Ronald Lawson with the assistance of Reuben B. Johnson III
A watershed for the tenant movement, 1970 - 1975
The early 1970s represented a watershed for the tenant movement in New York City. Dramatic changes in the housing market and legislative climate presented the movement with new challenges and opportunities. First, severe decay and abandonment of the housing stock increased sharply in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Second, the system of rent regulations, the central features of which had been in place since 1943, was suddenly challenged and undermined: a law enacted by the state legislature in 1971 provided that the bulk of apartments with regulated rents would be decontrolled within a few years, while a measure passed by the city council the previous year introduced annual rent increases for apartments while they remained rent controlled. Third, the threat of tenant displacement took on new forms. In the neighborhoods of the poor the culprit was the many faces of abandonment: fires, absent services, unsafe buildings, the stripping of pipes and appliances from vacant apartments. For tenants of stable working-class and lower-middle-class neighborhoods the threats were gentrification, manifested in evictions to make way for luxury redevelopment and "brownstoning," and hospital expansion. And for tenants of desirable buildings, the threats took the form of two landlord strategies: cooperative conversions with the eviction of non-purchasing tenants, and "encouraging" tenants with rent-regulated apartments to move so that rents could be decontrolled under the new legislation and then raised sharply.
Tenants responded to the new conditions with a sustained upsurge of organizing. The sources of this were diverse and often far removed from the Old Left-dominated constellation surrounding the Metropolitan Council on Housing (Met Council). Groups with church ties often initiated efforts to combat abandonment or to stem white flight and reverse incipient decay. Middle-income tenants, frequently veterans of the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s, formed tenant organizations on their own: some took leadership when their buildings faced problems; others, New Left activists seeking a long-term constituency, were attracted to a movement where the basic organizing unit was the building where members lived. Politically ambitious persons also organized tenants once the potential of the movement for building a constituency was revealed. By 1973 eighty-three neighborhood tenant organizations existed in New York City, sixty-seven of which had been founded since 1969. Over one hundred service centers funded by the federal Office of Economic Opportunity also purportedly engaged in tenant organizing. A broader spectrum of tenants became active in the movement: the abandonment issue attracted the poor and members of racial minorities, while the threat of displacement and rent increases drew both working- and middle-class tenants. A clear majority of the activists in all segments, especially at the grass roots, continued to be women. Together this constituency had considerable political potential, for 75 percent of the city's population were tenants.
New issues also bred new strategies. Low-income tenants began taking control of abandoned buildings, rehabilitating them, and owning them jointly as cooperatives. Other tenant organizations began to intervene directly in the political process, where they drafted and lobbied for legislation, held legislators to account for their actions, and supported candidates, including, occasionally, tenant leaders running for office themselves. Meanwhile, the traditional strategy of the movement, the rent strike, was also evolving new forms.
Rent regulations and the politicization of the movement
Since New York City's rent control law was originally enacted to meet an "emergency," it included a "sunset clause," meaning that the law would lapse if a continuing emergency were not affirmed and the law extended -- usually every three years. In the late 1960s, leaders of the real estate industry came to regard the next extension by the city council, which was due by March 1970, as an opportunity to seek the passage of amendments that would weaken the rent control system. Spurred by the rising costs associated with the inflation accompanying the Vietnam War and a sharp drop in the vacancy rate from 3.2 percent to 1.2 percent between 1965 and 1968, real estate leaders launched their campaign.
Jason Nathan, the administrator of Mayor Lindsay's new Housing and Development Administration, was sympathetic to the contention that the rent system was causing rents to lag behind cost increases. Consequently, he contracted for studies to assess the impact of controls on the rental housing industry and to derive a cost-driven formula to set and adjust rents within the framework of rent controls. A Rand Corporation study found that housing abandonment had increased sharply in New York City during the second half of the decade, with an average of 38,000 units per year being abandoned as compared with 15,000 between 1960 and 1964. Moreover, while the inventory of "sound" housing had grown by 2 percent between 1960 and 1967, "dilapidated" housing climbed by 44 percent, and "deteriorating" housing by 37 percent. The study blamed housing decay to a large extent upon a "rent gap" between the controlled rents landlords received and the "economic rents" necessary for them to maintain their buildings adequately. A second study, by George Sternlieb of Rutgers University, also argued that rent control indirectly discouraged maintenance and capital improvements by reducing property values.
These studies convinced city officials that rent control led to abandonment. Consequently, the Lindsay administration extended the rent control legislation, but then introduced a series of modifications to it known as the Maximum Base Rent (MBR) system, which became law in July 1970. This system used a formula to establish an "economic rent" for each apartment, which, because it was usually much higher than prevailing rent levels, was to be phased in gradually, with an initial across-the-board increase of 15 percent followed by 7.5 percent annually as long as the landlord was maintaining his building and providing services. The addition of annual increases to the rent control system, where 15 percent increases on turnover had previously been the chief source of rent escalation, was a considerable change.
The new law affected a large constituency: 1.3 million apartments were covered by rent control. In its newsletter for October-November 1969, Met Council had begun to warn its affiliates of possible attacks on rent control. However, apart from statements against changes at the city council hearings on the extension of the rent control law, there was little activity by tenant organizations to protect rent control during the crucial months early in 1970. The position against modifications found little support, even among tenants who would be affected by them. In a poll instigated by the city administration, Louis Harris and Associates found that 37 percent of rent-controlled tenants living in transitional areas thought rent hikes to cover increases in landlords' maintenance costs were "fair," while 35 percent thought they were "unfair" and 28 percent had "no opinion." Only a few Reform Democrat and Liberal council members opposed the changes, and even they did not work closely with organized tenants. In the end the MBR law passed 27 to 10, with the New York Times lauding the majority.
The tenant response to these changes in rent regulations was shaped largely by the internal dynamics of Met Council. Many of the new neighborhood organizations were not affiliated, and their isolation and inexperience limited their ability to operate in the political arena. Met Council, on the other hand, politically active throughout most of the 1960s, sent large delegations and key leaders to lobby in Albany and published a regular column by Frances Goldin in its paper, Tenant News, that detailed its political plans. During this time, Met Council had built an image of representing a broad coalition, with key politicians, planners, and lawyers taking part in its annual conferences. However, toward the end of the 1960s it had become pessimistic about the effectiveness of working through the political system and became more isolated and politically sectarian. In 1968 it announced that it would no longer endorse political candidates and signified disillusionment with political lobbying. Expressing support for civil disobedience, it reactivated its interest in the rent strike strategy and set out to develop a new form of strike to replace the section 755 form dominant since the Harlem strikes of 1963- 1964. Early in 1970, Lester Evens and Richard Levenson, activist lawyers close to Met Council, devised the "rolling rent strike," under which strikers, refusing to place their rents in escrow, preferred, if necessary, to pay the landlord and then withhold their rents again the next month. The object was to force direct negotiations between tenants and landlords through lengthy court fights and fear of the tenants "skipping" with the rents in their possession. Several experiments with such strikes demonstrated that this form greatly boosted the independence and bargaining power of the strikers while attracting new activists to Met Council, especially veterans of the movements of the 1960s.
Consequently, Met Council responded to the passage of the MBR law by calling for a citywide rent strike to protest the plan: "Do not count on legislators. Take matters into your own hands." On August 1, the day on which the 15 percent across-the-board rent increase took effect, Met Council renewed this call and began a Tenant Strike Campaign. With Met Council in the lead, tenant organizations in many sections of the city set out to organize strikes. Tenant leaders thus reacted much more strongly once the increased rent bills were in hand than they had done in prospect. Nevertheless, while the campaign led to strikes in several dozen buildings, it never gained the momentum of a citywide strike and consequently had almost no impact on the legislative process. When, at the end of 1971, Met Council reviewed the strike and summarized the experiences of forty striking buildings, the focus of the story was on victories over individual landlords rather than clout with legislators.
The only political opposition to the implementation of the MBR system came from the New Democratic Coalition, the reform wing of the New York Democratic party. In January 1971, under the leadership of Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, Reform Democrat political clubs began a campaign to collect signatures so that an MBR repeal referendum could be added to the election ballot. Tenant organizations participated actively in circulating petitions. The drive, however, aroused strong opposition from other sectors of the Democratic party, civic groups, the news media, and the Lindsay administration. The New York Times denounced "demagogy on the rent front"; Commissioner of Rent and Housing Maintenance Benjamin Altman called the effort "irresponsible." Ironically, this support from the Reform Democrats proved harmful to the tenant cause because it gave anti-rent-control forces "proof" that no New York City administration could ever administer rent control fairly or implement modifications in the law because "irresponsible" politicians and the huge bloc of tenant votes would eventually combine to repeal any changes.
This argument was used by Governor Rockefeller during the 1971 session of the New York State legislature to support a drastic reversal of the state's policy of allowing New York City home rule in rent matters. In proposing this change, Rockefeller cited the rapid deterioration of housing in New York City and said the laws were needed to provide incentives for private interests to begin the construction of new housing that would ease the housing shortage. One of the bills in the package removed rent regulations (both rent control and rent stabilization) entirely from apartments as they were vacated by their tenants ("vacancy decontrol"), while another prohibited New York City from imposing "stricter" rent regulations than those then in effect.
Because of the speed with which these laws were introduced and passed, there was little time to organize opposition to them. Tenant organizations were caught off guard and put up even less opposition than they had against MBR. The only concrete action taken within the tenant movement was the calling of a citywide conference to organize a mass rent strike, which was endorsed by Met Council, the East Harlem Tenants Council, and Jesse Gray's Harlem Tenants Union. Met Council's Tenant had the following advice concerning efforts to apply political pressure: "While pressure should be kept on city legislators, there is not much influence a New York City voter can have on the State Senator from Canandaigua. Met Council has been on too many fruitless Albany trips in the past."  The calling of a mass rent strike was wishful thinking on the part of tenant leaders, for the tenant movement was without the necessary networks and had to organize buildings one by one.
The strongest opposition to vacancy decontrol in fact came from the city of New York. The Lindsay administration bitterly resented both the loss of power in the abrogation of home rule provisions and the fact that Rockefeller's legislation was introduced before its MBR system had been given time to have visible effect. The New York Times and several social welfare and "good government" groups backed the city in its opposition. Nevertheless, these forces failed to prevail over Governor Rockefeller and his real estate supporters.
The political events of 1970-1971 showed that neither alone nor with the assistance of powerful allies were tenant groups able to stop the erosion of protective laws that had been in effect for twenty-eight years. Politically, these events represented the nadir of the tenant movement. Moreover, because Rockefeller's laws moved the decision-making arena for rent issues from the city council to the state legislature, they made it much more difficult for the tenant movement in New York City to influence such issues in the future.
At the time of the MBR and vacancy decontrol battles, many of the neighborhood tenant organizations were new. For the most part they had little knowledge of other organizations concerned with similar problems. However, between 1971 and 1973 contact between these organizations increased and played a key part in building the strength of the tenant movement in New York.
The Lindsay administration took the lead in helping to establish these communication networks. In so doing it responded both to its own chagrin at the passage of Rockefeller's laws and to fears concerning their consequences. The vacancy decontrol law eliminated tenant rights that had become traditional in New York City, such as the right to a lease and to renew it at the tenant's discretion, the right to periodic painting, the obligation of the landlord to maintain essential services, and almost absolute protection against eviction unless the landlord could prove, in court, that the tenant was unjustifiably withholding rent or destroying property. Tenant leaders were especially fearful that the law would provide landlords with an irresistible incentive to harass tenants into moving out of rent-controlled apartments.
Benjamin Altman, Lindsay's commissioner of rent and housing maintenance, the man responsible for pushing through the MBR law, responded to the new state laws by calling a meeting of tenant leaders to form an umbrella organization that would protect tenants against landlord harassment by organizing them "landlord by landlord" and promoting rent strikes if necessary. "The aim is simple," said Altman, "we'll establish tenant power." Altman invited thirty representatives of neighborhood organizations and antipoverty groups that worked with tenants to the first meeting of his Tenant Advisory Committee (TAC). Several uninvited groups also demanded to be included and were admitted. Met Council, on the other hand, refusing to have anything to do with the body, dubbed Altman's initiative, in view of his MBR role, "cynical" and denounced the participants: "Company unionism never pays!"
However, the members of TAC proved to be neither pliant nor patient. Within a month, thirteen of them had endorsed a letter to Altman pressing ten demands, one of which was that the city back the move to repeal the MBR law. Calling the demand "irresponsible," Altman refused. A week later seventeen of the forty members, declaring that the committee "served no effective function," resigned. Significantly, the dissidents were a mixed group of activists from organizations representing both middle-class and poor minority neighborhoods.
Prior to the formation of TAC, tenant activists had not been aware of the variety and profusion of tenant organizations in New York City. With the exception of the clusters affiliated with Met Council and the City-Wide Anti-Poverty Committee on Housing, a group of antipoverty agencies that occasionally met but rarely did anything collectively, tenant organizations seldom interacted. No one had previously taken the initiative to organize a grand coalition that brought together all the housing and tenant groups of the city.
The dissident groups plus some others continued to meet together after the dissolution of TAC to plan a joint attack on housing problems. In August 1971, twenty-five groups from four of New York City's five boroughs formed the Federation of New York Tenant Organizations, which shortly afterward presented a list of demands to Mayor Lindsay. Rent regulation issues remained prominent because the Lindsay administration was seeking to have the rent levels in the city excluded from President Richard Nixon's phase I price control program, and thus to have the scheduled MBR increases take effect on January 1, 1972. Although the tenant lobbying was ultimately unsuccessful, the publicity given their campaign to freeze rents led them into contact with tenant organizations in three suburban counties and with the National Tenant Organization (NTO), whose constituency was made up primarily of public housing tenants and whose executive director was Jesse Gray.
Realizing that tenants now needed statewide political strength in order to secure favorable housing legislation for New York City, a few of the tenant leaders from the city began to plan the formation of a statewide tenant federation. The organizations most involved in this effort included the West Side Tenants Union, Met Council, and the Harlem Tenants Union (HTU) from New York City and organizations in Rockland County and Albany. With the exception of the HTU representative, all the main figures on the steering committee were white and middle class. However, the connection between HTU and NTO provided by Jesse Gray also gave the organizers good contacts with organizations in upstate public housing projects.
The meeting to create the state organization was set for January 15, 1972, in Albany. However, because of Gray's prominence in NTO and his plans to run for the state assembly later that year, he did not want an independent state tenant leadership. Consequently, despite the participation of HTU in months of planning, Gray arranged to pack the Albany conference with upstate public housing tenants, to overturn the planned agenda, and to have his own candidates elected to run the new organization, which was then left to lie dormant. The conference thus resulted in great bitterness and division rather than the formation of a unified organization and a common agenda of issues to present to state legislators during the 1972 session.
Many tenants received an unexpected respite from the first annual 7.5 percent MBR rent increase -- due to take effect in New York City on January 1, 1972 -- because the city had great trouble setting up the information and computer systems that were to determine which buildings and apartments qualified for the increase. By the end of May the Housing and Development Administration (MDA) had issued only one-third of the expected one million MBR orders that were needed before landlords could increase rents. As a result, several landlord organizations petitioned the court to allow them to raise rents without the official orders, and Justice Paul Fino ruled in their favor. Consequently, six hundred thousand apartments were scheduled to receive 15 percent increases on July 1, and then the second annual 7.5 percent increase six months later. When the Lindsay administration chose not to appeal the decision but instead to issue "Interim MBR" orders that landlords could present to their tenants, tenant organizations from all over the city blasted the administration for allowing increases without requiring landlords to prove their buildings were without serious violations.
Met Council reported that it was inundated with inquiries and requests for help from tenants. It did its best to counsel them, but did not take any action against the interim orders. However, two of the newer, more politically oriented neighborhood organizations, the West Side Tenants Union and Queens Presidents Council, each separately went to court to try to stop the orders. Although these cases ultimately failed, they illustrated the importance of the new organizations: unlike Met Council, which had little faith in the institutionalized channels of protest, the new organizations were more willing to work with politicians, to bargain and compromise when necessary, and to use political institutions, such as courts, to fight for tenant demands. Meanwhile, other organizations were pressing a campaign among politicians to protest the abuses of the MBR system. By the end of August the list of politicians endorsing this drive totaled thirty-five.
The MBR protest campaign was interrupted by the elections of November 1972. Tenant leaders ran in four state legislative assembly districts and were successful in two: Jesse Gray won in Harlem and Frank Barbaro, chair of the Bensonhurst Tenants Council, in Brooklyn. Tenant organizations also targeted other legislators whom they regarded as enemies. Early in 1973 John Dearie, president of the Parkchester Tenants Association in the Bronx, was also elected to the assembly in a special election. The presence of tenant leaders in the legislature represented a significant development.
The rent control law faced renewal once again by the city council in the spring of 1973. At the first hearing concerning the legislation, in December 1972, tenant groups demanded the repeal of MBR. However, MBR had powerful supporters: the Lindsay administration, real estate organizations, civic groups such as the Community Service Society, and the New York Times. The latter, criticizing those councilmen who supported repeal, said that their actions were motivated by the upcoming elections; it warned, moreover, that any attempt at repeal would be overruled in court since the city was now prohibited from imposing stricter rent regulations. Tenant organizations, however, continued their campaign, and in March 1973, 130 activists signed a statement calling for the repeal of MBR. Despite differences in strategy between Met Council and some of the newer organizations, their combined pressure, in an election year and perhaps with a cynical eye on the likely court outcome, produced the astonishing result of the passage of MBR repeal by a 34 to 1 vote.
As the Times had predicted, the MBR repeal began a series of court appeals that eventually found the action of the city council illegal. Nevertheless, the vote reflected the growing political strength of the tenant movement. Organized tenants were no longer concentrated in Manhattan, but could now be found in almost every neighborhood of New York City -- middle income, blue collar, and poor; black, white, and Hispanic. No longer could the politicians from the outer boroughs look upon tenant activists as someone else's constituents.
Despite the growing strength of the movement, Met Council stood conspicuously apart from many of the newer organizations. In November 1972 it had purged its vice-chairman, Michael McKee, and eight other officers and board members, in an attempt to reassert centralized leadership by its Old Left faction. Those resigning included most of the young, New Left-oriented members who had come to prominence as a result of the rent strike campaign and had occupied almost half the positions on the organization's executive board. In the face of the political defeats of 1970-1971 and the failure of the rent strike campaign to have a political impact, these young organizers had become restless and had attempted to move toward a stronger local focus with greater autonomy for their "organizing committees" in Brooklyn and Manhattan's Upper West Side. However, these moves were regarded with suspicion by the long-term leadership. They forced the new recruits out, only to watch them rise to leadership among the new, more legislatively oriented, tenant organizations.
The emergence of an effective tenant presence in the state legislature was triggered by the impact of vacancy decontrol on middle-income neighborhoods. Testimony before a commission of inquiry headed by Assemblyman Andrew Stein confirmed that tenant fears, that the law would give landlords reason to "encourage" middle-income tenants to move in order to decontrol the rents of apartments in such neighborhoods, were being fulfilled. Meanwhile, the construction of middle-income apartments, which had already declined sharply since the mid-1960s, was cut again by Nixon's freeze and changes in the policies of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This in turn further strengthened the demand for housing and raised rents, especially in Manhattan.
As a result of these pressures on middle-income tenants, leaders of the new neighborhood organizations felt a need to establish a presence in Albany that would encourage legislators to strengthen rent regulations. Consequently, some of them made joint lobbying trips to Albany during the 1973 session of the state legislature, and toward the end of that year Michael Ehrmann, of the West Side Tenants Union, and Michael McKee, now of the new Brooklyn Tenants Union, established the New York State Tenants Legislative Coalition (NYSTLC). Although most of the original neighborhood organization members were from New York City, NYSTLC set out to act on its recognition that political strength in Albany depended on building suburban and upstate constituencies also. Strategically, it stressed "skilled" lobbying by a few informed leaders who would provide an ongoing presence in Albany and work with legislators there rather than Met Council's practice of taking a crowd of tenants to Albany on an annual protest.
The situation in Albany confronting NYSTLC during the legislative session of 1974 was changed dramatically by the resignation of Governor Rockefeller toward the end of 1973 and his replacement by Malcolm Wilson, who, though relatively unknown, had to face the voters a year later. Realizing that the vacancy decontrol law was a major source of disquiet among New York City tenants, Wilson took the unexpected step, for a Republican governor, of seeking the support of that constituency, and in so doing had his aides work closely with the leaders of the new federation.
Tenants gained considerably from the 1974 session. The Cooperative/ Condominium Fair Practices Act required that 35 percent of tenants purchase their apartments in order for a conversion plan that would evict non-buyers to go into effect. The "Langley Law" allowed upstate public housing tenants the right to elect up to two representatives to the governing boards of local housing authorities. The Preservation of Sound Housing Act made it more difficult for real estate developers to demolish economically profitable rent-controlled housing in order to erect new luxury buildings. Yet another successful bill limited the proportion of income paid by senior citizens in rents or, if they were homeowners, in property taxes. Ehrmann and the other NYSTLC stalwarts had drafted and lobbied actively for all these bills and had journeyed to the state capitol at least once a week to drum up support for them and to push them through the legislative process.
The NYSTLC constituency had a special interest in strengthening rent regulations. NYSTLC lobbyists were filled with secret jubilation toward the end of the session as they worked out an agreement with the governor's aides: indeed, Ehrmann was called by the head of the State Division of Housing and Community Renewal and asked to spend the whole of the last week of the session in Albany. However, when the agreement was revealed to the leaders of the state senate and assembly, they revolted and it unraveled. The result was a compromise law, the Emergency Tenant Protection Act (ETPA), which allowed the rents of decontrolled apartments to rise to market levels upon initial vacancy, but then limited further increases by placing them under the rent stabilization system. The law also extended rent stabilization to the suburban counties and gave all newly stabilized tenants the right to a lease and protection from arbitrary eviction.
During the 1975 session NYSTLC helped pass the Warranty of Habitability Law, a watershed in tenant protective legislation. Since the late 1960s, many politicians and "good government" groups had supported an "implied covenant" measure that would have required landlords to maintain their apartments in return for the rents they received; however, they were never able to get the bill passed. NYSTLC began to lobby for a similar, but more stringent, bill in 1974, and in 1975 it was enacted. This law transformed the lease, which had previously been one-sided in the obligations it created, to a contract with rent abatement penalties should landlords fail to provide necessary services or maintenance.
How can NYSTLC's extraordinary success in raising issues, defining the terms of legislative battles, and securing the passage of favorable legislation be explained, especially after the defeats suffered by tenants in 1970 and 1971? Until 1973, lobbying activity was restricted to Met Council, and its efforts in this respect had tended to be half-hearted. Its demands were also more radical than most elected officials would accept. Met Council would threaten and shout, but it rarely presented rational, informed arguments that legislators could understand or sustained pressure on them. The purpose of its lobbying pilgrimages seems to have been more to educate its members about the difficulty of making the system work than to secure legislative change: when nothing came of them, it used this to prove the futility of working within the political system. The emergence of NYSTLC and its more professional approach thus gave tenants a voice that was listened to in the state capitol for the first time in years. It was not content to protest and then hope that civic organizations or the city or state administration would devise a solution to tenant problems. It protested arid presented its own solutions, often in the form of draft legislation, arid participated in the formation of policy. Many legislators who had been alienated by the tactics of Met Council were receptive to NYSTLC, even though the demands of the two overlapped considerably. Moreover, NYSTLC gained credibility from the shrill presence of Met Council to its left, which made NYSTLC's demands seem reasonable, and from its statewide constituency. NYSTLC also had the advantage of operating in a more favorable political context -- Governor Rockefeller's withdrawal had created greater flexibility -- and of choosing legislation, such as the Warranty of Habitability and the Langley Law, that could be portrayed as so eminently reasonable that similar laws were being passed in other states.
Thus, by 1974 the tenant movement had developed the expertise to be its own advocate within the political process.
Coping with abandonment: Tenant control, rehabilitation, and ownership
When poor tenants were faced with the decay of their buildings and the disruption of services as the abandonment rate accelerated during the late 1960s, some, rather than suffering in silence until the situation became unbearable and then moving, turned to the central strategy of the tenant movement, the rent strike. However, many of those facing incipient abandonment did not achieve the results they hoped for from the withholding of their rents: rather than giving them the leverage to persuade their landlord to improve their living conditions, this strategy often hastened his exit, leaving the tenants still cold in winter but with a large collective bank account. By 1969-1970 some building organizations were responding pragmatically to this situation by spending the rents they had collected to buy oil and make urgent repairs. However, since the experienced leaders of tenant organizations -- notably those associated with Met Council -- initially regarded such tenant seizures of de facto control as too risky, this strategy was not fostered or publicized at that time. Later, as experience in these isolated buildings taught movement leaders that tenants were not, through this strategy, inviting eviction, its use spread rapidly until, by the mid-1970s, it was the most common form of rent strike.
Meanwhile, several activist professionals -- priests and lawyers -- had suggested that one solution to the abandonment problem was to cede abandoned buildings to their tenants, thus creating low-income cooperatives. They raised the hope that owner occupancy could reverse decay and even curb the prevailing civil unrest by giving the poor and alienated a stake in the system. Some of these professionals, each originally acting in isolation, took the initiative in putting these ideas into action. The first low-income conversion to tenant ownership was initiated by a Harlem church in 1963; the second, sponsored by a lawyer, commenced in 1967; others followed rapidly. At this point the concept attracted the attention of the city administration, and in mid-1969 Jason Nathan, HDA administrator, created an exploratory cooperative unit within the Office of Special Improvements (OSI) and staffed it with eight college interns -- but gave them no resources, budget, or support staff.
In February 1970 Robert Schur, a West Side lawyer who had been prominent in promoting the plan, was appointed head of OSI and, having secured the promise of a budget for the purpose, pledged to get a co-op program off the ground. Schur utilized the Municipal Loan Program, which had been designed by the city to help landlords rehabilitate their buildings, and the federal Model Cities Program, to provide loans to tenants for the purchase and rehabilitation of deteriorated buildings. This cost was to be paid off, at low or no interest, by the new tenant cooperators. The extent of rehabilitation was usually curtailed -- "moderate" rather than "gut" -- in order to limit costs and typically was restricted to the "major systems" -- plumbing, wiring, heating, the front door, and roof. All the co-ops were required by the city to incorporate as Housing Development Fund corporations, which imposed income limitations. However, the majority did not take the second step of registering with the attorney general as formal cooperatives and thus avoided the costs of issuing a plan/prospectus and of allocating shares. Content to remain informal co-ops, they granted all tenant cooperators an equal vote at meetings. With Schur, able and committed, in command of an enthusiastic staff, the flow of would-be co-ops in the pipeline strengthened considerably.
United Neighborhood Houses, a coalition of settlement houses, was so impressed by the potential of the low-income co-op movement that in 1971 it hired Robert Kolodny of Columbia University's Department of Urban Planning to map its development. Kolodny studied the movement at what turned out to be the time of its greatest expansion. By May 1973, when his report was finished, he listed 18 buildings that had completed the conversion process and 268 others that were at various stages in the pipeline. In many of the buildings entering the pipeline more recently, the tenants had already taken de facto control through the collective spending of their rents.
The third strand of the evolving strategy of tenant ownership and control was the most dramatic of all: the rehabilitation of totally abandoned buildings by the would-be tenants themselves. The first examples of this strategy were initiated by a Catholic priest, Father Robert Fox of East Harlem, who, beginning in 1969, led a group of would-be tenants in the rehabilitation of two fire-damaged and derelict buildings on East 102d Street. This procedure, dubbed "sweat equity" by Schur because it allowed financially poor people to gain equity in buildings through their labor, attracted considerable attention from the media because of some of the groups involved -- a street gang, welfare mothers, teenagers. Initially most were Puerto Ricans; then blacks also "got a piece of the action." Those involved often formed local organizations that provided leadership for neighboring sweat equity projects. In other instances neighborhood organizations, such as Interfaith Adopt-a-Building, that were already organizing rent strikes began to sponsor sweat equity in vacant buildings. Once again Schur utilized the Municipal Loan Program to fund building materials and, often, low wages for the "sweaters." Behind the strategy lay dreams not only of owning good housing (this was gut rehabilitation, and in most instances architects redesigned building interiors), but also of securing job skills. Later projects included an explicit job-training component, funded by the Comprehensive Employment Training Act (CETA) program.
With the city's enactment of a new statute, Schur was able to beef up the hitherto small Receivership Program, which dated from the mid-1960s, from 15 to 250 buildings in a year. Under this program buildings with serious code violations could be taken from landlords before the buildings deteriorated too badly. Schur went on to experiment with granting management controls for such buildings to community organizations (mostly neighborhood tenant organizations), thus increasing the coterie of organizations involved in programs aimed at preserving decaying buildings. He saw this program as a major resource for co-op conversions -- it could preserve buildings while buying time to develop the unity and skills of the tenants.
By transforming existing programs that had been created with housing developers and landlords in mind, Schur had built an eclectic co-op program upon the foundation laid in the first spontaneous, sporadic efforts.
However, it proved to be a difficult time to be launching low-income co-ops, for the process was fraught with delays, disruptions, and frustrations, which sapped the morale of the participants. The city itself was the source of most of these disruptions -- for two reasons:
First, the programs, being experimental, required flexibility, faith, and consistency from a complex city bureaucracy that proved inflexible, unbelieving, and capricious. Loan packaging often bogged down, and once construction was under way it frequently encountered delays in securing approvals of change orders and payment of requisitions.
Second, financial scandals and crises resulted in programs being suspended and their rules altered. The first of these was the Municipal Loan scandal, which surfaced in 1971 and led to the suspension of the program. Despite the fact that corruption had been restricted to the private owners involved in the program, and thus the co-ops were not tainted, the scandal resulted in the suspension of loans to co-ops and the application of more stringent regulations to them once the program was resumed. These events made things much more difficult for the co-ops in the pipeline.
Following the election of Mayor Abraham Beame in 1973, his appointment of Roger Starr as HDA administrator, and eventually the firing of Schur, the official climate became even less conducive to creating low-income co-ops. Finally, most of the funding programs collapsed altogether in September 1975 with the New York City financial crisis. A few of the many properties in the pipeline eventually made it to tenant ownership with the aid of the Association of Neighborhood Housing Developers (ANHD), a federation created in 1974 under the direction of Schur, and the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board (UHAB), a technical assistance unit fostered by the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Most, however, were stillborn: of the 286 formed or would-be low-income co-ops in 1973, only 48 were eventually completed.
Factors internal to the co-ops also compounded the difficulties of these programs. Many of the sponsors were themselves inexperienced and consequently inefficient. All sweat equity projects had at least some degree of conflict among the would-be tenants, conflicts caused, for example, by differentials in the amount of work, or "sweat," put into the building. And in a few cases friction between the contractors responsible for moderate rehabilitation and the tenants became so acute that it disrupted progress because tenants denied the contractors access to their apartments.
Delays caused overruns, sapped fragile tenant morale, and, where they interfered with employment, resulted in rent arrears. They also caused arrears in debt service payments, for loan agreements set the dates for debt service to begin and these dates passed with sweaters still working on incomplete buildings and moderate rehabilitation properties still partly empty because vacant apartments were not yet available for rent. For many of the young cooperatives, these problems marred what was otherwise an exciting, innovative approach.
One of the directions successfully pursued by ANHD was the expansion of Schur's experiment under which HDA contracted with neighborhood organizations to manage buildings that had previously been managed centrally by HDA. This approach was institutionalized as the Community Management Program. ANHD saw such a procedure as helping to stabilize its affiliates by giving them a steady income through management fees and staff lines, as producing better, more sensitive management, and as preparing the buildings, through moderate rehabilitation under the program and the development of leadership among the tenants, to become tenant owned.
Met Council criticized initiatives leading to tenant ownership because it regarded them as governmental endeavors to escape responsibility and as leading to the cooptation of the tenant movement through involvement in programs and dependence on external funding. However, Met Council found that organizing in the most decayed neighborhoods, where the withdrawal of landlords often left tenants in de facto control of their buildings but without either sufficient income to make them habitable or the authority to discipline tenants who failed to contribute their rents, was an overwhelming drain on its organizers. Symbolizing a strategic change, it moved the site of its Bronx branch from Morris Heights, where it had been in the midst of rampant abandonment, to a more stable neighborhood near Fordham Road. It thus largely conceded the tenants facing advanced decay to the affiliates of ANHD.
The fear of displacement
At the beginning of the 1970s, several different sources of displacement threatened tenants in various sections of New York City. Although the diversity of the sources made it difficult for those threatened to join together defensively, the expansion of the tenant movement as a whole enabled these groups of tenants to be more successful at finding allies and strategies than were the earlier victims of government-sponsored urban renewal, who had tended to organize late and in isolation.
The 1970s began with the last major echo of earlier disputes over urban renewal. Many buildings on Manhattan's Upper West Side had been cleared of their predominantly poor and working-class tenants during the 1960s to make way for redevelopment. However, the continued presence of a large amount of vacant, sound housing awaiting demolition, in a most desirable area, was an affront to poor tenants seeking housing in an extremely tight market. Consequently, some of them, entering at night, took possession of buildings, fixed them up as necessary, and fortified them. When their actions received media publicity, other groups of tenants emulated them and organizers from Met Council came to help spread the idea further.
The city found the squatters more difficult to remove than it expected. Eviction required force, which created unfortunate media images, and squatters often returned to the same or neighboring buildings. The city's response was to damage the buildings considerably during the eviction process, so that they could not be reoccupied, and to speed up the demolition timetable.
One result of the short-lived squatter movement was that some of the most persistent squatters were offered a long-abandoned city-owned building near the urban renewal site. This eight-unit building became the first sweat equity project to be completed and a major inspiration to others because of the quality of its gut rehabilitation and the fact that the bulk of the work was done by two welfare mothers.
A new source of displacement grew out of a decision by the state administration during the second half of the 1960s to begin making long-term low-interest mortgage funds available for hospital expansion. New York City hospitals began, without publicity, to buy up surrounding buildings and to draw up plans for new wings, staff housing, parking lots, and buffer zones to separate them from poor communities. Typically, relocation companies were hired as building managers with the express purpose of emptying the buildings so that they could be torn down.
In some instances the tenants went passively, such as those in the way of the expansion of the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary in Manhattan's East Village. But other hospitals found their tenants organizing against them. As some of these organizations gained publicity, the various groups found out about one another, built networks, encouraged other groups of threatened tenants to organize, and eventually formed their own federation, Citywide Save-Our-Homes Committee. By 1972- 1973 its members included tenants organized against the expansion of Columbia-Presbyterian, Mount Sinai, Beth Israel, Columbus, and St. Claire's hospitals in Manhattan and Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn.
The driving force behind this federation was Harriet Putterman, who had been galvanized into action to oppose the plans of Columbus Hospital, which had already demolished other buildings to make way for a new wing, to take the forty-eight-unit double building in which she lived and replace it with a parking lot for twenty-seven cars. The relocation company persuaded over half of the tenants to move within months, but by that time the ties between the other tenants had cemented, and they survived a standoff that lasted from 1970 through 1976. During much of this time the tenants kept the hospital off balance, with strategies that included a suit that would have blocked the state loan for the new wing and, later, a counter-dedication featuring the activist priests, Daniel and Phillip Berrigan, timed to coincide with Cardinal Terrence Cooke's dedication of that wing. These strategies won for the tenants the scuttling of the planned parking lot and an agreement guaranteeing them tenancy for life.
Not all of the members of Citywide Save-Our-Homes Committee were so successful. For example, when some of the leaders of the tenant organization confronting Methodist Hospital accepted individual deals from the hospital, the organization collapsed and the housing it was defending was demolished. The threat of hospital expansion diminished with the state's financial crises of the mid-1970s, and the federation and most of its constituent groups faded away.
Tenants threatened with displacement for luxury redevelopment had an even more difficult time because developers and speculators were much less vulnerable to adverse publicity than either the city or religiously affiliated not-for-profit hospitals, and the proposed sites tended to be more scattered. Nevertheless, a major focus for redevelopment during this period was Manhattan's Upper East Side between First and Third avenues, where activists formed Tenants against Demolition (TAD). Their strategy was again to build networks, to prevent individual contacts with the landlord, to refuse to discuss monetary offers to move, and to seek to harass the landlord through negative publicity or picketing his home or office. The goal was to create delays that would cost the landlord so much that he would eventually cut his losses and give up his plans. The landlord of the building in which the fiery president of TAD, Connie Adamec, was a tenant so overextended himself financially through a long and bitter struggle that he eventually sold the building cheaply to the tenants. In spite of the encouragement and skills imparted by TAD to the tenants of many buildings, most confrontations did not end so well for the tenants because of the resources behind most developers. Because of this frustration, TAD became a founding member of NYSTLC and thus secured wider backing for a bill that would make it more difficult for landlords to demolish housing that was running profitably. Although their Preservation of Sound Housing Act became law in 1974, the recession and municipal financial crisis were probably more important in relieving the threat of eviction at that time.
Co-op conversion represented another threat to tenants. At the end of the 1960s landlords began to realize that by converting rental buildings to cooperatives they could circumvent the restrictions on profit imposed through rent regulations and make much more than they would by selling a building to another landlord. Almost all of the early conversion plans allowed for the eviction of non-buyers once the plan was declared effective by the attorney general. Although there were usually substantial numbers of tenants who were unable or unwilling to buy, they could do little because of the absence of protective regulations. Politicians took little interest in the matter initially because the number of conversions was relatively small and these were restricted to a few electoral districts.
In 1972, however, New York City's largest landlord, Harry Helmsley, released a plan to convert the first quadrant of Parkchester, an extensive development in the Bronx. Since this was not highly prized Manhattan real estate, his was a noneviction plan, leaving in place those tenants who did not buy. This provision did not hush the protests, but the plan was nevertheless consummated the next year. Meanwhile, the remaining quadrants of Parkchester, expecting the other shoe to drop, formed a strong organization and then strengthened their influence when their leader, John Dearie, was elected to the state assembly in 1973. During that year rumors circulated that Helmsley was also planning to convert two other large developments: Tudor City in Manhattan and Fresh Meadows in Queens. Both developments formed strong tenant organizations that attracted the attention of their local legislators. All three of the Helmsley development tenant organizations became founding members of NYSTLC, where they made common cause with the West Side Tenants Union and tenant organizations from suburban Westchester County, which were also trying to cope with several local conversion packages. As a result of their concerns, NYSTLC gave high priority to lobbying for legislation that would help protect tenants in buildings where eviction plans were launched. The result was the passage in 1974 of legislation that prevented an eviction plan from being declared effective unless 35 percent of the tenants had bought their apartments.
By the mid-1970s the recession and financial crisis were causing the demand for cooperative apartments to fall sharply. Consequently, the number of conversion plans also declined significantly. Thus, economic forces aided tenants in shaping the initial wave of displacements during the 1970s. Only the threat of abandonment continued unabated at mid-decade.
The evolving rent strike
As the tenant movement grew more diverse in the early 1970s, the rent strike became a far more flexible and effective tool. For the first time multiple forms of strike were used concurrently as organizations shaped the strategy to meet the particular housing problems and ideological and stylistic preferences of their local members.
As we have seen, simply withholding rent, whether via a section 755 action or a rolling rent strike, was ineffectual with a landlord who was no longer committed to his building, so building organizations had begun to use withheld rents to buy what was most needed. One of Met Council's most prominent leaders, Frances Goldin, eagerly endorsing the new strategy in 1970, saw it as akin to the action of the West Side squatters, which Met Council was already supporting. However, Met Council, afraid that such tenants would be evicted because they could not produce the rent if so ordered by the court, repudiated Goldin. Nevertheless, the structure of the movement allowed those building organizations that wished to experiment with the strategy to do so without committing the whole movement to it; then, once the strategy was proved safe and effective, it could be endorsed and publicized by the federations and spread via the movement networks.
Many of the new middle-class constituents of the movement in the early 1970s still regarded the rent strike as too radical a strategy for themselves personally, in spite of real fears of blight and decay encroaching on their neighborhoods. Consequently, some organizers promoted what they called the "rent slowdown." This was not really a strike, but a strategy in which all tenants held back their rents until the middle of the month, when the tenant leader handed them all to the landlord at the same time. It was an eloquent demonstration of tenant solidarity and, therefore, also a warning to the landlord, who often responded to tenant grievances at this point. For the tenants it was in fact an organizational and emotional preparation for a strike should the landlord ignore the warning.
Article 7-A of the Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law had been enacted in 1965, in the wake of the Harlem Rent Strike. The article allowed the tenants of a building where disrepair was imperiling "life, health or safety" to petition a court to appoint an administrator for the building who would collect rents and use them to fund repairs, fuel, utilities, and maintenance. Such an administrator also had the authority to rent vacant apartments and dispossess non-paying tenants. This provision was used very little until 1974 because of legal complexities in bringing the action and the demand of the law that the administrator be a lawyer, accountant, architect, or real estate manager -- few of whom were willing to take on a demanding assignment that paid very little. However, in 1974 this rule was relaxed, and tenants were added to the list of potential administrators. Several local affiliates of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition (NWBCCC) then adopted the strategy as a means of getting a landlord off the backs of striking tenants and of securing the greatest possible flow of income by giving them authority to rent vacant apartments and discipline non-paying tenants. The use of this strategy gradually spread to other tenant organizations, while the city also began to bring cases against landlords. Met Council was adamantly opposed to the strategy for several years, most especially because it rejected on principle the concept of tenants evicting one another. Nevertheless, when it found that tenants it had organized were spending their rent monies on repairs and their efforts were faltering because some non-members were taking a free ride, it reversed its position and decided reluctantly to utilize the strategy.
Meanwhile, Met Council's rolling rent strike, with its stress on direct negotiations between the building organization and the landlord, had been preempted as a result of changing court practices and decisions in the first half of the 1970s. During this period a firm legal basis for rent withholding under conditions of decay or absent services gradually emerged, and judges encouraged landlords and tenants to negotiate settlements in the corridors of the court and then register them officially. Judges fostered such practices because decaying housing was causing crowding of the court and the rolling rent strike had made tenants unwilling to place rent monies in escrow. Such practices became especially common after the establishment of separate, much less formal, housing courts in 1973. Since Met Council preferred to sponsor negotiations on the tenants' home turf, it initially advised strikers to refuse opportunities to negotiate in court corridors. However, it accepted these arrangements as the norm once it realized that tenants were usually eager to negotiate and settle.
The introduction of negotiations into court was a practical move toward the acceptance of the lease as a contract, with mutual obligations, which was presaged by the passage of Warranty of Habitability laws in several states in the early 1970s and by the emergence of this principle in New York case law during the same period. The enactment of this principle into law in New York State in 1975 completed the process. As a result of these changes, the rolling rent strike became unnecessary. Tenants without services had the right to withhold rent until their grievances were corrected as well as the right to receive rent abatements for their pains. Negotiation, arbitration, and settlement became the order of the day in the housing court.
Met Council's attempt to call a mass rent strike as a political weapon in 1970-1971 had failed. However, in June 1975 the tenant steering committee at Co-op City, a fifteen-thousand-unit subsidized middle-income development in the northeast Bronx with primarily Jewish and black tenants, announced a rent strike that confirmed the political relevance of the strategy. The strike, which protested yet another in a series of rent increases, lasted thirteen months, during which time the tenants' checks were hidden at undisclosed locations. With more than 90 percent of the tenants participating, huge amounts -- eventually $25 million -- involved, and a sense of drama attracting considerable publicity, the strike became the focus of political attention. Because the rents were needed to pay interest on state bonds issued to build the development, the state's credit rating and ability to borrow money in the public capital markets was undermined. Nevertheless, a series of government threats during the strike came to nothing. The resolution of the strike, arrived at with Secretary of State Mario Cuomo acting as mediator, turned control of the development over to the tenants' committee. Thus, Charles Rosen, the charismatic strike leader and a former printer, became head of the management team. However, because of the government condition that management collect sufficient rent "to cover, first and foremost, mortgage interest and amortization and, in addition, all operating and maintenance expenses," rent levels continued to rise steeply, beginning in July 1977 with an agreement that brought them almost to the level rejected by the steering committee at the beginning of the strike two years earlier, together with an increase of $50 per room in the equity payment. The tenants became disillusioned with their managers when they continued the politics of confrontation, with disputes over payments, and in 1979 voted the original leadership out of office.
In summary, by the mid-1970s the rent strike had become part of the legal arsenal of weapons available to tenants. Rents that were once kept safely in court could now, with city support, be spent directly as needed by the building -- the city concluded that it had to give higher priority to preserving housing in the city than to the niceties of property rights. Meanwhile, what was once perceived as a revolutionary threat had been transformed into a mechanism recognized in law and official programs for the redress of grievances. Its practice had been routinized through the adoption of standard formats (such as those detailed in organizing manuals), and the development of its own jurisprudence (both laws and bureaucracies). By the late 1970s its use extended to representatives of the entire socioeconomic spectrum of tenants.
Multiple federations and a diverse constituency
From 1936, when the first federation, the City-Wide Tenants Council, was formed, until the early 1970s, the structure of the tenant movement in New York was three tiered, topped by one main federation in 1973 and 1974 two other key federations, NYSTLC and ANHD, joined Met Council, the dominant federation since 1959. The emergence of multiple federations represented an important development in the history of the tenant movement in New York. This new situation reflected the diverse interests of the broader, larger tenant constituency that was mobilized in the early 1970s.
NYSTLC, which later changed its name to the New York State Tenant and Neighborhood Coalition (NYSTNC), initially represented the newer, politically sophisticated, and largely middle-class neighborhood organizations of the city and suburbs. Its goals were determined by the particular interests of its members, and it frequently recruited new members by agreeing to adopt their goals as part of its program. There was little attempt to ensure that the various positions it supported were consistent ideologically. Indeed, when members initiated ideological discussion it was usually postponed on the grounds that there were more urgent matters to consider and immediate decisions to be taken.
ANHD served tenants at the opposite end of the spectrum -- primarily low-income blacks and Hispanics. However, the leaders of its affiliates included both a mixture of white, middle-class, college-educated community organizers and professionals and local "community people." The latter tended to be young and were better educated or more skilled than the average community resident. Most of the original affiliates were led by white males who had been inspired by the New Left ideals of the 1960s. However, when these moved on, the lieutenants who moved up to replace them were community people. Several of these were women. Indeed, the top positions in ANHD itself were eventually held by women. Thus even the rehabilitation segment of the movement, where the leadership had originally been strongly male dominated because of its stress on technical and financial expertise, came to reflect the predominance of women members at the grass roots. 
The chief emphasis of ANHD was on developing, imparting, and using technical skills that would reverse decay in poor neighborhoods by encouraging tenants to take greater control of their situations. Initially ANHD had two primary goals. One was to help member organizations raise money because they needed full-time staff to deal with the complex housing problems in their communities. The other was to pressure city government to expand and streamline programs that could improve the living conditions of tenants in these neighborhoods. It hired a paid staff to supply technical assistance to member organizations and to represent it in contacts with city agencies. In its first eighteen months, the period preceding the city's financial crisis, its membership grew from seven original neighborhood organizations to almost sixty.
Although, initially, the work of NYSTNC and ANHD was separate, they began to cooperate on certain projects as time passed. The leaders of the two federations were close ideologically and had developed skills that were useful to one another: for example, Schur was excellent at drafting legislation while the NYSTNC leaders had lobbying ability. As a result, some of the ANHD members also joined NYSTNC, not only swelling its membership but also increasing its black and Hispanic constituency.
The emergence of what it saw as two competing federations made Met Council uneasy. It responded by asserting frequently that it was The citywide tenants' union and by keeping a critical eye on the stands taken or actions performed by the others, especially NYSTNC. Met Council had itself been changing. Until 1970-1971 its only members had been organizations. However, during the rent strike campaign it had also begun to recruit strikers as individual members who paid dues and had a vote at its policy meetings. It had generated high hopes of attracting a large membership -- a goal of two hundred thousand was mentioned -- and, consequently, of gaining political influence. But while Met Council organized effective rent strikes that allowed the tenants to win improvements in their buildings, its efforts to educate the strikers were meeting with only minimal success: barely 10 percent of the early recruits renewed their membership for a second year. This disappointment had contributed to the split in Met Council at the end of 1972.
As time passed, Met Council returned to one of the ideas that had been pushed by the young organizers it had purged, and it began to establish a presence at the neighborhood level through creating a series of local branches. By 1976 eight branches were operating -- four in Manhattan, three in Brooklyn, and one in the Bronx. Each was open one or two nights per week and served both as an organizing clinic where questions were answered and building strategies planned and as a gathering place where members were educated in Met Council's ideology and methods and were drawn into further involvement. This new approach was extremely successful, and the branches rapidly eclipsed in importance the scattered organized buildings and the independent affiliates within the organization. Met Council's membership climbed from 2,000 at the beginning of 1972 to almost 4,500 by September 1973, helped by a steep increase in membership renewal to almost 40 percent. Its individual membership continued to increase rapidly during the succeeding three years and passed 7,500 by September 1976. The resulting influx of membership dues (ten dollars per year for employed members) allowed Met Council to add three full-time organizers, who in turn recruited more members, mostly by organizing rent strikes through the branches.
Met Council's identification with the rent strike strategy and its use as a lever to gain repairs and services from landlords meant that most of its effort and constituency lay along the edges of decay, among the white working-class and white-collar workers -- that is, its membership was found primarily among tenants between the two sectors represented by NYSTNC and ANHD. While one of its staff, Bess Stevenson, was successful in building a strong branch in Harlem, even there it typically dealt with buildings that did not face the acute situations endured by neighboring ANHD affiliates.
Throughout much of the 1970s Met Council was developing its long term goals. Although its ideal had long been public housing, it now discarded this because it allowed tenants insufficient control; at the same time, declaring that poor tenants should not be forced to shoulder responsibility for any housing problems that might develop, Met Council rejected co-ops; Instead, it developed the concept of "housing in the public domain, which would replace the private landlord, housing-for-profit system with a system that coupled public ownership and responsibility with tenant control. The major force in the development of the ideology was Peter Hawley, husband of long-time Met Council chairperson, Jane Benedict and himself one-time president of the American Labor party. In 1978, after years of consensus building, he authored a book setting out the approach. However, it was not Met Council's radical ideology that was primarily responsible for its growth -- the goal was too distant to attract large numbers. Rather growth was a result of the fit of its strategies to the needs of constituents in the neighborhoods it served. Still influential, it remained fairly isolated, set apart by its ideology, its style, and its rejection of the pragmatic strategies of the other segments of the movement, which it regarded and portrayed as "selling out" to politicians and the real estate industry.
Recognition, prosperity, expansion, and frustrations, 1976-1984
As New York City recovered from the 1975 financial crisis, the real estate industry reorganized its political forces to increase pressure on rent regulations, and the revival of the housing market resulted in renewed threats of tenant displacement. These dangers, however, initially paled beside a new prominence that was achieved by the tenant movement: private and public attempts to ameliorate the decay that continued to ravage the neighborhoods of the poor brought an unheralded prosperity to a segment of the movement, while concurrently activists won new measures of political recognition. Nevertheless, such progress also raised questions concerning the direction and ultimate impact of the movement.
He who pays the piper: The proliferation and decline of external funding
In the second half of the 1970s, large amounts of external funding became available to tenant organizations sponsoring the rehabilitation of abandoned buildings and their conversion to low-income co-ops. Then, toward the end of the decade, when the city of New York unexpectedly found itself the landlord of thousands of tenants in decayed housing, it utilized federal funds to become the most avid of all promoters of low-income conversions. However, when the cutbacks in federal funding began to be felt in the early 1980s, following the election of Ronald Reagan, the earlier euphoria over external funding was replaced by a period of reevaluation.
Organizations at all three levels of the tenant movement had, before the mid-1970s, typically existed in the slack in the lives of a handful of people, in borrowed space (often in the apartment of one of the founders), using an available phone, and relying on a member with access to a mimeograph machine at work to run off publicity fliers, membership forms, and so forth. Expenses were met from the pockets of the leaders and organizers themselves, by "passing the hat" at meetings, from the proceeds of fund-raising events patronized by members and their friends, and from membership dues. However, such resources proved inadequate to sustain organizations trying to help tenants cope with spreading abandonment and could not begin to support the costs of rehabilitating low-income housing.
Prior to New York City's 1975 fiscal crisis, most programs to rehabilitate abandoned housing and convert it into low-income cooperatives focused solely on the individual buildings. Only more sophisticated, extra-movement sponsors, such as the Settlement Housing Fund, tried to have their overhead costs included in the rehabilitation budget, and then these amounts proved totally inadequate to cover the staff time expended. However, in these early years neighborhood organizations began to draw small support from a variety of private sources, such as churches (priests of the Catholic church, in particular, became involved in neighborhoods where valuable institutions were in danger of destruction as parishioners fled decay), foundations, banks, and the manufacturers of materials used in sweat equity rehabilitation, which financed low staff salaries in some instances. The Community Management Program also provided salaries for managers and repair personnel.
The financial crisis wiped out funding for the rehabilitation of all would-be low-income co-ops except for a few sweat equity projects that included CETA job-training components. Those affiliates of ANHD that had gained Community Management contracts from the city continued to receive that income. The rest did what they could to combat decay through organizing tenants, sometimes choosing to do this full time while surviving on unemployment benefits, and making lists of buildings that could only be saved through rehabilitation. Meanwhile, Schur's eagle eye was open for possibilities to increase their effectiveness by securing funds for their endeavors.
One such opportunity arose when, toward the end of 1975, the city proposed accelerating its program under which abandoned buildings were demolished. ANHD affiliates were strongly opposed to demolitions when they saw the buildings as sound and rehabilitable. They argued that such buildings should be sealed, rather than demolished, in the hope that rehabilitation funds for them would become available. When the city planned to use federal Community Development funds for demolition, ANHD threatened to tie up the funds in extended litigation. Rather than risk this, the city met with ANHD representatives and agreed to fund demolition and sealing as a single program and to accept the recommendations of local organizations concerning which buildings should be sealed rather than demolished. ANHD members were subsequently awarded sealing contracts. Meanwhile, contracts were signed for the first three of fourteen projected sweat equity buildings under which unemployed persons received on-the-job training funded by grants through CETA and the Law Enforcement Assistance Act. Yet other ANHD members began to receive weatherization contracts from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Meanwhile, the ongoing sweat equity projects were attracting a great deal of media attention: there was drama, and eye-catching photographs, in both the personnel involved and in the transformation of the abandoned buildings. The Renigades, a "youth gang for the people" in East Harlem, made especially striking copy during 1974-1975. Then, in March and April 1976, the People's Development Corporation (PDC) in the Morrisania section of the Bronx and Adopt-a-Building on Manhattan's Lower East Side were covered in key television newscasts. The report featuring the latter's initial sweat equity co-op conversion project on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite presented it as an alternative to abandonment and as an example to other cities across the country. Its experiments with solar and wind power, and then the sweaters' victory in court which forced Consolidated Edison, the utility company, to buy the excess electricity generated by its windmill, were highlighted in succeeding months. Such favorable publicity helped ease negotiations between HUD, HDA, and the Chemical Bank, which eventually, in 1977, led to the announcement of a National Urban Homesteading Demonstration Program, under which these two neighborhood organizations received contracts for twelve sweat equity projects utilizing CETA-funded labor. Opportunities for neighborhood organizations to sponsor the rehabilitation of abandoned buildings were thus clearly beginning to revive by 1977.
Meanwhile, however, a rift between Bob Schur, executive director of ANHD, and the federation's Operations Committee, or board, was widening, and in July 1977 Schur was forced to resign. The man who was unsurpassed at finding ways in which to use HDA and federal programs innovatively had been less successful in running an organization: he did not take directions well from his board and was inclined to go behind its back when it disagreed with him. His exit was a huge loss; since ANHD had been created as a vehicle for him, it was almost impossible for anyone to succeed him there. The federation floundered for several years thereafter, going through three executive directors in rapid succession at the outset.
In October 1977 the situation of organizations grappling with the problems of housing abandonment changed dramatically when President Jimmy Carter made an unexpected, two-stop visit to the South Bronx. One stop was on Charlotte Street, in the midst of utter devastation; the other was on heavily decayed Washington Avenue, where he inspected the almost completed initial PDC sweat equity site and responded appreciably to the contrast it offered to the abandonment he had seen. This incident triggered a rash of favorable publicity for the rehabilitation efforts of tenants in New York City. The next morning the New York Times told the world that "A Loan and Some 'Sweat Equity' Create an Oasis Amid Desolation." Heady times followed, as this segment of the movement received backing from churches, foundations, professionals, and all levels of government.
The rapid increase in external funding transformed many of the neighborhood organizations, especially those that had already begun to attract attention. PDC found that the delays that usually beset its proposals were suddenly truncated, with the result that its budget increased to $4 million and its number of members and employees to 250 -- both tenfold increases -- in a year. The growth of Adopt-a-Building was equally dramatic. Its three leaders had survived on unemployment checks while organizing full time in 1975, and the following year they had put together minor church, city, and foundation support; now grants and contracts multiplied, and by 1978- 1979 its budget stood at $2.7 million, while $1.5 million more flowed as mortgage funds to finance building rehabilitation. By 1980- 1981 its budget had passed $4 million and its paid staff ninety.
Many of the other ANHD members also showed substantial, though more modest, increases in funding. In 1976 ANHD surveyed twenty-seven of its affiliates and found that twenty-two of them were receiving $6.2 million in external funds -- an average of $282,000 each. Of this amount, 75 percent flowed from Community Management and job-training funds, while another $1 million came from Model Cities and Community Development antipoverty grants. When, in 1980- 1981, attempts were made to reinterview the leaders of the 135 neighborhood organizations and federations studied in 1974- 1976, it was found that 55 of the 89 still functioning had received $39.5 million -- or a mean of $718,000 each -- from a much wider variety of external sources in 1980. This figure omits the many organizations created since 1977 to compete for the newly available funds. The enthusiasm of funders was so great that, for example, HUD extended the homesteading demonstration to two other neighborhood organizations, and thirteen buildings, with a commitment of $2.2 million, despite the fact that the first phase of the demonstration was already far behind schedule.
This expansion had a profound effect on ANHD. As early as March 1978 it had become the largest CETA umbrella group in New York City, funneling trainee personnel to its affiliates. It channeled almost all its attention into administering the program for the next four years. This represented a remarkable narrowing of its focus.
The impact of the sudden flood of external funding was even greater for most of the recipient neighborhood organizations. On the one hand it allowed them to implement new goals, such as rehabilitation, tenant ownership and management, imparting skills to tenants, and creating jobs for them, that had previously been outside the scope of the tenant movement. On the other hand, it led frequently to the displacement of previous goals. Some funders demanded specific changes in proposals before funding them: some foundations, for example, refused to fund the organizing of rent strikes. More often, neighborhood organizations tailored their proposals to meet the known preferences of funders or plugged into programs where the funders had already set the rules. The Community Management Program, for example, insisted that the neighborhood organizations with contracts manage the buildings directly rather than help tenants manage the buildings themselves, which led some neighborhood organizations to protest that they would become bureaucratic stand-ins for landlords. However, the majority of contractors accepted the roles assigned them and usually ceased trying to organize tenants altogether. The most usual reason for goal displacement, however, was that the sudden surge of funding for specific tasks squeezed out activities that were not covered by the grants. The leaders who, while their neighborhood organizations were small and largely internally funded, frequently spent much of their time organizing tenants to use their collective leverage against housing problems, now found themselves administering large projects, meeting stringent reporting requirements, and writing new funding proposals in order to keep income flowing. Since most grants were categorical, flexible funds were scarce -- amounting, for example, to only 3.9 percent of Adopt-a-Building's total budget in 1980 and only 2.0 percent of Los Sures'. Consequently, the typical neighborhood organization found itself working intensively on the few buildings it was funded to rehabilitate or manage and no longer trying to organize the tenants of the neighborhood.
When organizations previously staffed by volunteers first received external funding, the service of the staff was usually excellent: they could now work full time for a cause they cared about, but where their previous participation had been limited to their spare time. They therefore typically showed high commitment by working long hours and often continuing unpaid in their positions for months if breaks in funding occurred. However, this level of commitment tended to erode as personnel turned over, especially when funding triggered rapid growth, diluting the influence of committed members and hastening bureaucratization. The strain of large changes in scale was compounded when many of the new employees were CETA workers with no background in the movement, who were available primarily because they needed a job, not because of commitment to the cause. Moreover, under the rules of the program they usually had to be replaced by new recruits, often just as they were being socialized to the goals and ideology of the organization. External funding also had the effect of drying up the pool of volunteer participants.
Nowhere was the impact of dramatic, uncontrolled growth felt more acutely than at PDC, which had been made a symbol of the rehabilitation segment of the tenant movement by a fifteen-minute visit from President Carter:
PDC ... met none of the basic conditions for the survival of a small, complex business: its management had no experience working as a team; there was little trust between workers and management; the operation was badly under-capitalized especially in terms of covering administrative overhead and cash flow needs; it did not have good relations with its vendors, and vertical lines of authority had never been implemented. PDC's managers had control over neither their workforce nor their balance sheets.
As for the homesteaders, pulling sweat "became just labor, a negative thing." Homesteaders were "working for the money, working as long as they could." Sweat time became the price workers had to pay to get a CETA job, instead of a commitment to an apartment, to themselves, to the community. Between late August, 1978, and January, 1979, over a third of the homesteaders were either fired or quit.
Finally, the firing of a group of workers in February 1979 was followed by two months of arson, break-ins, theft, protest, and violence, which included the destruction of PDC's financial records. Within a few weeks most of the managers were fired or quit, and by the end of the year PDC's visionary leader, Ramon Rueda, had also resigned and most of the senior homesteaders had pulled out: only supervisors and no-show CETA employees were left.
Doug Moritz, the leader of Los Sures, one of the best-known and most successful neighborhood organizations, whose budget eventually topped $6 million, commented retrospectively in 1980 that the funded programs "diverted us from organizing, from an educational thrust. We sacrificed our local base, as we failed to educate the new tenants who moved in, and came to be seen -- rightly -- as part of the establishment." A board member of ANHD stated that "collectively we lost the involvement of local people, and instead adopted a contractor relationship with only a few buildings. As a result we can no longer say that we represent, or are even in touch with, the neighborhoods." Many of the neighborhood organizations stopped organizing tenants just when the rent strike strategy of spending rents on services and repairs, and thus seizing de facto control of buildings, was being widely accepted and could have become a way of building considerable strength at the grass roots and forcing input to policy. Other organizations, whose formation was stimulated by the availability of external funding, never learned to organize tenants at all. The warning of Met Council concerning the danger of cooptation present in accepting external funding had been shown to contain considerable truth.
Some organizations managed to retain their combativeness after receiving external funding. This was possible when they retained flexibility because they continued to raise a substantial proportion of their income internally and their external funding was spread over multiple sources, with much of it coming from churches and other local institutions. Nevertheless, any degree of dependence could create a dilemma: for example, a group of neighborhood organizations working together in the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, which had earlier received financial support from local banks, found later that if they wished to protest against investment redlining in their neighborhoods, they would need to pressure these funders. That they nevertheless chose to press ahead is a result, in part, of the protection afforded by their multiple sources of funding. Needless to say, the income from these banks dried up.
Some of these neighborhood organizations (notably members of NWBCCC) so succeeded in overcoming the problem of combining paid staff with volunteers that they achieved the highest participation levels of all. Participation was encouraged in several ways. Since their primary internal source of income was fund-raising (through dances, concerts, brunches, festivals, raffles, basketball games, and so forth), tenants whom they had helped were able to show their gratitude by selling (and buying) tickets. Not only did this approach create slots for those who otherwise would not have been active, but both the ticket selling and the events themselves strengthened social networks. Second, these organizations typically attempted to form block associations where they already had one or two well-organized buildings. These created opportunities for building activists to become involved outside their own building organizations but close to home, where they were concerned about the fate of the buildings and network ties could ease access. Block associations also created an intermediate but unfunded locus of activity, where tenants were less likely to feel the urge to leave the work to salaried organizers. Third, because these organizations typically addressed multiple issues, constituents were more likely to find a continuing relevance there once their initial issue was settled. Participation was therefore less ephemeral.
The City's in rem crisis
In 1978 a major new ingredient was added to the abandonment/rehabilitation/tenant ownership landscape. A new city law, Local Law 45 of 1977, allowing properties to be taken in rem -- that is, foreclosed for tax arrears -- once their owners were one year behind in payments rather than three years as previously, took effect. By this change the city council had hoped to accomplish two things: (1) to encourage owners to pay what was owed rather than lose their properties; and (2) to reduce the decay of those buildings taken by the city. However, the law's result was that the flow of buildings eligible for vesting by the city increased substantially, so it suddenly found itself the largest owner of deteriorated housing, a situation it was totally unprepared to manage. Between 1978 and 1981, vestings brought more than 16,500 residential properties to city ownership, and in 1981, demolitions and sales notwithstanding, more than 8,000 in rem buildings containing almost 112,000 units remained in city hands. Of these, 34,000 units were occupied. Eighteen percent of the occupied units were in buildings categorized as dilapidated, a rate four times that in the city as a whole. Their tenants were overwhelmingly drawn from racial minorities (only 19 percent white) and the poor (with a median income of $6,865, only 62 percent of that of all renters).
In developing its response to the in rem crisis, the city administration had to take three factors into account: (1) housing activists were insisting that it was essential that much of this housing stock be preserved as a housing resource for low- and moderate-income people; (2) it would not be possible to sell most of the property to private landlords without special incentives; and (3) the city did not want to own and manage the property permanently. Consequently, the city experimented with the concept of selling buildings to their tenants and installed Philip St. Georges, formerly head of UHAB, the chief source of technical assistance to sweat equity buildings, as head of a new Division of Alternative Management Programs (DAMP) within the city housing agency, which was itself symbolically renamed the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD).
The main DAMP programs utilized two familiar tenant strategies. The first was the Community Management Program (CMP), whose goal was the sale of the properties after moderate rehabilitation to either the tenants as a co-op or the managing neighborhood organization, which could then continue to manage them. Since moderate rehabilitation of the buildings would continue under the supervision of the managers and at city expense (using federal Community Development funds), purchasers would escape the burden of debt service added to their rent. The second program, the Tenant Interim Lease Program (TIL), was a variation on those early low-income coops where the tenants had taken the initiative without the help of a sponsoring neighborhood organization. In this case, organized tenants could gain experience through managing their building, while rehabilitation that was much more limited than under the CMP was carried out under city auspices; ultimately tenants could purchase the building and form a low-income co-opt The purchase price under both programs, as voted by the city Board of Estimate, was to be $250 per unit. Other alternative programs had the Housing Authority, private management companies, or previous 7-A administrators managing and potentially buying buildings. By the end of 1979, one-third of the occupied in rem units were enrolled in a DAMP program, and almost two-thirds of these were in TIL or CMP. The city had unexpectedly donned the mantle of chief sponsor of low-income co-ops.
The TIL program grew by far the most rapidly. In part this was because, with its limited rehabilitation component, it cost the city least. In part it was because TIL was the natural route taken by tenants who were already in de facto control of their buildings as a result of spending their collectively held rent monies.
The commitment of the city administration to maintaining in rem buildings as a low-income housing resource began to waver as early as the second half of 1979. Mayor Edward Koch regarded the program as too costly: the total bill to the city between 1978 and 1981 was $342 million, while it raised less than $100 million in rents -- rent collection during the first three years averaged less than 50 percent. The administration began to focus instead on selling buildings and minimizing interim management costs while maximizing the ultimate sales price. A moratorium on auctions, which had been imposed as a result of pressure from tenant activists, was lifted, and sales resumed in November 1979 with a fanfare of media publicity that attracted the lower middle class and boosted prices. Concurrently, there were reports that the city was delaying approval of sales of property to tenants at $250 per unit in Manhattan neighborhoods where the market was reviving: Mayor Koch told a heated town meeting in Clinton, the site of the proposed convention center, that he would not let tenants buy in rem units at $250 and then stand to make a profit by selling them.
Tenants in DAMP buildings had already responded to rehabilitation efforts and their opportunities for input to management with rent collection rates exceeding 85 percent. Nevertheless, the administration pressured both TIL and CMP for sales because it feared that since two years had elapsed without them, the tenants were preferring to remain under city ownership as a hedge against unexpected costs and problems. Eventually, in mid-1980, the first five TIL buildings were sold to their tenants. The CMP, however, did not sell its first building until 1982. Consequently, four of the nineteen CMP contracts were cut out in 1980. Meanwhile, the city was delaying vesting so that it could slow the influx of in rem buildings, and thus left the tenants in many newly abandoned buildings to fend for themselves.
Many of the TIL buildings had organized without the help of a neighborhood organization, and the structure of the TIL program reinforced their isolation. Nevertheless, their common problems -- such as the impact of the seemingly inevitable rent increases on poor tenants, the need for more rehabilitation, protection from major problems that might emerge once the tenants had taken control, and a guarantee of the disputed $250 purchase price -- created networks that eventually resulted in the formation of the TIL Coalition. Its meeting with HPD commissioners early in 1980 elicited a promise of section 8 funds as a buffer against rent increases, but nothing firm on their other demands.
By early 1984 a total of 115 TIL buildings had been bought by their tenants, while tenants were managing another 92 in the pipeline. TIL was regarded by the city as the most successful of the DAMP programs. However, the modest level of city-funded rehabilitation in these buildings meant that many tenant co-ops would have to borrow after purchase to complete the work.
The Reagan presidency: Reevaluation, convergence, and divergence
The election of Ronald Reagan at the end of 1980 resulted in cuts in the budgets of the neighborhood organizations engaged in rehabilitation and in the elimination of programs they had come to rely on. Thus, the CETA programs were discontinued, section 8 was phased out, and Community Development funds were no longer restricted for use by the poor. In 1983 a HUD-sponsored study of the impact of budget cuts on eighty neighborhood groups, half of which were in New York State, found that the greatest impact was caused by the elimination of CETA funds, which had removed the bulk of the staff of the organizations. Other cuts had been felt first in "soft" services, since the construction pipeline was slower to come to a halt.
Organizations faced major strategy revisions as a result of the cuts. Bonnie grower, executive director of ANHD, announced at a retreat that the loss of ANHD's CETA contract had removed about half of its staff of thirty together with a good deal of what had become its direction. There was talk of lean times, self-reliance, and survival, and Brower announced a new emphasis on policy advocacy for neighborhood development. Robert Schur in his last article before his sudden death in March 1982, argued that the rehabilitation segment had responded to the availability of external funds by moving from confrontation to cooptation, only to find that the government then canceled its part of the bargain. Rehabilitation neighborhood organizations were left with the choice of competing with one another for a piece of the shrinking pie or getting "back to basics" by becoming confrontational in order to force authorities to respond to them. Schur urged them to organize communities as they had once done but had now forgotten how to and, because to be alone was to be weak, to build networks by reactivating and radicalizing their federations. Steve Katz, one of People's Development Corporation's early activists, agreed: they had expected rents would be decontrolled within a few years, while a measure passed by the city council the previous year introduced annual rent increases for apartments while they remained rent controlled. Also, the threat of tenant displacement took on new forms. In the neighborhoods of the poor the culprit was the many faces of abandonment: fires, absent services, unsafe buildings, the stripping of pipes and appliances from vacant apartments. For tenants of stable working-class and lower-middle-class neighborhoods, the threats were gentrification, manifested in evictions to make way for luxury redevelopment and "brownstoning," and hospital expansion. And for tenants of desirable buildings, the threats took the form of two landlord strategies: cooperative conversions with the eviction of non-purchasing tenants, and "encouraging" tenants with rent-regulated apartments to move so that rents could be decontrolled to regulate how such amounts could be used. The gap between the needs of the older, larger, sophisticated members of ANHD and the younger, smaller organizations undermined grower's attempts to build cooperating networks.
The Reagan cuts gave further impetus to the determination of the city administration to rationalize programs dealing with the in rem crisis. Once again lack of unity hampered the tenant response. For example, the CMP, which had already undergone shrinkage from nineteen to fifteen contracts in 1980, was said to be facing much greater cuts again in 1981. However, in spite of the existence of a Community Management Coalition sponsored by ANHD, members acted to protect their own interests at the expense of others, rather than attempting to protect them all by utilizing their combined clout.
However, in 1982 the pressing need to resolve the dispute over the purchase price of units in TIL and CMP buildings demonstrated that bridges could be built. At issue was the refusal of the city to sell twelve TIL buildings in Clinton to their tenants for $250 per unit, as promised and originally voted. The tenants in many TIL buildings, recognizing that the decision reached concerning the Clinton properties would affect them all, organized into a cohesive, articulate force, which orchestrated a campaign that won coverage in the major media and then presented a focused, disciplined, powerful display of anger at meetings of the Board of Estimate. The board finally voted that the $250 sales price would be retained, but that on resale of apartments appraised at more than $2,000 the city would "recapture" 40 percent of the owner's profit. This compromise decision, which revealed a concern for the recapture of profits that the city usually did not have when it made subsidies to developers or corporations, failed to protect the buildings in sought-after neighborhoods from gentrification while also refusing the opportunity to help stabilize them as housing for the poor by channeling profits back into the co-ops.
At the beginning of 1982, tenants belonging to the Union of City Tenants, an organization representing tenants in in rem buildings, challenged the right of the city to increase their rents without first improving services and claimed that their rights to due process and to equal protection were being denied. The Koch administration had, in 1979, obtained the passage of a bill through the city council giving HPD the right to raise rents in city-owned buildings, thus eliminating the protection of rent regulations for in rem tenants. Rent increases were seen as essential to returning buildings to profitability and thus to securing their sale back to the private sector. Increases were not in fact implemented until late in 1981, and it was these that were the subject of Laureano v. Koch. Behind this challenge lay the fact that the median gross rent: income ratio for in rem tenants already stood at 36 percent as compared with 28 percent for all renters in the city: to tenant leaders these were the last buildings where rent increases should have been imposed in order to make them profitable. In November 1982 Judge Sheldon Levy, in the state supreme court, ruled in favor of the tenants and ordered HPD to promulgate rules, regulations, and procedures governing rent increases before reinstating any rent hikes. In June 1983 this ruling was upheld by the state appellate division.
Buildings organized by Met Council had initially refused to enter the TIL program. However, the Laureano decision temporarily removed one of Met Council's objections to the program -- that it would clear the way for rent restructuring. Met Council had also become aware that in rem buildings in DAMP programs were obtaining better repairs and that other in rem buildings were now more likely to be auctioned to the highest bidder, which left tenants without opportunity for input and at the mercy of small speculators and hustlers who were prepared to buy buildings in decaying neighborhoods. Pragmatically, Met Council decided to reverse its position and support tenants who chose to enter the TIL program and ultimately buy their buildings.
Meanwhile, the sweat equity program had remained separate from DAMP, but by 1980 its promise had faded considerably. The HUD demonstration project had faltered: of the twelve buildings planned for phase I, only seven went into production, and it seemed likely that four of these would not be completed. Difficulties integrating CETA with sweat equity and the internal problems of both PDC and Adopt-a-Building were seen as chiefly to blame. Moreover, the strategy was also having economic problems because costs had risen to such an extent that the income groups originally involved could no longer afford the projected rents. The resulting pessimism led HPD to make only two sweat equity loans in two years at the end of the 1970s and to effectively kill sweat equity in 1980 when the cost per unit passed $30,000. A total of only fifty buildings with 583 units had been completed or were in process using sweat equity.
In 1981 a group of tenants that had been frustrated when Commissioner Anthony Gleidman killed sweat equity proposed that the city make a grant to cover the cost of highly skilled work in a row of buildings on Amsterdam Avenue; they would then do the rest. The buildings would be affordable because they would not carry a mortgage. The city eventually signed, and its cost turned out to be $5,000 per unit. The new program was dubbed "urban homesteading," and other buildings followed the first into the program. HPD has since issued two "requests for proposals," the second with so much hoopla and so little critical information that the crowd that appeared at the advertised time to collect application forms took on the dimensions of a riot. Moreover, since the total available for grants was only $1 million, it was announced that preference would be given to those needing the lowest grants. Ultimately, 519 applications were received for a maximum of perhaps a dozen or so grants. Those that called on UHAB, the traditional source of technical assistance for sweat equity projects, found they were refused: "We can't in good conscience give assistance," said Cheryl Edmonds, veteran of the first sweat equity project to be completed and guide to every form the strategy adopted since then, "This just isn't a low income program, we are already overloaded, and this is doomed to fail."
The Reagan years brought reevaluation and greater agreement on the importance of tenant organizing, confrontation strategies, and the worth of the DAMP programs. However, the budget cuts also brought increased competition among tenant organizations for the funds available and greater efforts by the city to conserve its resources. The result was that within the rehabilitation segment of the tenant movement there were several instances of individualistic behavior by neighborhood organizations -- a divergence that clashed with the calls for unity. Withdrawal from dependency on external funds was proving difficult. The problem of how best to mobilize resources for organizations representing the poor in their struggle with housing decay and abandonment remained unsolved.
New displacement targets: Redlining and gentrification
Many of the trends that had led to the displacement of tenants in New York City during the first half of the 1970s eased sharply around the time of the city's financial crisis in 1975: the bottom fell out of the market for coops, thus removing much of the incentive for conversions for a couple of years; demolition for luxury housing was considerably curtailed by a building slump for most of the succeeding decade; and hospital expansion became unpopular amidst talk of excess beds and the need for cost cutting. However, the problem of displacement had not really gone away.
The threat of encroaching abandonment to contiguous neighborhoods inhabited primarily by white ethnics and employed members of minority groups continued apace. In the second half of the 1970s the organizations trying to combat abandonment focused on a new target: the banks and their practice of "redlining," whereby certain geographic areas were singled out as bad risks for demographic reasons, such as racial change, so all applicants were denied loans regardless of their personal credit worthiness. The housing analysts associated with these organizations were well aware that the causes of housing abandonment were complex. However, they held that redlining played a key role by setting up a self-fulfilling prophecy concerning neighborhood decay: by making mortgage financing difficult to obtain, it reduced demand for properties, thus causing their values to fall and encouraging owners to "milk" their buildings by postponing repairs, cutting services, and even not paying taxes in order to earn a profit under the new conditions.
The threat of redlining had already become a national issue, thanks to the efforts of National People's Action, a Chicago-based national federation whose members mostly represented modest homeowners but also included ANHD and NYSTNC. Its lobbying played a key part in the passage of two laws by Congress: the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act of 1975, which obliged banks to release data, by zip code or census tract, concerning the number and value of mortgages made annually, and the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, which bade federal regulatory agencies weigh the extent to which a bank was reinvesting in areas surrounding its branches before approving the opening of new branches, acquisitions, or mergers.
Following the passage of the first federal law, concern about redlining in New York State increased in 1976. Both the Assembly Banking Committee and the New York City Commission on Human Rights held hearings, the New York Public Interest Research Group issued a study of Brooklyn, where it found little mortgage availability and none at all in the mostly black northern half of the borough; the Brooklyn Reinvestment Coalition, representing twenty-five organizations, became especially vocal; and an ad hoc New York Reinvestment Coalition was formed.
By 1979, using the information available under the disclosure law and the threat of the reinvestment law, local pressure on savings banks was producing results. Most dramatic was the first major test of the reinvestment law, when a Park Slope organization, South Brooklyn against Investment Discrimination (AID), successfully challenged an application before the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation by the Greater New York Savings Bank to open a branch on Manhattan's East Side. As a result of its research, AID was able to show that although nine of the bank's sixteen branches were m Brooklyn and 80 percent of its deposits were from that borough, only 6.5 percent of its real estate loans were made there. Although such challenges required "a vast amount of research," a total of seven more from within New York City were pending at the time. They were made easier by the networks built within the Coalition against Redlining in New York City (CAR), which was closely linked to NYSTNC.
Meanwhile, the hopes of CAR that such challenges would encourage banks to increase mortgage availability voluntarily were being fulfilled. The first was an agreement signed by the Dime Savings Bank of Williamsburg with the Greenpoint/Williamsburg Committee against Redlining, which promised $1 million annually in real estate loans, low down payments, and the evaluation of applicants individually on their merits. It also agreed to enforce the "good repair clause" in mortgages, under which a bank could threaten foreclosure if a property were allowed to decay, to advertise the availability of mortgages, and to inform community organizations of properties in foreclosure. The following year NWBCCC achieved success in its long campaign with four banks, some of which were among its prominent early funders. These signed a "proclamation of cooperation," promising to finance the moderate rehabilitation of two hundred buildings, both multiple dwellings and one-to-four family houses, to advertise the availability of such loans aggressively, and to enforce the good repair clause. Two years later NWBCCC reported that the use of the latter clause had been successful: three buildings had been foreclosed, which made the threat real and an excellent organizing tool that gave tenants leverage with recalcitrant landlords via their banks.
By the early 1980s, however, interest rates had skyrocketed, which made the availability of loans a moot issue since few could afford to borrow, and reduced many of the savings banks, with their large portfolios of long-term low-interest real estate loans, to the point of collapse. Consequently, CAR, turning its attention to the commercial banks, used the existence of federal regulations as a lever to arrange a meeting with representatives of twelve of them. These had traditionally made few real estate loans -- indeed, half of them had made none the previous year -- and certainly not to low-income borrowers. The result of the meetings was that two of the banks, Chemical and Manufacturers Hanover Trust, agreed to consider the financing of repairs in multiple dwellings on a case-by-case basis.
The upgrading of older neighborhoods and the consequent displacement of the long-term residents had occurred in the early 1970s in such neighborhoods as Greenwich Village and Chelsea, parts of the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side, and the sections surrounding Brooklyn Heights. The chief concern of tenants organizing against displacement at that time was the replacement of existing housing with luxury high-rise buildings. However, when such construction slowed after the mid-1970s, tenant attention shifted to the threat of the transfer of the existing housing stock to a richer clientele who could outbid the older residents. Such gentrification had in fact been fought building by building in Chelsea from 1970 onward by the Chelsea Coalition on Housing (CCOH), which followed the traditional strategies of urging and helping tenants to "hang in there" and getting back at harassing landlords with negative publicity. Occasionally it was especially inventive and, therefore, effective. For example, in 1982 members discovered that a landlord who had been using notably grim harassing tactics to empty buildings needed to apply for an extension of his permit for a sidewalk cafe for his clam house, which he had been able to upgrade from local eatery to fashionable restaurant as a result of the gentrification of the neighborhood. CCOH successfully opposed his application on the grounds that occupying the sidewalk was a local privilege that should not be accorded to such an unneighborly person. In spite of such efforts, however, much of the poor Hispanic population has been displaced from Chelsea over the past fifteen years.
Late in the 1970s considerable national attention began to be paid to gentrification. One result was that the Housing and Community Development Act of 1978 required that HUD report on displacement. It responded in February 1979 that there was no problem of "significant proportions." However, when displacement was listed as the most serious problem by both Legal Services attorneys and their clients, a second study was carried out by the Legal Services Anti-Displacement Project. This examined the same data but arrived at contrary conclusions.
Meanwhile, organizations in New York City had become increasingly concerned and active around the issue, in spite of a 1980 declaration by Housing Commissioner Gleidman that displacement was not a problem. Gentrification developed two forms. The first was the upgrading of older but sound and potentially attractive housing in neighborhoods that, like Chelsea, were "close to the action." The second was the invasion, by speculators, developers, and "urban pioneers," of well-located neighborhoods housing the poor that were, until the recent rehabilitation efforts of neighborhood organizations, unthinkable because of their level of decay. The prospect of losing the people of the neighborhoods they were resuscitating began to haunt ANHD and its member organizations.
The opposing responses to neighborhood upgrading were well illustrated by a clash in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where gentrification had been progressing for a decade. The Fifth Avenue Committee, a member of ANHD, was committed to retaining an integrated community. Focusing on the lower Slope, which was earlier ravaged by decay but had been slowly gentrifying, it sought to protect the poor tenants there, who usually had no defense against eviction because they lived in small buildings exempt from rent laws. One of the strategies it sought to implement was the development of rent-subsidized housing. The Park Slope Improvement Committee, claiming that it would result in an undue concentration of poor tenants and therefore attract crime to the neighborhood, opposed this strategy. It argued that there was no need for rent subsidies where the private market was strong enough to attract upgrading -- they should be reserved for weaker markets. A similar controversy took place in Manhattan Valley, the one neighborhood on the Upper West Side still to be gentrified, where developers went to court to argue that subsidized housing being built there by ANHD affiliates would maintain such a proportion of poor tenants there that it would prevent the upgrading of the neighborhood.
Harlem's decay had deterred gentrification in spite of its excellent transportation and a location adjacent to some of Manhattan's prime real estate. When Mayor Koch announced that the city would sell thirteen vacant brownstone buildings there through a pilot lottery, this aroused considerable local opposition because it was seen as likely to trigger gentrification. Opposition was expressed in spite of the mayor's decision, in an effort to blunt such criticism, to triple the chances of local residents taking part in the lottery. Such is the concern about gentrification that local activists fear their own successful rehabilitation efforts could well trigger the process. However, Margaret McNeil, past president of ANHD and director of West Harlem Community Organization, which helps form low-income co-ops, manages and buys CMP buildings, and develops and manages moderate-income housing, disagrees. She regards such development activities as protecting local tenants and therefore as insurance against gentrification when it takes off.
Gentrification is a much more imminent threat on the Lower East Side, which has housed several generations of the city's poorest, most recent immigrants, but is now, since it abuts the newly chic East Village, attracting speculators and undergoing rising rents and real estate prices. In a recent article, "The Lower East Side: There Goes the Neighborhood" in New York Magazine, an out-of-town speculator was quoted as saying,
Ethnic businesses and services will gradually be forced out. Any one else can be paid to leave. If you can get rid of rent-controlled tenants, renovate the place, and charge $700 a month, it's worth paying them $10,000 just to get them out and raise the rents. They'll be pushed east to the river and given life preservers. It's so clear. I wouldn't have come here if it wasn't.
In 1981 Mayor Koch's proposal to convert city-owned buildings in the neighborhood into artists' housing with the help of substantial subsidies aroused a storm of community opposition coordinated by the Joint Planning Council of the Lower East Side (JPC), a coalition of twenty five neighborhood groups. They had already seen what had happened after artists pioneered the transformation of Soho to a residential community: it became prime real estate, and most of the artists were in due course forced out. A public hearing at which the JPC showed that speculation, profiteering, and displacement were already occurring on the Lower East Side brought bitter, but effective, confrontation. Ultimately most of the members of the Board of Estimate deserted the mayor and voted to quash the plan.
Such victories are rare before the forces of gentrification, and this one did little to slow their progress on the Lower East Side. In 1981 Robert Schur, the architect of neighborhood revitalization, saw that the strong recovery of New York real estate was spilling over into several of the neighborhoods where ANHD members were operating, with the result that it was turning around decay and driving up prices and rents. Arguing that such forces could not be defeated, he suggested instead that they could be regarded positively as long as they did not cause displacement -- the communities needed the infusions of money and the job opportunities that construction and renovation would bring, abandonment had left room for growth, and if integrated communities were created they would revitalize stores and create more effective demand for services. Revitalization without displacement was possible so long as it was planned. Schur suggested leaving all current privately owned housing to the private sector, and thus open to gentrification, and using city-owned and new housing to protect the existing poor population, including the local relocation of tenants displaced by gentrification. Since all city-owned buildings would be needed as a land bank, vacant structures should be sealed and rehabilitation phased as needed.
The section known as Loisaida, the heart of the Lower East Side, has lost 70 percent of its population to the ravages of abandonment and 30 percent of its buildings have gone in rem. The immediate threat of gentrification to this area led JPC to take Schur's vision seriously, with the result that it worked on a detailed plan for over two years. The outcome represented a dramatic leap beyond the local, often building-by-building, struggles of its members against abandonment over the previous fifteen years. At the center of the plan were two components: "Make the Lower East Side a special preservation district where the cost of making millions from luxury housing development is to provide low-cost units as well"; and "make the neighborhood a special enforcement area, where acknowledged landlord practices of harassment and rent gouging can be spotted and rooted out, and where immediate assistance can be provided for both low income development and for those market rate developers willing to provide affordable housing."
Although the city administration, knowing that such a plan was in the works, had bowed to pressure from JPC to delay auctioning Lower East Side properties, officials refused to meet with JPC once the plan was announced. Two months later Mayor Koch and Borough President Stein held an unexpected press conference, from which JPC leaders were excluded, at which they announced the outline of their own plan for the neighborhood. The plan made little provision to increase the number of low-income units beyond those already in programs. Moreover, it included proceeding with auctions of city-owned buildings, which were essential to the Schur/JPC plan as a resource for low-income housing. The impact of the plan, local activists concluded, would be to accelerate gentrification and increase city income through sales and higher tax assessments. The threat of losing the people in the neighborhood they had helped revitalize had increased.
The political thrust
NYSTLC (later NYSTNC) had led the tenant movement into direct participation in the political process in 1974 and met with considerable success in its first two years. The phasing out of rent regulations, begun in 1971, was reversed (although the original strictness of rent control was not restored); the freedom of landlords to convert or demolish their buildings without considering the interests of their tenants was restricted; public housing tenants gained input to decisions concerning their developments; and the weakness of tenants within the tenant-landlord relationship was mitigated when the lease took on the mutual obligations of a contract. Although these outcomes were political reverses for the real estate industry, they by no means represented its political rout; indeed, the industry remained extremely powerful. Tenant activists found during 1976-1984 that their efforts achieved mixed results legislatively. During these years the political rhythm was set to a great extent by the sunset provisions of the rent laws because these occasions gave both sides the opportunity to attempt to amend the laws or to allow them to expire.
Both of the rent laws as well as the Cooperative/Condominium Fair Practices Act were due to expire in June 1976. The Housing Committee of the Council of Property Owners, an ad hoc coalition of New York City real estate groups, launched a strong advertising campaign upstate with headlines such as "Warning: Blumenthal-Beame Pressure State Legislators to Extend N.Y.C. Rent Control. This Means Higher Taxes for Upstaters. Which way will your legislator vote???" Advertisements showed stark pictures of abandoned housing and blamed this upon rent regulations. The Emergency Financial Control Board, the State Moreland Commission, and several leading papers and business weeklies also blamed the city's financial crisis upon rent regulations, which they claimed had caused abandonment and therefore the erosion of the city's tax base, and demanded that the regulations, rather than the housing, be abandoned. The climate was not favorable to extension.
To make matters worse, there was open division among tenant ranks. Met Council felt threatened by the new prominence of NYSTNC -- the more so because Michael McKee had become its chairperson. It therefore became more active politically, lobbying for its own comprehensive statewide rent control bill while, at the same time, NYSTNC sought support for a different bill with similar intent. Although the two had agreed to keep their disagreements private and did cosponsor one or two demonstrations for the first time, Met Council, later attacking the NYSTNC rent bill in an editorial, accused it of "compromising tenant rights," and told several legislators both during their mass mobilization in Albany and in phone calls not to sponsor NYSTNC's "landlord" bill. This opened the way for a classic example of "divide and conquer," when Democratic senate minority leader Manfred Ohrenstein used the presence of branches of both federations in his district as an excuse for supporting neither bill -- a considerable blow to their chance of passage.
Both federations regarded the Emergency Tenant Protection Act as weak, but they also saw its extension as vital when the alternative was deregulating what was by now a large segment of the rental units. They were helped by the fact that 1976 was an election year. However, the extension granted all three laws by the legislature was for just one year -- to a nonelection year. The implication was evident to all: it would be easier to let the laws lapse, or at least weaken them, at that point. Meanwhile, pressure to abandon the regulations entirely continued to mount -- from the press, banks, Washington, the Republican (majority) leadership in the state senate, as well as from the ongoing real estate campaign.
NYSTNC therefore geared itself up for a crucial defensive struggle in 1977. The problem was to develop a strategy that would at the very least extend the three pieces of legislation. Its leaders, prodded initially by a letter from Assemblyman Frank Barbaro warning of the danger of public infighting to the defense of the existing pro-tenant laws, agreed it was essential to close ranks with Met Council. Upon meeting with their Met Council counterparts, NYSTNC found it was much easier to plan joint action to protect existing benefits than to press for new programs.
NYSTNC's initial strategy for the 1977 legislative session was to convince the leaders of the Democratic-controlled state assembly to take a strong stand on the rent laws early in the session as a means of applying pressure to the state senate. The senate Republican majority leadership had regularly used delaying tactics on controversial measures in the hope that by the end of the session the urgency would be so great that the Democrats would make concessions in order to get anything passed at all. Because the senate leadership had gone on record as favoring an end to all rent regulations, it was felt that a last-minute consideration of the issue could not be risked.
The assembly obliged by passing a three-year extender bill. However, this was, of course, meaningless without senate approval. The lobbyists well knew that power in the senate was centered in the Republican leadership and that they needed external strategies to build enough momentum to overcome the resistance of Senator Warren Anderson, the majority leader. Consequently, NYSTNC chose to pressure the seven New York City Republican senators to sponsor the extensions. It reasoned that each of these senators had a sufficiently large tenant constituency for him to be threatened by an effective leafleting campaign in his district. If these senators joined the twenty-four Democratic senators on the pro-extension side of the issue, there would be a majority for their passage.
The first mobilization took place in Senator Frank Padavan's district in eastern Queens in March. Evidence of its impact followed quickly. As NYSTNC was preparing to leaflet the district of the second targeted senator, Martin Knorr, in southwestern Queens, the Republican senators from the city met in caucus on the rent issue and then in turn pressured their leaders. Before any of the leaflets in the second wave could be distributed, Senator Anderson came out with a proposal to renew the expiring rent laws for an additional four years, thus outdoing the Democratic bill that had passed the assembly. His bill also set up a temporary commission, whose members would be appointed by but not include any politicians, to recommend general reforms in rent regulations.
A few days later NYSTNC distributed an ebullient letter from Chairperson McKee commenting on what had happened:
This is an enormous tenant victory and we should all play it that way. Our strategy worked. We decided to concentrate on the renewal of existing laws rather than pushing for stronger controls; I am more than ever convinced of the soundness of this strategy. We decided to concentrate on putting pressure on legislators in their districts, rather than in Albany.... Another crucial factor was that all tenant groups maintained a posture of unity.... This victory has greatly increased the prestige of the N.Y.S.T.N.C. in Albany.... While we have successfully lobbied for the enactment of significant legislation in the past, for the first time we have taken on a political battle and won. We played our cards carefully and well. We have been able to reverse the anti-rent control tide of the past two years.
NYSTNC's strategy had triumphed in a year when the real estate leaders had felt they were in a position to gain ground. The latter's end-of-the session strategy was undercut by the early action of the assembly, and the defection of the Republican senators left them weaponless: "It blew up in our faces in the midst of negotiations. The New York City Republican senators went off the deep end, intimidated by the tenant demonstrations."
In contrast, the effort to extend the Cooperative/Condominium Fair Practices Act failed. In part this was because the NYSTNC lobbyists, distracted by the threat to the rent laws, gave it less attention. Assemblyman Edward Lehner, chair of the Assembly Housing Committee, in an appearance before the NYSTNC board, cited three reasons for the outcome. limited constituent pressure; the restricted number of districts where the issue was pertinent; and the feeling among officials that the real estate industry was correct that the stability of existing housing in New York City relied strongly on the ability of landlords to convert their properties, thereby giving tenants an economic stake in the future of those buildings and communities. It had indeed proved difficult to arouse rank-and-file support, in sharp contrast to 1974, partly because two large developments that had been threatened with conversion at that time, Fresh Meadows and Tudor City, had withdrawn from NYSTNC -- the threat to them seemed to have abated and there had been policy disagreements because their leadership was more conservative than that of the federation. Another reason for the outcome was perhaps equally significant: many legislators felt that by extending the rent laws, they had given tenants their due, and it was now the landlords' turn. Indeed, the landlords with the greatest political influence probably had more at stake in the conversion law than ETPA. Conversions open the way to large profits, and it seemed that the law had stopped them almost entirely; on the other hand, since ETPA applied only to apartments that were previously decontrolled or uncontrolled, their rents were already fairly high.
Conversions remained a live and frustrating issue for NYSTNC throughout the remainder of the period as their pace rapidly picked up momentum. In spite of their spread throughout many areas of the state by the early 1980s, NYSTNC was not again successful in securing passage of legislation that covered the whole state. However, it did have the 35 percent minimum tenant approval restored in the areas most immediately threatened -- New York City and the three suburban counties. Protections -- for example, of senior citizens -- were gradually improved over time, and the long-sought goal of 51 percent tenant approval was finally realized in 1982. However, these changes were drafted in such a way that they also made tenant approval of conversion plans easier to achieve in some buildings. On the other hand, the state senate leadership remained adamant in its rejection of what had become NYSTNC's key objective -- a similar process of approval by tenants in residence at properties offered noneviction plans. Such plans be came more and more frequent, especially after the passage of the 51 percent approval for eviction plans. In 1983 the legislature passed a statewide local option bill under which municipalities could bar eviction of senior citizens and severely disabled tenants in conversions. Some fifty towns, villages, and cities have opted for the law.
Legislatively, then, 1977 proved to be a year of both victory and defeat for tenant political activists seeking to prevent the protections won in 1974 from lapsing. While legislators responded sharply to tenant pressure, they ultimately tried to balance the total outcome when weighing tenant and real estate interests. However, one new NYSTNC initiative, the Neighborhood Preservation Bill, was successful in 1977. This bill, the brainchild of Robert Schur, who had been elected to NYSTNC's board, sought funding to cover the administrative staff and expenses of "neighborhood preservation companies" (NPCs) -- that is, neighborhood organizations primarily involved in rehabilitation and management. It set out to meet a key need of such organizations, for the external funding available was usually targeted so specifically that it did not provide for such essential costs as rent and administrative staff. In lobbying for such legislation, NYSTNC was trying both to cement the already close ties between it and ANHD and to strengthen its own constituency among black and Hispanic tenants. The bill gained the support of the leadership within the legislature and made rapid progress -- it was difficult to be opposed to neighborhood preservation, especially when potential recipients were scattered in many of the state's electoral districts. The main question was whether funding could be found in a year of financial stringency. Eventually, with the support of Governor Hugh Carey, the program received an initial budget of $500,000 for its first six months and $5 million the next year. Eleven of the first fifty neighborhood organizations to be funded were ANHD affiliates. By 1982 total funding of this law had reached $9.6 million, with 250 recipient neighborhood organizations statewide.
Another bill introduced by NYSTNC in 1977 banned retaliatory eviction. The bill sought to protect tenants from reprisals for joining a tenant organization or for making a complaint in good faith to a code enforcement agency. While this right was guaranteed to tenants covered by rent regulation laws, tenants in many upstate areas and those in small buildings excluded from rent legislation had no such protection. NYSTNC introduced this bill because it believed the bill established a basic civil right; there was as yet no great demand for the bill from its tenant constituency. Consequently, it took time to build support for the legislation, and it was not until 1979 that the bill was finally successful.
The effective cooperation in 1977 of NYSTNC and Met Council to secure the extension of the rent laws cemented a relationship that, in 1978 and again in 1979, allowed the joint introduction of a statewide rent control bill. This bill was in fact a modification of that introduced by NYSTNC in each of the two preceding years. The federations also worked together somewhat uneasily, with other neighborhood organizations and within an ad hoc group, the Coalition against Rent Increase Pass-alongs (CARIP), which had come into being initially to oppose and challenge a series of city decisions to add special increases to rents when costs, such as labor or fuel, rose sharply.
Michael McKee was the only tenant activist appointed to membership of the Temporary State Commission on Rental Housing, which had been mandated by the state senate in its extension of the rent laws in 1977. The 1980 report of the commission, with 114 bitterly contested recommendations and two minority reports, made almost no political impact. However, McKee's frustration with the commission did contribute to a decision by NYSTNC that a system of rent regulations based upon the existence of a housing "emergency" that had to be reaffirmed regularly should be replaced by a permanent system. Thus NYSTNC proposed a Statewide Rent and Eviction Regulation Bill that would regulate rental housing "as a public utility, for the public good and in the public interest," and consolidate the various rent regulation systems into one unitary system presided over by a state agency.
The announcement of this bill at the end of 1980 precipitated a bitter public break with Met Council and CARIP, which regarded NYSTNC's retreat from the statewide rent control bill they had been sponsoring jointly (now known as the Flynn/Dearie Bill) as a betrayal. Met Council declared, in an editorial in Tenant, that Flynn/Dearie was a "rent control-type bill," where the only increases were for hardship. In contrast, the NYSTNC bill was a "rent stabilization-type bill" with annual increases such as those that had led to rapid rent increases under rent stabilization. The NYSTNC proposal was therefore "doing the Landlords' job for them." NYSTNC leaders responded that both bills were study bills, introduced to raise concepts and ideas: Met Council was insisting on treating Flynn/Dearie as viable legislation, but in fact it had not gotten out of committee in three years. However, when a few months later Flynn/Dearie unexpectedly passed in the assembly, NYSTNC sent out a "tenant alert" urging tenants to push their senators to act favorably on it. Nevertheless, the senate blocked passage; this was repeated also in 1982.
NYSTNC continued to find fault with many aspects of Flynn/Dearie; however, it also began to take part in joint talks aimed at making acceptable modifications, and in fact gained considerable input to reshaping it. By 1983 NYSTNC reported with enthusiasm that the bill had been greatly improved by redrafting. NYSTNC especially liked the bill's formula for rent increases, which was tied to the equity investment of the landlord in his building: "This is a novel economic concept, the first serious new proposal for fair rate of return in more than 30 years of rent controls."
NYSTNC had been searching for internal unity, growth, and financial stability throughout its first decade. Initially an ad hoc federation, compromising extensively to develop united stands on issues and to maintain the support of varied neighborhood organizations, it had lacked discipline: members would go off and "do their own thing," often supporting only part of NYSTNC's legislative agenda and seriously detracting from its credibility as a tenant voice. However, the negative political climate engendered by the financial crisis of the city of New York and the new financial austerity of the state that followed led to a demand for more disciplined support. Consequently, the membership of the Columbia Tenants Union, which had attacked NYSTNC in its newspaper, was suspended, and other more conservative groups that had engaged in independent political action, such as the Fresh Meadows Tenants Association and the Tudor City Tenants Association, were not pursued when they failed to renew their memberships.
At the center of NYSTNC's plans for expansion lay the need to broaden its constituency geographically in order to increase its legitimacy with legislators. Consequently, NYSTNC's leaders established an independent nonpolitical entity, the Peoples Housing Network, which obtained foundation funds to allow it to employ organizers in different sections of the state. Although it was almost always short of funds, it was successful in helping to broaden NYSTNC's membership base. One of its strategies was to use the election of tenant representatives in public housing authorities under the Langley Law, a law NYSTNC had drafted, lobbied for, and later defended from attack in the legislature, as an opportunity to mobilize tenants. Later, following the passage of the Neighborhood Preservation Act, it saw the Neighborhood Preservation Companies (NPCs), which were situated all over the state, as potential recruits. A membership drive focusing on these groups in particular helped increase NYSTNC's membership from twenty-seven to sixty-three between April 1980 and May 1981. Only thirty-five of these were situated in New York City. A bylaw change that admitted organized buildings that were not attached to neighborhood organizations also brought it an increasing flow of middle-income members.
Initially NYSTNC set low membership dues and then tried to finance its lobbying activities by urging member groups to contribute regularly to this cause. Consequently, it lived from one financial crisis to another, and its members got used to responding to crises. In 1980 it decided to finance the salary of a lobbyist in Albany in order to increase its efficiency and presence there, and set a scale of dues based on the total income of its members. Consequently, it raised $8,000 in 1980-81 -- twice its total for the previous year. As its membership expanded, it became more ambitious, and in 1982-1983 it budgeted to cover part-time salaries for a statewide coordinator, a lobbyist, and a "federal issues coordinator." Once again it urged its members to voluntarily increase their financial commitments and succeeded in raising $26,000. It also took a first step in following the financial path earlier trodden by Met Council when it established a membership category of individual member with dues of $15 per annum. Its budget was still modest when compared with that of Met Council, which was based largely on individual dues.
Met Council's rate of membership growth declined after 1976, in spite of an increase from three to five in its paid organizing staff. Consequently, when its rent for office space trebled, it was left in a financial squeeze. Its falling growth rate was related to competition from tenant organizations whose rent strikes drained away other potential recruits, the need of organizers to spend time with tenants who were already members, a decline in its renewal rate, and demands placed on the time of organizers by the intractable problems of decay. Met Council's efficiency was also reduced by increasing turnover of its paid staff, who, in spite of great dedication, burned out as a result of long hours at low salaries. This pattern became a matter of increasing concern for Met Council stalwarts as the original core of volunteer leaders was thinned by advancing age and as the time for the retirement of Jane Benedict, chairperson for a quarter of a century, approached and was finally, after earlier postponements, set for the end of 1984.
By the early 1980s Met Council's decline in new members turned into a contraction of membership, from a maximum of over 10,000 in 1980 to under 8,000 in 1983. Met Council was going through major changes at this time: frustrated with the long-term results of its years of organizing, it chose to divert some of its resources and to become overtly more political and radical. A key symbolic issue was its decision to endorse political candidates. This led it to take a strong stand for Assemblyman Barbaro in his 1981 mayoral race on the Unity party ticket against Mayor Koch, who had antagonized Met Council through his anti-tenant policies, appointments, and rhetoric, such as "the free lunch for tenants is over" and "move if you can't afford the rent." The next year Jane Benedict herself ran on the Unity party ticket as candidate for governor, with the ostensible goal of gaining fifty thousand votes and thus giving the party a permanent line on the ballot. However, she fell far short. Meanwhile, in a series of obituaries occasioned by the deaths of early Met Council activists, Tenant revealed the ties of many of them to the Communist party, a fact that had previously been kept under wraps -- less than a decade earlier Jane Benedict had ordered that an issue of Tenant be drastically altered and reprinted because she feared that a center spread celebrating May Day might alienate some members. Concurrently, however, and rather incongruously, Met Council worked politically as part of CARIP, which was chaired by John McKean, a sometime Republican candidate for the state assembly, whose organization, the Tudor City Tenants Association, had earlier pulled out of NYSTNC upon finding it too radical. Met Council saw CARIP as able to compete with NYSTNC; however, without Met Council, CARIP would have had little credibility.
In 1979 a suit forced the Rent Guidelines Board (RGB), the body responsible for setting increases within the rent-stabilized sector in New York City, to hold its meetings in public. The tenant federations cooperated in organizing their constituencies to attend the hearings. When the RGB announced the smallest increases on record, the pattern for subsequent years was set: meetings were held in a circus-like atmosphere before a noisy, confrontational, and packed audience of tenants, landlords and, it is said, "landlords" recruited for the day at central casting. This new focus on the RGB hearing represented an acknowledgment that the majority of tenants were now, as a consequency of vacancy decontrol and the ETPA, rent stabilized rather than rent controlled.
In 1980 NYSTNC launched a campaign to separate the Rent Stabilization Association (RSA), an organization of landlords, from the administration of the rent stabilization system. The RSA had been taken over, after a power struggle in 1978, by a group of activist landlords pledged to use its economic resources to further the political goals of the real estate industry. Intended to be a neutral administrative body, it was transformed into a real estate advocacy organization:
Instead of adequately funding the CAB [Conciliation and Appeals Board], RSA has spent its dues on hiring lobbyists and public relations consultants, and paying lawyers to sue RGB, CAB and even HPD. RSA set up a front group, the Neighborhood Preservation Political Action Fund, to raise money for campaign contributions. NPPAF also ran radio ads upstate during the 1981 legislative session when the Emergency Tenant Protection Act was up for renewal, urging voters to lobby their legislators against "New York City rent control" -- and failing to mention that the ads were run by New York City landlords."
In July 1980 Congressman Ted Weiss demanded an inquiry into the budget of RSA, which, he charged, was being misused for political purposes. He had been alerted to this by NYSTNC, which had already issued a flyer raising questions about RSA encouraging and covering up rent overcharging. NYSTNC continued to carry out its own investigations, and in November 1980 Chairperson Bill Rowen informed Attorney General Robert Abrams of forty-two specific violations by RSA of its statute. The upshot was that Abrams brought suit to prevent the RSA from lobbying or litigating on behalf of landlords. The suit also sought restitution of nearly $1 million in misspent dues. Abrams followed up by petitioning HPD commissioner Gleidman to suspend RSA's registration; however, Gleidman took no immediate action. In 1981 NYSTNC had a bill introduced in Albany to separate the RSA from the rent stabilization system and, by registering rents, to make it more difficult for landlords to overcharge their tenants, but it was not successful. A similar city council bill the next year also failed.
The Emergency Tenant Protection Act was due to expire once again at the end of the 1983 session. This time, however, it seemed unlikely that there would be a simple extension of the law because of the pressure of support for several other bills. These included the Flynn/Dearie Bill, now supported by NYSTNC as well as Met Council and CARIP; the new governor, Mario Cuomo, was also on record as supporting the "principles" of this bill. Met Council and CARIP were optimistic about its chances because of its success in the assembly during the previous two years and promises of support they had garnered from within the senate; NYSTNC was more cynical about the worth of such promises. The NYSTNC-backed bills separating the RSA from the rent stabilization system and requiring the registration of rents were also introduced once again. All tenant organizations expressed support for extending rent regulations to unprotected geographic areas and a variety of previously excluded building categories. They also agreed in their strong criticisms of the rent stabilization system (and therefore of the current ETPA) for giving overly generous rent increases and poor enforcement, including insufficient penalties to deter rent overcharging, and that an important ingredient in correcting such problems was removing the RSA from the system. So strong was the combined tenant assault on the prevailing system that senate Republicans felt under attack. Nevertheless, the extent of opposition from real estate forces led NYSTNC to predict that the most likely outcome was a negotiated bill.
The negotiations turned out to be extremely tortuous, in spite of a degree of agreement on several issues in advance, and the end result inevitably contained compromises that left all parties partly unsatisfied. This result, as laid down in the Omnibus Housing Act, which was in fact a greatly amended extension of ETPA, was that the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) took over the administration of both New York City rent regulation systems, rent control, and rent stabilization. Both systems kept their separate identities but were consolidated administratively with DHCR's administration of ETPA and state rent control in the suburban counties. Rents were to he registered and treble damages for overcharging imposed. Tenants in housing owned by institutions and with unrelated roommates, both of whom had been rendered defenseless by recent court cases, were protected. On the other hand, the formula for hardship rent increases was liberalized, with mortgage interest rates included for the first time; rent-stabilized tenants no longer had the option of a three-year lease; and the period during which overcharge claims could be brought was shortened considerably. These impediments, together with the bitterness of CARIP/Met Council at the failure of the Flynn/Dearie Bill, caused NYSTNC to pause before publicly claiming a major share of the credit for the changes; nevertheless, the results of its campaign against the RSA and for a consolidated, state-run system that provided for registration of rents had been enshrined into law. NYSTNC foresaw potential for the expansion of tenant protections and political power by unifying the system and bringing unregulated areas and classes of housing within it if the tenant movement was strong and focused its attention carefully.
The Omnibus Housing Law set up two situations on which tenants had to act if their rights were to be protected. One was the question of refunds for past overcharges, where the sunset was March 31, 1984, and the onus of proof was placed on landlords once applications were filed. The second was the registration of rents by landlords, where tenants had only ninety days to file challenges after the deadline for landlord filing of June 30, 1984. Failure to file a challenge had the effect of sanctifying the landlord's figures as the legal rent, no matter how inaccurate. NYSTNC geared up to warn tenants and supply them with information by publishing and widely distributing special explanatory issues of its paper, Tenants and Neighbors, and opening a hot line. As a result, it found itself in the spotlight and attracted a flow of new individual and building members. Met Council, however, failed to focus on the situation as a major recruitment opportunity.
The state senate, in passing the new rent law, had insisted on handing the RSA the task of preparing a new administrative code for DHCR, which brought it both a handsome fee and also the opportunity to shape the form of future rent regulation. However, the RSA overplayed it hand. Its proposed code would have so gutted tenant protections that Attorney General Abrams found fifty violations of current landlord-tenant law in the code. Consequently, the code created such an uproar that it allowed the tenant movement, once again united around a major threat, to place so much pressure on the city housing administration, which was required to ratify the code, that it rejected the code altogether. The administration of the new rent law thus began with an outdated but not malevolent code inherited for the time being from the city and a bureaucracy that had begun to gear up for its task very late.
NYSTNC has been building a worthy track record in Albany for a decade. During this time it has scored some notable, though rarely unmixed, successes. Drafting legislation and pressuring legislators, it has become a presence in Albany. During most of this time its presence has been maintained by the intense activity of only a few people: it was only with great difficulty that it could even muster occasional shows of mass support. There are structural factors at work here: some issues, such as rents, have larger constituencies than others, especially when what is at stake has come to be accepted as a right. The constituencies affected by other issues are often small, fragmented, and insufficiently mobilized. Member groups are so involved locally that they must feel that a broader issue is vital to their interests before they attempt to respond significantly. That is, there is a great distance, within the pyramidal structure of the tenant movement, from the grass roots building organizations via neighborhood and citywide organizations to the statewide level: a decision to push for a new law in Albany does not have the same immediacy to most tenants as a rent strike protesting the absence of heat and hot water in their own building. On some of their bills, therefore, NYSTNC leaders were in effect speaking in the name of a constituency that was barely aware of the issues involved. That is, the leaders acted as consumer advocates who analyzed the system, looking for inequities in it, and then drafted bills to alleviate them. The surfacing of a bill would create an opportunity to educate a constituency around an issue, but only sometimes was this done effectively.
According to McKee, in its earlier years NYSTNC had impact because the legislators believed it was stronger than it was. As time passed, and NYSTNC built loyal support in many parts of the state, its clout strengthened. Much of the credit for this belongs with NYSTNC leaders, especially McKee, for their careful research and planning and imaginative deployment of resources. Some of the laws NYSTNC favored were enacted to buy off potential discontent before it erupted. Legislators remember occasions when tenant leaders had successfully stirred up hornets' nests and targeted them accurately. The RSA code fiasco is a recent reminder. The Republican senators from the city have been especially aware of the pressure that NYSTNC can bring to bear on them, even when it appears rather limited to outside observers. Annual NYSTNC legislative conferences, each lasting two days, have also demonstrated a growing, though still small, grass roots strength. Meanwhile, the increased political activity of CARIP and Met Council, and the more open radicalism of the latter, when focused on legislative targets rather than on NYSTNC, have helped strengthen the credibility of NYSTNC and the political clout of the movement as a whole. Politically, the tenant movement has matched the real estate lobby in sophistication if not in wealth.
An emerging national focus and structure
Tenant organizations have typically been formed reactively with particular problems in mind. Thus, building organizations have focused on landlords, neighborhood organizations on agencies, banks, or clusters of landlords that have been blamed for local problems, and federations on the local or state governments responsible for establishing the legal framework of the tenant-landlord relationship.
Until recently, there was little interest in forming a national federation focusing on the federal government because Washington, D.C., was not seen as the immediate site of the tenant battle. The major exception was the public housing sector, which was closely dependent on HUD for both funding and other policy decisions. Consequently, the National Tenant Organization was formed in 1969, and funded for three years by the American Friends Service Committee, to organize the public housing constituency. However, it devoted itself to posturing and personal aggrandizement and proved incapable of maintaining a national presence once the funding of its headquarters expired. The tenant federations within New York State such as NYSTNC knew the enormous effort needed to maintain a presence, during the legislative session, in Albany, which is only three hours by car from New York City. They realized that national distances and the scale of organization needed to maintain and make decisions within a super federation made it extremely difficult for a largely voluntary, local crisis-oriented movement to maintain a presence in Washington.
Nevertheless, by the mid-1970s common issues were emerging in several different states. Awareness of this caused the tenant movement in New York, and its three major federations in particular, to pay greater attention to the national sphere. One of these issues was redlining, which drew ANHD and NYSTNC to become involved with National People's Action, whose constituency was predominantly homeowners.
A second issue, rent regulations, applied peculiarly to tenants. New York had been the only state to retain World War II rent controls into the 1960s. However, the inflation that accompanied the Vietnam War led to demands in several states for protection from rent increases and the implementation of "second generation" regulations. Thus, the New Jersey Tenant Organization (NJTO), formed in 1969, spearheaded a campaign that won controls in more than one hundred cities. Similar local initiatives spread across the nation during the 1970s. They ran into especially strong opposition from landlords of properties with FHA-insured mortgages (which were often large developments), who fought them politically, in court, and finally complained to HUD that its mortgages were threatened by the rent laws. In February 1975 HUD responded with a regulation providing that properties with federally insured mortgages could bypass local rent regulations if they were in danger of defaulting.
Tenant activists saw this regulation as a considerable threat. A Met Council delegation protested to the HUD regional director, and then followed up with a memorandum, copies of which were sent to all members of the New York congressional delegation. Aware that these actions were insufficient for a national issue, Met Council told its members that it hoped to contact NJTO and tenant groups in Boston (which it did not yet know by name) with the hope of coordinating protests. Knowledge of tenant organizations in other states, and links to them, were still limited.
Meanwhile, in April 1975 the first issue of Shelterforce, a national tenant quarterly newspaper, was published in New Jersey by the National Lawyers Guild and a group of tenant organizers and community workers from in and around the city of Newark. The headline of its first issue was dramatically relevant to its purpose: "HUD KO's Local Rent Laws." By reporting the spread of tenant organizing and rent control initiatives across the country during the next several years, Shelterforce helped strengthen a sense of identity among tenants and, in turn, inspired further activism.
The first multistate endeavors developed slowly. Finally, in 1976 NJTO took the initiative in calling together tenant organizations from New York (Met Council and NYSTNC), Massachusetts and the District of Columbia to form an ad hoc Coalition against Federal Preemption of Local Rent Control. In July they met with HUD officials in Washington and then followed up by pushing their congressional delegations to intervene. The following year the New York and New Jersey federations formed the National Committee for Rent Control and spent an exploratory day lobbying on Capitol Hill. Meanwhile, Met Council had begun to publish extensive reports of the burgeoning tenant activity in other states. Excitement rose with the upsurge in organizing and demands for rent regulations that followed the failure of California landlords to fulfill their promises to share the tax savings resulting from Proposition 13 with tenants in the form of rent reductions. In 1979 New York tenants celebrated by having actress Jane Fonda, an activist from Santa Monica, California, where tenant muscle was being flexed, as keynote speaker at a large outdoor rally marking Tenant Unity Day.
By the spring of 1979 many "informed sources" were suggesting that the Carter administration would respond to the galloping rate of inflation by imposing wage and price controls. Shelterforce and the other members of the National Committee for Rent Control saw this as an opportunity to push their cause -- they must be ready to demand strong national rent and eviction control as part of the federal package. A meeting of the committee decided to call a "national tenant movement conference on rent control" in the fall. The resulting meeting drew more than one hundred tenant organizers and activists from fifty cities and seventeen states to Newark. It greatly extended networks among tenant activists, elicited commitments to continue working together, and laid plans for a full National Tenant Organizing Conference in Cleveland the next summer.
The Cleveland conference brought together two hundred representatives from one hundred tenant organizations in fifty cities and twenty-five states. The major result was the formation of the National Tenants Union (NTU). The top structural level of the tenant movement, a super federation, was thus put in place.
Once again networks were extended and strategies shared and their effectiveness discussed. Ambitious plans were laid concerning a clearinghouse for information, the development of model programs, and the creation of a presence on Capitol Hill. However, problems arose concerning how these would be carried out -- the organizational members were not willing to set membership dues at more than a token level. This meant there could be no national office in the immediate future, and certainly no lobbyist regularly at Congress. It was suggested that the shortfall in funds could be made up by pursuing individual memberships -- but issues before Congress are too far away to attract the attention of the average tenant concerned about services at home. Consequently, shortage of money has been a continuing problem for the NTU. On the other hand, the national reporting of Shelterforce acts as a clearinghouse, while annual national conferences continue to strengthen ties among activists.
The first political test for NTU was an unexpected amendment introduced in the House of Representatives in the fall of 1980 by Representative Chalmers Wylie (Republican, Ohio). This amendment, which would have prohibited the use of certain federal funds in cities with rent control laws, was brought at the instigation of the National Multi-Housing Council, a real estate lobby, as a means of knocking the steam out of the tenant movement after a striking 2 to 1 defeat of an anti-rent-control initiative in California in June 1980. NTU responded to the amendment by encouraging local tenant and community groups to contact the members of their congressional delegations to urge them to oppose the measure. Their efforts met with little apparent success, for the amendment passed the House with a comfortable majority, and much of the opposition to it that was expressed in debate came from conservatives opposed to federal interference in local matters rather than from supporters of rent regulations. Tenants were saved when the amendment died with the bill it was attached to. Following the election of Ronald Reagan, his transition team recommended the adoption of a similar measure to encourage local governments to abandon rent regulations. Such a bill was introduced in both 1981 and 1982 by New York senator Alphonse D'Amato. Tenant lobbying in 1981, in particular, was credited with playing an important part in its defeat. These were tense times for the fledgling National Tenants Union, when a real estate backlash encouraged by a conservative administration threatened the progress that had been made in the late 1970s. Meanwhile, the Reagan administration proceeded with its plans to dismantle many of HUD's programs and to slash its budget.
The new networks that began to link tenant activists across the nation after 1975 gave tenants the ability to respond politically at the national level. Although their limited resources hampered lobbying efforts in Washington, they were in a position to coordinate local political efforts against national targets. The 1984 annual conference of NTU, held in Detroit grimly debated what delegates regarded as the attacks of the Reagan administration on housing and eventually adopted a resolution, proposed by Met Council, that NTU should sponsor an "evict Reagan" campaign during the fall campaign period. As a result, NTU prepared a brochure for its members' use during the election season that urged tenants to register to vote and then to use their votes to "evict Reagan."
Tenant impact: Retrospect and prospect
The fifteen years between 1970 and 1984 were a period of growth, diversification, and increasing influence for the tenant movement in New York. Within the city the movement was no longer concentrated in Manhattan, but was now well represented in three outer boroughs with large numbers of tenants: Brooklyn, where it had become a presence in the early 1970s; the Bronx, where NWBCCC's eight affiliates represented real strength in the north and ANHD members were hard at work managing and rehabilitating buildings in the south; and Queens, where the long unorganized tenant terrain had sprouted a spunky local federation appropriately known as QLOUT (Queens League of United Tenants) in 1981, which brought together fifteen affiliates in predominantly white middle-class neighborhoods. Meanwhile, NYSTNC had continued to expand upstate in its endeavor to build a statewide federation, its membership climbing to a total of seventy organizations by 1983.
The expanded movement represented a previously unmatched diversity of tenants, no matter what dimension is considered: middle class, working class, and poor; black, white and Hispanic; political radicals and neighborhood-oriented conservatives. The result was an unheralded breadth of protest. South Bronx tenants seized control of buildings undergoing abandonment while West End Avenue tenants organized because their elevator operators were replaced by automatic elevators or their doormen no longer wore white gloves; tenants from all over the city pressured the meetings of the Rent Guidelines Board with their unruliness, while their leaders lobbied with finesse in Albany.
The increased influence of the movement was seen at all levels. Among buildings, movement strategies were perceived by tenants as having a positive effect. When the leaders of 153 building organizations, first interviewed in 1975-1976 while using strategies against their landlords, were reinterviewed eight years later, 80 percent reported that the actions had brought short-term gains and 59 percent reported that gains were retained over time. (The record was least positive in the more deteriorated neighborhoods -- the 34 cases in which the situation got worse after the tenant action include 13 buildings that were abandoned and derelict.) Met Council, with its very careful implementation of strategies, scored higher than the other neighborhood organizations collectively: 71 percent as compared with 58 percent long-term gains. The few (7) buildings in the sample that underwent rehabilitation and conversion to low-income ownership were unanimously reported as showing both immediate and long-term gains -- their transformation had been most dramatic.
A separate study of the first forty-six low-income rehabilitation/conversions ten to fifteen years later allows us to examine the track records of such buildings more closely. Respondents stated overwhelmingly, 73 to 7, that they preferred living in a co-op to having a landlord; they said that co-ops gave them control over their housing, a better place to live and better services, and at a lower cost. When asked to evaluate their co-op as a success or failure, the vote was 70 to 17 in favor of successes. A leader of one of a cluster of four successful co-ops in the South Bronx that were surrounded by devastation declared with justification that they were "a piece of heaven in hell."
Although the influence of the movement has increased, limitations on its impact remain. For example, many of the early low-income co-ops, lacking the financial resources, skills, or will to make ends meet, are in financial trouble. Eight of the forty-six are in rem (that is, have been seized by the city because of unpaid taxes), another six are filed for the next vesting, and five others were previously in rem but have been redeemed by their tenant owners. That is, 41 percent of the co-ops are or have been in severe tax problems -- problems of the kind that can remove tenant ownership and thus destroy the co-op. Moreover, 63 percent were at least two years and five months behind with their debt service payments in 1983. Only fourteen made all payments in 1982-1983; another fourteen made no payments at all. While HPD could legally foreclose on many of these properties, it has in fact done so in only one case: it would be obliged to manage them, which would be even more costly than merely foregoing the payments. Experience with these co-ops has demonstrated that properties frequently need more income to cover costs than poor tenants can pay, even where profit is not on the agenda. Ultimately, then, housing issues cannot stand alone, especially when poor tenants are concerned. A broader vision is needed, one that sets out to link the tenant issue to others such as the need to alleviate unemployment and poverty; for if these issues are dealt with, then housing for the poor will be able to pay its way.
The tenant movement's strength has also been limited by membership turnover. Met Council has rarely achieved a 50 percent renewal rate, while that of most neighborhood organizations, which give renewal less attention, has been considerably less. Most building organizations tend to be organized around a particular internal goal, and once this goal is realized their raison d'etre evaporates. Only 53 percent of buildings that were still inhabited eight years after organizing retained any degree of organization. The proportion remaining in contact with the neighborhood organization that helped them organize was only 40 percent, and in the majority of these the contact was maintained by one or two individual memberships. However, the tenant movement, like the labor movement, has the advantage of having real locals where people are in regular contact with each other whether organized or not. This can allow a building organization to pass into latency, ready to be revived when needed -- the more easily if some tenants retain contact with a trusted neighborhood organization.
A major exception to this pattern occurs when a building becomes tenant controlled. Thus, low-income co-ops are much more likely to stay organized -- indeed, they have to, almost by definition. However, they seem to be even more prone to lose contact with the neighborhood organizations that assisted them initially. While 84 percent of the sample of early co-ops reported that they had close ties with a neighborhood organization initially, only 23 percent currently have such ties. This has left the co-ops isolated, without links to the tenant movement. Indeed, few of them are in contact with one another -- even those that originally had the same sponsoring neighborhood organizations. Rather than becoming sources of inspiration and building blocks of the movement, they have put all their energies into mere survival.
At the neighborhood level, the housing market in New York City was subdivided into three sectors, each with its own problems for tenants, throughout this period. At the bottom lay neighborhoods inhabited by poor minority populations, mostly in the South Bronx and central Brooklyn, where tenants faced severe decay and abandonment. This sector was encroaching on contiguous neighborhoods as their previous white tenants fled and landlords, real estate brokers, banks, and city agencies created a self-fulfilling prophecy of decay by their responses to the new minority tenants. The top sector, concentrated mostly in Manhattan, was characterized by spiraling rents, conversions, and gentrification. It too was spreading, driven by speculation and the changing fortunes of city and suburbs following the oil crisis. In between these two sectors lay another made up of previously stable working- and lower-middle-class areas that were feeling pressure both from below, primarily in the outer boroughs, as population shifts triggered white flight from the mid-Bronx, neighborhoods such as Brooklyn's East Flatbush, and the belt surrounding the Jamaica ghetto in Queens, and from above, mainly in Manhattan, as gentrification spread from the East Village into the Lower East Side, from Chelsea into Clinton, and from the Upper West Side into Manhattan Valley, and as the brownstone revival spread outward from Brooklyn Heights and Park Slope. Tenant strategies had saved large numbers of buildings and stabilized many blocks in these neighborhoods, but had not rescued the neighborhoods from the ravages of abandonment and gentrification. Nevertheless, while the wars against market forces seemed lopsided, they continued to be waged.
The improved political outlook for tenants is a dramatic indication of greater movement influence. Within the space of a few years, tenants have moved politically from being solely reactive to seeking to shape housing policy, and in the process have to a large extent set the legislative agenda while succeeding in placing large new sections of the housing market -- conversions, retaliatory evictions, landlord obligations within a lease, and bank mortgage practices -- under government regulation. New court practices have been accepted, tenants have successfully claimed management and ownership of their buildings, politicians have been transformed into tenant advocates, the daily lives of those involved in both sides of the tenant-landlord relationship have been altered. But although this represents a considerable change for the better for tenants since 1970-1971, it does not mean that all has become rosy for them. Tenants have matched, perhaps even exceeded, the sophistication of the real estate lobby, but not its wealth. The result has been a tendency of the legislature to try to balance political outcomes -- to compromise on particular pieces of legislation or to allow the tenants a victory on one issue but to hold firm for real estate on another. Most significantly, the many battles concerning rent regulations have not prevented considerable increases in rent levels under both rent stabilization and rent control since 1970, so the proportion of households with a rent:income ratio of over 25 percent jumped by over 20 points, from 35.5 percent to 56.6 percent between 1970 and 1981, and those with a ratio exceeding 40 percent, an extremely high level, almost doubled between 1968 and 1981 from 16.7 percent to 30.5 percent. Tenant "victories" over the Emergency Tenant Protection Act have been limited to preventing rent increases from being sharper still.
A second dramatic indication of greater movement influence has been the flow of external funding to many tenant organizations. This funding allowed tenants to take over the management of their buildings, to rehabilitate them, and to own them cooperatively; it also enormously increased the number of full-time tenant activists and opened up movement career paths. However, it so shaped the goals and strategies of organizations that it raised the specter of cooptation. Meanwhile, in spite of their genuinely warm words for their homes, which flow from the contrast with other housing in poor neighborhoods, the low-income cooperators are indeed owners of last resort. While, from one point of view, the strongest endorsement of strategies featuring tenant control has been their adoption and promotion by government agencies, the buildings passed to tenant groups have usually been unwanted lemons, and government generosity has proved likely to be withdrawn just as soon as a private landlord would offer more for them.
The evolution of strategies during this period has been transforming tenant activism from a movement toward an interest group. The routinization of the rent strike has rendered it less radical and more predictable, while miring it in the labyrinthine corridors of the housing court. Most of the new approaches to the legislature, banks, agencies, and funders require sophistication, skills, and, in many cases, professional staff.
The tenant movement is now, in several ways, at a turning point. Many of the members of ANHD are being squeezed by cuts in funding and have been warned solemnly that they must get "back to basics." Met Council has chosen to divert resources from organizing to try to build broad political coalitions; it is also about to test new leadership, for Jane Benedict, its charismatic chairperson for the past quarter of a century, has retired, marking a changing of the guard. She is the last remaining major figure from the founding generation. And NYSTNC, which has added a rapidly growing stratum of individual members to its organizational affiliate core, is focusing on how it can expand tenant power further by modifying the Omnibus Housing Law to unify the rent system and bring unregulated areas and classes of housing within it.
Strategic innovation continues: for example, a large group of tenant activists drawn from NYSTNC, QLOUT, Met Council, ANHD, and independent neighborhood organizations formed a statewide Tenants Political Action Committee (TenPAC) early in 1984, which endorsed two state senate candidates in closely fought races and supported them with volunteer electoral workers as a counterweight to the real estate funds being channeled to their opponents. Their hope was to provide a victory margin and win influence in Albany in 1985, when the Omnibus Housing Law may be amended because it is due to be extended. The candidate credited TenPAC with providing the margin of victory in one of these cases; the other candidate was engulfed by a Reagan landslide in his district. Meanwhile, all three main federations are exploring the potential of the National Tenants Union. The spread of the structural pattern of the movement in New York to other states, and its expansion to a new super federation at the national level, suggest that there will be a new stability, sophistication, and coherence in the expression of tenant interests.
The precise directions the tenant movement will take in the future may not yet be clear. Nevertheless, it is certain that during the period 1970-1984 it developed a diversity, sophistication, and power greater than it has ever previously possessed.
1. In addition to the sources cited, this essay includes data gathered from extensive participant observation of the meetings and activities of the Metropolitan Council on Housing, the New York State Tenant and Neighborhood Coalition, the Association of Neighborhood Housing Developers, the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, and twenty neighborhood organizations, and in-depth interviews with the leaders of these organizations. Data were also gathered from surveys of the leaders of 89 federations and neighborhood organizations and 37 Office of Economic Opportunity-funded service centers as well as surveys of the leaders and members of 153 building organizations and 46 low-income cooperatives.
2. Ira S. Lowry, ed., Rental Housing in New York City, vol. 1: Confronting the Crisis (Rand Institute, 1970), pp. 3-7; Ira S. Lowry, Joseph DeSalvo, and Barbara Woodfill, Rental Housing in New York City, vol. 2: Rental Housing in New York (Rand Institute, 1971); George Sternlieb, The Urban Housing Dilemma, preliminary draft (Housing and Development Administration, 1970); idem, The Urban Housing Dilemma (Housing and Development Administration, 1972). See also David Bartelt and Ronald Lawson, "Rent Control and Abandonment: A Second Look at the Evidence," Journal of Urban Affairs 4, no. 4 (1982): 49-64.
3. Tenant News, Oct.-Nov., Dec. 1969; New York Times, Mar. 19, 1970; Louis Harris and Associates, "Transition Neighborhoods in New York City: The People's View of Their Housing Environment," Vera Institute of Justice, New York, 1969.
4. New York Times, June 30, 1970.
5. Tenant News, Dec. 1962, Feb., Nov. 1963, Mar. 1964, Jan., June, Nov. 1965, Jan. 1968.
6. Ibid., May 1968, June 1970; Debbie Shliom, Your Home Is Your Hassle (Metropolitan Council on Housing, 1971); Interviews with Lester Evens and Richard Levenson, 1981.
7. Tenant News, Sept.-Nov. 1970; Tenant, June 1971; New York Times, Aug. 1, 1970.
8. Tenant, Dec. 1971, Jan. 1972.
9. New York Times, Jan. 23, 27, Mar. 7, 1971.
10. Ibid., Apr. 28, 1971; New York State Laws, 1971, chaps. 371, 372.
11. Tenant, May 11, 1971.
12. New York Times, Apr. 28, 29, 1971 (editorial); Community Service Society, Housing and Urban Development Legislation in New York State, 1971, p. 16.
13. New York Times, May 31, 1971.
14. Met Council policy statement, June 11, 1971.
15. New York Times, July 13, 20, 1971.
16. Ibid., Sept. 2, 1971.
17. Interview with Michael Ehrmann, 1974; Tenant, Jan., Feb. 1972.
18. New York Times, June 17, 1972; Benson Realty Corp. v. Walsh, New York Law Journal 2: 2-4; Tenant, Aug. 1972.
19. Tenant, Aug. 1972; Interview with M. Ehrmann, 1974; New York Times, June 17, 1972.
20. Tenant, Jan. 1973.
21. New York Times, Mar. 2, April 4, 1973.
22. Tenant, Dec. 1972.
23. In spite of the fact that the vacancy decontrol law was justified as an attempt to reduce housing abandonment by giving landlords more money to invest in their buildings, its prime impact was not upon rents in decaying neighborhoods, where demand for housing was contracting, but in the most sought-after areas. Indeed, the rate of housing abandonment was not affected by the legislation.
24. Report on Housing and Rents of the Temporary State Commission on Living Costs and the Economy of the State of New York to the Governor and the Legislature, by Assemblyman Andrew Stein Chairman, Jan. 1974.
25. Tenant, July, Aug., Nov. 1971.
26. Interviews with Leroy Washington and Abe Gerges, 1983.
27. Type D corporations under section 402 of the New York Not for Profit Corporation Law.
28. Interview with Robert Schur, 1980. Other projects secured federal financing (236 and 221(d)3), and one, state Mitchell-Lama funds. For further details concerning the evolution of this strategy and the buildings involved, see Ronald Lawson, Owners of Last Resort (N.Y.C. Department of Housing Preservation and Development, 1984).
29. Robert Kolodny, Self Help in the Inner City (United Neighborhood Houses, 1973).
30. Interview with Schur, 1980.
31. The Municipal Loan scandal was occasioned, inter alia, by landlords collecting rehabilitation loans but doing little or no construction, by the making of loans that exceeded the value of the properties securing them, by failures to certify actual costs, and by neglect of the duty to encourage minority contractors, which had been one of the central objectives of the program [Committee on Charter and Governmental Operations, 1972].
32. Father Robert Fox, "Entrepreneuring on Sweat Equity," In Business, 1979, pp. 44-47.
33. Lawson, Owners of Last Resort.
34. Tenant News, Apr., May 1970.
35. William Worthy, The Rape of Our Neighborhoods (William Morrow, 1976).
36. See Ronald Lawson, "The Rent Strike in New York City, 1904-1980," Journal of Urban History, May 1984, for greater detail.
37. Margaret Gillerman, "7-A Law Gives Tenants a Way to Seize a Building -- Legally," City Limits, Aug. 1978; interviews with Roger Hayes (1976), Bill Frey (1978), Jim Mitchell (1980), Claudia Mansbach (1980).
38. J. Clarence Davies Realty Company, Consultants' Report: Co-op City (n.d.); Jack Newfield and Paul Du Brul, The Abuse of Power (Penguin, 1978), pp. 300-310.
39. Organizing Handbook (Metropolitan Council on Housing, 1966); Shliom, Your Home Is Your Hassle.
40. The one exception was the period 1952-1959. The existing federation collapsed in 1952 following both the success in winning state rent controls and the onset of McCarthyite repression.
41. See Ronald Lawson and Stephen E. Barton, "Sex Roles and Social Movements: A Case Study of the Tenant Movement in New York City," Signs, Winter 1980, for further discussion of women as the major tenant movement constituency and recent leaders.
42. Tenant, Nov. 1973, Nov. 1974, Nov. 1975, Nov. 1976.
43. Ibid., June 1971, July 1975, June 1978; Peter K. Hawley, Housing in the Public Domain: The Only Solution (Metropolitan Council on Housing, 1978).
44. Clara Fox, Neighborhood Preservation: The Role of Moderate Housing Rehabilitation and Cooperative or Mutual Ownership (Settlement Housing Fund, 1974).
45. "The Fight against Demolition: A Victory for Community Housing Groups," City Limits, Feb. 1976; "CETA/CJCC Job Training Program Launched at Last," City Limits, Mar. 1976.
46. New York Post, Jan. 24, 1974; Daily News, Jan. 25, 1974; New York Times, May 11, 1975, Nov. 13, 1976, May 6, 1977.
47. New York Times, Oct. 6, 1977; Daily News, Oct. 6, 1977.
48. Steve Katz, "The Faded Dream of Washington Avenue," City Limits, Apr. 1983, pp. 19-20; interview with Susan Treanor, 1981.
49. Robert Schur and Virginia Sherry, The Neighborhood Housing Movement (ANHD, 1977).
50. Bernard Cohen, "Rehabilitating Sweat Equity," City Limits, Feb., Mar. 1980.
51. Interviews with Susan Treanor and Doug Moritz, 1980.
52. Katz, "Faded Dream of Washington Avenue," pp. 19-20 (quoting Ruben Rivera, another of the participants).
53. From interviews with Doug Moritz and anonymous, 1980.
54. Interview with Bill Frey, 1978.
55. Michael A. Stegman, The Dynamics of Rental Housing in New York City (HPD, 1982), pp. 7-8, 207-209.
56. Tenant, May, Sept. 1978; City Limits, Sept., Nov. 1978; "New Believers Buy Bite of Big Apple," City Limits, Dec. 1979.
57. The Management in Partnership Program (MIPP) was a variation on CMP. Here neighborhood organizations without experience in management gained it under the watchful eye of a commercial management firm. Thus, in effect, they went through an apprenticeship with the aim of graduating to the CMP.
58. City Limits, Dec. 1979.
59. "New Believers Buy Bite of Big Apple," City Limits, Dec. 1979; "$250 Buys More Sweat Than Equity in City's Low-Cost Housing Sales," City Limits, Dec. 1982.
60. Stegman, Dynamics of Rental Housing in New York City, p. 208; "Eimicke Ultimatum," City Limits, Feb. 1980; "Community Management Standards," City Limits, Mar. 1980; "Rent and Tax Aid for TIL Buildings But No Pledge on Sales, Repairs," City Limits, Apr. 1980; Bernard Cohen, "Over Hurdles and Snags, First TIL Buildings Are Sold to Tenants," City Limits, June 1980; S. Baldwin, "Funds and Direction for Community Management Program in Dispute," City Limits, Oct. 1980; "Housing Officials Consider Merger of Some Community Building Management Programs," City Limits, Jan. 1981; New York Times, June 7, 1980.
61. City Limits, Apr. 1980.
62. "New York's Neighborhood Groups," City Limits, Aug. 1983.
63. "Neighborhood Housing Developers Chart Their Course," City Limits, Dec. 1981; Rick Cohen, "What Hath Reagan Wrought?" City Limits, Aug.-Sept. 1983; Robert Schur, "Back to Basics: Organizing in the Age of Austerity," City Limits, Jan. 1982; Katz, "Faded Dream of Washington Avenue."
64. "Community Group Profit-Sharing," City Limits, Jan. 1981; "Neighborhood Housing Developers Chart Their Course," City Limits, Dec. 1981.
65. Bonnie Brower, "Requiem for a Housing Policy: Selling Alternative Management," City Limits, Oct. 1982; Susan Baldwin, "Tenants Win $250 Sales Pledge: But There's a Catch," City Limits, Dec. 1982; Julia McDonnell Chang, "Rebuilding Home: Tenants Take a New Lease on City Life," City Limits, Apr. 1984.
66. City Limits, Feb. 1982; Tom Gogan and Dave Robinson, "Judge Voids City Rent Hikes," City Limits, Dec. 1982; City Limits, Aug 1983; Stegman, Dynamics of Rental Housing in New York City, p 8.
67. Tenant, Nov. 1983.
68. Cohen, "Rehabilitating Sweat Equity."
69. Andrew Reicher, "Homesteading Is More Than Just Housing," City Limits, Apr. 1984; Tom Robbins, "NYC's Homesteading Programs: A Land Rush to Nowhere?" City Limits, Apr. 1984.
70. Homefront, Housing Abandonment in New York City (Homefront, 1977).
71. Kathy Sanders, "Greenliners Blast Assembly Banking Committee on Redlining," City Limits, Nov. 1976.
72. "Savings Bank Denied Branch," City Limits, May 1979.
73. "Historic Bank Pact," City Limits, Mar. 1979; "Four Banks Commit to Northwest Bronx," City Limits, Feb. 1980; Jim Mitchell, letter to editor, City Limits, Jan. 1982.
74. Tim Ledwith, "Reinvestment: Enter the Commercial Banks," City Limits, June 1981.
75. "The Chelsea Clam House Defeat", City Limits, Mar. 1983.
76. Tom Robbins, "Displacement Examined: From Both Sides Now," City Limits, June 1981; Richard LeGates and Chester Hartman, Displacement (Legal Services Anti-Displacement Project, 1981).
77. Robbins, "Displacement Examined."
78. Tom Robbins, "A Roar in Park Slope," City Limits, Jan. 1981.
79. Susan Baldwin, "A Game of Numbers in Harlem," City Limits, June 1981; "Managing West Harlem," City Limits, May 1983.
80. Craig Unger, "The Lower East Side: There Goes the Neighborhood," New York Magazine, May 28, 1984.
81. "The Defeat of Artists' Housing," City Limits, Mar. 1983.
82. Indeed, the author's study of "the impact of tenant strategies upon the social process of housing abandonment" in six neighborhoods in four New York City boroughs shows that the revitalizing forces of the market, once in play in two neighborhoods -- Manhattan Valley and the Lower East Side -- overshadowed all tenant strategies.
83. Robert Schur, "Holding the Line in the Neighborhood," City Limits, June 1981.
84. Jim Sleeper, "This Neighborhood Is Not for Sale," City Limits, June 1984.
85. "Furor over City's Lower East Side Scheme," City Limits, Aug. 1984.
86. New York State Tax Guardian, Spring 1976; B. Bruce-Biggs, "Rent Control Must Go," New York Times Magazine, Apr. 18, 1976; Amsterdam News, May 1, 1976; Business Week, May 24, 1976; "Disaster Area: Rent Control Has Helped Turn Gotham into One," Barrons, Apr. 21, 1975; "The Case for Ending Rent Control," New York Law Journal, Apr. 14, 1976; "Moreland Panel: End Rent Curbs," New York Post, Mar. 31, 1976. Abraham Beame was mayor of New York City and Assemblyman Al Blumenthal, from Manhattan's West Side, was Democratic majority leader in the state assembly.
87. Minutes, Southern Region Membership Meeting, NYSTNC, Jan. 6, 1977; Tenant, Mar. 1976.
88. Minutes, Southern Region Membership Meeting, NYSTNC, Jan. 6, 1977.
89. Michael McKee to NYSTNC members, Apr. 30, 1977.
90. Interview with Lester Schulklapper, lobbyist for the Real Estate Board of New York (REB) and the Metropolitan Fair Rents Committee (MFRC). See further in Ronald Lawson, "The Political Face of the Real Estate Industry in New York City," New York Affairs, Apr. 1980.
91. Tenant, Apr., Sept. 1979; M. McKee, "State Legislators Pass Group Funding, Reject Co-op Protection Bill," City Limits, June 1980; S. Baldwin, "The War of the Queens Garden Apartments," City Limits, Oct. 1981; "Co-op Alert," NYSTNC flier, May 19, 1982; "New Co-op Conversion Legislation," NYSTNC newsletter, July 11, 1982; M. McKee, "How the City Got a New Co-op Law," City Limits, Aug. 1982.
92. City Limits, Mar. 1978, Apr. 1979; Peoples Housing News, Jan. 1981; Tenant and Neighbors, May, Sept. 1982.
93. New York Times. Apr. 25, 1980.
94. "New York State Tenant and Neighborhood Coalition Proposed Statewide Rent and Eviction Regulation Bill Outline," City Limits, Nov. 10, 1980.
95. NYSTNC letter to John Dearie, Mar. 1980; Tenant, Jan. 1981; Minutes, Southern Regional meeting, NYSTNC, Jan. 22, 1981; NYSTNC executive board minutes, Dec. 14, 1980, Mar. 18, 1981; "Tenant Alert," NYSTNC, Oct. 1, 1981; Minutes, NYSTNC membership meeting, Jan. 31, 1982; NYSTNC executive board meeting, Mar. 21, 1982; "Tenant Protection Update," NYSTNC, Mar. 15, 1983.
96. "Flynn-Dearie Hill Pending," Tenants and Neighbors, May 1983.
97. NYSTNC flier, Dec. 1979; NYSTNC secretary to members, Apr. 1980; Minutes, NYSTNC board meeting. Mar. 1981; NYSTNC membership list, May 1981; Minutes, NYSTNC membership meeting, Jan. 1982; NYSTNC Bylaws Subcommittee to members, Sept. 1982.
98. Tenant, Dec. 1972. Dec. 1980, Feb. 1976, July 1984, Dec. 1983.
99. Ibid., Feb. 1981.
100. Ibid., Feb., Apr., 1981, Sept. 1982, Feb. 1979 (Ruth Beinart), May 1980 (Jack Rand), July 1981 (Esther Rand).
101. Ibid., Mar. 1974, June 1975, July 1977, Mar. 1978, Apr. 1979; City Limits, Mar., Apr. 1979.
102. See further in Lawson, "Political Face of the Real Estate Industry in New York City."
103. Bill Rowen, "Anti-RSA Campaign Picks Up Steam," Tenants and Neighbors, May 1982.
104. "Complaints under Rent Stabilization in New York City," Fact Sheet No. 13, NYSTNC, Feb. 1980; "Abrams Probes Landlord Group," Peoples Housing News, Jan. 1981; Rowen, "Anti-RSA Campaign Picks Up Steam"; NYSTNC flyer, June 1982.
105. "Rent Control Showdown," Tenants and Neighbors, Feb. 1983; P. J. Kamens, "Rent Laws Due for an Overhaul," City Limits, Feb. 1983; M. McKee, "The Senate's 'Secret' Rent Bill," Tenants and Neighbors, June 1983; idem, "The New Rent Laws," City Limits, Aug. 1983; M. McKee, "New Rent Law Passed: State Takeover Raises Enforcement Hopes, Other Changes Challenge Tenants to Organize," Tenants and Neighbors, Sept. 1983; "Rent Curbs for Church and College," City Limits, June 1983; Jane Benedict, "The Package Deal -- What Happened to Flynn-Dearie?" Tenant, July 1983; John McKean, "How the Senate Took a Walk on Flynn-Dearie," City Limits, Oct. 1983.
106. Tenants and Neighbors, no. 8, n.d. (ca. Oct. 1983); no. 11, n.d. (July 1984).
107. M. McKee, "Landlords Overplay Their Hand," Tenants and Neighbors, May 1984; "The Landlords' End Run," City Limits, Feb. 1984; Bill Rowen, "State Takeover Off to a Rocky Start," Tenants and Neighbors, May 1984.
108. Richard E. Blumberg, Brian Quinn Robbins, and Kenneth K. Baar, "The Emergence of Second Generation Rent Controls," Clearinghouse Review, Aug. 1978; John Atlas and Peter Dreier, "Mobilize or Compromise? The Tenants' Movement and American Politics," in America's Housing Crisis, ed. Chester Hartman (Boston, 1983); "HUD KO's Local Rent Laws," Shelterforce, Apr. 1975.
109. "Who Is Shelterforce?" Shelterforce, Apr. 1975.
110. "Fed Programs Squeeze Tenants," Tenant, May 1975; "HUD KO's Local Rent Laws"; "Battling Over Rent Control," Shelterforce, Winter 1976; "From the Grassroots: Progress of the Housing Movement in 14 Cities," Shelterforce, Winter 1977; "Rent Control Roundup: Tenants Battle around the Country," Shelterforce, Spring 1979.
111. Tenant, Sept., Nov. 1977, May, Dec. 1978, Oct. 1979.
112. Shelterforce, Spring 1979; "National Movement Looks to the 80's," Shelterforce, Fall 1979; Tenant, Dec. 1979; City Limits, Dec. 1979.
113. Shelterforce, Oct. 1980.
114. "Congress Tries to Stop Rent Control," Shelterforce, Oct. 1980; City Limits, June, Aug. 1981; Tenants and Neighbors, May 1982; Atlas and Dreier, 177; Shelterforce, Spring 1982.
115. Tenant, July 1984; Shelterforce, Aug. 1984.
116. Lawson, "Owners of Last Resort."
119. Stegman, Dynamics of Rental Housing in New York City, p. 157. The latter datum is not available for 1970.