[Table of Contents]

5. Tenant Responses to the Urban Housing Crisis, 1970-1984

Ronald Lawson with the assistance of Reuben B. Johnson III


1. In addition to the sources cited, this essay includes data gathered from extensive participant observation of the meetings and activities of the Metropolitan Council on Housing, the New York State Tenant and Neighborhood Coalition, the Association of Neighborhood Housing Developers, the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, and twenty neighborhood organizations, and in-depth interviews with the leaders of these organizations. Data were also gathered from surveys of the leaders of 89 federations and neighborhood organizations and 37 Office of Economic Opportunity-funded service centers as well as surveys of the leaders and members of 153 building organizations and 46 low-income cooperatives.

2. Ira S. Lowry, ed., Rental Housing in New York City, vol. 1: Confronting the Crisis (Rand Institute, 1970), pp. 3-7; Ira S. Lowry, Joseph DeSalvo, and Barbara Woodfill, Rental Housing in New York City, vol. 2: Rental Housing in New York (Rand Institute, 1971); George Sternlieb, The Urban Housing Dilemma, preliminary draft (Housing and Development Administration, 1970); idem, The Urban Housing Dilemma (Housing and Development Administration, 1972). See also David Bartelt and Ronald Lawson, "Rent Control and Abandonment: A Second Look at the Evidence," Journal of Urban Affairs 4, no. 4 (1982): 49-64.

3. Tenant News, Oct.-Nov., Dec. 1969; New York Times, Mar. 19, 1970; Louis Harris and Associates, "Transition Neighborhoods in New York City: The People's View of Their Housing Environment," Vera Institute of Justice, New York, 1969.

4. New York Times, June 30, 1970.

5. Tenant News, Dec. 1962, Feb., Nov. 1963, Mar. 1964, Jan., June, Nov. 1965, Jan. 1968.

6. Ibid., May 1968, June 1970; Debbie Shliom, Your Home Is Your Hassle (Metropolitan Council on Housing, 1971); Interviews with Lester Evens and Richard Levenson, 1981.

7. Tenant News, Sept.-Nov. 1970; Tenant, June 1971; New York Times, Aug. 1, 1970.

8. Tenant, Dec. 1971, Jan. 1972.

9. New York Times, Jan. 23, 27, Mar. 7, 1971.

10. Ibid., Apr. 28, 1971; New York State Laws, 1971, chaps. 371, 372.

11. Tenant, May 11, 1971.

12. New York Times, Apr. 28, 29, 1971 (editorial); Community Service Society, Housing and Urban Development Legislation in New York State, 1971, p. 16.

13. New York Times, May 31, 1971.

14. Met Council policy statement, June 11, 1971.

15. New York Times, July 13, 20, 1971.

16. Ibid., Sept. 2, 1971.

17. Interview with Michael Ehrmann, 1974; Tenant, Jan., Feb. 1972.

18. New York Times, June 17, 1972; Benson Realty Corp. v. Walsh, New York Law Journal 2: 2-4; Tenant, Aug. 1972.

19. Tenant, Aug. 1972; Interview with M. Ehrmann, 1974; New York Times, June 17, 1972.

20. Tenant, Jan. 1973.

21. New York Times, Mar. 2, April 4, 1973.

22. Tenant, Dec. 1972.

23. In spite of the fact that the vacancy decontrol law was justified as an attempt to reduce housing abandonment by giving landlords more money to invest in their buildings, its prime impact was not upon rents in decaying neighborhoods, where demand for housing was contracting, but in the most sought-after areas. Indeed, the rate of housing abandonment was not affected by the legislation.

24. Report on Housing and Rents of the Temporary State Commission on Living Costs and the Economy of the State of New York to the Governor and the Legislature, by Assemblyman Andrew Stein Chairman, Jan. 1974.

25. Tenant, July, Aug., Nov. 1971.

26. Interviews with Leroy Washington and Abe Gerges, 1983.

27. Type D corporations under section 402 of the New York Not for Profit Corporation Law.

28. Interview with Robert Schur, 1980. Other projects secured federal financing (236 and 221(d)3), and one, state Mitchell-Lama funds. For further details concerning the evolution of this strategy and the buildings involved, see Ronald Lawson, Owners of Last Resort (N.Y.C. Department of Housing Preservation and Development, 1984).

29. Robert Kolodny, Self Help in the Inner City (United Neighborhood Houses, 1973).

30. Interview with Schur, 1980.

31. The Municipal Loan scandal was occasioned, inter alia, by landlords collecting rehabilitation loans but doing little or no construction, by the making of loans that exceeded the value of the properties securing them, by failures to certify actual costs, and by neglect of the duty to encourage minority contractors, which had been one of the central objectives of the program [Committee on Charter and Governmental Operations, 1972].

32. Father Robert Fox, "Entrepreneuring on Sweat Equity," In Business, 1979, pp. 44-47.

33. Lawson, Owners of Last Resort.

34. Tenant News, Apr., May 1970.

35. William Worthy, The Rape of Our Neighborhoods (William Morrow, 1976).

36. See Ronald Lawson, "The Rent Strike in New York City, 1904-1980," Journal of Urban History, May 1984, for greater detail.

37. Margaret Gillerman, "7-A Law Gives Tenants a Way to Seize a Building -- Legally," City Limits, Aug. 1978; interviews with Roger Hayes (1976), Bill Frey (1978), Jim Mitchell (1980), Claudia Mansbach (1980).

38. J. Clarence Davies Realty Company, Consultants' Report: Co-op City (n.d.); Jack Newfield and Paul Du Brul, The Abuse of Power (Penguin, 1978), pp. 300-310.

39. Organizing Handbook (Metropolitan Council on Housing, 1966); Shliom, Your Home Is Your Hassle.

40. The one exception was the period 1952-1959. The existing federation collapsed in 1952 following both the success in winning state rent controls and the onset of McCarthyite repression.

41. See Ronald Lawson and Stephen E. Barton, "Sex Roles and Social Movements: A Case Study of the Tenant Movement in New York City," Signs, Winter 1980, for further discussion of women as the major tenant movement constituency and recent leaders.

42. Tenant, Nov. 1973, Nov. 1974, Nov. 1975, Nov. 1976.

43. Ibid., June 1971, July 1975, June 1978; Peter K. Hawley, Housing in the Public Domain: The Only Solution (Metropolitan Council on Housing, 1978).

44. Clara Fox, Neighborhood Preservation: The Role of Moderate Housing Rehabilitation and Cooperative or Mutual Ownership (Settlement Housing Fund, 1974).

45. "The Fight against Demolition: A Victory for Community Housing Groups," City Limits, Feb. 1976; "CETA/CJCC Job Training Program Launched at Last," City Limits, Mar. 1976.

46. New York Post, Jan. 24, 1974; Daily News, Jan. 25, 1974; New York Times, May 11, 1975, Nov. 13, 1976, May 6, 1977.

47. New York Times, Oct. 6, 1977; Daily News, Oct. 6, 1977.

48. Steve Katz, "The Faded Dream of Washington Avenue," City Limits, Apr. 1983, pp. 19-20; interview with Susan Treanor, 1981.

49. Robert Schur and Virginia Sherry, The Neighborhood Housing Movement (ANHD, 1977).

50. Bernard Cohen, "Rehabilitating Sweat Equity," City Limits, Feb., Mar. 1980.

51. Interviews with Susan Treanor and Doug Moritz, 1980.

52. Katz, "Faded Dream of Washington Avenue," pp. 19-20 (quoting Ruben Rivera, another of the participants).

53. From interviews with Doug Moritz and anonymous, 1980.

54. Interview with Bill Frey, 1978.

55. Michael A. Stegman, The Dynamics of Rental Housing in New York City (HPD, 1982), pp. 7-8, 207-209.

56. Tenant, May, Sept. 1978; City Limits, Sept., Nov. 1978; "New Believers Buy Bite of Big Apple," City Limits, Dec. 1979.

57. The Management in Partnership Program (MIPP) was a variation on CMP. Here neighborhood organizations without experience in management gained it under the watchful eye of a commercial management firm. Thus, in effect, they went through an apprenticeship with the aim of graduating to the CMP.

58. City Limits, Dec. 1979.

59. "New Believers Buy Bite of Big Apple," City Limits, Dec. 1979; "$250 Buys More Sweat Than Equity in City's Low-Cost Housing Sales," City Limits, Dec. 1982.

60. Stegman, Dynamics of Rental Housing in New York City, p. 208; "Eimicke Ultimatum," City Limits, Feb. 1980; "Community Management Standards," City Limits, Mar. 1980; "Rent and Tax Aid for TIL Buildings But No Pledge on Sales, Repairs," City Limits, Apr. 1980; Bernard Cohen, "Over Hurdles and Snags, First TIL Buildings Are Sold to Tenants," City Limits, June 1980; S. Baldwin, "Funds and Direction for Community Management Program in Dispute," City Limits, Oct. 1980; "Housing Officials Consider Merger of Some Community Building Management Programs," City Limits, Jan. 1981; New York Times, June 7, 1980.

61. City Limits, Apr. 1980.

62. "New York's Neighborhood Groups," City Limits, Aug. 1983.

63. "Neighborhood Housing Developers Chart Their Course," City Limits, Dec. 1981; Rick Cohen, "What Hath Reagan Wrought?" City Limits, Aug.-Sept. 1983; Robert Schur, "Back to Basics: Organizing in the Age of Austerity," City Limits, Jan. 1982; Katz, "Faded Dream of Washington Avenue."

64. "Community Group Profit-Sharing," City Limits, Jan. 1981; "Neighborhood Housing Developers Chart Their Course," City Limits, Dec. 1981.

65. Bonnie Brower, "Requiem for a Housing Policy: Selling Alternative Management," City Limits, Oct. 1982; Susan Baldwin, "Tenants Win $250 Sales Pledge: But There's a Catch," City Limits, Dec. 1982; Julia McDonnell Chang, "Rebuilding Home: Tenants Take a New Lease on City Life," City Limits, Apr. 1984.

66. City Limits, Feb. 1982; Tom Gogan and Dave Robinson, "Judge Voids City Rent Hikes," City Limits, Dec. 1982; City Limits, Aug 1983; Stegman, Dynamics of Rental Housing in New York City, p 8.

67. Tenant, Nov. 1983.

68. Cohen, "Rehabilitating Sweat Equity."

69. Andrew Reicher, "Homesteading Is More Than Just Housing," City Limits, Apr. 1984; Tom Robbins, "NYC's Homesteading Programs: A Land Rush to Nowhere?" City Limits, Apr. 1984.

70. Homefront, Housing Abandonment in New York City (Homefront, 1977).

71. Kathy Sanders, "Greenliners Blast Assembly Banking Committee on Redlining," City Limits, Nov. 1976.

72. "Savings Bank Denied Branch," City Limits, May 1979.

73. "Historic Bank Pact," City Limits, Mar. 1979; "Four Banks Commit to Northwest Bronx," City Limits, Feb. 1980; Jim Mitchell, letter to editor, City Limits, Jan. 1982.

74. Tim Ledwith, "Reinvestment: Enter the Commercial Banks," City Limits, June 1981.

75. "The Chelsea Clam House Defeat", City Limits, Mar. 1983.

76. Tom Robbins, "Displacement Examined: From Both Sides Now," City Limits, June 1981; Richard LeGates and Chester Hartman, Displacement (Legal Services Anti-Displacement Project, 1981).

77. Robbins, "Displacement Examined."

78. Tom Robbins, "A Roar in Park Slope," City Limits, Jan. 1981.

79. Susan Baldwin, "A Game of Numbers in Harlem," City Limits, June 1981; "Managing West Harlem," City Limits, May 1983.

80. Craig Unger, "The Lower East Side: There Goes the Neighborhood," New York Magazine, May 28, 1984.

81. "The Defeat of Artists' Housing," City Limits, Mar. 1983.

82. Indeed, the author's study of "the impact of tenant strategies upon the social process of housing abandonment" in six neighborhoods in four New York City boroughs shows that the revitalizing forces of the market, once in play in two neighborhoods -- Manhattan Valley and the Lower East Side -- overshadowed all tenant strategies.

83. Robert Schur, "Holding the Line in the Neighborhood," City Limits, June 1981.

84. Jim Sleeper, "This Neighborhood Is Not for Sale," City Limits, June 1984.

85. "Furor over City's Lower East Side Scheme," City Limits, Aug. 1984.

86. New York State Tax Guardian, Spring 1976; B. Bruce-Biggs, "Rent Control Must Go," New York Times Magazine, Apr. 18, 1976; Amsterdam News, May 1, 1976; Business Week, May 24, 1976; "Disaster Area: Rent Control Has Helped Turn Gotham into One," Barrons, Apr. 21, 1975; "The Case for Ending Rent Control," New York Law Journal, Apr. 14, 1976; "Moreland Panel: End Rent Curbs," New York Post, Mar. 31, 1976. Abraham Beame was mayor of New York City and Assemblyman Al Blumenthal, from Manhattan's West Side, was Democratic majority leader in the state assembly.

87. Minutes, Southern Region Membership Meeting, NYSTNC, Jan. 6, 1977; Tenant, Mar. 1976.

88. Minutes, Southern Region Membership Meeting, NYSTNC, Jan. 6, 1977.

89. Michael McKee to NYSTNC members, Apr. 30, 1977.

90. Interview with Lester Schulklapper, lobbyist for the Real Estate Board of New York (REB) and the Metropolitan Fair Rents Committee (MFRC). See further in Ronald Lawson, "The Political Face of the Real Estate Industry in New York City," New York Affairs, Apr. 1980.

91. Tenant, Apr., Sept. 1979; M. McKee, "State Legislators Pass Group Funding, Reject Co-op Protection Bill," City Limits, June 1980; S. Baldwin, "The War of the Queens Garden Apartments," City Limits, Oct. 1981; "Co-op Alert," NYSTNC flier, May 19, 1982; "New Co-op Conversion Legislation," NYSTNC newsletter, July 11, 1982; M. McKee, "How the City Got a New Co-op Law," City Limits, Aug. 1982.

92. City Limits, Mar. 1978, Apr. 1979; Peoples Housing News, Jan. 1981; Tenant and Neighbors, May, Sept. 1982.

93. New York Times. Apr. 25, 1980.

94. "New York State Tenant and Neighborhood Coalition Proposed Statewide Rent and Eviction Regulation Bill Outline," City Limits, Nov. 10, 1980.

95. NYSTNC letter to John Dearie, Mar. 1980; Tenant, Jan. 1981; Minutes, Southern Regional meeting, NYSTNC, Jan. 22, 1981; NYSTNC executive board minutes, Dec. 14, 1980, Mar. 18, 1981; "Tenant Alert," NYSTNC, Oct. 1, 1981; Minutes, NYSTNC membership meeting, Jan. 31, 1982; NYSTNC executive board meeting, Mar. 21, 1982; "Tenant Protection Update," NYSTNC, Mar. 15, 1983.

96. "Flynn-Dearie Hill Pending," Tenants and Neighbors, May 1983.

97. NYSTNC flier, Dec. 1979; NYSTNC secretary to members, Apr. 1980; Minutes, NYSTNC board meeting. Mar. 1981; NYSTNC membership list, May 1981; Minutes, NYSTNC membership meeting, Jan. 1982; NYSTNC Bylaws Subcommittee to members, Sept. 1982.

98. Tenant, Dec. 1972. Dec. 1980, Feb. 1976, July 1984, Dec. 1983.

99. Ibid., Feb. 1981.

100. Ibid., Feb., Apr., 1981, Sept. 1982, Feb. 1979 (Ruth Beinart), May 1980 (Jack Rand), July 1981 (Esther Rand).

101. Ibid., Mar. 1974, June 1975, July 1977, Mar. 1978, Apr. 1979; City Limits, Mar., Apr. 1979.

102. See further in Lawson, "Political Face of the Real Estate Industry in New York City."

103. Bill Rowen, "Anti-RSA Campaign Picks Up Steam," Tenants and Neighbors, May 1982.

104. "Complaints under Rent Stabilization in New York City," Fact Sheet No. 13, NYSTNC, Feb. 1980; "Abrams Probes Landlord Group," Peoples Housing News, Jan. 1981; Rowen, "Anti-RSA Campaign Picks Up Steam"; NYSTNC flyer, June 1982.

105. "Rent Control Showdown," Tenants and Neighbors, Feb. 1983; P. J. Kamens, "Rent Laws Due for an Overhaul," City Limits, Feb. 1983; M. McKee, "The Senate's 'Secret' Rent Bill," Tenants and Neighbors, June 1983; idem, "The New Rent Laws," City Limits, Aug. 1983; M. McKee, "New Rent Law Passed: State Takeover Raises Enforcement Hopes, Other Changes Challenge Tenants to Organize," Tenants and Neighbors, Sept. 1983; "Rent Curbs for Church and College," City Limits, June 1983; Jane Benedict, "The Package Deal -- What Happened to Flynn-Dearie?" Tenant, July 1983; John McKean, "How the Senate Took a Walk on Flynn-Dearie," City Limits, Oct. 1983.

106. Tenants and Neighbors, no. 8, n.d. (ca. Oct. 1983); no. 11, n.d. (July 1984).

107. M. McKee, "Landlords Overplay Their Hand," Tenants and Neighbors, May 1984; "The Landlords' End Run," City Limits, Feb. 1984; Bill Rowen, "State Takeover Off to a Rocky Start," Tenants and Neighbors, May 1984.

108. Richard E. Blumberg, Brian Quinn Robbins, and Kenneth K. Baar, "The Emergence of Second Generation Rent Controls," Clearinghouse Review, Aug. 1978; John Atlas and Peter Dreier, "Mobilize or Compromise? The Tenants' Movement and American Politics," in America's Housing Crisis, ed. Chester Hartman (Boston, 1983); "HUD KO's Local Rent Laws," Shelterforce, Apr. 1975.

109. "Who Is Shelterforce?" Shelterforce, Apr. 1975.

110. "Fed Programs Squeeze Tenants," Tenant, May 1975; "HUD KO's Local Rent Laws"; "Battling Over Rent Control," Shelterforce, Winter 1976; "From the Grassroots: Progress of the Housing Movement in 14 Cities," Shelterforce, Winter 1977; "Rent Control Roundup: Tenants Battle around the Country," Shelterforce, Spring 1979.

111. Tenant, Sept., Nov. 1977, May, Dec. 1978, Oct. 1979.

112. Shelterforce, Spring 1979; "National Movement Looks to the 80's," Shelterforce, Fall 1979; Tenant, Dec. 1979; City Limits, Dec. 1979.

113. Shelterforce, Oct. 1980.

114. "Congress Tries to Stop Rent Control," Shelterforce, Oct. 1980; City Limits, June, Aug. 1981; Tenants and Neighbors, May 1982; Atlas and Dreier, 177; Shelterforce, Spring 1982.

115. Tenant, July 1984; Shelterforce, Aug. 1984.

116. Lawson, "Owners of Last Resort."

117. Ibid.

118. Ibid.

119. Stegman, Dynamics of Rental Housing in New York City, p. 157. The latter datum is not available for 1970.

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