glenna Michaels, "We will be judged
on how well and how quickly we
spend this money." Clearly, the city-
and the HIV council-has no shortage
of New Yorkers in need of assistance.
It remains to be seen how well they
meet this need. 0
Michael Broder is a freelance writer
covering HIV j AIDS issues in New
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
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Call or write Sue Fox
NEW YORK, N.Y. 10025
(212) 222-9946
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A Legal Aid lawsuit exposes racial steering and quotas at the housing authority.
How did this happen and is anyone to blame?
BY LISA GLAZER Aid lawsuit claims that for years the housing authority has
used separate and unequal methods of tenant selection-
ornelia Simmons and her two sons, Tyrell and oneforwhites,anotherforAfrican-AmericansandLatinos.
Lance, were sleeping on couches in the living According to the lawsuit, these methods steered white
room of a small apartment in Far Rockaway, applicants to predominantly white projects, while these
Queens, when they went to the city's public same projects were often off-limits to blacks and Latinos.
housing authority for help. Hoping to find a safe, "Our society holds as its highest principle that people
decent apartment, Simmons filled out an appli- of color are entitled to the same rights as white people,"
cation in the summer of 1989 and by the following winter charges Scott Rosenberg, the Legal Aid Society attorney
she was called in for an eligibility interview. She was told who filed the lawsuit. "These practices violated what are
by a housing authority employee that four projects would really fundamental tenets in our society, and have been
have vacancies in the near future: Red since the enactment of the Fair Hous-
Hook and Fort Green in Brooklyn and ing Act."
Astoria and Queensbridge in Queens. In the face of these accusations, the
Simmons responded that each of Th housing authority is sending a com-
those projects was dangerous. She then " ere are some plex mix of messages. With damage
asked, "Can't I go to Pomonok or For- control at the top of their agenda, they
est Hills?" Pointing to a sheet of paper developments are admitting that race was taken into
from which he was reading, the em- consideration before families on the
ployee replied that no vacancies were W here you waiting list were offered an apartment.
expected at either development. He Yet they refuse to accept culpability,
said her other option was Pink Houses just can't be claiming that many of the practices
in Brooklyn. "Could I be put on the now under fire were part of activist
waiting list for Forest Hills or white enough to efforts to promote racial, social and
Pomonok?" queried Simmons. ''I'm economic integration.
willing to wait." get in." Mostimportantly, theysaytheprac-
The worker responded, "They don't tices no longer exist. "I have ordered
do that anymore." He added, "Ms. that all procedures touching tenant
Simmons, if you don't pick one of the selection be administered with scru-
projects I have available for you, then pulous attention to a fair , absolutely
your application will be put in an inactive file. There is race neutral policy," proclaims Laura Blackburne, the "'-
nothing more I can do for you at this point." new head ofthe housing authority. "I am determined to
Simmons and her children are black and the story of remedy the past as quickly and as sensitively as possible
their experience is part of a Legal Aid Society lawsuit and move on."
charging the New York City Housing Authority with racial It is not yet clear whether the lawsuit will be resolved
discrimination. According to statistics in the lawsuit, in through behind-closed-doors mediation or decided after
1988 the Pomonok and Forest Hills developments were lengthy and bitter litigation in the harsh light of the public
more than 65 percent white and the Red Hook, Fort Green, arena. Both sides say they're willing to settle-and both
Astoria, Queensbridge and Pink Houses projects were sides are pursuing aggressive legal strategies. The situa-
more than 95 percent black and Latino. Between 1973 and tion is complicated by a variety of corollary investigations
1988,1,532 families moved into Pomonok; 1,117 of them by institutions with agendas that may well be at cross
were white. During that same period, 251 families moved purposes-the United States Justice Department, the city's
into Forest Hills; 183 were white. Throughout these years, Commission on Human Rights and the housing authority's
the housing authority's waiting list was more than 85 own inspector general.
percent black and Latino. Additionally, the Staten Island office of the National
The culmination of a five-year research effort, the Legal Association for the Advancement of Colored People
(NAACP) is considering
bringing their own law-
suit and a Brooklyn
branch of the Legal Aid
Society is in the midst of
a separate legal battle
over alleged discrimina-
tion in the housing
authority's Williams-
burg projects.
This flurry of activity
suggests that claims of
racial injustice at the
housing authority are
shocking and new, and
it's easy to view the dis-
pute as a simple matter
of right versus wrong.
Yet closer inspection
reveals much greater
complexity. The current
uproar mirrors many
others in the housing
authority's 57-year his-
tory and these recurrent
controversies under-
score a central and vex-
ing dilemma: Should
public housing provide
shelter solely for those
who need it most or
should it include tenants
with a mix of ages, races
and economic classes?
"These are not easy
questions with categori-
cal answers," says Rob-
ert Weaver, the nation's
first secretary for hous-
ing and urban development, and one of the main archi-
tects of the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Regarding the use of
quotas or steering to foster integration, he says, "There is
a great dispute over this. I happen to be against them but
there have been many people of great sincerity and dedi-
cation who have been for them."
This "great dispute" is echoed in widely varying reac-
tions to the lawsuit, a barometer of the city's disparate
attitudes toward race. "I think this suit in its basic premise
is petty," says Roger Starr, a former city housing official
who is writing a book about race relations. "My feeling is
the housing authority is just doing the best it can to
maintain some white people in public housing. Barring a
really malevolent purpose, which I don't see here, I think
the Legal Aid Society has better things to do."
The city's human rights commissioner, Dennis deLeon,
disagrees:"The housing authority's practices excluded
people of color. The Legal Aid Society has stuck with this,
they've explored the issues, developed the case. We owe
them a great deal."
Violet B. Hamilton, the head of the housing authority's
Tenant Advisory Council, doesn't waste time with analy-
sis. "I don't bite my tongue-the housing authority is a
racist and discriminatory organization," she says. "There
are some developments where you just can't be white
enough to get in."
n 1985, Scott Rosen-
berg was sitting in his
office putting the
finishing touches on
a series of lawsuits rep-
resenting the homeless
against the City of New
York. Buried arm-deep
in documents, his atten-
tion was redirected
when a young woman
entered his office. A
housing authority em-
ployee, the woman had
talked to friends, col-
leagues and mentors and
finally decided to come
to the Legal Aid Society.
The reason? She was
profoundl y unsettled by
one of her duties as a
housing assistant.
Si tting in his office six
years later, Rosenberg
pauses to remember the
visit. Leaning forward,
the wiry, 35-year-old
lawyer recalls, "She ex-
plained that she had
been instructed by her
supervisor in the hous-
ing authority that there
were certain projects
where families of color
could not be referred,
that only white families
could go to these
projects. She explained
that these projects were
labeled as 'Phase Two' and she was instructed that if non-
white families asked about these projects, they were to be
misinformed that there were no vacancies expected at the
project, even if they were expected.
"She herself was Latino. She added that by the term
white, the housing authority meant white non-Hispanic.
She came to us and said, 'Isn't this illegal?' She believed
it was illegal, but she was also offended by the fact that all
Latino people were being included in the Latino category,
even if they were also white. She felt if they were doing
this on the basis of color alone, they should at least be
Rosenberg asked the whistleblower if anyone else at the
housing authority would confirm her story, and another
housing assistant came in. With two informants, Rosenberg
and other attorneys began to collect information on the
racial composition of projects run by the housing author-
ity. As they started compiling statistics, comparing them,
and acquiring anecdotal stories as well as internal housing
authority documents, they saw a much broader spectrum
of race-related policies.
As alleged in the lawsuit, the practices included the use
of phase codes designating projects to which only white
applicants to public housing could be referred. These
practices are said to have occurred at the Glenwood,
Forest Hills and Pomonok projects in Queens and the
Isaacs, Holmes and Robbins Plaza projects in Manhattan.
The results of the policy are seen at projects such as
Robbins Plaza, where 83.7 percent of the families who
moved into the project between 1975 and 1988 were
white-even though whites comprised only about 12
percent of all families moving into public housing during
that period of time, according to Legal Aid.
The lawsuit also charges that managers at certain projects
attempted to maintain a "racial balance" in buildings by
replacing white families moving out with white families
moving in-and the use of the same procedures for African-
American and Latino families. The lawsuit claims that
this policy allowed white families to move into apartments
ahead of minority families with higher priority on the
waiting list. For example, at the New Lane project on
Staten Island, which was 86.7 percent white in 1988, 57
white families moved out between 1984 and 1988 and
were replaced by 55 white families, according to the
Another policy that the lawsuit claims is discrimina-
tory is the use of a neighborhood preference policy for
renting apartments in new projects. Under this policy,
families bound for new projects were required to come
from postal zones or neighborhoods nearby. According to
the lawsuit, this policy reinforced the segregated nature of
the city's neighbor-
hoods-and gave a
di s pro p orti onate
number of apartments
to white families
when projects were
opened in white
to the Legal Aid attorneys; others were found through legal
aid offices in the city's neighborhoods. The case now has
seven plaintiffs, three of whom were recently added to an
updated version of the complaint.
With funding from a new federal fair housing program,
Rosenberg is now working on the case with Michelle
Adams and Sharon Dulberg. As he sees it, discrimination
caused by the housing authority'S policies shapes the lives
of housing authority tenants. "It determines the schools
their children attend, the friends they have, how safe they
feel," he says. "Sometimes it shortens their lives and the
lives of their children. A wrong was done to families who
were denied opportunities to live in other communities
and it is the job of the Legal Aid Society to represent those
families. It's important for our clients-and for New York
City as a whole."
aura Blackburne arrived in New York from Ohio at
the age of 22 with plans to become a teacher, but she
found that in 1959 jobs were hard to come by,
especially if you were young, female and black. She
eventually took a job in Jersey City and later became the
first black teacher at the Grover Cleveland High School in
Queens. Within a few years, she was so disillusioned by
racism in the school
system that she de-
cided to move on. Her
next place of employ-
ment? The New York
City Housing Au-
thority, where she ac-
quired an entry-level
job as a housing assis-
Additionally, the
lawsuit charges that
the housing authori ty
gave special treat-
ment to Eastern Euro-
were sent to pre-
dominantly white
projects such as
Pomonok and Forest
Hills, while homeless
families , who are
mostly black and
Latino, were usually
sent to projects that
were primarily com-
The Legal Aid team: Michelle Adams, Scott Rosenberg and Sharon Dulberg.
Thirty years later,
Blackburne is head of
the housing authority,
the first woman in
charge and only the
third black person to
hold the job. Trained
as a lawyer, she has
served as legal coun-
sel to the NAACP and
spent the past 11 years
running a conflict
mediation program.
She also chaired the
prised of minorities. Most of the white immigrants who
received preference are thought to be Soviet Jews.
The Legal Aid Society lawsuit draws a cause and effect
relationship between these policies and the sharply differ-
ing statistics they have compiled regarding the housing
authority'S projects. About two dozen projects have been
and remain between 60 and 90 percent white. At a
whopping 125 projects, blacks and Latinos comprise 98
percent of the population. These 125 project include
almost half of the entire tenant population of the New
York City Housing Authority.
As a result of their research, the Legal Aid attorneys
concluded that the housing authority's policies were an
appropriate target for a class action lawsuit charging
systemic and pervasive discrimination. Some families
who were victims of the housing authority'S policies came
much-maligned commission looking into the city's han-
dling of the Korean grocery boycott in Brooklyn.
''I'm a civil rights activist-type person who absolutely
abhors any hint of discriminatory practices that result in
injuries on the basis of race," says Blackburne, squeezing
in a phone interview between appointments. "But the
housing authority now has a race neutral policy. We
acknowledge that in the past, certain practices promoted
certain goals and some people say that led to discrimina-
tion. That has ended. It's history. But the lawsuit still has
to be addressed.
"I'm a mediator by profession. I'm also a lawyer by
training. We can discuss this matter or we can go to the
mat. The message I want to send here is I'm willing to
discuss whatever Mr. Rosenberg brings to to the table ... the
ball is in his court."
As well as Blackburne's call
for open communication, the
housing authority's lawyers,
Brenda Spears and Shira
Scheindlin, note that two settle-
ment offers have been made, with
provisions for monetary damages
to the lawsuit's plaintiffs and
the establishment of a monitor-
ing system to ensure tenant se-
lection is done on a colorblind
basis. (The legal aid lawyers
counter that this is inadequate
because it does not provide a
remedy for the authority's past
the applicant population that
caused a shift in the building
population," notes Scheindlin.
"In the 1950s, the housing au-
thority was 50 percent white and
50 percent minority. Now it's
91.5 percent minority and 8.5
percent white. It doesn't take a
math major to see that the vast
number of projects would
In an interview in an expan-
sive conference room, Schein-
dlin and Spears outline the
history of the housing authority's
tenant selection policies ,
accepting that many were race-
related but denying any dis-
criminatory intent or effect. They
do not sing the praises of the
housing authority integrationists
from the past, nor do they apolo-
Housing authority boss laura Blackbume: "We can discuss this
matter or we can go to the mat. "
As to the future, the lawyers
say the most important step has
already been taken because in
1988 the housing authority de-
cided to stop all race-related
policies. They say the authority
is prepared to monitor tenant
selection, provide ongoing edu-
cation for their employees and
increase public information
about tenant selection policies.
Not surprisingly, they have little
interest in steps such as
reinterviewing families on the
authority's gargantuan waiting
list, providing monetary dam-
gize for housing authority practices that may have molli-
fied community leaders afraid of an influx of "outsiders"
by allowing them neighborhood preference. They say this
was all part of the nuts-and-bolts business of trying to
create livable communities and build as much housing as
possible wherever it could be done.
Describing the phase policy as "social engineering,"
Scheindlin says it was an attempt to promote racial bal-
ance by sending people of different races to different
projects-as a way to prevent segregation. She adds that
the policy underwent a variety of changes over the years,
but was always an attempt to ensure buildings met hous-
ing authority regulations for tenants from a mix of races,
social classes and family sizes.
Explaining the neighborhood preference policy, she
says the practice occured at the time of rent up, and took
place only at a handful of projects-those on the West Side
of Manhattan, the Lower East Side, Forest Hills, East
Harlem and Williamsburg. "My understanding is it had to
do with with community interest and activism at the time
the project was being built," says Scheindlin. "I won't
beat around the bush ... people didn't want to see the
community change. Neighborhood preference was viewed
as a kind of neighborhood preservation."
On the subject of preference policies for Eastern Euro-
pean immigrants, Scheindlin responds carefully: "This
allegation in the complaint exists. We are investigating to
see if white immigrants were assigned out of turn. We're
reviewing our waiting lists, we're looking to see if people
were improperly assigned. For many years we permitted
managers to make requests on behalf of individuals. Be-
cause of the potential for abuse and probable and actual
abuse in some instances, this no longer exists."
Having acknowledged that these practices existed,
Scheindlin and Spears reject the notion that these policies
had any broader effect throughout the housing authority.
Disparities in racial statistics are the natural result of the
city's changing demography, they claim. "It was a shift in
ages to families denied comprehensive housing choice or
devising creative strategies to once again promote deseg-
regation. "We're no longer in the business of social engi-
neering," says Scheindlin. "We're in the business of
providing public housing for those who qualify."
Ironically, the housing authority officials are prepared
to let the chips fall where they may, while the Legal Aid
lawyers haven't completely abandoned the ideal of inte-
gration. When considering remedy possibilitjes such as
the creation of "target" projects to attract whites to black
or Latino developments, Rosenberg says, "If there had
been no past discrimination of any kind and the composi-
tion of the tenants reflected the composition of the appli-
cants, then that would be an acceptable result. But I do
believe it is permissible for government to take affirmative
steps to overcome the effects of past discrimination."
stablished in 1934, the New York City Housing
Authority built the first publicly owned low-in-
come housing in the country and from the very
beginning, race was a consideration. Constructed in
the notorious slum of the Lower East Side, First Houses
provided fire-proof apartments for Eastern European im-
migrants who paid an average of $6 a room each month.
Further uptown, the housing authority constructed Har-
lem Houses, a 572-unit complex that arranged medium-
sized brick buildings around playgrounds and a wading
pool. When the housing authority advertised for tenants
(who would pay $7 per room each month) they noted that
the buildings were "of particular significance to Ne-
In the early days, tenant selection for public housing
was a process that involved careful screening, and only
those with solid jobs, an insurance policy and a bank
account were let in. Inspired by the spirit of social reform,
the housing authority aimed to uplift the poor, but in fact
they only opened their doors to the most hardworking
portion of the working class.
By the 1950s the housing authority was providing
housing for thousands of New Yorkers of a variety of races.
Blacks were migrating north in search of manufacturing
jobs, Puerto Ricans were making their way to the mainland
and state officials were monitoring to make sure the
authority was meeting an early anti-discrimination law.
As neighborhoods started to change, citizens in some
areas approached the housing authority with the idea that
public housing could be used to promote integration.
In 1956, the director of a community coalition in
Manhattanville wrote to the State Committee Against
Discrimination (SCAD) suggesting that the construction
of more than 2,000 new units of public housing in the
neighborhood provided a unique opportunity. The
Manhattanville resident, Martin Lebowitz, pointed out
that before site clearing, the area was 41 percent white, 32
percent black, 23 percent Latino and 4 percent Asian, a
demographic breakdown similar to that within public
housing as a whole. Wasn't this the perfect chance to
create a model of neighborhood integration?
SCAD's housing director, Edward Rutledge, endorsed
the idea and wrote to the head of the housing authority to
tell him about it: "We should like to urge you to take such
affirmative steps in this direction as instructing the per-
sonnel of your tenant selection division to make a special
effort to maintain the pattern of balanced integration
which has heretofore prevailed."
Warren Moscow, the housing
public relations officer. In his lengthy and thoughtful
piece, Roshko denounces the phase policy: "Whatever the
long range benefits that may accrue from the integration
program ... the immediate result for non-white applicants
is a sharp reduction in the number of apartments avail-
able. Non-whites, although they comprise the majority of
applicants, compete for a greatly decreased supply oflow-
rent apartments."
Ironically, Roshko's article prompted an investigation
by the state Commission on Human Rights-the reformu-
lated office of the State Committee Against Discrimina-
tion, which had originally promoted "affirmative steps"
toward integration. In 1963, after a 14-month probe, the
human rights group concluded that the housing authority'S
phase code policy violated the state law against discrimi-
nation and should be terminated. While acknowledging
the housing authority'S good motives, the director of the
probe, Bernard Katzen, said that the policy had led to less
housing for non-whites as well as a practice of leaving
some apartments vacant until tenants of the right race
were found.
By this time, tenant selection policies were changing,
public housing was no longer the home of the "heroic
working class," and housing and race were more than the
source of memos between policy experts. The War on
Poverty was in full swing, and the fury stirred up by a
federal housing initiative made the quarrel over phase
codes seem minor in comparison. Known as the scatter-
site program, the policy was an ex-
authority'S director, was incensed by
the suggestion. He typed back: "The
Housing Authority was created to fur-
nish low-rent housing on the basis of
need. We have no intention of deviat-
ing from this primary concern of need,
and starting to pick our tenants on the
basis of race, color or creed. To do so
would, in my judgement, be not only
unwise but unlawful, and an affront
to the concept of public housing."
Meetings and letter-writing con-
tinued on the topic and news of the
ruckus made its way to the media.
The housing authority attempted to
An early
integration plan
won support from
the NAACP, the
Urban League and
the City Club.
periment to build public housing in
mostly white, middle-class commu-
nities. Of the 13 projects originally
slated for the New York City scatter-
site program, less than a handful were
built in their original form.
The most notorious attempt at
scatter-site housing took place in For-
est Hills, where a long and intricate
dispute stretched in to the 1970s. Ad-
ministrators from the Lindsay admin-
istration set out to build towers of 24
stories each in the middle-class, pre-
dominantly Jewish community. The
neighborhood fought back vocifer-
quash further discussion but the issue
was clearly still salient-on July 16, 1958, Madison S.
Jones from the NAACP joined the housing authority as a
full-time, salaried consultant on race issues.
Not long afterwards, the housing authority adopted a
program to foster integration. Projects would be grouped
into phase codes, with each code noting that a certain
racial group was required to maintain an integrated ten-
ancy. A press statement explains, "Mere compliance with
the laws which prohibit discrimination has not prevented
segregation in many developments. The Authority is
faced with the necessity of taking affirmative action in
order to overcome segregation. We believe that our pro-
gram is one of the few candid attempts to face up squarely
to a controversial and perplexing problem."
Twenty-four groups including the NAACP, the Ameri-
can Jewish Committee, the Urban League and the City
Club supported the program but this was hardly the end of
the matter. In 1 960, the New Leadermagazine included an
article by Bernard Roshko, the housing authority'S former
ously, stating crime and overcrowd-
ing as their primary fear. Behind the
shouting and placard waving was the racist assumption
that the mostly black residents of public housing would
transform a quiet, white enclave into an urban war zone.
Mayor John Lindsay called on a then-unknown lawyer
named Mario Cuomo to mediate the controversy and after
extensive hearings, briefings, politicking and deal-mak-
ing, the Board of Estimate approved a revised version of
the plan: three towers, only 12 stories each, with 40
percent of the apartments reserved for the elderly and a
minimum of of the tenants on welfare. In his book, "Forest
Hills Diary," Cuomo explains the views ofthose who met
with him and inc! udes suggestions that the project become
the housing authority's only low-income cooperative.
What he doesn't mention in the book-but does detail in
an article written in 1976 for the Queens that
the project's board of directors were allowed to set a racial
quota: 70 percent white, 30 percent black.
Rev. Timothy Mitchell was a maverick black voice on
the original cooperative board and he can't remember a
single reason for the 70-30 breakdown. "They just wanted
to keep blacks out of the community. I wanted it to be 50-
50, but I was outvoted," recalls the activist minister from
Ebenezer Baptist Church.
Over the next two decades a number of projects were
built in predominantly white neighborhoods and the
Forest Hills quota may have set a precedent for ensuring
that projects in these communities should have a tenant
population that is predominantly white. Some housing
officials from the time say the notion
that a white majority had to be main-
from community boards for new housing and at some
point the idea that new projects should reflect the racial
composition of their neighborhood was instituted.
A variety of race-related tenant selection policies seem
to have continued until 1988, after Joseph Shuldiner
became chairman of the housing authority. Now running
the Los Angeles Housing Authority, Shuldiner says he
found out about the policies about a year after he took over
and went immediately to his board of directors. "I was not
pleased," he recalls. "I informed the
board, the board recognized that this
tained may have been buttressed by
surveys showing that a 70-30 mix was
the way to avoid "tipping." (Tipping
is the phenomena of white residents
fleeing en masse from a building or
neighborhood because it has become
"too black" or "too Latino.")
They just
wanted to keep
blacks out of
was an issue of great importance, and
we moved with deliberate speed. After
several months, a proposal [to change
the policies] was brought to the board
and we discussed it at a general re-
treat. "
Around this time, the Supreme
Court decided to uphold a lower court
ruling that quotas intended to pro-
mote racial integration at the subsi-
dized Starrett City housing develop-
ment in Brooklyn were against the
law. "It used to be that you could do
what you wanted as long as you had
Others confirm the notion that
quotas were set on an ad hoc basis. "I
remember quarreling with my col-
leagues on the [three-person housing
authority] board because they wanted
a project to be 80-20," says Simeon
Golar, who served on the housing
authority board in 1968 and then be-
Forest Hills, says
Rev. Timothy
came chairman between 1970 and
1973. "We talked and eventually they
said 'What about 60-40?' I said you've got a deal. Every
single project represented compromises. It was a far from
perfect process."
A key factor in this process was the community per-
spective. After decades of strong-arm tactics from admin-
istrations that razed entire neighborhoods in the name of
new highways or slum clearance, many New Yorkers in
the 1960s were calling for greater community participa-
tion in decision-making. This led to a complete overhaul
ofthe city's charter, including the creation of community
boards. Doing everything possible to ease the path for
public housing, the housing authority sought approval
equality of result."
equality of result," says Shuldiner.
"Now you have to have equality of
process ... but you end up with in-
In a country where public housing has become the
housing of last resort and in a city where the vast majority
of those qualified for public housing are black and Latino,
Shuldiner suggests that it's not surprising that the housing
authority reflects broader inequalities. As he surmises,
"The real issue is there's just not enough housing." 0
Thanks to Andrew Kransdorf and Prof. Peter Marcuse for
the use of historical material compiled for Marcuse's
forthcoming book on the history of New York's public
Since 1980 HEAT has provided low cost home heating Oil . burner and boiler repair services.
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II ,i"I, '11_
By Matthew Lee
Invasion of the
Home Snatchers
wice this winter our neighbor-
hood in the South Bronx has
been invaded by riot police.
Yet there has been no riot, no
violence. The "crime" that sent such a
heavy duty police force into the com-
munity was that a growing number of
homeless and low-income families
had been fixing up a handful of long-
in a demolition crew to rip out the
walls and make the building uninhab-
itable. Only then was the around-the-
clock, six-vehicle police guard re-
moved from in front of the building.
Less then two months later, the riot
police were again sent in. This time
the target was a homesteading build-
ing on Home Street. Thirty families
were removed and the
building immediately
Costly Plans
a.lllhI' .....
..... _.....,
Putting aside the
value of the housing
lost, which in many
ways is incalculable,
why woulda city faced
with such a cavern-
ous budget gap spend
all that money on po-
lice overtime, demoli-
tion, relocation and
exorbitant welfare
'Calm 11 __
............ "'
1I .........
abandoned buildings in order to create
the housing they so desperately need.
hotel bills? Well, in the
case of Home Street, it is because the
city has plans to build a subsidized
development of private homes for
people earning $35,000 to $55,000 a
year. This in a neighborhood where
the median family income is less than
On January 13th, Bronx Borough
President Fernando Ferrer called on
the Dinkins administration to inspect
the homesteaders' buildings. Ferrer
stated concerns about safety-but he
was already on record calling for the
eviction of the homesteaders before
the issue of safety was even raised.
This is not surprising to anyone
who follows Bronx politics. Ferrer is
one of the main forces behind a plan
to attract more middle-income people
to the South Bronx. At a conference at
Lehman College last year, Ferrer said
he wanted 80 percent of the housing
built and renovated by the city in the
South Bronx to be for people. earning
more than $35,000 annually. What
about the thousands of ill-housed
people already living in the area?
Apparently, they are not part of
Ferrer's vision of a "new Bronx."
Bronx Future
Now eight buildings and 150 mem-
ber families remain in the Inner City
Press/Community on the Move
Homesteaders' Association. Will the
city encourage their self-help initia-
tive or simply evict them with hun-
dreds of police and throw them back
into an already overcrowded and de-
humanizing shelter system?
The homesteaders want to work
with-not against-the city. The city
has told us it would now consider a
proposal from the group to homestead
some buildings if the group could
find financing. When one realizes the
city subsidizes big developers to build
middle-income projects such as the
one slated for Home Street, the cyni-
cism of the gesture seems evident. But
we're now formulating a proposal with
the help of experienced organizations
like the Urban Homesteading Assis-
tance Board and the support of local
churches and citywide religious and
housing groups.
At this point in the city's history-
and of urban America as a whole-
can government afford to discourage
self-help initiatives among the poor?
For the past three years the Inner
City Press/Community on the Move
Homesteaders' Association, a group
of 200 low-income families, has been
repairing 10 abandoned South Bronx
buildings. These families , many of
them immigrants from Central
America and the Caribbean, have
formed a self-help group: They clean
out buildings and repair apartments
as well as share food, resources and
information about jobs. In short, they
have created a community. And they
have done all this without a penny of
assistance from the city. TRYING TO REACH NYC COMMUNITY GROUPS?
But in December, the financially
strapped City of New York launched
an expensive campaign to crush part
of this self-help community. First, the
city sent some 250 riot police to
Crotona Park East to forcibly evict 52
families from apartments they had
renovated themselves. Two weeks af-
ter the initial evictions, the city sent
City View is a forum for opinion
and does not necessarily reflect
the views of City Limits.
The Citizens Committee maintains the city's largest and most up-to-
date computerized mailing list of block, neighborhood, tenant and
youth groups in the five boroughs (about 15,000 names). We do not
give out the list but will handle mailings for other organizations and bill
them for costs. If you are interested in using the list, call Mehmet
Koymen, mailing list manager, at 212-684-6767.
3 West 29th Street. Ne\N York. Ne\N York 10001-4501
By Eric Weinstock
Our Town
"Urban Politics, New York Style,"
Edited by Jewel Bellush and Dick
Netzer, M.E. Sharpe, Inc. , 1990,
$24.95, hardcover.
n 1960, Wallace Sayre and Herbert
Kaufman, professors at Columbia
and Yale universities respectively,
published "Governing New York
City: Politics in the Metropolis."
"Governing New York City" quickly
became the textbook and reference
guide for students of municipal gov-
ernment in general and New York
City in particular. However, with the
massive social and economic up-
heavals of the 1960s and 1970s, along
with the structural changes in New
York City's politics and governance,
this "classic" book has cried out for
updating for a long time.
Jewel Bellush from Hunter College's
Political Science Department and Dick
Netzer, senior fellow of the Urban
Research Center at New York Uni-
versity, have attempted to answer that
cry in "Urban Politics, New York
Style." Along with a dozen contribu-
tors, they cover much of the same
ground that Sayre and Kaufman did
30 years ago. Although some of the
essays are very good, the desire to
update a classic is not sufficient to
produce a classic of one's own. As a
replacement for Sayre and Kaufman,
Bellush and Netzer fall short. But
they have produced a useful collec-
tion of essays on New York City gov-
ernment and politics, which deserves
a place on the shelf of serious students
of municipal government.
The authors of the individual ar-
ticles are almost all fellow academics
(examples: Joseph Viteritti, David
Rogers and Edwin Diamond from
NYU, Charles V. Hamilton from Co-
lumbia University, Richard Wade from
the CUNY Graduate Center), however,
David Eichenthal (from the New York
City Comptroller's Office) and Gerald
Benjamin (majority leader of the Ulster
County legislature and a professor at
New Paltz) are on hand to lend their
practical experience to the blend of
articles. The academic tone and nature
of the book forces the casual reader to
accept a slower reading speed and to
track down cross-references and
footnotes in order to grasp the subject
matter fully.
Changing Times
Much of what the authors present
here is not new information. Many of
the chapters are mostly descriptions
of the changes that have occurred since
1960, with very little in the way of
new information or theory presented.
The changing demographics of the
city, the collapse of the old-fashioned
party machines and political party
identity, the rise of television in may-
oral campaigns and the continued
ineffectiveness of the City Council are
not exactly new concepts.
The chronology of the 1975 fiscal
crisis is presented many times
throughout the book because of its far-
reaching effects on nearly all areas of
New York City's government and
politics. Despite the number of times
it is mentioned, the discussion does
not contain any lessons learned from
the fiscal crisis that could be applied
to the city's current budget woes.
But there are very useful chapters
on community power, the media,
public authorities, the bureaucracy
and economic development. The
growing power of real estate develop-
& Community
47 one- and two-day courses providing
professional training in:
June 3 - 8, 1991
Lincoln Filene Center, Tufts
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(617) 381-3549
o Nonprofit Management
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ers is highlighted in Jewel Bellush's
article on interest groups.
Television Age
It is interesting to note that the
stress on economic development by
Mayor Koch may have a dramatic
impact on politics in the city for years
to come. Despite the new public fi-
Updating a city
nance law, mayoral elections are now
so heavily dependent on television
advertising that huge sums of money
are needed in order to mount a suc-
cessful campaign. This makes full
support of projects like Atlantic
Terminal and Times Square almost
the only way to get elected. Since the
wealthy will always contribute most
heavily to pro-development mayors,
these candidates have a huge advan-
tage when opposed by candidates
favoring small-scale, neighborhood-
based development.
In a certain sense"Urban Politics,
New York Style" may have been
written too early. The most recent
charter reform, with its elimination of
the Board of Estimate and most of the
powers of the borough presidents and
its expansion of the City Council will
probably lead to some quantum
changes in how the city will function
in the near future. In addition, David
Dinkins' mayoralty will undoubtedly
have lasting effects on city politics as
well. This is especially true given the
stagnation and corruption present at
the end of Koch's 12-year reign and
the cult of the mayor emphasized by
the media.
The need to update a 30-year-old
text is obvious. But after having waited
this long, the authors perhaps should
have waited to see the actual results of
the charter's massive shifting of power .
These changes will give "Urban Poli-
tics, New York Style" a much shorter
shelf life than Sayre and Kaufman's
"Governing New York City." 0
Eric Weinstock is the director of the
Housing Research Project of the
Community Training and Resource
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"When the City Forecloses: Community and Owner Options." A guide to the
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"Becoming a Cooperative." Outlines the steps involved in buying a city-
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ties of owning a co-op. Available in Spanish and Enblish. Urban Homestead-
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"Where You Stand." A shareholder's guide to cooperative ownership. Avail-
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"People Power." Comic book about how to do community and tenant organ-
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"Reference Manual for Food, Shelter and Resources for the Homeless."
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26 government benefit programs. Community Service SoCiety. 300 pp. $40
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Bar Association. 210 pp. $9.95
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terms. New York State Bar Association. 51 pp. $3
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A decade of service representing
community development organizations
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hiring for its intake and scattered site housing programs, including
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Social Workers, Case Managers, Drug Counselor, Entitlements
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urged to apply; Spanish a plus. For information: Housing Works,
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CITY UMrTS/APRll.. 1991/ 23
Life inside a city-owned crack den...public agencies cutting
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