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Volume X Number 6
City Limits is published ten times per year,
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City Limits (ISSN 0199-0330)
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Cov.r Photo of Bronx Courthou
by Ricky Flor
The .tc)llOll'ing is a guest the Task Force on HOllsing
It is easy to think of housing court as the place everybody loves to
hate. Ask tenants and landlords alike and each will tell you that the sys-
tem is unjust. the conditions horrendous and the judges biased. Ask
organizers and lawyers about housing court and they will tell you it is
the battleground where the ideological wars between the right to
property and profit and the right to shelter and services are fought.
The Housing Part of the Civil Court of the City of New York is over-
crowded. understaffed. underfunded and as far from the public image of
Perry Mason-style American justice as the IRT local from a Rolls Royce.
The reality of housing court is a system with obvious flaws:
a pro se court run b'y and for the legal profession. beset by complicated
and technical procedures and forms largely unintelligible to lay persons;
a court where owners who owe the City of New York thousands of
dollars in fines and taxes can evict a tenant for a month's rent;
a court where over 26.000 residential evictions were authorized
and executed last year;
a court where tenants can default by missing a 9:30 am calendar
call. but must wait all morning while landlord attorneys who work daily
in the court roam from case to case;
a court where judges encourage backroom dealmaking instead of
available legal remedies;
a court where an owner can almost always avoid making neces-
sary repairs;
and yes. a court where an occasional manipulative tenant can
delay- but still not avoid - paying the rent.
Housing court is also a place where. on occasion, a precious housing
stock can be protected. a rent strike won. repairs ordered, 7A administrators
appointed, fines imposed and owners jailed. But all too rarely.
Right now housing court sits somewhere between sluggish, haphaz-
ard enforcement and not working at all. But while the court's role as the
final arbiter of decent shelter and homelessness is ever more crucial,
attempts to make it accountable have failed.
Housing court demands immediate and far-reaching reform. Most of
all. it needs the scrutiny and spotlight of public debate. Its problems and
failings belong squarely on the agenda of every elected official. 0
The Dispossessed 16
Junk Justice in New York's Housing Court
13 years after major restructuring. Housing Court is an
unequal contest where only one side knows the rules.
Turn The Lights On In Housing Court 2
Short Term Notes
Pioneering Effort ............. . ....... 4
Integration Planned for State Housing ..... 4
Koch's Commission By Ommission . . . . . . . . 5
Coalition For. $20 Million ............... 6
Defunded Agencies .................... 7
Construction Site Suit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
NYU Flunks Out . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
A Growing Coalition Marches
For Housing Justice. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Albany's New Housing Fund . . . . . . . . . . . .. 10
At The Mercy Of The Courts . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Patching The Cracks: A Housing Tribunal.. 14
Tenant Resources ......................... 15
Bess Stevenson: Fighting For Justice In The
Halls Of Housing Court . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
Charity Begins At The Workplace. . . . . . . .. 24
Getting Back To Basics. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 26
Letters. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 28
Resources/Events. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 30
Workshop. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 31
Junk J ustice/16
Fighting For Justice/21
4 CITY LIMITS June 1985
Another one almost bit
the dust April 19 when ques-
tionable demolition work on
the Pioneer Hotel forced 130
residents out of the building
and into safe shelter. The
Pioneer, a single-room-
occupancy hotel on the cor-
ner of Bowery and Broome
St. in lower Manhattan,
came close to catastrophe
when renovations to com-
mercial space on the ground
floor caused the facade to
give way. The SRO hotel was
fully occupied at the t i me
but there was enough warn-
ing for occupants to escape
harm. With the help of legal
aid, the residents found
lodgings in the YMCA.
"Our office is around the
corner," says Nancy Biber-
man, attorney with MFY Le-
gal Services. 'We heard
screeching sirens and ran to
see what was happeni ng.
The building department
closed off the enti re block
from Bowery to Elizabeth on
Issaco Rosso and David
Cohen bought the Pioneer i n
November 1984 and began
work on the building's f i rst
floor in December. The two
men also own several light-
ing fixture stores and
properties on Bowery be-
tween Broome and Delancy
and planned to convert part
of the Pioneer into another
lighting store.
"The owners filed a building
notice in December, which was
approved, to do non-structural
work," recounts their attorney
Bruce Solomon, "to remove
sheet rock , false cei lings
and non-structural parti -
t ions. A permi t was obtained
in February."
But the wor k went far be
yond non-structural demoli-
tion, according to MFY
attorneys and residents who
watched in horror as wor -
kers carried out 12-foot floor
beams that had run from the
basement to the f i rst floor.
Police on guard out,lde the
Timely legal moves by the city.
"Some of t he workers got
wi nd of t he problems and
hazards tenants faced ,"
claims Bi berman. "Doors
and windows were stuck, a
sign of the destabi l ization of
the building. One week be-
fore i t happened, they knew
of the immi nent collapse."
React ion from the city was
prompt and deci sive. A
24-hour poli ce guard was
stationed in front of the Pi-
oneer, forstalling further
demoliti on wor k . On May 9,
Commissioner of Housing
Preservati on and Develop-
ment Anthony Gl i edman
authorized the use of the
Emergency Repai r Program
funds to shore up t he hotel
and strengthen i t s sagging
structure. 'We made a policy
decision on this bui ldi ng not
to let another SRO go,"
states HPD Commissioner
Carol Fel stein of the Office
of Rent and Housing Mai nte-
nance. ':As far as I know, i t's
t he f i rst time ERP funds have
been used i n this way. I'm
very pleased and bel i eve it
will be appl ied in other such
Despite the owners' insis-
tence that the Pioneer could
not be salvaged, HPD found
a contractor who completed
the $90,000 project on May
22. The Buildings Depart-
ment lifted the vacat.e order
imposed after the initial
damage occured and the Pi -
oneer's residents began to
move back. But not without
a fight. "The owners kicked
them out, so we called the
police who came and, with
us, discussed the illegal
eviction law," states Biber-
man. "The police said open
up or get arrested, so they
let them back i n."
Speaking for the owners,
Solomon says they don't
know what wi ll become of
the Pioneer. "If it weren't an
SRO, it would have been
demolished. But HPD got in-
volved, it being an SRO and
it being an election year."
While Solomon likens the
Pioneer Hotel to "an old
Cadillac that looks good but
needs a lot of work," the
stately old structure was
seemingly in fine repair be-
fore his clients began their
renovations. HPD records re-
veal only nine building code
violations existed at the
hotel and some detective
work by Bi berman and her
colleague, Anne Teicher, un-
covered a fascinating histo-
ry. " It's not a Bowery flop
house," i nsi sts Biberman. "It
was bui lt before the Civil
War and actually served as
headquarters for the Union
army. It was also the head-
quarters for an old-time po-
litical boss, Big Tim Sullivan.
We've been advised to con-
tact the Landmarks Preser-
vat ion Commission."
Lit i gation will probably be
the next step as Biberman
and Teicher represent the in-
terests of a group of resi-
dents i n demanding repairs
to the hotel , something the
owners are not inclined to
do. The city is also contem-
plating a suit against Rosso
and Cohen for doi ng struc-
tural demolition work without
a proper building permit.
According to the residents'
attorneys, the Buildings
Department issued a violation
to the owners in January for
illegal construction and told
them to cease work.OA.f.
There aren't too many
folks watching just yet, but a
recent court action has
started the clock ticking on
an integration plan which
aims to open several thou-
sand apartment doors now
closed to minorities. The
units are in overwhelmingly
white rental and co-op com-
plexes that are assisted and
monitored by the State of
New York .
On April 3, federal Judge
Edward R. Neaher signed
into effect a settlement
order on the five-year-old
Starrett City discrimination
suit. The settlement was
submitted to him in May of
1984 by several black plain-
tiffs in the suit against the
managers of the S,881-unit
Starrett City complex in
Brooklyn's Spring Creek sec-
tion. The plaintiffs were
apartment seekers who
were rejected by Starrett
because of a quota on the
number of black and
minori ty tenants which
sought to keep whites in a
majority in the 46-building
complex. Also named as a
defendant was the state's
Division of Housi ng and
Community Renewal which
is charged with monitoring
the project. The suit, which
was first filed i n 1979 with
the aid of the Open Housing
Center and other anti -dis-
crimination organizations,
created sharp controversy.
Starrett's management
acknowledged it controlled
its waiting l ists and provided
unequal treatment for
whites and minority appli -
cants. But i t said these
methods were based on a
"tipping" theory that whites
would flee if they perceived
blacks and others as begin-
ning to outnumber them.
Before that debate could
move into court, however, an
agreement was struck
whereby Starrett would pro-
vide 175 additional apart-
ments to minorities over five
years, but would continue to
monitor race and otherwise
limit the number of minori-
ties. The spur to the settle-
ment, the plaintiff's lawyers
acknowledged last year, was
a fear that the U.S. Depart-
ment of Justice would use a
court decision against Star-
rett's exclusionary rental
practices as a wedge
against inclusive affirmative
action. Indeed, in the im-
mediate wake of the an-
nounced settlement, the
Justice Department filed its
own suit against Starrett and
wrote to Judge Neaher urg-
ing him not to sign the set-
tlement. The judge has yet
to decide on that separate
But although the legal
challenge to Starrett's dis-
crimination is over, it did
result in a potentially signifi-
cant agreement by the
state's Division of Housing.
Starting with Judge Neaher's
sign-off, the state begins a
more than year-long phase-
in of an "open access" pro-
gram to address discrimina-
tion in other state assisted
and DHCR-monitored
projects. The program's goal
is a minimum 20 percent
minority makeup in all those
complexes now below that
level. Rents and carrying
charges are all below mar-
ket levels in the subsidized
projects. A spokesman for
DHCR said last year that the
agency had no way to deter-
mine actual percentage of
minorities since it is pro-
hibited from collecting racial
data. But a 1980 survey com
piled by the agency for a
task force on discrimination
shows at least 34 projects in
New York City with 16,800
apartments where whites
are more than 80 percent.
Many of the projects are
suspected of manipulating
waiting lists in such a way
that minorities never gain
Under the settlement,
DHCR has until early July to
identify its projects and
invite those it believes are
above the 80 percent white
mark to submit voluntary
plans on how to achieve the
20 percent minority
occupancy goal within 15
years. The agency then has
the following year to inves-
tigate integration conditions
'at those projects which fail
to submit acceptable plans.
Even though the settle-
ment's timetable appears to
move ponderously slowly
mostly white projects could
stretch it out until 2001
before having 20 percent
minorities), it poses a major
challenge to such virtually
all-white enclaves as the
3,500-unit Trump Village in
Coney Island, Manhattan's
1,600-unit Southbridge
Towers, and the 1,400 apart-
ments of Flushing's Elect-
"A lot of ballet steps will
have to be token for the
DHCR agreement," com-
mented Betty Hoeber, direc-
tor of the Open Housing
Center, "but its results could
be a big step forward."OT.R.
It was the first official
response from the Koch
administration to the
groundswell of demands for
small business rent protec-
tions but it left both shop-
keeper activists and rent
control proponents angrier
than before. On May 7,
Mayor Ed Koch announced
that a IS-member panel
would consider the impoct
of rising commercial rents
on merchants, residents and
June 1985 CITY LIMITS 5
Commercial rent control OfVCInl_r
Victor Quintana with Council Presi-
dent Carol .. IIamy. center. and
Council Member Ruth Me .. lnger at
City Hall:
The m c r y o r ~ panel'.n" the crn._r.
city neighborhoods. Caution-
ing that he still believed rent
controls to be "unwise" and
"counterproductive," Koch
said he was willing to "hear
other views." The commis-
sion would gather the data
and research, said Koch, on
which an "informed decision
could be made."
But what made those who
have been pushing rent
regulation to save dwindling
smaller businesses angriest
wasn't the mayor's continued
opposition, but the time
schedule under which his
commission would operate.
The panel was given an end
of year reporting date, a
deadline which skips over
both the Mayoral and City
Council electoral races as
well as the hearings on an
already well-debated com-
mercial rent regulation bill
currently sitting in the City
Council's Economic Develop-
ment Committee. With a
post-election deadline, mer-
chants and others pointed
out, the issue would be
effectively de-fused as a
campaign issue.
City Council Member Ruth
Messinger, whose bill, Intro
1658, would curtail rent
hikes for small businesses,
called the commission "a
political fraud." In her state-
ment, the Upper West Side
Manhattan Council Member
said, "Ed Koch cannot talk
about creating a good cli-
mate for business and at the
same time refuse to even
listen to the vast majority of
job-creating businesses in
this town. It is our small
businesses that are the
backbone of our economy.
Ninety percent of our com-
mercial and industrial enter-
prises employ fewer than 20
people; collectively they
account for more ihan half
the city's jobs and for most
of the jobs that go to city
City Council President Carol
Bellamy, who has frequently
mentioned the need for
commercial rent curbs in her
campaign for mayor, said
the Mayor's commission was
"a death knell" for many
small businesses. "Koch has
bailed out big business
many times," said Bellomy at
a May 9 press conference,
"but he turns his back on
small enterprises when they
need similar aid."
At the City Hall press con-
ference held just two days
after the Mayor's announce-
ment of the formation of his
panel, a one-year-old group,
the Coalition for Small Busi-
ness Preservation, turned
out dozens of business
owners and rent regulation
advocates. Victor Quintana
of the Association for Neigh-
borhood and Housing
Development who is coordi-
nator of the group, called
the plan "a sham" and a
"smokescreen" to circumvent
public discussion. Quintana
pointed to what he said was
a similarity between the
Mayor's failure to call for the
moratorium on evictions and
rent abuses against com-
mercial tenants, and his
curb on conversion of single-
room-occupancy hotels after
100,000 units had already
6 CITY LIMITS June 1985
been lost. "The need for
study," said Quintana, "is
already past."
In fact, numerous studies
have already provided their
findings to elected officials,
including a 1984 panel
appointed by Governor
Cuomo which recommended
that the state impose rent
Nevertheless, hearings
will continue. In the wake of
the angry response to the
Mayor's commission, the
Council's Economic Develop-
ment Committee headed by
Brooklyn Council Member
Abe Gerges announced
open hearings on June 19 on
Intro 1658. Quintana said
the Small Business Coalition
and others will be mobiliz-
ing to make their case once
again to the committee and
push for the bill to be voted
out of committee. But with
the Mayor's firm control over
most Council business and
his own study panel evaluat-
ing the issue, the bill is
unlikely to emerge.
Said Quintana: ''As Donald
Trump recently warned a
group of real estate brokers,
'The movement for commer-
cial rent control is growing.'
He's right." D T.R.
When the East Harlem
Youth Congress learned in
1983 that the City of New
York had $28 million allo-
cated to a Capital Jobs pro-
gram but failed to include
young people, the Youth
Congress organized a Coali-
tion to locate jobs for young
people in the community.
Seventy non-profit organiza-
tions joined the Coalition
which quickly swelled to
represent 600 agencies in
four months. In 1984, the
Coalition for 10 Million Dol-
lars persuaded the city, by
organizing, lobbying and
testifying at public hearings,
to spend $4.75 million in fis-
cal year 1985 for the
employment and training of
young people in housing
rehabilitation for the home-
less and in other public
This budget year, an even
larger coalition has set out
to win $20 million in city
funding. Its members
include East Harlem Inter-
faith, the Foundation for
Youth Involvement, Good
Shepherd Services, New
York Urban Coalition,
Planned Parenthood of New
York and the Youth Action
According to the Coali-
tion, there are currently
150,000 unemployed youth in
New York City, 5,500 aban-
doned city-owned buildings
and 50,000 homeless people.
The Coalition believes that
joining the three-employing
the young people to
rehabilitate the buildings
would help to solve the
housing crisis and also stem
the tide of homelessness.
Dorothy Stoneman, Direc-
tor of the Youth Action Pro-
gram, is currently
overseeing work on one of
three abandoned buildings
on 119th Street and Second
Avenue in New York City,
which, using state and pri-
vate funding, would provide
thirty-nine units of perma-
nent housing for the home-
less. She spoke eagerly of ,
the project. "This one got
everyone excited. There was
a sense of pride and accom-
plishment in the neighbor-
hood. It was an idea whose
time had come." On the
corner building, the first to
undergo rehabilitation,
twenty young people, ages
16 to 25, spend a half day
working at the site, the
other half day in high
school. The young people
must meet at least three of
sixteen criteria to be eligi-
ble. These include being a
high school student reading
below fifth grade level ;
homelessness; having a his-
tory of drug abuse; having
been rejected by family; and
having run away.
Ea.t Harlem'. Youth Action crew memlNtrs:
$20 million needed to IInlt job. and hou.'ng.
The students must attend
school, which is not paid for.
Along with the work experi-
ence, the young people are
active participants in plan-
ning and on-going decision
making; they represent the
community that is being
served; they develop self-
advocacy skills; women and
teen parents are provided
with equal opportunities
and there is the access to
adult friends and mentors
who are concerned about
the individual in the
Stoneman speaks of the tre-
mendous demand by young
people to enter the program.
''There is a long waiting list.
They come to us for job
training. We try and move
them into leadership and
advocacy roles."
The trainees do worksite
training on the building,
which includes demolition,
rough carpentry, roofing,
framing, taping and all
finishing work. They are
closely supervised, on a
one-to-five ratio, while
licensed contractors handle
the heat, plumbing, some-
times the roofing and dan-
gerous parapet work.
Stoneman mentioned
problems in dealing with the
city. ''They're not eager to
employ young people to
renovate buildings. At the
administrative end of things,
it was a matter of really
pushing. We spent 36 hours
lobbying-70 groups were
lobbying for housing
rehabilitation and only two
got it." But she aded, "There
was a lot of support from
elected officials-Andy
Stein, Ruth Messinger, Carol
Bellamy and others. We
have not tried to organize
people out of anger but
positive ideas. We came to
the government with not a
complaint but action. Andy
Stein said, 'This feels differ-
ent. You didn't come here
Clearly. according to
Stoneman, without the Coa-
lition's efforts, there would
have been no monies allo-
cated for jobs for young
people in fiscal year 1985.
For fiscal year 1986, the Coa-
lition is proposing additional
allocations be made to the
New York City Department
of Employment in the way of
$20 million dollars. The
breakdown includes $2.25
million for work experience
in municipal agencies, $1
million for work experience
in housing rehabilitation, $1
million for job placements
through TAP centers, $8 mil-
lion for Youth Employment in
housing rehabilitation for
homeless and low income
people and $4.5 million for
exemplary community based
work experience initiative,
in which young people
would receive training and
work experience. 800 young
people would be provided
with employment and liter-
acy training. Intensive lobby-
ing, organizing and
testifying at public hearings
are under way to persuade
public officials.
Said Stoneman, "It's excit-
ing to see ... exciting to cre-
ate a spirit of hope and
action.oArlene Schulman
Chalk up one for the
forces of community control
and anti-gentrification on
the Lower East Side. Cooper
Square Committee, in its
long-running battle for fund-
ing through Area Policy
Board 3 (see City Limits,
Nov. 1984) won a recent
court decision by Judge
Richard Wallach of the New
York State Supreme Court.
On May 8, Judge Wallach
ruled on a suit against the
city's Community Develop-
ment Agency brought by
Cooper Square and four
other community groups
that were refused funding
by APB 3. In an unusually
brief and speedily delivered
5-page decision, Wallach
found that two organizations
named in the suit must be
defunded due to ineligibility.
The United Jewish Council
and the Puerto Rican Multi-
Service Center (EI Concilio)
were found to have conflicts
of interest, with their
representatives involved on
the Area Policy Board, which
selects groups for funding.
The chair of the Area Policy
Board, Ramon Iglesia, was
determined by the judge to
represent such a conflict of
interest because he sits on
the board of EI Concilio's day
care center.
Judge Wallach's decision
was immediately hailed by
the groups which brought
suit and their attorneys. 'We
feel vindicated by this
' process," says Val Orselli,
director of Cooper Square
Committee. 'We pursued an
elaborate investigation to
prove corruption exists
among the UJC, EI Concilio
and the CDA. Maybe the
mayor will decide to clean
"To get a final judgement
out of this court in two and
a half weeks is very fast,"
claims Steve Shapiro at the
New York Civil Liberties
Union. "The language Judge
Wallach used was very
strong regarding the conflict
of interest."
The judgement orders
funding awarded to those
two groups-over $350,000-
to be redistributed to eligi-
ble community organizations.
The next struggle, as Orselli
sees it, will be to oust
Iglesia as APB 3 chair and
award the released funds to
needy organizations.
The court decision follows
closely on the heels of an
order from the city's Human
Resources Administration
calling for the dismissal of
Roberto Napoleon as
administrative director of EI
Concilio Day Care Center at
180 Suffolk St. Napoleon,
who is also the chair of EI
Concilio, was found by the
HRA to lack essential work
experience qualifications
that the position requires.
His yearly salary is
$20,400.0 A.F.
June 1985 CITY LIMITS 7
The Battery Park City con-
struction site is either a
pri,..,e example of discrimi-
nation against women con-
struction workers or the best
affirmative action program
in the city. According to
Mary Ellen Boyd, director of
Non Traditional Employment
for Women, the Battery Park
City Authority is responsible
for keeping hundreds of
women laborers out of the
action at the new construc-
tion project. After two-and-a-
half years of trying to get
women jobs there, her organi-
zation has filed suit against the
state charging discrimination.
The decision to pursue a
court action over Battery
Park City resulted from high
expectations and many frus-
trations. "A lot of things
came together over Battery
Park City," says Boyd. 'There
are more workers there
than five or six construction
sites combined and that size
should mean more oppor-
tunity; the fact that it was
started with a public trust,
that the administrators were
appointed by the governor
and that we spent lots of
time and effort trying to get
jobs there."
Boyd's figures indicate
that as of December 1984,
there were 17 women out of
2,200 workers at the site.
She also states that her
group has seen over 200
women seek jobs there for
each of the past two years
and only two have been
hired. 'We maintained great
records-who went, what
date, who they saw, what
response they got," says
Boyd. 'We can look at our
documentation and see that,
for example, on January 15
we were there with 15
women ready to work and
none were hired. Yet on
January 30, the site work
force jumped 200."
Boyd lays much of the
blame on Governor Cuomo's
doorstep since the project is
administered by the state's
Battery Park City Authority,
headed by Cuomo appointee
Meyer Frucher. But from
Frucher's point of view, the
Authority is doing an exem-
plary job of promoting affir-
mative action at the
construction site. ' ~ c r o s s the
board, we have more
women there than any other
site in the city," Frucher told
City Limits. 'Women are
underrepresented in the
construction industry as a
whole, but not here relative
to the pool of workers." He
adds that the project has a
high amount of contract work
with women-owned busi-
nesses, that two of six
Teamster site stewards are
women and that day care
centers are being developed
for Battery Park City. 'We're
very cognizant of women's
issues," states Frucher,
former head of the state
Office of Employee
Both Bovd and Frucher
acknowledge the lack of an
affirmative action statute for
women. Although there
Battery Park City untler con-
T tlng a commltm.nt to _men
8 CITY LIMITS June 1985
does exist a state policy on
hiring minority moles, 616 of
whom are employed at the
Battery Pork City project, no
goals exist for women. "It
would be good public policy
to have a universal affirma-
tive action statute for state
construction," says Frucher.
But at present, he odds, "the
Authority has no legal right
to impose affirmative action
on contractors."
Olympia and York, the
main contractor for the
project, is responsible for
hiring and, according to the
low suit, responsible for dis-
crimination against women.
A press release issued by
the company insists that
Olympia and York is commit-
ted to equal opportunity for
women and minorities at
the Battery Pork City site
and denies discrimination
against women. But attorney
Judith Vladeck, representing
Boyd's group, sees it differ-
ently. "If Olympia and York
would do some hiring where
their rhetoric is we wouldn't
have have hod to file this
suit. They are equally
responsible with Battery
Pork City Authority."
Vladeck is confident that
the judge assigned to the case
will grant it a closs action
status and thus open the way
for creating a brood policy
on affirmative action hiring
in construction jobs. 0 A.F.
There they go again. Com-
munity and housing activists
were bock out on the streets
May 17 to oppose the pro-
posed construction of hi-rise
dormitories at Third Avenue
and 10th Street in Manhat-
tan's Lower East Side. The
object of their wroth is not
just another rapacious real
estate developer but New
York University, which lost
January announced plans
for the vacant property (see
City Limits, Feb. 1985).
The controversy is not a
C 1 ~ y Council Member MIrIam .rlecllancler:
... , ,,,. U';'"Ir."Y re.".c' the neighborhood.
straightforward dispute over
whether the university
should build student hous-
ing. 'We are not opposed to
student dormitories," said
Marilyn Appleburg, who
works with the Third Avenue
Tenants Association, at a
noon-time press conference
called on the site by the
Lower East Side Joint Plan-
ning Council. ' ~ h e told the
numerous community repre-
sentatives, activists and poli-
ticians who attended, 'What
we are opposed to is the
size and scope of the build-
ing and NYU's use of the
community facility loophole
in the zoning code to b!Jild
dorms that will house four
times as many people as
residential buildings allowed
by low."
Speaker after speaker
decried the university's
insensitivity to the commu-
nity's interests and needs
and demanded that NYU
negotiate with its neighbors
rather than continuing. head-
long with a scheme that
community leaders vowed to
resist. Setting the tone for
the conference, Father Jock
Kennington of the Church of
the Most Holy Redeemer,
denounced NYU as a
"shadow moving eastward"
that would shroud the
neighbors. Before introduc-
ing the other speakers, he
concluded by saying, "NYU, .
shame on you!"
Assemblyman Bill Passan-
nante of lower Manhattan
reaffirmed the community's
acceptance of student hous-
ing, saying that students can
enhance the quality of life in
the area and should not be
viewed as the enemy of
community residents. But he
urged NYU to be "more
responsive, to communicate
with the community and to
understand its needs."
The Director of the Coali-
tion Housing Development,
Luis Nieves, pointed out that
NYU's actions could pave the
way for other real estate
developers to move in and
attempt to get variances to
build hi-rise buildings on the
Lower liast Side. "Their suc-
cess could lead to tremen-
dous speculation in the
area," Nieves added, "and
that is why we have labeled
them a Trojan Horse."
Assemblyman Sheldon Sil-
ver read from a letter sent
to him by Robert Frommer,
the NYU Vice President in
charge of the project, stat-
ing NYU's construction was
"on 'as of right' struc-
ture ... and one we believe
to be sensitive to the needs
of the community of which
the University has been on
integral port for many
years." Silver criticized NYU's
attitude and urged them to
scale down the project so it
would conform to the
present size and scope of
the neighborhood.
Dean Corren of Third
Avenue Tenants, was
introduced by Kennington as
the "backbone of the fight"
to preserve the integrity of
the area. He said commu-
nity residents are living "on
the knife's edge of luxury
development," but predicted
that like Mayor John lind-
say, Ed Koch's schemes for
transforming the character
of New York's neighbor-
hoods will be foiled. "If not,
the people who now live
here will be out in the
streets here or living in a
different city," Corren said.
'We have struggled for 16
years, and we'll do it some
more. We can't allow NYU to
front for real estate
David Dinkins, New York
City Clerk, addressed the
assemblage on the need for
social responsibility on the
port of NYU. ''Too many of
our institutions of higher
learning have portrayed
themselves as preachers of
freedom and defenders of
human rights and social
justice, only to ignore the
needs and concerns of their
surrounding neighbor-
hoods ... 1 urge NYU to
negotiate in a spirit of good
will, neighborhood concern
and open mindedness," said
Dinkins, a candidate for
Manhattan Borough
The final speaker at the
press conference, Normon
Siegel, director of MFY Legal
Services, said the building of
the dorms is not the only
question that should be
raised with NYU. 'Where
does the university stand on
the key social issue of the
day in New York-
gentrification?" he asked.
'Why don't they put up some
money to fund a center to
analyze what is taking place
in their neighborhood? I
went to NYU and they
taught us that the low
should serve people," Siegel
concluded. "NYU-why don't
you practice what you
preach?"O Rlchard Miller
Tenants and housing
activists demonstrated just
how sharply the stakes have
risen in New York City's
housing battles with a May
4th march and rally that
united the widest coalition
of housing organizations this
city has seen in many years.
Ranging from organiza-
tions of the homeless to
tenants of upper-middle
income tax-abated hi-rises
and over 30 organizations in
between, some 250 people
stepped off on a bright
Saturday afternoon from the
West 44th Street site where
three buildings were ille-
gally demolished by one of
the city's biggest developers
last January. The group
marched through the nearby
neighborhood of Clinton
where local residents are
resisting growing specula-
tion in the wake of plans for
the redevelopment of Times
Square. A five-piece brass
band, a group of balladeers
from the Lower East Side
singing songs of neighbor-
hood protest, a host of ban-
ners and a medley of picket
signs filed past other casual-
ties of the city's housing
wars, pausing at a near-
empty Single-Room-Occu-
pancy hotel at Ninth Avenue
and 57th Street, the manager
of which was jailed for tenant
harassment the week before.
The group rallied and
grew to over 400 at 56th
Street and Fifth Avenue,
across the street from where
builder Donald Trump
landed $56 million in city
tax abatements for his com-
mercial and residential
Trump Towers which houses
some of the world's most
expensive apartments and
most exclusive shops.
Speakers, including Jewell
Bryant of Parents and
June 1985 CITY LIMITS 9
Galen KIrkland of We.t Harlem CommunIty OrganIzatIon dl.pute.
pollee on Trump 'owen' prIvate property rIghts.
Friends on the Move, an
organization of homeless
people, Reverend Calvin
Butts of Harlem's Abyssinian
Baptist Church, AI DeNully
of the Eleanor Bumpers Coa-
lition and Margarita Lopez of
the Lower East Side Joint
Planning Coalition described
both a growing housing cri-
sis and a growing movement
for change. After the rally,
some 50 demonstrators
entered the public mall on
the Towers groundfloor
creating a stir amongst
browsers and tourists. Police
requested the group to
leave, but arguing that the
tax-abated mall , was public
property, the demonstrators
stayed put until a cordon of
security and maintenance
staff-even waiters dressed
in Trump's gold-braided
motif-linked arms and
forced the group out.
Another group of demon-
strators entered the upper
level of the mall but were
rousted by Trump's guards.
Before they were herded
out, however, they draped
their banners over the bal-
cony railing and, together
with the throng of protestors
below, sent up a chant of
'Housing for People, Not for
Profit' which echoed off the
multi-million dollar atrium
and plaza.DT.R.
.._r unfurled from
Trump '_r balcony.
10 CITY LIMITS June 1985
AlllallY's New Housillg 'ulld
at all but a rose by any other name
smells as sweet. In early April, as part
of the state legislature'S approval of the
budget for the current fiscal year, a new
two-part $50 million housing program
was passed as part of private housing
finance law. The first half is entitled
Article XVIll, Low Income Housing
Trust Fund Program. A trust fund pulls
money in from a specific (dedicated)
source of income, like the tax on mort-
gage recordings or the pooling of
escrow rent deposits.
Disappointingly, this new Hous-
ing Trust Fund is actually funded
through a run-of-the-mill appropria-
tion of the state legislature. The Gover-
nor proposed a real Trust Fund
(through mortgage recording fees) in
his State of the State address. Assem-
blymember Pete Grannis, chair of the
Housing Committee, pushed hard but
the traditional fears of the legislature
to establish precedents for fiscal set-
asides came to the fore.
In the tumultuous negotiations to
create a bill that had something for
everybody, the idea to use a dedicated
source of revenue for housing was
dropped. However, the name-
Housing Trust Fund - endured. That's
good. Perhaps the concept will take
root and the legislature will relax its
firm grasp on the excess mortgage
recording fees, originally collected to
underwrite the State of New York Mort-
gage Agency's (SONYMA) Insurance
The story of how The Housing
Trust Fund (hereafter referred to as
HTF) got signed into law could take
pages of adventuresome reading.
Truly. But suffice it to say, that the real
heroes of the Low Income HTF and its
sidekick, The Affordable Homeowner-
ship Development Program are Assem-
blymember Grannis, his talented
staffer, Danny Conviser, Speaker Stan-
ley Fink (he had to want it), and a net-
work of housing advocates from all
over the state who have been demand-
ing a HTF for the last two years.
I know what you're thinking-
"What's a measly $25 million com-
pared to the burgeoning need for
affordable housing throughQut the
State of New York?" Still, it is a begin-
ning. The HTF is the first low income
housing program initiated by the state
since anyone can remember (the
Mitchell-Lama program was never
intended to produce low income hous-
ing) . The HTF will now be in the fore-
front of the state's attempt to do
something - in the face of the virtual
elimination of the federal production
programs - about the housing crisis.
The best thing about the HTF is
that it is truly targeted to low and
moderate income people, defined as at
or below 80 percent of the median
income for their area (ranging from
$16,000 to $23,000 in most areas of the
state) . Those eligible for funding are a
reflection of the constituency that lob-
bied for the bill- non-profit organiza-
tions, (particularly Neighborhood and
Rural Preservation Companies), and
low income individuals or municipal-
ities. It is also open to funding hous-
ing for people with "special needs:'
How It Will Work
The HTF will be administered by
the State Division of Housing and
Community Renewal (DHCR) but the
HTF Corporation will really be a sub-
sidiary of the State Housing Finance
Agency. The Corporation will be
headed by the DHCR Commissioner
and will include the HFA Chairperson
and one additional person to be
appointed by the Commissioner. The
HTF will most likely be based in
Albany in order to give it the greatest
state-wide visibility and political base.
The HTF is authorized to provide
grants and loans of up to $40,000 per
dwelling unit to rehabilitate existing
vacant or underoccupied residential
buildings (with an occupancy rate of
less than 60 percent) or convert vacant
non-residential property into housing.
Ten percent of the financial assistance
can be used for acquisition costs. The
rehabilitated buildings can be owned
as co-ops, condominiums, rental
projects, or owner-occupied one to four
family homes, known in the bill as
"homesteading." There are strict re-sale
provisions in the bill to ensure that the
housing remains affordable to suc-
ceeding users - 25 years for
coops/condos and 15 years for the
DHCR is now gearing up for a'
Request for Proposals (RFP) sometime
in the late summer, perhaps by August
15th, with a deadline for submissions
around October 15th. There will be a
series of workshops to assist in the
applicant process. Also, as much as
$750,000 will be set aside to provide
technical assistance through skilled
community-based organizations.
Officials in DHCR are hoping that
projects will be able to go to contract
as early as February 1, 1986. It is impor-
tant to have the program going by the
time the budget process starts again in
Albany. The legislature will not be
interested in refunding a program that
hasn't spent its allocation for FY 1985.
With the Homeless Housing and
Assistance Program (HHAP) as an
example of time delays and foot-
dragging both in and outside of govern-
ment, hopefully the HTF will be able
to fast-track applications and quickly
channel the money into real housing.
Unfortunately, the fiscally tight Office
of the Budget could delay issuing
checks until as late as the fall of 1986,
which happens to be election time for
Mario Cuomo. Hopefully the Governor
will not let that happen.
In any case, the name of the game
with the HTF will be looking for appli-
cants who will 1) serve the lowest
income households possible; 2) have
track records as housing deliverers; 3)
propose projects in neighborhoods of
greatest need; and 4) have the best abil-
ity to leverage state funds with private
or other public money.
To get the projects going fast, the
HTF award could trigger construction
financing from a private lender while
it assists in packaging a viable "buy-
out" deal- a permanent financing plan
that might include below-market
money from the HFA's or SONYMA's
tax-exempt bond programs as well as
an appropriate hunk of HTF money.
The HTF money would go to the
project as a deferred loan so that the
state would stay involved as a monitor.
At some future point the loan (or part
of it) would automatically convert into
a grant. It will also be open to other
funding strategies. Obviously, the syn-
dication of tax shelter from the projects
will also play an important part in
financing scenarios.
A word or two about the Afforda-
ble Home Ownership Program. First of
all , low income housing advocates
must know that linking this program
to the HTF section enabled the passage
of the legislation - as a two part bill-
through the state legislature. Kathy
Wylde of the New York City Housing
Partnership must be given credit for
knitting the two programs together and
then doing a superlative, no-nonsense
lobbying job in Albany, paying partic-
ular attention to the finicky State
Admittedly, Wylde's primary
interest was in the Ownership pro-
gram. This new vehicle for housing
production will allow non-profits and
municipalities to apply for up to
$15,000 as a capital grant "write-down"
(up-front subsidy) in order to make
homeownership opportunities afford-
able to people who are locked out of
the conventional housing market. The
funds can be used for subsidizing new
construction, rehabilitation or home
improvement projects. Applicants
must establish recapture/re-sale res-
triction clauses. A "home" is defined as
a one- to four-unit dwelling which has
at least one owner/occupant or an
owner occupied unit in a cooperative
or condominium.
While there are no set income
eligibility limits for the homeowners,
the statutory language goes to great
lengths to state that the administrative
agency - HFA - must give preference to
projects which meet the following
criteria: 1) serve the lowest income
group possible, 2) leverage other pub-
lic and private funds, 3) contribute to
neighborhood development while not
displacing current residents, 4) utilize
creative design and building tech-
niques to reduce construction costs.
Both programs are funded at $25
million each, with no more than 50
percent to be spent in New York City.
In May, Mayor Koch and Governor
June 1985 CITY LIMITS 11
Cuomo jointly announced a $1.2 bil-
lion program to expand housing
opportunities for low, moderate and
middle income people in the city.
While this complex yet rudimentary
proposal deserves its own analysis, it
seems to me that the bottom line is to
maximize the use of the city's partially-
occupied and empty in rem stock of
buildings. New construction on city-
owned land will be limited and tar-
geted to households whose incomes
can best leverage public dollars. New
York City with its enormous inventory
of land, buildings and access to tax-
exempt financing and property tax
abatements, will undoubtedly be the
major-domo for getting a good seat at
a table with either the Housing Trust
Fund or The Affordable Home Owner-
ship Development P r o g r ~ m . 0
Donald M. Sakano is the director of
the Neighborhood Preservation
Office of the New York Archdiocese
Catholic Charities. He regularly
writes on housing legislation for
City Limits.
Pre -Paid Legal Assistance Plan (PLAN)
The Urban Homesteading Assistance Board (UHAB) and the SeH Help Works
Consumer Cooperative, Inc. are extremely pleased to announce
new low-cost ~ services program for HDPCs and TIL
participants. Make sure your cooperative
has access to high quality
legal representation at
the lowest rates.
For more information, call UHAB at (212) 74!Hl602.
12 CITY LIMITS June 1985
From a Tenant Organizers' log:
A pri113, 1984: Tenant needs an Order
to Show Cause to block her eviction.
She's a "sewer service" victim. No
papers were served. Judge M. required
full amount of judgement to be
deposited with the court anyway.
May 7, 1984: Tenant needs an Order to
Show Cause. Clerk told her not to write
in Spanish. She only speaks Spanish.
September 26, 1984: On previous case,
tenant was told to pay the rent by Judge
M. and not to. pay again unless repairs
are done. Repairs are not done, but she
received dispossess. Back to Judge M.
who made her pay again. Still no
repairs. Now she has a 72-hour notice
of eviction.
munity organizers working daily with
Brooklyn tenants who are getting
neither adequate repairs nor services.
Along with organizers from about 20
neighborhood-based housing organi-
zations, we're members of the Brooklyn
Task Force on Housing Court. For the
past two years, we've worked together
on the Task Force's coordinating com-
mittee. Since 1981, the Task Force has
maintained an Information Table every
morning just outside the clerk's office
on the second floor of Housing Court
in downtown Brooklyn. Here, we give
substantial information and assistance
to over 150 people per week, as well as
quick but crucial directions to many

"Doing the table" is an intense
morning's work. Trying to explain the
complex and idiotic court procedures
can make your brain feel like a used
Brillo pad. The atmosphere on the
Second Floor is highly charged. The
majority of tenants waiting on line
have just received 72-hour notices of
eviction. They're in little frame of mind
for mastering the various technicalities
of the Court. Yet master them they
must. or be booted into the street.
M. is a single mother of three who
works for the telephone company. She
moved into a building on East 19th
Street in Flatbush because there was a
doorman. Since the landlord had
signed a contract with the tenants'
association she thought this was
guaranteed. But the doorman disap-
peared and other services starteq
declining. She and other tenants with-
held rent. In court, she confidently
showed Judge P. the contract. The
judge flung it back at her, saying, "I
don't want t h a t _ ~ t ' s got nothing to
do with anything: She was sent into a
side room where the owner's attorney
proceeded to threaten and curse her.
Close to tears, M. kept her cool and
demanded a trial. It was scheduled for
four weeks later. There, after her tes-
timony about lack of repairs and ser-
vices, the judge awarded an abatement
of 20 percent of the three months she
had withheld. She was ordered to pay
the rest within five days. There was no
order to pay the rest within five days.
There was no order for repairs or to
provide the doorman. Meanwhile, M.
nearly lost her job because of the time
she spent in court.

What Happens to a Tenant in Court
The tenant's journey through
Housing Court usually starts with ser-
vice of a dispossess, also known as a
non-payment petition. It's an archaic
legal form, uruntelligible without legal
aid. People battle through phrases
such as "the annexed petition" and
"interpose and establish any defense:'
In a city where perhaps one-third of all
tenants are functionally illiterate in
English, it's a miracle that most tenants
(usually through common shared
experience) figure out that they have to
answer the dispossess at the clerk's
office and get a hearing date.
On the day of the hearing the
tenant enters the Calendar part. It's
standing room only, noisy and
crowded. Instructed to answer when
they hear their names called, it's easy
to miss if somebody nearby is talking
or the name is so badly garbled it's
unrecognizable. In that case they lose
on default and must get an Order to
Show Cause. If called, they are
instructed to go to the "waiting room"-
an apt description for a 20-foot long
narrow hallway leading to a small ,
smelly, sparsely furnished, graffiti-
marked room. What are they waiting
for? Tenants are never told. People talk,
smoke. Babies cry. Strangers look at
each other and roll their eyes towards
heaven. A court officer reads off
another list, instructing people, "If I
called your name go to Room .. . "
Everybody rushes out to crowd the ele-
vators headed upstairs.
P. and her husband both work long
hours at their jobs. For two years she
complained about her faulty refriger-
ator, nonfunctional stove and the lef!-ks
in every room. She stopped paymg
rent on their East Flatbush apartment
in protest. She received a dispossess.
She asked for and got an inspection.
This meant two days off: one to answer
the dispossess, another to wait for the
inspector. Accompanied by a commu-
nity organizer to her first court date.
she got a settlement to pay fifty percent
of the withheld rent up front, the
balance to be abated later after the
repairs were done. Since the inspec-
tion report was in the file, there was no .
debate on the repairs. Three weeks
later, P. stayed home twice to see
repairmen. They showed up once.
Back in court, the owner's lawyer com-
plained they could not get access to the
apartment. He needed three more
weeks to finish. P. had four more court
dates before most of the repairs were
done. None of the many judges who
saw her case ever threatened sanctions
against the owner for failing to abide
by the court-ordered settlement. But at
her hearing on the abatement to com-
pensate her for the bad conditions and
her days of lost work, the judge said
she'd have to come back another day
if she wanted a trial. "Forget it," she told
him wearily. "I can't afford any more
days off. fll just pay the money. At least
I got some repairs."
Sometimes judges will call the
cases assigned to their part that day
and announce that none can be heard
because' of the overcrowded calendar.
The tenant gets three choices: get an
adjourn date; negotiate a settlement
with the landlord's attorney; or just
keep waiting on the off-chance the
judge will hear the case later.
Sometimes the judge will con-
tinue plodding through the case load.
If it's not called by 12:30 or 1:00 pm,
they are suddenly told that the court is
adjourning for lunch, to return at 2: 30.
Still, no one has told th.em what will
happen if they're lucky enough to see
the judge. .
Actually, the most likely scenario
is that they will be told to negotiate a
settlement with their landlord. This
usually means being led by the owner's
lawyer to a side room or the hallway to
draw up a written settlement or a
"Stipulation:' Given the court's com-
plex laws and procedures-about
which the attorney knows a lot and the
tenant very little - to say that anything
is negotiated is faintly ridiculous.
The lawyer writes out the stipula-
tion which invariably begins (many are
pre-printed): "Respondent consents to
Final Judgement in the amount of
$ ___ . Warrant of eviction stayed to
(date)." Repairs, if included, are an
afterthought, and only if the tenant is
persistent. Rarely do these "negotiated"
settlements make rents contingent
upon repairs.
June 1985 CITY LIMITS 13
At the Information Table there is
a steady stream of tenants who believe
they've gotten a fair shake in their
"sti ps" ("I don't have to pay if he doesn't
fix. . :'). They later learn that the sti p
says the rent must be paid no matter
Of course, tenants catching whiff
of a railroad job by the lawyers can
insist on a trial. This is a court, after
all. But most judges so strongly dis-
courage trials that it is rare for a tenant
to insist, even those who know they
have the right to one. More likely, if the
tenant is hesitating, the landlord's
attorney will ask for an adjournment.
It's also common for the judge to hear
both sides present their cases "off the
record." The landlord's attorney will
inevitably counter the tenant's claim of
lack of repairs :with a claim of refused
access to the apartment. Or (especially
where judges never bother to consult
their computer terminals with viola-
tion and registration histories on
buildings), they deny that the viola-
tions exist.
In these cases the judges have
plenty of latitude. They can order an
inspection, order the tenant to deposit
all or part of the arrears with the court.
or try to negotiate a payment and a
repair schedule. The final outcome,
however, always involves paying the
rent. How much of it, and how soon.
A few judges will advise tenants to start
their own (HP) court case. Some will
attempt to gain repairs.
Even the most persistent tenants
and those willing to sacrifice hours
and days for court appearances have a
tough time getting repairs out of a dis-
possess action. Most commonly,
though, most can't take the time off to
push it through. It's a war of attrition:
the side that can hold-out the longest
usually wins.

S., a single mother with three kids,
watched the ceilings of her apartment
steadily blacken into mold and moss
from the leaks above. Her apartment
was also overrun with rats. At night
they attacked the refrigerator door and
chewed away the doorseal. When she
barricaded it with wooden boards the
rats began biting through the sheet
metal housing of the appliance. Una-
ble to keep groceries, she began with-
holding rent.
The landlord started a dispossess.
1-4 CITY LIMITS June 1985
After she was in court three times, a
stipulation was signed. She deposited
$500 in court and the owner agreed to
paint the apartment and replace the
refrigerator. After missing two of the
dates in his stipulation, the owner
finally painted. And collected the
$500. A month later, the ceilings were
covered in mold again and the tenant
was back in court. Rent arrears were
now over $1,000. This time she was
determined not to give over any money
to the owner or the court without get-
ting a new refrigerator and having the
rat holes sealed. A second inspection
was ordered. Two more court appear-
ances for the tenant. The judge then
said: either go to trial right now or
deposit all the arrears with the court.
She signed a second stipulation. She
would give the court the money, the
owner would replace the fridge. He
never showed up. At a final court date,
an exasperated Judge J. okayed a third
stipulation with repair dates and
escrowed rents. But the owner never
made them. The tenant, after several
months of inaction and nearly a dozen
days of lost work, simply 'moved.
Result of case: no repairs and no fur-
ther rent collection.

In Brooklyn, there are about 20
regulars from the landlords' law firms
every day. You can always spot them in
winter: while everyone else is wearing
or carrying their heavy coats, these
lawyers breeze around comfortably in
their suit jackets since they have access
to the Court employees' coat rooms.
These firms handle up to 40 cases a
day, their staffs scurrying from one
courtroom to another.
Most judges (we know one excep-
tion) never call a case until the land-
lord's attorney is present and ready.
Tenant waiting time - measured per
tenant a staggering amount - is more of
a neutral phenomenon. A favorite tac-
tic for the regulars is to force a tenant
to wait hours longer than necessary, or
even to come back the next day. When
the tenants indicate a hesitation about
the lawyer's "settlement" offer, or insist
that repairs be part of it, a lawyer will
Toe legislation of 1972 that created
Housing Court in New York City
represented an innovative approach to
consolidate proceedings related to
housing standards under one judicial
forum. While the court's record on
meeting its mandate to preserve the
city's rental housing stock is still being
written, a proposal in Albany would
create an administrative tribunal to
handle one aspect of code enforcement
outside the court. Senate bill #5234
currently sits in the Senate Housing
and Community Development Com-
mittee where it quietly expired . last
year, but it may be addressed late in
this legislative session.
. Specifically, the proposal would
empower the city to set up a unit under
the Department of Housing Preserva-
tion and Development to administer
procedures related to certification of
repairs of class A and B violations. The
Tribunal. as it is called, is modeled
after existing administrative entities
such as the Environmental Control
Board which handles certain health,
sanitation, and recently, building and
fire code violations. The rationale
behind the trend toward an adminis-
trative procedure is that the court sys-
tem is overloaded with cases and
cannot act quickly on pO'tentially
hazardous building violations.
Under the current law, HPD's
notice of code requires land-
lords to make repairs within a period
of time proscribed for each hazard
class violation. Landlords must "cer-
tify" correction of the violation. The
proposed law will allow the tribunal to
impose civil penalties of $25 for
failure to certify and $250 for false cer-
tification. Imposition of any fines is
presently under the exclusive jurisdic-
tion of the court. The tribunal would
provide HPD with an administrative
mechanism to hold hearings, if
requested by the landlord or agent , to
handle matters concerning the certifi -
cation process.
Whether the proposed tribunal
becomes a reality or not, Housing
Court would still retain it's powers to
turn his back, tell the Court Clerk he'll
be "right back," and disappear for
several hours. It's a passive but effective
manner of punishment for tenants who
dare to attempt real negotiation.
This "war of attrition" is the most
damaging to tenants who daily fill
Brooklyn's Housing Court in search of
justice. As a result, thousands of Utem
each month pay the rent no matter the
condition of their homes, trading dis-
comfort against lost work days and the
court's unending aggravations.
We're trying a host of tactics to
bring these problems to the court's
attention. So far, we've seen no
meaningful changes, nor a desire for
meaningful change. Instead, we go on
slugging it out in Housing Court's cor-
ridors, providing what little aid we can
to an ever-growing army of dispossess-
threatened tenants. 0
Brent Sharman works with the Flat-
bush Development Corporation.
Robert Schwarz is an organizer with
Flatbush East Community Develop-
ment Corporation.
penalize landlords who fail to correct
violations of all types. Yet, technically,
under the legislation, the tribunal
would be empowered to enter into an
agreement with a landlord specific "to
the repair and maintenance of the
dwelling." Additionally, the adminis-
trative proceedings would give HPD
the discretion to postpone the time to
certify, hence, the time to repair.
The issue of repairs and the role
of the tenants in this procedure
remains part of several concerns raised
by longtime housing activists. The
Citywide Task Force on Housing Court
is concerned that the discretionary
powers granted HPD under the legis-
lation may interfere with the tenants'
ability to withhold rent due to lack of
services or repairs under the Warrranty
of Habitability Law. An agreement
signed with the tribunal may serve as
evidence that a good-faith effort is
being made on the part of the landlord.
Experience has shown, however, that
an agreement is often a landlord's tac-
tic to defer repairs and maintenance of
a building. OMary Breen
Following are written materials
designed to keep tenants informed of
their rights before they have to visit
Housing Court and what to do if a trip
there becomes necessary.
Tenant's Manual on New York City
Housing Authority Termination of
Tenancy This 68-page
manual is geared to the public hous-
ing resident. It includes an explana-
tion on why the Housing Authority
bri.ngs actions against a tenant, the
kinds of charges that may be made and
appropriate tenant defenses, conse-
quences for the tenant in such a legal
action and how to prepare for a hear-
ing. It is available from Queens Legal .
Services, which produced the manual,
located at 89-02 Sutphin Blvd.,
Jamaica, NY 11453. The booklet is free
to the public. 0
"Co-operative and Condominium
Conversion does it
mean when an apartment house goes
co-op? What happens to residents who
don't wish to buy into the new arrange-
ment? What is the qifference between
a co-op and a condominium? This
booklet, a product of the State Attorney
General's Office, has answers to these
and many other important questions,
explaining tenants rights and the legal
steps involved in a conversion process.
Terms like red herring, black book and
non-eviction plan are clearly defined
in a glossary in the back of the book-
let. It is available from the New York
State Dept. of Law, Office of Public
Information, 2 World Trade Center,
New York, NY 10047. There is no
charge. 0
"Tenants basic handbook
outlining the fundamental rights of
apartment dwellers from lease provi-
sions to door peepholes and security
deposits to protection from peeling
lead paint. The booklet concludes
with a listing of state Division of Hous-
ing and Community Renewal offices
and those of the attorney general.
Available at no cost from the N.Y.S.
Dept. of Law, Office of Public Informa-
tion, 2 World Trade Center, New York,
NY 10047.0
liam Sarokin and Bienvenida Matias,
1985. Sarokin Films. 30 minutes.
Available for sale, rental and commu-
nity showings (212) 255-8698. Not too
many filmmakers have troubled to
poke their cameras into the stories
which housing court generates by the
thousands every day. Eric Lewis'
"Where Can I Live?" used housing
court as the backdrop for his story of
displacement in Park Slope a couple
years ago. But William Sarokin and
Bienvenida Matias, both of whom have
been making community films for
years, have put together a short and
hard-hitting documentary which
traces the court's successes and
failures. The film shows three case his-
tories of buildings which sought relief
through housing court's wayward sys-
tem of justice. Interviewed on the role
of the court in the city's housing crisis
are Bonnie Brower of ANHD, deputy
city housing commissioner Joe Shul-
diner and Bronx Judges Benjamin
Nolan and Anne Targum. "Housing
Court" provides a probing and often
poignant look at why and how this
form of justice fails both our tenants
and our city. 0
"Be Prepared for Housing Problems:
A Guide for Tenants in Privately-
owned Residential The
City's Department of Housing Preser-
vation and Development puts out this
slim booklet which tells tenants how
to complain about housing conditions
and how to take action in Housing
Court if need be. It describes HPD's role
in building code enforcement, inspec-
tions and tenant initiated court
actions. In the back are four pages of
addresses and phone numbers of city
offices and tenant advocacy organiza-
June 1985 CITY LIMITS 15
tions. It is available from Citybooks, 1
Center St., Room 2213, New York, NY
10007. The price is $1 or $1.50 by
mail. 0
Tenant's Guide to Housing Court:
Non Payment and Housing Part
thorough description of
the legal steps necessary when con-
fronted with a legal action from a land-
lord. Its 67 pages explain what to do
when you receive a dispossess notice,
how to prevent eviction with an Order
to Show Cause, how to force a landlord
to make repairs, where to find legal
assistance as well as samples of legal
documents you might encounter. To
recieve a copy, send $2 to South Brook-
lyn Legal Services, Community Edu-
cation Project, 105 Court St., Brooklyn,
NY 11201. Available at no cost to low
income persons. 0
"Tenants Rights and How to Protect
Prepared by the staff of the
Neighborhood Stabilization Program
of the city's Commission on Human
Rights, this 64-page booklet was first
published in 1976 and updated three
times. The latest edition, while includ-
ing the original information on tenants'
rights, has added material on garden
apartments, Mitchell-Lama buildings,
co-op conversions and strategies for
protecting and maintaining services.
Copies can be picked up at no charge,
or ordered by mail for $2 from Ray
Tuite, N.Y.C. Commission on Human
Rights, 52 Duane St., New York, NY
"Rent Smart: A Consumer Guide to
Residential nifty publi-
cation has a great plain language lease
which can serve as a model for tenants'
own rental agreements. It explains
each paragraph of the lease, the rights
and duties of the landlord and tenant
and important caveats for all who put
their signatures to a lease. At the back
is a list of municipalities where the
vacancy rate is below 5 percent and
therefore subject to the provisions of
the Emergency Tenant Protection Act
of 1974. This booklet is free from The
New York State Consumer Protection
Board, 250 Broadway, New York, NY
10007; bulk orders can be obtained
from the agency's office at 99
ton Avenue. Albany, NY 12210.0
16 CITY LIMITS June 1985
oesn't she understand Spanish?"
thundered the judge from his
bench. Before him, 28-year-old
Luz Marquez and her nine-year-old son
Herman looked down at the table. Mar-
quez had been trying to explain,
through a translator, how her landlord,
who sat with his attorney at the table's
other end, ha"d three weeks earlier
removed the door to her apartment.
She had substituted the bathroom door
in its place. Now she had a flimsily
locked entrance and no door to the
bathroom. .
But Judge John Milano, a pillar of
Queens housing court, was annoyed.
Moments earlier he had thought the
case was remedied. He had ordered
Marquez to pay three months' back rent
and move from her apartment in a two-
family house by the end of June. This
story about the door was spoiling a
clear-cut case of nonpayment and
Milano, whose slim margin of
patience is legend on Queens
Boulevard, and who is reknowned for
once having thrown his black robes at
a tenant organizer insisting, "If you
know so much, you wear them:' had
already sent this comforting message
to Luz Marquez:
"She's fortunate, tell her:' he said
to the translator. "The best months to
move are now-March, April, May. It's
the best time to get an apartment:' Mar-
quez, a single mother of two who gets
$426 a month in public assistance and
spends $300 of it on rent , did not
But the door story exhausted the
judge's patience. Was there a door or
not, he demanded. "Comprende?"
Marquez first said yes, there was a
door, but no, the landlord hadn't put it
there. Judge Milano then shouted his
question about her language capa-
A few minutes later, as the land-
lord's attorney rapidly scribbled an
agreement between owner and tenant ,
Judge Milano sat back in his chair and
announced, "I think we've been fair to
both sides." The order he would now
sign noted that the owner would
replace the door. But no date was set
for this to happen, nor was her rflnt
made contingent upon it. There had
been no trial and no record made of the
Marquez and her son walked out
of the courtroom. Outside, the par-
ticipants were asked if justice had been
"Yes," said the owner simply.
"Yes:' said his attorney, "although
we'd have liked quicker possession of
the apartment.
Luz Marquez shrugged her shoul-
ders and said she didn't know how she
would find an apartment. Then she
and Herman went out onto Queens
Boulevard to look for a bus.

Several hours earlier that March
morning, Luz Marquez and her son
had washed into Queens housing court
like pieces of driftwood carried atop a
powerful wave. In their hands they
clutched one of the nearly 400,000
petitions filed in the Housing Part of
the New York City Civil Court each
year. Speaking virtually no English
and with no representation, they had
little control over their direction and
none over their destination.
The previous November the owner
of the building she had lived in since
1980 had inexplicably returned her
rent and told her she had to go. Now
she knew only that she had to come to
this address to see the court.
The wave carried them downstairs
to the clerk's office and then back
upstairs to the Calendar Part. Like
every novice, Marquez was prompted
irritably by the calendar clerk to shout
out "Tenant" instead of "Yes" when her
name was called. Then she and
Herman stood bewildered in the
smoky corridor, crowded elbow to
elbow with litigants.
It was there her landlord and his
attorney spotted them and got Herman
to try to use his sparse English to relay
what they wanted. Only the pity of
another Spanish-speaking tenant
standing nearby got Herman out of this
jam. Each time the attorney thrust an
agreement upon her to pay up and
move out , Luz Marquez mumbled
about hflr missing door and last
winter's sporadic heat.
Two hours later they were swept
into the mediation room where medi-
ator, Vito Incantalupo. heard the
owner's attorney explain what his
client wanted. Incantalupo. a law assis-
tant who appeared to have little lime
for technicalities. then said for trans-
Thirteen years aftel
court is still a game "\
knows the rules.
The Disp(
Junk Justi
New Y o r k ~
Housing (
r its reform, housing
Nhere only one side

ce In
lation to Marquez: "Tell her there's no
free ride."
In another hour the currents car-
ried them before Judge Milano. Luz
Marquez sat quietly in the knowledge
that whatever eddies and pools she and
Herman had swirled about in all morn-
ing this was clearly the last stop. No
one told her she had a right to a trial
to establish any facts about her apart-
ment, that she could reasonably hold
off her eviction for several months and,
that in most such cases, owners who
wanted apartments vacant often
waived the back rent. Instead, Luz
Marquez and Herman got the kind of
justice routinely dealt to most tenants
in their position: at the end of their
rudderless ride they were slammed
down remorselessly upon the beach by
the wave that had carried them along.
The New Court
This coming October will mark 13
years since the Civil Court's Housing
Part opened its doors to owners and
tenants of all residential housing. The
refashioned system aimed to improve
i code compliance and, as its enabling
i legislation read, "to provide for the
e timely removal of violations and
5 improvement of its housing stock."
And though no one who has been
around long enough to remember the
old Landlord-Tenant Court's open and
shut "pay the rent" cases, or the harm-
less 50 cents per violation fines which
Criminal Court meted out, would
argue that it's worse than the system it
replaced, the housing court has few
fans. And as the chief battleground
between tenants and owners in the
city's ever-escalating housing wars, the
demands for its reform are growing-
on all sides.
It's not just that housing court con-
tinues to buckle under a huge and
unwieldy number of cases, or that the
court's bumbling quasi-legal set-up is
ill-suited to cope, but that the nature of
those cases is changing profoundly. No
one can correlate the connection
between the city's growing population
of homeless individuals and families.
but eviction is increasingly the bottom
line and housing court hasn' t yet
caught up with the fact.
"The whole attitude towards evic-
tion is incredibly cavalier in court."
insists Andy Scherer of Community
Action for Legal Services whose days
June 1985 CITY LIMITS 17
are spent trying to find ways for justice
to payoff for low income tenants. "For
the landlord, it's still a business; for
tenants it's a question of shelter."
"When I first started," recalls
Harold Adler, a veteran attorney with
South Brooklyn Legal Services, "land-
lords sued for rent. Nobody wants rent
anymore. Now it's: 'Let the tenant move.
Let's just empty the apartment.'"
And yet the system of justice
which determines whether or not a
person has a home or loses it, and
which is the first line of defense
against deteriorating living conditions
is chaotic, unpredictable and uneven.
New Yorkers know they've got a better
shot at justice at the kangaroo-courts
which handle $15 parking tickets than
they do in the Housing Part. ' ~ t least
with a ticket, you know they'll turn on
the tape when your hearing starI$," said
a tenant attorney.
Spend an hour in the courtrooms
of all but a regretably few of the 30
housing court judges and you'll find a
non-stop multi-screen version of "Let's
Make A Deal." At the bench the judge .
cajoles a lawyer and a tenant to "settle
this thing." Standing at the side, three
owners argue at full-volume amongst
themselves. No one quiets them. In the -
back of the room, a lawyer is insisting
to a tenant, "Let me tell you the law on '
this," while another attorney yells out
a list of names looking for his client's
tenants. A landlord attorney ushers
nervous-looking tenants into a side-
room to work out a "stipulation" while
another lawyer passes such a "stip" to
the judge for signature which the judge
duly provides without reading it. The
door to the court opens and closes
every twenty seconds, letting in the din
from the crowded hall way each time.
But while judicial and govern-
ment officials admit to the court's faults
and shortcomings and even its chaos,
there's a smirk lurking somewhere as
they describe the fearful way landlords
and tenants carry their battles into
court. Chief Civil Court Administrative
Judge Israel Rubin. who has helped
forge a series of housing court reforms
in recent years, likes to refer to the
landlord-tenant relationship as "the
secone most passionate relationship
on Earth." While there's plenty of ironic
humor in these halls, there's little to
wink at in amusement. It's a viewpoint
which misreads the bitter battles over
18 CITY LIMITS June 1985
housing as ones of passion, love and
hate, instead of a basic struggle as to
which will come first, the shelter or
the profit. As long as both sides are
unhappy with the court, goes this
logic, it must be working.
Housing Court's scales of justice,
however, tip so disproportionately in
favor of those who are financially bet-
ter off as to mock such sentiments.
Once armed with some hired legal
help, most agree, you've got a fair
chance to wring what justice there is
to be had out of the system. But some-
where from 75 to 90 percent of the
tenants trouping through the court are
without any legal assistance-
including even tenant organizers. For
owners, the picture is the exact con-
verse, with just ten percent risking
court without legal representation.
Even when it's not rigged outright
(as last month's arrests of 13 Brooklyn
housing court lawyers, officers, mar-
shals and process servers proved it
often is), the scores are embarassedly
lopsided: an overwhelming 95 percent
of all housing court cases are nonpay-
ment actions brought by owners
against tenants. Many of these are
efforts by tenants to get repairs by with-
holding their rent. Yet even where city
inspectors find violations, the result-
ing court-approved stipulations order
repairs less than 40 percent of the time,
while 83 percent of them demand rent.
A mere 16 percent contain rent abate-
ments because of bad conditions.
Worse, follow-up inspections show
even these specified repairs are com-
pleted just 53 percent of the time.
To achieve even these meager vic-
tories, tenants have to wade through
incomprehensible forms, puzzle
through a baffling legal procedure and
somehow know what rights are theirs
and how to invoke them in the face of
an often hostile phalanx of clerks,
judges and landlord attorneys.
Housing court, explains longtime
tenant organizer Irma Rodriguez sim-
ply, "is a game where one side knows
the rules and the other doesn't. There's
a club," says Rodriguez, "but the tenants
aren't members."
Trying to Even the Balance
Tenant advocates have tried for
years to improve the balance in those
justice scales, and to even the scores.
Starting back in March, 1981,
Luz MIIrq_z and .on Herman In O_n.
courthou .. after their eviction I. ordered:
Lo .. ,. In a fI"me wit.,.. no on. told tlt.m
tit. rul
Rodriguez and a group of other Bronx
organizers persuaded Bronx County
Administrative Judge Benjamin F .
Nolan to let them set up an information
table in the halls of the courthouse .
The table provided tenants such basic
tools as sheets explaining the meaning
of a dispossess, the procedure for
obtaining and serving an Order to
Show Cause to delay an eviction, and
directions on which part of the court
to go to. With Nolan calming the fears
of administrative judges in other
boroughs, the information tables
spread to the other courts and are now
staffed each morning in Queens,
Bronx, Manhattan and Brooklyn by
full-time organizers.
That daily confrontation with the
court's steady malfunctioning led the
individual borough task forces to set
up a citywide network to monitor the
court and lobby for change. The result-
ing Citywide Task Force on Housing
Court meets regularly with Chief Judge
Rubin and is carrying out the most
complete survey of court cases and
clients ever attempted. When it's com-
pleted (it's expected late this year) it
will provide the numbers and facts
behind what is now known only by
The Task Force's relationships
with the court are often rocky. In
Queens when the group sat down to
discuss its concerns with housing
court judges, the judges stomped out.
In Brooklyn, Judge in Charge Samuel
Greenstein told the Task Force the
judges would simply refuse to meet
with them. Greenstein also felt so
uncomfortable at one point last year
that he insisted they share the space
with two landlords he had selected.
One of the owners, Robin Abraham,
who called her group The People's
Coalition, had been fined $40,000 by
housing court for contempt. When the
Task Force pointed out Abraham's
record to Greenstein he quietly
dropped his suggestion.
Judge Rubin describes the Task
Force tables as a "reality" but adds that
the increasingly active organizations of
small landlords are now asking for the
same. "We just don't have the room," he
warns. Actually, the Task Force says it
already provides information to pro se
(self-represented) owners. But since it
is tenants who are mainly without
representation, they remain the group's
Manhattan Task Force leader Betty
Larwin says that when the citywide
group's steering committee first sat
down with Rubin over a year ago, it had
a 30-point list of problems and
improvements. "We're still working on
that list," says Larwin, "but he's kept an
open line and we've had some accom-
plishments:' Among them the group
cites increased judge rotation from
borough to borough to decrease crony-
ism between judges and attorneys; get-
ting so-called "poor persons"
applications - where the court waives
$20 filing fees for tenant actions - into
all the courts; curbing the sale of
Order-to-Show-Cause forms and mak-
ing clerks available to notarize docu-
ments (Brooklyn's clerks still won't do
it). The group's bigger agenda,
however, remains elusive. 'their efforts
to get plain language legal forms and
to obtain greater uniformity in court
procedures by having Rubin lay down
a stricter line for judges to follow have
so far come to naught.
Judge Rubin himself is either less
concerned or more savvy about what
it takes to get things done. A soft-
spoken and unassuming former state
Supreme Court Judge, he points to his
own list of accomplishments with
pride. Last month the city announced
it would spend $12 million in capital
budget funds for civil court physical
plant improvement . much of which
says Rubin is targeted to housing
court's own badly over crowded and
deteriorating housing. In the Bronx
("The facilities are terrible there,"
acknowledges Rubin) . where by after-
noon in the crowded shoebox-sized
courtrooms all parties virtually cease
breathing, new space will be added,
perhaps through a renovation of the
old Bronx family courthouse at 165th
Street and Grand Concourse. Brooklyn
will get two new floors at a second site,
with similar expansions in Manhattan
and Queens.
Earlier this year ten new judges,
authorized and funded by the state
legislature last year, were added, the
first personnel boost in ten years for the
courts. Law assistants for each judge
were also brought in last year after a
one-year demonstration project in
Brooklyn. Along with ten to fifteen
paralegal mediators hired by the city
housing department-another recent
innovation-the assistants are sup-
posed to take a stab at resolving cases
before they get to the judges.
"Seventy-six percent of cases
which go before a mediator are
resolved," Rubin reports. Computeriza-
tion is also underway in a system run
on paper in the same way if has for fifty
years or more. It is hoped that com-
puters will yield easy access to records
on cases, buildings and repairs.
Rubin has also put together a way
to deal with judicial conduct in the
Housing Part for the first time. He
insists its creation was not prompted by
increased complaints about housing
court judges. Complaints will be ini-
tially heard by administrative judges
who, if necessary, will pass them along
to the Civil Court's Inspector General
who in turn reports to Rubin. At the
judge's discretion, the case will go to
a selected retired Supreme Court judge
for a hearing.
A Dispute Over Stipulations
Tenant advocates and attorneys
already may have some leading candi-
dates for the review group to consider.
Out in Brooklyn a battle has been shap-
ing up in recent months which pits a
group of tenant organizers and legal
services attorneys against the court's
handling of stipulations - the suppos-
edly voluntary agreements reached
Chief J ...... 1.,..1 Rullln:
A .. ,1_ 01 court refo,m
between owners and tenants before a
case reaches the judge for trial. Of the
135,000 cases which go into the Trial
Part, most are adjudicated through
stipulations. Writing stips is housing
court's biggest stock in trade. It's a form
of junk justice about as consumer-safe
as a used car salesman pitching to a
blind shopper.
In a letter last November to Judge
Milton Mollen, the presiding judge of
Brooklyn's Appellate Division of
Supreme Court, Harold Adler of South
Brooklyn Legal Services said that pro
se tenants are chronic victims of such
stipulations, often as a result of coer-
cion by an owner's attorney as well as
by the judges
themselves. Joining
Adler in the letter were Brent Sharman
of the Brooklyn Task Force on Housing
Court, Marshall Green, director of Trial
Litigation for the Legal Aid Society
and Marc Cohan, Senior Staff Attorney
for Bedford Stuyvesant Legal Services
The letter cited the quickening
pace of speculation in Brooklyn neigh-
borhoods, a diminishing number of
legal services attorneys, housing
court's increasing case load and a con-
commitant desire by judges to dispose
of their calendar as quickly as possi-
ble as factors in a sharp upsurge in
unfair agreements between poorly
informed tenants and fast-talking
June 1985 CITY LIMITS 19
Most damni ng, however, was
Adler's assertion that judges routinely
approve the stips without even a cur-
sory examination of their contents.
Judge Mollen took Adler's. hot
potato and promptly tossed it to Kings
County Housing Part chief Samuel
Greenstein. Greenstein in turn sent
copies of the letter to each of the regu-
larly appointed housing judges and
asked for their responses. All denied
that what Adler described ever hap-
pened in their courtrooms.
"Inapplicable to my part," wrote
Judge Dianne Gasworth. ' ~ l l stipula-
tions are explained;' insisted Judges
Eugene Mathews and Gerald Bank.
Judge Ferdinand Pellegrino went a bit
further. Adler's charges, he wrote
Greenstein, were "a personal affront"
and "an outright lie." With his blood
clearly aboil , Pellegrino said that
behind Adler's "smokescreen" was a
desire to "disrupt the present judicial
system." The tenant attorneys were
"overly concerned with due process
and rights," wrote the judge. "If any-
thing," he added , "the rights of
tenants ... are overly protected by the
But when a reporter spent a single
morning in Judge Pellegrinds court-
room last month , the judge was
observed disinterestedly signing off on
stipulations within seconds after being
handed them by landlord attorneys or
his law assistant .
The stipulation problems are not
unique to Brooklyn. Lucy Billings an
attorney with Bronx Legal Services
says that the same routine is played out
by judges in that borough. She cites
Judge James R. Grayshaw for actively
prodding tenants to sign unfavorable
stips saying that there was no other
"It's impossible for judges to hear
every case," acknowledges Rolando
Acosta, an attorney with Bronx Legal
Aid. "The problem is that people end
up with stipulations that shock the
conscience: they're giving up every-
thing except their first-born and getting
nothing in return."
' ~ t the very least, the judge should
read the stipulation," admonishes
Roger Maldonado who heads the
housing unit of South Brooklyn Legal
Services. "Inform the tenant of its
meaning and consequences. And that
20 CITY LIMITS June 1985
'_nt attorney Harold Aell.r:
"Nobody _nls the rent anymore; they _nt
the apGrtment."
discussion should be on the record-
with the tape running so if we need to
appeal later we can know what
Although groups like the
Citywide Task Force believe the ball is
in Judge Rubin's court for any reform of
the stipulation situation, he firmly dis-
agrees. "I can't tell judges what to do,"
he insists.
Where Can I Find a Lawyer?
Even before Ronald Reagan
expanded his old California campaign
against legal services for the poor to a
national level, the numbers of low or
no-cost attorneys available for tenant
representation were puny compared to
the demand. Legal Services' Andy
Scherer recalls the ratio in the Bronx
of lawyers to eligible clients in the
mid-70s was about one to 14,000. But
having knowledgeable legal advocates
tr'1ving in and out of the courtrooms
helped to keep everyone slightly more
on their toes.
"There used to be ten of us down
at 141 Livingston (Brooklyn housing
court) everyday:' recalls Marc Cohan
who has advocated for tenants as an
organizer or a lawyer since 1973. "When
we walk into a part, tIle judge takes one
look at us and the whole nature of the
debate changes."
The city's legal services offices
now are down to 125 lawyers altogether
to handle all types of cases according
to Scherer. There are a handful of other
legal resources for poor and working
people. Legal Aid offices, also hard hit
by cuts, have limited lawyers available,
and several unions have pre-paid legal
help, such as District Council 37's
Municipal Employees Legal Services.
Also, a few community housing
groups have hired a staff lawyer to work
with tenants in buildings they are
Increasing the number of available
lawyers for tenants and assuring an
adequate legal defense for the indi-
gent, as is vouchsafed for those
brought before criminal court, would
yield not just better representation,
advocates suggest, but a saner, less
cluttered court as well. Harassment
such as repeated nonpayment peti-
tions filed against tenants who have
actually been paying right along-a
not infrequent owner tactic - would be
greatly reduced. "Cases would be
resolved with more finality and judi-
ciously:' said Scherer.
A pilot project to yield more
tenant representation in Manhattan is
just getting underway under the
auspices of the New York Bar Associa-
tion. The program will make 25 pro
bono private attorneys available for
four cases a piece. "It's like adding one
Lettal Service.' Roger Maldonado:
The/uflg. should at I_st ~ d It ""ore he
and a half full-time lawyers," says
Scherer. "But, it's a start:'
Bruce Gould, director of the city
housing department's Office of Pro-
gram and Management Analysis, has
the task of both watchdogging and
safeguarding the housing court system
he played a role in establishing. Gould
takes a long view of the institutional
efforts at achieving housing justice,
measuring today's courts against the
antiquated system it replaced, a system
predicated on the feudal recognition of
the rights of landlords over tenants.
"The only question in Landlord-
Tenant Court was: 'Did you pay your
rent?'" says Gould. "Your ceiling could
be collapsing on you but it didn't
The pre-1972 court was in a differ-
ent context, suggests Gould. "You
didn't have the Warranty of Habitabil-
ity, or the right to a court-appointed 7A
administrator to take over a badly
managed building. Housing court
came in with a new arsenal of powers.
The act said court can do anything and
everything to take care of the problem."
Since the new court, Gould has
worked to add to those powers. He
helped bring computer terminals to sit
atop each judge's desk to hook them
into the city's code violation and build-
ing registry records. Perhaps most
important, he helped get a staff of
housing inspectors assigned to the
court so that when tenants responded
to dispossess notices with complaints
of conditions, an inspection could be
ordered. Hopefully, by the time of the
hearing the judge would have a full
report on the apartment.
Considering that degree of
progress it is distressing that it has
done so little to alleviate dissatisfac-
tion or ease the housing crunch. A
Brooklyn organizer tells a story of how
a tenant attorney challenged a judge
who was known for never utilizing his
computer terminal to use it to check
the violations in his client's building.
"Oh that?" responded the judge,
pointing to the terminal, "It hasn't
worked in over a year."
"You never know your honor,"
prodded the attorney who knelt down
and picked up the cord. "It's not
plugged in," he said, holding the cord
aloft. 0
June 1985 CITY LIMITS 21
Met Council' ..... St_nson:
Nobody knows Manhattan's Housing
Court the way Bess Stevenson does.
She is the tour guide supreme, taking
tenants through the complex
bureaucracy, crowded court rooms and
hallways as if she's spent her life there.
Follow her if you can as she wends her
way from Part 17C to the eighth floor
where she's fighting a holdover action,
descends to the fifth floor where she
negotiates a stipulation for a client
whds waited a year for repairs, and
lands back down on the ground floor
to help a man file a show-cause order
in the clerk's office. She juggles court
cases without missing a beat.
Everyone seems to know her, nod
and wave as she passes. It's no sur-
prise. Bess Stevenson has been going
to court for tenant matters for 37 years,
the last 16 as a full-time staffer of the
Metropolitan Council on Housing. In
the Council's Fifth Avenue office,
Stevenson talked to City Limits about
her long history of tenant advocacy
and the oftimes elusive search for
justice in Housing Court .
experience with a landlord. When it
was time for my husband to go into the
service he asked the landlord was it
alright for me to stay there. He wanted
to know I was permanently set. And
Th,.. d",,.d 01 housing court ,.dllOC,.cy.
the landlord agreed everything was
fine. The landlord tried to get fresh
with me and make passes and I
resented it and put him in his place.
Well, when I first went there, I
demanded receipts. He wasn't giving
receipts to anybody. But I demanded
receipts cause my mother told me,
when you give somebody money in a
transaction of business, get a receipt.
One night I came home, pushed
the door open and found the mattress
off my bed, and the little two-iron
burner was gone. I felt very bad and I
knew I didn't owe him any rent. Thank
God the people next door were an
elderly couple who took me under
their wing like a child. When the lady
heard me open the door, she came out
and said, "Well, girl, I want you to be
very strong now 'cause I think Mr.
Philip been doing something in your
room today. I heard him all day long.
Hammering, hammering."
Her husband took me to the police
precinct and the police came right
back with us and served the landlord
with a summons to be in court the next
day. I was living on 123rd St. uptown.
When I got there, I was shaking. Luck-
ily enough for me, my case was not the
first one. So I sat in the front and they
called quite a few cases and finally
they said, "Philip vs. Bess Stevenson,"
and I went before the judge. The land-
lord had a big fat lawyer. That panicked
me 'cause I was then very skinny. The
judge said, ' ~ e you Mrs. Stevenson?"
and I said, "Yes, your honor." My neigh-
bor had told me always to answer, "yes,
your honor." Don't disrespect them
regardless of how bad they are.
He said to Mr. Philip and his law-
yer, ' ~ r e you ready?" and they said yes.
And I said yes, your honor, not know-
ing nothing what to do! He took the
stand first and the judge asked him,
"Did she owe you any rent?" He said,
"No." So the judge asked, "What was
your reason for going into her room?"
And he stuttered and said something,
I don't know what.
I had already made a list of what
was missing. It came to $500 all told.
The judge got angry at him 'cause he
couldn't explain why he went into my
room. He said, "Mrs. Stevenson, I'm
sorry for the inconvenience I'm going
to cause you. But I'm going to ask you
to remain here until 12 o'clock." He
stormed around to Mr. Philip and said,
"I'm giving you until 12 o'clock to come
up with $500 cash. If you're not here
at 12 o'clock, you will regret it." At that
time all fear disappeared and I was the
bravest person. I sat there in that court
room and vowed to myself-as long as
God gives me strength I'm going to
22 CITY LIMITS June 1985
fight till tenants have some rights.
That was the beginning of me get-
ting involved in this work, up until
today and being a part of Met Council
when they began organizing in 1958, .
At that time I was working in the gar-
ment center, trying to make a living.
About 1959 I started to get more
involved in Met Council.
'Round about 1960 I had another
experience with a landlord. I was liv-
ing at 7 W. 137th St. Apartment 14.
They were sellihg apartments around
New York, like in the early 40's to the
late 50's. I wanted to get my apartment
legally, so I went to a broker. I didn't
want a shady deal, no in-between per-
son. Deal directly with the landlord.
But I wasn't dealing with the landlord.
The realtor was renting the apartment
for this man who had lived there.
My husband and I were there four
or five months, give or take. One day,
I was pressing clothes and I heard a
banging on the door. I asked, "whds
there?" and he said, "City marshal." He
said he had an order to evict Mrs.
Geary. I said, "But I'm not her." I told
him how I got the apartment and how
much I was paying. They were charg-
ing me $20 a week and the apartment
had been rented for $30 a month. He
told me to go to the landlord and tell
the story. The landlord said I'd have to
go to the court before he would give me
the apartment. I thought, here I go
I went to court with him the next
morning and Mr. Geary was there too
and told the landlord he hadn't gotten
rent. I said that's not true, I have
receipts. We went before the judge and
told him and the judge stormed after
this man and said, "How dare you
charge this lady $20 a week when you
only pay $30 a month and you're three
months behind in rent? The landlord
told the judge he wanted me to have the
apartment and he was going to give me
a lease and a new stove. He had for
years been trying to get the apartment
from Geary. That was my second expe-
rience in court.
Now time goes on. I'm advancing
and getting more experienced. In 1966
where I'm living today, there were no
rent stabilized buildings. My landlord
left me a note saying when my lease
expires, to vacate the premises. Now
the rent is paid up, I don't bother
nobody, I go to work and I come back
home. Well, I said, here I go again. You
know I'm not going to give up now
'cause I'm an old veteran. I threw the
note on the desk and I went out and
had a good time for New Years Eve.
I came home one day with my
returned rent check in my hand and a
72-hour eviction notice on my door. I
had organized a very strong tenant
movement in the building. I cost the
landlord plenty. Everytime he'd go to
court I'd nit-pick over dispossesses and
ask the attorney to throw so and so out
'cause it's not right. If he got rid of me
the rest of them would back down.
They'd be afraid.
The first time we went to court , I
don't want to give the lawyers a plug,
but they're still the youngsters of this
group that's still around in court now.
But the old timer was at 132nd St. and
Lenox Ave. When I came home and
found th;1t dispossess, I ran over to his
office and started whacking him over
the head with my pocketbook. "What
did you send me this damned notice
for? My rent is paid. Here's my returned
check:' He apologized. I said, "Apology
isn't the word. You have embarassed
me. Everybody could read it on my
door and think my rent is not paid."
The telephone rings insistently
and with nobody else available, Bess
picks it up and puts the interview on
hold. It's Pete the exterminator, calling
to make an appointment with a tenant
Bess has been working with. She calls
the woman on the other line to set a
time, reminding her to, "make sure you
take the baby out." She tells Pete a judge
has ordered an extermination because
the woman's apartment is infested with
The first time I went to court, the
landlord was trying to get me to back
out. They all said there's no law to pro-
tect you. I said I'm not relying on the
law. I'm relying on honesty and justice
here. I had a lawyer but I wasn't satis-
fied with him so I asked the judge to
adjourn so I could get counsel. And he
said, "But you came in here with one:'
I said yes, but I just fired him. Every-
body in the court cracked up. The
judge said, "I'll give you two weeks
Mrs. Stevenson." The lawyer came over
and I said, "Uh, uh. Don't say one damn
word to me 'cause you were trying to
sell me out:'
I recouped myself and got my
material together to fight this landlord.
I went back to court. I had to call
another lawyer. We had never met and
that day he walked into court and
something in him told him -i'that's
Bess Stevenson."
It wasn't like the system now. All
the cases were piled up in the front of
the court and who ever was on top was
first. The landlord's lawyer took my
case and put it on top so they would
call my case right away. He saw my law-
yer and I were trying to get ourselves
together. By that time I was so damned
mad I didn't give a damn. I told my
attorney, "Do me a favor. Don't say noth-
ing right now. If I need you I'll come
back. I haven't got a damn thing to lose
now and a lot to gain:'
The case was called and I went up
front. The landlord's lawyer called a
lady to the stand. She was the manag-
ing agent of the development-where
I'm still proud to live today. She
squirmed. The judge asked her why a
nice, intelligent lady was being asked
to leave. I said because your honor, I
formed a tenant association. The judge
said, "Now Mrs. Stevenson. I know
you're not an attorney but you must not
speak when the other side is on the
June 1985 CITY LIMITS 23
These are hard times. It's like a depression now. I wouldn't
pay the landlord if the children were hungry.
witness stand."
She stepped down and the judge
said, "You know Mrs. Stevenson,
there's no law to protect you in that
apartment. The landlord can ask you
to move ifhe wants to." I said, "I'm quite
aware of all that. But I'm looking for
some justice in this court. I haven't
bothered anybody, I pay my rent on
time. I want them to tell me why they
want me to move. Aren't I entitled to an
explanation? I just invested $2,000 fix-
ing it up and this is justice?" I got up
and walked out the door and the land-
lord's attorney came running behind
me. I whirled around-I had a big
pocketbook-and I struck him in the
face: His nose started to bleed and I
called him a few choice names. I said,
"If you touch me I will kill you!"
My lawyer ran out and said,
"Leave my client alone:' We got outside
and he hugged me and said, "Bess,
don't you ever go to court with a law-
yer. I learned something new today.
You don't need me."
When I got home, the landlord
had sent a message saying I, so and so,
withdraw the petition and give you a
six month trial. I sat down and wrote
him a letter and said I'm not your child
and I'm not on a six-month trial. I
haven't heard from them from that day
to this.
A man walks into the Met Coun-
cil office looking worried. Bess stops
the story and shifts into the advocacy
mode. He's from Inwood, living with
his wife and two kids in a five-unit
building. The landlord just sent them
a 30-day notice to vacate. She gives
him a quick and thorough run down of
what to do and what to expect. She
sounds like a lawyer. "There's no law
protecting you in a building with five
units. That's what we're fighting for
now." She tells him to relax, to go to a
local branch of Met Council and be
ready to go to court. "The judge will
have to give you plenty of time to find
another place." Reassured, he thanks
her and leaves.
I'm in that court room almost
everyday except Saturday and Sunday.
Some of the things I see go down there
make my blood boil. I'll be sitting there
waiting with the tenants and in comes
some special little client. I told you
about the whole group of lawyers, the
young generation now-the old gener-
'" fi"!il ~ ~
;:.:" t
, .....
.... St_n_:
Go to court prepared to II."t.
ation's gone on. Because they come
from that firm, they have a little chit-
chat with the judge and the judge calls
their case right away. And I'm sitting
there since 9:30. This goes on everyday.
Most of the time I get up and raise hell.
The main reason is that I'm a black
woman and I come here with tenants.
There's a young lady. She's white
and she's got a little baby. A rat bit the
baby and the landlord would not get
her an exterminator even though he
promised her one. She wasn't my client
but I couldn't stand it-I went to her
aid. When she went to court last week
I went with her. I don't see no color. All
I see is a tenant and I want to help that
tenant. I h ~ v e never all out lost any-
thing I've gone there for. I go straight,
honest and ready. And I will fight.
In the winter time when tenants
didn't have any heat, I told them, "We
are not paying rent without heat and
hot water. If they want to take us to
court, take us to jail, call the paddywa-
gon. Most tenants now are panicked.
They're frightened because whatever
apartment they're in may be a few dol-
lars less than the ones out there. And
they feel they may lose their apartment
if they fight too hard.
I didn't like the first system 'cause
I didn't feel the tenants got justice and
with the system now, especially in cer-
tain parts, there's no justice. I still fight
for justice. I don't care what judge it is
or what part I'm in, I explain our side.
When I go into court, that tenant has
a need to be there and I'm not going to
give up until that is taken care of. I'm
not in love with anybody's court in
Housing Court. Good, bad, indiffer-
ent. I don't separate the judges because
I know one day this one might be a
little kind to me. Tomorrow he's like a
brand new person to me .
There's some lawyers - I'm badly
distressed because they straddle ilie
fence. One day I see them in court
representing a big landlord. Next
they're in court representing a tenant.
How can your heart be divided? Some-
times I take a tenant outside and say,
"Who got you this lawyer?" "Well, he
was highly recommended to me:' I say,
i "Well, he's a landlords' attorney, did
c you know that?" I wish someday I
would be able to name some names
and say certain things that go down.
It really hurts me when a tenan,t is
alone in court and the other person has
a lawyer. They don't know what to do,
what they're talking about . They don't
know you don't have to have the money
right there, that you can work out an
agreement and pay if off in install-
ments. These are hard times. It's like a
depression now. They're not doing it
deliberately. They have to eat and take
care of the children. I wouldn't pay the
landlord if the children were hungry.
Let him go hungry. But they make you
feel like you could pay if you wanted
to but you just don't.
Most of the cases I deal with arise
because very bad conditions exist. I
deal within Harlem, from 110th St. to
155th St., from river to river. Some of
these apartments are disgusting. There
are violations, leaks, basic plumbing
things, like the toilet doesn't flush. I
know some tenants who haven't had
heat all winter and here it is summer.
There's been a great change in the
years I've been working in court and its
been for the worse for tenants. I'd just
like to see justice. The Housing Court
has rules and regulations but they're
not following them. It needs to be
changed. As long as I'm able and God
gives me strength, I will continue to do
this work. Even ifI die, I want the work
still to go on. I always tell the tenants-
Do the work!DA.F.
2,. CITY LIMITS June 1985
'u .. "i .. g Cltarily Begi ...
a' 'lte Workplace
vice ever invented. Take all the progres-
sive foundations, the government han-
douts, bake sales and benefit concerts
and compare that with United Way's
take last year: a cool $2 billion.
Devastatingly effective, educa-
tional, stable and even cheap, payroll
deduction fundraising pioneered and
dominated by United Way, is being
used by more than 60 activist organi-
zations nationwide, and may soon be
coming to New York in the service of
affordable housing. That's the goal of
the Big Apple Coalition on Housing,
a dozen housing groups who see pay-
roll deduction fundraising as one way
to replace declining government and
foundation support.
It sounds almost too good to be
true: raising money by appealing to
those with the most to gain from
affordable housing while at the same
time educating large numbers of peo-
ple. Best of all is the cost: about five to
ten cents on the dollar. Direct mail fun-
draising can cost up to ten times as
much. Add to this the fact that workers
contributing through payroll deduc-
tions contribute more (since they are
giving small amounts each paycheck) .
United Way enjoys a virtual
monopoly on workplace giving, a sta-
tus it is anxious to keep. The problem,
as critics see it, is the charity giant's
preference for older, established
organizations over new and more
activist groups. Waiting to join United
Way is like getting on the list for pub-
lic housing in New York - you should
be prepared to wait decades. Critics
also point out that half of United Way's
money goes to just 11 organizations.
Enter the alternative funds. The
first were made up of health agencies
and called Combined Health Appeals.
They were soon followed by Black
United Funds created in response to
what black communities perceived as
an inadequate response to urban riots
in the 1960s by United Way. Since that
time hundreds of organizations have
followed suit, often after having tried
to join United Way campaigns and
been turned down.
Alternative funds so far have
raised an estimated $10 million. There
are two main areas in which they have
achieved success. First, the federal
government and several states have
granted access to alternative funds. In
addition, major cities like Los Angeles,
Detroit, St. Louis and St. Paul, plus
some counties and school districts
have allowed these funds to compete
with United Way for their workers con-
tributions. Second, corporations
including IBM, Bell Laboratories,
TRW and Upjohn have allowed their
employees to give to alternative funds.
Typically this has come as a result of
employees petitioning for the right to
contribute to charities of their choice.
Interestly, recent evidence indi-
cates that the increased competition
for employees' dollars not only aids
worthy nonprofits shut out of United
Way, it increases the amount con-
tributed overall compared to cam-
paigns without competition, and thus
even is good for United Way. Dana
Alston of the Black United Fund says
"Right now, most employees don't have
;my rhoice. Either they give to United
Way or they risk being chastised for not
being charitable. Employees should be
able to decide for themselves which
charities they most want to support .
Plus, when you give employees a
choice, they give more money:'
A recent study by a Yale Univer-
sity researcher confirmed that in com-
panies where employees could choose
from several charities they gave more,
and that United Way showed increases
because the total amount contributed
had risen.
Despite the evidence that alterna-
tive funds are not a threat, United Way
has done everything possible, in most
cases, to prevent the establishment of
the new funds.
Housing activists in New York
confront the dilemma of declining
funding from government and founda-
tions, (forcing some to reenact in
miniature the cutbacks of the federal
and city governments) at the same time
housing is the talk of the town and a
major issue in this year's mayoral elec-
tion. The Big Apple Coalition for
Housing has been devised as one way
for New Yorkers to take sides in the
housing and gentrification wars.
The "Buy a Brick" campaign is the
initial public foray by the two-year-old
coalition. Giving supporters a chance
to support affordable housing through
the purchase of a symbolic brick (for
only $5), boiler, or a ramp, the effort
seeks to both raise needed funds to sus-
tain its work over the coming year and
educate people about alternative funds
and the housing movement. The cam-
paign is off to a fast start, with radio
and television interviews of Coalition
representatives saturating New York
airwaves. Big Apple hopes this spring
fundraising effort will lay groundwork
for a fall campaign to sign up busi-
nesses, giving them publicity and the
Coalition credibility and money.
The Coalition has no illusions
about the road ahead: clearly it
promises to be difficult and it may be
years before the member groups see a
return on their investment in time and
Supporters feel that the Coalition's
emergence at this time reflects the
growing sophistication of the housing
movement and the increased public
awareness of housing as a vital issue.
And even Reagan Republicans would
have trouble finding fault with the
method. There is something very
eighties about the approach: recogniz-
ing that times have changed and that
government and foundations are not as
willing to support organizing work,
and emulating a traditional institution
[United Way] by adopting their tactics.
Yet at the same time, there is something
very political about this new trend:
appealing to workers directly rather
than liberal foundations and shaky
governmEmt programs that have some-
how escaped the Reagan era's axe.
The dazzling potential of a fun-
draising device that implicitly accords
cOquIlunity based housing organiza-
tions the same value and permanance
as a hospital or the American Red
Cross may not soon be realized, but the
fight to make it happen is likely to be
one well worth waging. 0
Paul Smith is Circulation Manager for
City Limits and a board member of the ""
Big Apple Coalition for Housing.
June 1985 CITY LIMITS 25
Buy a brick? Yes, but don't stop there. Buy a roQf,_a boiler, a door or just a nail. Put them together and
we'll have what we're trying to build: Big Apple Coalition for Housing.
Big Apple is an innovative attempt by City Limits and a dozen other New York ~ o u s i n g groups to take the
hOUSing crisis, and our own ongoing crisis of funding-directly to New Yorkers. In the face of government
and foundation cutbacks, we are planning a major campaign this fall to allow workers to "check off" con-
tributions to housing groups through payroll deductions. Help us break the ground. Buy a brick, a door, a
nail. We need your support.
I support the work of the Big Apple Coalition for Housing. Enclosed is $ ___ _
o $1.00 Nail o $50.00 Ramp
o $5.00 Brick o $100.00 Roof
o $10.00 Window o $500.00 Boiler
o $25.00 Door
o S __ Other
City State Zip
Make your taX-deductibie gift payable to the Big Apple CoaJition.(or Housing. Inc./UHAB. send to City Limits. 424 West 33rd Street. New
York. NY 10001.
' 26 CITY LIMITS June 1985
Harry C. Boyte. Harper & Row Pub-
lishers, New York, 1984. $6.95 paper.
In his first book, The Backyard Revo-
lution, Harry Boyte describes citizens'
movements as representative of an
essential social need to reconcile and
reconnect shared heritages. He
explains that: "America in the 1980's,
experienced a profound crisis in that
image of the uprooted individual
which has long held at the center of her
cultural language. Yet the search for
roots itself is politically ambiguous. It
can lead to a romanticism about the
past, to an inward turning, parochial
and bellicose mood that glorifies the
most materialistic and imperial aspect
of the nation's history. Or it can lead to
a rediscovery of the wellsprings of
civic realism, cooperation, religious
action for justice and democratic
In his second and just-published
book, Community Is Possible: Repair-
ing America's Roots, Boyte does not
choose one conclusion over another.
Instead, he reaches deeper into the
citizen movement in search of the more
rooted basis of what he labels as "neo-
populism." He also seeks to crystallize
and further substantiate a thesis devel-
oped in his first book concerning the
importance of citizen's movements in
this country! " ... no further substan-
tive democratic advance of any sort is
likely to be achieved without a major
shift in emphasis, away from big
government or big business as the pro-
tector of democracy, toward the con-
cept of citizen power over both public
and economic activity."
In the prelude of Community Is
Possible, Boyte establishes a major
theme which runs throughout. This
theme provides the rationale which he
attributes to the upsurge in citizen
Harry C. lIoy.e:
How neighbors built communltl
organization and agitation. To
paraphrase the author, he refers to the
"Great American Contraction" as the
historical struggle between the com-
peting forces of "community" and
"progress." Community, according to
the author, is best seen through exam-
ples of mutual aid and collective
action acted out around a common
vision. American history is replete
with examples of immigrants journey-
ing to America (or across America's
frontiers) to escape the evils of repres-
sive government or the impersonal
forces of capitalism. America was the
alternative and community was the
means of enacting individual pursuit
of happiness while securing the com-
mon good. In order to resurrect a col-
lective vision of community, it is
necessary to revive "deep values and
relations" among people in a particu-
lar setting.
Community vs. Progress?
In sharp contrast to community is
the notion of progress.. Progress is
embodied in the "rugge8 individual ;'
detached from community, mobile,
and in constant pursuit of the Ameri-
can Dream. Progress is "technological
change, urbanization, t he growth of
'modern' and enormous institutions,
the uprooting of older forms of com-
munity." The elements of progress,
mobility anQ. economic concentration,
constantly erode community. And yet,
to be against progress is to be un-
This book is mainly concerned
with this tension between community
and progress, how it is played out, and
what elements go into a "popular" reso-
lution of the conflict. In order to com-
pete in this field, communities have to
redefine themselves as well as their
values. It is only in the past few
decades that "community" organizing
has become necessary. It is the
individual, stripped naked of any col-
lective power and affiliation, which is
now threatened whether this threat
comes as a new wave of urban renewal,
the discovery of a toxic waste dump, or
architectural and social barriers to the
entrance of the handicapped into soci-
ety's mainstream. And, the author
asserts, in the search for a broader
vision within which to place selective
issues, communities are redefining
themselves through the commonly
rooted values inherent in diverse cul-
tural backgrounds. As such, cultural
heritage becomes the necessary back-
drop to the definition of a value-system
which protects the individual and
defines the path to collective power
and control over one's circumstances.
Throughout are many colorful
examples of successful citizen actions,
a number of themes are repeatedly
sewn together in an attempt to define
a common purpose as well as the most
likely formulas for success. Among the
most recurrent themes, are the fol-
Democracy: The author sees in
ci tizen movements a redefinition of
democracy based on decentralized
control (or at the very least exacting
accountability from politicians and
corporations). This represents a new
populism which is at its very early
stage of development and not yet
matured with regard to political
Redefinition of Self: Utilizing Clar-
ence jordan's (Koinonia) concept of
"metanoia," the author sees commu-
nity struggles as dependent upon
redefining one's own well-being
through the health and well-being
of others.
Commonality of Values: Across eth-
nic and cultural lines, there exists an
abiding and consistent sense of
what is just, fair, necessary, and
important in life.
Commonwealth: This is an Ameri-
can tradition which is buried in our
past. Using examples as diverse as
the Oneida Indian Reservation and
Seattle's Floating Homes Associa-
tion, the author points to an increas-
ing recognition of collective
ownership responsibility for the
things on this earth which we share
not only with one another but with
generations to come.
Role of Organizers: The examples
used in the book of successful
organizers are those which focused
on local empowerment and leader-
ship development .
Left WinglRight Wing Ideology: The
author castigates equally those who
would abandon cultural links and
definition in favor of one economic
class structure working collectively
toward a predominant or exclusive
government role in the political
economy as well as those who ped-
dle the rhetoric of "family", "God"
and "Country", "Freedom" and the
like to the detriment of the average
June 1985 CITY LIMITS .!J.7
family and for the benefit of selective
segments of society.
Community Is Possible is well
written and enjoyable documentation
of citizen movements across the coun-
try. It is cast in a broad theoretical
framework but does not become
bogged down in ideology. It is mainly
a collection of stories about real peo-
ple who work to resurrect the value of
"community" in an effort to make insti-
tutions more accountable to the people
they were established to serve but
rather oppress.
Boyte has a remarkable gift for
personifying this movement and cap-
turing the motivation behind the "aver-
age citizen" who rises to take on
developers, mayors, governors, and
more importantly, to challenge peers to
define community as their own
mechanism for individual survival,
growth. and happiness. 0
Harry DiRienzo works with the Con-
sumer Farmer Foundation and helped
to found the Banana Kelly Community
Improvement Association in the South
celebrate the completion of the film
If you need abortion or
birth control services,
we can help.
and The Movement in NYC
Enlem Women'. Cenler c.n help C"'STCRN
wllh . accur.'e, confldenllal c"H I Ic"
pregn.ncy Ie. ling .nd .. ,., .fford WI""\MCN'S
.ble Ibortlon services, under locil VI Ie..
or gene,., Ine.,he.ll, by qu.'lfled
physlcl.ns. We offer birth control, G'C'NTCR
piUS gyn checkups.nd lreltmenl. Ic"
No age liml' . No Plrenl.'lppro".'
necesslry. We accepl M.slerclrd.
VISA, Medlclid .nd Blue Croll. A
Hew Yo," S'.'e licensed facillly, 14 ,10,,, S, (-"""
E.slern Women', Cenler h been
pro"ldlng qu.,lly he.llh 10
women Ii/nee 1971. 8 ?I')
For "" ... "'. "on .nd .ppo,nlmenl. J'" -
I'leas(' .ioin liS in honoring filmmaker Christine oschese
and the women who appear in the film.
FRIDAY, JUNE 21, 1985,8:30 p.m.
40 Washington Square South
(I block east of 6th Ave. along W. 4th St)
Pari\' tn ",lInw at The Village Gate
A hellefit fi,r the distributinn nf the film
anci Media Network's work with cnmmunity gr()UPS
Tickets: Media Network, 208 West 13th St.,
New York. NY 10011 6200877
28 CITY LIMITS June 1985
Dear City Limits:
You stated, in the article "Zoning
Bonuses Planned" in the March 1985
City Limits that "Mayor Koch's 'State of
the City' address included substantial
new zoning bonuses to developers of
market rate housing" but "declined a
natural opportunity to tie those
developers' bonuses to the creation of
affordable housing:' These statements
are seriously misleading.
For the past decade and a half very
few elevator apartment buildings have
been built in northern Manhattan, the
Bronx, Brooklyn or Queens by private
investors without public subsidy. The
primary reasons for the lack of
development were economic decline
and inflation in building costs, but
even in the areas which experienced
economic revival in the 1980's
(reflected by rising rents and co-
op/condominium resale prices) virtu-
ally no new multi-family development
The victims of this were not mid-
dle and upper income families which
could outbid other New Yorkers for the
limited stock of available good hous-
ing, but those of lesser means.
Why is this the case? The R6, R7
and R8 zoning regulations in effect in
Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, upper
Manhattan, the Lower East Side and
northern Staten Island direct new con-
struction toward a tower configuration
which leaves most of the site as open
space. To construct a new building
which contains enough units to
achieve construction and operating
efficiencies, a developer needs a very
large site, about one acre at a minimum
in R6 districts. The high rise configu-
ration promoted by the present zoning
requires a building structure built by
pouring concrete into wooden forms,
one story at a time. The cost of this
technique is too high tOI'ustify its use
01\tside prime areas 0 Manhattan.
11tus the problem is not, as your article
states, that under the present zoning
development leads to "structures
expensive to build and out of context
with the rest of the neighborhood." The
problem is that the zoning results in
yirtually no new multifamily struc-
tures of any description.
~ To address these problems and
p:romote midrise multifamily con-
struction outside the Manhattan core,
the city will propose new simplified,
as-of-right, optional "quality housing"
regulations. These regulations will
offer multifamily home builders
increased bulk on wide streets and
higher coverage in a lower rise config-
uration that will increase the eco-
nomic viability of construction. At the
same time the proposed regulations
will assure that new multifamily
development will be compatible with
existing neighborhood character and
create a lasting legacy of quality
In addition, we propose to estab-
lish in selected areas new "contextual"
districts with mandatory quality hous-
ing controls which will permit, as-of-
right, new multifamily housing con-
struction at a density and configura-
tion that will be economically feasible
and in scale with the surrounding
These proposals permit econom-
ically viable construction of multifam-
ily housing in areas outside of
Manhattan's core and which is not dis-
ruptive to the scale and character of
existing neighborhoods. It would also
include adequate on-site recreation,
and densities that result in quality
dwelling units and a safe and secure
environment. The predictability of
zoning would be re-established. Hous-
ing construction should occur as-
The Quality Housing program is
income-neutral. The availability of
lower-cost contruction technologies is
as important to the developers of hous-
ing assisted under the Mayor's $4.4 bil-
lion initiative as it is to developers of
"market-rate" housing for the upper
middle class.
The program includes a six-year
density increment which, in R6 and R7
zones, the most widely mapped outer
borough apartment house districts, is
equivalent to approximately one addi-
tional floor on a six-story or seven-story
building. This is intended as an extra
inducement to revive the moribund
apartment building construction
industry. Attaching additional condi-
tions as to the price of rents of the units
produced, without providing further
public subsidy, would destroy this
initiative before it. begins.
This is not to say, however, that the
city has rejected the concept of inclu-
sionary zoning. The applicability of
inclusionary zoning in New York City
has also been the subject of extensive
study by Department of City Planning
staff. This study has led to the follow-
ing conclusions:
Zoning can be used successfully for
the provision of a public amenity (be
it transit improvements or the main-
tenance of economically integrated
cOIPmunities) only where the
benefits conferred on the developer
outweigh the additional costs
imposed. Since zoning, in general,
can confer such benefits only in the
Manhattan core area, only develop-
ment within that area can be tapped
for "inclusionary" amenities.
Where market-rate residential
development is asked by zoning pro-
visions to provide subsidies for low-
income housing, the cost of these
subsidies should not result in an
economic dis-incentive to produce
market-rate housing. Since this city
has a housing shortage at all income
levels, production of market-rate
housing in Manhattan is desirable
as well. Such housing production
provides residences for households
who would otherwise bid up the
price of existing housing even fur-
ther, increases the tax base and cre-
ates jobs.
The primary responsibility for sub-
sidizing new housing for low and
moderate income households must
rest with the public sector. Private
investors are quick to take their
money elsewhere if they perceive
the City's housing policy as hostile
to their interests and, given the
unacceptably low level of produc-
tion in the City (even in Manhattan),
this is a risk we cannot afford to take.
Given these guidelines, this
agency has viewed the most promising
avenue of exploration for an inclusion-
ary zoning experiment as an alterna-
tive to the current Housing Quality
bonus in R10 (highest-density residen-
tial) districts where 88 percent of all
Manhattan core residential develop-
ment has taken place.
This Department has developed a
proposal under which, in exchange for
creating or preserving low and moder-
ate income housing within the com-
munity R10 developments would be
permitted to achieve the maximum
floor-area to lot-area ratio of 12:1. The
Department's proposal will differ from
most inclusionary housing programs
by being targeted to genuinely low and
moderate income households rather
than "affordable housing" for the mid-
dle class. We expect to release this
proposal for public comment within
several weeks. While the inclusionary
housing program cannot hope to
address the extent of the need for low-
income housing, we hope to make it a
significant component of the City's
array of housing programs.
Eric Kober
Coordinator of
Community Development
and Housing Policy
Sandy Hornick
Director, Zoning Study Group
Department of City Planning
City of New York
Dear City Limits:
Your article is on target as to the
dilemma battered women find them-
selves in (Diane Berg and Pam McAl-
lister, ' ~ n y Port in a Domestic Storm:'
April 1985). It is compounded when
children are involved. More groups
and ordinary citizen's must be made
aware of the ineffectiveness of the
Human Resources Administration
(H.R.A.) in providing women with a
minimum standard of living.
More people need to understand
the step by step and dehumanizing
process in which applications seem to
be processed. The approach used is
"give the least amount possible at the
least possible cost." Forget about look-
ing at the psychological and sodal
breakdown of families involved.
H.R.A. is not capable of looking at the
total family.
Are the qualifications of the peo-
ple who deal with families at H.R.A.
in line with professional social work
or are we just playing a paper chase
Mary McDermott
Coordinator, C.H.I.P.S.
Women's Shelter, Brooklyn
Dear City Limits:
The April issue of City Limits is
one of the best publications to have
crossed my desk. The theme (Housing
and Women) is closely related to the
work we do at the Brooklyn Teen Preg-
nancy Network. As you are probably
aware, pregnant and parenting
teenagers are currently being recog-
nized as the "New Homeless." I have
copied and distributed articles to my
staff with a recommendation to read
the entire issue.
The feature "Breaking the Cycle of
Homelessness" by Mary Breen on the
Women In Need organization is most
impressive. Breen's journalism is
June 1985 CITY LIMITS 290
indicative of a knowledgeable profes-
sional who is aware of not only the
issue, but the peripheral factors of
equal import that impact it. We have
made numerous referrals to WIN and
realize the severe need for more alter-
native housing programs based on
their model.
In addition, the feature entitled
"Any Port in'a Domestic Storm" is excel-
lent. The Sisterhood of Black Single
Mothers is a member agency of the Net-
work and it was very pleasing to see
them in this issue. Clearly, City Limits
staff has what it takes on the journalis-
tic front to get the word out. Keep up
the good work!
Mary J. Canada
Executive Director
Brooklyn Teen Pregnancy Network
Dear City Limits,
I have always been impressed with
each issue of City Limits but the April
issue was outstanding in its compre-
hensive portrayal of women. You
should get a grant and distribute thou-
sands of copies.
Carl Swift
Director, Williamsburg Educational
and Development Corp.
Open Housing Center, an advocacy and
resource organization which investigates hous-
ing discrimination against minorities in NYC,
seeks people to test for sales and rental dis-
crimination in majority neighborhoods. Testers
must present themselves as good hous-
ing/rental candidates. White testers especially
needed. Call o.H.C. (212) 9891346.
City Limits, a ten-year-old monthly magazine cover-
ing NYC's low income neighborhoods, is seeking a
full-time associate editor.
Duties: Article writing and editing, assist with produc-
tion; share in promotion, fundraising, administration
and subscription list maintenance.
Requirements: Publication experience; excellent report-
ing and writing skills; knowledge of production help-
ful; concern with low income neighborhoods and
willingness to work hard to help build publication.
Salary: $16,500. Good health benefits.
To apply: Submit letter, resume and up to three clips
showing news reporting and writing skills. Send to:
City Limits, 424 W. 33rd St., New York, NY 10001,
(212) 239-8440. Deadline for applications: July 8.
30' CITY LIMITS June 1985
third edition of the HPD Handbook of
Programs lists info on each HPD office.
personnel and programs. Price is $8 or
$9 by mail from Citibooks. Municipal
Bldg . . Room 2213. 1 Center St . New
York. NY 10007. 0
Emergency Shelter, Inc. just opened a
new facility for women 18-21 years
old. The program offers housing,
meals, counseling, vocational and
educational training for up to nine-
months. Contact: The Emergency
Shelter, Inc., 69 St . Marks Place. New
York. NY 10003; (212) 777-1234. 0
Tenant's Guide to Sublett ing and
Apartment Sharing" is available from
the New York State Tenant and Neigh-
borhood Coalition, 198 Broadway. New
York, NY 10038; (212) 964-7260. The
cost is $7.50.0
"Brooklyn in Transition: A Statistical
Profile of Its People, Jobs and Neigh-
borhoods and the Outlook for the
Borough's Future" is available from the
Municipal Research Institute. A
130-page study with maps, charts and
current statistical data, this profile
assesses the impact of Brooklyn's re-
vitalization on its neighborhoods and
residents. Among its findings are a
poverty rate second only to the Bronx
and an increas ing number of very
young and very old residents. Copies
are available for $10 from the
Municipal Research Institute, 5 Beek-
man St. , Room 726, New York, NY
10038; (212) 732-0067.0
June 26, 149 brownstones located in
Manhattan's Community Boards 9 and
20 will be auctioned through sealed
public bids of $2 ,000-25,000. For infor-
mation on the auction and buildings
contact the city's Department of Hous-
ing Preservation and Development ,
Control Sales Unit , 75 Maiden Lane,
Room 427, New York, NY 10038; (212)
c::::r CONFERENCE CALL: The Insti-
tute for Urban Design is requesting
papers for the 7th International Confer-
ence on Urban Design to be held in
Chicago. October 23-26. Topics for
papers are: strategies for development
under economic constraints, new
approaches to public/private partner-
ships, hi-tech parks design, transit
links between airport and downtown.
housing downtown, and incubator
."paces. The conference theme is "City
Limits: Economic Challenge/Urban
Design Opportunity." Send 250-word
abstracts by July 12 to: Institute for
Urban Design, Main P.O. Box 105, Pur-
chase. NY 10577; (914) 253-9341.0
c::::r STREET FAIR: Junction College
Development Corp. is having a Folk
Festival June 23 on Flatbush and Nos-
trand Avenues. A Salute to People of
All Nations, the festival will have
antiques and collectibles, food and
entertainment from around the world
as well as rides and crafts. For informa-
tion: (718) 434-0977. 0
Political Action Committee (Ten Pac)
will hold a forum at which all candi-
dates for mayor, city council president
and city comptroller have been invited
to speak. It is scheduled for June 18 at
7 p. m. at P.S. 41. 116 W. 11th SI. near
Sixth Avenue. For information call :
(212) 884-8385.0
c::::r FOOD PANTRIES: A Resource
Guide for New York City food Pantries
and Soup Kitchens is available for
groups who run such programs. Put
out by the city's Human Resources
Administration, the guide describes
government food programs. sources of
free food, lists of foundations and
organizations that provide technical
assistance. The free guide is available
from: N.Y.C. Human Resources Admin-
istration, Crisis Intervention Services,
N.Y.C. Needy Family Food Distribution
Program, 250 Church St., Rm 622.
New York, NY 10013.0
Third World Survival Coalition is
'sponsoring a forum on housing law
June 28, from 6-8:30 p.m. at Lincoln
Hospital Auditorium. Judge Antonio
Brandveen, of Housing Court in Man-
hattan, will speak on "How to Exercise
Your Rights in Housing Court;" attor-
ney Fern Fisher Brandeveen will dis-
cuss, "Tenant's Rights in City-Owned
Housing; " and Atiim Sentwali , form-
erly of HPD, will explore "Acquisition
and Rehabilitation of Vacant City-
Owned Properties." The moderator is
Luis DeGraffe, Law Professor at CUNY
Law School. Lincoln Hospital Audito-
rium is located at 234 E. 149th SI. in the
Bronx. Admission is free. 0
c::::r HOUSING SENIORS: "Housing
Options for Older New Yorkers : A
Sourcebook" by Patricia Baron Pollack
and Laura Z. Malakoff is available for
$3 from Cornell University, Dept. of
Consumer Economics and Housing.
Housing Policy Programs. Martha Van
Rensselaer Hall, Ithaca. NY 14853. 0
Nonprofit Fort Greene'Clinton Hill community.!
based organization seeks executive director.
Responsible for housing and community
development programs including organizing,
building management. home and building
owner loan counselling, Partnership New
Homes marketing, Solar Hot Water Demonstra-
tion, energy education workshop series,
rehabilitation and management of PACC
building and Anti-Crime program. Experience
in fundraising, budget preparation and super-
vision of staff essential. Local resident
preferred. Salary, $25,000-30,000. Send
resumes by June 30 to: Search Committee,
Pratt Area Community Council, 201 DeKalb
Ave. , Brooklyn, NY 11205.
Major comrTlunity development organization seeks
dynamic individual with proven administrative and
fiscal management skills. Experience or knowledge
of housing development, community organizing,
human services, funding sources essential as well as
good communication skills.
Send resume and salary requirements to:
Flatbush Development Corporation
1418 Cortelyou Road
Brooklyn, NY 11226 EOE
The Community Law Offices of the Legal Aid
Society is seeking to hire a committed, energetic
person to assist tenant associations represented
by its Housing Development Unit. The HDU does
work in upper Manhattan north of 96th Street. Its
staff consist of four attorneys, four housing
specialists and one organizer. J
ment training and assistance to tenant managed
buildings; accounting assistance to tenant associ-
ations during rent strikes; litigation preparation and
assistance; and housing advice to walk-in clients.
Night meetings a must, ability to speak Spanish
helpful but not required.
SALARY AND BENEFITS: per 1199 contract, start-
ing salary is $17,498.00.
SEND RESUME TO: Housing Development Unit,
Community Law Offices, 230 East 106th Street,
New York, New York 10029.
June 1985 CITY LIMITS ~ :
Mount Vernon United Tenants is a membership-run,
city-wide coalition of building associations working to
preserve and extend 'existing tenant laws. Duties:
organize tenants associations. one-on-one advocacy, 1- :
help coordinate membership activities in city and state-
wide campaigns. work in coalition with other tenants'
advocacy groups, administrative and fiscal develop-
ment. Requirements: organizing and/ or housing
experience preferred. Willing to work long and flexi-
ble hours. Salary: $12,500 to start. To Apply: Please
send resume to MVUT. Po. Box 2107. Mt. Vernon.
NY. 10551 or call (914) 699-1114.
City contracts administrator. professional writer,
grants person, available part-time for private non-
profit program planning. resource identification
and application {RFP} . Housing, arts, media, health,
economic development. employment. Reasonable
Rates. Telephone (718) 636-2119.
Community organization seeks individual to coor-
dinate housing program organizing and providing
technical assistance to tenants and homeowners.
Must be familiar with city- and state-funded pro-
grams. B.A. plus two years experience or equiva-
lent required.
Salary: high teens, plus benefits.
Send resumes to: Jay Small, Executive Director,
EE.C.D.C., 559 E. 43 St., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11203
The Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, a
national public non-profit organization involved in
community revitalization efforts, is seeking a well
organized, flexible and self-motivated secretary to
work in its lower Manhattan office. This is a tem-
porary position with benefits, to last approximately
two years. Person should have excellent commu-
nication skills and a minimum of 65 w.p.m. typ-
ing. Responsibilities to include typing of
correspondence and reports, answering tele-
phones, filing, maintaining travel and meeting
calendars. Bi-lingual and word-processing desira-
ble. Salary from $13,100 to $16,400 depending on
experience and qualifications. Send resume to:
Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, 594
Broadway, Suite 120'7, New York, NY 10012.
Friends of City Limits: Loretta Adams Jeff Ambers Jeff Armistead Fran Barrett Wayne Barrett. Carol Bellamy
Jane Benedict Marcy Benstock ., Joan Beranbaum Diane Berg Mary Breen Bonnie Brower Diane Burns Daphne Busby
Kaetha Cherney Chip Cliffe Harriet Cohen Rick Cohen Joe Conason Roi Crouch Bruce Dale Chuck DeLaney Harry
DiRienzo Steve Dobkin Carol Fels Harvey Fisher Robyn Fisher Jon Forster Oda Friedheim Annette Fuentes Francine
Gerace Ted Glick. Fran Goldin Ed Goldman Maxine Golub Lou Gordon Rachel Gor/in Pete Grannis Grassroots Press
Susan Hamovitch Sam Himmelstein Jenny Hixon Betty Hoeber Amber Hollibaugh Marc Jahr Felice Jergens Deirdre
Jordan. Fran Justa Craig Kaplan Lisa Kaplan Galen Kirkland. Chris Kui Margarita Lopez Barry Mallin Peter Marcuse
Roberto Marrero Maisie McAdoo. Daniel McCarthy. Michael McKee. Ruth Messinger. Carlin Meyer Bernard Moore Doug
Moritz Jerrold Nadler Anita Nager. Jill Nelson Christine Noschese Getz Obstfeld Val Orselli Maior Owens Anne
Pasmanick 'Sarah Plant Bill Price. Harriet Putterman. Victor Quintana Rebecca Reich Andy Reicher Sue Reynolds Fritz
Ringler Seth Robbins Tom Robbins. Dave Robinson. Irma Rodriguez Mimi Rosenberg Beth Rosenthal Cliff Rosenthal
Mel Rosenthal Don Sakano Toby Sanchez Rich Schrader Tony Schuman Ann Schwalbach Brent Sharman Ron Shiffman
Jim Sleeper. Jay Small Paul Smith Ellen Spross Margaret Stix Fran Streich Fran Sugarman Brian Sullivan Karren
Thomas Estella Vasquez Ted Weiss. Judy Wessler Deborah Whitelaw Judy Zangwill
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130West 20th Street (between 6th & 7th Avenues)
9:30 PM - 4:00 AH
7 ) . J . 7 ) ANC f NG
$12in advance
V ( 7 ) E O C AS H g AR
$15at the door
Payable to: CITY LIMITS. 424West 33rd Street, New York, NY 10001 (212) 239-8440
"" be there. Rush me tickets to the party at advance sales price of $12each. Enclosed is my check for _
I want to be a patron of the event. Here's my contribution of _ _ $50 _ _ $100 _ _ $200 _ _ Other _
(All contributions are tax-deductible.)
Name Phone _
Address _
City/State Zip _
Orders received by June 21 will get tickets by return moil. After that dote, tickets will be held at the door.