[NYtenants-online] A Sad Day for Tenants: Julie Lobbia Passes Away

Tenant tenant@tenant.net
Sat, 24 Nov 2001 13:22:29 -0500

NYtenants Online/TenantNet                               11/24/01



Last night, we heard the upsetting news that Julie Lobbia, the Village 
Voice columnist for "Towers and Tenements", passed away Thursday after a 
bout with cancer. Under the pen name "J.A. Lobbia," Julie's writings 
focused on the problems tenants and neighborhoods face in New York City. We 
often reprinted her column in this newsletter -- her reporting being the 
only regular column in mainstream NYC media covering tenant and 
overdevelopment issues.

She exposed distastful landlords, developers, hack politicians and their 
supporters. She wrote about the shenanigans at the Rent Guidelines Board, 
the Division of Housing and Community Renewal, Peter Vallone's efforts to 
decontrol rent regulated apartments and his efforts to ram through City 
Council a landlord-written lead paint bill. Just perusing some of her 
recent columns shows a wide-ranging gamut of issues she covered:

o   Green Leads in Real Estate Green
o   Why Has a Convicted Brooklyn Landlord Been Let Off Easy?
o   Is an East Harlem Courthouse a Help or a Hindrance?
o   Landlord Rep Tried to Keep Public Info Private
o   A Case Study in Displacement on Elizabeth Street
o   Check Out a Landlord Before You Sign a Lease
o   Why Is a Planning Commissioner Hawking the Olympics?
o   Cooper Union Sets a Tall Order for Redevelopment

Marcia Lemmon, a Lower East Side activist said of Julie Lobbia, "She will 
be sorely missed. When she wrote on a subject, she really got to the core 
of the matter. Then there was her non-business side. She was as likable a 
person as you'll ever meet; pleasant and of good humor. We don't have many 
journalists like her, God knows we need them."

In a world where much of the media reporting openly reflects the values and 
interests of the corporate culture that owns it, Julie Lobbia stood out. 
She covered issues that none of the other papers would touch, and she used 
her time and resources to understand the issues, as deep as necessary, and 
she was able to connect the dots. She investigated while much of today's 
reporters just fill up space. She thought, and then she wrote.

Since August, Julie hadn't been in her office and it was only a few weeks 
ago that I caught her there for a few minutes. Even in the face of her 
affliction, she seemed upbeat and optomistic, traits I think all who knew 
her would readily recognize in Julie. While I knew her only on a 
professional level, I understand she had a large family and many friends, 
to whom we offer our sympathy.

While not a tenant or community activist, we still consider Julie Lobbia 
one of our own, and her passing hurts.

John Fisher


J. A. Lobbia

NEW YORK (AP) -- J. A. Lobbia, an award-winning columnist and investigative 
reporter on housing and race relations in St. Louis and New York, died 
Thursday of ovarian cancer. She was 43.

Since 1990, Lobbia was an editor and reporter for the Village Voice in New 
York. She got her start writing about housing issues as an intern at the 
St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 1983, and later was an investigative reporter 
and managing editor of the Riverfront Times in St. Louis.

Lobbia's articles in the Voice dealt with housing, community preservation, 
the elderly and immigrants. At the Riverfront Times, she wrote about 
black-on-black crime, black activism and racial imbalances in the judiciary.

The Newswomen's Club of New York recently gave Lobbia a Front Page Award 
for her reporting on housing. The Greater St. Louis Association of Black 
Journalists honored her four times for her work.

Survivors include husband Joseph Jesselli; her mother, Julia Lobbia; a 
brother and two sisters.

Julie Lobbia, 43, Columnist, Tenant Rights Activist
By Joseph Mallia
November 24, 2001

Whether bicycling 120 miles from Manhattan to Montauk, or reporting the 
inside story on a politically connected landlord in her "Tenements & 
Towers" column in The Village Voice, Julie Lobbia energetically pursued her 

"With the New York Cycle Club, she'd lead the fast pack in Central Park. 
Six-foot-tall guys were trying to ride her draft. And she was only 5 feet 
tall," said a friend, Andrea Kannapell. "She didn't just bike often, she 
biked far. She did 100-mile rides all the time. She biked 3,000 to 5,000 
miles a year."

Lobbia, who died Thursday of cancer at age 43 at New York University 
Hospitals Center, was remembered by friends and family for how she tried, 
as a reporter, to preserve New York as a place where all kinds of people, 
not just the wealthy, can live.

"She was tremendously in love with New York City and the rich cultural 
amalgam of people she found here," said her husband of seven years, Joseph 
Jesselli. They lived in a fourth-floor walk-up apartment in Little Italy. 
Lobbia left a legacy, her husband said: The city is more diverse because of 
her work.

"I think she was always upset at the whittling away of New York City's rent 
laws, which she believed held the city together and was responsible for the 
diversity we have," said Jesselli, a former Voice editor who now works for 

Once, Lobbia rallied the cause of two sisters, both in their 80s, whose 
$500-a-month rent was tripled by their absentee landlord, a resident of 
Woodmere. The landlord, stung by publicity, decided to scale back the rent 

"She wanted to make sure the little guys got a voice. She really focused on 
trying to make sure they were taken into account," said Kannapell, a New 
York Times editor. The friend also remembered Lobbia's wit and her love of 
anchovies, garlic and red wine.

Lobbia was born and raised in Chicago, graduating from Loyola University 
Chicago with a political science degree, then earning a master's in 
journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She wrote briefly for 
The Chicago Tribune and for the Columbia Daily Tribune, then took a job at 
the alternative newspaper, the Riverfront Times in St. Louis, becoming 
managing editor. The Village Voice then noticed her work and offered her a 
job in New York.

"Julie was a wonderful reporter who knew the bad guys and the good guys and 
the world of housing in New York City," said Donald Forst, editor of The 
Village Voice. "The bad guys knew to fear her, and the good guys knew to 
cheer her."

Lobbia underwent surgery on Sept. 13, soon after doctors diagnosed her with 
ovarian cancer, and a short time later, she was back on a bicycle.

"She recuperated for three weeks, borrowed a mountain-style bike so she 
could sit up straight, and we went riding in East River Park in early 
October. That's the last time she rode," Kannapell said.

Lobbia won many journalism awards, most recently on Nov. 9 when the 
Newswomen's Club of New York gave her a 2001 Front Page Award at a ceremony 
at the Water Club. She could not be present to accept the award, however; 
she was only a block or two away, in a hospital emergency room.

"One thing that epitomizes her is that she always thought that life was 
full of wonder and joy," said her mother, Julia Lobbia, of Homewood, Ill. 
"... From the time she was a little child, she was an absolute charmer. She 
always wanted to save the whole world."

In addition to her husband and mother, Lobbia is survived by two sisters, 
Janice Szostek, of Chicago, and Loretta Lobbia, of Liverpool, N.Y.; and a 
brother, John Lobbia of Northville, Mich.

Funeral arrangements were not finalized Friday, but relatives said a 
service was planned in Chicago with a memorial to follow in New York City.

Staff writer Víctor Manuel Ramos contributed to this story.
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