At the height of World War II, tenant organizations confronted the L. greatest challenge to their hard-won influence in New York City. In 1943 liberal government intervened on the housing front with federal rent controls and a state urban redevelopment law. Tenant leaders, of course, had long hoped to bring public policy to their side of the housing struggle. But few could have anticipated that wartime expedients would become abiding measures with the most profound impact on the city's housing environment and the role of tenant power within it. From modest beginnings, government would soon arrogate vast authority to reshape the housing landscape and become the great rent arbiter, giant landlord, and mass evictor. How influential would the tenant movement remain among the new housing programs that it had campaigned so hard to bring about? Could it continue to shape the legal process of rent bargaining that had been the central function of local councils? Could it continue to bring tenant views to bear on the development of public housing and city planning? For that matter, could the movement survive at all, as New York moved into an era of liberal housing policies? First mobilized amid the anger of the Great Depression against landlord police, landlord judges, and landlord politicians, could tenant consciousness exist in a city whose political leaders vowed to move heaven and earth to solve the housing crisis?
The following essay will explore the salient issues presented by the tenant movement's confrontation with the liberal city. Foremost is the tenant version of the dilemma that faced all radicals in post-New Deal America. Could tenant unions maintain effective rent bargaining, their economic bread and butter, during the expansion of government rent regulation? Would tenants continue to rely on the collective strength of local councils after rent protection became a public benefit? These were vital considerations for the American Labor party clubs, which provided the cadre of tenant action in the 1940s and aspired to translate rent protests into comprehensive radical attacks on Truman liberalism. To the consternation of ALP organizers, their neighborhood followers appeared less driven by a collective sense of proletarian dispossession than by a determination to hold on to their virtual proprietary rights as "statutory tenants" under the rent laws. As the rent strikes by blacks and Hispanics in the early 1960s bear out, this radical dilemma lost none of its poignancy. Leaders like Jesse Gray stirred a potent collective fury, only to have it dissipated by the anxiety of tenants to get on the waiting list for an apartment in the New York City Housing Authority.
A related question remains as overshadowing as the Housing Authority itself. To what extent was radical action undermined by the smooth efficiency of such large-scale organizations? The susceptibility of tenants may not have been much different from that of other rank-and-file movements that have been absorbed by giant, welfare-capitalist organizations. But to point an accusing finger at the Housing Authority is to overlook the acquiescence, if not the complicity, of tenants themselves, and to forget that in the 1930S, an important component of the tenant movement sprung up in i the quasi-public, "limited-dividend" projects (which the state subverted in exchange for a limit on the interest earned by mortgage investors), where leaders sought collective bargaining with their institutional landlords. This approach partly stemmed from the City-Wide Tenants Council's attempts to forge a united front with liberal Democrats and partly from the understandable inclination of tenant organizers to avoid the drudge work in scattered, dingy walk-ups. More than its partisans cared to admit, the movement often fed off these corporate housing promotions, whether Stuyvesant Town and other urban redevelopment projects in the 1940s or Model Cities projects in the 1960s. Tenant radicals inspired much of the War on Poverty's Community Action Program, but tenant organizations rarely avoided becoming a recruiting arm of the Housing Authority.
Another question concerns the ability of tenants to move beyond their status as passive consumers of shelter to that of active developers, an idea that was perfectly absurd to commercial realtors and no less presumptuous to the liberal reformers who regarded themselves as patrons of public housing. Nevertheless, in the 1930s, local tenant unions and the City-Wide Tenants Council had intruded into this sacrosanct area, first demanding collective bargaining on management issues in the limited dividends, then taking advantage of government requirements that citizen advisory bodies accompany the development of city planning and public housing. Later in the decade, the City-Wide, claiming to speak for responsible rank-and-file interests, had participated in that advisory mechanism, wrung tacit recognition from the Housing Authority, and conferred with the housing liberals over blueprints that shaped the city's postwar future. Could the tenants maintain this presence? Perhaps in the long run that was precluded by urban "modernization," the trend in metropolitan development that would lodge decision making in the hands of centralized, professional staffs, as much the case in the pre-1945 Housing Authority as in the more elusive Slum Clearance Committee under Robert Moses. But as the evidence suggests, it was one thing for downtown corporate elites to try to centralize housing decisions and quite another for tenant leaders to relinquish their involvement. As we will see, organized tenants in the pursuit of strategic, united-front goals may have withdrawn from a critical review of urban redevelopment during World War II. Afterward, cold war suspicions wrecked the credibility of tenant opposition to Title I redevelopment, when that program was in its most vulnerable stage. Tenant involvement was throttled less by evolutionary forces than by circumstances, by calculated decisions, and by politics. These might-have-beens in city planning may not sit well with readers convinced that Moses alone was responsible for Title I and its relocation havoc.
The sense of lost opportunities becomes sharper in the alternative-planning phase of the Metropolitan Council on Housing and the War on Poverty's stimulus of advocacy planning in the early 1960s. For a brief moment, Met Council, an unlikely coalition of Old Left stalwarts and Christian seekers, of community workers and gadfly architects, set an ambitious agenda for neighborhood planning. Determined to make the city listen to community aspirations, Met Council would leave an indelible, New Left sensibility on how the city should plan for people. But whether Met Council's advocacy planners were faithful instruments of community intent or initiators and doers in their own right remained questionable. Much the same ambiguity tainted the citizen planning machinery of Model Cities in the late 1960s. Tenant participation in housing development remained a chimerical goal, whose realization usually taught sorry lessons about an urban reform tradition convinced that housing was a complex, technical subject and that housing projects must be made to pay their own way. On those rare occasions when tenants became managers, they found themselves behaving like landlords who had bills to meet, rents to collect, and occupants to evict.
The ability of the tenant movement to deliver on its promises, of course, was closely related to its ability to recruit followers and to incite a mass involvement, or at least to convey to landlords and city officials the impression of the same. Distinguishing between matter-of-fact assessments and adversarial boasts remains a continuing headache. We will encounter numerous details of street-level mobilization, of the number of tenements organized, of rent strikers, of court cases, of union members, of crowds in meeting halls, of leaflets passed out. We will have to sort through the romantic, self-serving claims, some of them grown to movement myths, from the hard facts. Many remain too elusive to pin down. Some come from first-person reminiscences, a fascinating oral history. But the accounts are often thirty, even forty years old; some inevitably blend hazy recollections of 1937 with those of 1947. They demand corroboration with the written record. Admittedly, this reliance on literary evidence means reliance on those middle-class liberals who left a solid accounting and who usually staffed the government and reform agencies that tenants often confronted. There seems to be no way around this obstacle except to reckon with its biases and make the best of its legacy, to balance written reports with movement claims to recruitment and influence. We will be on safe ground if we judge the tenant movement by the same hard standards that its leaders would have applied to its operations -- whom did it influence, what policies did it bring about, what results did it accomplish? We could dwell on the interesting questions of mobilization strategies and tactical repertories, but we cannot afford to abstract these apart from the landscape of the city. And it is this larger perspective that requires an answer to these more important questions. Did tenant organizations make a difference in the city's housing environment? Had organized tenants not existed, would the city's housing policies and accomplishments have been any different?
Rent wars, 1943-1955
For five years, New York City's tenant unions had been at the center of the struggle for rent control, but by 1943 they had slipped to the edge of the great civic crusade that suddenly made controls a reality. The U.S. Office of Price Administration (OPA) imposed controls on the city largely because of general anxieties well orchestrated by the Fiorello H. La Guardia administration. When the mayor led a broad coalition of liberal and civic groups clamoring for restraints on rising rents, organized tenants found themselves just one among many interests appealing for an emergency measure whose time had come. But the realities of total war that had taken the primacy of rent control away from tenant lobbyists had also changed the structure and priorities of their movement. The struggle to maintain wartime morale brought new membership and new influence to the leagues in the public projects. The new Soviet-American friendship in the aftermath of the Teheran Conference encouraged radicals to bury old tenant grievances and forge genial relations with liberal Democrats, even if they were landlords. At the same time, the OPA rent system quickly overshadowed the rent bargaining that had been the central function of tenant unions for a generation.
The war on the home front had forced organized tenants to set aside many of the housing issues that had matured during the depression. A few weeks after Pearl Harbor, the City-Wide Tenants Council virtually ended its five-year role as the advocate for renters in private apartment houses. In February 1942 an emergency convention adopted the name United Tenants League of Greater New York (UTL), but the hurried new committee assignments made clear that UTL energies would go to the struggle to bolster community morale for the "People's War." By December the UTL even dropped its half-hearted agitation for OPA controls. The issue had never been relevant to tenants in the limited dividends and public projects, who enjoyed subsidized low rents. The project leagues now had more immediate worries, as the federal government curtailed new housing construction except around defense plants, gave occupancy preference to defense workers and military personnel, and pressed the New York City Housing Authority to evict families whose incomes exceeded a maximum ceiling. As war wages increased during 1942, the Queensbridge Tenants League (QTL), the largest of the public project councils, became the most insistent voice behind the UTL's call for a moratorium on public housing evictions and an increase in the income ceiling to three thousand dollars.
During 1943 the UTL, spearheaded by the Queensbridge contingent skillfully reached beyond the Housing Authority to sympathetic liberals in Washington. It managed to arrange a joint meeting at New York's Town Hall with the prestigious National Public Housing Conference, which called attention to the plight of excess-income tenants. In the wake of a war production crisis in Long Island City aircraft plants, the UTL warned the U.S. War Manpower Commission that Housing Authority income ceilings were keeping two thousand skilled Queensbridge women off the labor market and provoked nervous Washington inquiries about whether the Housing Authority was "impeding" the war effort. The UTL's persistence, backed by a barrage of telegrams from Queensbridge, Fort Greene, and Williamsburg, forced the Housing Authority to raise the maximum in June 1943 to three thousand dollars with an added rent surcharge. At Queensbridge this qualification touched off stormy protests, which the QTL barely contained. When hotheads threatened to withhold rent, the Queensbridge manager marveled at how the QTL leader "sat on them saying this is no time for rent strikes." This "popular feeling," the manager reported, "was only checked and controlled by the experienced members of the QTL who proposed that we first work out an organized system of collective bargaining for the adjustment." Having wrung a satisfactory modus vivendi from the Housing Authority, the project leagues maintained a genial advisory posture for the duration.
The concentration of the tenant movement in the public projects, along with the Communist Left's emphasis on wartime unity, shaped the UTL's complacence toward the 1943 issue of urban redevelopment. Within weeks after the state legislature passed the Mitchell-Hampton Redevelopment Companies Law in spring 1943, the La Guardia administration and the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company unveiled plans for Stuyvesant Town, a middle-income project that would sprawl across the Lower East Side -- and displace some thirty-eight hundred site families. Liberals who questioned the project's massive, bull-dozer character were outraged when Metropolitan Life divulged its intent to limit occupancy to whites. At Board of Estimate hearings, liberals from the City-Wide Citizens Committee on Harlem, the United Neighborhood Houses, and the Citizens Housing Council bitterly attacked this "walled," "Jim Crow" city. Radical response, however, was generally muted. Only the United Tenants League and Queensbridge Tenants League sent denunciations. Communist councilman Peter V. Cacchione voiced perfunctory skepticism, while the American Labor party speaker simply urged "some provision" for site tenants.
Shocked site tenants already had a voice -- a UTL affiliate, the Stuyvesant Tenants League, which rallied the protests of local civic groups and churches. But Stuyvesant Tenants remained good neighborhood liberals, who, more than anything else, resented the insurance giant and expected fair play from the powers-that-be. They were quickly mollified by the Community Service Society's sympathetic study of their rehousing needs and, more decisively, by Metropolitan Life's "efficient" field services that were handled by the Tenant Relocating Bureau, Inc., organized by liberal realtor James Felt. The Community Service Society had to admire Tenant Relocating's professional solicitude, but applauded the special consideration that the Housing Authority gave evictees, including referrals to the Fort Greene Houses. Any lingering opposition was further undercut by cool heads on the UTL, who urged cooperation with Metropolitan Life for a painless relocation. Above all, Stuyvesant Tenants was advised not to break with the La Guardia administration. Without vehement opponents on the site, liberals' arguments against irresponsible corporate redevelopment faded.
In 1943 redevelopers, also setting their eyes on Harlem, conjured up plans that proved an effective solvent of tenant league resistance. In the weeks following the August 1 Harlem riot, James Felt hurriedly completed his idea for a nonprofit corporation to operate Harlem tenements with a paternalism modeled after England's Octavia Hill Association. Economies in the management of adjoining buildings, he argued, would cut maintenance costs without sacrificing operating standards. An interracial board of trustees would oversee an all-black staff of rent collectors and social workers. Felt solicited the interest of Donelan J. Phillips and Vernal J. Williams of Harlem's Consolidated Tenants League, who believed they were being offered a part in the management. But Felt had no such plans; he conceived it all along as an Urban League operation recruited from Harlem's social work establishment. But a far more serious intrusion on Harlem's tenant consciousness was Metropolitan Life's Riverton at 135th Street and Fifth Avenue, an "interracial" development that the insurance giant hoped would make amends for Stuyvesant Town. Affronted by the company's arrogance, Donelan Phillips nevertheless had to disagree with white liberals and welcome Riverton's much-needed 1,232 middle-income units. Trying to save lace, he boasted that his Consolidated Tenants League could steer the Metropolitan's housing direction. "Negroes have their own insurance policies," he said, "and can make demands" on the company. He was sadly mistaken. The league's strength had been its traditional services -- its opening of Jim Crow apartments, its rent bargaining, and its pressure against arbitrary landlords. All this would be rendered obsolete by Riverton's fixed rent schedule, its institutionalized waiting list, and its glib interracialism.
These corporate blueprints, filled with portents for the city's future, got only an uncritical glance from the United Tenants League, more concerned with progress of the People's War. UTL president Grace Aviles refused to join the liberals in their rebuke of Metropolitan Life's cynical gesture at Riverton. More important, amid the Stuyvesant Town debate, the UTL quietly dropped its traditional objections to private-sector redevelopment. The May 1944 UTL convention called federally aided redevelopment "essential to meet our postwar needs" and added that "we cannot justifiably oppose federal aid to urban redevelopment just because that aid is going to private industry." Within days after eviction rumors raced through East 14th Street, the UTL convention resolved that the New York City Housing Authority should finish its Jacob Riis and Lillian Wald projects to absorb refugees from the Stuyvesant Town site. With explicit praise for the Mitchell-Hampton Law, the United Tenants League statement reiterated, "As part of the overall housing program, encouragement should be given to private capital to invest in the field." "If private real estate owners and builders ignore this market, or fail to meet its demands, public housing can and must do the job." But, as the Daily Worker added in its coverage of the 1944 tenant convention, the UTL "is of the mind that private capital will be prepared for the challenge."
In the meantime, OPA rent regulation severely weakened many UTL affiliates that had made rent bargaining in the courts the heart of their community appeal. At first, the OPA's operations in Harlem proved a boon for the Consolidated Tenants League, which tried to acquaint Harlem with the new argot of "prevailing" rents, "comparable" services, and landlords' "hardship" increases. Becoming the OPA's self-appointed mediator and propagandist, the league never handled so many cases or enrolled so many new "units" -- twelve in December 1943, and twenty-one in January 1944, each with eight to ten tenants. But Harlemites quickly swamped the OPA's 135th Street office with desperate pleas about rents, hot water, painting, and repairs. The OPA soon became a one-stop housing office, whose volume business undercut most other voluntary efforts. The narrow grounds for OPA certificates of eviction reduced fears of landlords' thirty-day notices and much of the work of the magistrate's courts. Harlem was deluged with OPA leaflets: WHEN IN DOUBT ASK THE RENT DIRECTOR, was the message that the Consolidated, along with other groups, feverishly distributed.
In white, lower-middle-class neighborhoods, the UTL's dwindling affiliates had little choice but to throw in their lot with the growing consumer movement. The OPA, declaring war on price gougers, had enrolled middle-class volunteers from the League of Women Voters, the League of Women Shoppers, and other groups mobilized by the civilian defense effort. As rents steadied compared to the jump in market-basket prices, tenant leaders quickly shifted allegiance to these neighborhood vigilantes. The Mid-Queens Consumer Council, in fact, was behind the most important rent protest of 1943, a mobilization of 250 tenants in Rego Park-Forest Hills against rent increases and evictions, climaxed by a housewives' invasion of the OPA's Long Island City office. The trend in consumer advocacy was furthered by the vogue in "nonpartisan" wartime conferences during the winter of 1943-1944. In Brooklyn, the Non-Partisan Conference on Legislation in Wartime, the Brownsville Neighborhood Council, and the Conference of Brooklyn Consumers Councils brought civic groups, consumer councils, and women's clubs into the united front against war profiteers. Meeting at local hotels or neighborhood YMHAs, conferees generally agreed on liberal civic goals, mentioned fair housing and improved health services in the same breath as the Atlantic Charter, and resolved to struggle for community betterment while winning the People's War.
In this atmosphere, the independent tenant voice of the 1930s withered away. Many tenant veterans had been drafted or volunteered for war service, their places taken by women activists who readily joined the consumers' home front. At Knickerbocker Village, Queensbridge, Williamsburg, and Fort Greene, the preoccupation was the output of nearby war plants, insofar as it could be inspired by civic festivals staged by the projects. Left with a few satisfied, inactive tenant councils in the public projects and some old letterhead affiliations, the United Tenants League disappeared sometime during 1945.
Postwar housing controversies soon stirred the consumers-and-tenants out of their wartime complacence. Within a year after V-E Day, tenant councils became one of the most raucous elements of the city's Left. Their often brazen tactics drew attention from the fact that, at the behest of their neighbors, they pursued an eminently conservative goal -- the retention of OPA controls and what that meant for community stability. But given the country's revulsion against wartime restrictions, and against the OPA in particular, this course proved a long, dogged retreat. Tenant groups sided with President Harry S. Truman in his 1946 showdown with congressional Republicans over OPA extension, demanded Governor Thomas E. Dewey provide standby state controls if federal authority lapsed (which it did, for twenty-five days after June 30, 1946, when Truman vetoed an unacceptable OPA bill), lobbied in 1947 against attempts by the Republican-controlled Eightieth Congress to water down OPA, and later tried to influence the new federal Office of the Housing Expeditor (OHE), OHE rent control offices, and OHE citizens boards that advised on the pace of local decontrol. At best, they were able to delay, or occasionally confuse, but never halt the inexorable postwar pressures to restore free market rents and incentives for housing.
These were the stakes for tenants when President Truman drew the political battle lines during summer 1946, and the city's consumer and tenant councils staged vivid media events to dramatize fears for OPA. The Bronx Consumer Coordinating Council organized a June Buyer's Strike against clothing, appliance, and furniture stores that became the focal points for neighborhood Save OPA rallies. On July 26 the New York Consumers Council and its Brooklyn and Queens affiliates held a Buy Nothing Day aimed at the large chain stores, the "milk trust," and the black market in meat. Prominent stores, such as Macy's Parkchester, Hearn's, and Sachs, announced their scrupulous adherence to voluntary price limits, while local consumer and tenant councils had even greater success intimidating smaller shopkeepers in radical strongholds, like the Allerton Avenue section of the Bronx. The Brooklyn Borough Hall section of the American Labor party mobilized housewives for baby carriage parades, while the Brownsville Consumer and Tenant Council, formed that June, won neighborhood favor with a two-week strike and noisy pickets at butcher shops and clothing stores on Pitkin Avenue. Local consumer and tenant groups seemed the only protection for community standards against the cynical maneuvers in Washington.
These were just the opening skirmishes, however, of the bitter campaign during spring 1947 to influence the housing policies of the Eightieth Congress, whose new Republican leaders were intent on scrapping rent and price controls. Amid post-election fears, American Labor party radicals and consumer and tenant leaders organized the Emergency Committee on Rent and Housing (ECRH) to mobilize scores of local unions, consumer and tenant leagues, and ALP storefronts. The ECRH sent a powerful lobby to Capitol Hill, but could not prevent passage of the Housing and Rent Act of 1947. While the law extended OPA defense-rental ceilings (to be administered by regional rent offices within the newly created Office of the Housing Expeditor), it also allowed 15 percent increases on apartment "turnovers" and on varied categories of "improvements"; removed rent ceilings on new multiple dwellings as well as on apartment hotels; and on July 1 ended the required OPA certificates of eviction. Back in New York, these provisions touched off citywide fears of evictions and "pandemonium" in Manhattan's residential hotels. A stunned Mayor William O'Dwyer embraced the city council's rent laws, which froze residential hotel rents and set up a City Rent Commission to adjust "hardship" inequities and ration sharply the number of approved evictions. But the ultimate mobilizer of tenant fury were the loopholes of the 1947 federal law, which permitted landlords to negotiate 15 percent "voluntary" rent increases with tenants and to petition the OHE rent control office for rent increases based upon "hardship." Landlords took advantage of these loopholes en masse: from July to December 1947 the New York rent office approved over 250,000 leases containing "voluntary" 15 percent increases.
Throughout the city, tenants flocked to local consumer and tenant councils for help against the "hardship" scourge. Brooklyn saw the overnight growth of eighteen tenant and consumer councils (one each in Coney Island, Brighton Beach, Sheepshead Bay, several in Flatbush, and others scattered throughout the borough). Most had been quickly improvised by nearby ALP and Communist clubhouses. Probably, the center of this activity lay in predominantly Jewish Brownsville, along Powell Street and Blake and Pitkin avenues, neighborhoods also in the shadow of new public housing projects. Here the Brownsville Tenants Council mushroomed to more than four hundred members, met every Wednesday at local ALP headquarters, and conducted an ongoing rent clinic and complaint night against building violations. Not far away, the Stuyvesant Tenants Council claimed a membership of five hundred families, a potent force in stopping evictions and "keeping the rent control front firm." Amid all the confusion about the new federal rent law, the ALP's rent clinics were a comforting presence in many localities.
Information about these Brooklyn groups, including the banner units proudly described in the Daily Worker, reveals an inadvertent conservatism that prevailed, whatever may have been the aims of their leaders. One of the most active, the Ocean Front Tenants League, founded in 1945, was described by a Worker reporter in 1948 as "an established part of community life in Brighton Beach." It claimed some seventeen hundred members (out of fifty thousand area residents), with a summer intake of twenty-five tenant cases on each of three nights per week at its Neptune Avenue office. While the Ocean Front League placed a premium on grass roots organization, it really depended upon walk-in clients, predominantly elderly Jews who feared landlord demands for "hardship" increases. During mid-1948, however, tenant counciling gave way to the all-out effort for Henry Wallace, the Progressive party's presidential candidate, and for Lee Pressman, running on the Progressive ticket for Congress. The Boro Park Tenants and Consumers Council was another spring 1946 upstart in the OPA struggle By 1948, leaders boasted six hundred members in the Orthodox Jewish and ALP heartland of the Sixteenth Assembly District, an area of two-, four-, and six-family houses on quiet residential side streets. "The Council is known in the neighborhood," summed up a laudatory Daily Worker article, "for aiding evicted families, for sending delegates to Washington on price and rent lobbies, and for collecting thousands of signatures for worthy causes." But its weekly sessions at the local YMHA were dominated by routine housing complaints as well as responses to landlord demands for 15 percent increases. Despite its radical claims, the Boro Park Council was an expeditor of tenant complaints to the rent control office, a fairly effective goad of landlords to provide heat, to paint, to make repairs, and to provide other services. While leaders saw the need for grass roots mobilization, and even proposed setting up "block groups which will work on the problems on each given block, the idea was never carried out. In any case, like the Ocean Front, the Boro Park Council soon turned its attention to canvasing the larger apartment dwellings for Henry Wallace.
Manhattan's consumer and tenant councils also rode the "hardship" tide and were equally dependent on ALP activists who mastered the rent control game. On the Upper East Side, the Yorkville Tenants League operating out of the local ALP clubhouse, cultivated a legal service that claimed to have handled hundreds of eviction cases in the magistrate's courts and rent reduction applications with the housing expeditor. Further north, Congressman Vito Marcantonio's East Harlem club illustrated the full-service ALP at the height of its power. His office staff took on the whole array of neighborhood housing problems -- not only "hardship" increases, but evictions and complaints about heat or hot water, garbage, and repairs. When tenants approached his ALP headquarters, the staff sought the individual tenants' names, sent out a form letter, and arranged a meeting at the ALP clubhouse. Marcantonio's eager, young aides gave a pep talk, handed out pamphlets, such as "Tenant Rights Concerning Painting, Repairs, Rent and Hot Water, and Rent Increases" (written by an assistant), and the indispensable temperature charts. When necessary, the staff arranged for power of attorney to deal with the housing expeditor. Always, the meticulous follow-up included personal letters from "Marc" and a friendly huddle at ALP headquarters. Understandably, landlords charged that the congressman had "trumped up petty complaints" for his radical cause, but the painstaking tenant work seemed more like the traditional Tammany ministry to the poor Hispanics on East 100th Street pledged to him in early 1949, "You have votes in the building where we live, we fite for you when Election comes. You can ask to your peoples if they come here to take sign for anything you need in the political." But Marcantonio's success at moving grievances from tenement stairwells to the ALP clubhouse and then to the housing expeditor also inhibited the formation of independent tenant groups in East Harlem, except as they existed as names on his mailing lists.
By all accounts, however, the Bronx was the tenant movement's spearhead. No other borough combined so many key ingredients: a tradition of neighborhood Jewish radicalism, local working-class institutions (ALP clubs along with the lodges of Michael Quill's Transport Workers Union), plus a special rancor in landlord-tenant relations going back to the early 1930s. The Bronx also began with a strong consumer-and-tenant cadre, thanks to Helen Harris, a junior high school teacher who had guided a wartime consumer group into the Bronx Emergency Council to Save Rent Control. During the 1947 struggle against the "hardship" challenge, the Bronx Emergency Council boasted forty-five thousand members in thirty-three "autonomous" neighborhood branches and a storefront headquarters with eight full-time organizers and an attorney. Local councils charged a dollar initiation fee and three dollars annual dues, which went for legal expenses and mass distribution of leaflets, such as the "Tenants Bill of Rights." Among the most active were the Archer Avenue Consumer Committee and the Morrisania Consumer Coordinating Committee, which organized housewives in Fleetwood, the Grand Concourse, and Yankee Stadium areas, the Highbridge Consumers Council, and the tenant councils on Burnside Avenue, Gunhill Road, and Claremont, all areas of solid six-story, lower-middle-class buildings.
Behind many of these neighborhood leagues lay spontaneous outbreaks among tenants who had worried for months about their rights under the new federal rent law, then panicked with a sudden notice of eviction or blew up at a landlord's pompous message that his 15 percent increase would provide more security of tenure. The Bronx Home News reported numerous "spontaneous meetings" where "tenants banded together in many large apartment houses and defied threats by landlords to 'pay up or get out."' It did not take long for some tenant, either on his own or at the prompting of an outsider, to suggest that they take their landlord's "coercive" letter to the local rent office or the Bronx Emergency Council. A typical uprising saw one hundred tenants, mostly housewives, from 2100-2120 Wallace Avenue, jam the local OPA office to protest an abrupt notice of hardship increases. Actually, as one husband noted, "This thing's been smouldering for several years now." At 2100 Wallace the landlord had gradually cut concessions and skimped on heat, while next door he had the nerve to tell the mothers to keep their noisy kids out of the courtyards. "It was one grievance after another. But when we got those sudden notices from the OPA, we boiled over." Rent officials rushed to the trouble spot, making sure that local newspapers reported their rapid response. Bronx rent director Albert J. Haas, a political fixer one step ahead of the firestorm, quickly notified tenants that he would reopen the case and weigh their arguments. But just as rapidly on the scene were representatives of the Pelham Parkway Consumers Council. A few days later the ALP announced that negotiations with the landlord on Wallace Avenue were just one of several being handled by ALP volunteer attorneys.
Fears of evictions and hardship increases made the Bronx a political battleground, where Democrats, the ALP, and upstart Liberals contended for the allegiance of Jewish tenants, that crucial swing vote in the borough's multiple dwellings. At the outset, the ALP stole a march on the rent issue. In late 1946, the Parkchester ALP haunted subway exits with leaflets charging the Republicans with betraying tenants and put the incumbent GOP assemblyman on the defensive. Then, with a battery of volunteer attorneys, the Bronx County ALP inaugurated free legal services. The party kept up the pressure during the fall 1947 municipal elections, when ALP workers, canvasing apartment houses, distributed over one hundred thousand informational folders on tenant rights. But Bronx Democrats were not to be outdone. As part of its decisive break with the ALP and bitter campaign to defeat proportional representation, the county party threw open fourteen clubhouses to acquaint tenants with their rights. Bronx boss Ed Flynn personally marshaled the volunteer attorneys for clubhouse service. Competing Liberals responded with open-air, rent control rallies. By October they had also turned their clubhouses into legal centers, one at their Bronx headquarters at 2707 Wallace Avenue, another on Southern Boulevard, and the third astride the contested ground on East Tremont Avenue.
All these activities were a prelude to the all-out war in 1948 for the hearts and minds of Bronx tenants. On the eve of the Progressive party's presidential campaign for Henry Wallace, the New York World Telegram headlined that seven tenant and consumer councils, including those in Hunt's Point, Williamsbridge, the Stadium, Tremont, and the Concourse, were headquartered in local ALP storefronts placarded for Wallace. It reported widespread complaints against the radicals' high-pressure recruiting, which engendered feelings that "when a council representative moves in to organize an apartment house, [residents] have nowhere to turn." Their tactics touched off counterattacks by local Democrats and Liberals, some of them affiliated with the new, avowedly anti-Communist, Americans for Democratic Action. Liberals stepped up their Bronx rent struggle, leafleting, holding thirty outdoor rallies, and assembling a phalanx of volunteer lawyers at county and district headquarters. "We have been flooded with 'phone cells,' with individuals calling in person, and with delegations seeking such assistance," said Liberal party director Ben Davidson. Attacking the notion that the Communists were the only activists in the struggle against landlord claims, the Liberals' Rent Control Committee reported that federal officials granted rent increases "roughly the same as that awarded in the case of tenants 'protected' by the [ALP] councils. Yet, in relation to the legal work they provide, the councils charge exorbitant fees."
Among the Democrats, the Bronx Emergency Council, and their Liberal rivals, tenants could pick and choose their legal response to landlord "hardships" -- a thicket of redress that often constrained landlords, particularly small owners, who had trouble with the OPA forms and could not afford attorneys. Federal rent enforcers preferred to pursue cases against large realtors, particularly in projects where articulate tenants supplied compelling affidavits and where the rulings might have greater impact as class actions. But small operators often fell prey to strong tenant councils ready to pounce on "hardship" requests. One landlord blamed delays in his petition for a rent increase on "the tenants' committee, having access to all our books of accounts, through the [federal] Office of Rent Control have questioned every insignificant item of expenditure and income." Small owners in areas like Tremont faced formidable tenant leagues, armed with leaflet campaigns and weekly rent clinics. In February 1948 Bronx rent director Albert Haas admitted that borough tenants had generated some twenty-nine thousand complaints against landlord initiatives, 50 percent more than in Brooklyn, despite the latter's greater population. Bronx tenants had, in fact, held their landlords to one of the lowest percentages of "hardship" increases in the nation. During March 1948 the rate of approved applications ran 32 percent, compared to 45 percent citywide and a national average of 61 percent.
While postwar tenants wielded political clout in the rent offices and in city hall, that power rested on limited and shifting foundations. Despite widespread anxieties about OPA controls, tenant activism had remained a phenomenon of working- and middle-class Jewish neighborhoods. The Bronx bastions were those sections that the tenant and consumer councils had closed down on their Buy Nothing Days in July 1946: Tremont Avenue, 174th Street, Southern Boulevard and Prospect Avenue, the Allerton Avenue area, and 167th and 169th streets east of Grand Concourse. No extensive outbreaks occurred in the growing black ghetto in Morrisania or in the Puerto Rican barrio emerging in Mott Haven and Melrose. In Harlem the level of tenant protest appeared to have declined since the seasons of agitation led by Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., and the National Negro Congress in 1942. Brooklyn told much the same story. Few signs of organized protest appeared in the emerging black ghetto in Brownsville and Bedford-Stuyvesant compared to the anger against arbitrary rent increases and apartments withheld from the rental market in white, lower-middle-class neighborhoods on their periphery.
What passed for a tenant "movement" also depended to a great degree on the organizational finesse and shifting priorities of neighborhood radicals. Just as Communist united-front goals appeared to have dictated the 1942 dissolution of aggressive tenant councils, so evidence points to a reverse strategy behind the blossoming of the tenant and consumer councils during 1946. Certainly, ALP and Communist clubs gave coherence to the sometimes formless anger in the neighborhoods. But the rage of the depression was gone. Baby carriage parades and Buy Nothing Days were the acts of exasperated consumers quite satisfied to hang on to their lower-middle-class standards, if only the politicians would have let them. A half decade of OPA bureaucracy had also taken the bite out of many local tenant groups. They had lost whatever gumption they once had to physically challenge landlords and the police; it seemed pointless in any case. Processing rent forms was more effective and far more respectable among middle-class radicals still cultivating the united-front sensibilities of liberal Democrats. The danger, of course, remained that with this growing efficiency at forwarding rent-reduction forms to borough offices, radical tenant councils would become just another voluntary social welfare agency, like the settlement house, the institutional church, or the political clubhouse -- effective at helping individuals in distress but without the power to stir collective action for basic social change.
With the end of the "hardship" crisis and the establishment of complaint routines at the housing expeditor, tenant council strength eroded rapidly. At the City-Wide Tenants Council's old bastions -- the limited dividends and public housing projects -- tenant consciousness encountered the ironic perils of upward mobility. In Long Island City's Sunnyside Gardens, affluent renters had to decide whether to buck the Gardens Tenant Association and purchase the townhouses being converted by a speculator. Despite great acrimony, the private sales went on. At Knickerbocker Village and Hillside Gardens in the Bronx, rising incomes had forced many occupants beyond the income-eligibility limits that the state established years before for these limited-dividend projects. Management seized the opportunity in 1947 to get rid of affluent -- and troublesome -- dissenters and put the old tenant councils on the defensive. As in 1934, the Knickerbocker Village Tenants Association tried to enlist the sympathies of city housing reformers, but this time the middle-class leadership at Knickerbocker Village could not convince liberal Democrats that the state should continue to subsidize the patently nonpoor.
At the same time, a greater challenge faced the toughest tenant cadre in the city -- the project councils of the New York City Housing Authority. During the winter of 1946-1947, the Housing Authority began what it called an "intensive drive to clear the projects of ineligible tenants" whose incomes had risen over the ceiling set in 1943. The Queensbridge Tenants League abruptly renewed its adversary role as spearhead of a new Inter-Project Tenants Council, comprised of tenant leaders from Queensbridge, Red Hook, Fort Greene, and Williamsburg. With leaflets and placards that warned, IF YOUR FAMILY INCOME IS $2355 A YEAR OR OVER YOUR TURN IS COMING!" the Inter-Project mobilized tenants and maneuvered to stave off evictions. When the Housing Authority finally claimed that federal dictates had tied its hands and would force the removal of three thousand affected tenants, the Queensbridge Tenants League wondered where these families could go: "These prospective evictees are occupying low-income houses through no fault of their own -- but rather due to the critical housing situation. Limited dividend apartments are not only insufficient to meet the demand, but are also out of reach for many people whose incomes are just over the amount permitted in low-income housing. Homes are offered for sale at exorbitant prices -- their quality is notoriously inferior. No one likes to make a bad investment." Management replied by emphasizing its first responsibility to the "many thousands" of low-income families on Housing Authority waiting lists, then divulged to the newspapers that 2,953 families in ten projects earned more than the $3,000 ceiling.
The project leagues continued to present plausible alternatives, such as exempting the wages of secondary earners, veterans benefits, and disability pensions; but they were steadily losing moral influence in a city impatient to move ahead with expensive public improvements. At Queensbridge, Red Hook, Fort Greene, and Williamsburg, managers curtailed the leagues' use of community rooms, particularly for Wallace presidential rallies in 1948. Meanwhile, the Housing Authority, documenting its case against excess tenant income, counted 438 such families at Red Hook, 514 at Williamsburg, and 736 at Queensbridge, the centers of white, radical protest. In early 1949 a "program of mass evictions" got underway. Ninety-day vacate notices were sent to excess-income families, with suggestions that they consider rental or purchase of middle-income shelter in new developments, such as Fresh Meadows or Hollis Gardens in Queens. The Inter-Project Council demanded that Mayor William O'Dwyer declare a housing emergency and an immediate halt to evictions. But the council implicitly undermined its working-class rhetoric by pursuit of a transfer policy that would have given these tenants priority on the waiting lists of the Housing Authority's middle-income garden apartments or of Stuyvesant Town, Jim Crow and all. While public housing radicals later blamed their dwindling forces on the Truman administration's witch hunts in the projects, the radicals were clearly losing ground to the affluence that had lifted many tenant supporters out of public housing well before their ranks were purged. In reality, the Queensbridge Tenants League had become a mere letterhead years before its name was added to the attorney general's "list" of "subversive" organizations.
Postwar prosperity and middle-income housing developments undermined the tenant's movement everywhere. As working-class and lower-middle-class Jews experienced upward mobility, tenant agitation switched from the Lower East Side, Chelsea, Morrisania, and Brownsville to the Upper West Side and Yorkville, the Grand Concourse-Tremont neighborhoods in the central Bronx, and Rego Park in middle Queens, where it expired in an alien environment of quasi-suburban garden apartments, whose families withdrew to the pre-occupations of child rearing. These were difficult places to stir tenant consciousness, let alone organize a tenant union.
The movement never balanced this lost strength on the Lower East Side, Yorkville, and Chelsea with new recruits from black and Hispanic Harlem or the emerging ghettoes of Brownsville, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Morrisania. A few organizational forays into the black community were the work of the ALP and Communists, although they left the South Bronx and Bedford-Stuyvesant untouched until the all-out political canvas in 1948. Whenever they tried, however, they ran up against strong counter/rends, especially the enormous safety valve on tenant discontent provided by public housing. In East Harlem, for instance, Congressman Marcantonio's office expedited the applications for Housing Authority apartments for some nine hundred constituents in the last half of 1949, and nearly three thousand more during 1950. At the same time, the postwar fair-housing movement deflated the tenant councils' appear to Harlem's middle class. Thanks to the Brown-Sharkey-Isaacs antidiscrimination law and activists on the New York State Committee on Discrimination, blacks once limited to the segregated Paul Lawrence Dunbar or Riverton Houses could consider "interracial" housing on the edge of Harlem and in the "open" suburbs beyond. Before the war, Walter White and Roy Wilkins of the NAACP helped organize their Colonial Park Apartments, while Communist city councilman Benjamin H. Davis boasted that he had made his residence a unit of the Consolidated Tenants League. In 1950 one of the fifteen blacks admitted to Long Island City's Queensview Co-ops was NAACP leader Henry Lee Moon, whose The Negro Balance of Power described the concentration of the black vote in key northern ghettoes. Councilman Davis was unseated in a watershed postwar election by black Democrat Earl Brown, who later moved into Morningside Gardens, another interracial co-op.
Despite the narrow neighborhood base and the loss of rent bargaining to federal bureaus -- or perhaps because of these trends -- the organized remnant poured its remaining energies into rent control politics. This amounted to a series of adroit publicity events designed to preempt liberal efforts to determine the contours of federal decontrol. Tenant radicals were remarkably successful in derailing plans for gradual decontrol and in placing their own demands for rent protection on the public agenda. But their tactics remained limited, defensive ploys that failed to wrest authority over rent control away from the housing reformers, liberal realtors, and their academic allies, who formed the coalition favoring the gradual, but determined, restoration of market rents.
Radicals hinged their campaign on the Housing and Rent Act of 1947, which authorized governors to suggest nominees for the Rent Control Advisory Boards that would propose the scope and pace of local decontrol to the housing expeditor. When Governor Thomas E. Dewey suggested Democrat Joseph B. McGoldrick to head the New York City board, composed of Republicans prominent in real estate and civic endeavors, the Emergency Committee on Rent and Housing (ECRH), the ALP, Progressive Citizens of America, United Harlem Tenants League, National Lawyers Guild, and Greater New York CIO Council all howled against Dewey's failure to name tenants or workers. Such denunciations forced the McGoldrick board, which favored deliberate, phased decontrol, not to urge the outright dismantling of federal rent protection in the New York area. With the ECRH and some 140 other tenant and building councils on constant watch, the state legislature, prodded by the governor and Mayor O'Dwyer, overwhelmingly validated the city council's eviction controls. Throughout early 1948, the ECRH badgered the McGoldrick board to clear its backlog of tenant complaints and lobbied with the housing expeditor for assurances that local rent boards would seat tenant representatives. Even during the disastrous Wallace presidential campaign, the New York Tenant Councils, the ALP's vehicle to enroll apartment dwellers for Wallace, peppered O'Dwyer and Dewey with demands for two-year, statewide controls, a rollback of all rents to 1947, and a procedural thicket against further "hardship" increases.
Governor Dewey somehow managed to placate these demands, while acceding to the fierce realtors' lobby. In late 1949, with the New York Tenant Councils calling for standby state protection and liberal voices like Charles Abrams, the Regional Plan Association, and the United Neighborhood Houses urging a statewide takeover, Governor Dewey convened a legislative fact-finding commission to investigate the role of controls during the housing emergency. Tenant radicals, poised for downstate hearings and city hall vigils, presented witnesses who vented the popular distrust of the housing expeditor and the preference for staunch local authority. The New York Tenant Councils demanded a city administrative commission with bona fide tenant representation, procedures for tenant rebuttal evidence, and a flat prohibition against rent increases in buildings with Multiple Dwellings Law violations. Political realities and GOP patronage needs, however, made a statewide board inevitable. Governor Dewey's bill established a state rent commission and favored landlords with a generous March 1, 1950, freeze date and rent comparability formulas, but balanced this with a six-month moratorium on rent increases to enable McGoldrick, the new state rent administrator, to conduct a scientific study of the rental market. Having finessed this solution to spiraling rents, Governor Dewey expected an easy reelection.
In a series of maneuvers, tenant radicals still attempted to dominate the rent issue. They initiated lawsuits (cosponsored by the New York Tenant Councils and former congressman Leo Isaacson) to uphold the city's eviction laws. Paul L. Ross, chairman of the New York Tenant Councils and the Committee to End Discrimination in Stuyvesant Town, entered the 1950 mayoral race as the rent payer's champion, running a left wing populist campaign against Mayor O'Dwyer's flagrant machine politics and Robert Moses's alleged deals with real estate cronies. The ALP stalked McGoldrick board hearings around the state, with dire warnings of sellouts to landlords, and managed to turn one Manhattan hearing into a marathon of invective. While McGoldrick denounced attempts "by disruptive elements to inflame the public," he had no choice but to emphasize that any rent increases would affect only a small number of "hardship" cases. Nevertheless, as the city's foremost student of scientific property earnings, McGoldrick sent recommendations to the legislature that pegged rent increases to a fixed return on capital investment. He also favored negotiated, voluntary 15 percent rent increases and wider grounds for eviction, particularly for landlords planning to subdivide apartments. The Dewey-McGoldrick package -- the state commission, fixed-return formula, and voluntary 15 percent increases -- became the new staple of state controls.
While controversy embroiled different aspects of state rent control, the Dewey-McGoldrick system proved durable over the next decade. During the debates over revision in spring 1953, housing liberals on the influential Citizens Housing and Planning Council were disturbed by McGoldrick's inadequate 4 percent return on assessed values. They favored a 15 percent rent "catch-up" for tenants who had not paid any increase since 1947, while the Metropolitan Fair Rent Committee argued for an across-the-board 20 percent. The legislature's Temporary State Commission to Study Rents favored renewal with an increased net-return formula, vacancy decontrol, and an exemption on luxury apartments. Although tenant radicals railed against this "open capitulation to landlords," Governor Dewey signed the two-year extension, which granted a 15 percent "equalization" adjustment and increased the net annual return for "hardships" from 4 to 6 percent. Subsequent Democratic leaders ventured no major changes on Dewey's handiwork. Robert F. Wagner, Jr., the Manhattan Democrat who success fully campaigned for mayor in 1953 by attacking Dewey's "rent gouging," was shrewd enough not to take over the rent program when the Democratic legislature offered the city a local-control option. When liberal Democrat W. Averell Harriman succeeded Dewey as governor in 1955, he appointed Charles Abrams as state rent administrator, a move popular with tenant groups from the Village, the Lower East Side, and Yorkville. But it was Abrams who directed the state's series of market-rent studies that eventually provided the rationale for the systematic lifting of selected controls.
During this heyday of liberal Democratic rent control, the old American Labor party neighborhood clubs, where they survived at all, perfected their tenant work amid competition from nearby settlements and Reform Democratic clubs. Tenant radicals had slipped into conservative, safe rent advisement not much different from social casework. Whether in Chelsea or Yorkville, ALP storefronts and their subsidiary councils were practicing rent advisement and the expediting of individual rent claims with federal and state offices, thus becoming veritable extension agents of the rent control system. Rarely did the councils venture outside the system -- and withhold rent. As a mild sort of intimidation connected with rent-decrease petitions pending at the state rent office, Esther Rand's East Side Tenants Union occasionally encouraged tenants to hand their rent checks collectively to a tenant council officer. Not a single instance of rent withholding appears in all the extensive tenant work performed by Marcantonio's ALP clubhouse; nor is there evidence that ALP clubs in Chelsea or Yorkville departed in any significant way from this caution. Tenant radicals had ended up as deputies of the liberal status quo. Desperate to distinguish their services, they had little choice but to shuffle rent-reduction forms faster than the Reform Democrats were doing down the block.
Title I: Challenge and response, 1949 - 1963
As the American Labor party clubs settled into routine neighborhood service, they soon found that they could not isolate rent counciling from the demolition that was becoming the chief by-product of Title I redevelopment in New York City. The Title I program became synonymous with Robert Moses, his ruthless political-construction complex, the wanton destruction of neighborhoods, and the scattering of their residents. To a generation of critics, notably Robert A. Caro in his blistering biography of Moses, Title I was also synonymous with reckless power that went unchecked until a small band of urban liberals rallied the conscience of the city. Few observers (including Caro), however, fully appreciated the extent of neighborhood opposition or the spearhead for that opposition provided by radical tenant councils and ALP clubs. But they were ever present, with their eviction protests, their city hall vigils, and their legal challenges, thus shaping the climate of neighborhood resistance as well as the disillusionment with large-scale redevelopment, which forced liberals to their agonizing reappraisal. Out of the rubble of countless defeats, tenant radicals would emerge with a critical understanding of the interaction between neighborhoods and the greater city that would become a fundamental aspect of the liberalism of the 1960s. And they would fashion a tenant coalition that would thrust that new consciousness onto the councils of the city.
Tenant radicals failed at first to grasp the full implications of urban redevelopment or the vital necessity of maintaining good relations with housing liberals, the allies they would need in the struggles to follow. The misunderstanding began at Stuyvesant Town in 1943, when the United Tenants League's blanket endorsement of private-sector initiatives undercut what might have been a liberal-Left coalition to humanize the scale of Metropolitan Life's inner-city plans. The divergence widened as cold war suspicions poisoned relations between liberal Democrats and radicals, who seemed determined to politicize the OPA rent crisis for the Wallace presidential campaign. What were otherwise common grounds against redevelopment became further occasions for acrimony. In 1947, when tenant radicals belatedly tried to exploit the Jim Crow issue with their Tenants Committee Against Discrimination in Stuyvesant Town, liberals from the Citizens Housing Council, the American Jewish Committee, and the Ethical Culture Society responded with their own implicitly anti-Communist, open-housing lobby -- the New York State Committee on Discrimination in Housing. When liberals held a 1948 Conference on City Planning to challenge Moses's ideas for large-scale redevelopment, the tenant councils were noticeably absent. During the special mayoral election of 1950 ALP candidate Paul L. Ross snubbed Citizens Union queries about city planning, while two Republican property owners' candidates welcomed the notion of urban reconstruction limited by the vetoes of neighborhood planning boards. By then it was already too late to restore the splintered coalition.
This fateful division handed the initiative to Moses's redevelopment machine, a phalanx of experienced realtors and public contractors, many of them alumni of the New York City Housing Authority's largest clearance jobs and long reconciled to shoving thousands aside for housing progress. They found their instrument in the new law that Moses had helped draft, Title I of the Federal Housing Act of 1949. Title I authorized the U.S. Housing and Home Finance Administration to contribute two-thirds of the "write down" costs incurred by local redevelopment authorities to acquire and prepare "blighted" residential acreage for resale to private developers. It also contained formal safeguards for local, democratic decision making, such as public planning commission hearings to define blighted areas and city council votes to condemn property and to authorize the required, local one-third contribution. But it was generally acknowledged that Moses stood the system on its head. His Committee on Slum Clearance (CSC) secretly arranged with favored realtors to pick choice sites and cleared votes on the City Planning Commission and Board of Estimate before site residents could respond. The master of visionary blueprints, Moses drove his CSC staff to churn out a glossy agenda for the city's redevelopment: Corlears Hook, Harlem and North Harlem, Washington Square South, South Village, Williamsburg, Delancey Street, Manhattantown, Morningside-Manhattanville, and others, which would transform New York's cityscape and force at least one hundred thousand people from their homes by 1960.
While the CSC held the initiative in packaging and promoting projects, it was often forced to dicker with local opposition, play a game of divide and conquer, and wield as its trump card the promise (or threat) of public housing projects. In the complex shuffle among government agencies and civic groups, tenant groups usually played a peripheral, yet often influential, role, creating the tension that forced liberals to intervene. When the CSC unveiled its "Corlears Hook" Title I for the Lower East Side in 1950, the ALP and its Manhattan Tenants Council tried to organize the 878 site families, an effort joined by a few Socialists and the local Tammany congressman. But the project suffered no major delays, except for those involved in the removal of a few isolated Puerto Rican families and some small businesses along Grand Street. The CSC enjoyed much the same sway at "Godfrey-Nurse" and "North Harlem," Title I sites on the Harlem periphery. Both were praised in the black press, and none of the community's tenant groups challenged these efforts at redevelopment. CSC proposals for "Washington Square South" and "South Village," however, poked into a locale whose institutions ranged ideologically from St. Anthony's Roman Catholic parish to the Little Red School House. The intrusion on the Square roused a committee of old Moses foes, such as Charles Abrams and planner Robert C. Weinberg, and middle-class residents stirred by the area's brownstone heritage. A large, effective Village protest forced Moses to withdraw, but not before liberals conceded that some plan should be adopted "before local opposition crystallized to a point where no redevelopment in Greenwich Village could be accomplished." Some were ready to appease Moses with the "blight" to the south and east of West Broadway so that he might keep his hands off what they considered the real Village center.
"Manhattantown" (later renamed Park West) comprised six square blocks between 97th and 100th streets, Central Park West to Amsterdam Avenue, with five thousand families, which the CSC marked for clearance in 1951. ALP workers and their Manhattan Tenants Council, quickly arriving on the scene, helped tenants form an opposition group, gathered over a thousand protest signatures, and held demonstrations at city hall. In December 1951, local Protestant clergy and the editor of El Diario convened an emergency conference at the Grace Methodist Church on West 104th Street and denounced the dissolution of "one of the oldest Negro communities in New York outside of Harlem," a transparent strategy to force blacks and Puerto Ricans back across 110th Street. Few prominent liberals cried out against the proposal, while the controversy over relocation was defused when the state housing commissioner offered eighteen hundred public housing units for site families who cooperated. Nevertheless, the Manhattan Tenants Council, with Manhattantown protesters leading the way, rallied resisters in Harlem, North Harlem, and Manhattanville into a United Community to Save Our Homes, which brought suit against the Title I contracts in state supreme court. While fighting a losing cause, ALP radicals achieved two important breakthroughs. They had raised a rallying cry in Save Our Homes and had established the liaison that made possible citywide protests from scattered sites. In the process, their inflammatory, aggressive attacks had also unnerved liberals, who preferred urban redevelopment without incident.
How far liberals would go to suppress the contrary arguments presented by tenant radicals is revealed in the controversy surrounding the Title I project for Morningside Heights. The struggle against urban decay on this edge of Harlem dated back to 1947, when Columbia University and the Riverside Church founded Morningside Heights, Incorporated (MHI), a consortium of local churches, hospitals, and educational institutions to stimulate the upgrading of housing that would "stabilize" the area's "exposed fringes." Soon after enactment of Title I, David Rockefeller, chairman of the Riverside Church board of trustees, solicited Robert Moses's interest, particularly in potential superblocks north of 122d Street. Working closely with the CSC on redevelopment plans, MHI director Lawrence W. Orton organized a cadre of local redevelopment enthusiasts, the Morningside-Manhattanville Community Advisory Committee. With elaborate publicity, the CSC and MHI soon released plans for "Morningside," six high-rise middle-income, cooperative apartment buildings. As an afterthought, the CSC also announced it was trying to commit the Housing Authority to build sixteen hundred low-income units for "Manhattanville," the companion development straddling the Harlem boundary at 125th Street.
The developers, however, had not anticipated the anger of site residents nor the resourcefulness of local ALP radicals. Led by a site tenant Elizabeth Barker, ALP stalwarts organized a Save Our Homes committee operating out of an Amsterdam Avenue storefront. At preliminary Board of Estimate hearings, seventy residents warned lawmakers that "they would rather have no housing than housing not suited to their incomes." The head of the Community Advisory Committee, Father George F. Ford of Corpus Christi Church, also had to face his parishioners' resentment at being torn from everything familiar. Troubled by the unexpected hostility, particularly by the charge of "Negro removal," MHI considered reshaping the plan to attract the more amenable of the ALP radicals. MHI hoped to get a stronger Housing Authority commitment for the low-income Manhattanville component or perhaps a foundation to finance less expensive co-ops. Some suggested pursuing the inquiry from the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters to sponsor limited-dividend housing (north of 125th Street). Aware that they had to strengthen the promise of low-income housing to site residents, Father Ford, Orton, and Rockefeller conferred with Robert Moses about community "tensions." When Rockefeller suggested that the CSC emphasize its guarantee of adequate public housing, Moses petulantly questioned their own support for the project and warned that he would ask the Board of Estimate to defer consideration of the project at its November 15, 1951, meeting. In the meantime, the Committee to Save Our Homes collected five thousand signatures from site residents and rounded up several hundred persons for the Board of Estimate hearings. While the Housing Authority came through with $23,000,000 for "Manhattanville," with priority to families displaced from the Title I site, 250 protesters remained unmollified and boisterous. At the hearings, they sneered at the "luxury" co-ops that would force blacks back to "walled-in Harlem" and cried victory when the board laid the project over to spring 1952.
This delay provided both sides with time to regroup. MHI and the Community Advisory Committee hired social workers to organize a Manhattanville Civic Association, "a broadly-based cross-sectional organization for community improvement," open to "residents only." Nevertheless, Save Our Homes packed the association's first meeting, booed down a conciliatory resolution, and resolved "to see the high rent cooperative plan defeated." Furthermore, the Save Our Homes appeal to site residents increased over the winter, as tenants brooded over their uncertain future and landlords began to cut services in anticipation of imminent clearance. Save Our Homes well cultivated these concerns. It established a Tenant Information Service to advise on a wide range of rent control and Multiple Dwellings Law violations, while trying to maintain site residents' morale. For its part, MHI spent the winter lining up prestigious endorsements, including testimonials from the Liberal party, Negro Labor Committee, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, and the Morningside Cooperative Society. Even so, the opposition proved more effective than ever. For the April 1952 Board of Estimate hearings, Save Our Homes orchestrated pleas from residents, a committee of small-store owners, and another parish priest. Before Elizabeth Barker was thrown out of the hearing, she "shocked," boasted the Daily Worker, seasoned professionals with her detailed analysis that showed the feasibility of nine-dollar-per-room public housing for the Morningside site. MHI regarded further Board of Estimate action as inadvisable and agreed to a delay until the fall, in hopes that the opposition would melt away with the first chance to apply for the co-op apartments.
During spring and summer 1952, when much of Truman liberalism seemed under a cloud, anxieties among redevelopment liberals and Washington's impatience with Title I in New York reached a crisis. Both were crystallized to a great degree by the Save Our Homes furor. In March, liberals on the influential Citizens Housing and Planning Council (CHPC) warned Washington that Robert Moses's cavalier practices had risked "an unfavorable public reaction" against Title I, especially when "Communist dominated groups are piling misrepresentations and falsehoods on top of the weak relocation structure." When the Housing and Home Finance Administration dismissed these fears, the CHPC argued for a "go slow" policy that would allow only one major clearance project, as an experiment in the careful relocation of site tenants. After fruitless negotiations with the city, the CHPC, joined by the NAACP, United Neighborhood Houses, and Americans for Democratic Action, publicized its opposition, warning about the mischief of "Communist dominated groups" and the adverse impact on Title I of relocation that was "improperly handled." Liberals' anxieties had some justification. In May 1952 delegates from sixty-two civic and housing organizations met at the McBurney YMCA to protest the entire Title I program, the loyalty oath for public housing tenants, and Metropolitan Life's racial quotas at Stuyvesant Town. Several Save Our Homes groups were featured, along with vivid testimony of hardships faced by black and Puerto Rican refugees from site demolition. The ALP was also behind the Chelsea Tenants Council's efforts to defy the New York Port Authority's clearance of five thousand residents from the approaches of the Lincoln Tunnel. In a well-organized campaign, the Chelsea Tenants leafleted buildings, advised tenants to band together against demolition, and vowed to delay evictions for years.
Threats to urban redevelopment -- the good Title I projects along with the bad -- forced housing liberals to choose between the Moses program and the Save Our Homes intransigents. Many remained silent or vented an uneasiness, which to Moses was as useful as silence. While the State Committee Against Discrimination (SCAD), for instance, conveyed to the Board of Estimate its displeasure toward the CSC's Title I work, its criticism remained behind the scenes. Its intervention was limited to a quiet study of relocated families from Title I sites and to cooperation with the CHPC and the American Jewish Committee on a City-Wide Committee on Housing Relocation Problems. Supporters later conceded that the City-Wide Committee was "marked with confusion as to purpose and method" and never united on a program. SCAD, for its part, failed to fill the breach. While worried that the Save Our Homes zealots might dominate the debate against Title I and relocation and fearful that it was forfeiting involvement in "one of the city's most serious minority housing problems," SCAD nevertheless voted not to assume "any great responsibilities" in the relocation controversy.
Moses's prodding finally forced committed redevelopment liberals off the fence. Skillfully exaggerating Housing and Home Finance Administration's doubts about the city's Title I progress, including Morningside-Manhattanville, Moses warned that he too might lose interest in the Morningside package. This was enough for MHI to assemble the ultimate sales pitch, which included dubious census data to make a "stronger case for physical deterioration" of the site, Father Ford's personal lament that his parishioners were fleeing "this festering sore," and CSC data on the influx of low-income groups that "definitely proves that it is deteriorating and it is blighted." MHI director Orton made the rounds at Housing and Home Finance, while his staff experts in cooperative housing reached influential Democrats on Capitol Hill. A few days later Truman administration officials gave their hearty endorsement, which also broke the logjam in the city. Further Board of Estimate hearings were rendered academic, although the Save Our Homes contingent had become so versed in Title I technical manuals that it raised embarrassing, largely unanswerable questions about the CSC's plans for relocation. The Board of Estimate braved three hundred diehard protesters and approved Morningside-Manhattanville on January 15, 1953.
In defeat, Save Our Homes managed to hang on in a caretaker role. Still dominating Manhattanville Civic Association meetings, the group turned its expertise to strictly practical questions, such as Do you sign a loyalty oath before entering projects? Is a woman with children, but no husband, eligible for public housing? Will the city pay moving expenses? Elizabeth Barker's message mixed cold fury with sound advice for desperate site tenants -- "Organize to save rent control. Every week we'll have a meeting somewhere, even in the apartments. Don't get hysterical. Keep people in the houses. Don't race around." Both Save Our Homes and the Manhattanville Civic Association continued to dispense rent and relocation advice and to hold weekly information nights that emphasized the peculiar rights of relocatees. "As long as you remain here and pay your rent, you are a project site tenant. The City and Morningside Heights are required by Law to help you." Save Our Homes remained active on the site as late as 1954, when it sponsored a bitter dispute contesting MHI's "diligence and sincerity" in carrying out its relocation responsibilities. But as demolition proceeded, it remained a champion of only a forlorn remnant, the large number of blacks and Hispanics struggling for "reasonable offers" for public housing or private rentals.
During the Title I controversy, tenant opposition proved more substantial and liberal critics played far more ambiguous roles than observers have heretofore admitted. Much of the time, Moses was careful to direct his Committee on Slum Clearance onto marginal black and Hispanic neighborhoods, generally isolated, unorganized, and "invisible" in the early 1950s. Harlem's few tenant groups remained significantly still. Jesse Gray's Harlem Tenants Council, an ALP faction hanging on in the ghetto, was too weak to serve as an instrument of mass agitation. The venerable Consolidated Tenants League was a mere specter, clinging to its clientage with the Housing Authority. What remained were scattered lower-middle-class ALP clubs and Save Our Homes committees. But their rhetoric and motives were already discounted as Communist-tainted by liberal housing reformers. The liberals remained ad hoc committees of committees, with little grass roots support and too much faith in back-room consciousness-raising, hardly an even match with the best bureaucratic infighter of his time. Of course, liberals might "go public" with their doubts, but not with the impact of a Moses publicity barrage. Besides, in the early 1950s SCAD and the American Jewish Committee were preoccupied with providing open access to housing for the City's racial minorities, an effort that won passage of the Austin-Wicks and the Brown-Isaacs laws, which barred discrimination in state- and city-aided projects. These triumphs, accompanied by bitter SCAD attacks on the spurious aid given minorities by Communists and the ALP, ironically provided nondiscriminatory seals of approval on the Title I program, if not on its methods of relocation. But the distinction was lost on the public and, when it counted, on the liberals as well. They went along with the ends, if not the means, of Moses's redevelopment. They tried to hold out for adequate, humane relocation. But when that position meant jeopardizing glittering high rises or aligning closely with Save Our Homes radicals, the liberals began to weigh the costs of their quibbling intervention.
During the winter of 1953-1954, lingering tenant anger had combined with the liberals' criticism of relocation to shape a new sensitivity in Washington and New York toward bulldozer removal. The Dwight D. Eisenhower administration, anxious to lower federal spending on Title I, approved the new concept of urban "renewal" in the Housing Act of 1954. Newly elected mayor Robert F. Wagner, Jr., an astute compromiser, tried to find some middle ground between Czar Moses and the housing liberals who worried about the social cost of redevelopment. The new sensitivity was skeptical about large-scale clearance for high-rise apartment slabs on superblocks, but enthusiastic about small-scale brownstones and townhouses and their networks of middle-class families. It was strong enough to force Moses to choose his targets with more care, and it gave opponents far more powerful weapons to resist his encroachments. Yet, while angry lower-middle-class tenants had helped shape this new appreciation for small-scale urbanism, its immediate beneficiaries were upper-middle-income preservationists, the first wave of the new era of urban "gentry."
Moses still scored his victories, but they came on carefully prepared ground, through indirection rather than frontal assault and from opponents already softened by the promise of relocation to public housing. In December 1953 the Board of Estimate gave the preliminary go-ahead to yet another Title I project, controversial "Washington Square Southeast." While Greenwich Villagers were up in arms, their real outrage may well have been the realization that many had unwittingly contributed to the plan's audacious cynicism. Moses had apparently remembered liberals' suggestions about the Village's undesirable "fringes," when they defeated his "South Village" proposal in 1951. This time, Moses refashioned his dream of an arterial highway through Washington Square with a redevelopment package between West Broadway and Mercer Street and the low-income Mary K. Simkhovitch Houses slated for the "South Village" site. Preservationists and New York University officials had been won over by the promised stability of real estate near the park, while liberals again conceded the inevitability of redevelopment for commercial buildings and "narrow truck-clogged streets" on the southeast. Villagers objected to public housing south of Houston Street and were adamant against the highway through their beloved park. But while liberals and ADA-ers sniped at the plan's expensive apartments and the bisected park, an unexpected dissident group, the Lower West Side Civic League, speaking for tenement residents and small manufacturers, lashed out against the proposed Simkhovitch Houses: "'Slum clearance' here would mean clearing out of crowded slums in Harlem and elsewhere into these Village projects." In the end, Moses rammed through the Board of Estimate most of his original plan for Washington Square Southeast, including the high rises and arterial roadway. But he could not have done so without NYU and the Washington Square Association. He also appreciated the "Italian interests" in whose behalf he killed the Simkhovitch Houses, his expendable bargaining chip all along.
The next near-crisis in the Title I program was also occasioned by mounting tenant protest, but this time against a backdrop of civic dismay about scandalous contracts at Manhattantown. During 1955, sordid facts began to dribble out about lucrative deals made with CSC insiders, while the plight of site tenants became an ugly and undeniable issue for city policymakers. In February, after a tenant was killed at half-demolished Godfrey-Nurse, Jesse Gray's Harlem Tenants Council leafleted the surrounding neighborhood. Urban League officials and Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., then met Moses, who would not concede much. He merely assigned an aide to speed relocation, while pledging quick demolition of dangerous, abandoned tenements under his control. But the controversy would not subside, as Harlem agitation touched off intervention by outside liberals. During summer 1955, attorney Harris Present, Urban League secretary Edward Lewis, and Ira S. Robbins of the CHPC organized the City-Wide Committee on Housing Relocation Problems, which stirred newspaper inquiries about the fate of Title I site residents. The backlog of site residents awaiting new shelter had "seriously impeded" the program's progress, acknowledged realtor James Felt, one of Moses's most influential supporters. Facing another grave challenge, Moses threw down one of his support-me-or-I-quit ultimatums to Mayor Wagner. His threats to bring all construction to a halt forced the Board of Estimate's approval of clearance projects then pending, abruptly thrusting aside the relocation debate. The City-Wide Committee on Housing Relocation Problems had split down the middle about confronting the mayor and chose not to do so, while State Rent Commissioner Charles Abrams contented himself with Moses's reassurance that site residents would have the full protection of the Multiple Dwellings Law until their homes were razed. Again, housing liberals had backed down rather than force a confrontation.
The resolved crisis, however, raised the curtain on widespread discontent, stirred by a loose coalition of civic and neighborhood groups, which enjoyed unprecedented attention from city agencies. With fears that two thousand low-income Yorkville families faced imminent eviction for speculative construction, State Rent Commissioner Abrams in November 1955 conducted hearings with witnesses from the Lenox Hill Neighborhood Association, Yorkville Save Our Homes, and other tenant groups. In Greenwich Village, Moses's plans for the four-lane artery through Washington Square faced a formidable new antagonist, the irrepressible Village Voice, and neighborhood groups ready to block traffic with their bodies. By January 1956 a coalition led by the Department of Church Planning and Research of the Protestant Council, SCAD, and Harris Present, chairman of the new City Council on Relocation Practices, met at the West Side ADA to condemn the Title I program and the havoc of relocation. Commanding new media attention, public agencies again nerved themselves to intervene. The city council, provoked by the Lenox Hill Neighborhood Association and Yorkville Save Our Homes, held week-long hearings during which East Harlem and Yorkville tenants told how speculative landlords thrived on "human misery." The Urban League urged the city to repossess Manhattantown, Godfrey-Nurse, and North Harlem for public housing sites, while the Women's City Club and Charles Abrams recommended a moratorium on slum clearance. At this juncture, the regional housing and home finance administrator charged that the CSC's laxity had allowed private sponsors to run four Title I projects close to default.
Shrewdly, Moses focused the Title I debate on his own terrain -- the Lincoln Square site, where he could present a dazzling cultural center to the liberal cognoscenti and an elaborate relocation package for 6,018 site families. He appointed a special CSC group on relocation, then announced that 25 percent of the displaced would be guaranteed public housing. When Lincoln Square residents began continuous picketing at city hall and sent a telegram blitz to federal officials, Moses brought his enormous pressure to bear. While the CSC made glib promises of five hundred co-op units on the site and public housing nearby, Moses threatened to resign unless Title I got more "cooperation" from the Wagner administration. Finally, he tossed some conciliatory gestures at the housing liberals. He sent the new City Planning Commission chairman James Felt to an ADA luncheon to defend the city's relocation record and to argue that slum clearance could not await complete solutions to relocation. To the Citizens Housing and Planning Council, Felt made a more significant offer. His City Planning Commission would study the Upper West Side near Lincoln Square as a possible new "urban renewal area," presumably safe from large-scale demolition.
Moses would carry on other projects after Lincoln Square, but he came up against steadfast, skilled opposition by neighborhood groups. When Moses pressed his arterial roadway through Washington Square in 1958, he encountered twenty-two ad hoc organizations that held meetings and collected thirty thousand names on petitions, and the Village Voice, which helped organize the insurgency. That spring, the park savers, led by Jane Jacobs and Eleanor Roosevelt, icon of the Village Reform Democrats, put tremendous pressure on the Wagner administration and Carmine DeSapio's Tammany organization finally to bar Moses's automobiles from Washington Square. When the CSC earmarked 8.3 acres between 24th and 27th streets east of Third Avenue for redevelopment, a new group, Gramercy Park Neighbors, spiritedly lobbied for the alternative of rehabilitation and selective demolition. On the East Side, Sloan-Kettering Hospital's expansion plans, thwarted by the Lenox Hill Neighborhood Association and Yorkville Save Our Homes, produced an agreement in which the medical center's real estate developers would absorb the costs of private relocation. And on the Lower East Side, CSC proposals for Title I co-ops at Cooper Square touched off local tenant opposition organized by East Side settlement worker Selma Burdick, who had close contacts with Planning Commissioner James Felt.
By 1959 both the institutional and ideological support for Title I had completely eroded. Shaken by controversy over "unjust" evictions, growing youth-gang violence, and "the behavior of the problem families... [that] threatened the reputation of the whole housing movement," the New York City Housing Authority was undergoing a not-so-quiet crisis. Some observers argued that the New York system needed a two-year "breathing spell" on new tenant admissions "to concentrate on building a more favorable reputation of the projects." The Housing Authority could no longer be that convenient dumping ground where Title I developers "externalized" the costs of relocation. In mid-1959 the New York Times climaxed a half decade of growing doubt with a devastating review of urban redevelopment, which concluded that Title I had destroyed much of the housing of the poor and given them no alternative but the impersonal, crime-ridden public projects. Searching for a way out, many planning experts focused on James Felt's "spot" renewal, advocated with growing vehemence by community groups on the Upper West Side, at Cooper Square, in Greenwich Village, and in Chelsea. That year, when an outraged Citizens Union documented the insiders deals between the CSC and Tammany realtors, Mayor Wagner scrapped the CSC for a new Housing and Redevelopment Board dominated by James Felt and realtor J. Clarence Davies. Both were liberals with a reputation for listening to neighborhood views on redevelopment and for sympathy to selective "renewal" rather than bulldozer clearance. Subsequent observers, such as Jeanne R. Lowe and Robert Caro, related these changes to the liberals' outcries, to good-government audits, and to newspaper scrutiny given Title I after 1957. But more important was the crisis in public housing, the growing neighborhood opposition, and the citywide coalition of tenants up in arms. In the climate largely shaped by tenants themselves, housing liberals could no longer turn a deaf ear to their protest.
The new tenant voice emerged with the spring 1959 formation of the Metropolitan Council on Housing from tenant councils and neighborhood protest groups across the city. Its first meetings revealed visible links with the past, such as Helen Harris from the Bronx Council on Tenants and Housing (which was still holding daily rent advisement at the same storefront, 910 Southern Boulevard); Esther Rand and Frances Goldin, veteran ALP organizers from the Lower East Side now involved in the recent turmoil at Cooper Square; and Jane and Robert Wood, from the Chelsea Tenants Center. There were new faces, fresh from the war against Title I: Miriam Moody and Edward Schaffer of Gramercy Park Neighbors, a middle class protest group; Staughton Lynd, from Cooper Square; and social work liberals from the University Settlement and the Community Council of Greater New York, who reflected the growing unrest among tenants on welfare and the "advocacy" movement in casework ranks. Their joining into the most influential radical housing voice since the old City-Wide Tenants Council was an auspicious event in the city's postwar history. For the first time since the chilled anti-Communist atmosphere of the early 1950s, a political thaw had allowed Save Our Homes radicals to project their viewpoints on citywide forums and expect to be heard.
But if the political climate gave Met Council's radicals the opportunity, the new liberals' enthusiasm for "neighborhood renewal" made it imperative for them to act. Across the city, public interest was turning away from Moses and toward the neighborhood liberals' gearing up of the first pilot programs in community renewal. In the late 1950s, Chelsea's influential settlement house, the Hudson Guild, transforming a small rent clinic into a broad, paternalistic intervention in community housing, had provided the prototype for local tenement rehabilitation that the Wagner administration later formalized as the Neighborhood Conservation Program. In Yorkville, the luxury apartment boom along Third Avenue forced the Lenox Hill Neighborhood Association to similar efforts at ameliorative housing action. A Lenox Hill staff worker, Victor Remer, organized the Yorkville Housing Committee, which started with tenant counciling and wound up as the planning agency for middle-income cooperative housing to "maintain a balanced community." In both neighborhoods, Save Our Homes radicals dismissed these as clumsy attempts by liberals to fashion a more palatable kind of Title I clearance.
By spring 1959, however, liberals' initiatives could no longer be shrugged off. Liberal Democrats and their trade union allies at the United Housing Foundation held a "slum prevention" conference at which they proposed housing rehabilitation for the Upper West Side. In a throwback to Octavia Hill paternalism, the headworkers of participating settlements would undertake rent collection and social counseling at the properties undergoing renewal. The conference was followed by the Wagner administration's proposals for a centralized relocation bureaucracy to identify available shelter and expedite relocation. By then, as well, Victor Remer's Yorkville success had brought him into the Wagner administration's Neighborhood Conservation Program. It was still in the start-up stage and working under federal demonstration grants in Harlem (coordinated by the Community Service Society), the Lower West Side (by the Hudson Guild), and Bedford-Stuyvesant (by another settlement, Colony House). But Remer was a tireless advocate of the idea that housing blight could be reversed by combining city assistance to landlords and consultative service to tenants. As so conceived, Neighborhood Conservation amounted to a strategy of community maintenance involving close cooperation between city agencies civic groups, and landlords, with tenants and their spokesmen left out in the cold.
Many Met Council charter members had had their brushes with the liberals' brand of community renewal. Jane and Robert Wood's perspectives had been shaped by a messy tenant fight against redevelopment in Chelsea. Their Chelsea Save Our Homes had originally joined hands with the local settlement, the Hudson Guild, on the Chelsea Community Council, but they could not go along when Guild headworker H. Daniel Carpenter insisted on cooperation with the relocation efforts on the "Penn South" Title I. Save Our Homes' withdrawal split the Community Council, but its vow to continue the fight against Penn South carried many neighbors along. The Woods were a tough, yet self-effacing, mix of Catholic Worker pietism and early 1930s confrontation. "We are not a rent clinic," Jane Wood told an interviewer in 1962. "We pick out the worst houses on a block -- and we go in and organize the tenants." They earned the loyalties of the neighborhood's working-class Catholics and its old-line political club, Horatio Seymour Democrats, while somehow managing to stay on good terms with the predominantly Jewish reformers, the New Chelsea Democrats. At a meeting at the Horatio Seymour Club in late 1962, Jane Wood pilloried Carpenter for lending his support to the Wagner administration's Neighborhood Conservation Program and charged that it would rival Title I as a ravager of tenants.
The most creative tenant efforts came out of the University Settlement's confrontation with Title I at Cooper Square on the Lower East Side. In the late 1950s, University Settlement had thrown off its recreation-room traditions in the struggle to defeat the "Delancey" Title I. During that stand, when the community learned to distrust city officials and big-shot landlords, the University Settlement formed the One Mile Neighborhood Council, a self-conscious grass roots organization that prided itself on "open" meetings and no formal hierarchies. Thus the area's dissident groups had already been blooded when the Committee on Slum Clearance announced plans for the "Cooper Square" Title I -- twelve square blocks between the Bowery -- Third Avenue and Second Avenue, north of Delancey Street. The CSC envisioned 1,800 middle-income cooperative units on land already occupied by 2,400 housing units, mainly old law tenements, and some 450 furnished rooms and 4,000 lodging-house beds that served homeless men on the Bowery. Moses's bulldozers would have also swept away 400 small businesses, two churches, and the Cooper Square Settlement.
Based on past practice, site tenants would have responded with protests organized by a local Save Our Homes committee, with which, in fact, Frances Goldin had already begun on the One Mile Neighborhood Council But several social workers, touched by a radicalism alloyed with a sense of Christian witness, had other ideas. Staughton Lynd, caught between social work and American history at Columbia University, was working at the University Settlement in early 1959 when he broke with the headworker's apparent acceptance of the Title I project. He joined Thelma Burdick of the Cooper Square Settlement and Walter Thabit, a maverick city planner at the New School for Social Research, to discuss alternatives to what Moses was banding down. At the outset, Lynd and Thabit agreed that Cooper Union, the churches, and other indigenous institutions had to be preserved as anchors in any renewal plan. They went on to attack relocation provisions, which they suspected the CSC had woefully underestimated. Lynd and Thabit conducted their own site survey, with Sarah Lawrence students going house to house among five hundred residents, finding that many were tightly-knit Italians who wanted to hold on to their modest apartments. In the meantime, Frances Goldin and Esther Rand organized a system of block and house captains that brought out local residents to noisy protests at Cooper Square and city hall during 1959 and 1960.
Through the Met Council network -- organizers from Jane Benedict's Yorkville Save Our Homes -- and money from the J. M. Kaplan Fund, alternative planning went forward. Lynd coordinated a series of presentations to public meetings of site residents, while Thabit's professional staff shaped up the final renderings. On July 31, 1961, what was now the Cooper Square Community Development Committee and Businessmen's Association presented the Wagner administration with its version of the future of Cooper Square. Boldly challenging the CSC's plan to raze nine blocks between Delancey and Ninth streets, Thabit's alternative spared five blocks and depicted an imaginative mix of high rises and open space along Third Avenue. It contained ample provision for housing middle- and lower-income site residents, plus artists' lofts and single-room-occupancy space (although even Thabit's plan, while recognizing the Bowery's "function" as a haven for homeless men, suggested that the flophouses be relocated south of Delancey Street). Thabit's work at Cooper Square was an impressive debut for "advocacy planning," as young architects in the 1960s would soon proclaim.
The heart of Met Council, however, lay within its largest, most reliable affiliate, the Yorkville Save Our Homes Committee, run by Jane Benedict. Involved with radical white-collar unions in the 1930s, Benedict had gravitated to ALP clubhouse politics in Yorkville, working in Congressman Marcantonio's last campaigns and running (unsuccessfully) for local office. As the last chairman of the Yorkville ALP club on East 70th Street, she provided a decent interment for the local party when the wave of luxury high-rise construction hit the area in 1955. Rent control laws had never prohibited evictions that landlords claimed necessary for new residential construction, a loophole that particularly affected the elderly who lived on fixed incomes and were the least able to secure new shelter. This hard fact gave Benedict's tenant work its modus operandi and salient issue -- individualized tenant casework that appealed to the elderly and a "moratorium" or complete halt to evictions and to the destruction of existing housing for new luxury units. When the old ALP cadre called a community protest meeting, several hundred packed the Jan Hus House to form the Yorkville Save Our Homes Committee. But once the excitement against gentrification died down, Benedict and her ALP veterans settled Yorkville Save Our Homes into the daily community services reminiscent of the old ALP clubhouses. Their work depended upon a seven-person executive committee, which everyone admitted depended upon the dominating presence of Jane Benedict. She and her handful of loyalists did the typing, ran the mimeo, licked the stamps, and passed out leaflets. They had neither the troops nor the inclination to engage in rent strikes; nor did they ever mount door-to-door campaigns to sign up supporters. Benedict recalled "a great reliance on the rent control laws, on filing forms." Tenants were urged to visit the Jan Hus House for advice on approaching city departments to request improvements in services and the Temporary State Rent Commission to apply for reductions in rents, and not to panic upon receiving an eviction notice. By the late 1950s, Yorkville Save Our Homes had become a reliable, comforting fixture in the community.
For a while, Met Council was more taken with the impetuous program of Staughton Lynd than with the routine tenant work of Jane Benedict. Lynd personified Met Council's first duels against the housing policies of Wagner administration liberals. Lynd, Burdick, and the other veterans from Cooper Square gave Met Council its early involvement in alternative planning, which they conceived as a powerful instrument to give people control of their neighborhoods. Their standing committees launched inquiries into Multiple Dwellings Law violations, the continued Title I program, and the City Master Plan and followed these with sophisticated press releases to housing reporters at the New York Times and New York Post. In 1959, Met Council contested the last attempts by the CSC to extend Title I and disputed relocation plans at Lincoln Square and Cooper Square. In the public opinion war for Chelsea Title I, it prepared a conference of academics and community groups in 1960 that amounted to ambitious intervention in the planning process. Like the City-Wide Tenants Council of the late 1930s, Met Council's agenda had ranged far beyond the boundaries of "tenant issues."
Met Council's forays into the realm of housing and city planning were always held hostage by particular interests caught up with rent control. The council's center of gravity remained the Yorkville radicals, who had the tightest coalition of support among elderly tenants and small businessmen, who could stage the most impressive street rallies and who possessed their blunt solution for city planning issues, the "moratorium" on demolition.
Events during 1961, when both state rent control and the Wagner administration were up for extension, showed how Met Council's large visions could become subordinate to the trivial debates orchestrated by the politicians. Early that year, Met Council, at the zenith of its influence, had forged a united front with the Manhattan Reform Democratic movement, which had made rent counciling a mainstay of its clubhouse routine. Yorkville assemblyman Mark Lane, supported by Met Council and Yorkville Save Our Homes, led a diverse coalition into the Housing Emergency Legislative Program (HELP), to coordinate mass demonstrations in the city and Albany that would "save" rent control. Under HELP auspices, Met Council and Assemblyman Lane's East Side organization held rallies, distributed thousands of leaflets, and bussed fifteen hundred protesters to Albany, where they demanded an end to loopholes in the rent laws and an immediate moratorium on demolitions. They dominated the legislative rent hearings with descriptions of wanton landlords whose unconscionable "hardship" applications forced thousands onto the streets. Jane Benedict ridiculed suggestions of liberals on the CHPC and United Neighborhood Houses for a modest leeway on controls and called their proposed 15 percent rent increase "a stab in the back." Again and again she referred lawmakers to Yorkville and other neighborhoods, where landlords had leveled twenty thousand low-income units to build luxury apartments starting at sixty dollars per room. But for all the fury, the Nelson A. Rockefeller administration rammed rent control, only slightly revised, through the legislature, after which Mayor Wagner, blaming the law's shortcomings on the Republicans, handily won reelection.
Having joined the Wagner Democrats against the enemies of rent control, Met Council radicals found themselves stuck with a mayoral administration quite smug about the 1961 extension package. At the third annual Met Council conference in November 1961, members adopted the idea of mass demonstrations for the "moratorium." Assemblyman Lane called for "mass action" to force a tenement repair bill out of legislative committee. Keynote speaker Harris Present, citing the methods "used by the sit-in and Freedom Riders," called on Met Council to "court mass evictions" to win the "moratorium." But the politicians again pulled the rug out from under this militance. In spring 1962 Governor Rockefeller had the legislature hand the headache of rent control administration to the city. Mayor Wagner then proceeded to make controls "a supple and powerful instrument" within his "new look" housing program. He ordered his new Rent and Rehabilitation Administration (RRA) to make controls "serve the positive purpose of encouraging rehabilitation and repair" within an expanded program of "neighborhood conservation." To critics, such as Met Council, who contended that rehabilitation would outweigh controls at RRA, Wagner countered that for the first time a single agency "had the tools required to assist owners in rehabilitating rent controlled property while retaining rents which present tenants will be able to afford."
Throughout 1962 the mayor posed as the champion of tenant interests. His Rent and Rehabilitation Administration plugged GOP rent "loopholes" and cultivated the support of organized tenants on the RRA Citizens Advisory Committee. He publicized tough standards against rent-increase applications for major capital improvements and new procedures to permit a complaint on behalf of several tenants that could be filed by their representative from the community. Tenants still tried to insinuate themselves in the policy debate. When Rent Administrator Hortense Gabel reported a December 1962 vacancy rate of 1.8 percent as continued evidence of the "oppressive" rental market, but argued for phased decontrol of luxury housing she was jumped on by Met Council, which called her suggestion an outright attack on controls. City takeover had given tenant groups greater access to rent administrators, especially when Met Council broke bread with Manhattan's Reform Democrats. But Mayor Wagner built his successful third-term reelection on the skilled absorption of Reform, and his Rent and Rehabilitation Administration stood an even chance of repeating that coup with the tenant radicals. Certainly, Hortense Gabel was in the position to initiate policy, set the parameters of the rent control debate, and reduce Met Council to little more than reflex action.
At a time when New York liberalism -- and the Wagner administration in particular -- was shaping the most creative housing programs since the city's liberation from Title I, Met Council radicals were demonstrating a decided turn toward tenant traditionalism. Already put on the defensive by press releases from Rent and Rehabilitation, Met Council suspected any measures that would weaken controls and saw the prime threat in RRA's rehabilitation policy. Met Council never did accept the concept of rehabilitation or the popular variants of the mid-1960s -- neighborhood conservation and historic preservation. "We who live in areas where we have seen such rehabilitation," claimed Jane Benedict, "know that its ultimate purpose... is to get rid of the low-income people living there." In June 1963 Met Council launched an assault on the Neighborhood Conservation Program. Tenant investigators looked beyond remodeled buildings to the relocation load. They found that Neighborhood Conservation's war on building code violations was really focused on alleged overoccupancy, which explained why 1,444 families had been displaced since the program's inception. Met Council concluded that "overoccupancy" was a racist euphemism, since 95 percent of those displaced were blacks and Puerto Ricans, forced from "integrated" communities such as Chelsea back to ghettoes such as Bedford-Stuyvesant and the South Bronx. The Chelsea Tenant Council added, "Neighborhood Conservation means the green light to real estate speculators who would like to turn Chelsea into another Yorkville or Greenwich Village."
Met Council called instead for "true" conservation based on a sweeping moratorium against demolition of habitable structures, accelerated construction of public housing on vacant land, and strict enforcement of the Multiple Dwellings Law. Either landlords would bring their properties up to standards or they would lose their properties to a city receiver and go to jail. But this adamance estranged Met Council from liberals, as Jane Benedict recognized in her testimony at the September 1963 City Planning Commission hearings. She defensively explained that Met Council did not "oppose the idea of rehabilitation... but is opposed to loading the burden of payments on tenants." That burden equitably belonged to landlords, she argued, forwarding a Met Council plan for a city loan bank that would extend twenty-year, low-interest financing for rehabilitation, plus limited tax abatement, to enable owners to shoulder the costs without raising rents. To suggest otherwise, as did Rent Commissioner Gabel, who ventured that modest increases should cover some of the costs and that most tenants should expect to spend up to 25 percent of their income on rent, was to invite a cold disdain. "A new figure loomed ominously at the hearings," was the way Met Council's Tenant News reported Gabel's participation. Tenants throughout the city were invited to "figure out for yourself" what the 25 percent limit would mean.
Despite the first New Left calls for "mass action" by tenants, Met Council remained dominated by older Leftists who looked with mixed envy and uneasiness on the ferment underway in the city. Not until summer 1962, in response to the civil rights agitation sweeping Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant, did Met Council move from the conference room and legislative lobby to the streets, and then only with great caution. In June it sponsored an Organize Your House campaign, with a series of street rallies on the edges of Manhattan's garment center. Lunch-hour crowds were handed leaflets, printed in English and Spanish, that advised "What the Law Says Your Landlord Must Do." Leaders were surprised by the "gratifying" response, but the effort at mass mobilization was never sustained. At Met Council's November 1962 annual conference, the focus was again on advocacy planning, including a "fresh look" from several prominent planners. The resulting publicity justified a series of miniconclaves, Met Council "roundtables," that brought community activists to talk about racial integration, community participation, public housing, and rent control. Met Council regarded these forums as highly effective instruments for citywide consciousness-raising.
Met Council's attitude toward tenant mobilization remained stodgy and conservative, until it was swept along by the civil rights movement in 1963. Although the clique around Jane Benedict at Yorkville Save Our Homes realized the need to react to the vogue in mass action, it ended up making a feeble gesture in the streets. Throughout summer 1963 it announced "vigorous" petition drives and street-corner meetings. But the Yorkville mobilization, which anticipated the December 1963 rent control hearings, was aimed at the media and downtown liberals. An actual canvas of Yorkville tenements still remained a novel, untried idea. That summer, Met Council had reached an acknowledged "milestone," with a special committee to "organize tenants throughout the city and to coordinate the work of [Met] Council affiliates." It proved a very tentative step toward mass involvement. Its largest direct operation -- among tenants at Seward Park Extension -- was really the work of local radicals. Otherwise, the new committee devoted its energies to street rallies on behalf of its traditional program, strong rent controls. While Met Council's Tenant News was filled with talk about sending organizers to "trouble spots" around the city, few were exploited. The mobilization, such as it was, went into overdrive for the December 1963 city council hearings on rent control, when locals collected signatures on huge petitions. In September 1963, when Met Council was joined by the Brooklyn-based Organized Tenants, Inc., and the Tenant Association of New York to form the Action Committee of Tenants, the largest tenant consortium since the 1930s set a remarkably circumscribed goal, "a huge rally and demonstration outside rent control hearings scheduled for December at the City Council." On the eve of the great Harlem rent rebellion, Met Council served notice that it would take on no large cause.
Rent strikes and community power, 1962 - 1971
As the 1950s receded, tenant groups around the city had inched to the brink of mass action. Several forces had brought them to this point. American Labor party radicals found their organizational energies released by the political thaw. Title I, a profound mobilizing experience, had goaded entire neighborhoods into angry coherence. Churches and social settlements had contributed their sense of Christian witness and parish democracy. But most important was an impatience with the tenement environment and a weakening of those institutions that had siphoned off radicalism in the slums. Democratic Reform, which had consigned Tammany to oblivion, wrecked the clubhouse system that had given poor people considerable access to city rent offices and the Housing Authority. More fundamental still was the obstruction in the Housing Authority itself, as social breakdown in the projects undermined public housing's function as a safety valve for the pressures of Title I. Nevertheless, radicals hesitated to tread on the unfamiliar ground of direct action and mass mobilization until the civil rights movement swept them up in its intensity. This force finally brought tenants into the streets, on rent strike, and ultimately to the euphoria of community power. But the mass strike would prove a cumbersome weapon. It would intimidate landlords, but not necessarily to invest in new housing. It would stampede politicians to adopt cosmetic repairs, but not constrain them to approve bond issues or let building contracts. When the strike spasm ended, it would fail to improve the housing of the poor, but it would greatly stimulate the idea that poor people could take hold of their housing environment. As such, the strikes would be a formidable mobilizing force for the next stage of social action.
In the late 1950s, social work activists across the city, driven by a moral outrage against the slums and perhaps a growing sense of despair, had edged toward mass tenant mobilization. Most still operated, of course, within a liberal consensus, which in practice meant helping neighbors bear the stress of site clearance for Title I. As we have seen, Chelsea's Hudson Guild and the Upper East Side's Lenox Hill Neighborhood Association had pioneered tenant work effective enough to arouse the envy of nearby ALP clubs. In East Harlem, the Union Settlement worked through PTAs and tenant councils "to approach and then work with such authoritarian figures as school principles and housing managers." The Community Service Society's East Harlem Demonstration, which hoped to foster "neighborhood identification, self-esteem, and community action," even contained a harbinger of the 1960s, the search for "indigenous" leaders to rally neighbors into effective self-help groups. But like the others, the Community Service Society's efforts still centered on cooperative ventures with city planning agencies.
The best known of these initiatives, Mobilization for Youth, Inc. (MFY), a self-proclaimed vehicle for radical change, found itself mired in conventional tenant casework. Launched in 1961 as an innovative attack on gang delinquency on the Lower East Side, MFY planned to reach "unaffiliated" lower-class teenagers by sending youth workers to stimulate PTAs, block associations, and tenant councils. At their storefront on Stanton Street, MFY community organizers longed to become wholesale advocates for a steady stream of welfare and tenant clients. But rhetoric aside, Stanton Street handled housing clients in classic casework style -- forwarding individual tenant complaints to the Rent and Rehabilitation Administration (RRA). MFY staffers saw themselves consumed by endless paper work, tedious often fruitless meetings with tenants, and the monumental inefficiency of city agencies.
Even Harlem maverick Jesse Gray remained caught in these traditional channels. An ex-ALP radical, Gray had organized a series of local protest groups (at times called the Harlem Tenants Council or Harlem Tenant and Welfare Council) and delighted ghetto rallies with his tilts against landlords. But his activities, expediting applications for reduced rent at the Harlem rent office, stayed within the rent control system. No evidence shows that Gray resorted to rent strikes beyond the occasional withholdings sanctioned by section 755 of the New York State Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law (sec. 1446(a) recodified in 1962). His forte was the vivid publicity event, such as a 1954 protest against the eviction of a woman confined to a wheelchair. He often boasted of a network of block committees, run by two, three, or four hundred "house leaders." But these were the posturings of a political adventurer in a Harlem no-man's land -- the Fourteenth Assembly District, whose crumbling tenements were overshadowed by the Housing Authority's Stephen Foster Houses (menaced by teenage gangs and "problem families"). The Fourteenth's political clubs, torn by factional revolt against Tammany, could no longer provide effective services for constituents at the rent office or the Housing Authority. In 1959, Gray, already with contacts in the Foster Houses, led his Harlem Tenants Council to organize housewives in the six-story walk-ups on nearby 116th Street. They picketed four tenements and handed out leaflets that announced they had gone "on strike" against rat infestation, while Gray told the Amsterdam News that six thousand more stood ready to join the rebellion. But as the city responded with squads of health inspectors, the flare-up receded to the back pages of Harlem's tabloids.
What ended tenant work-as-usual for Gray, ALP clubs, social settlements, and MFY alike was the accelerating civil rights movement, unwittingly reinforced by the Wagner administration. Harlem's Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) chapter typified the drastic change. Caught in the crosscurrents of civil rights and Muslim nationalism, New York (Harlem) CORE was forced to supplement its liberal open-occupancy campaigns with sharp attacks on ghetto slums. In late 1962 the chapter opened a housing clinic on West 125th Street and announced that "CORE investigation teams will visit the buildings, call on residents, inform them of their rights." By mid-1963 the clinic was helping to organize tenant associations. Although it still continued to assist tenants at the rent office, it was now ready to challenge landlords with "direct action," including pickets and rent strikes. The chapter's aggressive minority talked excitedly about organizing "street people' into a network of building and block councils that would mobilize Harlem. Drawn along, national CORE secretary James Farmer unveiled pilot projects for Newark and Bedford-Stuyvesant, where CORE organizers would confront landlords. When national CORE subsequently extended its "roving picket line" to Harlem, the City Buildings Department quickly responded with its first mass inspection of slums since the mid-1930s. While Mayor Wagner vowed to "press the attack" on slumlords, inspectors, accompanied by curious tenants, prowled through Bedford-Stuyvesant and Harlem.
At MFY this direct action radicalized what remained of traditional social work. Cooperating aggressively with tenant groups, Stanton Street resorted to pickets, demanded meetings with city commissioners, and advised on withholding rent to get needed services. The summer crisis also hastened the creation of the MFY Legal Services Unit and the Tenement Housing Program, the brainchild of political scientist and MFY advisor Frances Fox Piven. Legal Services was envisioned as a network of clinics where volunteer attorneys would dispense advice on welfare and tenant problems such as unfair evictions from public housing. The Tenement Housing Program, on the other hand, revealed MFY's impatience with storefront casework and near despair about building code enforcement. The program's heart was to be a central file of housing violations, arranged by address and owner, to enable MFY to target the worst landlords. By October 1963 the Housing Program had taken on a professional coordinator, three Hispanic community workers, and seven student volunteers to work with the clinics and the central file. But MFY insiders still complained that direct action was used only "sporadically" and that the housing program had "no overall plan."
By fall 1963, in the growing glare of the civil rights campaign, this impatience finally ignited. On one level it flared in impromptu rebellion against summary eviction proceedings in the magistrate's courts. Scores of tenants, most without legal counsel but inspired by black protest, claimed that they no longer owed rents for rat-infested rooms or that "Welfare" told them they did not have to pay. Judges indulged only a few of these defenses. On another level, however, organized groups soon vied to be the first to apply the new advocacy, with New York University CORE jumping the gun on the Lower East Side. In early 1963 the NYU student chapter had tried to act against code violations in old law tenements on Eldridge Street, but was frustrated by city agencies that sat idle for months. Concluding that the city was "incapable of fast, decisive action," chapter radicals called for an immediate rent strike. They got pledges from 94 Puerto Rican and black tenants for a November 1 withholding and reassured the one-third on welfare that they could refuse to pay rent for apartments with Multiple Dwellings Law violations. CORE volunteers from prestigious liberal Democratic law firms arranged with city officials for a tough prosecution, which dragged on and resulted in a mere $300 fine. But the owner had had enough, and he pleaded with CORE to take over his tenements. The exhausted chapter had stumbled on the remarkable prospect of unnerving a whole class of "slumlords" on the Lower East Side. The radicals urged CORE to send property owners a message that "we do not mean to pick on just one or two of their buildings, letting them do as they please with the rest." These were heady days, particularly with the news of strikes spreading through Harlem.
During the early 1960s, Jesse Gray had restyled his Harlem Tenants Council into the Community Council on Housing (CCH), but only the name had changed. It was still Gray and a few unpaid, part-time organizers, working those same blocks in the Fourteenth Assembly District -- an operation, Mark Naison found, "that teetered on the edge of bankruptcy." After a mid-October 1963 protest at city hall, Gray decided to lead sixteen of "his" buildings on strike. Tenants, reporters, and the curious soon converged on the CCH storefront; at a mass rally in early December Gray claimed fifty-two buildings, with three thousand tenants, ready to Join the movement While city leaders rushed inspectors to the scene and arranged for drastic rent reductions, Gray was assembling a Rent Strike Coordinating Committee of Harlem religious and political VIPs. From time to time he held rallies, set up more paper coalitions, and got token support from New York CORE and local labor leaders. But his pickets, his eviction protests, and his confrontation with the police remained media events. On December 30, eviction proceedings against thirteen tenants on East 117th Street were heard in court, accompanied by Gray's raucous entourage and eager reporters. When the city magistrate, at the urging of Gray's attorney, accepted the applicability of section 755 and ordered rents paid in escrow, Gray jubilantly announced the support of three hundred more buildings, with one thousand joining by January 15.
Gray spent early 1964 juggling these claims, while chiding the Wagner administration to come up with substantive reforms. Regarding the Harlem strikes as the most explosive episodes in a wave of civil rights demonstrations, Mayor Wagner virtually endorsed "legal" rent withholding. He rushed to the state legislature an agenda for more inspections, more housing courts, stiff Multiple Dwellings Law penalties, and a bill to transfer escrow rents from the courts to the Department of Real Estate to pay for repairs. Gray emerged the hero among tenant leaders and at city rent-control hearings (having staged the day before one of his vintage stunts to dramatize Albany's responsibility for ghetto housing -- a Rats to Rockefeller campaign). But his claims about the "spreading" strike soon jaded his media contacts. At the same time, the Wagner administration was applying what Michael Lipsky has characterized as deft, symbolic gestures toward the slums. When Gray demanded action, city hall obliged by jailing the landlord and invoking the Receivership Law to take over the tenements that had touched off Gray's strike. By then, Gray was also caught up in name-calling feuds with the police commissioner and in a controversy over alleged radicals in the city antipoverty program. By spring 1964 the Community Council on Housing was sorting through court papers that liquidated the last strikes.
Nevertheless, Gray's example inspired direct action throughout Harlem. For the radicals who left New York (Harlem) CORE to start their own East River CORE chapter, this meant plans for disciplined community organization. They envisioned "group area teams" of ten workers per block to stir grass roots issues and contact "gangs, street people, numbers runners, and anyone else whose presence on the block is conspicuous." By late March 1964 the chapter claimed to have brought fourteen tenements to rent strike and to have organized tenant councils in another eleven. But its great success came at the twenty-one-hundred-unit Robert F. Wagner, Sr., Houses, where the chapter's pickets won stays against "unfair" evictions and attracted tenants already mobilized by local school boycotts. In the East Harlem barrio, Ted Velez, a young social worker, claimed that his contacts with Jesse Gray had helped set up the East Harlem Tenants Council in 1962. Boasting a network of building captains, in early 1964, Velez resorted to section 755 rent strikes on East 123d Street to force landlords to make repairs. Gray's influence also helped push Reverend Norman Eddy's East Harlem group, the Metro-North Citizens Committee (MNCC), from tenant counseling to street demonstrations and rent strikes. During 1963 MNCC had attracted a modest dues-paying membership, with its weekly rent clinic and volunteers to scout tenements for building violations. In early 1964 Eddy met with Jesse Gray and other tenant radicals to bone up on the section 755 defense.
Gray's apparent triumph also ended Brooklyn CORE's ambivalence toward ghetto organization. Until 1962 the chapter's middle-class blacks, concentrating on open-occupancy pickets, had nagging doubts about their failure to "reach the Negro masses." But in late 1962 and early 1963, members staged noisy demonstrations about garbage pickup along Gates Avenue and job discrimination at the Downstate Medical Center. By September 1963 a CORE "task force" began canvasing Bedford-Stuyvesant and found tenants cynical about the Buildings Department's new inspections and ready to withhold rent. The chapter began to organize buildings and negotiate with landlords. "We had reached the point where we did it systematically," recalled Major R. Owens, head of Brooklyn CORE's Housing Committee. "We'd move into an area -- a whole block, and canvas the block, distributing leaflets, explaining what the program was all about." To get quick referrals from the Buildings Department, Brooklyn CORE lived up to its "well-known reputation for taking direct action against city agencies." After the first spontaneous strikes on Rochester Avenue, CORE quickly got the Buildings Department to document "horrid" conditions, and in court, Brooklyn CORES's attorney successfully gained a section 755 rent diversion. With that, CORE, dispatched volunteers equipped with interviewer sheets, city rent-reduction forms, and membership blanks for a community tenants council. When landlords served dispossess notices, organizers distributed applications for rent reduction, requested immediate "cellar-to-roof" inspections from the city, and even scheduled a photographer's visit to individual apartments. Yet, by late January 1964, CORE's tenant council had less than fifty members, although it claimed that fifty-one buildings (four hundred families) had gone on strike the following month.
On the Lower East Side, MFY's Community Organization staff seized on the rent strike as the instrument to arouse the neighborhood -- and to placate local radicals who had sniped at MFY "paternalism." Goaded by NYU and downtown CORE and by militants from Met Council and Progressive Labor, MFY's rent clinics on January 11, 1964, launched the Lower East Side Rent Strike. Organizers agreed to deploy a few Trotskyites, Progressive Laborites, and MFY staffers, perhaps thirty in all, to the tenements north of Houston Street, from Third to Fifth streets. NYU CORE, reinforced by the University Settlement and Esther Rand's East Side Tenants Council, would send twenty-six regular organizers and five more on weekends to Eldridge and Forsythe streets, from Delancey to Houston. The Puertorriquenos Unidos and the Stanton Street clinic would "work" Seward Park Extension. Some leaders expected the strike to force beefed-up inspections, fines, and jail sentences for landlords. Others spoke of foreclosing on private ownership altogether, with tenements taken over by city receivers and the Housing Authority. These divergent goals, however, were forgotten amid the euphoria, during which MFY pledged twelve volunteer lawyers coordinated by a young antipoverty attorney, Richard Levenson. A broad tenant uprising seemed imminent.
Kicked off with an evening street rally and publicity releases claiming that seventy-five buildings would soon "go out," the movement was compromised from the start. It soon became clear that on their rounds, organizers had made far more contacts than actual commitments among tenants. For their part, Levenson's attorneys faced serious difficulties obtaining posted Multiple Dwellings Law violations on which the section 755 defense depended. Three weeks after the rally, strike leaders voted to take on no new buildings unless 50 percent of the tenants were already withholding rent. One organizer conceded that the strike had begun with "a splash" of claims, and his force was only "now going back to do the detailed work" among tenants. But that did not help Levenson's attorneys, already overwhelmed by the need to transport tenants, request inspections, subpoena Multiple Dwellings Law records, gather photographic evidence, and keep track of endless adjournments. The defense pleaded for a paid legal coordinator and a great increase in volunteer lawyers. "This panel is insufficient to handle the volume of rent strike cases," Levenson concluded. "One or two out of five cases are won by tenants (pay rent into court or dismissal). Three of five cases lost (rent paid to the landlord)." By the first week in April, the legal staff served notice that it could no longer continue without more volunteers, particularly from national CORE. During that week, only two evictions were dismissed and one settled, compared to nearly fifteen decided for the landlords. Levenson could report no successful section 755 defenses.
The fervor also ended at downtown CORE, where the strikes first took root on the Lower East Side. By May 1964 the camaraderie was gone at the tenements on Eldridge Street; the "people got scared off." The chapter, in any case, was consumed by work for Mississippi Freedom Summer (an obsession after the murders of three Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) workers, including Michael Schwerner, a downtown CORE founder) and by a Lower East Side voter registration drive. Later that summer, downtown CORE did launch another tenant campaign, Operation Eastside, with pep talks to an eager team of twenty. Like the decentralized SNCC effort in Mississippi, volunteers were told to fan out on designated blocks, "work" assigned buildings, and act "on his own initiative . . . towards solving the individual problems of the building." At this juncture, an organizer's question, "What was meant by 'organizing' a building?" elicited farther confusion. "Was the Purpose of CORE merely to get the landlord to make repairs, the city to inspect, and possibly to have the rent reduced or were the people being organized for something more?" An MFY observer was appalled. Another mid-August session at the (,ORE loft seemed equally aimless, as "people drifted in and out, new faces and familiar ones, chaos, disorganization, fine talk about the way CORE, was going to organize itself, and the neighborhood, and nothing really happens." By late August, downtown CORE's tenement activities came to a halt.
Despite the glib talk that radicals need only move in among the poor and ignite their solidarity, tenant unions proved monumentally difficult to organize. The Stanton Street Tenants Association, prominent in Frances Fox Piven and Richard A. Cloward's account of the welfare rights movement on the Lower East Side, failed to gain much hold on the neighborhood. It depended on the wits of MFY organizer Luisa Montes who tried, but never managed, to get the association going as a real participant group. With a few trusted subordinates, Montes ended up running a tough, no-nonsense operation in the MFY storefront. She would take on only major cases with landlords and never lost her illusions about the need to "goose" tenants to collective action. During a typical day, she might see nine walk-in clients, who asked for help on anything from union pensions to getting rid of junkies lounging on a tenement roof. In between, she was on the telephone bargaining with landlords, encouraging tenants, and prodding the RRA. Major victories never occurred, nor did tenants rush to join. Montes's own data indicate that from January through June 1964 (during the Lower East Side Rent Strike), the Stanton Street Association dealt with 170 tenants in 82 buildings, but could claim an active membership of only 20.
Radicals thought they would have little trouble mobilizing the poor against greedy landlords and callous city agencies. But they managed precious little mobilization because the poor swamped them with routine requests -- usually for access to those very agencies. The Stanton Street Association became less a union than a one-stop convenience center for community services. During summer 1966, 45 percent of the cases involved applications for public housing, compared with 26 percent for building violations and rent overcharges. The association also dispensed welfare advice, sponsored English and sewing classes, and filled an obvious social void. Militant East River CORE, which took up tenant councils as a tool to mobilize Harlem, concluded with dismay, "Tenant councils have not proved to be long-lasting because their only reason for existence has been redress of grievances. Consequently, when the immediate grievance is removed or compensated for, the councils collapse."
Certainly, few tenant leaders anticipated the extent to which they became the local agents of the New York City Housing Authority. By the mid-1960s the Housing Authority was landlord to more than one-half million in over one hundred projects, and the waiting list for coveted apartments was one hundred thousand families, a vast undertow of the city's poor. While radicals carped at the Authority's "sterile," "institutional" facade, the sheer magnitude guaranteed a wide variety of apartments, locales, and neighborhoods, an alternative housing mobility within its domain. No wonder a large proportion of inquiries at MFY storefronts concerned help with Housing Authority application forms and with Welfare Department payments of project security deposits and rent. MFY's proudest achievement in indigenous organization, the block action group Puertorriquenos Unidos, was overwhelmed by such requests. Its best-known mobilization was not a rent strike, but a sit-in at Housing Authority offices to demand a speedup in the process of applications for apartments. Such dependence weakened tenant militance everywhere. Gray's early influence in the Fourteenth Assembly District rested on an organizational base in the Stephen Foster Houses. Compared with the drudgery of canvasing dreary, six-story walk-ups, East Harlem CORE preferred the easier gains that came from negotiating with the project manager at the Robert F. Wagner, Sr., Houses.
Membership in a tenant council rarely signified a determination to withhold rent, even under the "legal" strikes made possible by section 755. On the Lower East Side, MFY confronted a pervasive timidity, particularly among the elderly and those who sublet. Major Owens commented that Brooklyn CORE's work was inhibited by the tenant belief in the "myth of the landlord's invincibility." The Stanton Street Tenants Association struggled through the summer against an ingrained wariness hardly affected by the rent strike fervor. The strike's most salient characteristic, in fact, was the disproportion between exhaustive effort and meager outcome. The brief united front among the adjoining tenements on Eldridge Street was the product of NYU CORE's ten months of intensive organization and the stubbornness of one landlord. For at least twenty months, Gray had picketed across the Fourteenth Assembly District, particularly 117th Street, and produced few solid buildings and fewer strikers. Brooklyn CORE had marched along Gates Avenue for half a year, but the major response came from tenants already excited by the chapter's demonstrations for jobs at Downstate Medical Center. Whether Gray's opportunists, NYU CORE's impulsive students, Brooklyn's older, methodical professionals, East River's militants, or MFY's social work radicals, organizers mobilized few strikers, probably no more than 2 percent of tenants in those blocks.
Meager success at grass roots mobilization reflected pervasive confusion at the top. Tenant leaders could not decide, much less act, on the merits of what might be called the "structural" versus the "territorial" approach to organizing the tenement poor, and they never overcame the fallacies of both. Groups like Brooklyn CORE and the Lower East Side organizers were confident that all they had to do was dispatch young volunteers to "work" specific blocks into an angry consciousness, then call a strike. This territorial approach not only romanticized the rebellious potential of the poor, it overlooked the complexities behind the stereotypical "slum" -- the differences in tenement dilapidation, between lease holders and subletters, between families and single occupants, between the working poor and welfare recipients, between those resigned to substandard walk-ups and those aspiring to enter city projects. The typical Lower East Side neighborhood contained no great monopoly landlord against whom tenants could be organized like an industrial local or against whom judges could order some kind of class-action relief. These complexities produced infinite mischief when tenant leaders sought the standard section 755 redress. Bewildering patterns of property ownership, compounded by decentralized municipal courts and idiosyncratic judges, produced the legal chaos -- bureaucratic delays, endless adjournments, and uncertain decrees -- that embittered those who expected decisive justice.
From time to time, rent strike leaders professed the disciplined "structural" approach of organizing all the tenants in buildings controlled by a single landlord and crippling his entire rent income. While Jesse Gray flirted with the idea, radicals on the Lower East Side pursued the notion that a slumlord Gordian knot could be cut by bold measures. This myth grew with organizers' frustrations. In mid-December 1963 an NYU CORE attorney soberly assessed what his young colleagues had stumbled into on Eldridge Street. The chapter's experience showed the limits of "uncoordinated, unsupervised activities by a local group" and of street demonstrations that lacked legal follow-through with city administrators. Organizing more than a handful of tenants had proved a vast undertaking. Any realistic campaign against the slums would take "an immense, coordinate effort of National CORE chapters and every competent professional and semi-professional we can lay our hands on." The alternative to that immense mobilization was an "attack on the basic 100 landlords," but even that struggle would require persistent legal and financial resources, the involvement of "mature, National CORE people," and take "several years." But few organizers had such caution. Lured by the glamor of direct action, they plunged ahead. With little knowledge of slum residents and less understanding of their housing aspirations, they embarked on a crusade that seemed irrelevant to most poor people struggling to leave the tenements.
The strikes' profound limitations at mobilizing tenants reinforced the cautious approach of many longtime activists. ALP veterans in the East Side Tenants Council quickly reoriented their work around those few occupants disciplined to withhold rent and prepared to pay for their own litigation -- a kind of "business unionism" on the housing front. A similar withdrawal occurred at Yorkville Save Our Homes, where Jane Benedict tightened organizational lines to prevent the "premature" strikes that Jesse Gray's enthusiasm seemed to touch off. But for more distant observers, the strikes were poor people's rebellions with immense potential for radical change. They clinched the Students for a Democratic Society's commitment to action projects in working-class neighborhoods. They intoxicated many young professionals, including Columbia University law students and Pratt Institute architects, to lend their expertise to direct action in the ghetto. The New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects was roused by James Farmer and Jesse Gray to form the Architects Renewal Committee in Harlem (ARCH) to "increase the capacity for action of ghetto residents in the planning situation" with its "sense of potency, responsibility and purpose." Going the extreme, many black power advocates saw the strikes as the first step in the ghetto's foreclosure on white colonialism.
But already, Wagner administration liberals were recovering their composure with housing programs designed to accomplish all that upstart tenant power had intended. The mayor's office hastily improvised the Emergency Repair Program, after MFY and East Harlem activists presented the idea to city housing experts. Emergency Repair relied on municipal "police power" to contract for the elimination of hazardous Multiple Dwellings Law violations, with costs recovered from liens on the property. Tenant activists assumed that they would initiate most complaints. A companion measure, article 7-A of the Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law, authorized tenants in a seriously dilapidated multiple dwelling to petition the courts to appoint a public administrator to collect rent and order repairs. Although article 7-A required tenants to furnish detailed violations and estimated costs, it seemed to hand them an important instrument for self-determination. The city also revitalized the Receivership Program, which allowed the courts to appoint a receiver to take over a decrepit building and make repairs paid for with rents and a prior lien. Local tenant and community groups expected to play a prominent role in the recommendation of appropriate buildings and receivers.
These programs gave an invaluable boost to the Wagner administration's tattered image, but had little impact on the tenements. Their operations also failed to allow for significant tenant involvement in the long run. Emergency Repair proved an administrative nightmare, soon taken up by the Model Cities bureaucracy, when it expired due to lagging reimbursement by landlords. From the beginning, article 7-A proved far too technical and cumbersome for most tenant groups to handle without outside professional help. Under the Receivership Program, the city took over 117 buildings by 1965, when arrears in rents and soaring repair costs convinced the new John V. Lindsay administration to halt acquisitions. By then the city had switched its emphasis from legal withholdings to landlord-tenant mediation, exemplified by the RRA's Housing Repair and Maintenance Program. Landlords, whose building violations normally meant punitive RRA rent reductions, were given the chance to agree to scheduled repairs supervised by the city and paid for with restored rents. By the decade's end, cases were coming from the district rent office, the mayor's office, and city councilmen. A landlord-tenant conference presided over by an RRA ombudsman worked toward an agreement on escrow rents and repairs to ward off abandonment. In 1968 the RRA supervised cases in 303 buildings, which led just 44 landlords to compliance.
While the strike fervor cooled noticeably by 1965, it left a residue of tenant militance that continued rent strikes on an isolated, almost experimental, basis. On the Lower East Side, young radicals at the University Settlement started an MFY-type housing drive called Action for Progress. Director Paul DeBrul, plunging into tenant work, organized the city's first building to petition successfully for a 7-A administrator. DeBrul admitted his basic strategy was to "make it so tough for the landlords as to make them sell out cheap." Similarly inspired, David Borden, an East Harlem community worker, proposed that Massive Economic Neighborhood Development (MEND), the local antipoverty committee, sponsor a block development program to send workers from storefronts to organize food and housing coops. Nearby, Reverend Norman Eddy's Christian witness at the Metro-North Community Council was driven leftward by a faction pledged to continued direct action. Meanwhile, ARCH's young professionals envisioned Harlem as the place to conduct a massive tutorial in people's architecture that could turn out pamphlets on tenant action, code violations, and slumlord economics. An ARCH Housing Action Training Institute would graduate scores of young community organizers with a fluency ranging from rent control and urban renewal to strikes and 7-A sponsorship.
As it turned out, grandiose strategies and militant rhetoric proved just another distraction from the frustrating reality of organizing ghetto tenants. University Settlement's Action for Progress always attracted a greater response from middle-class Jewish cooperators along Grand Street than from Puerto Rican welfare tenants on Rutgers. DeBrul conceded that his tenant organizing got nowhere compared to the media impact of lead poisoning, an issue he hit upon in 1969. At Metro-North, radicals briefly took over, but could not alter what had become their stewardship over a dwindling housing stock. Beset by a wave of building abandonment, Metro-North's activists found relocation aid their foremost function. Anticipating the needs of seven hundred families, Reverend Eddy drafted a 1966 grant proposal, "A Humane Relocation Program for the Poor," and used antipoverty funds to train a small cadre to work with city relocation officials. Despite the dreams, the ARCH Training Institute amounted to a one-time 1966 summer project where twenty-one students worked on a program for rehousing the elderly and prepared a tenant handbook. ARCH mustered far greater enthusiasm, if less success, by supporting the last hurrah of the Harlem strikes, particularly article 7-A proceedings, which seemed tailored to its technical expertise. An ARCH task force of twenty architects, lawyers, and VISTA workers submitted forty rent-withholding petitions based on section 755 and article 7-A (over half the 7-A petitions presented since the law's inception), but after endless litigation, only seven brought essential repairs. ARCH expected real breakthroughs with the city's new "rent-impairing violations law," which permitted tenants to withhold rent where specific, hazardous building violations went unrepaired for seven months. With typical enthusiasm, ARCH envisioned the prospect of one million organized slum residents: "The net effect of such a massive, simple, legal rent strike would probably be to drive many marginal slumlords to abandon their buildings -- and we are back at the Neighborhood Housing Corporation which would be created to take over the properties."
Across the city, radical initiatives were being systematically absorbed by another legacy of the civil rights upsurge -- the War on Poverty's Community Action Program and, ultimately, the U.S. Model Cities Administration. Everywhere, radicals found their visions overwhelmed by tedious code enforcement, relocation services, and public housing applications, which transformed their indigenous groups into outreach service for the Housing Authority and the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity. If the rent strikes had been ignited by sweating, shouting young black men in Harlem, they were soon defused by cool, sleeves-rolled-up technicians on the housing staffs of John V. Lindsay or Robert F. Kennedy.
Brooklyn's foremost antipoverty agency, the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation (BSRC), deployed its small staff to organize tenant and block associations. Its major work, however, came as a counselor and supplier of teenage job trainees to the spruce-up campaigns of local brownstoners' associations. BSRC also ran a small mortgage pool for limited rehabilitation projects and helped line up applications with participating downtown banks. But like the MFY storefronts, the greatest daily activity remained housing referral, chiefly of applicants for the public projects. By 1968 BSRC had spurred only a modest amount of new construction. With help from Pratt Institute and other outside consultants, BSRC advised on article 7-A conversions at two tenements and provided technical aid for the co-op conversion of two others. While vying for an ambitious, federally funded, scatter-site, housing rehabilitation program, BSRC had actually completed work on six buildings containing fifty-three apartment units. By far, its greatest impact occurred through code enforcement and civic pressure in support of middle-class block associations worried about the spread of the Central Brooklyn ghetto.
In the Bronx, the techniques of tenant organizing also came to serve the needs of conservative block associations and antipoverty corporations. Like Bedford-Stuyvesant, Morrisania's black middle-class churches and small homeowners provided support for the New York CORE's and the Urban League's provision of local community services to expedite housing complaints to the Buildings Department and sponsor tenement spruce-up campaigns. Black homeowners on Union, Prospect, and Fulton avenues were appalled that the Department of Relocation had chosen Morrisania as a dumping ground for hapless relocatees. In 1966 the Union-Prospect Block Association and several churches formed the League of Autonomous Bronx Organizations (LABOR) to demand city code enforcement and guide preservation policies of the Morrisania Community Planning Board. LABOR was apprehensive about the ferment in the Hispanic South Bronx, a center of the expansive Hunt's Point Community Progress Corporation (HPCPC). In 1966 HPCPC claimed a force of 50 block workers, who visited 3,000 buildings and started 350 tenant councils and 9 block associations. It had also lodged block workers and social service trainees at outposts, like the Concerned Parents of Fox Street, the Trinity, Kelly, Cauldwell, and Simpson Street block associations, and an HPCPC "satellite" storefront on Prospect Avenue. The leaders claimed fluency in section 755, article 7-A, and Penal Code 2040 proceedings, with twenty buildings on rent strike and another ten already paying rent to the courts. Nevertheless, HPCPC, operating as just another, although the busiest, Bronx ghetto service center, shunted complaints to the rent office, Department of Buildings, Department of Health, and Emergency Repair Service at the rate of some 510 cases per month.
Ironically, such efforts made the least headway in Harlem. With little patience for the legal mechanisms of rent withholding, Jesse Gray had absolutely none for the tedious litigation of article 7-A or receivership. Furthermore, he left behind no institutional apparatus after he quit tenant organizing to pursue his political ambitions in the state assembly. Elsewhere in Harlem, ARCH faced increased difficulty scrounging up volunteer professionals to work on projects beside rent strikes. ARCH's most successful liaison was with the Community Association of the East Harlem Triangle and MEND, which drew up a plan for staged renewal, which the city agreed to add to its ''housing opportunity studies." In the barrio, getting new housing on the official agenda proved a pyrrhic victory for other activists. In 1965, with substantial city aid, Ted Velez's East Harlem Tenants Council prepared elaborate plans for 448 low-income units in four high rises on 122d Street. The Tenants Council also proposed to ease relocation by dividing the block for phased demolition. Negotiating for city tax subsidies and FHA mortgage insurance, Velez had come a long way from section 755 withholdings. The proposals, however, neglected detailed analysis of the housing needs and income levels of site tenants and revealed an attention to physical and zoning specifications reminiscent of the CSC's glossy Title I reports. The plan faltered, later to be taken up by the state Urban Development Corporation, a more likely sponsor of such ambitious blueprints.
Large-scale rehousing plans, which seemed to lead back to the sterile monoliths of the 1950s, drove many tenant groups to the vogue in small-scale rehabilitation and "vest pocket" housing. Rehabilitation of existing tenements promised lower development costs and minimum displacement of site residents as well as maximum involvement by local residents in neighborhood planning. In reality, sponsors tended to be nonprofit foundations or national corporations (usually manufacturers of builders' supplies), run by professional, centralized staffs, responsive to technical design criteria impenetrable to lay influence. Such outfits, with their established contacts with antipoverty funding, readily overshadowed storefront groups. One study of 1,283 units, rehabilitated with FHA below-market-interest-rate (BMIR) mortgages, found that two-thirds were sponsored by a handful of philanthropic foundations only tenuously connected to localities. Even with city tax abatements and BMIR mortgages, rents on completed units were twice the previous levels, well beyond the reach of site residents. Projects required a "gut" rehabilitation that meant a tenant removal "no different . . . than what occurs in any clearance project," while on-site coordination between architects and contractors precluded all but the most passive tenant involvement. The greatest disillusion came with the stiff costs of remodeling old law tenements and the difficulty in obtaining steady rents from low-income tenants. A rare success, the Upper Park Avenue Community Association's thirty-five units on East 117th Street, solved the problem by subjecting tenants to an orientation course and draconian management. "The energetic neighborhood ladies who ran UPACA inspected every apartment every month," noted journalist Martin Mayer, "and anyone who flunked the inspection had a chance of taking the course again or getting out."
By 1968 such housing endeavors fell under the aegis of Model Cities, whose housing component was the Lindsay administration's eight-thousand unit Vest Pocket Program. Model Cities' attack on ghetto dilapidation began with guarded rhetoric about community involvement, together with meticulous documentation of every community meeting held and every citizen who approached a microphone. But Vest Pocket was controlled by the Lindsay appointed Model Cities Policy Committee, which deployed planning initiatives, prepackaged by the City Planning Commission and Housing and Development Administration, for use in the three Model Neighborhoods. Each neighborhood had an elected planning committee, which tended to defer to paid planning directors, who usually contracted detailed studies out to minority architects credentialed with the Urban League or the Urban Coalition. Observers noted that the Harlem and South Bronx Model Cities committees "had only a limited idea of what they were supposed to do." In Mott Haven, this citizen participation deteriorated so markedly that the planning committee finally staged a sit-in at city headquarters to force convenient relocation schedules.
In South Bronx Model Cities, Vest Pocket Housing became the object of a power struggle between the mayor's Model Cities Policy Committee and the War on Poverty-funded Hunt's Point Multi-Service Corporation (HPMSC), which operated as Ramon Velez's political club. Sheer caudillismo and low voter turnout in Model Cities elections allowed Velez to control South Bronx Model Cities, although control meant deference to prepackaged blueprints from the Housing and Development Administration. Velez's dominance also extended to hastily contrived block organizations, which sponsored most of the South Bronx Vest Pocket housing, and to the planning contracts aggrandized by a few architectural firms. Managing to absorb the few indigenous tenant organizations extant in the Bronx barrio, Velez's HPMSC monopolized what passed for neighborhood involvement. Rare exceptions, such as the South Bronx NAACP and the South Bronx Housing Association, were local church groups, brokered by outsiders, who represented citywide Protestant charities and foundations. The South Bronx's largest Vest Pocket project, the Bronx-Chester Urban Renewal, was hammered out by HPMSC and the Third Avenue Merchants Association.
In Brooklyn, Bedford-Stuyvesant's middle-class block associations controlled early community participation in the 1966 Vest Pocket Program via their seats on the Central Brooklyn Coordinating Council (CBCC). While a few tenant groups were accepted on the CBCC, planning sessions were dominated by the block associations, supported by the Brooklyn Democratic organization. Vest Pocket sites were chosen with a middle-class concern to "help eliminate eye-sores in the midst of many of Bedford-Stuyvesant's residential neighborhoods." Technical studies were then contracted out to the Housing Authority and the firm of Raymond & May Associates, although active contributions came from churches and block associations, who later vied as sponsors of middle-income housing. Generally, sites were first delineated by community advisory groups and Housing Authority consultants, then presented to a series of community meetings, and finally confirmed by the Housing Authority staff. In Bedford-Stuyvesant, intrenched homeowners' associations backed by local political clubs could at times hold their own in hard bargaining with city agencies.
The clubhouse-homeowners' dominance grew stronger when the Vest Pocket Program was absorbed into the Central Brooklyn Model Neighborhood in 1968. Throughout Bedford-Stuyvesant and East New York, local civic and church groups came forward as housing sponsors, but usually in denominational consortiums or with neighborhood fraternal lodges or Youth in Action community boards. Tenant councils proved too weak to participate, except in one instance as part of a local church consortium. In any case, decisive control gravitated to the few indispensable professionals -- a black, Harvard-educated architect and his favorite collaborator, a downtown, white attorney -- and to a few favored contractors, including one reputed to be Brownsville's largest "slumlord." This pattern of community projects taken up by a handful of professionals, nominally "indigenous," and by local "povertycrats," was repeated throughout Bedford-Stuyvesant. In Brownsville, a disciplined clubhouse, controlled by the state senator, made a mockery of citizen participation that was "weak and pathetic" and an outright scandal of the rehabilitation program.
If the antipoverty and Model Cities programs had shown the sharp limits of community-controlled housing, optimistic claims came from other nonprofit local sponsors, particularly church consortiums lured into the field by the federal BMIR subsidies. In sheer numbers, these denominational efforts were a spectacular success. By 1971 eighty-one church-related, nonprofit corporations had sponsored over 32,O00 units of low- and moderate-income housing. But again, the crucial role belonged to professional developers, accompanied by the scantiest local involvement. In the Bronx, 63 percent of 4,724 units were taken up by just four sponsors, brokered by the law firm of emerging Bronx Democratic leader Patrick Cunningham and prominent builder Richard Ravitch. Of Manhattan's 14,889 units, four consortiums organized by such institutions as Roosevelt Hospital and Columbia University took up one-third. Only one Manhattan tenant group, the Tenants Association of 107th Street, participated in a 300-unit rehab, again as part of a local church consortium.
Two projects, heralded as models of extensive community control, provided better examples of liberal agencies' dominance of vague community aspirations. When the mixed Italian, Jewish, and Puerto Rican West Tremont block associations and churches rejected a Housing Authority proposal for a low-income project, Bronx borough president Herman Badillo and the Catholic archdiocese twisted arms to incorporate the lower-middle-class Italians and Puerto Ricans into an amenable group, the Twin Parks Association. Later, advocacy planners with the City Planning Commission suggested their own design, revised again by experts from the state Urban Development Corporation. The result was the twenty-two-hundred-unit Twin Parks, which a sympathetic observer called "massive structures thrust" into the neighborhood. Behind East Harlem's Upper Park Avenue Community Association (UPACA) were two local black women, former luncheonette partners, whose ambitions were discovered by the New York Federation of Reform Synagogues and a succession of overpowering city agencies. Housing and Development Administration officials hit upon the duo as the instrument for their vision of large-scale rehabs with BMIR subsidies. Making these neighbors a community force, the agencies granted them management of city-owned tenements and made it clear to the community that the UPACA women controlled waiting lists for new units to be built by the city. Once established, UPACA became the recipient of mortgages from the Bowery Savings Bank, guarantees from the Urban Development Corporation, and grants from the Ford Foundation. Its massive, thirty-two-story apartment towers, coveted waiting lists, and conservative management combined to make UPACA indistinguishable from the huge Housing Authority projects further east.
Amid ebbing tenant initiatives, the spring 1970 "squatters" movement echoed earlier failures. Inspired by the last gasp of 1960s' direct action, local radicals, seizing vacant apartments slated for demolition, proclaimed the community's moral right to possession. Ad hoc move-ins occurred on West 15th Street in Greenwich Village and on 111th and 122d streets in the Morningside Urban Renewal Area. But squatting became systematic on West 87th Street and along Columbus Avenue, where buildings awaited luxury conversion or demolition for middle-income high rises as part of the West Side Urban Renewal. At night, blacks and Puerto Ricans, prying open boarded-up entrances and rigging makeshift living arrangements, presented the city with a fait accompli -- either recognize their "ownership" or evict whole families in front of press photographers. Eventually, the Columbus Avenue Operation Move-In claimed one hundred participating families and, like an alternative housing authority, a "waiting list" of three hundred. They were supported by elaborate networks, including several West Side antipoverty agencies, and, in Morningside Heights, a solicitous Episcopal bishop 
Nevertheless, the squatters could not shake off a basic ambivalence about their purpose. Some radicals envisioned the break-ins as a sustainable housing policy and sought city mortgage and rehabilitation commitments. Others, bitter at the advancing edge of tax-supported luxury conversions (which housing critics dubbed gentrification), tried to use the squatters as bargaining leverage to increase low-income units earmarked for the West Side. Many squatters evidently hoped the Housing and Development Administration would redesignate their occupied homes for low-income rehabilitation (some even offered a "moral" rent of 25 percent of their incomes), but others apparently expected to gain priority on Housing Authority waiting lists. The few Columbus Avenue menages were soon cleared away for the detested Mitchell-Lama projects. Those on 111th and 122d streets, really middle-income protests against expansion by Columbia University, remained longer thanks to the sufferance of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and the new militant Columbia Tenants Union. The squatters, however, did dramatize the notion of community sovereignty over abandoned units, an idea made plausible by the application of tenants' "sweat equity" to reclaim them. At a time when the Richard M. Nixon administration seemed bent on ending traditional and costly federal subsidies to low-income housing, this people's rehabilitation lived on in feisty organizations, such as the People's Development Corporation (founded in 1974) and the Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association (1977) in the South Bronx.
For all their direct action, West Side squatters exemplified the central dilemma that had plagued tenant councils and community groups since the rent strike upsurge of the early 1960s. They could mobilize tenant anger, but for how long? To what ends? Undoubtedly on the block level they could play a powerful role in building-code enforcement. With their area teams they could become tenement vigilantes, meting out a popular justice against unscrupulous landlords. Certainly the thicket of tenant councils, block associations, and antipoverty groups on the housing front engendered a new level of code enforcement, or at least the posting of code violations. One planner may have exaggerated that code violations "were issued with a vengeance" by the mid-1960s, but she was right to point out that they reached an unprecedented volume. While the city's inspection force doubled during the mid-1960s, the number of building code complaints nearly quadrupled, as did the number of posted violations -- to an incredible backlog of 781,000.
But this was a housing policy that went only as far as the Buildings Department wished to take it, as the Emergency Repair Program and other enforcement efforts showed. Tenant leaders could rally support around alternative housing programs, but these usually required a technical command beyond the resources of most community groups. Those few that acquired them ended up bestriding their communities like the landlords they had detested. Otherwise, to raise the prospects of alternative housing was to stimulate powerful community aspirations that could only be fulfilled by established city agencies. Community groups soon discovered that they could maintain a standing among their neighbors only insofar as they could negotiate with these professional city staffs. Inevitably this meant deals at downtown city offices, over Housing Authority blueprints, and within mortgage-bank estimates.
By the end of the 1960s, the remnants of the tenant movement had become disembodied from its radical tradition. Its chief asset, rent control, had become an embarrassing, decayed relic, which few had the political courage to inter. Despite its inflammatory rhetoric and progressive self-image, Met Council was living off old crusades, in danger of becoming the tool of the city's new privileged upper middle class. Standing firm on vigilant rent enforcement through the usual city agencies, Met Council never made more than a peripheral connection with a decade of rent strikers and squatters. It remained stubbornly distant from the rehabilitation and tax-abatement programs, which it viewed as landlord grabs. In the meantime, its ranks swelled with new middle-class recruits living in Manhattan and Brooklyn Heights Title I and Mitchell-Lama projects, where tenants tried to gain some leverage over their middle-income rents. Understandably, Met Council worked hard and took credit for the 1969 Rent Stabilization Law which for the first time imposed annual ceilings on rent increases in post-1947 housing. Adding a rent-stabilized to the already rent-controlled sector in this housing economy was no small accomplishment, although it stemmed from Met Council's ability to conjure up a fearsome tenant vote than from its ability to deploy organized tenant councils.
Met Council's focus on the single issue of rent control, moreover, forfeited its influence on the most important housing debate of the new decade, touched off by the scare word abandonment. The number of landlords who simply walked away from their tenements probably reached epidemic proportions by 1966, but the phenomenon remained a technical consideration, even as late as the 1969 municipal elections. It surfaced, only briefly when Mayor Lindsay and his opponents traded charges about the city's failure to expand the low-income housing supply. A week after Mayor Lindsay's reelection, his political ally, state senator Roy M. Goodman, convened Manhattan hearings of his Senate Committee on Housing and Urban Development and heard the problem described for the first time as a dire emergency. Frank S. Kristof, chief economist of the state Urban Development Corporation, startled the inquiry with an estimate that thirty-three thousand units had been lost annually in the last three years. Roger Starr, executive director of the Citizens Housing and Planning Council, and Jason R. Nathan, outgoing head of the Housing and Development Administration, depicted spreading devastation that could only be stemmed by a drastic reversal of postwar housing policy. Citing a yet-to-be-released study by the New York Rand Institute, which showed that rents in the controlled sector failed to provide for even normal maintenance costs, these witnesses called for an end to the city's punitive rent reductions and code enforcement and to that "destructive" anachronism, rent control.
Miscalculating the issue's potency, Met Council responded with ritual exorcism of this "Frankenstein monster" created by landlords and their stooges at Rand and the CHPC. But this no longer sufficed in an atmosphere charged by ghetto riots, black power demands, and Harlem school wars. Met Council notwithstanding, the city, already switching sympathies from the slum tenant to the tenement landlord, regarded him less a rapacious owner than an endangered entrepreneur, hounded out of neighborhoods that could not afford to lose his housing managerial skills, such as they were. With the New York Times leading the media, abandonment tales peaked in spring 1970, with a new focus on the psychology of the beleaguered landlord. With Kristof's estimate now an obsession, public fears were heightened by stories about neighborhoods like Hunt's Point in the Bronx, where drug addicts foraged in empty, arson-torched tenements and civic order ceased to exist. At this juncture, the release of reports by the Rand Institute, the Citizens Budget Committee, and Rutgers University economist George Sternlieb crystallized public dissatisfaction with current housing policies. Marshaling new data on tenement operations, Sternlieb characterized the typical rent control landlord as a small owner, overwhelmed by rising costs, ignorant of his rights under the complicated city rent formula, and fearful of renting his property to blacks and Hispanics. While Sternlieb urged a ten-year phased system of rent increases, he cautioned that lifting controls might only save those post-1929 structures still not too far gone.
Met Council could take only limited comfort in the outcome. Obviously, rent control still gripped the city. It could only be challenged by outsiders, like Kristof and Sternlieb. Moreover, the Lindsay administration had to muster all this prestigious opinion behind its May 1970 proposal for a 15 percent, across-the-board rent increase and its Maximum Base Rent Program (MBR), which would have scrapped controls for a complex, computerized cost-of-operations formula (that approached the Rand concept of an economic rent). Met Council and liberals in the city council nearly derailed the plan, had not a fissure opened up in their traditional coalition of support. Local 32B of the Building Services Employees, predominantly black and Hispanic, was bargaining for higher wages and threatened an apartment house strike that spring. Landlords on the Metropolitan Fair Rent Committee shrewdly understood that 32B would more likely join the breakthrough of ceilings on rents and wages than side with Manhattan liberals to preserve anachronistic rent levels. With some last minute city council bargaining that delayed the 15 percent increase to August 1 and added a fig leaf requirement that landlords certify they had repaired building violations, MBR was passed in July. What began as an attempt to impose rational order and profit incentives on the housing industry ended up with chaos, as MBR rent calculations got bogged down and the district rent offices had to divert their own scarce manpower. MBR enforcement and appeals were paralyzed. Reminiscent of 1947, tenants found themselves largely on their own and began organizing Met Council affiliates with a vengeance. But accelerating inflation and the continued gentrification of Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn rendered the old tenant coalition badly frayed. Beset by landlords, by organized labor, and by the new ownership vogue among middle-class cooperators, the tenant movement faced the 1970s with less certainty and less legitimacy than ever before.
What did the tenant movement accomplish after a quarter century of mimeographed leaflets, marches, pickets, and legislative lobbies? Perhaps most remarkable, its survival in the liberal city may have been achievement enough. Along the way, it could also count some important triumphs, some maneuvers that bought time for thousands in their apartments, and a good deal of consciousness-raising that eventually changed the political landscape of the city. Tenant groups had maintained the cause of rent control, a political orphan as late as 1942, at the center of New York's political agenda for the next thirty years. By the late 1940s the tenants' politics of preemption had made it impossible for realtors to dismantle controls as they had done in the 1920s and suicidal for politicians to try. In many communities, they elaborated a neighborhood enforcement that amounted to vigilanteism. ALP clubs, which constituted the tenant vanguard, kept this shred of radicalism alive, and maintained a community-service tradition that would become the heart of Reform Democratic politics. It is not too much to say that these sometimes lonely activists, these beleaguered ALP clubs, shaped the awareness of the dignity and integrity of neighborhoods that would become the most significant ingredient of the community-power movement of the 1960s.
Tenant groups had far less success in contributing to the decisions on public housing and city planning, which were fundamental to where New Yorkers would live in the postwar city. Of course, their early involvement in public housing was important in establishing the program's foothold. In the late 1930s and through the 1940s, the project unions affiliated with the City-Wide Tenants Council and United Tenants League were the most vocal advocates for expanded public housing. Their demonstrations, indeed their very deliberations, were taken by liberals as the best evidence of the spirited new democracy being nurtured by decent housing. In the debates over the Truman administration measures that led to the Housing Act of 1949, no one provided more graphic or eloquent support for this crucial area of domestic liberalism. But to be effective, the tenants always had to operate within a larger liberal coalition, which had the decisive contacts in Albany and Washington. Furthermore, the single most influential hand behind the enormous expansion of public housing in New York may have been Robert Moses, who evidently regarded public projects as the most expedient means to "externalize" the costs of moving tenants off Title I sites and to keep the program on track. Tenants made less headway in the more important realm of postwar planning and urban redevelopment. While the war had fatally disrupted the promising relationship between the City-Wide Tenants Council and planning liberals, cold war discord kept them warily distant during the crucial start-up debates over Title 1. Even so, it remains questionable whether any kind of liheral-radical coalition could have restrained Moses at the height of his power. Under the circumstances, the tenants did well to blunt some of his initiatives, force him into tactical withdrawals, and wheedle as much relocation housing as they managed. Again, they were not able to carry this off alone, but depended upon the intervention of liberals. But this was no small accomplishment, particularly in an era of declining neighborhood newspapers and before the advent of "eyewitness" television reports The tenants' forlorn protests against Title I helped mold the sense of injustice that would eventually change the course of urban redevelopment in New York and across the nation.
Their limited accomplishments came on the most slender resources. What evidence we have indicates that for this quarter century, at least, mobilization never reached hundreds of thousands, unless we count those who signed petitions and sent letters to their representatives. In project after project, few mass organizations were ever realized or sustained for long. The most successful occurred in the middle-class limited-dividend projects, which provided the mainstay of the City-Wide Tenants Council in the late 1930s. Of course, mass defiance broke out in East Tremont in the early 1930s, but such numbers were never duplicated, not even during the Harlem and Lower East Side rent strikes of the 1960s. Moreover, the mobilization achieved had the disheartening tendency to melt away at the first prospect of relocation from Title I sponsors or the Housing Authority. And much of the time, tenant groups survived as self-styled mediators with these city agencies.
In light of these findings, it seems dubious to accord women any particular success at grass roots mobilization, nor misconstrue their function in the movement. No doubt, women were active on this domestic front. They could circulate petitions, knock on doors, and picket in front of supermarkets with an ease few men could match. On occasion, they served as movement shock troops, as in East Tremont in 1932 or Long Island City in 1943. In both instances, after housewives had badly shaken realtors and city rent officials, male tenant leaders negotiated the follow-up arrangements. The fact was that women operated within the prevailing sexual division of labor, with which radicals remained quite comfortable. The ambiguity of this gender politics was well symbolized by events at Queensbridge in 1943. The demands of two thousand project women to serve their country in war factories were telegrammed by the male Queensbridge Tenants League secretary to the female War Manpower Commissioner. Generally, few women rose beyond this rank-and-file activism to assume leadership roles in the limited dividends, Harlem's Consolidated Tenants League, or the City-Wide Tenants Council. Males dominated policy-making at the latter and shaped its transformation into the 1942 United Tenants League. Men dominated Jesse Gray's entourage, organized the sedge against landlords on the Lower East Side, and guided the earliest development of Met Council; the list could go on. When the time came to lobby at city hall or Albany, the tenants sent males. Of course, the Esther Rands and Jane Benedicts were conspicuous in the movement, but not overly so when compared to settlement house and social welfare groups or the Democratic Reform movement itself.
We should also he careful not to attribute to these tenant groups a vitalism rarely foreseen, let alone achieved, by tenant leaders themselves. There is no doubt that from time to time local groups elaborated sophisticated organizational structures and larger coalitions of considerable citywide impact. At a distance this looks something like a purposeful adaptation to the changing housing and political environment, an evolution of radical forms. But a closer look suggests that little of this had occurred. There is no evidence of an organization steadily evolving, creatively adapting to the housing environment. For one thing, there was no long-lived involvement, no long continuity in the struggle, chiefly because residential and professional mobility removed many activists from the scenes of long-term engagement. There is no evidence that the rent pageants of 1904 provided a kind of collective memory that shaped behavior on the Lower East Side in 1919, or that these earlier outbreaks influenced the tenant rebellions of 1932. Jesse Gray often acted as if he invented rent defiance, and he apparently believed this in his innocence. The activists on the Lower East Side and in CORE had only the vaguest notion that tenants had struck against landlords thirty years before -- and no knowledge that their chief weapon, section 755, had been first put on the statute books in 1930. The oral history of the 1960s strikes in Harlem and elsewhere, presumably a rich depository of a people's tradition of tenant protest, reveals genuine surprise that such tactics had been used before. In short, each tenant generation believed itself unique in confronting problems in the housing environment, generally elaborating approaches in ignorance of what had been tried before.
Above all, any conclusions about the tenant movement's successful adaptation to the housing environment must be severely questioned in light of the disastrous outcome of the housing struggle in the 1970s. It seems moot to analyze multilevels of influence when tenants could not influence the housing arbiters who really counted. In the end, they could not come to grips with landlords, could not force them to listen to their blandishments could not constrain them to continue to operate tenements when it was no longer in their interests, could not prevent them from simply walking away from their properties. In this failure, of course, tenants were no more able to deter footloose landlords than labor unions were able to deter footloose industrial employers. The abandonment of some five hundred thousand apartment units after 1965 was only the most blatant example of general disinvestment by property owners in aging northern cities. Tenant groups Could hardly stem this tide, although as the closest observers of the housing Scene, they could be faulted for refusing to face that grim reality while offering the most disingenuous solutions. By the mid-1960s, tenant leaders, alternating inflammatory words with rent strikes of growing sophistication, were putting tremendous pressure on selected landlords. Perhaps they can be excused for not realizing the consequences of their war on landlords, although that would accord them a naivete in their understanding of economic power that most would have indignantly rejected. But many tenant activists were not naive. They were "realists." They talked seriously of wholesale foreclosure of slumlords. They expected slumlords to be replaced by tenant activists, by sympathetic liberals, or by the Housing Authority or similar agency. Considering how much they railed against those liberals, the Wagner and the Rockefeller administrations, this expectancy was inconsistent at best. That the Housing Authority might enlarge its landlordship was still plausible in the early 1960s; but by 1966, after the sharp decline in public housing commitments and the negligible impact of the War on Poverty and Model Cities programs were clear, such rhetoric bordered on the irresponsible. This is not to say that tenant leaders should not have lashed out against slumlords. But what the public and the tenants themselves could have expected was for movement leaders, who professed to act with toughness and realism, to understand the limits on their ability to fasten on landlords in a property-owning society, to talk with the realization that they could only be reached by a careful mixture of incentives and sanctions, and to act in the knowledge that landlords, tenants, and city agencies had to pull together in the complicated process of providing for New York's housing stock. To do otherwise was to impose a chilling effect on housing entrepreneurship. In the end, it was hundreds of thousands of low-income tenants who found themselves out in the cold.
Space permits only a partial acknowledgment of the many people whose aid made this essay possible. They include: David Klanssen of the Social Welfare History Archives of the University of Minnesota, Jerry N. Hess and Lee Johnson of the National Archives, Washington, D. C.; Joel Buckwald of the Federal Records Center, Bayonne, New Jersey; Val Coleman and Alfredo Graham of the New York City Housing Authority; Marian Sameth of the Citizens Housing and Planning Council; Dorothy Swanson of the Tamiment Library, New York University, Jack Noordhoorn of the Butler Library, Columbia University; Bernard M. Weinberg of the Morningside Area Alliance; and Jane Benedict of the Metropolitan Council on Housing. Joseph Spencer shared his data on the 1930s, and John McLoughlin's oral history tapes proved indispensable. Mark Naison offered prudent editorial advice, while Ronald Lawson remained a patient and generous project director. Nathan R. Fox and Rose M. Schwartz typed numerous drafts. My wife, Bonnie Fox Schwartz, helped with the early stages of research and remained a constant, meticulous editor.
An earlier version of my discussion of tenant activism in the 1960s appeared as "The New York City Rent Strikes of 1963-1964," Social Service Review 57 (Dec. 1983). It is published here with the permission of the publisher, The University of Chicago. (c) 1983 by the University of Chicago. All rights reserved.
1. Joseph Starobin, American Communism in Crisis, 1943-1957 (Cambridge, 1972), pp. 54-77; and Maurice Isserman, Which Side Were You On? (Middletown, Conn., 1982), chaps. 7-8.
2. Grace Aviles to Edith Elmer Wood, Jan.6, 1942; Vladeck News and Views, Mar. 19, 1942, both in Box 62, Edith Elmer Wood Papers, Columbia University; Sydney Jacobs, "Tenant's Needs and Problems as Seen by Social Service Agencies," Dec. 8, 1942, in Citizens Housing Council, Management Committee, Minutes, Citizens Housing and Planning Council.
3. United Tenants League of Greater New York, Press Release, Sept. 11, 1942; UTL and National Public Housing Conference, "Continued Occupancy in Public Housing," both in Folder 102, United Neighborhood Houses Papers, Social Welfare History Archives, University of Minnesota (hereafter cited as UNH Papers); Edmund E. Klein to Director, War Manpower Commission, Sept. 23, 1943; and related correspondence in Section 269, War Manpower Commission Files, Federal Records Center, Bayonne; May Lumsden to Kelsey Volner, Williamsburg File 688; F. Didisheim to Edmund B. Butler, Oct. 15, 1942; Memo, June 11, 1943; Mr. Boyle to Mrs. Lumsden, June 22, 1943; Memo from LMC, June 11, 1943, all in Queensbridge File 687, New York City Housing Authority, Central Files (hereafter cited as NYCHA-CF).
4. Arthur Simon, Stuyvesant Town (New York, 1970), pp. 15-41; Charles Abrams to Thomas E. Dewey, Apr. 3, 1943; Algernon D. Black and Charles Abrams, City-Wide Citizens Committee on Harlem, May 27, 1943, Reel 11; Exhibit 5, Transcript of Minutes (Board of Estimate of the City of New York), pp. 138, 154-155, 159, 161, 162, Reel 50, Charles Abrams Papers, Cornell University (hereafter cited as Abrams Papers).
5. Frieda N. Heilberg, "A Study of the Rehousing Needs of Tenants Who Will Be Displaced by the Stuyvesant Town Project in New York City," Master's thesis, New York School of Social Work, 1944, pp. 7, 9-10, 30-31, 38-41, 48-49, 56-57; Community Service Society, The Rehousing Needs of the Families on the Stuyvesant Town Site (June 14, 1945), pp. 16-19, 28-30; New York Herald Tribune, Feb. 24, 1945; New York Times, Feb. 24, 1945; Fay Seabrook to Marcantonio, Apr. 24, 1945, Box 13, Vito Marcantonio Papers, New York Public Library (hereafter cited as Marcantonio Papers).
6. James Felt to Abrams, Feb. 16, 1942; Goode A. Hamey to Abrams, Nov. 3, 1943, all in Abrams Papers, Reel 11; "Urban Housing Management Association, Inc.," (New York Urban League, 1943), Box 71, Arthur C. Holden Papers, Cornell University; "Informal Meeting on the Riverton Project," n.d., Box 8, Algemon D. Black Papers, Columbia University (hereafter cited as Black Papers); New York Times, July 2, Oct. 30, 1946, Aug. 31, 1947.
7. "Informal Meeting on the Riverton Project," Black Papers, Box 8; "Statement of Policy on Federal Aid to Urban Redevelopment and Post-War Planning in the U.S.A., September 30, 1941," Box 11, Stanley M. Isaac. Papers. New York Public Library (hereafter cited as Isaacs Papers); Daily Worker, Dec. 2, 10, 1944. Compare these comments with the sharp dismissals of redevelopment in City-Wide Tenants Council, Tenant Newsletter, Mar. 4, Apr. 3, 1940.
8. Consolidated Tenants League of Harlem, Minutes, Sept. 30, Oct. 28, Dec. 2, 9, 1943, Mar. 2, Apr. 13, Sept. 7, 1944; Leigh Athearn to Thomas I. Emerson, Oct. 5, 1943, Box 1207; Tom Tippett to Walter Hart, Apr. 12, 1944, Box 1208; Ivan D. Carson, Memo, Sept. 22, 1942, Box 1207, Office of Price Administration, Enforcement Branch, Record Group 188, National Archives; City-Wide Citizens Committee on Harlem, Minutes, Feb. 2, 1944, Black Papers, Box 8.
9. Persia Campbell, The Consumer Interest (New York, 1949), pp. 158-159; Daily Worker, Sept. 29, 1943; Michael J. Quill Association flyer, Apr. 12, 1945; undated Memo on prices, both in Box 7, Peter Cacchione Papers, Tamiment Library, New York University (hereafter cited as Cacchione Papers); Daily Worker, Aug. 20, Oct. 14, 17, 1943, Jan. 5, 1944; New York Guild Lawyer 2 (Feb. 1944): 8; 3 (Jan. 1945): 8.
10. "Schedule of Events, Housing Week, May 21-27," Folder 103, UNH Papers; UTL Bulletin, May 20, 1945, copy in Holden Papers, Box 72.
11. Davis R. B. Ross, Preparing for Ulysses (New York, 1969), pp. 238-242, 249-251; Mark I. Gelfand, A Nation of Cities (New York, 1975), chap. 4; Stanley M. Isaacs to H. Daniel Carpenter, Apr. 11, 1945; Harold Buttenheim to Isaacs, Apr. 10, 1945, Isaacs Papers, Box 11; Robert A. Caro, The Power Broker (New York, 1974), pp. 704, 758, 764, 1221.
12. Bronx Home News, June 20, 27, July 2, 1946. For local buyers' strike pressures on neighborhood stores, see coverage in the Daily Worker on Apr. 23, July 22, 24, Nov. 24, and Dec. 11, 1946.
13. Frances Burden to William O'Dwyer, Apr. 8, 1947, Box 1214; Helen Harris to O'Dwyer, June 24, 1947; Alfred K. Stem to O'Dwyer, June 23, 1947. Box 1122; O'Dwyer to Keyes Winter, July 2, 1947, Box 1214; General Resolutions Promulgated by the Temporary City Housing Rent Commission, Articles II, III, July 15, 1947; Mayor O'Dwyer, Statement, July 15. 1947, all in Mayor's Papers, Box 1214, Municipal Archives and Records Center (hereafter cited as Mayor's Papers); New York Times, Aug. 30, Dec. 10, 1947, Jan. 26. 1948.
14. Circular, Apr. 15, 1947; untitled, undated typescript list of Brooklyn tenant organizations; Myron E. Lemberger to Cacchione, Oct. 9, 1947, all in Cacchione Papers, Box 8.
15. Daily Worker, Aug. 22, May 31, 1948; Tenants and Consumers Council of Boro Park Petition to City Councilmen, July 25, 1947; and to Mayor O'Dwyer, July 25, 1947, Cacchione Papers, Box 8. See also Alice Gardner and Lillian Mettling to O'Dwyer, Aug. 12, 1948, Mayor's Papers, Box 1213.
16. Yorkville Tenants League leaflets in Marcantonio Papers, Box 25; New York Times, Oct. 30, 1948, quoted in Marcantonio to O'Dwyer, Dec. 21, 1948, Box 13; Tenants of 233 East 100th Street to Marcantonio, Jan. 10, 1949, Marcantonio Papers, Box 54A. Data on Marcantonio's tenant work among individual buildings can be found in Marcantonio Papers, Boxes .54A and 55.
17. Daily Worker, Mar. 21, Nov. 28, 1948; Tremont Tenants Council, "Tenants' Bill of Rights" (1949), Box 278, Robert F. Wagner, Sr., Papers, Georgetown University; Morrisania Consumer Co-Ordinating Committee, Resolutions, Jan. 8, 1947, Mayor's Papers, Box 1123.
18. Bronx Home News, June 2, July 3, 8, 1947.
19. Ibid., Dec. 1, 2, 11, 1946, July 9, 11, 21, Oct. 29, 1947.
20. New York World Telegram, Oct. 14, 1948; Daily Worker, July 23, 1950; Ben Davidson to Charles Abrams, July 30, 1948, Abrams Papers, Reel 12.
21. New York Times, Dec. 10, 1947, Mar. 15, 1948; George Mallouk to Robert F. Wagner, Sr., Feb. 2, 1949, andd similar complaints in Wagner Papers, Box 278; New York Times, Jan. 19, 1948; Daily Worker, Mar. 21, 1948.
22. Daily Worker, July 24, 1946. These comments are based upon lists of tenant organizations that demonstrated and testified at various post-war rent hearings and are found in the Marcantonio Papers, the Wagner Papers, and the Mayor's Papers.
23. U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Committee on Un-American Activities, Investigation of Communist Activities in the New York Area, Hearings, vol. 21 (May 5, 1955), pp. 923-924, 927, 976; Daily Worker, Nov. 25, 1946, Feb. 8, Mar. 11, 1947, Nov. 30, 1948, Apr. 13, 1949.
24. PM, Sept. 17, 1947; New York World Telegram, Sept. 17, 1947; Phillip Good to O'Dwyer, July 28, 1947, Box 1122; Telegram, KVTA to O'Dwyer, Feb. 11, 1947, Box 1123, Mayor's Papers; PM, Nov. 27, 1947; New York Post, Dec. 27, 1947; New York Times, Dec. 27, 1947, Feb. 20, 29, 1948; PM, Apr. 13, 1948; New York Post, Mar. 12, 1948; PM, Mar. 29, 1948; New York Times, Apr. 1, 1948; PM, Apr. 13, 1948.
25. HUAC Hearings, pp. 920, 972, 970-971, 916; New York World Telegram, Dec. 3, 1947; Paul L. Ross to O'Dwyer, Jan. 29, 1947, Box 1123, Mayor's Papers; Miriam Sayer to Edmund B. Butler, Dec. 21, 1946; Inter-Project Council, "Protest Evictions and Rent Increases at City Hall" (Mimeo, January 29, 1947), and other correspondence in Queensbridge File 687, NYCHA-CF; New York Post, Dec. 17, 1947.
26. Queensbridge Tenants League, Memo, Aug. 13, 1947, Queensbridge File 687; George R. Genung to Maxwell Tretter, June 16, 1947, Red Hook File 687; Alice Brophy to James W. Gaynor, Oct. 11, 1948, Queensbridge File 687, NYCHACF; New York Post, Dec. 17, 1947; InterProject Tenants Council, "Public Housing Tenants Fight for the Home You Live In!" (leaflet, n.d.) and "Statement by Norman Pike," Mar. 24, 1949, both in box 1213, Mayor's Papers; New York Tenant Councils on Rent and Housing to Marrantonio, June 4, 1949, Marcantonio Papers, Box 13; Program of Inter-Project Tenants Council, Oct. 19, 1949; John D. Tierney to Phillip Cruise, Oct. 29, 1949, both in Box 1121, Mayor's Papers; Samuel Schooler to W. L. Paulson, Jan. 3, 1955, Queensbridge File 687, NYCHA-CF.
27. "A 3,800-Unit Project for Long Island," Insured Mortgage Portfolio 12 (1947): 5-7; "Fresh Meadows," Architectural Record 106 (Dec. 1949): 85-97; Lewis Rumford, From the Ground Up (New York, 1957), pp. 3-19; Women's City Club of New York, Minutes, July 7, 1948; Citizens Housing and Planning Council, Notes of Fresh Meadows Facilities, n.d., both in UNH Papers, Folder 105; and Heinz Norden to Helen Harris, Oct. 17, 1950, UNH Papers, Folder 195.
28. For tenant council strength see Beatnce Alewitz to Marcantonio, Mar. 17, 1949; and list of tenant groups at Jan. 19, 1948, hearings of the McGoldrick board, both in Marcantonio Papers, Box 13. The ability of the Housing Authority to use radical groups as its agents can be seen in the Marcantonio Papers, passim; and in Consolidated Tenants League, Minutes, Sept. 4, 18, 1947. The impact of fair-housing legislation on Harlem's middle class is touched upon in Robert C. Weaver, Dilemmas of Urban America (New York, 1969), pp. 92-94; Kenneth B. Clark, Dark Ghetto (New York, 1965), pp. 57-61, 193-194.
29. New York Herald Tribune, Aug. 26, Sept. 5, 1947; PM, Sept. 10, 1947; Nessa Feldman to O'Dwyer, Nov. 13, 1947, Box 1213, Mayor's Papers; New York Times, Dec. 9, 12, 1947, Jan. 10, 19, 20, 1948; Paul L. Ross, Oral History, Columbia University Oral History Collection, Statement by Mildred Wickson before Mayor O'Dwyer, Mar. 24, 1949, Box 1213, Mayor's Papers; New York Times, Aug. 9, Sept. 15, 1949; Paul L. Ross to Board of Estimate, Oct. 10, 1949, Box 1212; Frances Goldin to O'Dwyer, Oct. 31, 1949, Box 1213, Mayor's Papers.
30. Isidore Blumberg to O'Dwyer, Dec. 29, 1949, Box 1213, Mayor's Papers; Daniel Carpenter, Memo, Jan 10, 1950, UNH Papers, Folder 105; New York Times, Mar. 29, 1950, New York Tenant Councils on Rent and Housing, Release, Feb. 2, 1956, in series 1, 1950, I-Le, American Labor Party Papers, Rutgers University (hereafter cited as ALP Papers); State of New York, Public Papers of Thomas E. Dewey, vol. 8 (Albany, 1950). pp. 783-786; Temporary State Rent Commission, Release No. 23, July 12, 1950, in Herbert H. Lehman Papers, Lehman Library, Columbia University (hereafter cited as Lehman Papers).
31. New York Post, July 20, Aug. 24, 1950; Arthur Schutzer's comments, Oct. 14, 1950; Ross Statement to Marcy Houses Tenants League, Oct. 12, 1950; State ALP Office, Memo, Nov. 10, 1950, with enclosed tenant questionnaires, all in series 1, Pri-R, ALP Papers; New York Times, Oct. 23, 25, 1950; Temporary State Housing Rent Commission, Release No. 36, Nov. 20, 1950; No. 38, Nov. 21, 1950; McGoldrick Address, Nov. 30, 1950, all in Lehman Papers; Citizens Union, Statement, Feb. 9, 1951, Box 1212, Mayor's Papers; New York Times, Jan. 17, 22, Feb. 13, 1951.
32. New York Times, Jan. 6, 8, 12, 1953; Citizens Housing and Planning Council, Committee on Rent Control, Minutes, Oct. 9, 1952, in UNH Papers, Folder 105; New York Times, May 1, 2, 3, 1953; Citizens' Housing News 11 (Apr. 1953), copy in UNH Papers, Folder 221; New York Times, June 11, July 10, Aug. 14, 1953; Charles Cook to Abrams, Jan. 27, 1955; Frances Goldin to Abrams, Jan. 29, 1955, both in Abrams Papers; and the New York Times retrospective on rent control published Dec. 19-21, 1960.
33. Joel Schwartz interview with Jane Benedict, Aug. 27, 1981; Schwartz interview with Jane Wood, Aug. 30, 1981.
34. Press releases and correspondence of the Citizens Conference on City Planning, UNH Papers, Folder 220; Stanley M. Isaacs, Notes for Planning Conference, Apr. 8, 1948, Isaacs Papers, Box 15; Citizens Union, Press Release, Oct. 28-29, 1950; C. McKim Norton to Impelletteri, Dec. 11, 1950, both in UNH Papers, Folder 220.
35. Alfred Rheinstein, "Proposal and Report," Mar. 17, 1953; S. F. Boden to New York Life Insurance Company, Jan. 29, 1954; Nassau Management Company, "Morningside Gardens -- Management Proposal," June 22, 1956, all in files of Morningside Area Alliance (hereafter cited as Morningside Files).
36. Jeanne R. Lowe, Cities in a Race with Time (New York, 1968), pp. 45-109; Gelfand, Nation of Cities, pp. 152- 156, 205-215; Caro, Power Broker, pp. 961-983, 1014; New York City Planning Commission, Tenant Relocation Report (1954); Committee on Slum Clearance, Title I Progress (Jan. 29, 1950), p. 25; New York City Housing Authority, Annual Report for 1951, pp. 23, 33; Annual Report for 1954, n.p.
37. Committee on Slum Clearance, Report of New York City Slum Clearance Program under Title I of the Federal Housing Act of 1949 (July 15, 1957); Daily Worker, Sept. 6, 1950; Abraham E. Kazan, Oral History, Columbia University Oral History Collection, pp. 313-316, 327; New York Times, Sept. 18, 1955; Emil Morosini, Jr., to Charles Abrams, Apr. 3, 1951; The Villager, June 12, 1958, clipping; unsigned Memo, Eeb. 21, 1951, Abrams Papers, Reel 51.
38. Daily Worker, Sept. 28, 1951; "Call to an Emergency Conference Protesting the High Rent Project of'Manhattantown,"' Dec. 8, 1951; Ira S. Robbins to Nathaniel S. Keith, Mar. 19, 1952, both in Mayor's Papers, Box 1120; New York State Committee against Discrimination, Executive Director's Action Report, Dec. 10, 1952, UNH Papers, Folder 432.
39. Lawrence W. Orton to David Rockefeller, Jan. 3, 1953; Elizabeth R. Hepner, Morningside-Manhattanville Rebuilds ... A Chronological Account of Redevelopment in the Morningside-Manhattanville Area (New York, n.d.), pp. 3-4, 13-14; Ruth Senior to Orton, Apr. 1950; Morningside Heights, Inc., Community Advisory Committee, Minutes, May 15, June 19, Dec. 14, 1950, Jan. 11, 1951, all in Morningside Files; Mayor's Committee on Slum Clearance, Report to Mayor Impellitteri and the Board of Estimate by the Committee on Slum Clearance Plans (Sept. 1951).
40. Daily Worker, Oct. 26, 1951; Aiko Hoshino to Abrams, Apr. 9, 1952, Abrams Papers, Reel 51; Martha Dalrymple to Margaret B. Bartlett, Oct. 18, 1951; Robert Dougherty to Rockefeller, Oct. 24, 1951; Margaret B. Bartlett, Confidential Memorandum, Oct. 22, 1951; Morningside Committee on Cooperative Housing, Minutes, Oct. 30, 1951, all in Morningside Files; Joel Schwartz interview with Bernard M. Weinberg, Dec. 12, 1979; Committee to Save Our Homes, "An Open Letter to the City Planning Commission," n.d., Abrams Papers, Reel 51; Rev. George B. Ford to Philip J. Cruise, Nov. 23, 1951, Morningside Files; Daily Worker, Nov. 16, 1951.
41. Amsterdam News, Feb. 2, 1952; and minutes, leaflets, and other material of the Morningside Committee on Cooperative Housing, the Manhattanville Civic Association, and the Save Our Homes Committee in Morningside Files.
42. Ira S. Robbins to Nathaniel S. Keith, Mar. 19, 1952; Keith to Robbins, Apr. 8, 1952; Robbins to Keith, Apr. 15, 1952, with enclosed Memo; Robbins to Charles Horowitz, Apr. 23, 1952; Citizens Housing and Planning Council, Press Release, May 5, 1952; Mel Bernard to Impellitteri, May 7, 1952, all in Mayor's Papers, Box 1120; Daily Worker, May 5, 1952, Jan. 19, 1953; Amsterdam News, Oct. 4, 11, 1952; Port Authority of New York, Report: Lincoln Tunnel Third Tube Tenement Relocation (Feb. 1955), p. 6.
43. John McLoughlin interview with Judge Hortense W. Gabel. Mar. 11, 1976; NYSCDH, Executive Director's Action Report, Dec. 10, 1952, UNH Papers, Folder 432; McLoughlin interview with Harris I. Present, Feb. 12, 1976.
44. Morningside Heights Housing Corporation, Report to the Executive Committee, Sept. 11, 1952; Moses to Rockefeller, July 30, 1952; Margaret Bartlett to Rockefeller, July 31, 1952; Morningside Heights, Inc., to Harry Taylor, Aug. 6, 1952; Father George B. Ford to Orton, n.d.; Taylor to Nathaniel S. Keith, Sept. 2, 1952; S. F. Boden to Orton, Oct. 30, 1952, all in Morningside Files: Committee to Save Our Homes, "An Open letter to the City Planning Commission," Abrams Papers, Reel 51; Bernard Segal to Morningside Committee on Cooperative Housing, Nov. 18, 1952; Martha Dalrymple to Bartlett, Dec. 11, 1952; Bartlett to Dalrymple, Dec. 15, 1952; S. F. Boden, Memorandum, Dec. 22, 1952; Daily Worker, Jan. 16, 1953, clipping, all in Morningside Files.
45. Records and leaflets of the Manhattanville Civic Association and the Morningside Committee on Cooperative Housing's records of site protests in 1954, all in Morningside Files.
46. McLoughlin interview with Gabel, Mar. 11, 1976; American Jewish Committee, Committee on Law and Social Action, Minutes of Executive Committee, June 3, 1947, Abrams Papers, Reel 11; McLoughlin interview with Present, Feb. 12, 1976; NYSCDH, Executive Director's Action Report, Feb. 21, 1951, Abrams Papers, Reel 50.
47. Material on the struggle over Washington Square Southeast in Abrams Papers, Reel 51.
48. Caro, Power Broker, pp. 979-983; New York Times, Feb. 6, 1955; Amsterdam News, Apr. 16, 1955; McLoughlin interview with Present, Feb. 12, 1976; Real Estate Record 175 (Mar. 12, 1955); New York Times, Mar. 13, May 11, 1955; Hortense Gabel to Abrams, May 13, 1955; Temporary State Housing and Rent Commission, Release No. 210, June 9. 1955, both in Abrams Papers. Reel 17; New York Times, May 22, 1955; Daily Worker, May 23, 1955.
49. Daily Worker, Nov. 17, 1955, Jan. 6, 1956; New York Times, Oct. 11, 1955, May 21, 25, Dec. 23, 1956; Village Voice, Nov. 9, Dec. 14, 1955; McLoughlin interview with Present, Feb. 12, 1976; McLoughlin interview with Frances Levenson, Feb. 26, 1976; New York Times, Jan. 17, 18, 23, 1956; Daily Worker, Jan. 16, 19, 1956; New York Times, Mar. 23, April 7, 14, 1956; Daily Worker, Apr. 16, 1956; New York Times, Feb. 2, 3, Apr. 7, 24, May 5, 17, 24, 1956.
50. New York Times, Apr. 17, 26, May 28, 29, 1956; McLoughlin interview with Present, Feb. 12, 1976; New York Times, May 25, 29, 30, June 1, 2, 14, 15, Aug. 30, 31, Sept. 9, 23, 27, Nov. 10, 1956.
51. McLoughlin interview with Present, Feb. 12, 1976; New York Times, May 16, 18, July 15, Nov. 20, Dec. 20, 24, 1957; Village Voice, May 1, 1957, July 2, Sept. 17, 1958; Kevin Michael McAuliffe, The Great American Newspaper (New York, 1978), pp. 91-98; Abrams to George Baughman, Mar. 19, 1959; Raymond S. Rubinow, Edith Lyons, Norman Redlich, and George Popkin to Abrams, Mar. 22, 1959; Joint Emergency Committee to Close Washington Square Park to Traffic, Press Release, Apr. 12, 1959, all in Abrams Papers, Reel 12; New York Times, Feb. 4, Aug. 3, Oct. 5, Dec. 28, 1957, Aug. 31, 1958; Kazan, Oral History, pp. 534, 538-540; Committee on Slum Clearance, Report of the New York City Slum Clearance Program under Title I of the Federal Housing Act of 1949 (July 15, 1957), p. 3.
52. New York City Housing Authority, Meeting of Sponsoring Agencies and Center Directors, Minutes, Mar. 13, 1957; William Reid to Helen Hall, May 21, 1958; Citizens Housing and Planning Council, "Request for a (grant of Funds for Experiments with Social Services in Two Housing Projects." n.d.; M. Stauffer to Helen Hall, Dec. 6, 1958, all in UNH Papers, Folder 484; the series on title I by Wayne Philips, New York Times, June 29 -- July 7, 1959, Donald W. O'Connell. Memo, July 1, 1959; Robert C. Weaver, "Housing in New York City," enclosed in Weaver to Dr. Frank S. Home, Sept. 30, 1959, both in Ford Foundation Archives, Log 59-931.
53. Metropolitan Council on Housing, Minutes, June 4, 1959, in Mayor's Papers, Box 2122; John McLoughlin interview with Staughton Lynd, May 8, 1975; Metropolitan Council on Housing, Tenant News, Jan. 1963.
54. Harrison E. Salisbury, The Shook-Up Generation (New York, 1958), pp. 86-88; Neighborhood Centers Today (New York, 1960), pp. 191-195; New York Times, Jan. 1, 1964, clipping, and other clippings in Chelsea Vertical File, Municipal Reference Library; Schwartz interview with Jane Benedict, Aug. 27, 1981; Yorkville Civic Council, Minutes, May 17, 1960, Yorkville Save Our Homes File, Met Council (hereafter cited as YSOH File)
55. New York Times, Feb. 11, 1959; Yorkville Civic Council, Minutes, May 17, 1960; Yorkville Housing Committee, Minutes, Nov. 27, 1956, UNH Papers, Folder 129.
56. Tenant News, Dec. 1962, Nov. 1962, Apr. 1963; New York Times, Jan. 24, 1960, Chelsea Vertical File; Joel Schwartz interview with Jane Wood, Aug. 30, 1981.
57. Mary Beauchamp et al., Building Neighborliness in a Community on the Lower East Side of New York City: A Report of One Year's Work (New York, 1957), pp. 38-42.
58. McLoughlin interview with Lynd, May 8, 1975; Betty Woody, "Cooper Square: Community Participation in Urban Renewal in New York City," Master's thesis in Urban Planning, Columbia University, 1972, pp. 45-46; New York World Telegram, Mar. 1, 1960, Aug. 31, 1961; New York Times, Aug. 31, 1961.
59. Walter Thabit, An Alternative Plan for Cooper Square (Cooper Square Community Development Committee and Businessmen's Association, July 31, 1961).
60. New York Post, Aug. 8, 1963; Schwartz interview with Benedict, Aug. 27, 1981; Yorkville Save Our Homes, Release announcing rally on June 17, 1961; handwritten Memo, distribution of leaflets, June 10-17, 1961; Yorkville Save Our Homes Committee leaflet announcing meeting on Aug. 13, 1962, all in YSOH File.
61. McLoughlin interview with Lynd, May 8, 1975; Met Council, Minutes, June 4, 1959, copy in Mayor's Papers, Box 2122; New York Times, Oct. 17, 1959.
62. Daily Worker, Feb. 7, June 12, Oct. 16, 1960, Jan. 15, 22, Feb. 26, Mar. 12, 1961; Temporary State Commission to Study Rents and Rental Conditions, Hearings, Mar. 2, 6, 1963, pp. 109, 128-129; New York Times, Dec. 19, 20, 21, 1960; Office of the Mayor, Press Release, Dec. 14, 1960, Mayor's Papers, Box 5578; New York Times, Jan. 30, Feb. 13, 28, Mar. 3, 23, 1961; Statements of Mayor Wagner, Oct. 22, 25, 1961, both in Mayor's Papers, Box 5578.
63. Daily Worker, Nov. 26, 1961, Mar. 6, 1962; Statements by Mayor Wagner, Feb. 26, 28, 1962; Testimony by Mayor Wagner before the General Welfare Committee of the City Council, Mar. 19, 1962; Statement of Mayor Wagner to state senator MacNeil Mitchell, Mar. 26, 1962, all in Mayor's Papers, Box 5578.
64. New York Times, Oct. 16, 1962; Office of the Mayor, News Release, Apr. 9, 1963; Wagner Statement, Apr. 1963, both in Mayor's Papers, Box 5578; New York Times, June 7, 1963; Hortense W. Gabel to Wagner, Dec. 13, 1963, with "Report to Mayor Wagner on the Control of Residential Rents in New York City," Mayor's Papers, Box 5578.
65. Temporary State Commission to Study Rents and Rental Conditions, Hearings, Mar. 6, 1963, pp. 128-129; Metropolitan Council on Housing, "Neighborhood Conservation" (June 1963).
66. Tenant News, Oct. 1963.
67. Yorkville Save Our Homes Committee leaflet announcing meeting on Aug. 13, 1962, in YSOH File; Tenant News, Oct., Nov. 1962, Feb., Mar. 1963.
68. Yorkville Save Our Homes leaflets announcing monthly meetings on May 6, Aug. 5, and Sept. 3, 1963, in YSOH File; Tenant News, June, Sept. 1963, Oct., Nov. 1963.
69. Neighborhood Centers Today, pp. 191-195; New York Times clipping, Jan. 24, 1960, in Chelsea File, Municipal Reference Library; Yorkville Civic Council, Minutes, May 17, 1960, in YSOH File; "The Case for the East Harlem Project," n.d., L61-1037; Community Service Society of New York, "A Project Proposal for the East Harlem Neighborhood Conservation Program," June 1962, L62-1074, Ford Foundation Archives (hereafter cited as FFA).
70. Frances Fox Piven and Richard A. Cloward, Regulating the Poor (New York, 1971), pp. 290-295; Harold H. Weissman, "The Housing Program, 1962 to 1967," in Community Development in the Mobilizationfor Youth Experience, ed. Harold H. Weissman (New York, 1969), pp. 46-50; "The Community Organization Housing Program," Jan. 7, 1964, in Mobilization for Youth, The Crisis, vol. 6, Columbia University School of Social Work.
71. "Rent Strike: Concerning the Community Council on Harlem," New Yorker 39 (Jan. 25, 1964): 19-20; Amsterdam News, May 15, July 17, Aug. 21, Sept. 11, 1954, Feb. 26, Nov. 5, 26, 1955, Apr. 4, July 4, 1959; Clark, Dark Ghetto, pp. 159-160.
72. New York Times, Apr. 25, May 14, June 3, 1963, Mar. 28, 1964; NY CORE, Action 11 (Jan. 1963), copy in vol. 76, Congress of Racial Equality Papers, Wisconsin State Historical Society (hereafter cited as CORE Papers); reports, manifestoes, and other materials of New York CORE, 1962-1963, in vol. 381, CORE Papers; New York Times, June 7, 1963; Amsterdam News, July 27, 1963; New York Times, Aug. 22, 1963; Amsterdam News, Sept. 21, 1963; New York Times, Oct. 21, 26, 29, 1963.
73. Weissman, "Housing Program"; MFY, Executive Committee, Minutes, Sept. 4, 1963; "Proposal for a Legal Service Unit," n.d.; "Proposed Tenement Housing Program," n.d., all in folder MFY, 1963, Box 36, MFY, "Overview of Community Organization Program," Dec. 16, 1963, folder MFY, 1964, Box 39, Whitney M. Young, Jr., Papers, Columbia University School of Social Work; "The Community Organization Housing Program," Jan. 7, 1964.
74. Lipsky, Protest in City Politics, p. 59; letters, memos, and other material on the New York University CORE housing project in vols. 76, 299, and 384, CORE Papers.
75. Amsterdam News, Mar. 24, Sept. 22, 29, Nov. 24, 1962; Naison, "Rent Strikes in New York," p. 19; Lipsky, Protest in City Politics, p. 62; New York Times, Nov. 5, Dec. 6, 16, 1963; Daily Worker, Jan. 7, 12, 14, Feb. 18, 1964; "Rent Strike: Community Council on Harlem," pp. 19-20; "Rent Strike in Harlem," Ebony 19 (Apr. 1964): 113-120.
76. Lipsky, Protest in City Politics, pp. 65-71; New York Times, Jan. 7, 16, 20, Feb. 20, 1964.
77. Papers and reports of East River CORE in vol. 72, CORE Papers; John McLoughlin interview with Ted Velez, Feb. 24 and Mar. 1, 1976; Amsterdam News, May 2, 1964; East Harlem Tenants Council, "The East Harlem Block Project," n.d., in General Correspondence, 65, FFA; John McLoughlin interview with Reverend Norman C. Eddy, Jan. 15, 1976; New York Times, Apr. 26, 1964.
78. "Brooklyn CORE's Report to the National Council on Projects," Feb. 10-11, 1962; Benjamin A. Brown, Memo, Mar. 19, 1962; Oliver Leeds to Mayor Wagner, n.d., all in vol. 70, CORE Papers; John McLoughlin interview with state senator Major R. Owens, Apr. 22, 1976; Joel Edelstein, "Rent Strikes: What, When, How" (Students for a Democratic Society, Dec. 1963); Amsterdam News, Nov. 9, Dec. 7, 1963; Brooklyn CORE Rent-Strike Committee, "Progress Report," n.d., vol. 70; Allan Hoffman to J. McCain, Dec. 15, 1963, vol. 374; Brooklyn Rent Strike, handwritten notes, Jan. 20, 1964, vol. 299, CORE Papers; Amsterdam News, Feb. 29, 1964.
79. "Report of the Special Counsel to Mobilization for Youth to the Chairman of the Board and the Directors of Mobilization for Youth, Inc.," Nov. 25, 1964, pp. 34-35, in MFY: The Crisis, vol. 4; Village Voice, Nov. 5, 1965; Daily Worker, Feb. 25, 1964; Weissman, "Housing Program"; North of Houston Street Rent Strike, Minutes, Jan. 15, 1964; Eldridge Street Rent Strike Committee, Jan. 15, 1964; Lower East Side Rent Strike (LERS), Minutes, Jan. 18, 1964; LERS, Minutes, Jan. 15, 1964; Mailing List, Jan. 15, 1964, in Tenants Movement Research Project Files (hereafter cited as TMRP Files).
80. LERS, Minutes, Jan. 24, 1964; LERS, Executive Committee, Minutes, Feb. 2, 12, 19, Mar. 11, 25, Apr. 8, 15, 1964, TMRP Files; Weissman, "Housing Program"; LERS, Minutes of subcommittee, May 1, 1964, TMRP Files.
81. MFY Observer Reports, Aug. 11, 13, 17, Sept. 16, 17, 1964, TMRP Files.
82. Piven and Cloward, Regulating the Poor, pp. 290 - 295; Orlando Rodriguez, "TA History," enclosed with MFY Observer Report, June 8, 1964; MFY Observer Reports, June 8, 10, 11, 16, July 29, Aug. 4, Sept. 4, TMRP Files.
83. Weissman, "Housing Program," pp. 58-59; Blyden Jackson, John Burke, and Don Petty to James farmer, "Proposals to Give CORE an Effective Organization in the Urban Black Community," June 22, 1965, vol. 8, CORE Papers.
84. Nathan Glazer and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Beyond the Melting Pot, 2d ed. (Cambridge, Mass., 1970), p. 61; Jewel Bellush and Stephen M. David, eds., Race and Politics in New York City (New York, 1971), p. 100; Weissman, "Housing Program"; Blyden Jackson and Tina Laurence, "East River CORE, Progress Report," n.d., vol. 72, CORE Papers; East Harlem Tenants Council, "The East Harlem Block Project," n.d., General Correspondence, 65, FFA.
85. Major R. Owens, "Brooklyn CORE Rent-Strike Committee Progress Repon," n.d., vol. 70, CORE Papers; MFY Observer Reports. June 1964, July 13, Aug 2O, 27, 28, Sept. 3, 1964, TMRP Files; Lipsky, Protest in City Politics, pp. 73-75; lists of buildings canvased by Jesse Gray, in Amsterdam News, Mar. 24, Sept. 22, 29, Nov. 29, 1962, July 27, 1963; Brooklyn Rent Stnke, handwritten notes, Jan. 20, 1964; George Schiffer to Allan Hoffman, Dec. 10, 1963, vol. 299, CORE Papers.
86. MFY, Attachment No. 4, "Proposal for Expanded Legal Services" (June 29?) 1965, in MFY Papers, Box 8; Nancy E. LeBlanc, "Why Tenants Need Lawyers," Nov. 12, 1964, in MFY Publications, vol. 4; Jane Meyer, "Economic Description of the Real Estate Market on the Lower East Side of New York" (MFY Housing Department, April 1967), MFY Publications, vol. 9.
87. "Background on New York University CORE Housing Projects," n.d., vol. 76; George Schiffer to Allan Hoffman, Dec. 10, 1963, vol. 299, CORE Papers.
88. LEHS, Minutes, June 11, 1964; Rent Strike Subcommittee Meeting, June 24, 1964, TMRP files; Yorkville Save Our Homes Committee newsletter announcing Mar. 10, 1964, March on Albany; Newsletter announcing Apr. 6 meeting, both in YSOH File; Irwin Unger, The Movement (New York, 1974), pp. 58-59; Paul G. Chevigny to Christopher Edley, Jan. 14. 1965, L65-37, FFA; Robert Alper, Pratt Guide to Planning and Renewal for New Yorkers (New York, 19731, pp. xvi-xvii; ARCH News, November 1966; Architects Renewal Committee in Harlem, Inc., "Prospectus, 1965-1966," L66-162, FFA; Stokely Carmichael and Charles V. Hamilton, Black Power (New York. 1967), pp. 172-173.
89. John Mcloughlin interview with Ted Velez, Mar. 1, 1976; interview with Valerie Jorrin, July 12, 1980; Lipsky. Protest in City Politics, pp 87-89, 91-96: Carolyn Odell, Code Enforcement (New York, 1972). pp. 32-39; Temporary State Commission to Make a Study of the Governmental Operation of the City of New York, A Superagency Evaluated: New York City's Housing and Development Administration (March 1973), p. 107.
90. Lipsky, Protest in City Politics, pp. 145, 92; Odell, Code Enforcement, pp. 52-60 Linda Einhorn, "An Adequate Response: New York City's Incentive Programs to Halt Housing Deterioration," Master's thesis in Planning, Columbia University, 1968, pp. 76-77, 82; A Superagency Evaluated. pp. 71-72.
91. John McLoughlin interview with Paul DeBrul, Apr. 6, 1976; David Borden, "East Harlem Block Community Development Program, June, 1964"; Chnstopher F. Edley to Paul Ylvisaker, Sept. 8, 1964; Edley to Frank Bowles, Oct. 27, 1964; Borden to Edley. Mar. 15, 1965, all in L65-82, FFA; John McLoughlin interview with Reverend Norman C. Eddy, Jan. 15, 1976; Norman C. Eddy. "Metro-North Demonstration Neighborhood: Planning and Development by a Poor Urban Community, August, 1966," in (general Correspondence, 66; Architects Renewal Committee in Harlem, Inc., "Prospectus, 1965-1966": ARCH News, Nov. 1966, both in L66- 162, FFA.
92. McLoughlin interview with DeBrul, Apr. 16, 1976; Eddy. "Metro-North Demonstration Neighborhood"; ARCH, Tenant Action Handbook, rev. ed. 1965; (New York, 1968); ARCH News, Nov. 1966; ARCH Memorandum, June 1967, all in L66-162, FFA; New York Times, Aug. 28, 1966.
93. Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, Program Operations (n.d.).
94. John McLoughlin interview with Claudius Drew, Mar. 1, 1976; McLoughlin interview with Diane Paul, Jan. 21, 1976; McLoughlin interview with June Salters, lleh. 18, 1976; McLoughlin interview with Edythe Jenkins, Feb. 16, 1976; Report of the Hunt's Point Community Progress Center, Summary of Activities, 1966-1967: Program Components, 1967-1968 (June 1967); South Bronx Community Progress Center, Second Progress Report, 1967.
95. ARCH, "Prospectus, 1965-1966" ARCH to Louis Winnick, May 17, 1965; ARCH Review, 1964/5-1966, all in L66-162, FFA; ARCH News, Nov. 1966; John McLoughlin interview with Velez, Feb. 24, 1976; East Harlem Tenants Council, "Presentation to the Housing and Development Board of the City of New York for the East Harlem Pilot Block Project, 1965," in General Correspondence, 65, FFA.
96. Charles Abrams, The City Is the Frontier (New York, 1965), pp. 184-193; Frederieke Taylor, A Catalogue of Low Rent Rehabilitation in New York City (Citizens Housing and Planning Council, 1968); Harold K. Bell and Granville H. Sewell, Turnkey in New York: Evaluation of an Experiment (Columbia University School of Architecture, June 1969), pp. 9-10; McLoughlin interview with Eddy, Jan. 15, 1976, Model Cities Housing Corporations (Washington, D.C., Jan. 1971), pp. 1-2, 42-43; Harvard-MIT Joint Center for Urban Studies, Rehabilitating New York's Multiple-Dwelling Tenements (Sept. 1968), pp. vi-ix; 1:8; 2:44-47; 3:8-15, 32, 45-50; 4:62, 88-90; Martin Mayer, The Builders (New York, 1978), p. 166.
97. John V. Lindsay, The City (New York, 1970), pp. 125-127; Raymond & May Associates, Vest Pocket Housing in Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, 1968), p. 40; South Bronx Vest Pocket Program Club. 1969), pp. 2, 6-7; Stephen Mittenthal and Hans B. C. Spiegel, Urban Confrontation (New York, 1970), pp. 256, 284, 356; Mott Haven Planning Committee, Mott Haven Plan/67 (n.p., n.d.).
98. Mittenthal and Spiegel, Urban Confrontation, pp. 250-253; New York Times, Aug. 16, Nov. 6, 1969; Christian Science Monitor, Oct. 4, 1969; Jonas Vizbarras, Bronx Plan: A Report on Physical Development Planning (Aug. 15, 1969), pp. 14-18; New York City, Model Cities: Vest Pocket Housing Progress Report (1969), appendix, pp. 20-22; New York City, Model Cities Administration, Eighteenth Quarterly Report (Dec. 1973), p. 13.
99. Raymond & May Associates, Vest Pocket Housing, pp. 44-45, 51, 74, 76; and issues of the Central Brooklyn Coordinator, Jan., Mar. 1967, reprinted in Vest Pocket Housing.
100. Herman Rollins to Eugenia Flatow, May 1, 1968; Lionel Payne to Flatow, May 1, 1968 Horace L. Morancie to Flatow, May 1, 1968, all in New York City, Model Cities Committee, Bi-Monthly Planning Progress Report, May 1, 1968; Temporary State Commission to Make a Study of the Governmental Operation of the City of New York, Urban Renewal in Brownsville (1973); George J. Washnis, Community Development Strategies (New York, 1974), pp. 377-383.
101. Leland Gartrell and Nick Herman, "Participation of Religious Institutions in Non-Profit Housing Corporations, New York City, 1971" (mimeo, Council of Churches of the City of New York, Apr. 1971); "Inter-faith Housing Strategy Committee" (mimeo, Mar. 3, June 11. 1971).
102. Myles Weintraub and Rev. Mario Zicarelli, "Tale of Twin Parks," Architectural Forum 138 (June 1973): 54-55; Kenneth Frampton, "Twin Parks as Typology," ibid., pp. 57-58; Suzanne Stephens, "Learning from Twin Parks," ibid., pp. 62-67; Mildred F. Schmertz, "'Vest Pocket' Housing Brings a New Scale to the Bronx," Architectural Record 153 (June 1973): 121-128; John M. Gearing, Maynard Robison, and Knight Hanover, The Best Eight Blocks in Harlem: The Last Decade of Urban Reform (Washington, D.C., 1977), pp. 2, 29-38, 45-57, 69-70, 74.
103. Rob Hollister, "The Politics of Housing: Squatters," Society 9 (July/Aug. 1972): 46-52; Emily Jane Goodman, The Tenant Survival Book (Indianapolis, 1972), pp. 79, 206; John McLoughlin interview with William Price, Feb. 16, 1976.
104. John McLoughlin interview with Marie Runyon, Feb. 13, 1976; Robert Jensen and Cathy A. Alexander, "Resurrection: The People Are Doing It Themselves," in Devastation/Resurrection: The South Bronx (Bronx, 1979), pp. 83-85.
105. Einhorn, "An Inadequate Response," pp. 16-17; Judah Gribetz and Frank Grad, "Housing Code Enforcement," Columbia Law Review, vol. 66, p. 1289; and Frederic Berman, "Letter to the Editor," New York Times, Sept. 23, 1966.
106. Tenant News, vol. 7, Jan.-Feb., Mar.-Apr. 1969, May-June 1969.
107. New York Times, June 5, Sept. 23, Nov. 7, 8, 11, 16, 1969.
108. Ibid., Feb. 8, 13, 15, 23, 27, 28, Apr. 1, May 1, 10, 1970; Tenant News, vol. 8, Oct.-Nov., Dec. 1969, Jan.-Mar. 1970.
109. New York Times, May 13, 17, 21, 26, 27, June 4, 5, 18, 25, 26, 27, 28, July 3, 10, 11, 1970; Monica R. Lett, Rent Control (New Brunswick, N.J., 1976), pp. 11-17; A Superagency Evaluated, pp. 111 - 113.