Page 1


001_about the team 002_about La Union


006_role play: renter’s union


027_preparation for final 029_group map of topics 031_conjunctural analysis 033_power structures 039_community land trust 093_church as comm. hub 095_housing 151_tenant’s rights 229_community organizing 301_immigrant incorporation 337_first presentation 339_demographics 343_conflict 349_surface occupation


353_course syllabus 374_team development 381_preliminary timeline 383_weekly reports 389_reading diagrams









TEAM ABSTRACT poliSOCIAL consisted of a diverse team of people with different experiences, backgrounds and perspectives, lending to an energetic work ethic. The team consisted of Anze Zadel whose pervious background was in Architecture, Charles Chawalko- Politics and History, Shirley Bucknor- Interior Architecture, Bonnie NetelArchitecture, and Joshua Barndt-Professional Community Based Art. Differences and similarities set aside, the team collaborated to understand the topics at hand through weekly readings and ongoing research of property attainment for La Union to become a think tank of urbanists.

STUDIO ABSTRACT In order to be able to understand the urban impact of land tenure and its localized complexities, the studio groups worked in collaboration with La Uni贸n, Parsons, yourselves and other partners who joined the team along the way. The intention was that all the players working together will function as an active think tank to produce a thorough study of the way property under capitalism shapes urban environments, as well as possible alternatives of socially just and dynamic forms of tenure. After understanding the property prescriptions, processes and agents that affect the city and most specifically Sunset Park, each studio group designed (overlapping) alternative relational processes that La Union will have to follow for acquiring the common space needed for sustaining and expanding its urban operations. -Altered from a description included in the syllabus for the course.




ABOUT LA UNION “La Unión is an organization of people of the global south working to advance the social, economic, and cultural rights of the communities where we now live and the communities we left behind. The 600 members of La Unión are predominantly from the Mixteca region of Mexico and immigrants from across Latin America. La Unión is based in the neighborhood of Sunset Park, Brooklyn; one of New York City’s largest Mexican immigrant neighborhoods.”

LA UNION_HOW THEY WORK La Unión builds leaders Educational Programs- Our open meetings and events provide critical information to the community on topics such as education, safe and affordable housing, nutrition, public safety and other local issues. Membership development- As members become more involved, they can increase their leadership skills through public speaking, meeting facilitation, new member recruitment, community research, and in-depth knowledge of the policies that are impacting their lives. Civic Participation- Members have the opportunity to participate in meetings with elected officials and policy makers, act as media spokespeople, and speak out at rallies and marches. La Unión strengthens families Y-ACT- Our youth organizing arm, Youth Action Changes Things, develops young leaders who want to improve their community through education and action. Granja Los Colibries- Sunset Park is a community with little green space and many who suffer from health complications such as diabetes and obesity due to poor nutrition. In response to a lack of fresh fruits and vegetables in Sunset Park, we have transformed an abandoned lot into a community garden that has flourished under the care of adults and young people together. It is a place where families learn from each other the skills for growing and raising their own food as well as connect to deep cultural practices. La Unión improves communities Cultural Programs- Our members engage their strong ties to Mexico through a series of cultural programs and collaborations with artists, drawing in the larger community. Research Projects- Because we believe that our members are the experts on their experiences, we have implemented community-wide research projects to identify the issues that impact our community and to offer ideas for improving policies. Community Organizing- We work at a local, city-wide, and national level to improve policies that impact all communities. Some of our major campaigns are: Educational Justice (improving public schools for immigrant students), Comprehensive Immigration Reform (working to guarantee family unity and justice for immigrant families) and Environmental Justice (working for asthma-free homes and to increase access to healthy and affordable food).

-Description taken from La Union’s website: 4



O P O R 5

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ROLE PLAY: RENTERS UNION ASSEMBLY MEETING LA UNION 12/12/12 BRIEF The following pages represent the booklet handed to La Union and other participants of the culminating presentation in St. Jacobi on December 12, 2012. Physical posters and information were utilized to convey the information in addition. The format of the presentation was set up as a role play to demonstrate to La Union that what we are proposing is feasible in the space they are currently in- St. Jacobi.





PRESENTATION TO LA UNION: 12/12/12 INTRODUCTION Sunset park is a hotbed for grassroots action and activism. La Union’s Youth Action Changes Things, have spoken up about how unhealthy The 46th street rent strikers have stood up against unsafe housing conditions in their distressed apartment buildings. They have organized to not only demand better conditions, but they are also working to find their own solutions to these housing problems. Occupy and many other groups came together at St Jacobi to help people in need across the city after super storm sandy. While the city itself was slow to help the most vulnerable, Occupy Sandy has shown the power and capacity of people to respond to the needs of these communities. They have not only distributed food and medical supplies, but assisted people fight evictions, clean their damaged apartments and stay in their homes. All of these issues are symptomatic of a serious housing crisis created by and unjust system that values profits over people. These groups share the belief that housing is a Human Right! We share with them the conviction that healthy, safe, and affordable housing for all is attainable. United, we are resilient. The time for action is now! We propose that La Union play a leading role in uniting the community with the establishment of the Sunset Park Renters Union.



All SPRU projects, campaigns, and actions will

To organize all Sunset Park renters and

be undertaken by Working Groups made up of

advocacy groups into a union capable of

member individuals and organizations. These

determining housing rights, rents, and stability

groups will develop their own goals, timelines,

through collective bargaining and political

and workflows, which they will follow through

action, including petitioning and rent strikes, as

in between General Meetings. Each group will

well as through conversion of distressed private

select a representative called a “Responsible”

properties into resident-controlled, not-for-profit

to help coordinate activities.


The SPRU steering committee is an adviroy

Sunset Park Renters Union is a grass-roots,

body made up of representatives from key



stakeholder groups (La Union, La Casita,


Occupy Sunset Park, St Jacobi, etc) and allied

renter groups, and allied community based

experts / experienced organizers from across

organizations. Decision-making lies entirely in

New York City (Occupy Sandy, Cooper Square

the hands of members who can exercise their

Committee, O4O, Right to the City Alliance). The

right to vote at the monthly General Assemblies.

Steering committee will meet three times a year







to offer guidance on key issues, such as policy, DECISION MAKING

strategy, and resource allocation. Steering

The SPRU will utilize a Consensus decision-

committee members do not necessarily have

making process to make all decisions. This is

voting rights at Union meetings unless they are

a group decision making process that seeks

also residents, but can participate in general

the consent of all participants. Consensus may

assembly discussions and working groups.

be defined professionally as an acceptable resolution, one that can be supported, even if not the “favourite” of each individual. GENERAL ASSEMBLY Every two months the SPRU holds a General Assembly open to all members. This is the key gathering point for the Renters Union and the place where all key decisions are made by way of consensus. At each general assembly Working Groups will offer report backs, new work groups can be catalyzed, and where all SPRU campaigns will begin. WORKING GROUPS


DECLARATION 1. The renters of Sunset Park and allied organizations unite to voice our collective concern about the troubling state of housing in our neighborhood. 2. Renters account for 76% of Sunset Park residents but have very little power. 3. Housing is unaffordable! Landlords are consistently increasing rents; while housing conditions deteriorate and renters find it harder to afford their dwellings. According to the cities standard of affordability, in 2006, 65% of families in sunset park (21,304 families) could not afford a 2 BR apartment. 4. Neglectful landlords are impacting our health and quality of life. In many buildings roofs are leaking, mice and infestation create unhealthy environments, and basic services are being turned off regularly. We cannot accept this! 5. In some cases, the owners of rental properties do not even pay back their debts to the banks, which can lead to foreclosures. Renters are displaced due to the unwise decisions of their landlords. In Sunset Park the foreclosure crisis is getting worse. In 2012, an estimated 86 homes have been listed for pre-foreclosure. As landlords loose their homes to the banks, renters are being displaced. 6. Local governmental representatives have neglected to stand up for the rights of renters. So as renters we must band together and fight for safe, stable, and affordable housing! 7. The Sunset Park Renters Union is a representative and inclusive community organization of renters. We are a member of the International Federation of Tenants, an organization that deals with vulnerable tenants: tenants of for profit housing, immigrant tenants, and economically insecure tenants. 8. We will advocate for government bodies to re-examine our city’s tenancy laws to more effective protect the most vulnerable tenants. We believe that the authorities should be responsible for the needs of not only land owners but tenants as well! However, while we wait for authorities to respond, we will actively solve these problems ourselves!






A 501(c)(4) organization operates exclusively to provide social welfare programs where its net earnings must be used to support charitable or educational endeavA 501(C)(4) ORGANIZATION OPERATES EXCLUSIVELYand TO lobbying PROVIDE SOCIAL WELFARE ors. This status allows an organization to participate in campaigning WHERE organization, ITS NET EARNINGS MUST TOtax-deSUPPORT CHARITABLE OR activities, however,PROGRAMS unlike a 501(c)(3) it is not ableBEtoUSED receive ductible donations. EDUCATIONAL ENDEAVORS. THIS STATUS ALLOWS AN ORGANIZATION TO PARTICIP




Organizations incorporated as a 501(c)(4) may undertake: • political activities such as lobbying, electioneering & canvassing ADVANTAGES: • legal representation of members INCORPORATED AS A 501(C)(4) MAY UNDERTAKE: ORGANIZATIONS • POLITICAL ACTIVITIES SUCH AS LOBBYING, ELECTIONEERING & CANVASSING



• proof of membership • articles of creation • FORM 1024 1024

Application for Recognition of Exemption Under Section 501( a)


(Rev. September 1998)

OMB No. 1545-0057 If exempt status is approved, this application will be open for public inspection.

Department of the Treasury Internal Revenue Service

Read the instructions for each Part carefully. A User Fee must be attached to this application. If the required information and appropriate documents are not submitted along with Form 8718 (with payment of the appropriate user fee), the application may be returned to the organization. Complete the Procedural Checklist on page 6 of the instructions. Part I. Identification of Applicant (Must be completed by all applicants; also complete appropriate schedule.) Submit only the schedule that applies to your organization. Do not submit blank schedules. a

Section 501(c)(2)—Title holding corporations (Schedule A, page 7) Section 501(c)(4)—Civic leagues, social welfare organizations (including certain war veterans’ organizations), or local associations of employees (Schedule B, page 8)


Section 501(c)(5)—Labor, agricultural, or horticultural organizations (Schedule C, page 9)


Section 501(c)(6)—Business leagues, chambers of commerce, etc. (Schedule C, page 9)


Section 501(c)(7)—Social clubs (Schedule D, page 11)

• FORM 1024


Section 501(c)(8)—Fraternal beneficiary societies, etc., providing life, sick, accident, or other benefits to members (Schedule E, page 13)


Section 501(c)(9)—Voluntary employees’ beneficiary associations (Parts I through IV and Schedule F, page 14)


Section 501(c)(10)—Domestic fraternal societies, orders, etc., not providing life, sick, accident, or other benefits (Schedule E, page 13)


Section 501(c)(12)—Benevolent life insurance associations, mutual ditch or irrigation companies, mutual or cooperative telephone companies, or like organizations (Schedule G, page 15)


Section 501(c)(13)—Cemeteries, crematoria, and like corporations (Schedule H, page 16)


Section 501(c)(15)—Mutual insurance companies or associations, other than life or marine (Schedule I, page 17) Section 501(c)(17)—Trusts providing for the payment of supplemental unemployment compensation benefits (Parts I through IV and Schedule J, page 18)

l m n 1a

Section 501(c)(19)—A post, organization, auxiliary unit, etc., of past or present members of the Armed Forces of the United States (Schedule K, page 19) Section 501(c)(25)—Title holding corporations or trusts (Schedule A, page 7) Full name of organization (as shown in organizing document) 2 Employer identification number (EIN) (if none, see Specific Instructions on page 2)


c/o Name (if applicable)

3 Name and telephone number of person to be contacted if additional information is needed


Address (number and street)


City, town or post office, state, and ZIP + 4 Instructions for Part I, page 2.


Web site address


Did the organization previously apply for recognition of exemption under this Code section or under any other section of the Code? If “Yes,” attach an explanation.




Has the organization filed Federal income tax returns or exempt organization information returns? If “Yes,” state the form numbers, years filed, and Internal Revenue office where filed.





Room/Suite If you have a foreign address, see Specific

( 4

Month the annual accounting period ends


) Date incorporated or formed



Attach a copy of the Articles of Incorporation (including amendments and restatements) showing approval by the appropriate state official; also attach a copy of the bylaws.

b c


Attach a copy of the Trust Indenture or Agreement, including all appropriate signatures and dates.

Attach a copy of the Articles of Association, Constitution, or other creating document, with a declaration (see instructions) or other evidence that the organization was formed by adoption of the document by more than one person. Also include a copy of the bylaws.  If this is a corporation or an unincorporated association that has not yet adopted bylaws, check here



I declare under the penalties of perjury that I am authorized to sign this application on behalf of the above organization, and that I have examined this application, including the accompanying schedules and attachments, and to the best of my knowledge it is true, correct, and complete.


(Type or print name and title or authority of signer)

For Paperwork Reduction Act Notice, see page 5 of the instructions.





Check the appropriate box below to indicate the section under which the organization is applying: b





LOS ANGELES BUS RIDERS UNION (BRU) “We’re the BRU, and this is our fight. Mass transportation is a human right” the Bus Riders Union is a multiracial dynamo of 200 active members, 3,000 dues-paying members, and 50,000 supporters on the buses of L.A. The BRU has literally saved public transportation in Los Angeles and become the country’s largest grassroots mass transit advocacy organization. From our focus on mass transit, the BRU carries out a wide, multi-issue progressive agenda based in comprehensive principles of unity and strong membership agreement.

VICTORIES SINCE 1994 More than $2.5 billion redistributed to bus riders through Federal Civil Rights Consent Decree, 1996–2006 No fare increase for 9 years; saved Monthly Bus Pass from elimination 12% Increase in Bus Ridership Created 800+ New Public Sector, Green, Union Jobs Victories since 1994 TAKEAWAYS 1. Broad based issue = broad support 2. There are alternative and sucessful strategies to organize working class and low income people 3. Connections between Transport justice + Systemic inequalities + Racism 17

VANCOUVER RENTERS UNION “The Union is open to all renters. If you are facing any threat of eviction, rent hikes, or other forms of landlord intimidation, please contact us.” AFFORDABILITY, STABILITY, SOLIDARITY The majority of Vancouver residents, about 55%, are renters. Vancouver is the most unaffordable city in the country. Still rents continue to increase at a rate greater than wages.

HEATHERS PLACE 86 units of Distressed affordable housing Owned by City of Vancouver (Proposed for demolition) VRN ACTION Demand that rent be used for repair and maintenance

Renters face unstable and precarious living situations, including poor repair, massive rent increases, gentrification, and eviction. Renters’ ability to address issues of rents and rights is hampered by a legal, social, and economic system that privileges landlords, and that keeps renters divided. Renter solidarity is the only way to change this situation.

Facilitate Collective barganing with city Mobilize community support residents of Heathers place


Block evictions and redevelopment plan TAKEAWAYS 1. Collective barganing is key role of the renters union

MISSION: “to organize all Metro Vancouver renters into a union capable of determining housing rights, rents, and stability through collective bargaining and political action, including petitioning, picketing, and rent strikes, as well as through conversion of the city’s housing stock to resident-controlled, notfor-profit cooperatives.”

2. Building based mobilization is central and offer opportunities for clear victories. 18

A CALL OF SUPPORT RENT-STRIKERS! To the Media and All in Sunset Park, Housing security is an issue that is of utmost importance to all of us. We are united by our need, our right to have shelter. Our homes are our castles and we must defend them from the landowners who use us and the ones who want to remove us. This is the very reason why we stand together with the rent strikers, and their defiance against the slumlords who seek to exploit then in means beyond rent. Our newly-formed organization, the Renters’ Union, is mobilized along these same lines. The Rent Strikers are a strong-willed, strong-minded group of people who have put aside their passive acceptance of the status-quo, and seek to fix their environment. They have been put by the wayside by their landlord for way too long, and, these mothers that have stood up deserve the rights provided by the Warrant of Habitability - a livable, safe, and sanitary home - for their children and families. These occupants refuse to be hidden in the sphere of domesticity any longer. Join us in solidarity with the rent strikers, we must stand together as one against the forces that seek to injure or displace us. By expressively showing our togetherness and our numbers, we can become a major actor in fending off those who seek to hinder us at the local level, or even at the city level. Signed, SPRU


FLEXIBLE/SUGGESTED TIMELINE DECEMBER 12, 2012 First Meeting: Call to Action DECEMBER 19, 2012 Send letter of support for the 46th Street Rent Strike to the media JANUARY 2013 First General Assembly Meeting (once a month) Start establishing working groups for the Rent Strike LATE JANUARY 2013 Renegotiation request for space and a desk in St. Jacobi MAY 2013 Begin work on community developed census SEPTEMBER 2013 Evaluate membership base and begin to establish desk hours for counseling services DECEMBER 2013 Formation of people interested in researching and finding new projects as existing projects continue to progress JANUARY 2014 Begin work on new projects




VANCOUVER RENTERS UNION Step 1: Support the Rent Strikers! Step 2: Develop Controlled Housing

Affordability Map In 2006, 65% or 21,304 of Sunset Park families surveyed could not afford a 2 BR apartment at its estimated rent of $1,692 a month.


As reported by the Envisioning Development Toolkit Developed by the Center for Urban Pegagogy

Medium Income in 2006


New Sunset York Park



NEW YORK CITY: 69% RENTER OCCUPIED 69% 55.1% 45.9% 61.8%




centralised system


decentralised system ...more resilient PARSONS



Community Survey


O4O Foreclosure, Resistance, Housing Counceling











Community Survey



Office, Meeting Space

distributed system







ALTERING POWER NETWORKS Currently, centralized city systems dominated by extractive institutions do not allow much flexibility and consequently weaken the entire system. All decisions are driven from one center, and if the all-powerful center fails, the whole system collapses. Therefore we should look toward more resilient, decentralized power systems and inclusive institutions, where many actors and stakeholders play an equal role in decision-making. More inclusive, distributive systems are resilient because power is democratized and it becomes a network that represents the interests of the many, rather than an authoritative institution that represents the interests of a few. It allows the system to replace the damage and recover more quickly. The power map of organizations represents te final stage where individuals and organizations are connected into a network where each participant in the structure has equal influence on political decisions in the system.




H C R 25

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DEVELOPING THE NARRATIVE Right before the workshop period to hone the proposal and presentation to La Union, we shifted to think about how we can engage an audience that has not entirely been exposed to this complex information before. How do we transfer our knowledge? We were encouraged to think about the project and our audience as if it were an intimate relationship between two people in order to render an excitement for the project although it may be confusing at first. Utilizing a storyboard format, the information to be translated to La Union was broken into possbilities, the short term, and the overall imaginary--what can be possible in the future given the immediate information. Above is the storyboard of information distilled to La Union. To the left is a team storyboard of a simplification of the information for within the team.




After having passed through much of the semester, poliSOCIAL re-evaluated the team group map to relate the different topics being covered and researched. However, even as complex as this map might appear, it still lacked to touch upon the dialectical conversations taking place. The following page showcasing the Conjunctural Analysis represents the dialectics of the topics more thoroughly.








46 stre

et hous



ati tig es










ugh garden





nd s



Assembly Person Felix Ortiz City Councilmember Sara Gonzalez









Latino Political Power
















Congress Person Nydia Velazquez

Mayor Bloomberg




nd s

community thro

Food Insecurity



al coop

inv pe ants

















Distressed Rental Property

Health Justice

Economical Crisis


strategic part


Social Stratification



r orga




for othe


Increasing Rent/Decreasing Affordability







Warehousing Property

Immigrant Legal Status


ing st

Growing Inequality







Political Redistricting




Waterfront Reinvestment Shifting Immigration Waves & Settlement





n su




y nit







































r orga









r othe























This conjunctural analysis was presented in the form of a prezi document in addition to other materials such as the Community Land Trust Brochure and Power Structure Triangle Tools. This was presented as one of the final presentations to practice the transfer of accumulated knowledge. However, this proved to be far too complex and unfocused as to what was being proposed.



















Building up from the past knowledge of the power structure of New York, this conceptual workshop game could be a strong tool to forecasting relationships and building coalitions in response to specific aims and issues. With the organizations on these cards (each color designates a different organization - social justice, economic, etc.), their corners are marked with icons which indicate the overall aim of their mission statement. While an abstract system, these cards could be customized by the particular parties using them in order to convey the importance of partnership building in achieving a mission against a particular program or face of government.



Voting Bloc Formation via Community Organization

o Linking with Third Parties, i.e. Working Families – as to avoid the complacency of Democratic officials who support developers and financial allies more than constituents. o Build Local Pressure upon Councilperson, Congressperson, Assemblyperson, Borough President, (?) Judges. o Consider Assemblypersons and Congresspersons more advantageous allies as they can put a State/Federal pressure upon the city – a critical exploit in the power relationships within the governmental branches. ·

Gain Membership on Community Board #7

o While a rather difficult task, it could be fruitful to have members of La Union and other allied groups on the board in order to steer the topics and discussions at hand. Even as the CB is a rather cantankerous institution that might seek to benefit the few, taking it could be the most critical link and channel to City Hall and the Mayor. ·

Sunset Park Business Improvement District

o As a B.I.D., employment funds are rather sparse; therefore, there are few full-time employees. They usually hire local residents to workers; and, this could be an ideal opportunity to get allies on the inside to see how the B.I.D. could better benefit the community at hand. ·

Participatory Budgeting as a Tool to Acquire Community Funds

o While the Participatory Budgeting program is not currently in Sunset Park, the program is continually rolling out to new districts via the participation of City Council member’s interests. It should be an imperative strategy to get Sara M. Gonzalez to participate in the process and allow the residents of Sunset Park to fund their own projects. ·

Community Organization around Targeted Long Term Goals

o Even as the community organization against the Sunset Park rezoning plans in 2007 might not have been as successful as most hoped, it should remain an important goal to prevent the furthering spread of luxury condos by preventing their re/zoning in Sunset Park. ·

Solidarity among Latino Businesses

o Creation of a consortium of local Latino Sunset Park businesses. This should be a huge priority considering that the Chinese populations have mobilized their businesses into a considerable and influential contributor to CB7. o Microgrants for businesses are available through the SW Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation. § There should be some consideration to have allies join the SWBIDC. ·

Linking Faith-Based Communities as a Source of Resistance

o I.E. Greenpoint churches were quite successful in galvanizing a community resistance against the rezoning plans and the creation of their own community based rezoning plan. ·

Never Stop Embracing the Industrial Waterfront

o As there needs to be continual campaigns to fight for better environmental qualities so that local industrial businesses will no longer plague local communities with ailments and quality of life, the industrial waterfront needs to be secured as a shield against the forces of gentrification. Coupled with the Gowanus Expressway, these two elements become a successful deterrent of gentrification. As in the case of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, the lack of embrace for power plants and further industrial zoning led to a City Hall counterattack that gave the waterfront to luxury condo developers; thus, leading to a demographic shift that is evident in the exodus of working class families occurring today. 34


In designing these power structures, the hope is to reveal how complicated these relationships within city government are; and, that hierarchy is hardly the word describe it. While there is a hierarchical structure in terms of legislative processes, this does not hold up when looking at both City Departments and local development corporations. While this is currently a first step towards a greater schema, the next considerations that need to be included are sources of funding and how these funding sources will influence/impact the nature of the relationships.


Non-Government Organizations Categories: T – Technical C – Community Group B – Business A – Activist S – Service La Union (C/A) Las Casitas (C/A) CSWA (C) BCAA (T) 8th Avenue Improvement Association (B) Chinese American Planning Association (T) Municipal Arts Society (T) Organize for the Occupation (A) SWBIDC (B) UPROSE (C/A) Pratt Center (T) Common Ground (C) Chashama (S) Cooper Square Community Land Trust (C/B) Right to the City Alliance (A) Picture the Homeless (A) Occupy Wall Street / Sandy (A) St. Jacobi (S) Rent Strikers (A) Hunter Center for Community Planning (T) Parsons (T) Sunset Park Business Improvement District (B)

Government Organizations E – Elected A – Appointed


Mayor (E) Public Advocate (E) Comptroller (E) City Council (Whole Body) (E) City Councilperson (E) Economic Development Corporation (A) Department of Design & Construction (A) Department of Transportation (A) Department of Small Business Services (A) Parks Department (A) Port Authority (A) HPD (A) Landmark Preservation Committee (A) Assemblyperson (E) Congressperson (E) Community Board #7 (E) Brooklyn Borough President (E)



Public Advocate

City Council Sunset Park


Sara Gonzales

Borough Presidents Community Boards Brooklyn Community Board 7

South Park Slope

East Windsor Terrace

Sunset Park

Windsor Terrace

Greenwood Heights

Organizations Social Brooklyn Chinese American Association Religious Institutions

La Casita Communal de Sunset Park Rent Strikers

La Union

Chinese Staff Workers Association

Economic Brooklyn Army Terminal Bush Terminal

Eighth Avenue Improvement Asoociation Lutheran Medical

Occupy Sandy 37

Political SPAN SPAN + SPARZ UPROSE United Puerto Rican Org. of Sunset Park

Property-Involved City Agencies Department of Design & Construction

Department of City Planning

Economic Development Corporation

Department of Small Business Services

Landmark Preservation Commission

Seward Park Urban Renewal Area City Planning Commission

Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation

Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) Sunset Park BID 5th Avenue

Sunset Park Waterfront Development Plan

Community Planning Assets The Chinese-American Planning Council

Municipal Arts Society


Pratt Centre for Community Development

COMMUNITY LAND TRUST Sunset Park is a neighborhood that is changing rapidly. This change isn’t inherently good or bad, but it raises important questions about affordability, diversity, and community assets in Sunset Park. How can we ensure that everyone benefits from these chnages, particularly low-income people? What are the potential strategies for setting up a Community Land Trust (CLT) in Sunset park and conclude that a CLT offers an innovative and important strategy to unite the community and protest the affordability and assets in Sunset Park?







Creating a Community Land Trust to Acquire Foreclosed Properties: Stabilizing Neighborhoods and ​ Creating Permanently Affordable Housing

Western Contra Costa County, CA

at the Institute Of Urban and Regional Development



Anne J. Martin and Alexis Smith, Center for Community Innovation


Nina Meigs, Center for Community Innovation

Cover Photo

Anne J. Martin

Key Support

We give our thanks to Karen Chapple, Faculty Director of the Center for Community Innovation, Rick Jacobus of Burlington Associates, Ian Winters of the Northern California Land Trust, Harold Simon of the Community Asset Preservation Corporation and of the National Housing Institute, Professor Michael Smith-Heimer of the Department of City and Regional Planning at UC Berkeley, Eliron Hamburger of the Richmond Community Redevelopment Agency, and Carolina Reid of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco for sharing their expertise. The Center for Community Innovation is grateful for funding from the California Department of Transportation Development Without Displacement Grant to the Association of Bay Area Governments, which supported this report. The Center for Community Innovation (CCI) at UC-Berkeley nurtures effective solutions that expand economic opportunity, diversify housing options, and strengthen connection to place. The Center builds the capacity of nonprofits and government by convening practitioner leaders, providing technical assistance and student interns, interpreting academic research, and developing new research out of practitioner needs. University of California Center for Community Innovation 316 Wurster Hall #1870 Berkeley, CA 94720-1870 May 2009 44

Creating a Community Land Trust to Acquire Foreclosed Properties: Stabilizing Neighborhoods and ​ Creating Permanently Affordable Housing

at the Institute Of Urban and Regional Development


Figure 1:to Western Contra Costa County Foreclosures, Creating a Community Land Trust Rehabilitate 2005-2008 Vacant Foreclosed Properties and Neighborhoods

Number of Foreclosures

The rate of foreclosures has increased Figure 1. Western Contra Costa County Foreclosures, 2005-2008 significantly in Western Contra Costa County between 2005 and 2008. Efforts are currently 1600 1400 underway at the national and local levels to undertake 1200 foreclosure prevention; however, many properties 1000 that have already gone through foreclosure are now 800 vacant, bank-owned properties. During the period Stage 2 Foreclosures 600 of bank ownership, these vacant properties are often 400 vandalized and under-maintained, contributing to 200 Stage 3 Foreclosures a lack of overall neighborhood stability. This report 0 outlines how a community land trust (CLT) could be created in Western Contra Costa County to acquire and rehabilitate vacant bank-owned foreclosed homes. The community land trust would create permanently affordable housing while simultaneously improving Data Source: stability in neighborhoods that have been deeply affected by the foreclosure crisis. However, not all parts of West Contra Costa County have been impacted equally by foreclosure (see Figure 2). The The foreclosure situation in Western Contra Costa County highest concentrations of foreclosures are in Richmond, warrants close attention. Like many other regions in the San Pablo, and the southwestern corner of Hercules. The country, the number of homes going into foreclosure has situation has troubling consequences, not only for the increased significantly in the past three years (see Figure individual families who are displaced after their homes 1). The number of units that have progressed from auction undergo foreclosure, but also for the neighborhoods and (Stage 2) to bank-ownership (Stage 3) has also risen cities in which these homes are located. As shown in dramatically. Figure 3, many blocks in Western Contra Costa County

Figure 2. Density of Foreclosures in Western Contra Costa County Cities

Figure 1. Western Contra Costa County Foreclosures, 2005-2008

Data Source:

Basemap: ESRI World Streets Map 46


have seen more than a fifth of their housing units undergo foreclosure. To understand how an effort could be undertaken to convert foreclosed homes into affordable housing through a community land trust, the foreclosure process and common terminology is first briefly explained. The entire foreclosure process takes several months. After one missed payment, the borrower is issued a Notice of Default, after which she has 90 days to correct the default.1 Once the homeowner has been issued a Notice of Default, the property is considered to be in preforeclosure, or “Stage 1” of the foreclosure process. If the default is not corrected, a Notice of Sale is issued, which informs the borrower that the property will be sold at auction. Once the Notice of Sale is issued, the property has reached “Stage 2” of the foreclosure process. At the auction, the lender typically sets the opening bid or minimum bid, which is traditionally the remaining amount of the balance due, plus interest, fees, and other associated costs. The data utilized in this report shows that in Western Contra Costa County, the minimum bid is often as much as 10% over the total mortgage, not just the balance due plus costs. If no one else bids on the property, or if the minimum bid specified

by the lender is not matched, ownership of the property reverts to the lender. This period of bank ownership is “Stage 3” of the foreclosure process, in which properties are referred to as bank-owned or Real Estate Owned (REO). In the present market climate where home values are falling substantially after a long period of inflation, our data indicates that many properties are worth less than the minimum bid specified by the lender, making them difficult to sell at auction. Consequently, a high number of properties are progressing to this third stage. In this uncertain economic climate, a community land trust would function as a mechanism to stabilize affected neighborhoods by rehabilitating vacant bank-owned properties, providing homeownership opportunities to lower income households, and ensuring a permanent stock of affordable housing when home prices rise again in the future. 1

Figure 3. Stage 2 Foreclosures in Western Contra Costa County Cities, 2005-2008

Data Source:

Basemap: ESRI World Streets Map 47


What is a Community Land Trust? A community land trust, or CLT, is an affordable housing model that provides homeownership opportunities to lowincome households who might not otherwise be able to purchase a home. Additionally, it is a model that ensures permanent affordability of housing through non-profit land ownership and shared equity, limiting gains in appreciation that homeowners can realize when they sell. Currently, there are over 200 CLTs in the United States.2

land ownership guarantees a revenue stream for the life of the organization. While the housing development process requires separate subsidy, the housing subsidy retention is ensured due to the self-supporting organizational structure that exists to protect the contractual agreements between homeowners and the CLT. Given the current housing situation, it is important to note that CLT homes are 1/30 as likely to undergo foreclosure as a typical home in the United States.3 Many CLTs provide homebuyer education and financial literacy courses for potential homebuyers. CLTs also typically offer support throughout the purchase process, ensuring that the borrower does not use a subprime loan to finance their purchase. Moreover, the CLT continues to have a relationship with the new homeowner after the purchase of the property, offering support and guidance from which many first-time homeowners benefit. As with other types of affordable housing, the percent of the household’s income spent on housing is limited to 35%, which allows more discretionary spending dollars to be spent within the local community than higher income residents that may spend a greater percentage of their income on housing. In this way, affordable housing can support local retail and the local economy.

A community land trust is generally organized as a membership-based non-profit organization with staff and a member-elected board of directors. Membership is generally extended not only to CLT homeowners, but also to neighbors and other residents of the jurisdiction, giving increased community control over local development. The CLT acquires and develops properties for sale to low- and moderate-income households. A homebuyer purchases the house, while the CLT retains ownership of the land, which it leases to the homeowner for a nominal fee through a long-term ground lease (usually a 99-year term). The property is more affordable because the homeowner is buying only the building and not the land upon which it sits. In exchange for this increased affordability, the homeowner agrees to take a smaller share of the appreciated value of the home upon its resale. When the homeowner is ready to sell the property, it is resold to another low- or moderateincome household without the need for additional subsidy. This subsidy retention model allows the benefits of the initial subsidy to pass to future homebuyers, in perpetuity.

Essentially, a CLT accomplishes the dual goals of allowing homeowners to build equity while the community retains a permanently affordable housing stock.

A CLT benefits both the homeowner and the community. The homeowner receives the benefits associated with homeownership: the security that comes with owning a home with a fixed-rate mortgage, the opportunity to build equity, and, upon the home’s sale, a portion of the appreciated value of the home. The community receives the benefits of permanently affordable housing stock and the ability to participate in the CLT’s mission through membership. Because the CLT owns the land, it remains an asset of the CLT through which permanent affordability is ensured. When a home is sold, the land remains in the ownership of the CLT, and no profits are realized from the land. Thus, once the CLT acquires the land, no additional subsidies are required; the property remains permanently affordable. Unlike Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) projects, these units will not need to be purchased from investors after 50 years in order to preserve affordability. Land rent fees collected by the CLT funds the staffing needs of the organization, which supports CLT homeowners and oversees CLT contracts. While the CLT organization will need a subsidy to cover startup costs for the first year, once the first units are under construction, the organization itself will need little to no further subsidy. Once about 150 units have been sold by the CLT, the organization will be self-supporting in perpetuity, although any further construction would require additional subsidy. The

Limitations of a CLT Certainly, a CLT will not solve all problems associated with the current foreclosure situation in Western Contra Costa County. Most importantly, a CLT is not a mechanism that would help current at-risk households avoid foreclosure. As the number of bank-owned, vacant properties continues to grow, any local strategy to address foreclosures must focus on foreclosure prevention, rather than solely on acquisition and rehab. Also, property acquisitions by a new CLT will be inherently limited in scope due to budget constraints and the operational constraints of a new organization. A CLT will only tackle a small fraction of the overall number of homes that have undergone foreclosure. Additionally, as foreclosed homes in higher-priced neighborhoods will be too costly to acquire, a CLT is not a tool to improve income diversity in those neighborhoods. However, it would allow homeownership in low and moderately priced neighborhoods to be accessible to a lower income group. As acquisitions will be scattered sites in existing neighborhoods, a CLT would promote income mixture within these neighborhoods. 2 3 48

National Community Land Trust Network: index.php?fuseaction=Blog.dspBlogPost&postID=27 National Community Land Trust Network:


How a CLT Could Acquire Properties in Western Contra Costa County: Focus on REOs mortgage; in the majority of cases, the minimum bid price at auction exceeds the current mortgage by 5% or more.

A community land trust develops properties for sale to low- and moderate-income homebuyers. With falling home values and an excess of vacant, bank-owned properties, the current situation provides an ideal climate for a CLT to acquire properties. Although there are several different ways to acquire foreclosed properties, we recommend that a CLT pursue the bulk sale of bank-owned properties. A comparison of the advantages and disadvantages of different property acquisition strategies can be found in Figure 5. Several scenarios that vary in acquisition volume and pricing will be explored later in this report.

Figure 6 examines the foreclosure process and pricing of several sample properties in Richmond and San Pablo. In each case the minimum bid price set by the banks at auction was higher than the current mortgage amount, and in each case the home did not sell at auction. All of the properties went into bank ownership, and sat vacant for varying lengths of time (from one week to eight months) before selling. The ultimate sales prices for these homes were significantly less than the minimum bid prices that had been set at auction and significantly less than the current mortgage amounts at the time of foreclosure. Considering the difference between the expected auction price and the actual price at which the property sold, it is disappointing that the banks would not choose to modify these loans to avoid foreclosure, rather than take the loss associated with selling the bank-owned home.

Acquiring foreclosed properties at auction will likely be less feasible for a CLT than acquiring bank-owned homes. In general, home prices at auction have not dropped to reflect the lowered property values in this area. The minimum bid price set by the banks at auction is usually 1%10% higher than the current total mortgage. Recent news coverage has led many to believe that foreclosure auctions allow households to purchase properties at below market prices; however, it is clear from the 2005-2008 auction data that the minimum bid set by the banks for homes in Western Contra Costa County has been, in many cases, above market rate. Figure 4 illustrates the relationship between the minimum bid price set by the banks and the current

Consequently, we recommend that a CLT not attempt acquisitions at auction, as the minimum bid prices set by the banks are prohibitively high, and in general, do not reflect the current reduced property values in this area.

Figure 4. Required Minimum Bid at Foreclosure Auction (2005-2008)

Data Source:

Basemap: ESRI World Streets Map 49




Bank-Owned/REO (Stage 3)

Auction (Stage 2)

Short Sale (Can occur before Notice of Default)

When During the Foreclosure Process Should a CLT Acquire Properties? Acquisition Costs for the CLT

The CLT would need to work with a single bank or the Moderately expensive to acquire. National Community Stabilization Trust to make a bulk Prices are often greatly reduced from the auction purchase. In order to have some choice in property locations price. If the CLT is able to negotiate “as-is” or and price ranges, it is advised to work with the financial NRV prices with the banks, this is likely to be institutions that are the owners of the largest numbers of significantly lower than the minimum bid prices at REOs in these areas. auction. 

Many CDCs are attempting to structure bulk sales of bank-owned units at current “as-is” or NRV pricing. The negotiation and closing process with the bank may be timeconsuming, and there is currently no established precedent for this method of purchase.

This would require a nimble organization with ready access to cash for purchases, and quick action by an individual rather than a more carefully considered approach approved by the organization’s board of directors.  Auction sales may not comply with NSP use of funds, as homes are not purchased at a discount.

This method of purchase would require a nimble organization and ready access to credit for purchases. It would be more difficult to buy units in a concentrated geographic area.  The number of units sold at short sales will hopefully be slowed by the March 2009 federal Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan, which allows more households to refinance their mortgages.  The short sale process can be complicated and time-consuming.

Benefits and Drawbacks for the CLT

Properties may have been vacant If negotiations are unsuccessful, partnerships could be for an extended period of time, This would comply with Neighborhood formed between the CLT and Cities and Redevelopment and may be heavily vandalized. Stabilization Program (NSP) requirements as being Agencies in order to utilize the powers of Eminent Domain Rehabilitating bank-owned purchased at a discount. to acquire vacant REO properties at the current appraised homes is most likely to have a market rate. strong beneficial impact on the Property listings by bank can be found on the surrounding neighborhood. National Community Stabilization Trust’s website: If bulk-purchases prove infeasible, a piecemeal purchasing strategy might need to be pursued. As many of the foreclosed properties are moving directly from auction to bank-ownership, the CLT could attend pre-auction property viewings in target neighborhoods with their contractor, in order to develop an estimate for rehabilitation. When the property does not sell at auction, the CLT would have an offer ready for the bank. This bank-owned purchasing strategy would require access to a ready line of credit.

Most These properties are least likely to be quickly absorbed back into the market.

Least Moderately expensive to acquire. These properties would be Prices are usually discounted from the balance most easily absorbed back into owed on the mortgage, as approved by the lender’s the market and some could be loss mitigation department. purchased by low or moderateincome households without This would comply with Neighborhood subsidy.  They are the least likely Stabilization Program (NSP) requirements as being to be vacant and vandalized. purchased at a discount. Moderate Properties have not been vacant Most expensive to acquire.  long, and may be less vandalized. Prices may be as high as 10% greater than the While some foreclosed properties current total mortgage (not simply the balance will be absorbed back into the owed). market at auction, this is rare in Richmond and most of San Pablo. 

Benefits to the Community

Figure 5. CLT Acquisition Strategies for Foreclosed Properties

Due to the current uncertainty surrounding property values, negotiations for a bulk purchase of properties in bank ownership should focus on calculating an “as-is” price for each individual property. This is found by determining what the maximum market value of each home would be if it were in perfect condition, then deducting the cost of necessary repairs to bring each home up to that standard, plus a 10% developer’s fee. Properties that have been heavily vandalized and under-maintained may need more repairs than the fully rehabilitated market rate price would recover. We recommend that a newly formed CLT should avoid acquisitions of properties in this condition, as it will consume resources that could be better spent on additional acquisitions or on buying down the purchase price of the homes so that they are accessible to households in lower income groups.

difference between these appraisals may be used as a point of negotiation. The pooling and servicing agreements that govern the permissible actions of servicers and trustees of mortgage backed securities complicate the purchasing process of foreclosed properties, as it is not always immediately clear which entity has the authority to adjust pricing. Although bulk purchasing is a challenging method of acquiring properties, some banks have started to take steps to streamline the process through REO discount or donation programs. For example, the Wells Fargo Housing Foundation has a Real Estate Owned Discounted Properties Program available to cities and affordable housing developers, offering prices 5-15% below market value. Also, the National Community Stabilization Trust is a new non-profit organization that provides information about available resources and assistance in connecting non-profits with banks in order to acquire bank-owned foreclosed properties.

Another method used to calculate an appropriate price for a property is the net realizable value (NRV). The NRV is equal to the market value of a property minus the costs of disbursal and the anticipated costs of holding the property (taxes, insurance, maintenance, and anticipated depreciation). The longer the seller expects to hold the property, the higher these costs will be. At present, when banks are holding properties for extended periods of time, using the property’s NRV could result in a significant discount from the market value.

Future policy actions that might assist the CLT in the acquisition of foreclosed properties could include establishing a clearinghouse to facilitate the transfer of foreclosed properties. In this scenario, banks would sell their foreclosed properties to a single entity, which would in turn distribute the properties to non-profit housing developers. Massachusetts recently established such a program, the Massachusetts Foreclosed Properties Initiative, on a state level. Local governments and the National Community Stabilization Trust have also been taking on this role.

A CLT should calculate both an “as-is” price and the net realizable value for a property prior to negotiating a purchase. While the banks will have calculated these figures, it is important that they be verified by the CLT’s contractor or appraiser after thorough inspection of the property; any

Figure 6. Foreclosed Homes - Foreclosure Process


Original Purchase Date

Original Mortgage Purchase Loan Date Price

Mortgage Loan Amount

Auction Date

Bank-Set Bank-Sold Minimum Date Bid Price at Auction

Bank-Sold Price

Lender’s REO Bank Agent/Entity Owner Conducting the Auction

1919 Pine Ave. San Pablo

2/26/1993 $110,000







Ahmsi Default Services Inc

848 30th St. Richmond

6/24/2004 $350,000







Td Service Co

Oakland Municipal Credit Union

3136 Henderson Dr. Richmond








Quality Loan Service Corp

Bear Stearns Asset 2007-He6

1402 Esmond Ave. Richmond

2/11/2002 $227,000







Standard Trust Deed Service Co

Thompson Ronald P & P J Trust

418 S 27th St. Richmond








Ndex West Llc



Source: Addresses coordinated by Katrina Vizinau of Community Housing Development Corporation (CHDC) of North Richmond and provided by Yvonne Guyton Johnson. Property and financial data from and



How a CLT Could Acquire Properties in Western Contra Costa County: Focus on a Neighborhood Although there are few areas in Western Contra Costa County that have been untouched by foreclosure, certain neighborhoods are sustaining far greater numbers of foreclosures than others, as shown in Figure 2. Stage two foreclosures - properties whose owners have not corrected any delinquencies after a notice of default, and are sold at auction - show which neighborhoods are struggling the most with foreclosures. It is these neighborhoods of high foreclosure concentrations in which a Western Contra Costa County community land trust could best focus its efforts. In these areas, it will be of particular importance to the neighborhood’s health to reduce the number of vacant units, and it is these neighborhoods that will most benefit from the stabilization that a CLT could potentially provide. Furthermore, focusing on these areas will ensure that there is an ample supply of foreclosed properties for the CLT to acquire.     Focusing on one or two small “pilot” neighborhoods will also will allow the CLT to provide the most benefit from its limited resources. Concentrating its efforts will allow it to

make a real difference in terms of decreasing the number of vacant properties and contributing to neighborhood stabilization. Focusing on a neighborhood will allow the CLT to build strong relationships with one group of neighbors, as well as with a single planning department, building department, and redevelopment agency. While scattered site development has the benefit of addressing foreclosed properties, one drawback of this approach is that the CLT homeowners are not as close geographically as they would be in a single development. However, a CLT is designed to build community not only among CLT homeowners, but within the larger neighborhood, a goal which is furthered by integrating CLT residents into the broader neighborhood context. In fact, many existing CLTs have scattered site acquisition strategies. For example, Rocky Mountain CLT in Colorado focuses on scattered site development because it allows residents greater flexibility and choice when selecting a home, and promotes mixed-income communities.

Figure 7. Required Minimum Bid Under $200,000 at Foreclosure Auction (2005-2008)

Data Source:

Basemap: ESRI World Streets Map 52


Figure 8. Stage 3 Foreclosures in San Pablo, 2008 In Western Contra Costa County, areas which are under particular duress as a result of a high concentration of foreclosures include the Iron Triangle in Richmond, North and East Richmond, western San Pablo, and to a lesser extent, southwestern Hercules. However, not all these areas will be appropriate for a CLT. For example, although southwestern Hercules has a relatively high number of foreclosures, the value of many of these foreclosed properties is still high and is likely out of the reach of a nascent CLT.


San Pablo


Figure 7 demonstrates the number of properties for which the banks set a minimum bid price at auction of $200,000 or less. While banks often accept much less for properties once they have not sold at auction and have sat vacant for some time, this map gives a quick vision of where the banks’ starting prices are lower. The Richmond and San Pablo neighborhoods, with high concentrations of more affordable foreclosed properties, are appropriate starting places for a CLT (see Figures 8, 9, and 10). These figures show all of the properties that were bank-owned in 2008, and while some have now sold, there are still others that have gone into bank-ownership in the meantime.

Foreclosed Housing Units Stage 3 Foreclosures City Limits


Data Source:

Basemap: ESRI World Streets Map

Figure 9. Stage 3 Foreclosures in Richmond, 2008

It may be possible to concentrate acquisitions in a neighborhood within walking distance (1/2 mile) of the BART station. This would link families who purchase a CLT home with transit to reach the jobs and resources of the wider region. However, these units are likely to be slightly more expensive and may be sold out of bank ownership more quickly due to the transit amenity.

Á Richmond

Working with a selected bank (or banks) that holds one of the highest numbers of bank-owned foreclosed properties in Western Contra Costa County will enable the CLT to be selective in the location and price of the properties purchased. If acquiring properties in a concentrated area from a single bank proves difficult, the CLT may choose to advocate for an intermediary clearinghouse as discussed in the previous section.

Foreclosed Housing Units Stage 3 Foreclosures


BART Station City Limits

Data Source:

Basemap: ESRI World Streets Map

Figure 10. Stage 3 Foreclosures in North & East Richmond, 2008

An alternate strategy to acquiring properties in a small target area might involve working with a single bank to acquire properties within a particular price range that are scattered throughout the jurisdictions in Western Contra Costa County. While this strategy would allow the CLT to seek support from multiple jurisdictions, it would add many administrative complications arising from far-flung properties, and would be too dispersed an investment to have neighborhood stabilization effects.

2 I Foreclosed Housing Units Stage 3 Foreclosures

2 I

BART Station City Limits

Data Source:

Basemap: ESRI World Streets Map 53


Who Would A CLT Serve? How Much Would CLT Homes Cost? subsidies are in the form of grants or forgivable loans.

Home prices are currently lower than they have been in several years. However, many homes available on the market today will require substantial rehabilitation prior to occupancy. Bank-owned foreclosed properties that have been vacant for an extended period of time are susceptible to gutting and vandalism. Consequently, we assume that gut renovations will be required.

As there is currently much uncertainty about the pricing of bank-owned homes, three scenarios are explored in Appendix A. Each scenario uses an estimated average rehab cost of $100,000, based on other non-profits’ estimates of foreclosure rehabilitation. Each scenario assumes the homes will be sold to households at 50% AMI for $148,000. All other development costs are held even across the scenarios. Varying acquisition pricing changes the annual volume of acquisitions and rate of development required to cover organizational costs. Less expensive acquisitions require more units to be produced annually, in fewer years, in order for the organization to cover expenses.

Who Would A CLT Serve? Lower home prices mean that a household earning 80% or even 60% of Contra Costa County’s area median income (AMI) might currently be able to afford a home on the market without the resale restrictions that come with a CLT property. Thus, a CLT in Western Contra Costa County will need to market its properties towards a lower income group. It should be noted that the median household income for Richmond or San Pablo is expected to be considerably lower than HUD’s area median income for the county. The CLT’s target of 50% AMI, based on the county’s median, may correspond to a population in Richmond that is closer to 70% of Richmond’s median. Targeting the sale of CLT homes to lower income levels allows this housing to be affordable to current area residents.

In each scenario, the subsidy required per unit is nearly equivalent to the acquisition cost. The rehabilitation costs are essentially paid by the homebuyer. These scenarios demonstrate the need for a careful acquisition strategy and aggressive pricing negotiations, as the cost of acquisition is directly reflected in the amount of subsidy required.

Regardless of the target income, as the housing market is in such flux right now, a new market study analyzing the current real estate climate will be necessary to determine the market value of homes in the neighborhoods in which the CLT will likely be working, to ensure that the CLT properties are priced 30% below market rate.

Scenario 1 15 homes would be rehabbed annually for ten years. Homes would be acquired from the bank for $200,000, and the total development cost per unit would be $345,214, requiring a subsidy of $197,214 per unit to reach households at 50% AMI. The annual subsidy required would be $3 million, for a total of $29.6 million to rehabilitate 150 units for permanent affordable homeownership.

How Much Would CLT Homes Cost? A household at 50% AMI earns approximately $44,400 annually in Contra Costa County. Assuming 30% of gross monthly income will be used towards housing costs, a household in this income bracket could afford a house priced at $148,000 (including a 10% down payment). Down payment assistance may be available through CalHome or other first-time homebuyer assistance programs.

Scenario 2 20 homes would be rehabbed annually for eight years. Homes would be acquired from the bank for $100,000, and the total development cost per unit would be $241,091, requiring a subsidy of $93,091 per unit to reach households at 50% AMI. The annual subsidy required would be $1.9 million, for a total of $14.9 million to rehabilitate 160 units for permanent affordable homeownership.

A one-time grant of $50,000 will be required for the CLT organization’s start-up costs. Once a CLT has developed approximately 150 units, the revenues from monthly ground lease fees and new lease and marketing fees at resale will cover the staffing and overhead of the CLT. While a CLT can be established by undertaking the acquisition and rehab of a moderate number of units in the first year, this development effort would need to be sustained over 7-10 years until enough units were built that ground rent income covered the CLT’s staffing costs. Any additional property development would require additional subsidy. However, once the organization becomes self-sustaining, the properties it has developed will remain affordable in perpetuity without additional subsidy, ensuring that the original subsidy is retained and benefitting future generations of homeowners. Also, these scenarios assume all acquisition or rehab

Scenario 3 22 homes would be rehabbed annually for eight years. Homes would be acquired from the bank for $50,000, and the total development cost per unit would be $189,091, requiring a subsidy of $41,091 per unit to reach households at 50% AMI. The annual subsidy required would be $900,000, for a total of $7.3 million to rehabilitate 176 units for permanent affordable homeownership. In comparing these scenarios, the effect of acquisition pricing becomes clear. Scenario 3 is the most feasible, requiring the least subsidy, providing the most units in the shortest time, and adding significant value to severely distressed properties and neighborhoods. Negotiating “as-is” or NRV pricing and targeting the lowest cost properties that can be rehabilitated for $100,000 should be a focus of the CLT. 54


Creating a CLT Organization - Staffing A Western Contra Costa County CLT would require a small staff in order for the organization to be financially self-sustaining. The CLT could form a partnership with an existing housing organization providing homebuyer education and possibly with local government in an ombudsman role. The CLT will also need to establish relationships with various consultants to provide contract services on an as-needed basis.

However, it is unlikely that in its initial years the CLT will be able to support a full education program. The Community Housing Development Corporation of North Richmond (CHDC North Richmond) already operates a HUD-approved homebuyer counseling program, along with financial education programs and an Individual Development Account (IDA) savings program. Neighborhood Housing Services of Richmond (NHS Richmond) also offers financial education, first-time homebuyer courses, and administers a down payment and mortgage assistance program. Both organizations are potential partners that could provide support in this area. The CLT would provide $10,000 annually to this partner, in exchange for their educator undergoing CLT training and holding several CLT education sessions a month.

CLT Staff A program director would manage the day-to-day functions of the CLT’s homeownership program. This staff person would be responsible for developing relationships with the community, marketing CLT projects, maintaining a list of potential homebuyers, and daily administration. It will be important to maintain a substantial list of potential buyers who are ready to purchase; especially in its initial years, the CLT will not be able to afford having finished units stand unsold and empty. The program director would work closely with both the homebuyer education partner organization, as potential buyers will be referred through the program, and with the CLT’s realtor (see following sections). This position would be funded by the CLT from ground lease revenues.

Another potential CLT partner is the municipal government. A CLT ombudsman within the local government could aid in expediting building permits and coordinating city funding, and would strengthen relations between the CLT, the government, and the community. Contract Services Property sales will need to be performed by an organization that is familiar with the intricacies of the CLT model in addition to being equipped to deal with the needs and concerns of first-time homebuyers and lower-income clients. Ideally, this partner would work with the program director to prequalify potential buyers, enabling the CLT to maintain a pool of prequalified households ready to purchase immediately when construction is finished. NHS Richmond currently has a working relationship with a real estate broker; the CLT could use this model for its sales program. A sales agent commission of 4% of the purchase price of each home is budgeted for this position. Some of the marketing budget may be used by the sales agent.

The CLT should hire an experienced individual to perform the construction management function. Though we anticipate that the CLT will acquire existing homes, in even a best-case scenario, these existing buildings will need minor repairs. However, it is more likely that the bankowned properties will require extensive rehabilitation and must consequently go through a permitting and construction process. Given the amount of work that the CLT is expected to produce in its first years, directly hiring a full-time construction manager, rather than partnering with a developer, will be more cost effective. This position will be funded by a per unit fee of 4% of the development cost per unit for the duration of the construction period.

The CLT will also need a consultant for legal services. The consultant should be familiar with the complexities of the community land trust model, as well as have experience in general housing and tenure law. An annual budget of $20,000 for legal services during the construction period has been assumed, with fees decreasing at the end of construction, after which point legal services will be needed primarily for resales.

Because homes purchased through the CLT will have a land lease, the CLT must have an ownership support manager to oversee payment, maintenance, and other issues related to the terms of the lease. During the years that housing is renovated and sold, funding for this role would be provided from the CLT’s revenues. The program director may take on these additional roles at the end of the construction period.

Technical assistance could be provided by Northern California Land Trust, a Bay Area CLT with over 30 years of experience, or by Burlington Associates, who currently provide technical assistance to CLTs. Technical assistance will be of particular importance in areas where the CLT model differs from traditional homeownership models, for example, post-ownership support.

CLT Partners Homebuyer education is a crucial function of any CLT. Prior to purchasing a home, many first time homebuyers need guidance to help repair their credit, save for a down payment, and learn what homeownership entails. 55


Potential Funding Sources

Next Steps

Potential grant and loan funding for a CLT would need to be pieced together from a number of different sources, including Community Development Block Grant funds, support from the Redevelopment Agencies, Housing Authorities, CalHome, other public sources, and from various foundations. Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds need to be spent by June 2010, which will likely exclude a new CLT from this funding, unless this collaborative project was undertaken immediately.

In short, a Community Land Trust in Western Contra Costa County could be a valuable component of a larger strategy to address the foreclosure situation, particularly with regard to neighborhoods feeling the pressure of high numbers of foreclosures. A CLT would increase the county’s affordable housing stock and reduce the number of vacant, bank-owned foreclosed properties in a way that offers long-term benefits to both homeowners and neighborhoods.

The following foundations support acquisition and rehab for affordable housing:

Next steps towards establishing a CLT might include:

Fannie Mae Foundation Nation’s Housing Challenges Grants

- gauging the interest of potential partner organizations for homebuyer education and city ombudsman roles, and capacity to contribute time to the CLT;

The Home Depot Foundation Affordable Housing Grants

- determining the funding availability from county and city governments as well as from foundations;

Enterprise Foundation Green Communities - Charette & Planning and Construction Grants

- conducting a market study of target neighborhoods to ensure that CLT homes would be priced 30% below market rate;

Institute for Community Economics Revolving Loan Fund

- development of a detailed pro forma, based on the market study, and possibly additionally considering a lease-to-own financing structure;

National Housing Trust Community Development Fund

- and, preliminary discussions with banks holding a high number of foreclosed properties in Western Contra Costa County to determine the likelihood of acquiring a group of foreclosed properties at an affordable price.

Wells Fargo Housing Foundation



Appendix A Scenarios 1-3 Development Pro Forma Scenarios 1-3 CLT Cash Flows



Scenario 1 15 Units Acquired Annually, $200,000 Acquisitions, 10 Years PROJECT OUTLINE Unit Type Number of Units Annually Average Size (sqft) Number of Years of Construction Total CLT Units

Scenario 3 22 Units Acquired Annually, As-Is Pricing $50,000, 8 years

Single-Family 15 1000 10 150

Single-Family 20 1000 8 160

Single-Family 22 1000 8 176

$200,000 $100,000 $800 4% $12,000 $10,000 7% $10,360 8% $8,000 $345,214

$100,000 $100,000 $800 4% $8,000 $10,000 7% $10,360 8% $8,000 $241,091

$50,000 $100,000 $800 4% $6,000 $10,000 7% $10,360 8% $8,000 $189,091

75% $1,134,000 6.5% 12 $60,811 6 2 50 $25

75% $1,512,000 6.5% 12 $78,624 6 2 50 $25

75% $1,663,200 6.5% 12 $86,486 6 2 50 $25

$50 $90,000

$50 $96,000

$50 $105,600




$79,000 $266,214 $148,000 $197,214 $241,000 $104,214

$79,000 $162,091 $148,000 $93,091 $241,000 $91

$79,000 $110,091 $148,000 $41,091 $241,000 -$51,909

DEVELOPMENT COSTS Acquisition Cost/Unit Rehab Cost/Unit ($100/sqft) Landscaping Cost/Unit Construction Management Fee (%) Construction Management Fee/Unit Insurance/Unit CLT Marketing Fee (% of final BMR price) CLT Marketing Fee/Unit Other Soft Costs (as % of Construction Costs) Other Soft Costs/Unit Total Development Cost/Unit

CONSTRUCTION FINANCING % Financed (Not Including Acquisition) Maximum Annual Construction Loan Interest Rate (%) Length of Construction (months) Construction Interest Length of Sales Period (months) Sales per month Number of CLT Applicants Annually Homebuyer CLT Application Fee

Scenario 2 20 Units Acquired Annually, As-Is Pricing $100,000, 8 years

GROUND LEASE Ground Lease Fee (month/unit) Total Annual Ground Lease Fees, At End of Construction SALES PRICES & SUBSIDY NEEDED Total Development Cost/Unit Subsidized Price (30% AMI - County) Subsidy Needed/Unit (30% AMI - County) Subsidized Price (50% AMI - County) Subsidy Needed/Unit (50% AMI - County) Subsidized Price (80% AMI - County) Subsidy Needed/Unit (80% AMI - County)

*A current market study of home sales in Richmond will be needed to determine if these subsidized prices approach 30% below market prices - if not, resale restrictions will not be attractive to most buyers.

DEVELOPMENT SUMMARY Total Acquisition Cost Construction Cost Soft Cost Total Development Cost Total Revenue from Home Sales Construction Grant - Annual Subsidy Required CLT Operations - 1st Year Subsidy Required Total 1st Year Subsidy Required Total Subsidy Required Over Development Term HUD AMI - Contra Costa County

Annual Income Monthly Gross Income 30% of Gross Monthly Income Insurance + Taxes Ground Lease Fee Remainder Available for Mortgage Maximum Purchase Price ( w/ 10% down)

$3,000,000 $1,572,811 $605,400 $5,178,211 $2,220,000 $2,958,211 $50,000 $3,008,211 $29,632,108 100% AMI

$2,000,000 $2,094,624 $727,200 $4,821,824 $2,960,000 $1,861,824 $50,000 $1,911,824 $14,944,592 80% AMI

$1,100,000 $2,304,086 $755,920 $4,160,006 $3,256,000 $904,006 $50,000 $954,006 $7,282,051 50% AMI

30% AMI $25,850




$7,175 $2,153 $367.50 $50.00

$5,521 $1,656 $300.83 $50.00

$3,588 $1,076 $223.33 $50.00

$2,154 $646 $165.83 $50.00

$1,735 $321,000

$1,305 $241,000

$803 $148,000

$430 $79,000

$1,200 annual insurance 1.00% property tax (% assessed value) The above scenarios contain many assumptions that will need to be further refined as the CLT project advances and costs and expenses become less uncertain. Assumptions: Acquisition Cost - This will need to be negotiated with the banks in the process of brokering bank sales, as the current asking prices for vacant bank-owned homes is often high. Rehab Cost - This $100/sqft figure is based on conversations with other non-profits doing rehab work on foreclosed homes. Construction Management Fee - This fee pays the salary of the construction manager CLT staff position. Soft Costs - This is a catch-all for the costs of other services that may be necessary and may include, but is not limited to, appraisal, engineering, or architectural plan drawings for submittal to the city for building permits. Construction Financing - This assumes a commercial construction loan is available to the CLT for the rehabilitation work. Alternately, construction financing could potentially be financed through a bond measure, and repaid as the homes are sold. This would provide a lower interest rate than a conventional construction loan, reducing the necessary subsidy. The calculations in each of the scenarios outlined here show that the CLT will be a financially self-sufficient organization (excluding development costs).


CLT Organizational Cash Flows - Scenario 1 Units Developed Total Units Resales (5% Annually) Homebuyer Application Fee Homebuyer Applications

0 0 0 $25 50 Year 0 (Planning)

Sources + Annual Ground Lease Fee + 7% CLT Marketing Fee + $25 Homebuyer Application Fee + 3% Resale Lease Reissuance Fee + 4% Construction Management Fee Effective Gross Income Uses - Start Up Costs of CLT - Legal Fees - CLT Marketing - 4% Sales Agent Commission - Homebuyer Education Fee -Overhead -Ownership Support Manager (Salary & Benefits) -Program Director (Salary & Benefits) -Construction Manager (Salary & Benefits) Total Expenses Net Operating Income (Surplus) Subsidy Required

Year 2

15 45 2

Year 3

15 60 3

Year 4

15 75 3

Year 5

15 90 4

Year 6

15 105 5

Year 7

15 120 6

Year 8

15 135 6

Year 9

15 150 7

Year 10

0 150 7

Year 20

0 150 7

Year 30

$18,000 $155,400 $1,250 $4,440 $180,000 $359,090

$27,000 $155,400 $1,250 $8,880 $180,000 $372,530

$36,000 $155,400 $1,250 $13,320 $180,000 $385,970

$45,000 $155,400 $1,250 $13,320 $180,000 $394,970

$54,000 $155,400 $1,250 $17,760 $180,000 $408,410

$63,000 $155,400 $1,250 $22,200 $180,000 $421,850

$72,000 $155,400 $1,250 $26,640 $180,000 $435,290

$81,000 $155,400 $1,250 $26,640 $180,000 $444,290

$90,000 $155,400 $1,250 $31,080 $180,000 $457,730

$90,000 $0 $625 $31,080 $0 $121,705

$90,000 $0 $625 $31,080 $0 $121,705


-$20,000 -$25,000 -$88,800 -$10,000 -$10,000 -$40,000 -$50,000 -$80,000 -$323,800

-$20,000 -$25,000 -$94,720 -$10,000 -$10,000 -$40,000 -$50,000 -$80,000 -$329,720

-$20,000 -$25,000 -$100,640 -$10,000 -$10,000 -$40,000 -$50,000 -$80,000 -$335,640

-$20,000 -$25,000 -$106,560 -$10,000 -$10,000 -$40,000 -$50,000 -$80,000 -$341,560

-$20,000 -$25,000 -$106,560 -$10,000 -$10,000 -$40,000 -$50,000 -$80,000 -$341,560

-$20,000 -$25,000 -$112,480 -$10,000 -$10,000 -$40,000 -$50,000 -$80,000 -$347,480

-$20,000 -$25,000 -$118,400 -$10,000 -$10,000 -$40,000 -$50,000 -$80,000 -$353,400

-$20,000 -$25,000 -$124,320 -$10,000 -$10,000 -$40,000 -$50,000 -$80,000 -$359,320

-$20,000 -$25,000 -$124,320 -$10,000 -$10,000 -$40,000 -$50,000 -$80,000 -$359,320

-$20,000 -$25,000 -$130,240 -$10,000 -$10,000 -$40,000 -$50,000 -$80,000 -$365,240

-$5,000 -$10,000 -$41,440 -$5,000 -$5,000 $0 -$50,000 $0 -$116,440

-$5,000 -$10,000 -$41,440 -$5,000 -$5,000 $0 -$50,000 $0 -$116,440

-$50,000 $50,000

$21,850 $0

$29,370 $0

$36,890 $0

$44,410 $0

$53,410 $0

$60,930 $0

$68,450 $0

$75,970 $0

$84,970 $0

$92,490 $0

$5,265 $0

$5,265 $0

0 0 0 $25 50

20 20 0

20 40 2

20 60 3

20 80 4

20 100 5

20 120 6

20 140 7

20 160 8

0 160 8

0 160 8

0 160 8

0 160 8




Year 0 (Planning) Sources + Annual Ground Lease Fee + 7% CLT Marketing Fee + $25 Homebuyer Application Fee + 3% Resale Lease Reissuance Fee + 4% Construction Management Fee Effective Gross Income

Net Operating Income (Surplus) Subsidy Required

Year 1

15 30 1

$9,000 $155,400 $1,250 $0 $180,000 $345,650

CLT Organizational Cash Flows - Scenario 2 Units Developed Total Units Resales (5% Annually) Homebuyer Application Fee Homebuyer Applications

Uses - Start Up Costs of CLT - Legal Fees - CLT Marketing - 4% Sales Agent Commission - Homebuyer Education Fee -Overhead -Ownership Support Manager (Salary & Benefits) -Program Director (Salary & Benefits) -Construction Manager (Salary & Benefits) Total Expenses

15 15 0

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

Year 4

Year 5

Year 6

Year 7

Year 8

Year 9

Year 10

Year 20

Year 30

$13,200 $207,200 $1,250 $0 $160,000 $381,650

$24,000 $207,200 $1,250 $8,880 $160,000 $401,330

$36,000 $207,200 $1,250 $13,320 $160,000 $417,770

$48,000 $207,200 $1,250 $17,760 $160,000 $434,210

$60,000 $207,200 $1,250 $22,200 $160,000 $450,650

$72,000 $207,200 $1,250 $26,640 $160,000 $467,090

$84,000 $207,200 $1,250 $31,080 $160,000 $483,530

$96,000 $207,200 $1,250 $35,520 $160,000 $499,970

$96,000 $0 $625 $35,520 $0 $132,145

$96,000 $0 $625 $35,520 $0 $132,145

$96,000 $0 $625 $35,520 $0 $132,145

$96,000 $0 $625 $35,520 $0 $132,145


-$20,000 -$25,000 -$118,400 -$10,000 -$10,000 -$40,000 -$50,000 -$80,000 -$353,400

-$20,000 -$25,000 -$130,240 -$10,000 -$10,000 -$40,000 -$50,000 -$80,000 -$365,240

-$20,000 -$25,000 -$136,160 -$10,000 -$10,000 -$40,000 -$50,000 -$80,000 -$371,160

-$20,000 -$25,000 -$142,080 -$10,000 -$10,000 -$40,000 -$50,000 -$80,000 -$377,080

-$20,000 -$25,000 -$148,000 -$10,000 -$10,000 -$40,000 -$50,000 -$80,000 -$383,000

-$20,000 -$25,000 -$153,920 -$10,000 -$10,000 -$40,000 -$50,000 -$80,000 -$388,920

-$20,000 -$25,000 -$159,840 -$10,000 -$10,000 -$40,000 -$50,000 -$80,000 -$394,840

-$20,000 -$25,000 -$165,760 -$10,000 -$10,000 -$40,000 -$50,000 -$80,000 -$400,760

-$5,000 -$10,000 -$47,360 -$5,000 -$10,000 $0 -$50,000 $0 -$127,360

-$5,000 -$10,000 -$47,360 -$5,000 -$10,000 $0 -$50,000 $0 -$127,360

-$5,000 -$10,000 -$47,360 -$5,000 -$10,000 $0 -$50,000 $0 -$127,360

-$5,000 -$10,000 -$47,360 -$5,000 -$10,000 $0 -$50,000 $0 -$127,360

-$50,000 $50,000

$28,250 $0

$36,090 $0

$46,610 $0

$57,130 $0

$67,650 $0

$78,170 $0

$88,690 $0

$99,210 $0

$4,785 $0

$4,785 $0

$4,785 $0

$4,785 $0

0 0 0 $25 50

22 22 0

22 44 2

22 66 3

22 88 4

22 110 5

22 132 6

22 154 7

22 176 8

0 176 8

0 176 8

0 176 8

0 176 8

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

Year 4

Year 5

Year 6

Year 7

Year 8

Year 9

Year 10

Year 20

Year 30




CLT Organizational Cash Flows - Scenario 3 Units Developed Total Units Resales (5% Annually) Homebuyer Application Fee Homebuyer Applications Year 0 Sources + Annual Ground Lease Fee + 7% CLT Marketing Fee + $25 Homebuyer Application Fee

$13,200 $227,920 $1,250

$26,400 $227,920 $1,250

$39,600 $227,920 $1,250

$52,800 $227,920 $1,250

$66,000 $227,920 $1,250

$79,200 $227,920 $1,250

$92,400 $227,920 $1,250

$105,600 $227,920 $625

$105,600 $0 $625

$105,600 $0 $625

$105,600 $0 $625

$105,600 $0 $625

+ 3% Resale Lease Reissuance Fee













$132,000 $374,370

$132,000 $396,450

$132,000 $414,090

$132,000 $431,730

$132,000 $449,370

$132,000 $467,010

$132,000 $484,650

$132,000 $501,665

$0 $141,745

$0 $141,745

$0 $141,745

$0 $141,745


-$20,000 -$25,000 -$130,240 -$10,000 -$10,000 -$40,000 -$50,000 -$80,000 -$365,240

-$20,000 -$25,000 -$142,080 -$10,000 -$10,000 -$40,000 -$50,000 -$80,000 -$377,080

-$20,000 -$25,000 -$148,000 -$10,000 -$10,000 -$40,000 -$50,000 -$80,000 -$383,000

-$20,000 -$25,000 -$153,920 -$10,000 -$10,000 -$40,000 -$50,000 -$80,000 -$388,920

-$20,000 -$25,000 -$159,840 -$10,000 -$10,000 -$40,000 -$50,000 -$80,000 -$394,840

-$20,000 -$25,000 -$165,760 -$10,000 -$10,000 -$40,000 -$50,000 -$80,000 -$400,760

-$20,000 -$25,000 -$171,680 -$10,000 -$10,000 -$40,000 -$50,000 -$80,000 -$406,680

-$5,000 -$10,000 -$177,600 -$10,000 -$10,000 $0 -$50,000 $0 -$262,600

-$5,000 -$10,000 -$47,360 -$5,000 -$10,000 $0 -$50,000 $0 -$127,360

-$5,000 -$10,000 -$47,360 -$5,000 -$10,000 $0 -$50,000 $0 -$127,360

-$5,000 -$10,000 -$47,360 -$5,000 -$10,000 $0 -$50,000 $0 -$127,360

-$5,000 -$10,000 -$47,360 -$5,000 -$10,000 $0 -$50,000 $0 -$127,360

-$50,000 $50,000

$9,130 $0

$19,370 $0

$31,090 $0

$42,810 $0

$54,530 $0

$66,250 $0

$77,970 $0

$239,065 $0

$14,385 $0

$14,385 $0

$14,385 $0

$14,385 $0

+ 4% Construction Management Fee Effective Gross Income Uses - Start Up Costs of CLT - Legal Fees - CLT Marketing - 4% Sales Agent Commission - Homebuyer Education Fee -Overhead -Ownership Support Manager (Salary & Benefits) -Program Director (Salary & Benefits) -Construction Manager (Salary & Benefits) Total Expenses Net Operating Income (Surplus) Subsidy Required






Community Land Trusts and Low-Income Multifamily Rental Housing: The Case of Cooper Square, New York City By Tom Angotti With the assistance of Cecilia Jagu

Š 2007 Lincoln Institute of Land Policy

Lincoln Institute of Land Policy Working Paper

The findings and conclusions of this paper are not subject to detailed review and do not necessarily reflect the official views and policies of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. Please do not photocopy without permission of the Institute. Contact the Institute directly with all questions or requests for permission. (

Lincoln Institute Product Code: WP07TA1


Abstract Community land trusts have often promoted owner-occupied single-family housing in rural areas and small towns, but many CLTs have sizeable numbers of multifamily rental and cooperative units. As CLTs are engaged in a national dialogue about “scaling up” production, there is renewed interest in multifamily options in cities. This paper examines the costs and benefits of a multifamily project by the Cooper Square Community Land Trust in New York City. Comparisons are made with new construction and rehab projects of the Burlington Community Land Trust (Burlington, Vermont) and Northern California Land Trust (Berkeley, California). The Cooper Square CLT is a unique case that has so far not been studied. It provides low-income housing with guaranteed long-term affordability in a dense urban setting where gentrification is removing affordable units from the housing stock. Tenant and neighborhood organizing that started over four decades ago, which has resulted in a broad array of community-controlled land, has been a key to Cooper Square’s success, as has support from City government. Cooper Square uses City subsidies more effectively than other programs.


About the Authors Tom Angotti is Professor of Urban Affairs & Planning at Hunter College, City University of New York, and Director of the Hunter College Center for Community Planning & Development. He is editor of Progressive Planning Magazine and Planning Practice & Research, and Land Use columnist for His book We Won’t Move is forthcoming from MIT Press, and he previously authored Housing in Italy and Metropolis 2000. Tom Angotti Professor of Urban Affairs & Planning Hunter College/CUNY 695 Park Avenue New York, NY 10021 tel: 212/650-3130 Cecilia Jagu is a student in the Masters in Urban Planning program at Hunter College, City University of New York.

We would like to acknowledge the help we received from staff of the three CLTs we studied; the generosity and intellectual leadership of John Emmeus Davis; and the significant support of Rosalind Greenstein of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy for this and many other CLT studies.


Table of Contents Introduction: Community Land Trusts and the Single Family Home CLT’s and Multifamily Housing

1 2



Burlington Community Land Trust (BCLT)


The Northern California Land Trust


Selected Projects for Comparison


Table I. Cooper Square and Comparison Projects


New Construction




Development and Financing Costs


Table II. Development Costs Benefits to Households

11 13

Table III. Median Rents and Household Benefits


Table IV. Cooper Square CLT vs. Market Rents


Figure I. Cooper Square vs. Market Rents



15 Table V. Area Median Incomes and CLT Rents

Operating and Maintenance Costs Table VI. Operating and Maintenance Costs Effective Use of Public Subsidies

16 16 17 17

Conclusions: Community Land and Low-Income Multifamily Housing





Community Land Trusts and Low-Income Multifamily Rental Housing: The Case of Cooper Square, New York City

Introduction: Community Land Trusts and the Single Family Home Judging from the promotional literature and websites of Community Land Trusts (CLTs) across the nation, it might appear that the highest priority for community-based housing developers is single family owner-occupied housing. The earliest CLTs started in rural areas, small towns and cities where single family homes are the most common housing type because land is relatively inexpensive. Among the approximately 160 land trusts in the U.S., affordable homeownership has been one of the major objectives, if not the main objective. CLTs provide unique opportunities for first-time homebuyers with modest incomes, preserve affordability when homeowners sell, and maximize the benefits of public subsidies (Davis & Demetrowitz, 2003; Burlington Associates, 2005). On the other hand, public subsidies for the development of affordable homeownership through conventional means usually benefit only the first homeowners, and there are few guarantees of long-term affordability. In such cases in which there are little or no resale restrictions, turnovers may have an added effect of contributing to increases in both land and housing values in areas where affordable homeownership is loosing ground. The CLT model and its resale restrictions, if broadly applied, can limit increases in land and housing values over the long term and help stabilize neighborhoods facing the traumas of speculative land development. In a recent study John Emmeus Davis (2006), demonstrates how the CLT model can be part of a broader strategy for “Shared Equity Homeownership.� Despite the apparent emphasis of CLTs on the promotion of homeownership, a sizeable proportion of the housing provided by the largest CLTs today is for rentals. CLTs have developed rental housing to meet the needs of low-income households, many of which are not in a position to qualify for mortgage financing. The interest in rental housing may also expand as CLTs grow in larger cities where multifamily building types are common. While multifamily housing projects may have different forms of tenure -- including condominium ownership, limited-equity coops, mutual housing, and rental – the larger multifamily building type clearly lends itself more to rentals than do single family homes. Since the Reagan presidency, national housing policy has, at least rhetorically, favored subsidies that promote affordable home ownership over those that finance the construction and maintenance of low-income rental housing. Homeownership is a priority of public policy not only in low-density areas but also in central city neighborhoods. Many local non-profit developers welcome homeownership because it promises to rectify past inequities and racial discrimination in mortgage finance. However, the benefits of homeownership are mixed and even with substantial subsidies homeownership by itself is unable to meet the needs of very low-income populations. Many households cannot qualify for financing even under liberal rules, some are highly mobile, and many have little interest in homeownership. Myths about homeownership sometimes make it the



panacea for all urban ills and create the illusion that rentals are only for poor people (Kemeny, 1986). Upwardly mobile and the very wealthy in fact often prefer rentals; for example, 70% of the housing units in the nation’s wealthiest neighborhood, Manhattan’s Upper East Side, are rentals. It is now becoming clear that, decades after the shift to homeownership promotion, the proportion of U.S. households owning homes has increased only incrementally and at 69% has possibly reached a ceiling. CLTs and Multifamily Housing Recently a dialogue about the need to “scale up” production has emerged in the CLT community, and this brings up the question of whether CLTs should shift their focus and give greater priority to the development of multifamily projects. Until recently, the successes of CLTs have been limited to small cities and towns and rural areas, and compared to more conventional non-profit housing providers CLTs have produced very few units overall. In this highly urbanized nation, CLTs have only a limited presence in large metropolitan areas (Greenstein and Sungu-Erylimaz, 2005). This may be changing as larger cities such as Chicago begin to establish CLTs. Multifamily developments in general are more economically feasible in larger cities where land costs tend to be much higher. But in areas with high land costs, there are also intense pressures on existing affordable housing. Because CLTs can help preserve lowincome housing in areas with rising land costs and rents, they can be an important instrument in urban housing policy. By producing more housing in multifamily buildings CLTs can achieve economies of scale, and at the same time help promote Smart Growth and sustainable, innovative approaches to dense urban development, help stabilize neighborhoods vulnerable to the displacement of affordable housing, and serve as models for local community development corporations (CDCs). In older urban neighborhoods CLTs could consider rehabilitation of existing units, which may require lower capital costs per unit if light and moderate rehab strategies are adopted. This could help save existing rental housing units and, especially when coupled with new construction strategies, maximize the overall number of low-income units. Existing government low-income housing subsidies, especially those for homeownership, are typically of limited duration, have weak or no resale restrictions, and affordable housing units created under these programs often remain affordable for short periods of time. When government subsidies are not renewed (in both homeowner and rental situations) households may be forced to move because they can no longer afford to stay. CLTs are a powerful alternative because they promise long-term affordability. CLTs can operate with different forms of tenure – fee ownership with deed restrictions, limitedequity cooperatives, etc. – and thus can be used with a variety of existing subsidy programs, both rental and ownership. But since homeownership is often out of reach for many very low-income households, and CLTs can secure long-term affordability for this population, CLTs can be especially useful for low-income rental housing. There are good reasons to be wary of major new increases in CLT production. The history of CDCs is littered with the remains of community-based developers that tried to



leap into large-scale development without the management capacity to do so. Some failed to balance development with their social missions and ended up earning the enmity of their community support base -- the case of Banana Kelly in the Bronx (New York) was significant, one of the first and oldest CDCs in the city and country that not too long ago imploded with ambition and corruption. CLT principles include core values of community and resident empowerment as well as long-term affordability (Davis, 1994; Institute for Community Economics, 1982), and if those values are jettisoned CLTs can become deal makers that only mimic the private real estate market and place profit before people. This study examines the costs and benefits of low-income multifamily rental housing provided by the Cooper Square Community Land Trust in New York City. Cooper Square is a unique case of a land trust in a densely developed Manhattan neighborhood that so far has not been studied in depth. All of its 303 housing units are in multifamily buildings, most of them attached and within a three-block area. The buildings are owned and managed by a mutual housing association. Our study finds that the success and survival of the Cooper Square CLT were made possible by decades-long political organizing and support from local government that drastically reduced land and financing costs. The CLT is one element in a broader housing and neighborhood preservation strategy that has deep historical roots in the tenant movement and organizing against abandonment and displacement by urban renewal programs. There is ample potential in New York City for creating many more CLTs. While Cooper Square’s unique history cannot be repeated, if communities are organized and city government provides support, CLTs could help protect a good deal of existing affordable housing and at the same time guarantee the long-term affordability of new housing. We compare the Cooper Square experience with selected multifamily housing projects in two other land trusts: Burlington Community Land Trust (Burlington, Vermont) and Northern California Land Trust (Berkeley, California). The Burlington and Berkeley cases also benefited from supportive political environments. Burlington set the national standard for CLTs because of its successes, operates in an area about the size of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and has a significant stock of multifamily housing. The Northern California trust had roots in a rural area and in recent decades established itself in a relatively low-density suburban part of the San Francisco Bay Area. It is perhaps typical of the many smaller CLTs, but operates within a large metropolitan region. Its multifamily buildings are relatively small and, in contrast to Cooper Square, they are scattered among multiple sites in a relatively low density urban area more typical of U.S. cities than New York. From the vantage point of New York City, Burlington and Berkeley look like small towns. At the 2000 Census, the Burlington area had a population of barely 170,000, compared to some 21 million in New York and 7 million in the San Francisco-OaklandSan Jose Area. However, while the scales of the metropolitan areas are radically different, Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Burlington and Berkeley have roughly comparable numbers of residents, around 150,000.



Our research shows that these land trusts are able to provide multifamily housing at very low cost when compared to local markets, but in all cases this depends on strong local government and/or neighborhood support. We shall show how the successes of Cooper Square are bound up with and part of a broader social and political trend within its neighborhood favoring social ownership and control of land. Cooper Square could be a model for multifamily development in a city that is losing affordable housing units and subsidies at a rapid pace due to gentrification. So far, however, the Cooper Square experience is not well known, either in New York City or beyond, a situation that this study will hopefully help to remedy. When land trusts are one among many tools used to stabilize land values, including public ownership, rent controls, and land use controls, their benefits are maximized. This hypothesis is consistent with the framework introduced by John Emmaus Davis in “Beyond the Market and State” (1994), where he postulates the need for multiple forms of social housing (see also DeFillipis, 2004). We maintain that it is also necessary that communities consciously exert control over land by using a variety of tools, thereby obtaining a social purpose for land. Thus, “social land” or “community land,” is an important concept for preserving and developing neighborhoods in large cities. Community land is land which local residents and businesses control collectively either via public or non-profit ownership or their power to influence tax, fiscal, zoning, and land use policies the influence the way land is used. It has to do with control over economic and financial institutions that otherwise determine local land use and development patterns. It is an issue of political control, not simply one of legal ownership of the land. While it is not within the scope of this paper to fully elaborate this concept, we will attempt to show how the Cooper Square CLT has been part of a broader decades-long struggle in Manhattan’s Lower East Side for community control over land. Since this is the only CLT in the neighborhood, however, it is clear that one of the more powerful available tools to secure community land – the CLT model – has not been fully utilized. THE COOPER SQUARE COMMUNITY LAND TRUST New York City has the largest stock of low-income public housing, publicly assisted housing, and limited-equity coops in the nation, housing close to 800,000 people or ten percent of the city’s population. It has a significant pool of SRO and supportive housing and over 80 community development corporations that produce and manage almost 100,000 units of low-income housing. Over the years, much of this housing developed in response to a dynamic real estate market that placed pressures on affordable rental housing needed to house a large working class and immigrant population. The city’s powerful Real Estate Board of NY (REBNY) boasts that New York is the “Real Estate Capital of the World,” and they can point with pride to a dynamic downtown market that has historically had ripple effects on nearby affordable neighborhoods. New York’s history of liberal social policy has been in many ways defined by conflicts between these forces (see Freeman, 2000).



The Lower East Side of Manhattan is one such neighborhood. This classical immigrant working class neighborhood is sandwiched between the Wall Street and Midtown business districts. While bordered by the two most desirable business districts, it is also the quintessential new immigrant neighborhood. The tenant movement started there in the early 20th century, and grew with support of the Socialist and Communist parties, both of which had large constituencies in the neighborhood (Lawson, 1986). The nation’s first public housing was built there in 1934, and some of the largest projects every built in the city soon followed. The Lower East Side was the site of several large limited-equity coop projects financed in part by union trust funds. Reflecting its radical political history, the Lower East Side’s community board (one of 59 appointed neighborhood boards in the city that vote on land use matters) has been one of the few in Manhattan to welcome homeless housing, supportive housing and SROs when many others tried to keep them out. This large stock of low- and moderate-income housing and an organized tenant movement placed a great deal of land outside the private market and for decades acted as a brake on gentrification and speculative land development. In addition, New York City has had the longest history of local rent controls, and a large proportion of the neighborhood’s renters have been protected from eviction and precipitous rent increases. In the last half century, the neighborhood’s political leadership fought off several developer-driven proposals for zoning changes that would have allowed for high-rise market-rate development in the area. When large-scale abandonment hit the Lower East Side and other low-income neighborhoods in the 1970s, thousands of squatters and homesteaders further expanded the inventory of land and housing that remained outside the purview of a relatively weak private land market. With current moves to privatize public housing and end public support for moderate-income housing, this situation may well change in coming years, but for now the Lower East Side still has one of the largest and most diverse arrays of affordable housing in the city. As other nearby neighborhoods like Greenwich Village rapidly gentrified since 1960, the Lower East Side’s median income relative to the Manhattan median did not change. However, gentrification did occur and continues to occur in a portion of the Lower East Side due to speculative redevelopment of private rental housing and the conversion of rentals to private coops and condominiums (with no resale restrictions). Between 1960 and 2000, the neighborhood lost 29% of its population and 6% of its housing units; 11% of all rentals were lost. The population that left was disproportionately low-income households, who tended to live in rental units, many of which were converted to condominiums. These changes were the combined result of abandonment and gentrification, and illustrate why preserving rental housing is a top priority among neighborhood leaders. (Sites, 2003; Abu-Lughod, 1994) The Cooper Square CLT was created in 1991, but its roots go back to 1959, when planning czar Robert Moses proposed to level an 11-block area in the Lower East Side and replace it with what might now be dubbed “affordable housing” – union-sponsored coops. The Cooper Square Committee (CSC) of residents and businesses organized in opposition to the Moses project stating that even at below-market prices the new coops would be out of reach of the majority of current residents. In 1961, the Committee completed its own plan for the urban renewal area that included preserving existing



housing and building new low-income housing. After ten years of advocacy, the City accepted their Alternate Plan for Cooper Square (Cooper Square Committee, 1961), the first community-initiated plan to be adopted in the city. Shortly thereafter, the City’s fiscal crisis and the federal shift in housing policy away from low-income housing left the neighborhood advocates with few programs with which to implement their plan. Their first low-income project was completed in 1984 using project-based Section 8 funds. It took over two more decades to see the entire urban renewal plan implemented. Currently construction on the remaining vacant lots will result in new mixed-income housing and community facilities supported by the CSC. Negotiated by a new Cooper Square leadership, the latest phase of new housing has almost 70% market-rate units, but even with this new development 60% of all housing in the urban renewal area is still far below-market and houses tenants falling under 50% of the Area Median Income. The buildings in the neighborhood that had been slated for removal under the original urban renewal plan remained, thanks to the opposition of the CSC. However, with the cloud of eminent domain hanging over them, and in the absence of any intervention by the City, these buildings were abandoned by their private owners, in part a product of “planner’s blight.” Building abandonment in the Lower East Side was also a widespread phenomenon outside designated urban renewal areas. In the 1960s and 1970s, New York City landlords walked away from hundreds of thousands of units of multifamily housing occupied by low-income tenants in the South Bronx, Harlem, Central Brooklyn, and the Lower East Side. Lacking heat, hot water and other services, some tenants left; others took over their buildings and kept them operational. Squatters and homesteaders were particularly active in the Lower East Side. The abandoned buildings joined the growing stock of in rem housing (taken by the City for non-payment of taxes). In a matter of a decade the City wound up owning over 150,000 housing units city-wide. Despite calls by housing activists for a land banking policy (Homefront, 1977), the City’s policy was to dispose of the units, either to the tenants or to non-profit or private developers. The Division of Alternative Management Programs (DAMP) of the City’s housing agency, through its Tenant Interim Lease (TIL) program, was responsible for managing the units and planning their ultimate disposition, not for maintaining them in perpetuity. The problem they faced, however, was that most tenants, particularly those in the Lower East Side, were too poor to afford even a minimal down payment, and the formation of stable tenant-run entities in each building was a difficult and long-term task for which the City was ill equipped. The Urban Homesteading Assistance Board (UHAB), a non-profit group established in 1973, successfully guided 27,000 families in 1,300 buildings in the formation of limited-equity coops, and other buildings were either vacated and demolished or sold. The Cooper Square Committee wasn’t just looking to acquire units from the City. It was led by community organizers and tenant advocates who were committed to stopping displacement and preserving existing housing, and they became housing developers only to confront the practical problems they faced when their members found themselves taking more and more responsibility for their buildings. Frances Goldin, Cooper Square’s main organizer for decades, had been a founder and leading activist in the Metropolitan



Council on Housing, the city’s largest tenant organization. Cooper Square helped tenants organize to get the City to provide services in the in rem units. They helped tenants fight evictions.1 After fighting off efforts by the City to get rid of the in rem units and all responsibility for them, in 1990 the CSC faced a more friendly approach in the new administration of Mayor David Dinkins, New York’s first African American mayor, and whose home base, Harlem, was the Lower East Side’s closest ally in the political battles for low-income housing and community control of vacant land. The CSC created the Cooper Square Mutual Housing Association (MHA) in 1991 to manage 303 units of multifamily housing and 23 commercial units in 19 buildings, mostly within three blocks of the urban renewal area. The MHA has a central management covering all the buildings, and is governed by a board made up of two-thirds tenants and one-third appointees of the Land Trust. The cost per household to join the MHA was (and still is) $250. The Cooper Square Community Land Trust was founded in 1991 at the same time as the MHA, with a board made up of one-third tenants and twothirds community residents or public members.2 The Land Trust owns the land on which the MHA buildings reside. The Cooper Square MHA is one of several mutual housing associations in New York City (see Krinsky and Hovde, 1996). Despite other efforts to organize land trusts we found only two currently functioning in New York City – Cooper Square and an East New York (Brooklyn) land trust, also affiliated with a mutual housing association. The housing in the latter land trust consists of several hundred units in 113 buildings that were once in rem and occupied by low-income tenants. ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) was the main community organizer and the Pratt Center for Community & Environmental Development (PICCED) provided technical assistance, as it had with Cooper Square. According to CSC leaders, the principal influence in founding the mutual housing and CLT was the mutual housing model from northern Europe. Dutch students and professionals who interned at CSC made the case for the mutual housing model, which was also supported by housing specialists at PICCED. While there was some initial connection with emerging land trusts in other parts of the U.S., the Cooper Square CLT emerged in relative isolation and has not been a part of national coalitions or had any consistent contact with other land trusts. This isolation may be a product of the dramatic differences between Cooper Square’s central city context and those of other land trusts. At present, they are in the process of seeking State approval for cooperative ownership of the buildings. The new limited-equity coops would remain affordable in the long term under the land trust. In effect, they would continue to function more or less as they have under the mutual housing model. The Cooper Square units are undoubtedly among the lowest cost housing in what is now a partially gentrifying neighborhood. Two bedroom apartments, for example, rent at $431 per month, affordable to households at less than 25% of the Area Median Income (AMI). Since 1991, rents increased only once, in 1994, by slightly more than 3%. We will discuss the significance of these low costs later on.



Since we compare CSC projects with multifamily projects in Burlington and Berkeley, we offer brief background sketches of the other two CLTS. Burlington Community Land Trust (BCLT)3 The BCLT is the largest established land trust in the U.S. and arguably the standard against which other land trusts are measured because of its size, durability and track record of successfully developing and maintaining affordable housing. While BCLT is often looked to for its successful home ownership development programs, it is not often recognized for the lessons it offers to urban community land trusts aiming to develop low-income multifamily rental housing. BCLT fosters homeownership through a program to counsel prospective homebuyers and includes in its portfolio 172 homes. However, over 57% of BCLT’s housing stock is lowincome rentals and limited-equity coops -- about 375 units in all, of which 49 are SROs. According to a recent study of BCLT renters, their median income is less than 50% of the Area Median Income, the apartments and households tend to be smaller, with more children and single parents, fewer elderly, and fewer cars (Gent and Sawyer, 2005). Because if its extensive experience with low-income rentals, BCLT might serve as both a benchmark against which the unique experiences of Cooper Square can be compared, and an indicator of where more developed land trusts may be heading in the future. BCLT’s recent merger with the Lake Champlain Housing Development Corporation, a regional non-profit that manages 1,100 affordable rental units, resulted in the largest regional community land trust in the nation, The Champlain Housing Trust. This will presumably create new opportunities for growth and scale economies in development and management. It remains to be seen whether the new housing corporation will focus development activities in strategic communities where the land trust, along with other forms of non-market ownership, can have a wider effect on stabilizing land values, or spread out over a larger region, thus benefiting individual households without necessarily helping to stabilize land values in communities. While BCLT, acting in concert with the City administration, has focused development in the Old North End and a few other areas, it remains to be seen where the new merged entity will prioritize intervention. The Northern California Land Trust4 The Northern California Land Trust (NCLT) was founded in 1977 in Berkeley, California with the ambition of expanding throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. The trust had its roots in the New Life Farm in Lodi, California, two households set up by peace activists with a vision of improving links between city and countryside. Peace Gardens, a six-unit cooperative in Oakland, started by war tax resisters, was the first urban project. NCLT currently has 94 units of housing in 14 projects, most of them in Berkeley. 38 of the units are coops, 32 are condos, 23 are rentals and there is one single family home. The trust is moving towards a condo and coop base and converting 10 rentals to coops,



leaving only 13 rental units. These totals do not include five commercial units and two units on the New Life Farm. Twenty new condominium units are under construction. NCLT recently rehabilitated and resold 75 foreclosed single family homes under the former HUD 203k program, plus another 11 single family units. The three NCLT projects all provide affordable housing to low-income tenants. Unlike Cooper Square, they are relatively small buildings in scattered locations. Fairview is near a concentration of some 7,000 square feet of NCLT commercial space that is rented at below-market rates to local businesses and service providers. Still, NCLT’s projects are for the most part as sprawled as the metropolitan region. While a proposed transitoriented development at the nearby Ashby BART (rapid transit) station might offer NCLT opportunities for economies of scale, the future of that project is by no means certain. Selected Projects for Comparison We selected six projects for comparison with Cooper Square, three from BCLT and three from NCLT (see Table I). Two of the projects – Maple Tree and Waterfront -- are the largest BCLT multifamily projects and among the most recent new construction projects. The others are rehab projects – BCLT’s BHRIP and NCLT’s Fairview, Addison and Blake Street. The rehab projects are in relatively low-density areas and average around 35 units per building.

Projects Cooper Square New Construction BCLT Waterfront BCLT Maple Tree Rehabilitation BCLT BHRIP NCLT Fairview NCLT Addison NCLT Blake Street

Number Year Number Square of completed Buildings of Units Footage 1996 19 303 221,010 2004 2002

1 1

40 50

55,425 41,644

1997 1996 1996 1998

13 1 1 1

33 9 10 5

26,428 5,640 5,200 3,786

Table I. Cooper Square and Comparison Projects



New Construction •

Maple Tree Place (BCLT). This project is made up of 50 units of low-rise multifamily housing built in 2003. It was built next to a new suburban shopping mall in response to community concerns about the insularity of the mall development. 37 of the units were developed using tax credits and 13 are rented at “market” rate but with project-based Section 8 rent subsidies. Many of the tenants work in the mall.

Waterfront (BCLT). This project has 40 units in a single building first occupied in 2004. This is the first land trust building to be LEEDS certified. 28 of the units have tax credit financing, 10 have project-based Section 8 subsidies, and 12 rent at “market” rates, but 8 of these 12 have some other form of subsidy such as Section 8 vouchers.

Rehabilitation •

BRHIP (Burlington Redevelopment Housing Improvement Program), BCLT. This project totals 33 units of rental housing in 13 buildings. Unlike the other two BCLT projects in our study, these were existing buildings rehabilitated with land trust financing. Located in Burlington’s Old North End, a low-income neighborhood, the BRHIP project was part of a broader City strategy for neighborhood improvement in a low-income area where only 30% of households were homeowners and many failed to qualify for financing.

Fairview (NCLT). Fairview is an 8-unit SRO in Berkeley established as a limitedequity coop in two buildings. Fairview started in the 1970s as a collective household in a privately-owned building. According to one of Fairview’s original tenants, “after ten years of rent strike” the owner walked away from the building in the early 1990s for a modest settlement. To begin with, rents were relatively low as a result of Berkeley’s strict rent regulations;5 when tenants withheld all rent, that removed any incentive for the owner to invest in maintenance and forced the tenants to organize themselves to cover most operating and maintenance costs. As a result of deferred maintenance, the building value had depreciated, but clearly the land cost had grown over the years. Thus, at least in theory, conversion to a CLT reduced the land value dramatically. The tenants saw NCLT’s land trust model as a way to get financing to improve their buildings. Fairview’s collective household, which was one of many in Berkeley’s miniculture of communal living,6 wasn’t bankable because tenants did not have fee ownership of either land or building.

Addison (NCLT). Addison is a 10-unit project in Berkeley established as a limited-equity coop in two buildings. Addison’s tenants wanted to buy their property from an owner who was anxious to sell to them instead of a third party,

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but the tenants had trouble qualifying for loans. Unlike Fairview, Addison was located in a low-income area with relatively flat land values. •

Blake Street (NCLT) includes five units of very low-income rentals in two buildings. Blake’s tenants had very low incomes and were mainly seeking a way to improve their living conditions, and the land trust was able to secure financing and services for this purpose.

Development and Financing Costs As shown in Table II, the development cost (in 2006 dollars)7 for gut rehabilitation of the CSC units is less than for the two new construction projects but somewhat higher than the other rehabilitation projects, with the exception of NCLT’s Addison. This is consistent with the experiences of many other non-profit developers. The higher rehab costs for CSC may have something to do with high labor costs in New York City. Like some of the other rehab projects studied here, the CSC units have no mortgage financing or interest costs and there was no direct cost for acquisition of the land. A single no-interest renewable loan by the City of New York covered gut rehabilitation of the CSC buildings. The highest development costs of all the projects are for BCLT’s Waterfront and Maple Tree, both of which are new construction. Despite a relatively low land cost due to contributions from the City of Burlington, BCLT’s Waterfront development cost is high, and includes a modest additional cost to cover green building and LEEDS certification. The lowest development cost per square foot, in NCLT’s Fairview, may be due to a conscious choice by tenants to undertake only a light rehabilitation. Also, some tenants were contracted to do the work themselves, presumably at a lower cost than if it were contracted out. 8

Projects Cooper Square New Construction BCLT Waterfront BCLT Maple Tree Rehabilitation BCLT BHRIPP NCLT Fairview NCLT Addison NCLT Blake Street


Development Development Cost Cost/SF $26,569,416 $120.22

Land Cost $26

Land/SF $0

109,958 872,269

2 21

3,401,744 2,701,714

7,525,776 6,186,985

135.78 148.57

278,623 62,476 67,196 121,492

10 11 13 32

1,513,707 0 577,884 190,016

2,457,274 426,021 658,519 383,831

92.98 75.54 126.64 101.38


TABLE II. Development Costs (All amounts in 2006 dollars)

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As with Cooper Square, Fairview and Addison had unusually low land costs. Both were the result of owner abandonment, though in somewhat different circumstances. Abandonment in New York City’s Lower East Side had been widespread, and the buildings involved were within a contested urban renewal area. The Berkeley buildings, on the other hand, were in relatively stable low- to moderate-income suburban-style neighborhoods – not the affluent Berkeley hills, but also not densely populated areas of concentrated poverty. In the mid-1990s, NCLT acquired Fairview, Addison and Blake with the help of 30-year low-cost loans by the City of Berkeley, which made possible major renovations in each of the projects. The terms of the City loans are quite favorable: no annual payments need to be made unless there is a positive cash flow (which can be avoided rather easily by adjusting member payments), and after the 30-year term the loan may be renewed. In this sense, the favorable financing of NCLT projects allows the land trust to lower operating costs in much the same way that CSC has done. In the case of Fairview, the City loan helped to pay tenants for their labor in the rehabilitation of the units. Fairview’s $100,000 loan included $46,500 for rehab costs and $45,000 to purchase the property. The coop tenants performed much of the moderate rehabilitation, so what was formally a housing subsidy also doubled as an employment program. While details about wages and income levels of Fairview tenants are not available, we can assume that the wages were set at relatively low, non-union scale and that construction employment was only temporary or part-time. In any case, since tenants are not required to report changes in their incomes, there is no way to monitor the use of these benefits. Addison’s $150,000 loan financed rehabilitation of the property. In addition to a $20,000 down payment from the tenant cooperators, Addison took out a $280,000 loan from a commercial lender to purchase the property from the private owner. While this was a relatively low price (only $30,000 per unit) it also represented an additional burden on Addison’s tenants that Fairview tenants mostly avoided. Construction was contracted out and Addison tenants did not work on the rehab. Since Addison was located in a lowincome neighborhood that has experienced gentrification since 1997, the market value of land in the area has increased dramatically.9 Blake Street’s $150,000 loan included $45,000 for rehab costs and $85,000 for property acquisition. The steep financing costs combined with a tenant profile including very low income and some physically or mentally challenged tenants mean that Blake Street has a significant annual net operating loss -- about $6,500 per year ($1,300 per unit).

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Benefits to Households While there has been a good deal of discussion and research about the benefits of homeownership to low-income households, there has been very little recognition of the benefits of below-market rental occupancy. Homeownership provides opportunities to households for equity accumulation, contributes to stability of tenure, and may provide other social and psychological benefits to household members, and contribute to neighborhood stability. Although the benefits to low-income homeowners may not be as great as for middle- and upper-income homeowners, and they may be more vulnerable to foreclosures and financial losses (Rossi and Weber, 1996; Belsky, Retsinas and Duda, 2005), the focus on homeownership tends to underplay the benefits of rental housing. Cooper Square clearly provides housing at significantly less than market rent. While homeownership opportunities may create opportunities for savings and equity accumulation, Cooper Square and other CLT tenants also have opportunities to expand household disposable income and savings. In Table III we calculated the annual household potential for savings as the difference between the Census median rent and the CLT median rent.10These numbers are conservative since they do not take into account rent vouchers available to tenants, which further lower household payments. Since rents in CLT housing tend to cluster closely around the median, the comparison most likely understates the differences with the market. Also, we assume that no household in the census tract pays more than 30% of income on rent when many do in reality. Table III shows that the average Cooper Square household had a potential for saving over $4,000 per year on housing costs. CSC tenant benefits are much greater than for the new construction projects – BCLT’s Waterfront and Maple Tree. This may be a consequence of the higher development costs for new construction. The benefits are fairly similar to NCLT’s Addison and Blake Street, but much less than NCLT’s Fairview and BCLT’s BHRIP. Fairview’s favorable rents may have something to do with relatively low monthly operating and maintenance costs, but this does not appear to be the case with BHRIP. CLT tenants in the limited equity cooperatives (Fairview and Addison) may realize modest equity gains over the course of their tenancy. However, the potential for household savings due to low rents may be even greater. In homeowner or coop options, similar benefits might be folded into equity gains and not realized until sale of the unit.

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Median Rent 2006 $ (1) 405

Census Median Rent 2006 $ (2) 771.1

Annual HH Savings Potential Since Development (3) $4,393

Total Since Development (4) $43,932

Projects Cooper Square New Construction BCLT Waterfront 762 737.6 -293 -586 BCLT Maple Tree 533 737.6 2,449 9,797 Rehabilitation BCLT BHRIPP 182 737.6 6,667 60,005 NCLT Fairview 344 883.3 6,472 64,716 NCLT Addison 500 883.3 4,600 45,996 NCLT Blake Street 501 883.3 4,588 27,526 (1) Based on 2006 data from CLTs (2) Based on Census Bureau data from 2000 (3) Based on assumption that tenants have moved in first year of development. Difference between the median market rent and CLT rent (4) Savings per year multiplied by number years since development TABLE III. Median Rents And Household Benefits We used the Census rent figures instead of figures for units currently on the market; the latter are consistently higher. If CLT tenants in Cooper Square had to leave their apartments and find comparably-sized housing on the market, they would likely face rents about five times as high as the rents they currently pay, as shown in Table IV and Figure 1.

Apt. Type Studio 1 Bedroom 2 Bedroom 3 Bedroom

Cooper Square Rent $285 379 431 578

Market Rent (Craigslist) $1,400 1,600 2,200 3,000

TABLE IV. Cooper Square CLT vs. Market Rents

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FIGURE 1. Cooper Square vs. Market Rents While we were not able to get precise data on rent increases over the course of the projects, it is clear that rent increases are far below increases normally found in market rents. Cooper Square’s rents, for example, increased less than 4% in 10 years in a market that almost doubled in the same period. The average annual increase allowed under New York City’s rent stabilization is normally around 3-4% annually. We do not know how households utilize the increases in disposable income, though one might assume that a portion is spent in the local community and contributes to overall community development. Savings by owner-occupiers, on the other hand, tend to be in the form of equity gains that are realized at sale and often get reinvested in real estate, except when owners borrow against their equity to make purchases. It may be significant that the rental savings in at least half of the CLT cases would easily cover a 10% down payment to purchase a home after only ten years. It would be interesting in future research to track renters who have left CLT rental units and learn how many of them bought homes. Affordability CSC’s multifamily housing serves very low-income households. This is generally true, however, for all of the projects studied here, as shown in Table V. All of the projects are serving households falling below 45% of the Area Median Income, and most frequently under 30%. Throughout New York City over 25% of all households pay more than 50% of their incomes for rent; Cooper Square’s extremely low rents are thus even more

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advantageous than shown by our calculations. BCLT’s BHRIP and NCLT’s Fairview serve tenants with even lower incomes than CSC.

PROJECT Cooper Square New Construction BCLT Waterfront BCLT Maple Tree Rehabilitation BCLT BHRIP NCLT Fairview NCLT Addison NCLT Blake Street

AMI 2006 $ $70,900

Median CLT CLT HH Rent Income as % 2006 $ of AMI (1) 405 22.8%

$70,500 $70,500

762 43.2% 534 30.3% Rehabilitatio n Rehabilitation $70,500 182 10.3% $83,800 344 16.4% $83,800 500 23.9% $83,800 501 23.9%

(1) Definition of Area Median Income (AMI): HUD estimates the median family income for an area in the current year and adjusts that amount for different family sizes. The AMI is estimated for a family of four including two children. The table assumes that households pay 30% of income for rent. TABLE V. Area Median Incomes And CLT Rents Operating and Maintenance Costs Cooper Square’s operating and maintenance costs per square foot are comparable to those in other projects, both new construction and rehabs (see Table VI). Only BCLT’s BHRIP had significantly higher costs. BCLT management acknowledged the higher costs and attributed it in part to the scattering of the units and to their rental tenure. Management at both BCLT and NCLT suggested that coop maintenance costs tended to be lower because tenants take responsibility for some management tasks without compensation. Cooperators may also economize on such things as fuel or energy costs because they see a direct link between these costs and their monthly payments. On the other hand, strictly rental units rely on central maintenance for more things, and the added costs may well outweigh any scale economies of central maintenance.

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Projects Cooper Square New Construction BCLT Waterfront BCLT Maple Tree Rehabilitation BCLT BHRIP NCLT Fairview NCLT Addison NCLT Blake Street

Annual Cost/S F O & M Cost $1,465,759 $7 443,746 248,063

8 6

280,670 37,152 40,000 27,166

11 7 8 7

TABLE VI. Operating And Maintenance Costs NCLT’s management considers Blake Street among the costliest to maintain, and the project operates at a net loss when expenses are calculated on a per unit basis. However, when looking at costs on a per square foot basis, we find only marginal differences between Blake Street and the other projects under study. It is not clear whether this is due to a large unit size in Blake Street, but it does suggest that any conclusions that higher operating costs are necessarily due to scattered-site low-density configurations, as in the case of BHRIP, require further study. Effective Use of Public Subsidies Does Cooper Square more effectively spend public subsidy dollars than other forms of low-income housing in New York City? There are different ways of looking at this question. One is to consider the extent to which public subsidies are recaptured. For example, when new homeowners that received subsidies sell their homes, the subsidies may be recaptured and used to support other new homeowners. Subsidy recapture has not been a major policy priority for many public programs (see Cohen, 1994; Olsen, 2000) nor has it been the case in New York City. Another way to look at the effectiveness of subsidies is to compare the number of years of affordable housing each dollar of public subsidy will buy. While it would take much more extensive study to compare Cooper Square to all other programs in the city, we are able to make some rough approximations to the issue here. Our preliminary analysis suggests that the Cooper Square CLT more effectively spends public subsidies than other City programs for low-income multifamily housing. The largest new housing production program in New York City since the 1980s financed the construction of new “affordable” housing mostly on City-owned vacant land through the New York City Housing Partnership, a public-private collaboration financed by the City. This program, backed by the city’s real estate industry, involved building on Cityowned land, which was provided free. Due to widespread housing abandonment in the neighborhoods where this land was located, the land had little or no market value, and there was no direct cost to government for the land. The same was true for the land in the Lower East Side that Cooper Square occupied. The typical public subsidy for the 17 81

homeownership program was about $25-35,000 per unit for one to three-family homes. The City’s New Partnership Homes program, which incorporates many more multifamily buildings than the original homeownership program, has produced 20,000 units of housing and another 1,000 are under construction. The City contributes up to $10,000 per unit and the State of New York up to $40,000, and the City holds a no-interest second mortgage on the property. In these programs, resale restrictions are minimal: owners can sell after three years, and after ten years they can sell without repayment of the second mortgage. Homes were generally sold to households earning up to 120% of the AMI, and sometimes as high as 160% (every project is a unique “deal”). In these programs almost none of the public subsidy is recaptured. Any increases in house value accrue to the individual households. The City gets the land back on the tax rolls, but since houses with four units or less, the majority of the original Partnership program, tend to be underassessed, we estimate it would take over 45 years to recover the initial public investment from tax revenues, though some or all of this repayment may be used to finance City services. In cases where the new housing was in neighborhoods that would later gentrify, the program turned out to be a windfall for the original owners but the housing quickly lost all pretext at being affordable.11 In cases where the new housing was in neighborhoods that did not gentrify, usually communities of color farthest from the center of the city, owners were often saddled with property they could not maintain, and were vulnerable to refinancing scams and foreclosures, the bane of communities that were once redlined (see Bajaj and Nixon, 2006). In addition, most original Partnership homes were 2-3 family structures; the renters received no direct benefits and their units were not covered by rent and eviction controls. The development cost per square foot for Cooper Square is about the same as for Partnership units. But Cooper Square is likely to remain affordable for decades to come and the Partnership units are guaranteed to remain affordable for only three years.12 Using very conservative assumptions that Cooper Square provides affordable housing for only 50 years, and Partnership homes remain affordable for ten years, the Cooper Square units cost on average $1,900 per year in subsidies, compared to over $3-5,000 for the Partnership units. This doesn’t take into account the rental units in the Partnership projects, which received equal amounts of subsidy but from the day of sale rented at market rate with no guarantee of affordability; however, the portion of subsidy that goes towards development of the rental unit effectively helps increase homeowner affordability and enhance the homeowner’s ability to resell and realize equity gains. Thus, one result of this program has been to expand the economic gap between homeowner and renters. No matter how we annualize this cost, the City clearly got a better deal in the long run by investing in Cooper Square than it did with its Partnership project; the land trust essentially allowed for retention of the public subsidy. This does not change significantly even if we reduce the benefit by the average $1,500 per unit in tax abatements each Cooper Square apartment received over ten years (these abatements may no longer apply

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once Cooper Square becomes a legal coop; all of the other coops we studied pay local taxes but usually at a reduced rate). An unknown proportion of the Partnership units are no longer affordable, but even a cursory review of the location of these units leads to the inescapable impression that most have been swallowed up in the overheated surge in the city’s real estate market over the last decade. Every unit of Partnership housing that is no longer affordable means a net loss of an affordable unit in a city that has a seemingly endless need for them. If the City were to pay the price for that loss today it would require another $150,000 – the cost to develop the average new affordable unit. Also, to the extent that Partnership houses contribute to land value increases in the neighborhoods where they are built – indeed, such is the aim of the City’s policy – they push other housing out of the reach of low- and moderate-income families. Partnership units typically used prefabricated components while Cooper Square’s solid masonry buildings, many of them already a century old, clearly have a longer lifetime and are more energy efficient than large numbers of Partnership homes because they retain heat in the winter and cool air in the summer. Visitors to New York City can easily corroborate this, and while going through Cooper Square’s rowhouse inventory only a few blocks away they will find First Houses, the nation’s first public housing project, a high quality rehab demonstration that should have become the model for all public housing. HomeWorks, a more recent addition to the City’s housing programs, is a rehab program roughly modeled on the Partnership approach. Since it is a rehab program, it is worth comparing to Cooper Square. Through HomeWorks 215 City-owned properties have been redeveloped in Manhattan, especially in Harlem, and 200 in Brooklyn. Many of them are rowhouses, like Cooper Square’s buildings, in densely developed areas like the Lower East Side. Income-eligible owners compete for the buildings through a lottery and once they purchase the homes the only restrictions are that they must live on the property for six years or pay a penalty. New owners have reported dramatic short-term capital gains, and the program appears to serve more as wealth-creation for a small number of households than as a stable source of affordable housing. Capital growth has been especially significant for those who bought just before the onset of the most intense land value increases. One owner resold his property for $1.34 million after just two years, and while facing a $30,000 penalty he received $900,000 in profit.13 We did a rough overall comparison of Cooper Square to the average TIL building (see page 8 for an explanation of TIL).14 The average capital contribution by the City for rehabilitation under this program was $55,000 per unit. The average TIL building was managed by the City for 16 years before being sold to a limited-equity coop, with training and support from the non-profit Urban Housing Assistance Board (UHAB). The cost for purchase by each household is $250, the same as for Cooper Square’s MHA.15 While this could easily be a formula for long-term affordability if it reduces monthly charges to tenants, one thing is missing: resale restrictions. After conversion to coops, the tenants can decide to go private if they pay the City 40% of the price of the sale. In areas with

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rampant land speculation, this is a weak incentive, and the temptation to evade the restrictions by making all-cash side deals or conceal contracts from the City is high. Sales in coops financed by the City’s financing agency are income-restricted but these restrictions expire with the City’s 20-year financing. A major problem is that the City does not have an adequate system to monitor TIL buildings once they’ve been converted to coops. Some TIL buildings experience just the opposite problem: inability to sustain themselves financially due to low tenant incomes or poor management. A 1998 audit of 45 TIL buildings by the New York City Comptroller found that 28 were in tax arrears and 15 were in danger of tax foreclosure. These buildings may qualify for limited tax abatements, but clearly all the dreams of solving the housing problem by putting buildings back on the tax rolls have not become reality, and the promise that public spending on affordable housing is bound to yield future tax revenues has also proven illusory. In sum, programs created to prevent land banking by the City have turned out to be the biggest lost opportunity to create affordable housing for generations to come. With minimum capital cost and financing, the City could have preserved this stock of Cityowned property following a model similar to Cooper Square. However, to do this the City would probably have to change its policy from one of disassociating itself from buildings and their tenants to a posture of support, similar to the way Burlington and Berkeley dealt with their CLT partners. Land banking and the Cooper Square model may not be applicable in areas that already have extremely high land values, since it depends on relatively low cost land, but even when land values are high CLTs can help retain public subsidies and limit the need for future subsidies. In general, Cooper Square’s financing is similar to federally-subsidized public housing, where there are no land or finance costs to the developer. However, unlike public housing Cooper Square requires no operating subsidies. Cooper Square rents are low enough so that most tenants do not have to rely on Section 8 vouchers (only 25% do), thus reducing annual public subsidies to a minimum (mostly property tax abatements). The minimal use of Section 8 deprives Cooper Square of a potentially lucrative source of income, since the gap between the AMI and tenant incomes is substantial. However, since the federal government has been reducing the number of new Section 8 vouchers, in the long term this program may not be sustainable. The Cooper Square model may end up being a better key to long-term sustainability for low-income housing. BCLT’s projects and NCLT’s Blake Street rely heavily on Section 8 subsidies. In the case of BCLT’s Waterfront and Maple Tree projects, relatively high new construction costs require the use of other subsidies, like low-income housing tax credits (LIHTC). From the point of view of the local communities and community-based housing developers, every unit that can be produced without these subsidies is a net gain because those subsidies can be used elsewhere to multiply the number of units of low-income housing. States and municipalities have finite allocations of Section 8 and LIHTC subsidies, so the total benefit to them, in terms of numbers of units, can never go beyond

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these allocation limits. The Cooper Square model can therefore be a useful option in helping to maximize the number of affordable housing units given a finite amount of public subsidies. New York City is now losing affordable units faster than it is building them (Scott, 2006). The current administration has set a goal of creating 165,000 units of affordable housing yet if existing affordable units continue to be lost at the current rate, losses will outweigh gains. A recent study by the Community Service Society found that between 1990 and 2005 almost one-fourth of all federally assisted apartments were lost, and perhaps over 10% of all non-market housing. City and State-funded limited-equity coops (Mitchell-Lama coops) are disappearing at the rate of over 4,000 units per year. This program, which might have financed the Robert Moses project in the Cooper Square Urban Renewal Area, allows building owners to opt out of the program after 20 years. A stone’s throw from Cooper Square, one of the oldest limited-equity coop projects recently went private, and apartments were sold at over 10 times their original value with monthly maintenance payments nearly tripling. Up to now, the New York City Housing Authority has lost only a small number of units through Hope VI projects but the authority is exploring rent increases and privatization strategies to deal with declining operating subsidies from Washington. Finally, the latest revision to the city’s rent law allows landlords to remove apartments from rent regulation once rents exceed $2,000 per month – placing more affordable rental units in gentrifying neighborhoods at risk. Conclusions: Community Land and Low-Income Multifamily Housing The Cooper Square CLT is helping to insure long-term affordability at a time when many public subsidy programs either fail to restrict conversion to market-rate housing or are being cut back. CLT protections do not now apply to most of the city’s affordable housing stock. This presents new opportunities for “scaling up” and using land trusts to safeguard these units. CLTs could produce and protect many more multifamily rentals and coops in large cities where land costs are high, and it is clear that this potential is far from being realized. Our study shows that rehabilitation of existing multifamily units is marginally less expensive than new construction, and maintenance of multifamily projects isn’t necessarily cheaper. However, in central city neighborhoods like New York City’s Lower East Side, where land costs were originally low and there was a significant stock of abandoned housing units, rehabilitation proved to be a feasible approach. Effective management in concentrated rather than scattered-site multifamily housing can lower costs, although this benefit does not appear to be substantial. Low-income tenants in Cooper Square also benefit from significant additions to their disposable incomes. There are also non-material benefits such as building community and a sense of solidarity that are not as easily attained in scatter-site homeownership projects. As former NCLT director Mary Carlton told us, “it’s hard to build community out of such disparate properties.”16

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The net result of Cooper Square’s long-term struggle to preserve and develop low-income housing in an 11-block urban renewal area is a mix of 60% low-income and 40% marketrate housing, a far cry from the typical 80% market/20% “affordable” split now common in developing neighborhoods. This is even more dramatic when considering that current definitions of affordability used by the City may go as high as 160% of federal AMI and in some cases exclude all households earning under 50% of AMI. In Cooper Square as in the other areas studied, local political support is essential to CLT development. In New York and Burlington, the CLTs are part of broader communitybased development strategies that reinforce non-market, community control of land – community land. In Cooper Square, minimal land and financing costs combined with decades-long organizing by tenants to secure support from the City. This support ranged from allowing tenants to stay and manage the property to providing funds for rehabilitation and favorable tax status. The result was 303 units of stable low-income housing, plus affordable commercial units, in a dense neighborhood sandwiched between two business districts where land values are currently growing rapidly. Skeptics might assert that not every neighborhood and community organization has the political savvy, long-term vision, and determination to fight the long fight that Cooper Square has, but a careful look at many other neighborhoods in the city will show that Cooper Square is not alone (Angotti, forthcoming). Furthermore, the persistence of Cooper Square and many other community-based organizations has created more favorable conditions for the growth of land trusts in the city. And with a City administration today that is talking about preserving long-term affordability, and considering wider support of CLTs, many neighborhood groups may be relieved of the need to wage such persistent struggles. Cooper Square’s experience could apply to other New York neighborhoods that are now relatively affordable but face potentially dramatic increases in land values. Land may not be “free” as it was three decades ago but it may be much less expensive now than it will be ten or twenty years from now, when any public subsidies will have to contend with a thoroughly prohibitive land market. The CLT model can also be adopted by CDCs in these neighborhoods as a sort of insurance policy to protect their units from drastic changes in markets and public policy. But the CLT model could also be relevant under just the opposite conditions, in neighborhoods with stagnating or declining land values. The financial pages of local newspapers now predict an overall decline in the local housing market in the coming years. The prospect of a new period of cyclical decline could open up possibilities for the City to reconsider its stubborn rejection of land banking as a strategy. If the market takes a dip, the City’s current use of linkage and inclusionary zoning bonuses to produce new affordable units will slow, and the City will be forced to shift its focus on building new affordable housing to areas with little market interest instead of those facing rapid gentrification. In sum, whether the next short-term cyclical swing is up or down, and whether the City decides to concentrate its subsidies in relatively stable or gentrifying neighborhoods, the CLT model could help preserve and create more low-income multifamily units over a

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longer period of time with the same limited public investment. At a time when the City administration is launching an unprecedented long-term strategic planning process, the advantages of CLTs should not be ignored.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY Abu-Lughod, Janet L. 1994 From Urban Village to East Village: The Battle for New York’s Lower East Side. Oxford: Blackwell. Angotti, Tom Forthcoming, We Won’t Move: Community Planning in “The Real Estate Capital of the World,” MIT Press. Burlington Associates in Community Development 2005 CLT vs. Conventional Market. Burlington. 2003 The Community Land Trust, An Overview. Burlington, VT. Bajaj, Vikas and Ron Nixon 2006 “For Minorities, Signs of Trouble in Foreclosures,” The New York Times, February 22 (1, C8). Belsky, Eric S., Nicolas P. Retsinas and Mark Duda 2005 The Financial Returns to Low-income Homeownership. Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard University. Cohen, Helen S. 1984 “Diminishing Returns: A Critical Look at Subsidy Recapture.” In Davis, 1994 (107-121). Cooper Square Committee 1961 An Alternative Plan for Cooper Square. New York. Davis, John Emmeus 2006 Shared Equity Homeownership, The Changing Landscape of ResaleRestricted, Owner-Occupied Housing. W. Orange, NJ: National Housing Institute. 1994 Editor, The Affordable City, Toward a Third Sector Housing Policy. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Davis, John Emmeus and Amy Demetrowitz 2003 Permanently Affordable Homeownership: Does the Community Land Trust Deliver on Its Promises? Burlington, VT: Burlington Community Land Trust. DeFilippis, James 2004 Unmaking Goliath: Community Control in the Face of Global Capital. New York: Routledge.

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Freeman, Joshua 2000 Working Class New York: Life and Labor Since World War II. New York: New Press. Gent, Cathleen, Will Sawyer. John Emmens Davis, and Alison Weber 2005 Evaluating the Benefits of Living in the Burlington Community Land Trust’s Rental Housing and Cooperative Housing. Burlington: Center for Rural Studies, University of Vermont. Greenstein, Rosalind and Sungu-Erylimaz, Yesim 2005 “Community Land Trusts: Leasing Land for Affordable Housing,” Land Lines Newsletter, 17:2, April. Homefront 1977 Housing Abandonment in New York City. New York. Institute for Community Economics 1982 The Community Land Trust Handbook. Springfield, Mass. Kemeny, Jim 1986 “A Critique of Homeownership,” in Bratt, Rachel G., Chester Hartman and Ann Meyerson, Eds. Critical Perspectives on Housing. Philadelphia: Temple University Press (272-276). Krinsky, John and Sarah Hovde 1996 Balancing Acts: The Experience of Mutual Housing Associations and Community Land Trusts in Urban Neighborhoods. New York: Community Service Society of New York. Lawson, Ronald 1986 The Tenant Movement in New York City. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. Olsen, Edgar O. 2000 The Cost-Effectiveness of Alternative Methods of Delivering Housing Subsidies. Department of Economics, University of Virginia. Rossi, Peter H. And Eleanor Weber 1996 “The Social Benefits of Homeownership: Empirical Evidence from National Surveys,” Housing Policy Debate, 7:1 (1-35). Scott, Janny 2006 “Lower-Priced Housing Is Vanishing at a Faster Pace,” The New York Times, May 27 (B3).

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Sites, William 2003 Remaking New York: Primitive Globalization and the Politics of Urban Community. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. OTHER WORKS CONSULTED Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy 2005 Reducing the Cost of New Housing Construction in New York City. Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, The New York University School of Law Department of City Planning 2007 Proposed Consolidated Plan 2007 - Volume 1. Department of City Planning, City of New York.


Based on multiple interviews with Frances Goldin; Walter Thabit, the planner responsible for the Alternate Plan; and Valerio Orselli, former director of the Cooper Square Committee and current director of the Cooper Square Mutual Housing Association. 2 This is different than the “classic” CLT membership which includes three instead of two classes of directors. We were not able to find a reason for this difference. 3 Interviews and data were generously provided by BCLT Director Brenda Torpey; Gail Beck, Director of Property Management; and Amy Demetrovitz, Project Developer, during a three-day visit to BCLT in May, 2006. 4 Ian Winters, NCLT Director and NCLT staff member Hank Obermeyer provided useful information and access to NCLT files. 5 Berkeley’s rent controls are no longer in force and vacancy decontrol applies to those units originally covered. 6 Another NCLT property, East-West, the only one in San Francisco, was an intentional community made up of students of Zen poet Alan Watts. 7 Development costs are defined as costs to the developer (the land trust). They include all costs for land, construction, and financing. The costs do not reflect the value of free land, discounted interest, tax relief, or other government subsidies. 8 Development costs for Cooper Square are 20% lower than average development costs for New York City (about $150 per square foot). Costs for Waterfront were 17% higher than the average for Burlington ($115 per square foot) and Maple Tree was 30% higher. In all of the rehabilitation projects, development costs were below average. The lowest was Fairview, about half the area average ($140 per square foot). 9 Interview with Addison Board member Liza, July 4, 2006. 10 This is admittedly a crude measure and does not take into account many variables, including differences between contract rent and total housing costs, variations among neighborhoods and between cities, and disparities in household incomes, 11 In the interest of full disclosure, the main author of this article became part owner of a twofamily Partnership home built in 1986. He bought in 1996 at about twice the price paid by the original owner, today the property is worth about 8 times its original value in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, and if sold at current market value the new buyer(s) would need to be making over twice the AMI.

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Aside from Maple Tree, with a development cost of $109 per square foot, the other projects studied have development costs slightly under the cost for the Partnership homes. 13 Josh Barbanel, “Reaping a Profit, With the City’s Help,” New York Times. September 3, 2006. Real Estate Section, 1,10. 14 We attempted to secure hard data about tenants and tenancy for individual TIL buildings but were unsuccessful, both because reliable data is not systematically kept and coop boards are reluctant to share it. However, wedid speak informally with housing officials, organizers and some TIL tenants. 15 This price was set decades ago by the City’s housing agency as an incentive to get low-income tenants to buy. 16 Interview with Mary Carlton, September 23, 2006.

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CHURCH AS COMMUNITY HUB Based on collaboration with Braden Crooks, the concept of St. Jacobi as an organizing space is quite brilliant. Reflecting on the idea that religious/sacred space is pre-capitalist, the potential of La Union linking with the Church can radically alter the future path of space acquisition considering the legal benefits of sacred space. One could see St. Jacobi as a possible engine to push the Community Land Trust – as many churches in the ‘70s and ‘80s had done so for their less-than-fortunate parishioners. While the issue of religion could be a matter of contention for anyone, the importance of this idea lays within the fact that this land and its tenure is beyond the sphere of capitalism until the church must sell as it has no use for it or developers come in.




HOUSING “As every poor or working class New Yorker knows, the city has a chronic shortage of decent affordable housing. Single poor or working class adults routinely live with roommates, many people live with relatives rather than setting up housekeeping on their own, families often live doubled up with distant relatives or even families they aren’t related to because, in the words of populist former mayoral candidate Jimmy McMillan, “the rent is too damned high” in this city.” NO VACANCY

N E R E H T “ D E N M A D 95


O O T S I T N ” H G I H D 119_BANKING ON VACANCY: Picture the Homeless NYC Indymedia, September 21, 2012


Why New York City has a housing shortage and a housing surplus at the same time By Gregory A. Butler

As every poor or working class New Yorker knows, the city has a chronic shortage of decent affordable housing. Single poor or working class adults routinely live with roommates, many people live with relatives rather than setting up housekeeping on their own, families often live doubled up with distant relatives or even families they aren’t related to because, in the words of populist former mayoral candidate Jimmy McMillan, “the rent is too damned high” in this city. Indeed the rents are too damned high – an average 2 bedroom apartment in Upper Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx or Brooklyn rents for about $ 1,800 a month. In the rest of Manhattan, an average studio apartment (one big room with a kitchen off to one side and a bathroom) rents for around $ 2,500/mo. If you need a 2 bedroom, it’s around $ 4,000/mo! Those are the prices for “walkups” (apartments in buildings with no elevator, where you may have to walk up seven flights of stairs to get to your apartment). These apartments aren’t that big either. The average studio is around 250 square feet – a “large” (by New York standards) 2 bedroom might be 1,400 square feet. Almost always, electricity and gas are extra. In the newer luxury buildings with elevators and doormen, rents start at $ 3,000/mo for a studio and up to $ 6,400/mo for a two bedroom. A lot of those apartments are co-ops or condominiums where tenants have to purchase their apartments – in Manhattan, that works out to $ 380,000 (plus interest, mortgage costs and legal fees) for a studio, and one and a quarter million dollars ($ 1,250,000) plus interest, costs and fees for a two bedroom. On top of that you still have to pay rent (called a “maintenance fee” in co-ops and condos) and, unlike rental apartments, you have to pay for any repair work needed in your apartment yourself. That’s a lot of money in a city where 10% of the workforce earn the minimum wage, $ 7.25/hr ($4.25/hr if you’re a tipped restaurant worker, as many New Yorkers are), about 10% of the workforce make less than that working off the books and over 1.8 million people (a quarter of the city’s population) are poor enough to be on food stamps. This is a city of renters (70% of the population live in rental housing) and 45% of working class New Yorkers pay more than one third of their income for rent. At the same time as there is a housing shortage for New York City’s poor, and for the workers whose labor makes the city run, there is actually a surplus of vacant apartments. New York real estate developers built 231,000 apartments during the 2000s and many of those units are sitting vacant and unrented. In Harlem, the Financial District and Williamsburg, the three city neighborhoods with the most housing construction in the 2000s, there are whole buildings that sit abandoned. 97

Because of this housing glut, the Real Estate Board of New York projects that only about 73,000 apartments will be built in this city in the next 10 years, or about the same number that were built in the 1990s. Over half of that – 40,000 units - will be in two luxury megadevelopments, Hudson Yards on the West Side of Manhattan and Atlantic Yards in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Needless to say, not a one of the 20,000 apartments that billionaire Bruce Ratner is building in Prospect Heights will be affordable to the average working class or poor New Yorker, not even the so called “affordable” ones. The same goes for the 20,000 apartments that billionaire Steve Ross is building on the Far West Side (again, even the so called “affordable” apartments, which are only “affordable” to the minority of New Yorkers who make more than $ 64,000/yr) Incidentally, nary a one of those projected 73,000 new units will be a New York City Housing Authority public housing project apartment, despite the fact that 161,000 New Yorkers poor enough to be eligible for public housing sit on NYCHA’s waiting list. NYCHA didn’t build a single new unit during the 2000s either – the last new public housing project apartment building in the city was built in the mid 1990s, when the waiting list was about as long as it is now. How can there be a housing glut and a housing shortage at the same time in the same place? Especially since a lot of those apartments were built with taxpayer subsidies explicitly intended to pay for “affordable housing”? It’s also curious that a lot of that so called “affordable housing” can only be afforded by the rich and the upper middle classes, rather than the working class and poor folks that were supposed to benefit from those apartments. It’s even more curious, and downright offensive, that the highly skilled carpenters, electricians, plumbers, masons, painters and laborers who built many of those publicly subsidized so called “affordable” units were often brutally underpaid. Wages ranged from $ 4/hr to $ 10/hr for laborers and helpers, $ 7/hr to $ 15/hr for skilled trades workers, with no benefits, on jobs that were built with taxpayer subsidies and should have been covered by prevailing wage laws but due to a loophole were exempt. Even the minority of those apartments that were built union were often built by workers paid less than full union scale. At the beginning of the decade, there were contractors who illegally paid their “company men” (steady employees) less than union scale in return for steady work. By the end of the decade, union contractors got most of the trades to openly impose 20% pay cuts on their workers on residential projects. In other words, high rent housing built by underpaid labor, with all the extra profits from this double edged ripoff going into the hands of a few very rich men. Let’s take a look at how we got to that place and explore some ideas about what we can do about it.


19th century New York was a lot like the NYC of today. The rich lived in palaces while the poor and working class lived in overcrowded squalor. The tradesmen who built both tenements and mansions were brutally underpaid as well. The construction workers organized – bricklayers and plasterers got unionized in the 1860s, carpenters in the 1870s, painters, boilermakers, sheet metal workers and plumbers in the 1880s, ironworkers, asbestos workers, lathers, operating engineers and electricians in the 1890s and roofers, elevator constructors, teamsters and laborers in the 1900s. By 1903 the NYC Building & Construction Trades Council and the Building Trades Employers Association had signed a citywide agreement (the New York Plan) that required all builders in the city to use all union labor on their jobs, both commercial and residential and to only hire subcontractors that were also 100% union. Under the umbrella of the New York Plan, the 16 unions in the Building & Construction Trades Council and the employers’ associations in the BTEA signed trade agreements for each craft and each group of contractors, covering the entire construction industry in the city. For the next 75 years, every building that was put up in the city, from Park Avenue mansions to Grand Street slum tenements, was built 100% union. That was a great change in the working conditions of many New Yorkers, but it didn’t change their living conditions. Only the rich, the upper middle classes and the few workers lucky enough to own their own homes had good housing, in many cases enjoying some of the most beautiful, modern and stylish urban residences on the planet at the time. The working classes, the poor and the lower middle classes (especially those who were Blacks or recent immigrants from Europe) lived in tenement squalor, paying high rents for substandard apartments in poorly maintained buildings. By the mid 1920s, tenant activist groups, often led by members of the Communist Party, began to fight for better housing for New York’s working classes. This struggle caught fire during the Great Depression, when many poor and working class tenants faced eviction because they just could not pay their rent. In many cases, evicted tenants and their neighbors would join forces with the tenant activists and forcibly prevent evictions. These protests, and similar protests by communist or socialist led tenant and unemployed activists in other cities around the country, forced federal, state and local governments to actually do something about substandard housing for the working class and poor. New York City was one of the first communities to act, when it created the New York City Housing Authority in 1934. The NYCHA, using union contractors employing union labor paid for by funds from the federal Public Works Administration, began “slum clearance” projects in two of Manhattan’s poorest ghettoes, East Harlem and the Lower East Side. Shortly thereafter, similar projects were built in slums in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens.


Dilapidated tenements were torn down and replaced by modern hirise apartment buildings with elevators to each floor and full kitchens and bathrooms in each apartment. Residents of the cleared slums got first priority for these apartments and their rent was fixed at 1/3rd of household income (the same policy is used to set NYCHA rents to this very day). This was a big step forward for New York tenants – it was now possible for many poor and working class New Yorkers to get a reasonably priced high quality apartment, and the worst slum conditions were finally being dealt with. Best of all these buildings were all being put up by unionized workers getting prevailing wages. This didn’t happen out of the goodness of the hearts of New York City’s ruling business interests of course. They only built the projects because communist-led tenant activism forced them to. After World War II, the same political pressures forced the city to improve conditions for the tenants in privately owned apartment buildings. In 1947, Mayor William O’Dwyer signed the Rent Control Law into law. The new law sharply limited rent increases, made it very difficult for landlords to rent gouge tenants and made it possible for working class New Yorkers to have decent housing at affordable rents. It was a huge victory for poor, working class and lower middle class tenants in this city. At the same time as Rent Control was being enacted, there was a rapid expansion of decent apartments rented out at reasonable rates across the city. The NYCHA had housing projects going up all over the city, both in Manhattan and the Outer Boroughs. There were also a number of labor unions who got into the apartment house business, in particular manufacturing workers unions. The Amalgamated Clothing Workers and the International Ladies Garment Workers Union both built large hirise apartment house developments in Manhattan, while the Typographical Union built a similar development in Woodside, Queens and a construction union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, built a housing development in Flushing, Queens. There were also private developers who built large apartment complexes – Walter LeFrak in Queens, Fred Trump in Brooklyn, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company’s Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village in Manhattan. These developments weren’t perfect – many of them only rented to White tenants and a fierce struggle had to be waged to force the developers and the NYCHA to let Blacks and Latinos rent wherever they wanted to. However, it was a time when most New Yorkers could get a decent apartment for a reasonable rent. Coupled with rising wages in a city with a mostly unionized workforce, Rent Control made life a lot better for New York City’s poor and working class.


The thing was, as good as Rent Control was for tenants, it was just as bad for landlords. Low income housing is only profitable if you charge relatively high rents for really abominable conditions in dilapidated buildings. Rent Control made that classic New York tenement business model very difficult to sustain here anymore. The landlords saw that their only way out was to either force out poor, working class or lower middle class tenants and replace them with upper middle class or wealthy tenants that could pay higher rents or outright destroy their units The big real estate developers and their lobbying organizations, the Realty Advisory Board, the Real Estate Board of New York and the New York Building Congress, would spend the next 25 years fiercely fighting for the abolition of Rent Control, and they would also carry out a just as fierce and often implicitly racist campaign against the NYCHA and public housing. The small landlords and slumlords were used as the foot soldiers of this lobbying campaign for higher rents and less public housing by the big developers who hid their millions behind the so called “mom and pop landlords” who to this day are the public face of landlord lobbying in this city. In the 1960s, the city tried to placate the developers with government subsidies. The City took out a $ 784 million high interest short term loan from a consortium of Wall Street banks and lent those funds out, long term at low interest, to real estate developers. The City also gave the same builders property tax abatements on the housing developments they built. Some of the apartments were for middle income workers and middle class folks, however, the great bulk of the new development were luxury apartment buildings. That corporate welfare giveaway wasn’t good enough for the real estate interests. They wanted more. They wanted the abolition of Rent Control. Unfortunately, while Rent Control benefited the vast majority of the 80% of New Yorkers who lived in rented apartments, there was nobody actively lobbying for the law. The communist led tenants rights groups that had originally fought for Rent Control were all but defunct, so they weren’t in a position to fight for the law. None of New York City’s trade unions defended Rent Control either, even though most of their members benefited from it. Even unions that ran their own housing programs (Amalgamated Clothing Workers, ILGWU, Typographers and the Electricians) didn’t defend Rent Control. There was nobody to fight for public housing either, even though 700,000 New Yorkers – 10% of the city – directly benefited from the projects because they lived there and the rest of the city’s tenants indirectly benefited by the downward pull on rents exercised by the existence of a large stock of high quality low cost apartments. Not even the union that had just unionized the 10,000 civil service workers at the NYCHA, Teamsters local 237, would actively lobby in favor of public housing.


By contrast, the real estate developers had three separate lobbying groups of their own – RAB, REBNY and the NY Building Congress – and they had lots of small landlords who they could use for protests and letter writing campaigns. The developers also had the active support of the NYC Building & Construction Trades Council, the NY Hotel & Motel Trades Council and Service Employees International Union locals 32b-32j and 32e. The leaders of those unions would actively support the interests of real estate bosses, in the incorrect belief that there was a common interest between the real estate interests and the 400,000 men and women (10% of the city’s labor force) who worked for them. Of course, at the time, those workers had damned little to say about the policies of any of those unions, since most of them were run by leaders who subordinated themselves to the Genovese crime family. Basically, as long as the developers and their contractors paid a 2% “tribute” (a polite way of saying bribe) to East Harlem pizza shop owner Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno (who in his spare time ran the Genovese family from the back room of his pizzeria) he and his wiseguys would keep the unions and their members in their place. The developers didn’t particularly care for having to share 2% of the construction costs of their properties with a bunch of random thugs just to get labor peace, but they tolerated it, at least for the moment, because it made sure the unions were on their side and the workers were kept quiet. In any event, the real estate developers’ one sided war against Rent Control finally bore fruit in 1971, when Mayor John Lindsay repealed the law. He replaced it with a much weaker law, the Rent Stabilization Law, that remains in effect to this day. Under Rent Stabilization, landlords and developers wouldn’t be allowed to jack up the rents of current Rent Control tenants and would have to grant them permanent leases at their current rent, which they would be able to transfer to their relatives after their deaths. New tenants would be covered under Rent Stabilization and their apartments would have one or two year leases. When those leases were renewed, the landlords could increase the rent, if a new City government body, the Rent Guidelines Board, had approved an across the board rent increase for all Rent Stabilized tenants. That Rent Guidelines Board was composed of two landlord representatives, selected by yet another landlord lobbying body, the newly created Rent Stabilization Association, two “tenant representatives” appointed by Mayor Lindsay and five “public representatives” also handpicked by the mayor. Predictably, the Rent Guidelines Board agreed to a rent increase for the landlords the first time it met. Every two years since then, the Rent Guidelines Board has given landlords rent increases every time they’ve asked for them. The RGB goes through the motion of having public hearings where there are colorful protests by tenant’s rights groups and by small landlords brought in by the four big landlord lobbies (RSA, RAB, the Real Estate Board and the Building Congress). The results are, always, a foregone conclusion – a rent increase for the landlords, just a few dollars less than what they asked for. This was all well and good with the new tenants, but the landlords still wanted to raise the rents on the existing tenants, or drive them out and bring in new tenants.


To achieve that goal, the landlords of New York crossed the line over into outright criminal conduct and terrorism on a mass scale. The methods used by particular landlords varied depending on what part of the city they were located in. In Manhattan’s Lower East Side, West Side and Upper West Side and in the downtown areas of Brooklyn, many landlords tried to force tenants out by denial of services like heat, hot water, repairs and locked exterior doors. Some even encouraged criminals to come into their buildings and prey on tenants or even hired them for that purpose. Those areas were predominantly White neighborhoods that were close to Manhattan’s two main business districts, Midtown and Downtown. The goal was to “gentrify” those areas – to drive out working class tenants and replace them with upper middle class and rich folks who could pay higher rents. In some cases, this meant driving tenants out of existing buildings, doing modest renovations, collecting a J51 Major Capital Improvement tax credit and then renting out the building at the new higher Rent Stabilization Law rents. In other cases, it meant driving out the tenants, tearing down the existing building and using that city low interest loan and tax credit program that I described earlier to build luxury hirise apartment buildings in the place of the older buildings. In Manhattan’s Harlem, the Bronx’ South Bronx, Morrisania and University Heights, Brooklyn’s Bedford Stuyvesant, Brownsville and East New York and Queens’ Far Rockaway, landlords had a different strategy. These areas couldn’t be gentrified – either they were too heavily Black or Latino or, in Far Rocakway’s case, they were White neighborhoods that were just too far from Manhattan. Bringing in wealthy new tenants wasn’t an option in those areas. Many of those landlords just struck a match. Or, more accurately, they paid a new breed of criminal, “torches” (professional arsonists), to strike that match for them, and burn their buildings down for the insurance. The resulting wave of arson was devastating. Between 1971 and 1980, over 200,000 New Yorkers, mostly poor or working class Blacks or Latinos, were burned out of their homes. Some escaped with their lives and health intact (often because some of the more thoughtful torches would warn tenants before burning the building). The hundreds of tenants and several dozen New York City firefighters who died were not so lucky. Nor were the thousands of tenants and hundreds of firemen burned or otherwise injured by the fires. Even the folks who escaped unscathed physically often lost belongings and important documents and, of course, were also now homeless.


Prior to this point, the entire homeless population of New York City consisted of a few hundred elderly alcoholic males, mostly White, in the flophouses and shelters of the Bowery. After the destruction of Rent Control, New Yorkers began to see people sleeping on subways or in church doorways. The homeless population became younger, almost entirely Black or Latino, and began to include women and children and there were a whole lot more of them, as many as 20,000 by the early 1980s. With depressing speed, this became a normal sight – the official media line was that all of these newly homeless people were “mentally ill”. The new wave of mass homelessness was blamed not on landlords that burned apartment buildings; instead, mass homelessness was the fault of disability rights activists for fighting for improvements in the state’s abysmal mental hospitals! Despite the fact that it was plainly obvious that these fires were deliberately set, a fact well documented by the FDNY’s special “red cap” squad of fire marshals who specialized in arson investigation, very few of the landlords did any jail time. Only the torches did time, and the way the media spun the story, it was a question of “crazy Puerto Ricans setting fires” not a systematic campaign of terrorism by landlords. The insurance companies wrote their checks no matter what the fire marshals said and the crime went unpunished as a city burned. Unfortunately, there was no organized resistance to this mass displacement which, including the forced out tenants and the burned out ones, affected about 5% of the city’s population. To make matters worse, that $ 784 million loan package finally came due in the spring of 1975. As I mentioned above, the City had borrowed that money long term at high interest and lent it to the developers long term at low interest. That was a spectacularly bad business decision by the City and led to the consortium of banks that held the city’s debt staging what amounted to a banker’s coup d’état in June, 1975. They installed Felix Rohatyn of Lazard Frères as the head of a bankers junta called the Municipal Assistance Corporation (MAC) and he became the de facto financial dictator of the city. Despite the fact that MAC laid off 50,000 of the City’s 200,000 municipal workers and caused the layoffs of tens of thousands of union construction workers by abandoning hundreds of City funded jobs across the city, Rohatyn and MAC faced surprisingly little labor resistance. Two municipal unions – the United Federation of Teachers and the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association – did carry out brief strikes in protest. However, the two biggest municipal unions, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees District Council 37 and local 237 of the Teamsters, scabbed on their strikes. The rest of the City worker unions, including Transport Workers Union local 100 in the city’s all-important subway and bus system, followed DC 37 and local 237’s lead and stayed on the job as well As for the private sector unions, the Teamsters, the Longshoremen on the docks, the railroad unions, the Machinists at the airports, the building trades, the Utility Workers at Con Edison, the Communications Workers at AT&T and the then still very strong garment district unions did nothing at all.


The City of New York was a wreck for the next couple of years, and, after the 1977 mayoral elections, newly elected Mayor Ed Koch had to clean up the mess. New York was in such bad shape that Koch had to hire back those 50,000 laid off municipal workers and add another 130,000 new workers to the City payroll to restore things back to normal. After restoring public services to pre crisis levels, Koch had to deal with all those vacant lots that once were apartment houses – and he had to deal with that crisis as cheaply as possible, because Mr. Rohatyn and MAC still controlled the City’s finances. So the mayor had an idea. He had created a new city agency, the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development [HPD] to deal with the abandoned building crisis. If HPD did the work on these buildings itself, it would be bound by federal, state and city prevailing wage laws that would mandate HPD to only use contractors that paid “area standard wages” to all of the construction workers on the site. In New York, then as now, “area standard wages” are pegged dollar for dollar to union pay and benefit scales for each trade. The Koch Administration came up with a loophole to evade paying area standard wages. Sell the vacant lots and abandoned buildings to not for profit Community Based Organizations, give them the funds to renovate those buildings in the form of grants, set the amount of those grants so low that it would be impossible for the CBOs to hire contractors that actually paid area standard wages and take advantage of the fact that, since the CBOs were having the work done instead of HPD, everybody involved could pretend these were private funds and prevailing wage laws did not apply. The NYC Building & Construction Trades Council could have tried to fight this. The main unions in residential construction – Carpenters, Bricklayers, Plasterers, Laborers, Painters, Electricians, Plumbers – could also have fought this move. They didn’t. This was probably because of the Genovese family connections of the leaders of many of those unions. The Building Trades Employers Association didn’t object either, nor did the trade associations representing the General Contractors and the concrete, drywall & ceilings, painting, masonry, electrical and plumbing subcontractors involved in residential work. The Genovese connection also was relevant here – as well as the fact that some of these companies planned to cash in on this new opportunity and were prepared to do whatever needed to be done to batter down workers wages to fit HPD’s budget. This was especially true of the Metropolitan New York Drywall Association, and its leader, Vincent Di Napoli, the owner of Inner City Drywall and, in his spare time, a captain in the Genovese crime family. Coincidentally (or perhaps not so coincidentally) Inner City was the biggest union carpentry contractor in the city and a major player in residential drywall.


Di Napoli followed a two track strategy of getting formal wage and benefit reductions from the Carpenters Union (the union representing the largest craft in residential construction work) side by side with informally persuading individual union carpenters to work for less than union scale in return for getting frequent employment. A steady job is kind of a big deal in construction, where work can often be sporadic, especially when times are hard as they were in the late 1970s. There were lots of desperate out of work carpenters who had little choice but to take Di Napoli’s deal and become “lumpers” and work off the books for less than union scale. The other major unions in residential construction (Bricklayers, Laborers, Plasterers) went along with this program – basically because the wiseguys told them to. The Painters weren’t so cooperative – in large part because the Painters Union’s leaders answered to another mafia family, the Luccheses. A small Painters Union affiliate, Drywall Tapers local 1974, actually went out on strike against the wage concessions and a demand that drywall tapers be forced to work on stilts instead of using ladders and scaffolds (a very hazardous practice). Di Napoli and another Genovese family captain, Bronx real estate agent Louis Moscatiello, Sr, arranged for the Carpenters to scab on the strike and for the Plasterers to charter a scab tapers local to be run by Moscatiello (a man who had never worked in any construction craft in life). With the resistance of the unions broken, it became possible for openly non union contractors to enter residential construction. It also became possible for union contractors to go scab and stay in business. One such firm was a company called Flintlock, which by the 2010s would be the largest scab general contractor in New York City. While residential construction workers were having their wages forced down, tenants were having their rents jacked up. Landlords began to really take advantage of Rent Stabilization and the guaranteed rent increases every year. Some landlords converted their buildings into co-ops or condos. The tenants had to buy their apartments. This did give them the advantage of owning their own home and earning equity in their apartments, but they still had to pay rent (known as “maintenance fees”) and they had to make mortgage payments on top of that. Co-op and condo conversion were very lucrative because these apartments were exempt from the Rent Stabilization Law and landlords and developers could charge whatever they wanted. Many developers began building new all co-op or condo buildings where every tenant had to buy their apartment up front. The wave of new co-op and condo construction, along with a large number of new office buildings being constructed in Downtown and Midtown Manhattan, touched off a huge building boom in the city in the early 1980s.


Almost all of these new luxury buildings and all of the office buildings were built union. With so many union members employed on those jobs, the leaders of the unions were able to avoid dealing with the fact that about a quarter of the industry – the HPD renovation jobs – had been deunionized. No attempt at all was made to reunionize that work or to organize those workers. Meanwhile rents were skyrocketing for the common people of New York. Rents soared and the poor, the working class and even the middle class found it hard to make ends meet. Many of the handful of garment factories remaining in New York City finally left town in the face of high rents, causing the elimination of 20,000 unionized factory jobs. Unfortunately, the labor movement didn’t do anything to protest the skyrocketing rents that were impoverishing their members – and in the case of garment workers, actually taking away their jobs! The tenant movement in the city, a pale reflection of the militant groups that had won Rent Control two generations before, confined themselves to the biennial ritual of protesting at hearings of the Rent Guidelines Board and did nothing to take the fight to the streets and the neighborhoods where they might have actually done some good. Despite the urgent shortage of high quality low cost housing for the poor and working class in New York, there was no attempt to demand that the city build more public housing. On the contrary, the few public housing developments under construction by the NYCHA were often met by thinly veiled racist-inspired opposition from Whites who didn’t want Blacks and Latinos living in their neighborhoods. The real estate interests just loved this and actively supported these protests. They loved to keep tenants divided along racial lines, in part for the crudely simple reason that limiting the housing choices of Blacks and Latinos allowed landlords to charge them high rents for low quality housing in the ghettoes and that the same landlords could charge racist White tenants premium rents to live in all-White buildings. Also, if the expansion of the housing projects was blocked, that took away a major low rent competitor from the landlords, making it possible for them to rent gouge even more. By 1989, the building boom had ended. So much office space and luxury housing had been built – including a whole new neighborhood, Battery Park City, built on landfill in the Hudson River – that the market was glutted. Of course, there were people who still needed housing – problem was, they were poor and working class folks who couldn’t afford to live in the luxury units the developers had built. The sudden lack of construction activity and the resultant mass unemployment for construction workers finally pushed the building trades into action. They called a joint rally in front of City Hall with the developers, demanding more public funding for those developers to create jobs. The rally organizers weren’t specific about if those “jobs” were going to be union jobs, unfortunately. That’s the price of workers and our unions marching under the same banner as the bosses – we end up fighting for their agenda, instead of ours.


Of course, the construction union leaders had good cause to be distracted. The real estate developers had begun to tire of having to pay that 2% “tribute” (bribe) to the Genovese family in return for getting passive and docile unions. They liked the union passivity part, of course – they just didn’t like having to pay a bunch of thugs a huge amount of money for it. Starting in the late 1970s more and more developers began appealing to the authorities to do something about cosa nostra. The government began to listen – in particular the FBI, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the New York State Organized Crime Task Force and the New York County District Attorney, Robert Morgenthau – and they began to take action. The government had an agenda - to stop the gangsters from taking payoffs from contractors and developers and to weaken the construction unions. The New York State Organized Crime Task Force was pretty explicit about the anti union agenda. The leaders of that task force wrote two books “Corruption and Racketeering in the New York City Construction Unions” and the provocatively titled “Gotham Unbound” where they made it crystal clear that they wanted to tame and weaken the New York construction unions and the Teamsters locals in the city and reduce wages in construction and trucking to non union levels. By 1994, the two biggest construction unions in New York City, the New York City District Council of Carpenters and the Laborers Union’s Mason Tenders District Council, were under government supervision, where they remain to this very day. The government’s task of weakening the unions was eased by the fact that the unions had lost about half their market share. From 250,000 members in a 250,000 worker industry in 1968 the New York building trades had shrunk to 120,000 members in a 200,000 worker industry in 1990. Those 80,000 non union construction workers did half the work in the city at that time – including 100% of HPD subsidized residential construction. One of the few good effects of the federal takeover was that the District Council of Carpenters and the Mason Tenders District Council set up organizing departments. It also helped that both of the parent unions of those councils, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and the Laborers International Union, were both launching large scale organizing programs nationwide at that time which the New York programs fit in with nicely. The Carpenters and Mason Tenders organizing departments promptly set to the task of trying to unionize those thousands of non union tradespeople. Considering the gap between union and non union wages (in 1994 $ 28/hr for union carpenters vs as little as $ 7/hr for non union) it was a hard task.


It also didn’t help that, except for a few pockets in luxury hirise work, residential construction was overwhelmingly non union. As landlords and developers paid lower and lower wages to the workers who built their buildings they demanded more and more rents from their tenants. In 1994 the Rent Stabilization Association demanded that all rents over $ 2,000 a month be exempt from Rent Stabilization. The four landlord lobbies launched a massive public relations campaign in favor of this “luxury decontrol” exemption. The landlord propagandists claimed that it was somehow unfair that “rich people” were benefiting from Rent Stabilization and it was only “fair” to let landlords jack up those tenants rent. Sadly, the SEIU, the Hotel & Motel Trades Council and the Building & Construction Trades Council all supported the landlord lobby and came out in favor of the rent increase. They put the profits of the landlords ahead of the needs of their members who lived in New York and would have to pay those inflated rents. This so called “luxury decontrol” encouraged landlords to raise up rents as much as possible to get them over the $ 2,000 a month limit. The new rules also encouraged “churning” apartments – encouraging rapid tenant turnover because every time a landlord gets a new tenant, that’s a new lease and a new chance to raise the rent. This was yet another attack on New York tenants by landlords and developers that, other than a few token protests at the Rent Guidelines Board hearings, went largely unopposed by tenant groups and was actively supported by the building trades and building service workers unions. The luxury decontrol-sparked rent increases, coupled with the influx of a large number of affluent young professionals from Europe, Asia and other parts of the US into New York City who could afford to pay those rents and to pay high purchase prices for co-ops and condos – averaging $ 300,000 for a studio and $ 1.2 million for a 2 bedroom - sparked a residential building boom in the 2000s. It also helped that construction wages had stayed stagnant at the same time prices were soaring – developers were paying subminimum wages to build million dollar apartments. Wages had increased in the small segment of luxury residential construction that had stayed union – at least on paper. In practice, those wages weren’t always paid. In June 2000, the District Council of Carpenters allowed its signatory contractors to no longer have to hire half of their workers from the union’s out of work list, as had been a requirement for the previous 30 years. This brought the union into line with Carpenters Union practice in the rest of the country, where the union had given up total control over hiring to contractors. This was done as an organizing measure, to reassure newly organized contractors that they could use the same workers on every job just as they had when they were non union.


The downside of that is, in an industry where every job is a temporary job, it’s very easy for employers to manipulate workers to work for less than union scale in return for steady work. If those workers can’t easily get alternative employment from the union, it makes it even easier for bosses to manipulate workers into accepting less than union scale in return for a steady job. The biggest trades in residential construction by number of workers are carpenters and laborers and the most labor intensive phases of hirise residential work are concrete work and drywall. On the union hirise luxury residential jobs, a number of carpentry contractors, in particular James Murray’s On Par Construction, began to systematically underpay their carpenters. In the case of concrete contractors, some firms extended this practice, called “working for cash” to cement workers, the laborers who make up the bulk of the crew on a concrete job. In the case of drywall contractors, not only did many carpenters find themselves expected to work for cash, but the Genovese family-dominated scab drywall tapers union, Plasterers local 530, also tolerated widespread evasion of union wages and benefits fund payments for their tapers on these jobs. This systematic evasion of union wages was coordinated by drywall taping contractor Louis Moscatiello, Jr, the son of local 530’s founder, convicted labor racketeer and Genovese family captain Louis Moscatiello, Sr. The abuse also spread to masonry contractors, a major portion of the workforce on the many New York apartment buildings with brick veneer exterior finishes. Many of these companies, in particular the firms owned by one Saul Heifetz, systematically underpaid their bricklayers and mason tenders, again in return for the promise of steady work. By underpaying their tradespeople, these contractors could make lower bids, thus increasing the profits of the real estate developers. As bad as it was on the union side, at least these workers that were getting cash were making around $ 25/hr to $ 30/hr off the books. Some of the workers on those jobs – in particular the electricians, plumbers, and the building laborers working directly for the General Contractors, actually got paid union scale. On the scab side of the residential market segment, it was far worse. The worst offenders were the contractors on HPD subsidized “affordable housing” jobs – which, by this point, were priced to be “affordable” to families that had a household income of more than $ 64.000 a year. The not for profit Community Based Organizations that had originally dominated this market segment had been joined by for profit builders like Gaetano and Artimus. They had their own lobbying group too, the New York State Association for Affordable Housing, that fought to keep their prevailing wage exemption so they could keep paying below area standard wages. These guys went way below area standard – way below!


The better paying HPD developers paid between $ 15/hr and $ 25/hr for carpenters, masons, electricians, plumbers and painters and around $ 10/hr for laborers and helpers. The bottom feeders paid as little as $ 7/hr for skilled labor (below minimum wage) and as little as $ 4/hr for laborers and helpers. Many of these contractors hired undocumented immigrant workers and didn’t bother to have workers comp coverage or pay social security, unemployment insurance or disability or any other payroll taxes. This was blatantly illegal yet HPD looked the other way and let this blatant lawbreaking go on with no interference. Of course, HPD’s subsidies were set at such a low level that the only way a builder or contractor could profitably run a job was to pay wages that low, so the agency played dumb for a reason! Neither the Association for Affordable Housing nor any other real estate lobby ever tried to get higher housing construction subsidies – instead, they relentlessly used those low subsidies as an excuse for why they should not be covered by prevailing wage laws. They even had the nerve to put a “civil rights” spin on it and tried to claim the Carpenters and Mason Tenders unions were somehow “racist” for demanding that they pay their mostly Black and Mexican workers area standard wages! The implication was that somehow only White workers were good enough to deserve area standard wages while Blacks and Mexicans are only fit for substandard pay – which speaks volumes about the contempt they have for their workers. The non subsidized residential construction sector paid similar abysmal wages to a largely immigrant and minority workforces. The same bad situation prevailed for the largely Mexican and Indian Sikh carpenters and brickpointers in the rapidly growing brick façade maintenance sector, where wages for skilled labor ranged from $ 7/hr to $ 15/hr for the workers who fixed brick veneer walls on occupied apartment buildings. These obscenely low wages prevailed in the middle of a building boom and the scab sector expanded rapidly. Now only 100,000 of the city’s 200,000 tradespeople worked union, and unorganized tradespeople did a majority of the work in the city. Unlivably low wages for residential construction workers didn’t translate to lower rents for NYC apartments. On the contrary, as residential construction real wages fell, rents and co-op prices soared, and the developers’ pockets got fatter and fatter. The developers had even more public funds shoveled into their pockets by the city, with massive subsidies planned for two megadevelopments. Both of these developments were planned atop railroad yards and initially had sports arenas as their anchor tenants. One was Atlantic Yards, built atop the state owned MTA Long Island Rail Road yards on Atlantic Av and Flatbush Av in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. The anchor tenant was a basketball stadium, the Barclay’s Center and the complex would consist of 20,000 units of housing, 2,000 of which were supposed to be “affordable” (to families with household incomes of more than $ 64,000 a year). The city and state gave developer Bruce Ratner (the owner of the shopping mall across the street from the site)


and his business partner billionaire Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov massive public subsidies to build the $ 1 billion project. On Manhattan’s Far West Side, atop another LIRR railroad yard, developers Steven Ross and Blake Hutcheson asked for, and got, a huge package of public subsidies to build a $ 4 billion project including 20,000 luxury apartments and several office buildings. Again, some of the apartments were supposed to be “affordable” (to folks who made $ 64,000 a year or better). The original anchor tenant for that was supposed to be a stadium for the 2012 Olympics that would become the new Jets Stadium after the games. The reason these developments are so expensive is because they are built over working commuter railroad yards and large very expensive steel and concrete platforms will be constructed atop the yards and the buildings put up on those platforms. The unions supported these giveaways of public funds to rich developers to build homes for the affluent, as usual because of the promise of jobs. Ratner and Prokhorov’s development started first, with the building trades getting an average daily headcount of 600 union workers on the site (not much work considering the basis of union support was Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!) Ross and Hutcheson’s development wouldn’t start for several years, first because the Olympics didn’t come here. The 2012 games went to London, whose primary advantage over New York is building trades wages that are 67% lower than this city’s. The average union tradesperson here makes around $ 45/hr – in London, its closer to $ 15 an hour for union construction workers. Then the development was delayed because the Jets decided to continue sharing a stadium with the Giants in the New Jersey Meadowlands and to build a new venue, Met Life Stadium, with the Giants at that site. Ross and Hutcheson ended up redesigning the site without a stadium as its anchor tenant, but with the same massive public subsidies. Meanwhile, the government continued its crackdown on unions that let contractors illegally pay substandard wages under the table (openly paying substandard wages was OK, of course). Three of the more egregious union contractors that covertly paid below union scale wages under the table – drywall taping contractor Louis Moscatiello, Jr, carpentry contractor James Murray and masonry contractor Saul Heifetz – faced prosecution. Murray beat the case by testifying against the Carpenters Union leaders and gangsters he bribed to let him cheat his carpenters. The head of the NYC District Council of Carpenters, Michael Forde, went to prison as a result of Murray’s testimony. The Carpenters Union was also forced to restore its union out of work list system as a result of this case – since the wage theft wouldn’t have been possible if carpenters had had a realistic possibility of quitting cheating contractors and getting alternative work assignments through the union.


Heifetz ended up getting prosecuted as did Moscatiello and his father, Louis Sr, a Genovese family captain who ended up dying in prison while serving time in this case. A clear message was sent to union contractors, particularly in residential work, by this case – if you need to underpay your workers to make a profit, do so legally by pressuring the unions to make wage and benefit concessions. This is important for the developers and the bankers who fund their buildings – it’s very important that they know what their contractors are actually paying to their workers so any and all labor cost savings can be passed up the capitalist food chain to the moneymen on top. There was some good news to go along with the bad. One of the larger non union housing builders, Artimus, agreed to go “double breasted” – part union part scab. On some of their jobs, they would do the concrete and the electrical work with union labor but would continue to do masonry, drywall, plumbing, windows, woodwork and floor laying with non union contractors. Using some union labor would enable them to use the most qualified workers to do vital work like building the concrete structure and wiring the building for electricity, telecom and data with the best available labor and using much cheaper non union labor for everything else would let Artimus continue to profit from underpaying most of their workers without having to worry about being picketed. Another developer, Shaya Boymelgreen, went for a similar deal on some of his luxury apartment jobs in Manhattan and Brooklyn – he got reduced union wages in return. The concessions the unions made to Artimus – letting part of the job stay scab – and to Boymelgreen – reduced wages in return for using union labor – foreshadowed future concessions that union developers would come to expect in return for not going scab. Not every developer was willing to pay ball with the unions. Gaetano Development aggressively fought the Carpenters Union at their Gateway project in Harlem, even after their workers voted to go union. They did the old corporate name change trick, along with the usual intimidation of union supporters that is common practice in American business these days and kept their job scab. Meanwhile, the rent increases went on every two years like clockwork, with the only resistance coming from the irrelevant sideshow of ritualized protests every two years at Rent Guidelines Board hearings. Eventually, every building boom has to come to an end and so did this one. The real estate boom collapsed, the Wall Street bubble popped, venerable financial houses like Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers collapsed and the real estate frenzy stopped. A lot of jobs were already in the pipeline but the supply of rich people willing to pay premium prices for New York City apartments began to dry up. At the same time as the bottom dropped out of the residential market, new construction of office buildings and interior work in existing office buildings dried up, because of the Wall Street meltdown. This was a double whammy for the construction industry in the city.


Some jobs were abandoned in mid build. Neighborhoods like Harlem, the Financial District and Williamsburg that had been development hotspots were now dotted with very expensive brand new abandoned buildings, left to rot in the wind and the rain. Rents didn’t go down, though – developers just kept properties off the market rather than charge less extortionately high rents for them. The Rent Guidelines Board rewarded the developers and the landlords with yet another rent increase. As for the workers, both union and non union workers found themselves suffering from high unemployment, made worse for the non union workers because many of them were paid off the books so they were unable to collect unemployment. At the lowest point, at any given time about 50% of the construction workforce were unemployed. Unemployment was also high among New Yorkers in other industries as well. Despite that mass impoverishment, rents kept on going up, with no attempt to limit their increase. Other than an eccentric building super from Brooklyn named Jimmy McMillan (who ran for governor on the “Rent Is Too Damned High Party” ticket) there was no serious public opposition to this mass rent gouging. Obscenely low wages for non union construction workers wasn’t a public issue at all, other than the occasional Carpenters or Laborers picketline at a scab jobsite. The mass construction worker unemployment unleashed by the recession emboldened union contractors to demand pay cuts. The federal and state prosecutions made under the table wage cuts impossible. So the contractors, through their umbrella group the Building Trades Employers Association, just blatantly demanded that workers take a major reduction in pay and benefits so as to keep contractor and developer profits high. The leadership of the Building & Construction Trades Council initially went along with the BTEA, and set about the task of selling these concessions. Initially we were told that the employers wanted limited wage and benefit concessions on a dozen commercial jobsites in Midtown Manhattan and the Financial District, jobs that were supposedly not going to be built without concessions being made. Those jobs were just the camel’s nose in the tent. Soon, the BTEA, the developers and the City of New York began demanding concessionary Project Labor Agreements on every major job in the city. The BTEA also came out with a 28 point ultimatum, demanding concessions on every issue, from wages to having a longer work day at straight time rates to the requirement that contractors provide bathrooms on jobsites.


The City of New York even demanded that workers give up their morning coffee break on all of its jobsites (they did magnanimously say we could drink a cup of coffee while we were working) The most egregious was the Project Labor Agreement for residential construction in the outer boroughs, which demanded a 20% wage and benefit cut. The Building & Construction Trades Council and its affiliates rolled over on this, and gave the BTEA, the developers and the City of New York a total of 250 separate PLAs for just about every large and medium sized jobsite in the city. The unions got nothing in return for these concessions. The City, while making sure to get PLAs for the school and municipal building work that it does with union labor, very pointedly did not sign a PLA for HPD subsidized residential work. The HPD jobs continue to be done by low wage scab contractors who are exempt from the state prevailing wage laws (and, in practice, openly violate the federal and state minimum wage laws). These givebacks only emboldened the contractors to demand an across the board 20% wage cut for all union construction workers on top of the concessions in the PLAs! The BTEA launched a public relations campaign to sell these concessions to the workers, through ads on the subway and in the pages of the Daily News and the Post and through propaganda leaflets stapled to workers paychecks. The Building & Construction Trades Council initially planned to join with the BTEA in selling these givebacks as the only way to “help our good union contractors compete with the non union”. Among the trades most deeply involved in residential work – carpenters and painters – the deepest concessions were demanded. Painters District Council # 9 took a wage freeze on commerical work, a 20% wage cut on residential work in Manhattan and a 67% wage cut on residential work in Upper Manhattan and the outer boroughs (bringing union scale on those jobs down to non union levels). Carpenters took 20% “market recovery rate” pay cuts on residential work – not just outer borough “affordable housing” jobs either, but even on luxury buildings in Manhattan. On top of that the carpentry contractors also demanded “full mobility” - they wanted to get rid of the requirement that they hire part of their carpenter workforce from the union’s out of work list. This would almost certainly lead to contractors demanding that carpenters work for less than union scale, on top of the agreed upon wage concessions. With no possibility of getting work through the union those carpenters would have no choice but to take the deal and cheat themselves out of the wages they deserve. These concessionary demands touched off considerable resistance from union construction workers, including a rank and file construction workers protest in front of a BTEA event and even a brief wildcat strike by cement workers at the Freedom Tower and the Carnegie 57 hirise residential development.


Unfortunately, the leadership of the unions was prepared to make these concessions, even in the face of resistance by members. These concessions come in the face of an emboldened non union sector, with former union General Contractor Flintlock and non union hotel developer Sam Chang (a beneficiary of PLAs on some of his jobs) to build hirise hotels in the middle of Midtown and the Financial District with 100% non union labor. Other than limited area standard picketing of some of Chang’s jobs by the Carpenters, the Building Trades have not responded to this direct attack in any meaningful way. Chang’s hotels are low wage non union franchises of major chains – Marriott, Holiday Inn, W Hotels, Ramada Inn, Hampton Inn ect. Many of those chains operate unionized hotels in other parts of the city, often within sight of Chang’s non union hotels. However, no attempt has been made to enlist the Hotel & Motel Trades Council or unionized hotel workers to put pressure on Chang’s hotels, or even to help workers in those hotels form a union with the Hotel & Motel Trades Council. In the residential sector, there was an attempt by the Building & Construction Trades Council to get the state legislature and the city council to pass laws requiring HPD’s low wage scab contractors to publicly disclose the often illegally low wages they pay. To date, those bills haven’t gotten anywhere, due to opposition from the real estate lobby and Democratic politicians loyal to the developers. Meanwhile, the landlord-dominated Rent Guidelines Board slapped New York tenants with yet another rent increase, the 44th consecutive rent hike imposed by the board. This increase was only 2%, the lowest rent hike in 10 years. However, over the course of the board’s existence, it has increased New York tenants’ rents by a total of 212.5%. So, it seems like the real estate interests really have the people of New York over a barrel. What can we do about it? First and foremost we have to unite against the developers and the landlords. Renters are 70% of the city – 5.6 million people. We outnumber the landlords and the real estate developers 50 to one and we need to remind them of that fact. Including construction workers, commerical janitors, apartment building workers and hotel workers, over 400,000 workers – 10% of this city’s employed working class – work for the real estate industry. Despite the claims that construction and building service workers union leaders often make about an alleged “partnership” between us and our bosses, we have nothing in common with the real estate interests and a strong community of interest with the tenants. Actually, a lot of those 400,000 workers (this writer included) live in apartment buildings and the same real estate interests who profit off of our labor at work also profit off of our rents in our homes.


All of the unions with jurisdiction in the construction, building service and building materials industries (the unions of the NYC Building & Construction Trades Council, Service Employees International Union local 32bj, the Hotel & Motel Trades Council and Teamsters locals 237, 282, 522, 553, 813 and 814) need to join forces with the rest of the labor movement, tenants groups and the Occupy Wall Street movement and launch a struggle against the developers. We need to demand that every one of the 400,000 workers in the building industry be paid at least the prevailing wage for their occupation, have the right to form a union with the labor organization of their choosing and to have their employer bargain with that union. We need to demand that every developer who receives a subsidy or a tax break be mandated to build with 100% union labor receiving 100% of union scale and that once the building is put up they be required to use union janitors, maintenance workers and security guards receiving 100% of union scale. We also need to demand that every person resident in New York City, be they citizen, resident alien or undocumented immigrant, has a right to decent affordable housing. We have to fight for a rollback of the present extortionately high rents and the cap on rents at one third of a renter’s household income, the same system that the NYC Housing Authority has successfully used for the past 78 years in the projects. We need to demand that the NYCHA’s projects be expanded, with the housing components of the Atlantic Yards and Hudson Yards sites to be built as public housing projects. We need a floor to pull down the high rents of privately owned apartment buildings and a rapid expansion of public housing would very effectively do that. We should also demand that HPD be merged with the NYCHA, all future HPD housing be built by the city as public housing projects and, wherever possible, existing HPD buildings be taken over by the NYCHA and run as public housing. These are very big demands and there will be opposition. The real estate lobbies and the media will condemn this, as will many of the politicians. The not for profit sector will also fiercely fight this (they’ll figure out a way to claim that it’s “racist” to raise the wages and lower the rents of Blacks and Latinos) as will the contractors and their associations. Be that as it may, this is very important. Housing is a burning issue for all classes of New Yorkers, but especially for the working class and the poor. We can unite the great majority of New Yorkers behind a platform demanding decent low cost high quality housing for New Yorkers, built and maintained by workers being paid decent wages We can also isolate the greedy billionaires and their allies who extract excessive profits off of the basic human need for shelter. The fact is, most New Yorkers despise landlords and they should.


It’s about damned time we took advantage of that healthy class hatred and used it to actually change the living circumstances of the 70% of New Yorkers who are renters. By Gregory A. Butler GREGORYABUTLER@aol.com



a report by


BANKING ON VACANCY Homelessness 119 and Real Estate Speculation


Vacant building and newly-constructed condo in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.


MISSION Picture the Homeless was founded on the principle that homeless people have civil and human rights regardless of our race, creed, color or economic status. Picture the Homeless was founded and is led by homeless people. We refuse to accept being neglected and we demand that our voices and experience are heard at all levels of decision-making that impact us. We oppose the quality of life laws that criminalize homeless people in any form by the city, state and national governments. We work to change these laws and policies as well as to challenge the root causes of homelessness. Our strategies include grassroots organizing, direct action, educating homeless people about their rights, public education, changing media stereotypes, and building relationships with allies. Our motto is “Don’t Talk About Us, Talk With Us!”

BANKING ON VACANCY Homelessness 121 and Real Estate Speculation



The following report exposes the extent to which vacant buildings and lots permeate our landscape, concentrated in the very communities hardest hit by gentrification and homelessness. We believe vacant property can create housing, parks, urban farms, commercial and cultural space, and jobs—and this report will prove just what a transformative impact this property could have.

Private Property­—So What! The majority of vacant buildings and lots in NYC are privately owned, and the trend toward privatization continues. While we envision different strategies for the transformation of publicly owned vacant buildings and lots vis a vis privately-owned vacant property, both types beg the same question: who benefits from vacancy, and does that benefit outweigh the social and economic costs of the housing emergency? If Picture the Homeless Can Do It, The City Can Do It!

Picture the Homeless gathered nearly 12,000 addresses of vacant buildings and lots in fall of 2010 from Freedom of Information Requests to 18 city agencies. We then partnered with Hunter College to create a sound methodology combining scientific and community organizing practice. If the City of New York can conduct a scientifically questionable count of homeless people one night a year (The Hope Count, costing tens of thousands of dollars), then surely they can count vacant properties: by upgrading and consolidating data they already have, and mobilizing a field count annually. Picture the Homeless did it for a fraction of what some elected officials claim would cost millions of dollars.

Catalyze Community-Based Urban Planning Community boards with some of the lowest incomes in the City have thousands of vacant apartments, tens of thousands of square feet of vacant commercial space, and hundreds of vacant lots. We look forward to the day when marginalized communities throughout NYC develop alternate plans for the use of vacant spaces across NYC, and organize for their implementation, for the benefit of all community members including homeless folks.


SOLUTIONS Housing Creation is Jobs Creation A jobs creation program that partners with construction trade unions to provide apprenticeships to unemployed people would help convert vacant properties in the communities hit hardest by the recession and housing emergency. Every dollar of investment in housing development generates an additional two dollars in economic activity.1 In the 1970s the CETA program funded job training for public assistance recipients through employment in the rehabilitation of vacant buildings.2 These “sweat equity” models allowed people to receive training to renovate and purchase properties through their labor during the 1980s, but were phased out in the 1990s. We need to bring back past models with proven track records. End Vacancy Decontrol and Liberate Thousands of Vacant Rent Stabilized Units Ending vacancy decontrol for

rent stabilized apartments, renovating them and renting them at the previous rents will create thousands of low rent apartments without rental subsidies. The City can launch a program to cover the cost of renovation in order to avoid Major Capital Improvement (MCI) increases passed onto tenants. The City would be better served funding housing development and job training for homeless folks than spending thousands per month on shelter costs, per family.

Mandate a City Wide Vacant Property Count Exposing the extent of vacancy in NYC includes demystifying the ownership of properties and tracking the length of time they have been vacant. The city can take immediate steps to centralize, improve, and de-mystify its property records, including the passage of vacant property count legislation by the New York City Council. If Con Edison were required to report electric and gas usage per unit, we would know exactly how many apartments are vacant in NYC and for how long. NYC has been in a housing emergency since 1947. It is time to evaluate and place limits on the housing market and to demand that government stop incentivizing real estate speculation at the expense of the public good.


Surveyor in action.

KEY FINDINGS A vacant property count can be done at minimal cost to the city. City agencies already collect a lot of data about vacancy, but make no effort to centralize and analyze that information to give a holistic picture of vacant property. NYC’s laissez-faire free-market strategy for dealing with empty buildings and lots harms communities and helps big real estate.

Property owners hide behind a maze of shell corporations and LLCs, making it nearly impossible for local communities to hold entities warehousing property accountable.


PTH member and intern prepare to scout for vacant property.

The same neighborhoods that send high numbers of families into the homeless shelter system have the highest density of vacant property—in most of them, there is enough vacant space to house ten times as many people as are currently housed in shelters in that district. Citywide, vacant property could house the entire shelter population five times over. These findings are the tip of the iceberg. We counted 1/3 of the city, leaving 39 community districts untouched. BANKING ON VACANCY Homelessness 123 and Real Estate Speculation



How vacant property is developed, and for whose benefit, is one of the critical issues facing us as we seek to identify solutions to the housing crisis in New York City. Currently, housing is like any other commodity. Investors (real estate speculators), buy and sell property the same as they would shares in a corporation. Speculating on neighborhoods gentrifying is how many folks get rich in this city. It is all perfectly legal, and even incentivized by government policies. Picture the Homeless believes that housing is a human right. From this perspective, the question of vacant properties vis a vis homelessness is simple. At what point does the promotion of the public interest in addressing basic human needs take precedence over the gross accumulation of private wealth? What happens when human rights are in conflict with property rights? This same question was at the heart of the nineteenth-century fight over slavery. New York City government actively supports the warehousing of vacant buildings and land. In 2005, in the early days of our Housing Not Warehousing campaign, we asked (then) NYC Housing Preservation & Development Commissioner Sean Donovan to address the problem of vacancy. He responded that “development in our city requires that some property be temporarily held off the market to assemble development opportunities”... even though “temporarily” can be thirty years or more. Although New York City has been in a “housing emergency” since 1947, the City places no restrictions on how long residential buildings or land can be kept vacant! One example: in Harlem, the buildings on the west side of Malcolm X Blvd. between 125th and 124th streets stayed empty for decades while the landlord purchased each one as it came on the market. Jeff Sutton, head of Wharton Realty, kept the apartments in these buildings vacant while making profit on the ground-floor commercial space. There was no shortage of people in Harlem looking for apartments: Harlem has one of the highest rates of homelessness in the City. Nor is it that Sutton couldn’t afford to rehab the building. It just wasn’t ripe for making a killing, as they say. Picture the Homeless held two “sleep outs” on the street in front of the buildings to educate the public about the connections between vacancy, gentrification and homelessness. We wrote to Jeff Sutton and asked for a meeting. In response, he demolished the buildings to construct a luxury hotel. The lot remains vacant as of this writing. (See photo on page 7) Under current law, he can do whatever he wants with his property, regardless of community needs or impact on the city as a whole.

Through Housing Boom and Housing Bust Regardless of market conditions, two constants remain: a steady increase in homelessness and the privatization of vacant property, because housing is a commodity. During an economic upswing,


gentrification produces higher rents. When the economy declines, rents in low income neighborhoods don’t go down. Unemployment goes up, and the city says there is no money to create housing. Through it all, New York City has set record levels of homelessness during the past 10 years. The number of homeless families entering shelter each year has doubled since Michael Bloomberg took office in 2002, and has reached 40,000 people as of today’s writing.3 This doesn’t count street homeless, or folks doubled up in overcrowded housing, families in the domestic violence shelter system, or the hundreds of shelter beds provided by faith communities throughout the city.


Policies at all levels of government have created the housing crisis. Since the Reagan Administration, dis-investment in housing development for the very poor, withdrawal of funds for rental subsidies such as the Section 8 voucher program, stagnating and declining wages for low wage workers, and public assistance budgets that relegate folks to extreme poverty, have contributed to more households experiencing homelessness in New York City and throughout the United States. How much rent can you afford if you make $10.00 per hour at a full time job, for a pre-tax income of $1,733 a month? According to federal guidelines, families paying more than 30% of their income on rent are considered costburdened... so the most you could spend on rent is $519 a month. Imagine if you have children. What happens when you lose that job? Over 50% of households in the city pay more than 30% of their income for housing! Warehousing isn’t just a New York City problem. With unemployment and foreclosures on the rise and banks sitting on countless properties acquired fraudulently or immorally, the 2010 census estimated that there are 18.6 million vacant homes4,and an estimated 3.5 million homeless people nationwide5... which equals five vacant homes in this country for every homeless person! Picture the Homeless learned that other cities, like Boston, survey vacant properties, and we learned from those models. We are also anchor members of the Campaign to Restore National Housing Rights, leading a workgroup on addressing warehousing nationwide, learning from and providing support to allies nationally.

Shelter Money is Poorly Spent, Give Us Money to Pay Our Rent! Picture the Homeless members decry the amount of

money spent on shelter, especially as compared to the absence of money spent on housing development or rental assistance for the very poor. We know that the claim by City officials that “there’s no money” to turn vacant properties into housing is a lie, because shelter residents get a monthly update of the exorbitant amounts the City spends on shelter. In 2010, the city’s budget for Housing Preservation and Development ($489 million) was only 63% of what the city spent providing shelter to homeless people ($773 million Department of Homeless Services budget)6.



Inset: portion of actual NYC human resources administration statement, showing how much the city pays for one person to be in a shelter for a month—provided by a PTH member

Letitia James, City Council Member

BANKING ON VACANCY Homelessness 125 and Real Estate Speculation


Participatory Research: The Manhattan Vacant Property Count We knew that we had to prove that ware-

housing was pervasive and harmful to community and the City as a whole. We designed and conducted a block by block count of vacant properties in Manhattan in conjunction with the Manhattan Borough President in 2006. Our report, Homeless People Count, proved that the total volume of empty housing units in abandoned buildings in Manhattan exceeded the number of homeless people in shelter and on the street citywide. 24,000 potential apartments could have been developed out of all those properties going to waste!7 And the housing crisis and economic recession have increased both homelessness and vacancy since then. The financial collapse of 2008 has also left countless condo developments stalled for lack of financing.8

Sleep Outs, Public Education and Relationship Building

PTH members arrested at “tent city” protest on vacant lot, East Harlem, 2009.

Housing Not Warehousing Campaign History Picture the Homeless began our Housing Campaign in 2004, with a vacant property count in El Barrio/E. Harlem. The count taught us that most vacant properties were privately owned, and the property taxes paid. This was a very different scenario than the abandonment of previous decades. Picture the Homeless members were acutely aware of vacancy: the neighborhoods with the most vacant property are the same neighborhoods that send the most homeless families into the shelter system.


Picture the Homeless members were convinced that the development of vacant properties was key to solving the housing crisis, and the renovation of vacant properties a source of good jobs. Our vision to create housing and jobs through the rehabilitation of vacant buildings isn’t a new idea. It has worked in the past. But vacant property is a hot commodity now, and much of it is in the private market. Government officials told us that vacancy is a thing of the past, that the city doesn’t keep records of vacancy, and there’s just no way to prove it’s really a problem. Most housing advocacy organizations also told us we couldn’t do anything about privately owned vacant property. We weren’t convinced. We realized that we had to shift the conversation by exposing the extent to which buildings and lots were being kept vacant. We conducted extensive outreach to homeless people, building our base to mobilize for town hall meetings and direct actions highlighting vacant property and its impact on the entire city, in the process building relationships with dozens of grassroots groups and faith leaders who felt that property warehousing needed to stop.


In early 2006, in conjunction with launching the vacant property count, we began a series of “sleep-outs”, where we literally slept on the sidewalk in front of vacant buildings, engaging the community in conversations around vacancy and homelessness and gentrification. We also garnered extensive press coverage. Neighbors brought us coffee and warm soup. These public sleep-outs helped build solidarity within our organization, and public support for our work. It was during the process of building support for our first sleep out that members of PTH met with folks from the office of Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. His office partnered with us on the block-by-block count of vacant buildings and lots in Manhattan referenced above.

State Legislative Victory, City Legislative Challenge

One policy change resulting from our Manhattan count was a bill introduced by State Senator Jose Serrano and passed through both chambers of the legislature, which eradicated a tax incentive that had essentially rewarded landlords for keeping property vacant above 110th Street in communities with high rates of homelessness and rampant gentrification. Picture the Homeless members reached out to every member of the New York City Council in 2006, seeking to craft and find a sponsor for legislation to mandate a vacant property count and create incentives to develop housing for poor people. South Brooklyn Legal Services assisted us in the research and writing of the bill, which was sponsored by Councilman Tony Avella. By late 2009, it was clear that the Council legal department would not allow a bill to be introduced with provisions that included elements such as “duty to rent”. We were in fact told that bills were not introduced at all if they weren’t likely to be passed! Many of our members felt that council members should have had the opportunity to gather testimony, debate and vote on this bill, and preventing its introduction was a “subversion of democracy.” Indeed, we learned a lot about the legislative process along the way. In February of 2010, a new bill was introduced by Melissa Mark-Viverito. Intro 48 would empower the city to conduct an annual count of vacant buildings and lots throughout the five boroughs. We believed that this was a strategic and pragmatic compromise. We continue to be convinced that once vacant properties are counted and the results publicized, it will ignite outrage


Demonstration at City Hall, demanding action on vacant property, 2010.

in the communities most affected by the housing crisis and create additional organizing opportunities. While Intro 48 garnered the majority of City Council members as co-sponsors in less than a month, as of the end of 2011 it still has not been calendered by the Chair of the Housing Committee of the City Council. We reached out to the Council’s policy division to see what was happening—and learned that they were “getting push-back” from the Administration, who were concerned about the “cost of the bill” even after extremely-modest cost estimates were provided.

Takeovers, the Housing Not Warehousing Coalition and Upping the Ante Faced with the bar-

riers to passing progressive legislation through the City Council, we knew we had to raise the stakes in order to get any sort of anti-warehousing or vacant property legislation passed. With support—and homelessness—increasing, we decided to create a Housing Not Warehousing! (HNW!) Coalition. Our intent was to formalize relationships with allies, build a structure to incorporate them into the work, increase our effectiveness to win a city-wide vacant property count, and build momentum to create housing for extremely low income folks. The HNW! Coalition includes members from sectors of the community and social justice movement that we believe are critical to changing housing policy in New York City, including grassroots and community based organizations, cultural workers, faith communities, labor, academics, and housing developers. In 2009 we took over a vacant building in El Barrio, on the corner of 116th and Madison, that had been vacant for decades. With critical support provided by members of the HNW! Coalition, we turned out hundreds of supporters in the rain. That night we slept on the sidewalk in front of the building and deepened our resolved to liberate vacant property. In the summer of 2009, we held another public takeover of a vacant lot in El Barrio owned by Chase Manhattan Bank, where 10 of us were arrested, and hundreds turned out in support. These actions put even more of a public spotlight on property warehousing, and they built support internally for members to take up squatting as a form of collective resistance. It was within this context, and that of governmental inaction, that we embarked upon a mapping project to engage New Yorkers to partner with us to identify vacant properties city-wide and to show the city that the count could be done.


In the summer of 2010, we attended a workshop on open-source crowd mapping as a means to map services for homeless folks. In our experience, homeless folks know where services are, so we suggested using the technology to map vacant properties to educate the public about vacancy instead! We launched

“THE POWERS THAT BE DON’T WANT TO COUNT VACANT PROPERTY BECAUSE IT WILL SHINE AN UGLY LIGHT ON THEIR REAL ESTATE FRIENDS.” Dwayne Austin, Picture the Homeless Member, which allowed folks to text the address to our Vacant NYC map, and created the See Something, Say Something initiative in the late summer of 2010. We requested lists of vacancies from a range of city agencies, and uploaded those into Vacant NYC, for a total of nearly 12,000 vacant properties by December of 2010. This resulted in several things, including the partnership with Hunter College whose findings this report addresses.


Throughout the fall of 2010, we turned up the heat on the City Council to take action on Intro 48. We engaged with allies, met with electeds, and created public education and media opportunities around the issue of vacant properties. These actions included a massive press conference in support of Intro 48. Over 100 representatives from dozens of members of the HNW! Coalition joined us.

BANKING ON VACANCY Homelessness 127 and Real Estate Speculation



NYC Vacant Properties Could House Every Homeless Person… and then Some! These results show the outstanding

amount of under utilized housing stock that is available in just a third of New York City! Every homeless person in New York City could have a home with the amount of vacant space that currently exists. By pushing for rehabilitation of the existing vacant buildings the city could create jobs and house people immediately.

Shelters Would Become Obsolete While the city chooses to waste money on the shelter-industrial complex, we have found that the number of shelter beds in each district is significantly lower than the number of potential housing units in each community district. There is space to house five times as many people in vacant property as are currently in shelter citywide. The city spends $3,500 a month to house someone in a shelter—adding up to $856 million a year, yet there is no plan in place to create real housing for the poor. Neighborhood Vacancy and Shelter Correlation

Results from our vacant property count demonstrate a pattern of displacement. According to the Vera Institute of Justice’s report “Understanding Family Homelessness In New York City” almost half of eligible homeless families came from 10 of the 59 community districts in New York City.10 Six of these ten community districts are the same ones where we found the highest rate of vacancy. This correlation demonstrates that homelessness and warehousing go hand in hand.

City Data is a Useless Mess In advance of the count, we compiled as much city data as we could, to identify the community districts with the highest rate of vacancies using Freedom of Information Law requests to many city agencies. We were unable to obtain a clear picture of vacancy in New York City. Once we took on the challenge of walking block by block, counting the number of vacant buildings and lots, we obtained thousands of surveys reporting vacant properties. Comparing what community members identified as vacant properties to the information that


we obtained from the city exposed an incomprehensible inconsistency between what the city records and what the community has to live with. Our data demonstrates that city records-keeping is useless for understanding housing conditions, and is in need of a dramatic overhaul.

Warehousing with Commercial Space Walking through blighted neighborhoods such as Harlem and Bed-Stuy one notices many storefronts that are active. What people generally do not notice is the amount of empty residential units that are available on top of these commercial spaces. Landlords warehouse their residential units because they can make enough money from extravagant commercial rents without any of the hassles of residential tenants. Available Commercial Space can Help Subsidize Low Income Residential Units Within the thousands of vacant

buildings that this report has identified, we found 4,544 units that are zoned for commercial or manufacturing use. The Cooper Square Mutual Housing Association focuses on providing affordable housing apartments on the Lower East Side through the Community Land Trust/MHA model. They are able to keep rents as low as $350 a month, in part by subsidizing their rents using some of the profits made from their rented out commercial space. According to Valerio Orselli Executive Director of the Cooper Square Committee, they are able to raise 27% of their total operating cost by using the income gained from their commercial spaces to maintain affordable units.

Affordable Housing is Not Really Affordable The U.S.

Department of Housing and Urban Development(HUD) uses “Area Median Income” (AMI) to identify the range for “affordable housing” guidelines. AMI in New York City is distorted by affluent neighborhoods in the greater New York Metropolitan Area including northern New Jersey and Long Island, pushing the AMI to $80,200.11 In order to provide real affordable housing, the city needs to mandate that the AMI be more locally determined. If a


building is being developed in the Bronx and is being subsidized by public funds, the AMI should be appropriate to the median income of the neighborhood! Current practices encourage gentrification and displacement while using public funds to do it.

The City Masks Vacant Lots as “Parks” In many instances our surveyors identified abandoned, garbage-filled, and weedridden lots that the city lists as public recreation spaces. The city needs to distinguish between lots that are publicly accessible and sealed-off lots where the community could create a plan for proper usage of the space. New Yorkers should not be living next to garbage and rat-infested lots that they claim to be recreational space! These spaces pose potential health hazards and devalue the quality of life for community members.

“People housed” is a speculative estimate, based on local zoning regulations on vacant residential buildings and lots, and contingent on development to the maximum floor/area ratio (FAR), following established city planning estimates of 350 square feet per person. Instead of mandating that all vacant lots be developed into housing, our goal is to empower neighborhoods to fight for their own needs—community gardens, parking lots, commercial use, housing development, etc. Our total figure is a potential maximum, subject in practice to detailed site analysis and community decision making.

This Can be Replicated The city stated that a count of vacant

properties in New York could not be done because it would cost too much money. We have proven that through the use of volunteers and partnering with a University a vacant property count can be done. Using our Analytical and Organizing Methodology this process could be replicated at a much lower cost than what city officials claim.

Vacancy Affects Everyone When organizing this project

we reached out to as many community members as possible. We spoke at neighborhood events, rallies, protests, churches, highs schools and colleges, community organizations, shelters, city council forums, and any other place where we could find an open ear. While engaging the community about the issue of vacant properties, we received unanimous concerns about vacancy being a problem. The staggering volume of empty buildings and lots that we identified causes major harm on all aspects of city life. People who are in need of housing want these vacant buildings to be put in use. Community members who feel like there are not enough parks and recreation spaces in their neighborhoods want the vacant lots to be turned into something useful. Homeowners living next to rodent-infested lots want the city to clean up the brownfields that are ever-present across blighted neighborhoods in New York City.

Hiding Ownership With LLCs and MERS As we collected

and analyzed the thousands of vacant properties found in our survey, we came across great difficulties in identifying their ownership. The usage of Limited Liability Corporations allow landlords to mask true ownership of warehoused and abandoned properties. In cases where the properties are bank-owned or are going through foreclosure, the usage of Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc (MERS) make it even more problematic to identify ownership and transaction history by community members. In the end, a community member would need a law degree and a substantial amount of free time to decipher the ownership of vacant buildings and lots in their neighborhood and uncover slumlords, warehousers, and property-flipping schemes. The city needs to clearly record property ownership and mortgage transactions and have that information be easily accessible. By allowing these practices to persist the city is supporting predatory tactics and displacement processes.


BANKING ON VACANCY Homelessness 129 and Real Estate Speculation









total number of vacant buildings and lots: 297 > housing a total of 11,694 people number of existing shelter units: 100 1,585 commercial/manufacturing units found within 263 vacant buildings. 1% of vacant property is owned by the government; only 5% of the vacant properties we found had been identified as vacant in the city data we received.

total number of vacant buildings and lots: 99 > housing a total of 15,782 people number of existing shelter units: 1,172 370 commercial/manufacturing units found within 172 vacant buildings. 10% of vacant property is owned by the government; only 6% of the vacant properties we found had been identified as vacant in the city data we received.

total number of vacant buildings and lots: 105 > housing a total of 3,862 people number of existing shelter units: 736 50 commercial/manufacturing units found within 94 vacant buildings. 5% of vacant property is owned by the government; only 7% of the vacant properties we found had been identified as vacant in the city data we received..

total number of vacant buildings and lots: 222 > housing a total of 8,656 people number of existing shelter units: 260 431 commercial/manufacturing units found within 172 vacant buildings. 3% of vacant property is owned by the government; only 8% of the vacant properties we found had been identified as vacant in the city data we received.

total number of vacant buildings and lots: 51 > housing a total of 5,250 people number of existing shelter units: 342 643 commercial/manufacturing units found within 41 vacant buildings. 0% of vacant property is owned by the government; only 6% of the vacant properties we found had been identified as vacant in the city data we received.

total number of vacant buildings and lots: 327 > housing a total of 11,338 people number of existing shelter units: 1,223 241 commercial/manufacturing units found within 255 vacant buildings. 15% of vacant property is owned by the government; only 13% of the vacant properties we found had been identified as vacant in the city data we received.


total number of vacant buildings and lots: 143 > housing a total of 9,252 people number of existing shelter units: 287 168 commercial/manufacturing units found within 96 vacant buildings. 5% of vacant property is owned by the government; only 17% of the vacant properties we found had been identified as vacant in the city data we received.



CD 10 CD 09 VACANT BUILDINGS VACANT LOTS These numbers are overall highlights showing relative density of vacant property. More comprehensive data is available on our website:











BANKING ON VACANCY Homelessness 131 and Real Estate Speculation




total number of vacant buildings and lots: 161 > housing a total of 4,963 people number of existing shelter units: 768 1,585 commercial/manufacturing units found within 263 vacant buildings. 1% of vacant property is owned by the government; only 5% of the vacant properties we found had been identified as vacant in the city data we received.


total number of vacant buildings and lots: 236 > housing a total of 11,179 people number of existing shelter units: 1,143 431 commercial/manufacturing units found within 172 vacant buildings. 3% of vacant property is owned by the government; only 8% of the vacant properties we found had been identified as vacant in the city data we received.


total number of vacant buildings and lots: 157 > housing a total of 4,772 people number of existing shelter units: 776 370 commercial/manufacturing units found within 172 vacant buildings. 10% of vacant property is owned by the government; only 6% of the vacant properties we found had been identified as vacant in the city data we received.



CD 06



These numbers are overall highlights showing relative density of vacant property. More comprehensive data is available on our website:




BANKING ON VACANCY Homelessness 133 and Real Estate Speculation











total number of vacant buildings and lots: 349 > housing a total of 22,611 people number of existing shelter units: 688 145 commercial/manufacturing units found within 188 vacant buildings. 7% of vacant property is owned by the government, only 10% of the vacant properties we found had been identified as vacant in the city data we received.

total number of vacant buildings and lots: 466 > housing a total of 10,376 people number of existing shelter units: 852 123 commercial/manufacturing units found within 419 vacant buildings. 3% of vacant property is owned by the government, only 2% of the vacant properties we found had been identified as vacant in the city data we received.

total number of vacant buildings and lots: 531 > housing a total of 13,379 people number of existing shelter units: 970 36 commercial/manufacturing units found within 254 vacant buildings. 5% of vacant property is owned by the government, only 2% of the vacant properties we found had been identified as vacant in the city data we received.

total number of vacant buildings and lots: 182 > housing a total of 5,079 people number of existing shelter units: 832 78 commercial/manufacturing units found within 117 vacant buildings. 4% of vacant property is owned by the government, only 15% of the vacant properties we found had been identified as vacant in the city data we received.


total number of vacant buildings and lots: 212 > housing a total of 6,100 people number of existing shelter units: 1,094 204 commercial/manufacturing units found within 155 vacant buildings. 4% of vacant property is owned by the government, only 14% of the vacant properties we found had been identified as vacant in the city data we received.

total number of vacant buildings and lots: 384 > housing a total of 5,647 people number of existing shelter units: 518 55 commercial/manufacturing units found within 202 vacant buildings. 8% of vacant property is owned by the government, only 19% of the vacant properties we found had been identified as vacant in the city data we received.

total number of vacant buildings and lots: 294 > housing a total of 4,767 people number of existing shelter units: 295 107 commercial/manufacturing units found within 134 vacant buildings. 3% of vacant property is owned by the government, only 14% of the vacant properties we found had been identified as vacant in the city data we received.

total number of vacant buildings and lots: 307 > housing a total of 5,079 people number of existing shelter units: 1,402 83 commercial/manufacturing units found within 154 vacant buildings. 31% of vacant property is owned by the government, only 26% of the vacant properties we found had been identified as vacant in the city data we received.


VACANT BUILDINGS VACANT LOTS These numbers are overall highlights showing relative density of vacant property. More comprehensive data is available on our website:



CD 04





CD 08

CD 16






BANKING ON VACANCY Homelessness 135 and Real Estate Speculation




total number of vacant buildings and lots: 612 > housing a total of 9,592 people number of existing shelter units: 82 199 commercial/manufacturing units found within 362 vacant buildings. 2% of vacant property is owned by the government; only 3% of the vacant properties we found had been identified as vacant in the city data we received.

VACANT BUILDINGS VACANT LOTS These numbers are overall highlights showing relative density of vacant property. More comprehensive data is available on our website:






total number of vacant buildings and lots: 605 > housing a total of 32,719 people number of existing shelter units: 0 39 commercial/manufacturing units found within 211 vacant buildings. 36% of vacant property is owned by the government; only 24% of the vacant properties we found had been identified as vacant in the city data we received.

VACANT BUILDINGS VACANT LOTS These numbers are overall highlights showing relative density of vacant property. More comprehensive data is available on our website:


BANKING ON VACANCY Homelessness 137 and Real Estate Speculation



We began by assessing what data the city already had. In the course of our research we had learned that different city agencies collect different information about vacant properties—the NYPD keeps track of vacant property in which illegal activity has been reported, the Fire Department monitors properties that they had sealed up after fire damage, and so on. In November of 2010 we began an exhaustive campaign of Freedom of Information Law Requests to every city agency that could conceivably have kept relevant records. In the end we sent nineteen FOIL requests to eleven different agencies. Many city agencies ignored or outright refused to comply with our requests. Some provided data that was clearly out of date, or formatted in such a way as to make it impossible to collate or compare with other city agency data. And then some responded right away, with very helpful and thorough data. Ultimately, by obtaining information regarding vacant lots and buildings from various governmental agencies via the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) as well as information reported through other governmental and non-governmental sources, we stacked up a listing of over 40,000 properties. Our comprehensive data set came from the sources seen in “Initial Findings.” We shared this dataset with our partners at Hunter College, who carefully reviewed it. They removed duplicate and erroneous listings. All vacant buildings and lots were mapped using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software and the Department of City Planning’s PLUTO database. It quickly became apparent that the vast majority of the vacancies were concentrated in a small number of communities. We concluded that it would be most efficient and effective to concentrate time and resources on these neighborhoods. A complete block-by-block survey of the entire city would certainly have been possible, but we could not justify the additional time and resources it would require to survey and map the relatively small number of vacancies in many parts of the city. In order to narrow down the areas to be surveyed, we had to use only the data that was up-to-date and available citywide. The Right to the City Condo Count listings were taken out because they were dated and in only one borough. The 4,000 partial vacate orders were removed, because the data was useless for our

purposes. The city fails to document the extent of the vacancy in a partially-vacant property, meaning that every one of these properties was somewhere between 1% and 99% vacant. It would have been impossible to count or verify partial vacancies in our field survey without having access to the buildings.


We considered mapping the concentrations of vacant property by census tract, zip code, Council District or informal neighborhood boundaries. We concluded that the best choice would be the city’s 59 community districts. Mapping these addresses in GIS, Hunter was able to identify the number of vacant properties per community board. We used this finalized list to identify target areas. Hunter collected information regarding the size of each community district from the Department of City Planning, and used this to control for density and determine the number of vacancies per square mile (mi²). Community districts were ranked from largest to smallest in three scenarios: total number of vacancies per mi², total number of vacant lots mi², and total number of vacant buildings mi². We then analyzed and compared the top ten community districts in each list. Because many community boards appeared in more than one “top ten,” removing the repeats left us with a list of 18 community districts. This list included all of the major areas of vacancy concentrations, and fit our own collective knowledge of the city’s neighborhoods. Because it was strategically important to cover all five boroughs, thus truly creating a replicable model for a citywide vacant property count, we expanded our list to 20 by adding CD 1 in Staten Island and CD 14 in Queens, the areas with the highest number of vacancies per mi² within their respective boroughs.


Data Entry Once the field survey was done, the surveys were collected and grouped by borough. Each physical survey was then entered into a spreadsheet with columns for all of the information on the survey. We used Internet tools such as The Open Accessible Space Information System ( designed by the CUNY Mapping Service to identify the addresses on each survey when a surveyor could not find an address for a particular property. OASIS uses City Planning information to create an online map




905 vacant lots and buildings reported by volunteers 1,067 vacant buildings reported by the NYC Department of

Housing Preservation and Development (HPD)

3,121 vacant lots reported from Department of Environmental Remediation

434 vacant city-owned lots reported by the Division of

Real Estate Services at the NYC Department of City-wide Administrative Services (DCAS)

5,552 vacant buildings reported by the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB)

706 reports of stalled construction sites 697 buildings with full vacate orders, from the DOB 4,151 buildings with partial vacate orders, from the DOB 451 vacant lots and buildings from Right to the City Vacant

Condo Count (RTTCC)

30,080 vacant lots reported from NYC Department of City

Planning (DCP) Pluto Data

41,176 total vacant buildings and lots SECONDARY FINDINGS

1,808 Vacant Buildings from the Department of Building Lists, and HPD Vacant Buildings

7,771 Vacant Lots from the Department of City Planning Pluto, Department of Environmental Remediation (Brownfields), vacant city-owned lots from Division of Real Estate Services, Department of City Planning Pluto Data

9,579 total vacant buildings and lots BANKING ON VACANCY Homelessness 139 and Real Estate Speculation


of New York City that provides city data on each property in all five boroughs. We then transferred the addresses of each property into its Borough, Block, and Lot location in order to extract the property information from the city data on PLUTO and map it via GIS. The bulk of the data entry and transfer was done by full-time and part-time interns at PTH and Hunter College.

Follow Up Research After compiling all of the surveys on a

spreadsheet and obtaining the city’s PLUTO data for each address, we then did follow up research to further verify the data. We used Google Maps and OASIS which provides links to the Department of Buildings and ACRIS information on each property. The majority of the vacant buildings that were identified by surveyors had a clear record of vacancy complaints or vacate orders according to Margin of Error While we provided numerous trainings for the Department of Buildings website, while other buildings were volunteers, and partnered less-experienced counters with veteran volunteers, working with non-professionals will inevitably produce visibly vacant. The final set of data and maps combines the results of our field study with the valid data we received from the city. In a diversity of survey quality. Less than 5 percent of our surveys many cases the field survey confirmed vacancies reported in city were invalidated as incomplete, wrong, or identifying addresses data. However, our survey found significantly more vacant buildthat upon follow-up research were not vacant. In some cases, we ings. In part this is because our survey found many completed sent experienced organizers out to re-count entire transects to residential buildings with active ground-floor retail and residential verify surveyor findings. This is a conservative count. Suspicious units intentionally held off the market (and thus not listed in the properties without clear evidence of vacancy (boarded-up wincity data). In part it may have to do with a continuing growth in dows, padlocked doors, overgrown lots) were omitted, and in the vacancies since earlier this year. We believe it also reflects the great case of vacant condos we believe the quantity is significant. Any value of having on-the-ground community surveys conducted by erroneous entries serve to underscore the need for the city to convolunteers from our neighborhoods. duct an official citywide vacant property count as a matter of One of the shortcomings of the field survey, however, was the good public policy. ability to accurately identify vacant lots. Since vacant lots do not have observable street addresses, surveyors usually had to provide a reference from a nearby building. We had to check local and on-line sources to come up with block and lot numbers that best identified the vacant lots. Sometimes surveyors incorrectly identified a city park or side yard as a vacant lot and we were able to correct these mistakes. In the end, we found that existing city data shows many more vacant lots than found in the survey. Nevertheless, we still found a large number of vacant lots that were not previously recorded. PTH members and allies at Manhattan training.


Cost AnalysIs The city-wide vacant property count was achieved through a partnership between Picture the Homeless and the Hunter College Center for Community Planning and Development. Volunteers, including the volunteer labor of homeless leaders of Picture the Homeless, helped to keep costs low. The primary costs were staff time for organizing and coordinating the count, assistance with data collection and management, analysis of findings, preparation of maps, as well as other resources like printing, food for volunteers, and transportation. While objections to a city wide count include the claims that it would cost “millions of dollars”12, we did it for approximately $150,000, less than $1 per person who could be housed in the property we counted. Considering the potential savings to the city and neighborhoods, and families impacted by homelessness and the housing crisis, this is quite a bargain.


NEIGHBORHOOD SNAPSHOT: BEDFORD-STUYVESANT By Kendall Jackman Prior to the financial crash of 1929, Blacks could not live on the Fulton Street side of Atlantic Avenue, only whites: doctors, lawyers, teachers, businessmen. Blacks were only allowed if they worked for the white folks. When the crash occurred, life changed in Bedford-Stuyvesant. When they tell the history of the crash, they don’t talk much about how entire neighborhoods changed hands. BedfordStuyvesant is one such neighborhood. Bankers stopped you when you exited the train at Nostrand Avenue and Fulton Street. They asked you if you worked. Did you make $5.00 a week? Do you want a house? We became proud owners of beautiful brownstones. The typical brownstone is three stories high. The duplex

apartment on the first two floors was where the owner (white folks) had lived, and the top floor apartment had been for “the help”. The owners of four story brownstones were lucky and had an extra floor. When we purchased them during this time, we turned most of them into boarding houses. The new owner lived on the first floor and split the upper floors into rooms. It became a strong, tightly-knit, Black middle-class community.

worth. This was the beginning of modern day redlining in Bed-Stuy. The gentrification of Bedford-Stuyvesant can be seen as the descendants of the original owners reclaiming their neighborhood. I see it as the destruction of a proud neighborhood that lived as a community, not a group of people who just owns property for profit.

In the 1960s, banks started not giving home owners loans to improve their property, although the property had been paid for two, three times over. When bandaids no longer work, they were forced to sell the property for a fraction of its real

BANKING ON VACANCY Homelessness 141 and Real Estate Speculation



Partially-completed surveyor map.

Simply put, there are people who benefit financially from other people being priced out of housing. Homelessness is an essential part of the housing market as it currently functions, and the only way that is going to change is for people who are homeless to organize and fight back and win. As an under-resourced grassroots organization, organizing and asserting the rights of an extremely stigmatized constituency, the only way we can impact large systems such as the housing market is to creatively combine base building, leadership development, participatory research, direct action, civil disobedience, legislation, litigation, media and coalition work. We knew that our documentation had to be airtight for this count. Thanks to our partnership with Hunter College, we learned a lot towards how to accomplish that. This report exposes that there is enough vacant housing and land to house every homeless New Yorker, and then some. In the five years since our Manhattan Count, Picture the Homeless members and staff have developed our vision for the use of vacant buildings and lots. At the same time as we’ve learned a significant amount about urban planning, housing finance, cooperative housing development, community land trusts and mutual housing associations, as well as other strategies such as squatting or homesteading. Our organizing methodology stands on the shoulders of past and present housing struggles. Communities have organized, conducted participatory research, demonstrated, created alternative urban renewal plans, gotten arrested, squatted, renovated buildings, made gardens out of garbage strewn lots, and pressured elected officials and policy makers to resource affordable housing development at all levels of government. These and other tactics informed our Organizing Methodology. Mobilizing volunteers was the most crucial piece of the puzzle. 20 community boards is a third of the city—a lot of blocks to walk up and down! We reached out to volunteers through our normal outreach channels, meeting people at soup kitchens and


shelters throughout the five boroughs to let them know about this project and our work and asking them to participate. We also went to colleges and high schools in search of volunteers and interns. The fact that this project revolved around housing, a central issue to all New Yorkers, allowed us to attract a lot of support. In the end, we mobilized 295 volunteers, for a total of 1475 hours spent counting vacant property! As part of the mobilization effort, members and staff of PTH developed the curriculum for a formal 2 hour workshop, focusing on how vacant property impacts not only homelessness, but dozens of other issues as well. We offered teach-ins to any group, class, or organization that would be willing to give us a space to discuss these issues, and paid members to conduct the workshops. We were successful in scheduling frequent teach-ins helping us educate the public while recruiting volunteers. At the same time, we conducted internal workshops to build our members capacity to be effective ambassadors of the vacant property count—as well as build broader skills that would help the count in a number of ways, such as: public speaking, participatory research, internet searching, organizational messaging, and more. To collect viable data, volunteers needed training in how to identify vacant property. In the month leading up to the count, Picture the Homeless organized trainings in every borough so that volunteers learned how to distinguish vacant buildings and lots, especially in cases that were less clear-cut than buildings with cinderblocks in all the windows. Volunteers learned how to identify vacancy, how to fill out a survey, and how to read a map for the area that they were to cover. Volunteers got an additional orientation and training on the day of the count. In order to effectively cover all five boroughs,we broke the vacant property count down by borough from June through August. Locations were spread out through each of the community districts that we counted.


Lots of organizations are fighting for justice in New York City, and we’re fortunate to have allies in lots of overlapping sectors of the struggle—from other groups that do community organizing to faith communities with a commitment to social justice, progressive labor unions, immigrant rights groups, community development corporations, nonprofit housing developers, and more. Many got their members to serve as volunteers. Some elected officials assigned staffers to work with us. Dozens of our allies in our target communities opened up their offices to serve as “Hubs,” so that volunteers could meet up on the day of our mass mobilizations, receive training from PTH members and staff, get donuts and coffee and a clipboard and survey forms, and head out into the field. We broke up each community board into “transects,” smaller areas of 10 to 20 square blocks, and assigned these to our volunteers. First-time volunteers went out in teams, and more experienced vacant property counters on their own. Teams had five hours to count their transects, and they highlighted each block on their transect map as they covered it so that we’d know it had been counted. Later, interns and staff took these maps to go back and count the portions of each transect that the volunteers had not been able to get to. At the end of each count day, volunteers returned to their hubs to hand in their findings. Because we wanted to spread the word about our count far and wide, we put a lot of energy into getting media coverage. Throughout the months of May and June we held press conferences in each Borough, announcing the kick-off of each count. With help from city officials, Hunter College, and allied organizations, we were able to have five successful press conferences that got us coverage from El Diario NY1, Bronx12, Capital New York, New York Amsterdam News, Bronx News Network, WBAI, DNAinfo, New York Daily News, and many blogs.

Vacant building walking tour, Chelsea, 2009.


BANKING ON VACANCY Homelessness 143 and Real Estate Speculation


RECOMMENDATIONS Brooklyn vacancy.

homeless problem in New York city, there is a housing problem. By mandating use of residential spaces the city would ensure a higher rate of housing on the market and decrease the amount of vacancy. Those units that become vacant for more than 3 years should be taken over by the city and turned into housing for low income New Yorkers.

End Warehousing The city needs to prioritize housing by investing in real long term solutions to the housing crisis. Vacant-city owned properties identified in this report should be immediately turned into housing for low income New Yorkers. While many of the thousands of vacant buildings are empty condos where people could move right in, rehabilitation of distressed vacant buildings would provide jobs for countless skilled homeless people who have been laid off due to budget cuts and the economic recession. Low-income people who are willing to put their own work into fixing a vacant property should be granted ownership through the value of their sweat equity. A massive shift in how the city deals with housing needs to take place. The current record numbers of homeless people expose the dire need for housing and this report shows that there is more than enough housing available as long as the city is made to do something about it.


Pass Legislation that Would Mandate a City Wide Count The

Vacant Property Count exposes the need for an annual census of vacant buildings and lots to be coordinated by the city. We have exposed potential housing for 199,981 individuals that is not being used while there are people suffering brutal winters on the street. Counting these properties is an important first step to transforming them into housing for homeless people and fighting back against displacement. An annual count would allow people to obtain a clearer picture of the available housing and lots that could be developed with community input.

Three Year Vacancy Limit on Private Property Many of the vacant buildings

that surveyors identified have been vacant for numerous years by speculators waiting to turn a profit. To make sure that housing is made available, the city needs to impose a 3 year limit that a residential unit could remain without tenants. There is not a PICTURETHEHOMELESS.ORG 144

Community Land Trust The use of Community Land Trusts and Mutual Housing Associations would allow for long term affordable housing that would be regulated by the tenants that live in them, and facilitate a shift from a profit-based housing system to one based on people’s needs. Since Community Land Trusts are non-profits, this model would also allow city- and privately-owned buildings to be gifted to people that want to stay in their communities at an affordable rate, reducing the high rate of homelessness and displacement. For more information on Community Land Trusts, check out our website at: Freedom of Information Many governmental agencies simply refuse to comply with the Freedom of Information Law. We learned firsthand just how difficult it is to access the information that we need. This inconsistency is a major problem for New Yorkers trying to get information about their communities, or the actions of their elected and appointed officials. It also harms intergovernmental operations overall, and should be addressed through an executive order mandating uniformity, promptness and transparency in each agency’s responses to FOIL requests.

Affordable Housing for Low- and Extremely-Low Income New Yorkers Any new development that is subsidized by public funds should have real affordable housing units. Right now the city uses a percentage of Area Medium Income that is considerably higher than the median income of the neighborhood where these developments are being built. In order to keep community members in their neighborhoods, the city must mandate that any development include affordable housing units using a percentage that corresponds to the median household income of the community.


Usage of LLCs and MERS The City

needs to create a better system for recording and reporting ownership. The usage of LLCs and MERS allows building owners and banks to hide how many properties they actually own and makes it difficult to find them. People should be able to know who owns what in their neighborhood in order to know who to hold accountable for causing blight in their communities.

Partial Vacancy While this report

identifies fully residential vacant buildings, it does not encompass partial vacancies. Surveyors were trained to only record a property that was clearly unoccupied. Many landlords maintain tenants in a building in the process of emptying it out. Given the scope of this report we could not identify how many vacant apartments were in a building with partial vacancy. Further research needs to be done to clarify and quantify partial vacancies in order to better assess under utilized residential spaces.

In the middle of the count, PTH leaders traveled to Chicago to support the Anti-Eviction Campaign moving a homeless family into a vacant home.

BANKING ON VACANCY Homelessness 145 and Real Estate Speculation



City Hall demonstration, 2010.


Picture the Homeless is a multiracial, city-wide, grassroots organization founded in 1999. Our membership is comprised of homeless and formerly homeless New Yorkers. Members of Picture the Homeless are living in shelters, doubled-up with friends and family, sleeping on subways, parks and transit facilities. Some have been unemployed or underemployed for the long term, some are juggling multiple low-wage or underground-economy jobs, others are union members who have recently lost work, others are disabled or senior citizens. All of them are extremely poor. Most are concerned with ending homelessness not only for themselves, but in working to make New York City a better place. Picture the Homeless works to build individual capacity and collective power for homeless New Yorkers as community stakeholders through grassroots organizing. We are a resource for homeless folks to identify the root causes of homelessness and to develop solution-based organizing campaigns. The fundamental causes of homelessness are connected to intersecting issues rooted in our economy: particularly the commodification of housing and resultant housing exclusion, extreme poverty, racism, gender and sexual identity discrimination, immigration, and other forms of economic marginalization. Issues that frame our work include the impact of homelessness on individuals and communities, the financial and human cost of the shelter industrial complex, the intersection between government agencies such as the police department and homeless folks, and the (mis) representation of homelessness and homeless people in the media. Picture the Homeless has worked since our founding to place ending homelessness on the agenda of the broader social justice movement, by pointing to the intersecting issues of racial, gender and economic justice. We sit on the coordinating committee of the Right to the City Alliance-NY, the steering committee of the Campaign to Restore National Housing Rights, the steering committee for the Campaign for Fair and Just Policing, Organizing for Occupation, and are involved in numerous other alliances. We are recipients of the Union Square Award, the Samuel Peabody Award of the Citizens Committee for Children, the Building the Blessed City Award from Interfaith Assembly on Housing and Homelessness, the Harry Chapin Self-Reliance Award, and the Rabbi Marshall Meyer Risk-Taker Award by Jews for Racial and Economic Justice. Ours was named one of the top 50 public policy blogs by the Policy Police. PICTURETHEHOMELESS.ORG 146


Count coordinators Kendall Jackman (l) and Adrian Antonio Paling (r).

Picture the Homeless conducted this groundbreaking, city wide survey of vacant buildings and lots with the vision, participation and assistance of many friends and allies. We are grateful to each and every one of them. Staten Island and Brooklyn volunteers. This report was written by Adrian Antonio Paling, Sam J. Miller and Lynn Lewis. The Vacant Property Count that it chronicles was executed under the meticulous direction of Adrian Antonio Paling, Housing Not Warehousing organizer at Picture the Homeless. This first city-wide survey of vacant properties is the culmination of seven years of efforts by our Housing Not Warehousing campaign, originally staffed by Sam J. Miller, who has been the consistent staffer of this work, since the campaign began. This participatory action research project is one of several strategies developed by our Housing Not Warehousing campaign to increase the supply of housing for the poorest New Yorkers, by identifying and exposing the extent to which land and housing is made unavailable by speculators. It represents the culmination of most important aspect of their contribution however, was the years of creative organizing and relationship building with allies. ability of Tom and Angela to work with us as full partners in this Anika Paris, Chris Blow, Eric Brelsford and Mara Gittleman all project. They gave direction where we needed capacity and they helped produce the “Vacant NYC” interactive online map of vatook direction when we were clear about our goals for the project. cancy that was the immediate forerunner of this project. Support Peter Marcuse was also instrumental in his enthusiastic support from Picture the Homeless Executive Director Lynn Lewis, Office for this project. Manager Anika Paris, interns Solène Junger and Tanaka Nyemba, The city-wide report was conceptualized during the winter and board member Ryan Gibbs were critical in different ways to of 2010 and throughout the spring of 2011. Picture the Homeless the success of the count. and Hunter College held several planning meetings to review project goals and methodology, with Angela Tovar, Adrian We are extremely grateful to Dr. Tom Angotti, Director Antonio Paling, Genghis Khalid Muhammad, Kendall Jackman, of the Hunter College Center for Community Planning and Lynn Lewis, Sam J. Miller, Tom Angotti, William Burnett. At the Development, for sharing our enthusiasm for this project, and weekly Picture the Homeless organizing team meetings, as well the belief that Housing is a Human Right. Tom committed the as the weekly Housing Not Warehousing campaign meetings, the resources at Hunter College to help make this a reality. Angela vacant property count enjoyed the brain power of dozens of homeTovar of Hunter College spent hundreds of hours on data entry less leaders and the entire Picture the Homeless staff. Members and mapping, and participated in the field research portion. The BANKING ON VACANCY Homelessness 147 and Real Estate Speculation



Count volunteers in Staten Island (l); PTH member demonstrating at City Hall (r).


contributed in many other ways, including phone banking, meeting with ally organizations to elicit support, and training volunteer surveyors. Jerry Singleton and Ryan Gibbs, for example, made hundreds of calls to mobilize volunteers. Marina Ortiz provided crucial support updating our website and social media work to help raise awareness and turn out volunteers for the count. Finally, the brilliant graphic design of this report is the work of Design Corps, a project of the Pratt Institute. Laurel Ames, Crissy Fetcher, and Lizzi Reid produced the winning design as decided by a vote of PTH members and staff. Hundreds of volunteers spent thousands of hours walking up and down the streets of every borough in the city all summer long. They gathered the data that this report presents, helped with coordinating the count dates, prepared materials, facilitated trainings, and conducted volunteer outreach. We are grateful to the generous allies and community based institutions who opened their offices to us to use as “hubs,” where count volunteers met for training and to pick up their survey packets, who mobilized their members and helped to spread the word. CAAAV, Coalition to Save Harlem, Community Voices Heard, Grace Church, Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing, John Wesley United Methodist Church, Neighbors Together, Not an Alternative, Pratt Area Community Council, Project Hospitality, Project Renewal, Queers for Economic Justice, Union Theological Seminary, numerous branches of the New York Public Library, and the offices of Council Members Margaret Chin, Letitia James, Jessica Lappin, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Diana Reyna and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. Finally, without the financial support provided by the Oak Foundation, New York Foundation and the Human Rights Fund, this city-wide vacant property count would not have been possible. Essential campaign support was also provided by the Mertz Gilmore Foundation, the Daphne Foundation, and the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation.


SOURCES 1. *Assessing the Economic Benefits of Public Housing, Econsult Corporation, 2007. 2. CETA Training Programs: Do They Work For Adults? Congressional Budget Office, 1982. 3. Daily Activities Report, NYC Department of Homeless Services, 11/22/2011. 4. U.S. Federal Census, 2010. 5. How Many People Experience Homelessness? National Coalition for the Homeless, Fact Sheet. 6. FY2010 Executive Budget Proposal Office of the Mayor, New York City, 2010. 7. Homeless People Count, Picture the Homeless, 2007. 8. A Count of Vacant Condos in Select New York City Neighborhood, Right to the City Alliance, 2010. 9. New York State Senate Bill S.6207/2008 & New York State Assembly Bill 8666/2008. 10. Understanding Family Homelessness, Vera Institute for Justice, 2005. 11. Fannie Mae Area Median Income Calculator, 12. “Building Census to Aid Homeless Wrong Tack, Quinn Says,” Frank Lombardi and Mike Jaccarino, New York Daily News, September 30th, 2010.

Photography: Marina Ortiz Design: Laurel Ames ’12, Crissy Fetcher ’12, Lizzi Reid ’13 Design Corps, Pratt Institute,

BANKING ON VACANCY Homelessness 149 and Real Estate Speculation


PICTURE THE HOMELESS This report exposes the extent to which vacant buildings and lots permeate our landscape, concentrated in the very communities hardest hit by gentrification and homelessness. We believe vacant property can create housing, parks, urban farms, commercial and cultural space, and jobs—and this report will prove just what a transformative impact this property could have.




TENANT’S RIGHTS Included in this section are two documents highlighting the rights a tenant has in his/her community as well as the issues that people come up against in daily living. poliSOCIAL would touch upon the topics of housing as it pertains to the tenant, but it wasn’t until near the conclusion of the semester that the team realized: housing is a topic that relates to EVERYONE. In Sunset Park, the tenant is a target audience that spans gender, culture, and community organizations.







ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN Attorney General Dear New Yorker: My office receives many inquiries concerning landlord/tenant matters. To assist you, we are pleased to provide our Tenant’s Rights Guide, which summarizes and explains the laws tenants need to know. We hope you find this guide useful as a first source for any tenant issues you may have. Tenants who are concerned about cooperative and condominium housing, topics not addressed in this guide, should contact my office’s Real Estate Financing Bureau. Should you need additional assistance or information about landlord/tenant matters, we have provided you with useful contacts at the end of this guide. Sincerely,

Eric T. Schneiderman




Rent Regulated Housing...............1 Rent Control..................................1 Rent Stabilization..........................2 Government-Financed Housing.........................................3 Special Types of Housing.............3

Smoke Detectors........................21 Carbon Monoxide Detectors.......21 Crime Prevention........................22 Entrance Door Locks and Intercoms....................................22 Lobby Attendant Service.............22 Elevator Mirrors..........................23 Individual Locks, Peepholes and Mailboxes.............................23 Window Guards ..........................23



What is a Lease?..........................4 Lease Provisions..........................4 Renewal Leases...........................5 Month-to-Month Tenants...............6

Heating Season ..........................24 Truth in Heating ..........................25 Hot Water....................................25 Continuation of Utility Service.....25 Oil Payments .............................25

INTRODUCTION..........................1 TYPES OF HOUSING

RENT Rent Charges................................6 Rent Overcharges.........................8 Rent Security Deposits.................9 LEASE SUCCESSION OR TERMINATION Subletting or Assigning Leases........................................10 Apartment Sharing......................13 Lease Succession Rights............13 Senior Citizen Lease Terminations...............................15 Lease Terminations for Military Personnel.......................16 Lease Terminations for Victims of Domestic Violence..................16 Eviction.......................................16 HABITABILITY AND REPAIRS Warranty of Habitability...............18 Landlords’ Duty of Repair............19 Lead Paint...................................20

TENANTS’ PERSONAL PROTECTIONS Tenant Organizations..................26 Retaliation...................................26 Right to Privacy..........................26 Disabilities..................................27 Discrimination.............................27 Harassment................................28 Pets.............................................29 FINDING AN APARTMENT Real Estate Brokers....................29 Apartment Information Vendors and Sharing Agencies.................30 RESOURCES Regional Offices of the Attorney General .......................................31 NYS Division of Housing and Community Renewal...................32 Other Useful Contacts...........32-35To Find Out More........................36


INTRODUCTION This booklet is designed as a guide to highlight some of the principal rights of residential tenants in this state. These rights are protected by a variety of federal, state and local laws. In addition, those areas of the State which are subject to rent stabilization, rent control or other rent regulation, may have special rules applicable to certain dwellings. Tenants are advised to consult a lawyer regarding particular situations that are of concern to them. TYPES OF HOUSING RENT REGULATED HOUSING Rent control and rent stabilization are the two types of rent regulation in New York State. If an apartment is not subject to these regulations, it is considered “unregulated.� An individual tenant’s rights will depend in part upon which regulations apply, although some apartments may fall under more than one category. While tenants in rent regulated or federally subsidized apartments have special rights, many of the procedural rules relevant to unregulated apartments also apply to regulated apartments. To inquire whether or not an apartment is regulated, contact the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR). RENT CONTROL Rent control limits the rent an owner may charge for an apartment and restricts the right of the owner to evict tenants. The rent control program applies to residential buildings constructed before February, 1947 in municipalities that have not declared an end to the postwar rental housing emergency. Rent control is still in effect in New York City and parts of Albany, Erie, Nassau, Rensselaer, Schenectady, and Westchester counties. In order for an apartment to be under rent control the tenant must have been living there continuously since before July 1, 1971. When a rent controlled apartment is vacated in New York City or most other localities, it becomes rent stabilized or 1


completely removed from regulation. In New York City, each rent controlled apartment has a maximum base rent that is adjusted every two years to reflect changes in operating costs. Tenants may challenge increases if the rent being charged by the landlord exceeds the legal regulated rent, the building has housing code violations, the owner’s expenses do not warrant an increase, or the owner is not maintaining essential services. RENT STABILIZATION Generally, in New York City, apartments are under rent stabilization if they are in buildings of six or more units built between February 1, 1947 and December 31, 1973. Tenants in buildings built before February 1, 1947, who moved in after June 30, 1971, are also covered by rent stabilization. A third category of rent stabilized apartments covers buildings with three or more apartments constructed or extensively renovated on or after January 1, 1974 with special tax benefits. Outside New York City, rent stabilized apartments are generally found in buildings with six or more apartments that were built before January 1, 1974. Local Rent Guidelines Boards in New York City, Nassau, Rockland and Westchester counties set maximum rates for rent increases once a year which are effective for one or two year leases beginning on or after October 1each year. Tenants in rent stabilized apartments are entitled to receive required essential services and to have their leases renewed, and may not be evicted except on grounds allowed by law. Any apartment with a monthly rent of $2,000 or more per month becomes deregulated when it becomes vacant. Occupied apartments may be deregulated when the legal regulated rent for the apartment reaches $2,000 or more and the apartment’s occupants have a total annual income in excess of $175,000 per year in each of the two years preceding the deregulation. Total annual income is the sum of the annual incomes of all persons (other than subtenants) who occupy the apartment as their primary residence on a non- temporary basis. A tenant in a unit that becomes deregulated in this manner may be offered a rent at the prevailing market rate. 2


GOVERNMENT-FINANCED HOUSING The Mitchell-Lama housing program provides rental and cooperative housing for middle-income tenants. For both statesponsored and city-sponsored Mitchell-Lama developments, tenants must meet eligibility requirements including income, family size, and apartment size. Additionally, each development sets its own restrictions. Public housing is a federally funded program in which statechartered public housing authorities develop and manage public housing developments. Public housing in New York is subject to federal, state, and local laws and regulations. Tenants in public housing are entitled to an administrative grievance process administered by the local housing authority before they may be evicted. The Section 8 Housing Assistance Payments program is a rent subsidy program that assists eligible low-income families in obtaining housing. Families receive a rental subsidy, known as a housing assistance payment, equal to the difference between their share of the rent and the rent charged by the owner. Eligible families and individuals are subject to statutory income limits. SPECIAL TYPES OF HOUSING The rights, duties and responsibilities of manufactured and mobile home parks’ owners and tenants are governed by Real Property Law § 233, popularly known as the “Mobile Home Owner’s Bill of Rights”. The DHCR has the authority to enforce compliance with this law. The rights, duties and responsibilities of New York City loft owners and tenants are governed by Multiple Dwelling Law, Article 7-C. The New York City Loft Board has the authority to enforce this law. The rights, duties and responsibilities of New York City residential hotel owners and tenants are governed by the rent stabilization law. The DHCR has the authority to enforce compliance with this law. 3


LEASES WHAT IS A LEASE? A lease is a contract between a landlord and a tenant which contains the terms and conditions of the rental. It cannot be changed while it is in effect unless both parties agree. Leases for apartments which are not rent stabilized may be oral or written. However, to avoid disputes the parties may wish to enter into a written agreement. A party must sign the lease in order to be bound by its terms. An oral lease for more than one year cannot be legally enforced. General Obligations Law § 5-701. At a minimum, leases should identify the premises, specify the names and addresses of the parties, the amount and due dates of the rent, the duration of the rental, the conditions of occupancy, and the rights and obligations of both parties. Except where the law provides otherwise, a landlord may rent on such terms and conditions as are agreed to by the parties. Any changes to the lease should be initialed by both parties. New York City rent stabilized tenants are entitled to receive from their landlords a fully executed copy of their signed lease within 30 days of the landlord’s receipt of the lease signed by the tenant. The lease’s beginning and ending dates must be stated. Rent stabilized tenants must also be given a rent stabilization lease rider, prepared by DHCR, which summarizes their rights under the law and provides specific information on how the rent was calculated. LEASE PROVISIONS Leases must use words with common and everyday meanings and must be clear and coherent. Sections of leases must be appropriately captioned and the print must be large enough to be read easily. General Obligations Law § 5-702; NY C.P.L.R. § 4544. The following lease provisions are void: • Exempting landlords from liability for injuries to per4


sons or property caused by the landlord’s negligence, or that of the landlord’s employees or agents

• Waiving the tenant’s right to a jury trial in any lawsuit brought by either of the parties against the other for personal injury or property damage • Requiring tenants to pledge their household furniture as security for rent • General Obligations Law § 5-321; Real Property Law § 259-c and § 231.

If a lease states that the landlord may recover attorney’s fees and costs incurred if a lawsuit arises, a tenant automatically has a reciprocal right to recover those fees as well. Real Property Law § 234. If the court finds a lease or any lease clause to have been unconscionable at the time it was made, the court may refuse to enforce the lease or the clause in question. Real Property Law § 235-c. RENEWAL LEASES For non-rent regulated apartments, a tenant may only renew the lease with the consent of the landlord and may be subject to eviction at the end of the lease term. However, a lease may contain an automatic renewal clause. In such case, the landlord must give the tenant advance notice of the existence of this clause between 15 and 30 days before the tenant is required to notify the landlord of an intention not to renew the lease. General Obligations Law § 5-905. Rent stabilized tenants have a right to a one or two year renewal lease, which must be on the same terms and conditions as the prior lease. A landlord’s acceptance of a Section 8 subsidy is one such term which must be continued on a renewal lease. Landlords may refuse to renew a lease only in certain enumerated circumstances, such as when the tenant is not using the premises as a primary residence. For New York City rent stabilized tenants, the landlord must give timely written notice to the tenant of the right to renewal as required 5


by law. After the notice of renewal is given, the tenant has 60 days in which to accept. If the tenant does not accept the renewal offer within the prescribed time, the landlord may refuse to renew the lease and seek to evict the tenant through court proceedings. If the tenant accepts the renewal offer, the landlord has 30 days to return the fully executed lease to the tenant. Until returned to the tenant, the lease is not effective, and therefore the rent increase portion need not be paid. MONTH-TO-MONTH TENANTS Tenants who do not have leases and pay rent on a monthly basis are called “month-to-month” tenants. In localities without rent regulation, tenants who stay past the end of a lease are treated as month-to-month tenants if the landlord accepts their rent. Real Property Law § 232-c. A month-to-month tenancy outside New York City may be terminated by either party by giving at least one month’s notice before the expiration of the tenancy. For example, if the landlord wants the tenant to move out by November 1 and the rent is due on the first of each month, the landlord must give notice by September 30. In New York City, 30 days’ notice is required, rather than one month. The termination notice need not specify why the landlord seeks possession of the apartment, only that the landlord elects to terminate the tenancy and that refusal to vacate will lead to eviction proceedings. Such notice does not automatically allow the landlord to evict the tenant. A landlord may raise the rent of a month-to-month tenant with the consent of the tenant. If the tenant does not consent, however, the landlord can terminate the tenancy by giving appropriate notice. Real Property Law § 232-a and § 232-b. RENT RENT CHARGES When an apartment is not rent regulated, a landlord is free to charge any rent agreed upon by the parties. If the apart6


ment is subject to rent regulation, the initial rent and subsequent rent increases are set by law. Maximum rent increases for rent stabilized apartments are set each year by the Rent Guidelines Board. In addition, landlords of rent stabilized apartments may seek rent increases for certain types of building-wide major capital improvements (MCI) that benefit all tenants, such as the replacement of a boiler or the installation of new equipment. Rents may be increased in individual apartments for substantial increases in dwelling space, new equipment, improvements or furnishings. The landlord must file an application with DHCR for the increase within two years after making the improvements. With the consent of the tenant, the landlord may seek a monthly rent increase for improvements made to an apartment for up to 1/40 of the cost of such improvements, including installation but excluding finance charges. Tenants are given the opportunity to challenge the rent increase. No rent adjustment may be charged until DHCR approves the application. For rent stabilized apartments in New York City, the rent adjustment collectible in any one year may not exceed six percent of the tenant’s rent. Adjustments above the six percent cap can be spread forward to future years. For all rent controlled or stabilized apartments outside New York City, the permanent adjustment collectible in any one year may not exceed fifteen percent of the tenant’s rent. Additionally, a landlord may increase the rent because of hardship or increased labor costs. For rent controlled apartments in New York City, the rent may also be adjusted according to changes in the prices of various types of heating fuels. Tenants who are senior citizens (62 years or older) or who are disabled may be granted certain exemptions from rent increases. Tenants may determine whether they qualify for a Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) or a Disability Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE) by calling the DHCR’s Rent InfoLine at (718) 739-6400. Landlords must provide tenants with a written receipt when 7


rent is paid in cash, a money order, a cashier’s check or in any form other than the personal check of a tenant. Where a tenant pays the rent by personal check, the tenant may request in writing a rent receipt from the landlord. The receipt must state the payment date, the amount, the period for which the rent was paid, and the apartment number. The receipt must be signed by the person receiving the payment and state his or her title. Real Property Law § 235-e. It is illegal for any person to require a prospective tenant to pay a bonus– commonly called “key money”– above the lawful rent and security deposit, for preference in renting a vacant apartment. Key money is not to be confused with fees that may be legally charged by a licensed real estate broker. Penal Law § 180.55. RENT OVERCHARGES In New York City and certain communities in Nassau, Rockland and Westchester counties where rent stabilization or rent control laws apply, the landlord may not charge more than the legal regulated rent. Under the housing law, landlords must register each rent stabilized apartment with DHCR and provide tenants annually with a copy of the registration statement. Tenants may also get a copy of the rent history for their apartment directly from DHCR. A tenant may only challenge rents and collect any overcharges going back four years from the tenant’s filing a complaint. The tenant is also entitled to recover interest, plus reasonable costs and attorney’s fees, for the overcharge proceeding. Generally, the penalty for a rent overcharge is the amount an owner collected above the legal regulated rent, plus accrued interest. If the overcharge is willful, the landlord is liable for a penalty of three times the amount of the overcharge for two years prior to the filing of the complaint. The landlord has the burden of proving that the overcharge was not willful. Tenants who believe they are being overcharged should contact DHCR. 8


RENT SECURITY DEPOSITS Virtually all leases require tenants to give their landlords a security deposit. The security deposit is usually one month’s rent. If a lease is renewed at a greater amount or the rent is increased during the term of the lease, the owner is permitted to collect additional money from the tenant in order to bring the security deposit up to the new monthly rent. A landlord may use the security deposit as a reimbursement for the reasonable cost of repairs beyond normal wear and tear, if the tenant damages the apartment, or a reimbursement for any unpaid rent. The landlord must return the security deposit, less any lawful deduction, to the tenant at the end of the lease or within a reasonable time thereafter. The landlord is obligated to return the security deposit whether or not the tenant asks for its return. To avoid any disputes, the tenant should thoroughly inspect the apartment with the landlord before moving in and document any pre-existing conditions. Upon vacating, the tenant should leave the apartment in clean condition, removing all personal belongings and trash from the apartment, and making any minor repairs needed. Landlords, regardless of the number of units in the building, must treat the deposits as trust funds belonging to their tenants and they may not co-mingle deposits with their own money. Landlords of buildings with six or more apartments must put all security deposits in New York bank accounts earning interest at the prevailing rate. Each tenant must be informed in writing of the bank’s name and address and the amount of the deposit. Landlords are entitled to collect annual administrative expenses of one percent of the deposit.. All other interest earned on the deposits belongs to the tenants. Tenants must be given the option of having this interest paid to them annually, applied to rent, or paid at the end of the lease term. If the building has fewer than six apartments, a landlord who voluntarily places the security deposits in an interest bearing bank account must also follow these rules. For example: A tenant pays a security deposit of $800. 9


The landlord places the deposit in an interest bearing bank account paying 2.5%. At the end of the year the account will have earned interest of $20.00. The tenant is entitled to $12.00 and the landlord may retain $8.00, 1% of the deposit, as an administrative fee. If the building is sold, the landlord must transfer all security deposits to the new owner within five days, or return the security deposits to the tenants. Landlords must notify the tenants, by registered or certified mail, of the name and address of the new owner. Purchasers of rent stabilized buildings are directly responsible to tenants for the return of security deposits and any interest. This responsibility exists whether or not the new owner received the security deposits from the former landlord. Purchasers of rent controlled buildings or buildings containing six or more apartments where tenants have written leases are directly responsible to tenants for the return of security deposits and interest in cases where the purchaser has “actual knowledge” of the security deposits. The law defines specifically when a new owner is deemed to have “actual knowledge” of the security deposits. General Obligations Law Article 7, Title 1. When problems arise regarding security deposits, tenants should first try to resolve them with the landlord before taking other action. If a dispute cannot be resolved, tenants may contact the nearest local office of the Attorney General, listed at the end of this booklet. LEASE SUCCESSION OR TERMINATION SUBLETTING OR ASSIGNING LEASES Subletting and assignment are methods of transferring the tenant’s legal interest in an apartment to another person. To sublet means that the tenant is temporarily leaving the apartment and therefore is transferring less than the entire interest in the apartment. A tenant who subleases an apartment is called the prime tenant and the person temporarily renting the premises is called the subtenant. In contrast, to assign means that the tenant is transferring the entire interest in the 10


apartment lease to someone else and is permanently vacating the premises. A tenant’s right to assign the lease is much more restricted than the right to sublet. A sublet or assignment which does not comply with the law may be grounds for eviction. A tenant may not assign the lease without the landlord’s written consent. The landlord may withhold consent without cause. If the landlord reasonably refuses consent, the tenant cannot assign and is not entitled to be released from the lease. If the landlord unreasonably refuses consent, the tenant is entitled to be released from the lease within 30 days from the date the request was given to the landlord. Real Property Law § 226-b(1). Tenants with leases who live in buildings with four or more apartments have the right to sublet with the landlord’s advance consent. Any lease provision restricting a tenant’s right to sublease is void as a matter of public policy. If the landlord consents to the sublet, the tenant remains liable to the landlord for the obligations of the lease, including all future rent. If the landlord denies the sublet on reasonable grounds, the tenant cannot sublet and the landlord is not required to release the tenant from the lease. If the landlord denies the sublet on unreasonable grounds, the tenant may sublet anyway. If a lawsuit results, the tenant may recover court costs and attorney’s fees if a judge rules that the landlord denied the sublet in bad faith. Real Property Law § 226-b(2). These steps must be followed by tenants wishing to sublet: 1. The tenant must send a written request to the landlord by certified mail, return-receipt requested. The request must contain the following information: (a) the length of the sublease; (b) the name, home and business address of the proposed subtenant; (c) the reason for subletting; (d) the tenant’s address during the sublet; (e) the written consent of any co-tenant or guarantor; (f) a copy of the proposed sublease together with a copy of the tenant’s own lease, if available. 2. Within ten days after the mailing of this request, the landlord may ask the tenant for additional information to help 11


make a decision. Any request for additional information may not be unduly burdensome.

3. Within 30 days after the mailing of the tenant’s request to sublet or the additional information requested by the landlord, whichever is later, the landlord must send the tenant a notice of consent, or if consent is denied, the reasons for denial. A landlord’s failure to send this written notice is considered consent to sublet. Real Property Law § 226-b(2). In addition to these sublet rules, there are additional requirements limited to rent stabilized tenants. These rules include the following: • The rent charged to the subtenant cannot exceed the stabilized rent, plus a ten percent surcharge payable to the tenant for a furnished sublet. Additionally, the stabilized rent payable to the owner, effective for the duration of the sublet only, may be increased by a “sublet allowance” equal to the vacancy allowance then in effect. A subtenant who is overcharged may file a complaint with DHCR or may sue the prime tenant in court to recover any overcharge plus interest, attorneys’ fees, and treble damages where applicable. 9 NYCRR § 2525.6(e). • The prime tenant must establish that the apartment has been maintained as a primary residence at all times, and must demonstrate intent to reoccupy it at the end of the sublet. • The prime tenant, not the subtenant, retains the rights to a renewal lease and any rights resulting from a co-op conversion. The term of a sublease may extend beyond the term of the prime tenant’s lease. The tenant may not sublet for more than two years within any four year period. Real Property Law § 226-b; 9 NYCRR § 2525.6. • Frequent or prolonged periods of subletting may be grounds for a landlord to seek possession of rent stabilized premises on the basis of non-primary residence. 9 NYCRR §2520.6(u). 12


APARTMENT SHARING It is unlawful for a landlord to restrict occupancy of an apartment to the named tenant in the lease or to that tenant and immediate family. When the lease names only one tenant, that tenant may share the apartment with immediate family, one additional occupant and the occupant’s dependent children, provided that the tenant or the tenant’s spouse occupies the premises as their primary residence. When the lease names more than one tenant, these tenants may share their apartment with immediate family, and, if one of the tenants named in the lease moves out, that tenant may be replaced with another occupant and the dependent children of the occupant. At least one of the tenants named in the lease or that tenant’s spouse must occupy the shared apartment as a primary residence. A tenant must inform the landlords of the name of any occupant within 30 days after the occupant has moved into the apartment or within 30 days of a landlord’s request for this information. If the tenant named in the lease moves out, the remaining occupant has no right to continue in occupancy without the landlord’s express consent. Landlords may limit the total number of people living in an apartment to comply with legal overcrowding standards. Real Property Law § 235-f. LEASE SUCCESSION RIGHTS Family members living in an apartment not covered by rent control or rent stabilization generally have no right to succeed a tenant who dies or permanently vacates the premises. The rights of a family member living in a rent controlled or rent stabilized apartment to succeed a tenant of record who dies or permanently vacates are covered by DHCR Regulations. Under these regulations, a “family member” is defined as a husband, wife, son, daughter, stepson, stepdaughter, father, mother, stepfather, stepmother, brother, sister, grandfather, grandmother, grandson, granddaughter, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law or daughter-in-law of the tenant; or any other person residing with the tenant in the apartment as a primary resident who can prove emotional and financial com13


mitment and interdependence with the tenant. 9 NYCRR § 2520.6(o)(2). A family member would succeed to the rights of the tenant of record upon the tenant’s permanent departure or death, provided the family member lived with such a primary resident either (1) not less than two years (one year in the case of senior citizens and disabled persons), or (2) from the commencement of the tenancy or the relationship, if the tenancy or relationship was less than two years (or one year, in the case of senior citizens and disabled tenants.) 9 NYCRR § 2523.5. The minimum residency requirements will not be considered interrupted by any period during which the “family member” temporarily relocates because he or she is engaged in active military service; is enrolled as a full time student; is not living in the residence because of a court order; is engaged in employment requiring temporary relocation; is hospitalized; or has such other reasonable grounds. In order to ensure that the landlord is aware of all persons residing in the apartment who may be entitled to succession rights or protection from eviction, a tenant may wish to submit to the landlord a notice listing all additional occupants. 9 NYCRR § 2523.5(b)(2). Remaining family members living in government-financed housing (such as a public development, an apartment owned by the local municipality; or in an apartment where the prime tenant had Section 8 Rental Assistance) and where the named tenant of record has died or moved out, may also have the right to succeed to that tenant’s lease and/or rent subsidy. Family members seeking succession rights in these circumstances must ascertain the applicable federal and municipal regulations as well as the local public housing authority rules to determine if they might meet the eligibility requirements. Under federal regulations, persons alleging they are remaining family members of a tenant family are entitled to a grievance hearing before eviction if they have a colorable claim to such status. 14


SENIOR CITIZEN LEASE TERMINATIONS Tenants or their spouses living with them, who are 62 years or older, or who will attain such age during the term of their leases, are entitled to terminate their leases if they: (1) are certified by a physician as being no longer able, for medical reasons, to live independently in such premises and require assistance with instrumental or personal activities of daily living, and who will move to a residence of a family member, or (2) relocate to an adult care facility, a residential health care facility, subsidized low-income housing, or other senior citizen housing. Real Property Law §227-a(1). When such tenants give notice of their opportunity to move into one of the above facilities, the landlord must release the tenant from liability to pay rent for the balance of the lease and adjust any payments made in advance. Senior citizens who wish to avail themselves of this option must do so by written notice to the landlord. The termination date must be effective no earlier than thirty days after the date on which the next rental payment (after the notice is delivered) is due. The written notice must include documentation of admission or pending admission to one of the above mentioned facilities. Real Property Law § 227-a(2). Anyone who interferes with the tenant’s or the tenant’s spouse’s removal of personal effects, clothing, furniture or other personal property from the premises to be vacated will be guilty of a misdemeanor. Real Property Law § 227-a(3). Owners or lessors of a facility of a unit into which a senior citizen is entitled to move after terminating a lease, must advise such tenant, in the admission application form, of the tenant’s rights under the law. Real Property Law §227-a. In all rent controlled apartments, and in rent stabilized apartments outside of New York City, a senior citizen may not be evicted for purposes of owner occupancy. In New York City, a landlord may evict a senior citizen for this purpose only if the tenant is provided with an equivalent or superior apartment at the same or lower rent in a nearby area. 9 NYCRR § 2524.4; 9 NYCRR § 2504.4; NYC Admin. Code § 26-408(b)(1). 15


LEASE TERMINATIONS FOR MILITARY PERSONNEL Individuals entering active duty in the military may terminate a residential lease if: (a) the lease was executed by the service member before entering active duty; and (b) the leased premises have been occupied by the member or the member’s dependents. Any such lease may be terminated by written notice delivered to the landlord at any time following the beginning of military service. Termination of a lease requiring monthly payments is not effective until 30 days after the first date on which the next rent is due. NY Military Law § 310. LEASE TERMINATIONS FOR VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE Effective August 2007, a tenant shielded by a court order of protection is permitted, on ten days’ notice to the landlord, to seek a court order terminating the lease, and will be released from any further rental payments after the lease is terminated. The tenant must demonstrate that there continues to be a substantial risk of physical or emotional harm to the tenant or the tenant’s child from the party covered by the order of protection if the parties remain in the premises, and that relocation would substantially reduce that risk. The tenant must first attempt to secure the voluntary consent of the landlord to terminate the lease, and if the request is denied, a court may order termination as long as all payments due under the lease through the termination date of the lease have been paid. Real Property Law § 227-c. EVICTION A tenant with a lease is protected from eviction during the lease period so long as the tenant does not violate any substantial provision of the lease or any local housing laws or codes. For both regulated and unregulated apartments, landlords must give formal notice of their intention to obtain legal possession of the apartment. Unless the tenant vacates the premises by a specified date, the landlord may commence eviction proceedings through: (a) a summary non-payment court proceeding to evict a tenant who fails to pay the agreed rent when due and to recover 16


outstanding rent, or (b) a summary holdover proceeding for eviction if a tenant significantly violates a substantial obligation under the lease (such as using the premises for illegal purposes, or committing or permitting a nuisance) or stays beyond the lease term without permission. Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law (RPAPL) § 711. Landlords of rent regulated apartments may be required to seek approval from DHCR before commencing a court proceeding, depending on the grounds for eviction. Where a tenant fails to pay rent, is causing a nuisance, damages the apartment or building, or commits other wrongful acts, the owner may proceed directly in court. Other grounds, such as where the owner seeks to demolish the building, require that the owner first receive approval from DHCR. A tenant can be legally evicted only after the landlord has brought a court proceeding and has obtained a judgment of possession. A tenant should never ignore legal papers; an eviction notice can still be sent if a tenant did not appear in court to answer court papers (petition) sent by the landlord. Only a sheriff, marshal or constable can carry out a courtordered warrant to evict a tenant. Landlords may not take the law into their own hands and evict a tenant by use of force or unlawful means. For example, a landlord cannot use threats of violence, remove a tenant’s possessions, lock the tenant out of the apartment, or willfully discontinue essential services such as water or heat. When a tenant is evicted, the landlord may not retain the tenant’s personal belongings or furniture. The landlord must give the tenant a reasonable amount of time to remove all belongings. RPAPL §749; Real Property Law § 235. A tenant who is evicted from an apartment in a forcible or unlawful manner is entitled to recover triple damages in a legal action against the landlord. Landlords in New York City who use illegal methods to force a tenant to move are also subject to both criminal and civil penalties. Further, the tenant may be entitled to be restored to occupancy. RPAPL § 853; NYC Admin. Code § 26-523, § 26-521. Additional rules apply in certain situations concerning evic17


tions. In New York City, a landlord may not evict a tenant in a rent stabilized apartment for purposes of owner occupancy if the tenant or the spouse of the tenant is a senior citizen or is disabled, unless the landlord provides an equivalent or superior apartment at the same or lower rent in a nearby area. In rent controlled apartments statewide and in rent stabilized apartments outside New York City, a landlord may not evict a senior citizen, a disabled person, or any person who has been living in the apartment for 20 years or more for purposes of owner occupancy. 9NYCRR § 2524.4; 9 NYCRR § 2504.4; NYC Admin. Code § 26-408(b)(1). It is wise for tenants to consult an attorney to protect their legal rights if the landlord seeks possession of their apartment. HABITABILITY AND REPAIRS WARRANTY OF HABITABILITY Under the warranty of habitability, tenants have the right to a livable, safe and sanitary apartment. This is a right that is implied in every written or oral residential lease. Any lease provision that waives this right is contrary to public policy and is therefore void. Examples of a breach of this warranty include the failure to provide heat or hot water on a regular basis, or the failure to rid an apartment of an insect infestation. Public areas of the building are also covered by the warranty of habitability. The warranty of habitability also applies to cooperative apartments, but not to condominiums. Any uninhabitable condition caused by the tenant or persons under the tenant’s direction or control does not constitute a breach of the warranty of habitability. In such a case, it is the responsibility of the tenant to remedy the condition. Real Property Law §235-b. If a landlord breaches the warranty of habitability, the tenant may sue for a rent reduction. Alternatively, rent regulated tenants can also file a rent reduction complaint with DHCR. The tenant may also withhold rent, but in response, the landlord may sue the tenant for non-payment of rent. In such case, the tenant may countersue for breach of the warranty. 18


The court or DHCR may grant a rent reduction if it finds that the landlord violated the warranty of habitability. The reduction is computed by subtracting from the actual rent the estimated value of the apartment without the essential services. For a tenant to receive a reduction, the landlord must have actual or constructive notice of the existence of the defective condition. A landlord’s liability for damages is limited when the failure to provide services is the result of a union-wide building workers’ strike. However, a court may award damages to a tenant equal to a share of the landlord’s net savings because of the strike. Landlords will be liable for lack of services caused by a strike when they have not made a good faith attempt, where practicable, to provide services. In extenuating circumstances, tenants may make necessary repairs and deduct reasonable repair costs from the rent. For example, when a landlord has been notified that a door lock is broken and willfully neglects to repair it, the tenant may hire a locksmith and deduct the cost from the rent. Tenants should keep receipts for such repairs. If an apartment is so severely damaged by fire or other circumstances not caused by the tenant that the apartment becomes uninhabitable, and the lease does not expressly provide otherwise, the tenant may vacate the apartment and cancel the lease on three days’ notice to the landlord. The tenant will be released from liability for subsequent rental payments. Real Property Law § 227. If only a portion of the apartment is damaged, the rent may be reduced pursuant to a court order or by DHCR in proportion to the part of the apartment that is damaged. The landlord must then repair those portions of the apartment and return them to livable condition. LANDLORDS’ DUTY OF REPAIR Landlords of multiple dwellings must keep the apartments and the building’s public areas in “good repair” and clean and free of vermin, garbage or other offensive material. Landlords are required to maintain electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating 19


and ventilating systems and appliances landlords install, such as refrigerators and stoves, in good and safe working order. Tenants should bring complaints to the attention of their local housing officials. Multiple Dwelling Law §78 and §80; Multiple Residence Law §174. The Multiple Dwelling Law applies to cities with a population of 325,000 or more and the Multiple Residence Law applies to cities with less than 325,000 and to all towns and villages. In New York City, the landlord is required to maintain the public areas in a clean and sanitary condition. NYC Admin. Code § 27-2011. LEAD PAINT Landlords must protect against the possibility that children will be poisoned by peeling of dangerous lead-based paint. Federal and local laws require that landlords of multiple dwellings built before 1960 (or between 1960 and 1978 where the landlord knows there is lead paint) must ascertain if a child under seven years old lives in an apartment, and inspect that apartment for lead paint hazards. In performing any work that disturbs lead paint in applicable apartments and common areas, a landlord must hire workers who have completed a training course in lead-safe work practices. Landlords must remove or permanently cover apartment walls and other areas where lead based paint is peeling. The landlord must keep records of all notices, inspections and repair of lead paint hazards, and other matters related to lead paint law. Landlords of such dwellings in New York City must also provide their tenants with a pamphlet prepared by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). 42 U.S.C.A § 4851; NYC Admin. Code § 27-2056.



SAFETY SMOKE DETECTORS Landlords of multiple dwellings must install approved smoke detectors in each apartment, within ten feet of each room used for sleeping. The smoke detectors should be clearly audible in each of those rooms. Tenants may be asked to reimburse the owner up to ten dollars for the cost of purchasing and installing each battery-operated detector. During the first year of use, landlords must repair or replace any broken detector if its malfunction is not the tenant’s fault. Tenants should test their detectors frequently to make sure they work properly. Multiple Residence Law § 15; Multiple Dwelling Law § 68; NYC Admin. Code § 27-2045. CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS Landlords of all multiple dwellings and one-and two family homes in New York City must provide and install an approved carbon monoxide alarm within fifteen feet of the primary entrance to each sleeping room. All multiple dwellings built or offered for sale in New York State after August 9, 2005 must contain carbon monoxide detectors in accordance with local building codes. NYC Admin. Code 27-§ 2046.1; Exec. Law § 378. New York City landlords must post a HPD-approved form in a common area informing occupants of the requirements of New York City’s carbon monoxide laws. Tenants are responsible for reimbursing the landlord $25.00 within one year for each carbon monoxide alarm that is newly installed. Tenants are also responsible for keeping and maintaining the carbon monoxide alarm in good repair. However, landlords are responsible for replacing any detectors that are lost, stolen or become inoperable within the first year of use. NYC Admin. Code § 27-2046.1. Combination smoke/carbon monoxide detectors are permitted. A landlord is entitled to be reimbursed a maximum of $35.00 for such combination detectors only when the smoke alarm needs to be replaced. If the smoke alarm is operable and the landlord wishes to replace it with a combined alarm, 21


the landlord can only be reimbursed $25.00. CRIME PREVENTION Landlords are required to take minimal precautions to protect against reasonably foreseeable criminal harm. For example, tenants who are victims of crimes in their building or apartment, and who are able to prove that the criminal was an intruder and took advantage of the fact that the entrance to the building was negligently maintained by the landlord, may be able to recover damages from the landlord. ENTRANCE DOOR LOCKS AND INTERCOMS Multiple dwellings which were built or converted to such use after January 1, 1968 must have automatic self-closing and self-locking doors at all entrances. These doors must be kept locked at all times, except when an attendant is on duty. If this type of building contains eight or more apartments it must also have a two-way voice intercom system from each apartment to the front door and tenants must be able to “buzz” open the entrance door for visitors. Multiple dwellings built or converted to such use prior to January 1, 1968 also must have self-locking doors and a twoway intercom system if requested by a majority of the tenants. Landlords may recover from tenants the cost of providing this equipment. Multiple Dwelling Law § 50-a. Entrances, stairways and yards of multiple dwellings must be sufficiently lit at night, from sunset to sunrise. The owner is responsible for installation and maintenance of lighting in these areas. NYC Admin. Code § 27-2040; Multiple Dwelling Law § 35; Multiple Residence Law § 109. LOBBY ATTENDANT SERVICE Tenants of multiple dwellings with eight or more apartments are entitled to maintain a lobby attendant service for their safety and security at their own expense, whenever any attendant provided by the landlord is not on duty. Multiple Dwelling Law § 50-c. 22


ELEVATOR MIRRORS There must be a mirror in each self-service elevator in multiple dwellings so that people may see, prior to entering, if anyone is already in the elevator. Multiple Dwelling Law § 51-b; NYC Admin. Code § 27-2042. INDIVIDUAL LOCKS, PEEPHOLES AND MAILBOXES Tenants in multiple dwellings can install and maintain their own locks on their apartment entrance doors in addition to the lock supplied by the landlord. The lock may be no more than three inches in circumference, and tenants must provide their landlord with a duplicate key upon request. Failure to provide the landlord with a duplicate key if requested can be construed as a violation of a substantial obligation of the tenancy, and can possibly lead to eviction proceedings. Any lease provision requiring a tenant to pay additional rent or other charges for the installation of an additional lock is void as against public policy and unenforceable. Multiple Dwelling Law § 51-c. A landlord may only enter a tenant’s apartment under certain circumstances, such as to make emergency repairs. This limited right of entry may not be abused or used to harass a tenant. The landlord must provide a peephole in the entrance door of each apartment. Landlords of multiple dwellings in New York City must also install a chain-door guard on the entrance door to each apartment, so as to permit partial opening of the door. Multiple Dwelling Law § 51-c; NYC Admin. Code § 272043. United States Postal regulations require landlords of buildings containing three or more apartments to provide secure mail boxes for each apartment unless the management has arranged to distribute the mail to each apartment. Landlords must keep the mail boxes and locks in good repair. WINDOW GUARDS Landlords in New York City must install window guards in any apartment in which a child under the age of ten resides, 23


and in apartments where the tenant requests window guards, even if a child under ten does not reside in the apartment. Landlords are required to provide tenants with a form stating whether there are children residing in a household and to request installation of window guards. Tenants are required to notify their landlord when they have children of this age living in their apartment, or if they provide child care services in that apartment. Tenants may not refuse installation. Once window guards are installed, the tenant must not take down, make alterations to, or remove any part of them. Landlords in New York City must install Department of Health and Mental Hygiene-approved window guards. If an object more than five inches in diameter can fit through, over or under a window guard, then it is not installed properly. All approved window guards have a manufacturer’s approval number imprinted on a vertical stile of the guard, and must be appropriate for the type of window in which they are being installed. NYC Health Code § 131.15. Windows giving access to fire escapes are excluded. Protective guards must also be installed on the windows of all public hallways. Landlords must give tenants an annual notice about their rights to window guards and must provide this information in a lease rider. Rent controlled and stabilized tenants may be charged up to ten dollars per window guard. NYC Health Code § 131.15. UTILITY SERVICES HEATING SEASON Heat must be supplied from October 1 through May 31 to tenants in multiple dwellings. If the outdoor temperature falls below 55°F between the hours of six a.m. and ten p.m., each apartment must be heated to a temperature of at least 68°F. If the outdoor temperature falls below 40°F between the hours of ten p.m. and six a.m., each apartment must be heated to a temperature of at least 55°F. Multiple Dwelling Law § 79; Multiple Residence Law § 173; NYC Admin. Code § 27-2029. 24


TRUTH IN HEATING Before signing a lease requiring payment of individual heating and cooling bills, prospective tenants are entitled to receive from the landlord a complete set or summary of the past two years’ bills. These copies must be provided free upon written request. Energy Law § 17-103. HOT WATER Landlords must provide all tenants of multiple dwellings with both hot and cold water. Hot water must register at or above a constant temperature of 120 degrees at the tap. If a tub or shower is equipped with an anti-scald valve that prevents the hot water temperature from exceeding 120 degrees, the minimum hot water temperature for that tub or shower is 110 degrees. Multiple Dwelling Law § 75; Multiple Residence Law § 170; NYC Admin. Code § 27-2031. CONTINUATION OF UTILITY SERVICE When the landlord of a multiple dwelling is delinquent in paying utility bills, the utility must give advance written notice to tenants and to certain government agencies of its intent to discontinue service. Service may not be discontinued if tenants pay the landlord’s current bill directly to the utility company. Tenants can deduct these charges from future rent payments. The Public Service Commission can assist tenants with related problems. If a landlord of a multiple dwelling fails to pay a utility bill and service is discontinued, landlords may be liable for compensatory and punitive damages. Real Property Law § 235-a; Public Service Law § 33. OIL PAYMENTS Tenants in oil-heated multiple dwellings may contract with an oil dealer, and pay for oil deliveries to their building, when the landlord fails to ensure a sufficient fuel supply. These payments are deductible from rent. Local housing officials have lists of oil dealers who will make fuel deliveries under these circumstances. Multiple Dwelling Law § 302-c; Multiple Resi25


dence Law § 305-c. TENANTS’ PERSONAL PROTECTIONS TENANT ORGANIZATIONS Tenants have a legal right to organize. They may form, join, and participate in tenant organizations for the purpose of protecting their rights. Landlords are required to permit tenant organizations to meet, at no cost, in any community or social room in the building, even if the use of the room is normally subject to a fee. Tenant organization meetings are required to be held at reasonable times and in a peaceful manner which does not obstruct access to the premises. Real Property Law § 230. RETALIATION Landlords are prohibited from harassing or retaliating against tenants who exercise their rights. For example, landlords may not seek to evict tenants solely because tenants (a) make good faith complaints to a government agency regarding violations of any health or safety laws; (b) take good faith actions to protect their rights under the lease; or (c) participate in tenant organizations. Tenants may collect damages from landlords who violate this law, which applies to all rentals except owner-occupied dwellings with fewer than four units. Real Property Law § 223-b. RIGHT TO PRIVACY Tenants have the right to privacy within their apartments. A landlord, however, may enter a tenant’s apartment with reasonable prior notice, and at a reasonable time: (a) to provide necessary or agreed upon repairs or services; (b) in accordance with the lease; or (c) to show the apartment to prospective purchasers or tenants. In an emergency, such as a fire, the landlord may enter the apartment without the tenant’s consent. A landlord may not abuse this limited right of entry or use it to harass a tenant. Additionally, a landlord may not interfere with the installation of cable televison facilities. Public Service Law § 228. 26


DISABILITIES Landlords are required to provide reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities so that they may enjoy equal access to and use of housing accommodations. A “reasonable accommodation” is a policy or rule change that is related to a tenant’s specific disability and does not impose extremely high costs on a landlord or cause harm or discomfort to other tenants, such as permitting a tenant who is blind or has a psychological disability to have a guide dog or a companion animal, despite a building’s “no pets” policy. 42 U.S.C.A § 3604(f) (3). Additionally, a landlord may not refuse to permit, at the expense of the handicapped tenant, reasonable structural modifications of existing premises occupied by the tenant, if such modifications may be necessary to afford the tenant full use of the premises. Such modifications may include building a ramp or installing grab bars in the bathroom. However, the landlord may condition permission for a modification on the tenant agreeing to restore the interior of the premises to the condition that existed before the modification. 42 U.S.C.A. § 3604(f)(3). Tenants with disabilities who need accommodations should notify their landlord and request the necessary accommodations. Though such a request is not required to be in writing, it is often helpful should any dispute arise. A landlord may request documentation from a health care professional attesting to the disability and describing any functional limitations that arise. A tenant with a disability who thinks a landlord has unreasonably refused a reasonable accommodation request should contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). DISCRIMINATION Landlords may not refuse to rent to, renew the lease of, or otherwise discriminate against, any person or group of persons because of race, creed, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, marital status or familial status. In New York City, tenants are further protected against discrimination with respect to lawful occupation, sexual orientation, partnership 27


status and immigration status. People with AIDS or who are HIV-positive, as well as recovering alcoholics, are also protected from discrimination. Further, NYC landlords are prohibited from discriminating against tenants based on lawful source of income which includes income from social security or any form of federal, state or local public assistance including section 8 vouchers. Executive Law § 296(5); NYC Admin. Code § 8-107. Landlords may not discriminate against any person who has children living with them, by refusing to rent an apartment or by insisting upon unfavorable lease terms on the basis of the person having children. However, this restriction does not apply to housing units for senior citizens which are subsidized or insured by the federal government. In addition, a lease may not require that tenants remain childless during their tenancy. Real Property Law §237. An aggrieved party should contact HUD within one year after the alleged discriminatory housing practice occurs or ceases. In New York City, an aggrieved party may file a complaint with the NYC Commission on Human Rights within one year from the date on which the discriminatory act occurred. An aggrieved party may also choose to sue for damages against a landlord who violates this law, and may recover attorney’s fees if successful. NYC Admin. Code § 8-109; 42 U.S.C.A. § 3610(a)(1). HARASSMENT A landlord is prohibited from any action intended to force a tenant out of an apartment or to compel a tenant to give up any rights granted the tenant by law. No landlord, or any party acting on the landlord’s behalf, may interfere with the tenant’s privacy, comfort, or quiet enjoyment of the apartment. Harassment may take the form of physical or verbal abuse, wilful denial of services, or multiple instances of frivolous litigation. If a landlord lies or deliberately misrepresents the law to a tenant, this may also constitute harassment. Rent regulated tenants who feel they have been victimized by harassment should contact DHCR. Landlords found guilty of harassment are subject to fines of up to $5,000 for each 28


violation. Under certain circumstances, harassment of a rent regulated tenant may constitute a class E felony. Penal Law § 241.05. Further, New York City tenants have additional recourse against harassment. Tenants may bring a claim in housing court and the court may issue restraining orders against owners if violations have been found. NYC Admin Code § 272115. PETS Tenants may keep pets in their apartments unless their lease specifically prohibits it. Landlords may be able to evict tenants who violate a lease provision prohibiting pets. In multiple dwellings in New York City and Westchester County, a no-pet lease clause is deemed waived where a tenant “openly and notoriously” kept a pet for at least three months and the owner of the building or the owner’s agent had knowledge of this fact. However, this protection does not apply to public housing or where the animal causes damage, is a nuisance, or substantially interferes with other tenants. NYC Admin. Code § 27-2009.1(b); Westchester County Laws, Chapter 694. Tenants who are blind or deaf are permitted to have guide dogs or service dogs regardless of a no-pet clause in their lease. Also, tenants with a chronic mental illness are permitted to have emotional assistance animals. NY Civil Rights Law § 47. FINDING AN APARTMENT REAL ESTATE BROKERS A consumer may retain a real estate broker to find a suitable apartment. New York State licenses real estate brokers and salespersons. Brokers charge a commission for their services which is usually a stated percentage of the first year’s rent. The amount of the commission is not set by law and should be negotiated between the parties. The broker must assist the client in finding and obtaining an apartment before a commission may be charged. The fee should not be paid until the client is offered a lease signed by the landlord. The broker 29


may also charge the client a reasonable amount to conduct a credit check. Under the Rent Stabilization Code, a broker’s commission may be considered “rent” in excess of legal rent when there is too close of a business or financial connection between the broker and the landlord. 9 NYCRR § 2525.1. Complaints against real estate brokers should be directed to the New York Department of State. Real Property Law, § 442-e. APARTMENT INFORMATION VENDORS AND SHARING AGENCIES Apartment listing services that charge a fee for providing information about the location and availability of apartments and rooms for rent must be licensed by the state. The fees charged by these firms may not exceed one month’s rent and must be deposited in an escrow account. When the information provided by the firms does not result in a rental, the entire amount of any pre-paid fee, less $15.00, must be returned to the tenant. Criminal prosecution for violations of this law may be brought by the Attorney General. Real Property Law § 446-h.



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These other pamphlets are available by contacting the Attorney General’s office:

• Housing Guide for Senior Citizens • How to Handle Problems with a Co-op’s Board of Directors • How to Handle Problems with a Condominium’s Board of Managers • Cooperative and Condominium Conversion Handbook • What To Do About Problems With Your Homeowners Association • Manufactured Home Tenant’s Rights • Home Improvement Fact Sheet • Radon: The Invisible Intruder



Additional free copies of the “Tenants’ Rights Guide” are available from the New York State Attorney General’s Office, State Capitol, Albany, NY 12224 or from any other office of the Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. The Guide may also be downloaded from the Attorney General’s website:




Postrevolutionary Pioneer: Anarchist María Luisa Marín and the Veracruz Renters’s Movement1

ANDREW GRANT WOOD University of Tulsa

Compañeros: ¡Viva el amor Universal! ¡Viva la emancipación de la mujer! ¡Arriba el Comunismo! ¡Viva la humanidad libre! ¿Mujeres? ¡A la lucha! María Luisa Marín, 1923 When female prostitutes in the Veracruz working class neighborhood of La Huaca quit paying rent to their landlords in February of 1922, they sparked a social protest that would soon involve more than half the city’s population. Fed up with bad housing conditions, excessive rents and constant harassment by rent collectors, residents of some of port’s poorest neighborhoods along with local anarchists and members of the Mexican Communist Party founded the Revolutionary Syndicate of Tenants (Sindicato Revolucionario de Inquilinos) directed by local agitator Herón Proal. As the mobilization grew, protesters first called for specific housing reforms but then added a number of other demands influenced by the internationalist ideals of the time: the abolition of private property, the emancipation of workers and the eventual elimination of the state.

1 The author wishes to thank David Sweet for comments on an earlier version of this essay as well as suggestions made by anonymous reviewers at A contracorriente. A generous grant from Dean Tom Benediktson as well as the Office of Research and the Department of History at the University of Tulsa made regular travel to Veracruz from 2000-2005 possible.


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Demonstrations involved hundreds of men, women and children. By the end of May, approximately 30,000 had stopped paying rent. At this time, the occupants of more than 100 tenements (patios de vecindad)–consisting of a collection of rooms situated around a central courtyard where residents shared cooking and bathing facilities–displayed red banners and signs which read: “I am on strike and not paying rent” (Estoy en huelga y no pago renta!). Once the protest was underway, regular confrontations between landlords, tenement administrators, uncooperative renters, market salespeople, police and politicians helped create a tumultuous social climate that persisted for much of the 1920s. With the help of populist governor Adalberto Tejeda, protesters established what they called the “communist” settlement (colonia comunista) on the edge of town and also began organizing among rural workers throughout the state.2 Adding to the vibrant oppositional culture in the port that included militant action by organized labor, some radical tenants contributed articles to the local communist paper El Frente Unico, while also producing a radical publication called Guillotina. Inspired by events in the port, rent protests took shape in several other cities in the state of Veracruz including Orizaba, Córdoba, and Jalapa. At the same time activists launched fullscale strikes in Mexico City and Guadalajara while others in Mérida, Puebla, San luis Potosí, Mazatlán, Monterrey, Tampico, Aguascalientes, Torreón and Ciudad Juárez also began tenant organizing efforts. Though lacking any central coordination, the many women and men who

2 On Tejeda see Andrew Grant Wood, “Adalberto Tejeda: Radicalism and Reaction in Revolutionary Veracruz,” (in) Jurgen Buchenau and William H. Beezley (ed.), Governors of the Mexican Revolution. Forthcoming.



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joined in these collective actions essentially constituted a pioneering urban social movement dedicated to the cause of housing reform in postrevolutionary Mexico.3 Interestingly, it was the strong presence of women in the Veracruz protest during these years that attracted the attention of many outside observers. The fact that so many participated in the movement during these years led one male participant to refer to the movement later as a "women's rebellion."4 Occasionally, some critics argued that the tenant leader Proal had cast a seductive spell over the female strikers, “conquering them with his strange theories.” Contrary to such claims, however, the historical sources suggest that women were to a great extent acting as autonomous agents in the tenant movement, even if nearly all of them remained largely anonymous. Prominent among these activist women, though only occasionally mentioned in the

3 Andrew Grant Wood: Revolution in The Street: Women, Workers and Urban Protest in Veracruz, 1870-1927. (Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources Inc., 2001). For an earlier history of the Veracruz rent strike see: Octavio García Mundo, El movimiento inquilinario de Veracruz, 1922. (Mexico, Sepsetentas. 1976). Discussion of the protest by one of the main participants can be found in: Arturo Bolio Trejo, La rebelión de mujeres: Version historica de la revolución inquilinaria de Veracruz. (Veracruz: Editorial “Kada.” 1959). See also the work of Erica Berra-Stoppa comparing the Veracruz and Mexico City strikes. See: Erica Berra Stoppa, "Estoy en huelga y no pago renta!," Habitacion, vol 1, no. 1, (January-March 1981), p. 35. On the rent protest in Mexico City see: Paco Ignacio Taibo II, Bolshevikis: historia narrativa de los orígenes del comunismo en Mexico, 1919-1925. (Mexico City: Editorial Joaquín Mortiz, 1986), pp. 155-197. On the strike in Guadalajara see Jaime Tamayo, “El sindicato revolucionario de inquilinos y la huelga de rentas de 1922,” (in) Jalisco desde la revolución, vol. iv. (Los movimientos sociales, 1917-1929). (Guadalajara: Estado de Jalisco/Universidad de Guadalajara, 1988), pp. 129-140 and Jorge Durand Arp-Nisen, “El movimiento inquilinario de Guadalajara, 1922,” Encuentro, 1983. pp. 7-28. For discussion of popular politics in Veracruz during the 1920s see: Olivia Domínguez Pérez, Politica y movimientos sociales en el tejedismo. (Jalapa: Universidad Veracruzana, 1986). On the related peasant movement in Veracruz see: Heather Fowler Salamini, Agrarian Radicalism in Veracruz, 1920-1938. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1971) and Romana Falcón, El agrarismo en Veracruz: La etapa radical, 1928-1935. (Mexico City: Colegio de Mexico, 1977). For a wonderful photographic history of the city of Veracruz see: Bernardo García Díaz, El Puerto de Veraruz. (Jalapa, Universidad Veracruzana, 1992). A novel which deals with the rent strike is José Mancisidor La ciudad roja: Novela proletaria. (Jalapa: Editorial Integrales, 1932). In addition to my Revolution in the Street see other recent work including a study of labor and politics in the central Veracruz area by Benedikt Behrens, Ein laboratorium der revolution: Stadtische soziale Bewegungen und radikale reformpolitik im mexikanischen bundessstaat veracruz, 1918-1932. (Bern and Berlin: Peter Lang, 2002) , esp. pp. 282-318 Rogelio de la Mora V. Sociedad en crisis: Veracruz 1922. Xalapa: Universidad Veracruzana, 2002. 4Arturo Bolio Trejo, Rebelión de mujeres: version historica de la revolución inquilinaria de Veracruz. (Veracruz: Editorial "Kada" 1959).



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sources available to a historian of these times, was a militant recently arrived from Mexico City. Her name was María Luisa Marín. María Luisa was a young woman inspired by the revolutionary ideas of those times. In a rare 1923 photograph of twenty-eight women affiliated with the Revolutionary Syndicate of Tenants, one finds María Luisa at the center of the group. Standing along with twenty seven other female collaborators in the only known photograph that identifies female tenant protesters by name, María Luisa appears a mestiza in her mid-twenties with braided, long dark hair, of medium build and a slightly mischievous yet determined look which suggests she played an important role in organizing the women of Veracruz.

(1923) Inquilina group—Courtesy ARCHIVO GENERAL DE LA NACION, MEXICO



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Marín, along with her brothers Lucio and Esteban, had come to Veracruz with the purpose of helping organize workers. While we know next to nothing about her life before that time it is clear that she must have acquired prior experience in the anarcho-syndicalist trade union movement. Soon after arriving in Veracruz in the spring of 1922 she quickly emerged as a propulsive force for the protest, gathering several female residents into a powerful anarchist group known as the Federation of Libertarian Women (Federación de Mujeres Libertarias).5 They agreed to a mutual pact that stipulated that if any renter were in danger of being evicted, a general alarm would be sounded to call other tenants to their defense. Armed with police whistles and a strong commitment to social justice, these women regularly challenged housing administrators, police and other renters unfriendly to the union. They also canvassed the local markets where they encouraged domestic servants to organize a union and strike for higher wages. Generally, these anarchist women acted out a popular politics that was staged in the streets, parks, plazas, cantinas, auditoriums, union halls, government offices, the state legislature and even the Veracruz city jail. Newspaper accounts occasionally referred to María Luisa as the “partner of Proal.” Rumored to be the anarchist’s lover, she was more than just the influential tenant leader’s sidekick. María Luisa coordinated many of the Revolutionary Syndicate’s activities. Over the course of the protest, she borrowed liberally from anarchist, communist, Mexican nationalist and, to a degree, early feminist thought to challenge elites. Her speeches, prison dispatches and participation in the rent strike consistently demanded radical solutions to social problems. Through anarchist direct actions, public meetings, petitions and propaganda, she established herself as a truly vital element in the Mexican tenant movement. Though largely forgotten,

5 The term “libertarian” at that time was closely affiliated with anarchist ideals at the time.



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María Luisa Marín represents for us a generation of Mexican women inspired by revolutionary ideas and passionately dedicated to the cause of human rights, fair housing practices and economic justice. Central to explaining the rise of tenant protest in Mexican cities are two fundamental issues: (1) rapid urbanization after the turn of the twentieth century and (2) institutional and political change in Mexico in the decade immediately after the Revolution of 1910.

Background to Urban Popular Protest

In 1907, a visitor commented on the changing condition and status of the nation’s capital:

The city of Mexico represents progressive Mexico. In it is concentrated the wealth, culture and refinement of the republic. It is the political, the educational, the social and the commercial center of the whole country. It is to Mexico what Paris is to France...The same glare and glitter of a pleasure-loving metropolis are to be found here.6 Similar to North American and European cities of the time, urban planners in Mexico City transformed the metropolitan area into a new and improved site for consumption and state power. Important modifications included the establishment of electrical service, improved water supply, drainage, roads and telephone service 7

6Nevin Winter, Mexico and Her People Today. (Boston: 1907). Quoted in John Lear, “Mexico City: Space and Class in the Porfirian Capital, 1884-1910,” Journal of Urban History, vol. 22, no. 4 (May 1996), p. 455. 7José Luis Lezama, “Mexico,” (in) Latin American Urbanization: Historical Profiles of Major Cities. (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1994), p. 393. On this process elsewhere see David Harvey, “Paris,



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Beginning with the widening, paving, illuminating and embellishment of the Paseo de la Reforma in the 1860s, Mexico City residents increasingly saw an accelerated transformation of urban space. In 1857, tramways articulated new connections between the city center and the new suburban districts of Tacubaya, La Villa, Tlalpan and San Angel. Gradually, new colonias (Cuauhtémoc, Juárez, Roma, Condesa) rose up on the higher lands to the west. Still, the majority of the population remained in the city center. Behind a thin veneer of advancing modernity, growing numbers lived in grinding poverty.8 In fact, nearly one quarter of the residents of Mexico City lived in run-down tenements around the turn of the century. Then, as the city population increased by 59 percent between 1900 and 1920, problems associated with popular housing grew worse.9 Known as vecindades, many inner-city buildings had been fashioned out of Colonial era structures which had once served as residences for single families and their servants.10 Not surprisingly, many landlords took advantage of the situation. At the time, the newspaper El País described popular neighborhoods in the city “centers of sickness and death” as sometimes more than seven people were known to share a rented room. Estimates figure that nearly sixteen percent of the city’s

1850-1870,” (in) Consciousness and the urban experience: studies in the history and theory of capitalist urbanization. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985). 8For a general overview of Mexico City growth see Peter Ward, The Production and Reproduction of an Urban Environment. (London: Belhaven Press, 1990), Martha Schteingart, Los productores del espacio habitable: estado, empresora y sociedad en la Ciudad de México. (Mexico City: El Colegio de México, 1989) and Michael Johns, Mexico City in The Age of Díaz. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1997). 9María Dolores Morales, “La expansion de la Ciudad de México en el siglo XIX: el caso de los fraccionamentos.” (in) Alejandra Moreno Toscano (ed.), Ciudad de México: ensayo de construccion de una historia. (Mexico City: I.N.A.H., 1978), pp. 189-200. 10Gisela von Wobeser, “La vivienda de nivel socioeconómico bajo en la Ciudad de México entre 1750-1850.” Paper presented at the 9th Meeting of Canadian, Mexican and United States historians in Mexico City, October 27-29, 1994.



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population was homeless. If they could afford the fee of a few centavos, some stayed in public lodging houses or mesones.11 In part it was urban renewal–or the “demolishers’ pickaxe” as one observer termed it–that had contributed to a growing housing crisis. Displaced residents from the central city moved to areas to the east and north of the main plaza where thousands crowded into high-density tenements. Districts one and two (to the east of the Zócalo) saw the highest levels of crowding. There, tenants lacked basic water and sewage facilities. These areas registered the highest mortality rates in the city around 1900. At the same time, other, illegal settlements on the periphery of the city such as La Bolsa, Valle Gómez, Cuartelito (later Obrero) also saw little or no connection to municipal services. By the time the Mexican Labor Department issued its report on popular housing in 1920, conditions had deteriorated further. As the study revealed: Within a few meters of the Zócalo and 5 de Mayo Street can be found houses in ruins where dozens of families sleep exposed to the weather or among hundreds of rats or decomposing vegetables...[T]he majority of these ruins and centers of sickness are owned by wealthy and well-known people.12 Authorities found many tenements in the capital lay in a “pathetic” and “ruinous” state. They also stated that since 1914, many rents in Mexico City had as much as tripled and “now absorbed as much as thirty percent of a worker’s salary.”13 Subsequently, a December 1922 report by the

11Rodney Anderson, Outcasts in Their Own Land: Mexican Industrial Workers, 1906-1911. (Dekalb: Northern Illinois Press, 1976), pp. 43-4. 12Quoted in Lear 477. 13Quoted in Ignacio Taibo II, “Inquilinos del D.F...” pp. 103-6. Ignacio Taibo II offers detailed description of several viviendas based on the 1920 report.



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Department of Labor stated that rents in the eight different districts in Mexico City had again risen significantly after 1917. Similarly, the cost of popular housing had increased at comparable rates in other Mexican cities such as Guadalajara and the port of Veracruz. Railroad development helped secure Guadalajara’s place as the focus of a regional market which extended to the states of Colima, Nayarit, Sinaloa and Sonora. At the time, Mexico’s second city hosted a growing number of two story houses and as well as the introduction of electrical lighting, a trolley system, improved water supply and other urban services in key areas. Workers constructed new schools, hospitals and markets while elites founded a state university. In the 1880s, the city became the state capital.14 As waves of rural migrants moved to the city during the late nineteenth century, many of Guadalajara’s working classes established popular neighborhoods to the east and north of the central district. Soon, new areas also rose up to the west. In 1880, observers counted 812 city blocks compared to the 334 city blocks enumerated in 1800.

In the coming decades,

urbanization would continue apace, eventually straining existing infrastructure, urban services and housing. An uneven distribution of urban services in Guadalajara resulted in the shaping of what one scholar has called a “divided city:” [T]he location of [urban] services favored and reinforced the pattern of class segregation. Transportation systems in the central zone were designed to improve access to commercial establishments and elegant new avenues led to the upper class residential areas. Basic services such as water, paved streets, and sewage were long in coming to the poor neighborhoods, despite their great need. In short, rather than attempting to

14Lezama, “Mexico” 363-4.



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counteract the trend toward a divided city that began in [the early decades of the twentieth century] the state joined hands with the privileged classes by providing them the public resources necessary for their convenience.15 Similarly, this trend toward favoring elite areas at the expense of others proved to be true not only in Mexico City and Guadalajara but in the smaller Gulf Coast city of Veracruz as well. Between 1873 and 1902 Veracruz had seen the completion of new railroad, harbor and associated urban facilities.16 And while many believed a “new era of civilization” had begun in the port, not everyone benefited equally from economic growth. In fact, most residents lived either in haphazard constructions on the city’s periphery or crowded into cramped tenements whose design featured individual rooms located off a central courtyard (patio de vecindad). In early November 1920, the Veracruz newspaper El Dictamen printed an editorial which offered an intimate portrait of living conditions in the city’s popular neighborhoods. “The patios,” the author began, “primarily found in the neighborhoods [just south and east of] the city center leave much to be desired.”17 A similar exposé asserted that “the sanitation of the tenements is the most important issue of public health in the city.”18 Responsibility for the problem, the article suggested, lay with landlords who “charged inflated rents and did little to maintain their properties while tenants only seemed to make deplorable conditions worse.”19

15 John Walton, “Guadalajara: Creating The Divided City,” (in) Wayne Cornelius and Robert Kemper (eds.) Latin American Urban Research. Volume 6, Metropolitan Change in Latin America: The Challenge and The Response. (Beverly Hills: Sage Publications, 1978): 33. 16 Bronze statues of English businessman and engineer Weetman Pearson, Porfirio Díaz and various workers who completed the harbor front works recently appeared on the Veracruz malecón. 17“Los patios de vecindad ‘en su tinta,’” El Dictamen, November 4, 1920. 18“Los patios de vecindad y el departamento de ingenieria sanitaria,” El Dictamen, November 5, 1920. 19Ibid.



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Comparing housing rates between the three cities, observers asserted that rents in Veracruz exceeded those recorded in Mexico City and Guadalajara.20 Indeed, the cost of housing in the port had jumped considerably after the revolution. A room priced at 10 pesos in 1910 rented for 30 to 35 in 1922.21 Many agreed that the cost of rental housing “had risen terribly, to the point where it (was) almost impossible for any employee of an average business to find adequate shelter.”22 One Mexico City newspaper wrote that “housing [in Veracruz] as well as the cost of living in general, has always been higher than many other places in Mexico, but now rents are simply out of control.”23 A report to the federal Department of Labor in the summer of 1922 summed up the housing situation: This office has reliable sources which suggest that renters (inquilinos) have a legitimate reason to protest against landlords in the port, many of whom own property constructed with the intent of collecting as much rent as possible yet left, for some time, in a complete state of abandonment. This situation is a threat to the health and well-being of a great number of the population in the port. (P)igsties that in 1910 rented for ten pesos

20Berra-Stoppa, p. 37. For reports on worker housing and cost of living in Mexico City see “El trabajo de sastreria y sus asimilares en México D.F.; labor a domicilio.” Boletín mensual del departamento de trabajo, January 1922 and “Higiene de la habitación; la habitación obrera en México, D.F.” Boletín mensual..., February 1922. 21Berra-Stoppa, “Estoy en huelga…,” p. 37. Historian Robert Quirk notes that during the North American invasion, “(t)he thorniest problem dealt with by the legal department was that of rent disputes. During the period of anarchy which accompanied the revolutions against Díaz and Madero and now against Huerta, many of the Mexican tenants had deferred paying their rents as long as possible, and they were now months or even years in arrears. Nearly six thousand cases involving nonpayment of rent were brought before the informal American courts.” Robert Quirk, An Affair of Honor: Woodrow Wilson and the Occupation of Veracruz. New York: Norton Press, 1967): 142. 22 Ibid. 23“Son muy altas las rentas de casas,” El Universal, August 1, 1920. For reports on worker housing and cost of living in Mexico City see various reports in Boletín mensual del departamento de trabajo. January-December 1922.



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monthly in 1918 cost fifteen and now are priced at thirty to thirty five. Other (smaller rooms) in worse shape could be rented in 1910 for three pesos monthly, in 1914 for six now cost fifteen. In sum, the housing condition of the poor in a state of complete abandonment...many are without water...and most live with only the most rudimentary hygiene.24 With government reports verifying tenant grievances, who did residents blame for such conditions? With the resurgence of Mexican nationalism during the revolution, tenants increasingly began to articulate their demands in politicized terms. Important precedent for this change of consciousness had come first in 1914 with the occupation of the port by U.S. forces and then the subsequent issuance of the 1917 Constitution by the administration of Venustiano Carranza. Motivated by the desire to intercept a German arms shipment intended for counterrevolutionary General Victoriano Huerta, the North American invasion of Veracruz imposed a new sanitary discipline in Veracruz by forcing residents to clean up the city and to comply with a new set of public health regulations. While many in the port may have appreciated the fact that the city accumulated wastes had been disposed of, they deeply resented the means employed by the North Americans. As a result, the occupation helped transform local culture by both raising expectations about housing and public health conditions while also sparking a new wave of popular nationalism. Evidence of important changes in “citizen consciousness� sparked by resistance to foreign invasion can be seen in memorial statues to

24"Las ultimas huelgas en el puerto de Veracruz," BoletĂ­n mensual del departamento del trabajo, June, 1922. p. 81-82. AGN, ramo Trabajo, box 502, exp. 1.



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heroic defenders of the city, newspaper cartoons, contemporary fiction, poetry and popular ballads (corridos) as well as an initial wave of organizing on the part of house renters soon after. As the military phase of the Revolution gradually came to a close, the Constitution of 1917 subsequently issued an official discourse intended to legitimate the rule of revolutionary elites. At the same time, however, dissemination of the document also raised expectations and provided Mexican citizens with an effective language for demanding improved political, economic and social conditions. As these changes soon gave rise to a period of political euphoria as well as increasingly fierce reaction from conservative elements in the state, veracruzanos elected Senator Adalberto Tejeda as governor in mid-1920. Over the course of his term, the state would become one of the “experimental laboratories” during the immediate postrevolutionary decade. As such, individual politicians such as Tejeda were afforded the autonomy necessary to build their own power base through the use of populist appeals articulated with the language of the Revolution. Thus, as revolutionary elites in Mexico City worked to consolidate the power of the federal government “from above,” regional leaders such as Tejeda ostensibly encouraged grassroots organizers—many of them affiliated with various labor, anarchist and communist organizations—to campaign throughout the state. In doing so, militants effectively tapped into a growing sense of moral outrage felt by houserenters—many of them women.

The Libertarian Women On the afternoon of February 27, 1922 Herón Proal met with nearly eighty women in the courtyard of the de la Vega tenement. "Beloved compañeras," he began, "the hour of social vindication is here and for you it is the time of liberation. You are great citizens," he continued,



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"and I am here, sisters, to say that you can burn down those filthy hovels where you are being miserably exploited by the bourgeoisie." Encouraged by their cheering response, he pressed on: "you need to burn these houses and destroy the bourgeoisie...All of you are energetic women, and you do not have to stand for this exploitation." After this, Proal finished his speech and departed. Just as the women returned to the street they ran into their hated rent collector, José "el Chato" Montero. Emboldened by Proal's incendiary discourse, they pelted the administrator with stones.25 Soon, word of a fast growing movement of resistance to local landlords spread rapidly throughout the poorer neighborhoods of the port. By the time a group of prostitutes threw their mattresses into the street in early March 1922, most everyone in the city knew that a major confrontation was underway. Subsequent action taken by the women of patio San Salvador on the night of March 6 provided the initial spark needed to start the Veracruz protest. The following day El Dictamen reported that “many of the prostitutes (had taken) their rented mattresses, chairs and other furniture into the street with the idea of starting a giant bonfire.”26 Although police had managed to restore order at the last minute, they could not prevent news of a growing collective action against local landords from spreading across town. A few days later, porteños heard of several other tenements whose inhabitants had declared themselves on strike and joined Proal's union. By the end of the first week in March, the paper had registered the protests of tenants from patios El Perfume, La Hortaliza, El Aserradero, Vallejo, La Providencia, La Josefina, San Bruno, Ni me olvides, Paraíso, Liébano, La Conchita, and 21 de Abril.27 Soon, representatives

25El Dictamen, February 28, 1922. 26Ibid., March 7, 1922 27Ibid., March 8-9, 1922.



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of the renters’ union had established themselves in each of these tenements and were working to coordinate the strike. By mid-month, thousands of the city’s tenants had joined the rent boycott, with well over one hundred patios on strike. Women took an active part in all aspects of the protest and eventually took on leadership of the Revolutionary Syndicate itself. Female strikers engaged regularly in anarchist "direct actions," maintained strike committees and filled the ranks of innumerable demonstrations that animated the city streets. At their nightly rallies, demonstrators denounced those in Veracruz who they felt lived off the "misery of their renters." Often the people making these assertions were the outspoken anarchist women headed by María Luisa Marín. Armed with police whistles they challenged housing administrators, police and fellow tenement dwellers that were unfriendly to the union. They also applied direct action strategies in several of the city’s markets with the hope of convincing the local women who worked as domestic workers for the city's middle and upper class residents to go on strike. Evidence of their revolutionary practice can be most clearly seen during the citywide protest that was staged by organized labor in mid-June 1922. That month, hundreds of workers in the city of Veracruz launched a general strike. Taking advantage of the situation, María Luisa and members of the Libertarian Women organized to stop the sale of meat in the Fabela market while inviting domestic workers to join their struggle. Early on the morning of Tuesday June 13, several small groups positioned themselves at the market entrances in an attempt to prevent anyone from entering or leaving the building. As more and more shoppers began to gather outside the market, the anarchists were eventually unable to prevent the crowd from breaking through. A noisy exchange of insults, yelling and shoving ensued following which the female organizers walked over to another



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market where they again encouraged domestic servants shopping there to organize and go on strike.28 Hearing of the commotion, city officials called Proal and advised him that such "scandals" as were being provoked by these women would have to stop. The tenant leader disagreed and backed up the claims of the female militants by informing the municipal leaders that, given their miserable working conditions, it should not be surprising that maids and cooks had in fact asked for the help of the Tenant Syndicate. Proal added that it remained the right of every Mexican citizen to organize, bargain collectively and strike when necessary. Shortly thereafter, the police received orders to position themselves outside each of the two markets on the following day. Worried that not only tenant but other labor organizing activities might result in major civil disorder, officials sent in four hundred soldiers from the 27th regiment of the state headquarters in Jalapa to help maintain the peace. Soon, federal forces were patrolling the city regularly. Having heard rumors that female agitator, with the support of the tenant union, might again attempt direct actions, the authorities ordered several troops to reinforce the police stationed at the entrances to both Fabela markets. Twenty mounted police were also sent to stand guard outside the city meat market. On June 16, El Dictamen reported that port workers had decided to return to their jobs. Many others, however, including bakers, restaurant employees, barbers, tailors, various terminal and dockworkers remained on strike.29 At the same time, residents received word of a telegram from President Obreg贸n urging workers and members of the Tenant Syndicate in the city to

28Ibid., June 14, 1922. 29Ibid., June 16, 1922.



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“avoid acts of violence.”30 Clearly, the strategies of Marín and other tenant strikers had raised the ire not only of local citizens but of the President as well. During the first months of the protest María Luisa Marín was never identified by the press as part of the "crowd" gathered in Juárez park, marching in the streets of the port or assembling strike committees in the city's many tenements. Then, after a violent confrontation between members of the Revolutionary Syndicate of Tenants and federal forces left several dead in the streets of Veracruz on the night of July 5, María Luisa rose from anonymity to become a dynamic local leader in her own right. Accused of homicide and sedition along with Proal and approximately ninety men and fifty women, Marín began what would eventually be an elevenmonth incarceration inside the Veracruz Allende jail.31 Two days after their arrest, striking tenants wrote directly to President Obregón demanding the release of Proal, Marín and other Revolutionary Syndicate members. In justifying their request, they asserted that:

The tenant strike...has proved a blessing because, if for no other reason, it has alerted workers to the fact that behind the words and “advanced posturing” of public officials...lay an abuse of power...The “revolutionary liberalism” of government officials has fallen like a miserable house of cards. (A)nd in its place they ostentatiously have shown us how they are “friends” of the “people” by shoving the barrel of a gun down our throats. In “respecting the [worker’s] right to strike,” they have sent in a military force to protect the squirrels and guarantee the “rights of workers and industrialists.” ...We

30Ibid. 31Ibid., July 7, 1922.



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lament the fact that bayonets continue to sustain the bourgeoisie of the country [while] they miserably exploit the sweat of the Indian in the countryside and the blood of the proletariat in the cities.32 The petition revealed the deep frustration and anger felt towards military and government officials as well as the newly critical ideological perspective that had now been assumed by many Veracruz residents. Denouncing the revolutionary populism of state agents, strikers grounded their frustration in the framework of class struggle to argue that the Mexican government was operating with only the interests of national "bourgeois" elites in mind. Like anarcho-syndicalists elsewhere in the Americas and Europe, the Veracruz tenants identified themselves--at least on paper--as part of a larger urban "proletariat" on the front lines of a international war being waged by a exploitative bourgeois class against common people everywhere. Interestingly, their communication also suggested a hard to demonstrate solidarity between Mexico's "Indian" campesinos and laborers in the nation's cities. As the news of what many saw as the massacre of innocent citizens spread throughout Mexico, petitions from sympathetic groups similarly expressed similarly strong objections about what had happened in the port.33 On July 10, members of the Tenant Syndicate recorded their account of the bloody confrontation and wrote to Minister of the Interior Plutarco Elías Calles in Mexico City. Registering their grievance they claimed that members of the military had disregarded “the most

32Petition signed by approximately 190 residents (many of them women) from patios San Francisco and Consuelo to Obregón, July 8, 1922. Archivo General de la Nacion, Mexico City (hereafter AGN), gobernación, vol. 24, file 107. A note attached to the back of the petition states that “there are many more from other vecindades who wish to sign but are afraid.” 33See examples in AGN, gobernación, box 26, C.2.51. 258.



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rudimentary principles of justice.”34 To begin to rectify this situation, tenants demanded the immediate release of Herón Proal, María Luisa Marín and other Tenant Syndicate members as well as a full investigation. More than one hundred sympathizers signed the letter.35 Despite countless efforts calling for the release of the Veracruz tenants, however, it would not be until the following May that they were released from Allende jail. In the meantime, Proal and Marín established a lively presence in the prison by singing "The International" and other Communist songs while also taunting prison officials with their red and black banners.

A Red Dance and the Strike of the Tortilla Makers Despite their incarceration, the two tenant leaders continued to organize tirelessly from inside the jail. There, they encouraged renters to agitate against prison staff as well as uncooperative detainees.

Proal and Marín also maintained a spirited defense of their

revolutionary ideology. On September 18, for example, tenants gained permission to hold what outsiders later referred to as a “red dance.” Appropriately, the event coincided with the national celebration of Mexico’s Independence Day. According to El Dictamen, prison director Andrés Andrade even lent the inmates his phonograph for the occasion. For the occasion, Proal and Marín ordered the inside of the jail decorated with red banners and pictures of Russian revolutionary leaders to express their solidarity with the growing international Communist movement. That night prisoners gathered to sing and dance in the women’s department. The next day, El Dictamen reported that the tenants had sung the praises

34Letter from Revolutionary Syndicate to Calles, July 10, 1922. AGN, gobernación, vol. 24, file 107. 35Ibid.



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of the international workers movement by offering renditions of various “Communist hymns.” To the chagrin of many outsiders, the dance marked the first time such a "red" gathering had taken place within a Mexican jail. For their part, the editors of El Dictamen charged that tenants had been given too much freedom in being allowed to continue their "red" organizing.36 A few days later, María Luisa Marín organized a work stoppage among the tortilla makers in the jail to protest insufficient supply of drinking water and poor treatment by prison staff. At first, the tortilla makers’ strike seemed to unify the women. Soon, however, some grew disillusioned with the effort. A week later, El Dictamen characterized María Luisa as a "boss" (cacique), suggesting she had ordered prisoners to “commit abuses” within the jail: María Luisa Marín, the inquilina leader has turned into a boss who demands everyone answer to her. Already there is a sizable group of women who are not willing to cooperate with her desire to continue the tortilla-makers strike.37 Later in the month, several women sent a letter to Governor Tejeda, saying that they “had no interest in taking part in the altercations in the Allende jail.” Their only wish, they said, “was to regain their sacred liberty in order to return to their homes and children who now live in a frightening state of abandonment.”38 Disagreements within the women's department exploded shortly thereafter when, on October 5, a three-hour battle broke out. According to one account, María Luisa had challenged a group of women prisoners who intended to break the tortilla strike. The confrontation reached a high point when Marín and her followers, after first shouting insults at the women as well as

36El Dictamen, September 18, 1922. 37Ibid., September 27, 1922. 38Concepción Pérez and over 20 others to Tejeda, September 29, 1922. Archivo General del Estado de Veracruz, Jalapa, Veracruz (hereafter AGEV), gobernación, 1922.



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members of their families who had been visiting, then took up sticks and stones to attack them. During a period of intense fighting, one woman broke away and managed to call for help. Soon, ten members of the prison staff were obliged to intervene and restore order. Following this, officials put María Luisa and two other women in special confinement for fifteen days. The next morning, female prisoners returned to the business of tortilla making.39 Despite the controversy generated by renters inside the prison, labor organizers in the city maintained their support for the jailed tenants. On October 11, a group of workers wrote to Governor Tejeda requesting that Proal and the others be released. They stated that further imprisonment of the protesters “represented a great injustice because many of the tenants have small children who need to be cared for.” The real crime, the letter read, was the robbery carried out by “unscrupulous landlords in the port.” The committee suggested that the governor take three days to consider the matter. If the governor did not use his “intelligent powers” to reply after that point, they warned “there would be negative consequences.”40 On October 23, labor leader José Mancisidor wrote to Tejeda informing him that the Pro-Prisoner committee intended to continue to work for the release of Proal and Marín as well as “other workers and women held in Allende jail...even if it meant launching a general strike.” Mancisidor advised the governor that “if matters are left unresolved for some time things will only get worse and [possibly] more dangerous.”41 Conflict within the prison escalated again during the fall of 1922 and early months of 1923. With Proal heading up the group in the men's section, Marín continued to lead in the

39El Dictamen, October 6-7, 1922. 40El Comite Pro-presos to Tejeda, October 11, 1922. AGEV, gobernación, 1922. 41José Mancisidor to Tejeda, October 23, 1922. AGEV, Archivo Tejeda volume 68.



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women's department. Each contingent complained that prison officials were mistreating the renters. Outside the jail, El Dictamen reminded readers about the "inappropriate behavior" of the tenants and suggested that Proal, María Luisa and the others represented a corrosive element in Veracruz society.42 Events leading to the eventual release of Proal and Marín began in mid-January 1923 when a lawyer helped prisoners write and file a petition asking for political amnesty. As word spread throughout the tenements regarding the possible release of the jailed tenants for some time still, the porteños sympathetic to the Syndicate cause set off firecrackers, decorated the front of their houses with banners and organized dances to celebrate.43 While amnesty for the militants would have to wait, residents prepared to commemorate the first year anniversary of their strike. For the occasion, organizers printed a special edition of the local communist paper El Frente Unico. Writing from jail, María Luisa contributed two articles. The first, simply entitled “The Fifth of March,” celebrated the “ideal of communism” and the founding of the Tenant Syndicate the year before. The other expressed her commitment to female emancipation, arguing “women are the owners of the world...because of their caring, limitless self-denial and incredible generosity.” She wrote that her enthusiasm for the tenant cause stemmed from her tremendous love of humanity and admiration for Proal who she saw as the “liberator of the people of Veracruz. I admire the man...and for him I would gladly offer my life.” Marín ended with a call to her readers: Compañeros, Long live Universal Love!

42El Dictamen, November-December, 1922. 43Ibid., January 16, 1923.



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Hooray for the emancipation of women! Up with Communism! Long live free humanity! Women, to the struggle!44 Her article, while endorsing a somewhat romanticized notion of women as self-sacrificing caregivers, advanced a radical mixture of communist and feminist ideas as well. María Luisa's demand for female emancipation also embraced aspects of an incipient women's movement emerging in Europe and the Americas at the time. Although she would remain in jail for another two months, her contribution to El Frente Unico certainly distinguished her in the eyes of the Veracruz public as one of the movement’s visionaries. The editors of El Dictamen, as always, saw things differently. Anticipating a potential amnesty for the tenants, their columnists commented that the union represented a "seditious force" in Veracruz politics. With Proal, Marín and the others soon to be released, they figured that the character of tenant action could only become more "odious."45 On May 11, 1923, when Governor Tejeda allowed the tenants to walk free, they marked the occasion in their usual flamboyant manner. In groups of ten, the men left first, followed by María Luisa and the other women who dressed in cream colored dresses and straw hats with red ribbons. Then Proal, with a group of his most intimate compañeros, came out last. As the prisoners made their exit, their supporters jubilantly set off firecrackers, applauded their peers, sang songs and shouted slogans to celebrate the occasion. Once the nearly one hundred and fifty tenants had walked out of Allende, the crowd paraded through several of the city's main streets

44El Frente Unico, March 5, 1923. 45El Dictamen, January, 17, 1923.



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and eventually ended up at the offices of the renters union. In an interview given shortly after leaving the jail, Proal promised the "street activities" of the union would continue as they had before. "We will restart our open air cultural conferences, demonstrations and public meetings,” he told reporters, “and of course, our commitment to direct action."46

Street Fighting Women and Men As Proal had foreseen, events during the spring and summer of 1923 testified to a new level of militancy among union members. In the city, the deployment of anarchist tactics proved especially controversial. Just four days after marking the first anniversary of the July 6 confrontation, for example, protesters staged assaults on two boarding houses where, they claimed, the Spanish landlords lived off the misery of their tenants. While not always identified by newspaper sources, it is reasonable to say that María Luisa Marín probably played an important role in these actions. On the night of July 10, 1923 some seventy tenants, armed with sticks, clubs, rocks, knives and a few guns first approached the hotel Santo Domingo, property of Jesus Castañón. Soon they had the place surrounded. With red banners, they formed a semi-circle in the middle of Aquilles Serdan Street, stopping traffic, and then sent a commission inside to demand the room keys from the owner. "Our intention,” they shouted, “is to take over this posada in order to find lodging for some of our compañeros and to unionize those who are already living here! Houses, we want houses and rooms!" In response, the proprietor resisted briefly but had no choice but to give in to the protesters’ demands. They quickly then found their way upstairs and

46Ibid., May 12, 1922.



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hung banners from the windows looking out onto the street. Soon, mounted police arrived just as the crowd was beginning to set off firecrackers in celebration of their momentary victory. Not to be stopped, the tenants next moved down the street to another boarding house named El Cosmopólita, belonging to Bernardo Francisco Prida. By this point, the crowd had grown to nearly one hundred men and women marching under the union's red and black banners. Moving closer to the pension, they were soon confronted by a heavily armed unit of the police. Nevertheless, some of the protesters managed to get inside this second building and began breaking bottles, glasses, light fixtures, furniture and windows in the downstairs bar. A few even started a fire inside when a group of police broke in behind them. Eventually, police managed to disperse the crowd but not before considerable damage had been done to both establishments. In the evening, a group of tenants briefly returned to the scene and shouted the derogatory term for Spaniard "gachupin" and "viva Proal" from the street.47 During the next few days, the authorities apprehended a number of tenants associated with the union, including the brothers of María Luisa, Lucio and Esteban. Shortly thereafter, tenants and police tangled anew. This time, union members including María Luisa Marín, allegedly tore down a Mexican flag displayed by a landlord in the port.48 This incident took place on July 18; the day Mexican citizens commemorate the death of their national hero Benito Juárez. Because of the strikers’ disrespect for authority as well as their egregious demonstration of anti-patriotic sentiment, the action proved particularly controversial.

47Ibid., July 11, 1922. 48Ibid., July 18, 1923.



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Even the New York Times saw fit to comment on the clash between tenants and police.49 Three days later, a Mexico City paper sharply criticized the Veracruz militants: The serious disorders committed in the unruly port as a result of the disrespectful attitude assumed by member of the Union of Renters against the authorities has obliged the latter to seek guarantees from the president.

[In response] The First Magistrate [has]

categorically reprimanded the renters, deploring the fact that they do not respect property or the authorities.50 An exchange of telegrams then took place between members of the Tenant Syndicate and President Obregón. On July 18, Syndicate member Marcos Gutiérrez complained that the city had been invaded by police and requested that the President step in to restore the citizens’ rights: At this time the police are overrunning the city with guns and swords. Urge guarantees and immediate liberty, since already several compatriots of the city have been wounded, beaten and imprisoned.51 Unmoved, Obregón expressed only his disapproval of the tenants:

The Executive office under my charge sincerely regrets that the directors of that union recognize authorities and laws only in those cases in which they seek guarantees from the former granted by the latter: but do not equally recognize the one or the other when there is call for respect of their decisions and the rights of others granted by these same laws which you invoke on account of violations. The case under reference will be made

49New York Times, July 20, 1923. 50El Demócrata, July 23, 1923. Quoted in Summerlin to Secretary of State, July 27, 1923. Records of the United States Department of State (hereafter RDS), reel 161. 51Marcos Gutiérrez to Obregón, July 18, 1922. RDS, reel 161.



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known to the respective authorities and they will decide the responsibility and impose the corresponding punishment.52 In pointing out that the tenants wanted both to express their contempt for the government and to make claims that relied on the state’s guarantees to citizens, the President showed little sympathy for members of the revolutionary union. In the end, the authorities arrested several female militants including María Luisa Marín. A few days later, city councilmen requested that army troops again be brought in to help support local police.53 These two incidents, probably some of the more dramatic examples of direct action by tenants, shocked the “respectable” residents of Veracruz. In the months that followed, calls for federal intervention to "protect the city" and "establish law and order" again came from public officials who saw the contentious tenants as a potent social force. In December that year, the recently elected President Plutarco Elías Calles used a skirmish between rival factions of the tenant movement as a pretext for federal intervention. Soon, he called for the arrest and jailing once again of Herón Proal in mid-December 1924. In his place, María Luisa Marín assumed the position of Secretary General of the Revolutionary Syndicates of Tenants.

Madame Secretary After assuming leadership of the Revolutionary Syndicate in late 1924, María Luisa intensified her appeal to the public. One of her first acts as Secretary General was to issue a

52Obregón to Gutiérrez, July 19, 1923. Ibid. 53El Dictamen, July 18, 1923. Proceedings concerning the incident continued during the rest of the month. See July 23, 27, 28, 1923.



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passionate call to Veracruz residents urging them to demand the release of Proal and to “unite against the exploiters of the world: We will do what we can so that our children will not denounce us as traitors and cowards...(W)e will prove that with Proal and without him, the Veracruz renters (Pueblo Inquilinario) will...defend their rights...In view of the danger that now threatens us...we issue an urgent call to the people. Don’t wait for the powerful to help you...they will never appreciate the dignity and value of our solidarity which some day will triumph. The supreme hour of the people has arrived. People of Veracruz, wake up and join the struggle.54 With Proal in jail, Marín argued the "struggle" was one that required the men and women of Veracruz to reaffirm their commitment to the ideal of an independent, egalitarian municipality. For María Luisa, "the supreme hour" had arrived. As she saw it, the eyes of future generations were upon them. Meantime, María Luisa was coordinating efforts asking federal officials for Proal’s release. This included letters to President Calles as well as a petition sent in mid-January 1925 to the Mexican Supreme Court that was signed by nearly two-hundred women.55 In addition to working to secure Proal's freedom, Marín continued to organize regular demonstrations, petitions to state officials and direct actions, as well as making plans to commemorate the third anniversary of the founding of the Veracruz renters' union.

54“Boletín del Sindicato Revolucionario de Inquilinos,” December 24, 1924. AGN, gobernación, C-28. 55Letter from María Luisa Marín to Calles, December 25, 1924. Petition from the Federación de Mujeres Libertarias to Presidente del Tribunal Superior de La Justicia de La Nación, January 14, 1925. AGN, Justicía, 2019-9, 1925.



Postrevolutionary Pioneer

A contracorriente

On February 5, 1925, María Luisa Marín instructed tenants to decorate their patios with red banners to show their commitment to the continuing tenants’ strike. Many, including residents of El Obrero, Tanitos and La Malinche tenements, soon arranged colorful displays. Expressing their loyalty to tenant leaders, renters hung two large red banners from the roof of Proal's house at Arista 33. Enthusiasts also decorated the union's headquarters on Landero y Cos street. Later in the afternoon, Marín and other leaders spoke to a crowd assembled before Hotel Diligencias which faced the city’s main square. After demanding the release of Proal, María Luisa launched into a speech attacking property owners. Many women, who constituted the majority of those assembled, carried banners which read: "Women Of The Port Struggle For Progress," "In The Name Of Humanity We Ask For The Freeing Of Proal," "The Women Of The Port Protest The Unjust Imprisonment Of Compañero Proal and The Proletarian Women Will Make The Social Revolution." After the rally, accompanied by a number of children playing tambourines and banging tin cans, María Luisa led a group of demonstrators over to the nearby newspaper offices of El Dictamen. Ignoring police orders to disperse, the protesters continued to mill about outside. Angered by the tenants' apparent lack of respect for the law, police then pushed their way into the crowd. A general panic ensued. As some took refuge outside the nearby Blanco y Negro cantina, the authorities closed in. Seeing the police approach, someone threw a rock that hit one of the officers in the shoulder. Screams, pistol shots and a tremendous noise followed before police eventually gained the upper hand. In response, municipal authorities ordered the city patrolled and tenant activities closely monitored to prevent any further disturbances.56

56El Dictamen, February 6, 1925.



Postrevolutionary Pioneer

A contracorriente

The following day, El Dictamen commented on María Luisa Marín’s recent assumption of the Tenant Syndicate’s directorship. As was typical, they tried to discredit the way strikers had presented their demands by characterizing the protest as a virtual reign of terror imposed by an unruly mob. On this particular occasion, they also challenged the independence and integrity of the tenant leader by simply calling her “his woman: Herón Proal... [has] sent his woman, María Luisa Marín [to take] his place. [Since then, Marín has] ...brought new energies and enthusiasms to the tenant cause. With equal vigor [she has] directed the [Syndicate’s] business and, as in the past, collected dues that have made the protest such a prosperous enterprise for some time. María Luisa, as Proal has said, is an “intelligent” woman and one need only spend a short time here to become familiar with her activities: agitation in the patios, aggressive commentaries...against the authorities, firecrackers and a full range of other gestures that usually culminate in the tumultuous public demonstrations that are by now well known and recalled with horror by the long suffering residents of this city.57 Failing to address any particulars in María Luisa’s “aggressive commentaries,” El Dictamen’s editors tried to persuade the Veracruz public to see her simply as a menace to society. Not to be discouraged, she and members of the Libertarian Women coordinated much of the day-to-day demonstrations, direct actions and public relations of the Tenant Syndicate. Yet as María Luisa continued to organize locally while also lobbying officials for Proal’s release in early 1925, her

57Ibid., February 7, 1925.



Postrevolutionary Pioneer

A contracorriente

efforts in the spring of that year soon led to the final showdown with unsympathetic local elites.58 On April 1, 1925, delegates from various labor organizations under the auspices of the Mexican Federation of Labor (Confederación Regional Obrera Mexicana or CROM) met in Veracruz to try to bring an end to the housing protest. Unhappy with these proceedings because of their refusal to recognize the Revolutionary Syndicate of Tenants, María Luisa Marín and several of her supporters attempted to block the opening of the convention by barricading the entrance to the stevedore’s union hall. Unsuccessful in stopping the meeting, they entered the hall, interrupting the proceedings by insulting speakers, yelling “death to the exploiters of the people” and as always viva Proal. Later that night, militants assembled outside the Tenant Syndicate headquarters expressed their desire for the strike to continue. Then, after renters paraded through the streets for a time, police moved in to disperse the gathering. By the end of the evening, thirteen affiliated with Marín and her organization had been arrested. The following day, the authorities formally charged María Luisa with attempting to burn down a local union headquarters. That morning, twenty-five police gathered to take her into custody. Talking to a group standing outside the renters’ union office, they could gather no information as to the whereabouts of the tenant leader. A few hours later, María Luisa was seen walking down the city streets with some other union members, about to call a public meeting. As several tenants gathered around her, she told them that they should not abandon the strike because of the hostility of trade union leaders who had “betrayed the cause of the proletariat.” As she continued, the police gradually closed in to arrest her. Telling her audience “the

58See, for example, various communications from María Luisa Marín to Calles, February 1925. AGN, gobernación, C-28, 1925.



Postrevolutionary Pioneer

A contracorriente

government had forgotten their responsibilities to the people and sold out to the bourgeoisie,” she ran into the union headquarters at the last minute to avoid the police. Several minutes of pushing and shoving followed on the street, leaving a policeman and several tenants injured. During the fray, María Luisa managed to escape. Three days later, the police took her into custody.59 Justice officials charged María Luisa with sedition. She denied the charges. While the authorities eventually dropped the case, they had nevertheless come to think of María Luisa as a dangerous and uncontrollable element on the Veracruz political scene. If they were ever to restore law and order, her power would have to be neutralized. A few weeks later, the authorities released Herón Proal from prison. During the remainder of the year he returned to Veracruz and continued organizing. Nevertheless, on January 12, 1926, the veteran anarchist leader was arrested once again in his home on Arista Street. Taken before a local judge, he was charged with refusing to cooperate with an earlier ruling that demanded that renters remove the red banners of the Syndicate from their tenement doors and windows.60

Orders sent down from Mexico City now demanded that Proal be

expelled from the state. The next day, local officials warned María Luisa Marín to avoid any action that was intended to interfere with the proceedings against Proal.61

At that point it

became clear that the national labor federation representatives and state officials had worked out a plan to marginalize the threat posed by Proal, Marín and the entire membership of the Revolutionary Syndicate of Tenants.

59El Dictamen, April 1-3, 1925. 60Ibid., January 13, 1926 61Ibid., January 14, 1926.



Postrevolutionary Pioneer

A contracorriente

When Proal boarded a steamer for Frontera, Tabasco on January 14, 1926, city officials served María Luisa Marín an ultimatum: discontinue agitation in the tenements and help bring the strike to an end or be expelled from the state herself.62 At four o’clock that afternoon, accompanied by a group of Syndicate women María Luisa walked into city hall. There the head of a city council dedicated to ending the rent strikers’ movement met with the tenant leader. Officials requested that she and other rival groups join forces with labor organizations in the city in the interest of ending the strike. Ever defiant in the face of authority, María Luisa told city officials that she would never agree to disband the Tenant Syndicate. Marín was then told that if she did not relinquish her post within forty-eight hours she would be arrested and eventually kicked out of Veracruz. If her followers refused to “quit painting red stars on the doors and windows of their tenements,” she was warned, “They too would be apprehended and sent to jail.”63 The next day, María Luisa filed an injunction against President Calles, the mayor and police chief of Veracruz in an attempt to block her arrest and possible expulsion from the state. Upon receiving the request, a local judge suspended charges against Marín until a ruling could be made. Believing that the tenant leader intended to renew her campaign, the police again arrested María Luisa on January 28, 1926.64 City officials informed the public the next day that the unrepentant agitator would be given the opportunity to remain in jail or leave Veracruz and travel to Mexico City. After hearing the ultimatum, she told officials that she would leave the city on Monday, after taking time to sell some of her things. In wishing her good luck as she

62In Tabasco, governor Tomás Garrido Canabal refused to let Proal enter the state. On January 24, officials installed him in the Santiago Tlatelolco prison in Mexico City. 63El Dictamen, January 15, 1926. 64Ibid., January 28, 1926.



Postrevolutionary Pioneer

A contracorriente

left, members of the Tenant Syndicate assured María Luisa that they would continue their protest until an acceptable agreement with landlords could be reached.65 Although María Luisa Marín returned a couple of years later to Veracruz, she would never again command the degree of political influence there that she had enjoyed during the earlier years of the strike. 66 As renters in Veracruz were gradually obliged to sign new contracts with their landlords, the power of the Revolutionary Syndicate declined. By the time Marín reunited with her militant colleagues, urban popular politics in Mexico were rather more tightly controlled by the national government than they had been during the early 1920s.67 The career of María Luisa Marín marked the beginning and the end of the radical tenant movement in Mexico. Her work as a popular organizer testified to a tremendous strength of character and commitment to social justice. Encouraged by the ideals of democracy expressed in the official discourse of the revolution, she demanded radical changes in the nature of Mexican society. Inspired by the rhetoric of international communism and by the early campaigns to emancipate women, Marín dedicated herself unstintingly to improving the everyday lives of working class residents in Veracruz. Despite her sometimes-overzealous use of direct action tactics, María Luisa never failed to insist that property owners and public officials consider the substandard housing conditions in which many residents in the port were forced to live and that 65Ibid., February 1, 1926. Following the departure of Marín, Inés Terán took over as Secretary General of the Syndicate. 66Historian Mario Gill writes that Proal “abandoned” María Luisa and married a woman named Lola Muñoz as soon as his political influence had declined. Mario Gill, “Veracruz: revolución y extremismo,” Historia Mexicana, vol. 2, no. 4 (April-July 1953) p. 626. 67Although the details are unclear, letters written by residents from the neighborhoods of 22 de Marzo and Colonia Vicente Guerrero to the governor in November 1928 complaining about María Luisa suggest that she was no longer welcome. See: communication to Obregón from Union Cooperative de Colonias Obreras 22 de Marzo and Colonia Vicente Guerrero, October 21, 1928. Governor Rodríguez received a similar letter from residents in the port regarding María Luisa on November 7, 1928. AGN, Obregón/Calles 802-v-58.



Postrevolutionary Pioneer

A contracorriente

they do something about them. Although the utopian vision for an emancipated humanity that she shared with other rent protesters was never fulfilled, María Luisa Marín’s passionate adherence to the tenant movement in Mexico represents a powerful example of one woman’s dedication to the goals of social justice.



COMMUNITY ORGANIZING In Sunset Park, there was strong presence from the Latino and Asian communities as well as numerous organizations that are pursuing particular goals that often overlapped. A large portion of the proposal to La Union is centered on coalition building of these organiztions and the sharing of resources and people. The formation of a Renter’s Union is a vehicle for which such coalition building can occur over the commanlity of housing.

G N I M NA M O M 229



Deborah Barndt

Ca'rlos Freire, Illustrator

The Moment Project

Jesuit Centre for Social Faith and Justice



An Idea­ A Practice Defining the concept and helps us develop strategies that make the. best use of this moment. Its ultimate aim is more effective action for social What makes this moment unique? There is a particular change. relationship of actors, of events, of forces that affect yoUr actions at this point in time. They limit what we can do right One person who participated in our workshops described it this way: now, but they also offer possibilities for action. Naming the moment - what does it mean?

"Conjunctural·analysis, or political analysis for action, is To make the best use· of this moment, we need to a rigorous examination of the balance of social forces in a understand how the different forces come together at this given moment that can help us acting in ways to advance our time, at this ·conjuncture.' The practice of regularly long and short term goals." assessing these forces is called in some places •conjunctura! analysis.' In the words of other participants, naming the moment The tenn is not very common in Canada, sounding more involves "looking at the web of different forces," "figuring like an eye disease or an academic activity. So we call the out who's mad, who's glad, and who's sad," "suggesting process naming the moment, or political analysis for where things are headed and what can be done," \ . I. action. Because it helps us clarify what this moment offers "detennining opportunities for action." .:








8 when we plan actions, our strategy and tactics must take into account these forces and their interrelationship;

Stating our assumptions In doing this kind of analysis, we assume that:

within the present conditions, we can find the free space which this moment offers;

our social situation is filled with contradictions, or

tensions, between social groups and within them:

we can identify and seize the moment for change!

history is made as these groups or forces come into

conflict and resolve conflicts;

Structural analysis as the base

Naming the moment is based on 'structural analysis.' some groups have power and privilege at the expense of

But it is different, too. Structural analysis helps us identify other groups;

the underlying power relationships and the deeper this oppression is unjust and we must stop it;

contradictions that detennine the structure of our society in if we want to participate actively in history (and not just the long tenn. Political analysis for action helps us look at a observe it), we have to understand the present as well as given moment or conjuncture to understand how current the past;

social forces move together to affect our strategies in the short term. we can learn to interpret history; evaluate past actions,

judge present situations, and project future scenarios; .

because things are always changing, we must

continually clarify what we are working for;

to be effective, we need to assess the strengths and

weaknesses of our own group and of those working

with and against us;

If we focus only on the structural elements, our understanding may remain static and lifeless. We won't see how things change as forces shift. On the other hand, if we look only at the personalities and events of the moment, we may lose sight of the deeper issues and the longer-tenn battles.

at any moment, there is a particular interrelationship or

'conjuncture' of forces (economic, political and


This tension between our daily work on short-term goals and our longer term efforts to change an unjust system is central to naming the moment.

these power relationships shift from one moment to


The story on the following pages illustrates this relationship and clarifies the terms used here.












I Notes



. ----T--=-=v~E: DO"-l'T


c:;.~ET ~


THE "BALL "TO LEA.~N NEEt::l LESS.ON" I\4E\\~ '.




A brief structural analysis of Canada How would we describe Canadian social structure? Let's Dependent examine three of the major features of the system we live in: it is part of the western industrialized capitalist world; it has Since French and British settlers first imposed a market always been dependent on foreign powers; it is a liberal economy on the indigenous population, Canada has democracy. depended on foreign powers. Canada is now dependent on multinational capital in Capitalist general and on the United States in particular. In 1986, for The economy is run by market forces; private ownership example, 76% of our exports went to the U.S. That figure is predominates. A small minority are the owners who decide increasing with free trade. what will be produced, where and for whom. The key economic sectofs are resources industries and finance, with a growing service sector. The majority of Canadians relate to this economy as salaried workers; 38% are unionized. Over one million are unemployed.

Liberal Most Canadians accept this system of dependent capitalism. The form of liberal democracy we have emphasizes individual rights rather than the common good. The prevailing liberal ideology gives a certain role to the state, but still bows to the needs of business, It depends on the economic oppression of many Canadians. Both sexism and racism help to maintain this inequality. Liberalism as a way of thinking is difficult to get a handle on. It obscures real differences, pretending that the system gives everyone an equal chance. The poor get blamed for poverty, rather than the structures that perpetuate it. The structure of our society - a capitalist, dependent, and liberal Canada - is deeply ingrained, both in the way we work and in the way we think. In working to change it, we have to go to its very roots.

l Notes



An alternative vision Those who benefit most from this system, primarily big business, however, are quite happy to see it remain as it is. In fact, many are working to roll back social progress in order to further increase their own profits. But this structure does not benefit most Canadians. There is a growing number of poor in our country. Native people, fanners, the welfare and working poor, immigrant workers, and women are increasingly marginalized by the present system. Organized labour, especially in the public sector is under attack. These groups, along with others concerned about social and economic justice in this country, have an alternative vision of Canada. New coalitions are working together in a spirit of 'social solidarity' to build a new Canada. Their vision is of a non-sexist and non-racist society, an economic democracy where basic needs are met and decisions made by those who produce the wealth. Underlying this vision is a common commitment to profound social and economic change.

In summary In working toward this long-term goal, we need both structural analysis and political analysis for action. Through structural analysis, we clarify the systemic roots of the injustice we are fighting.


In naming the moment, we look critically at the present situation and identify actions we can take now. While these actions respond to the present moment, they also help build the awareness and organizational skills we need for the long haul.




A tool for what? Like any tool, naming the moment can be used by anyone and for any purpose. Ris used by those in power to maintain control and to discredit groups that challenge their power.

found ways to undermine the strengths and exploit the weaknesses.

When we do political analysis for action, we must be clear about why we are doing it, for what and for whom. We A 1988 disclosure showed how the Atomic Energy can use the tool to better understand our own internal Commission of Canada kept records on enviromnentalist tensions as well as to understand external forces affecting groups that oppose its policies. They assessed strengths and our work. Both inside and outside power relations can limit weaknesses of each group from one moment to the next, and us or help us move forward.





An Approach: Introducing The Four Phases Not a method but a way of thinking At the end of a training workshop in our approach to naming the moment, a member of one community group exclaimed: "I realize now that I have a hole in my thinking: I have trouble holding contradictions!" Because we have been taught to think in either-or tenns, we tend to ignore or dichotomize the contradictions around us. Yet central to this kind of political analysis is 'dialectical thinking'.

contradictory ideas and forces. It involves naming and using them creatively and productively. Learning to name the moment or to do political analysis for action is not just adding a new tool to our repertoire of analytical skills. It is, in fact, another way of thinking, a different way of looking at the world and acting upon it.

In the process, we will come up against the dominant thinking in our western liberal culture, which is more idealistic and absolutist,linear and ahistorical. In developing Rather than 'either-or', it requires a 'both-and' way of our own practice, we will also be developing a more looking at forces, of seeing the dynamic interaction of historical and dialectical view of our actions.

I Notes



A word of warning We realize the danger of this 'approach' being taken as a recipe or formula. This would be a distortion of the underlying principle: that all our actions, including the act of doing political analysis, must be appropriate to our own particular historical context and time. Hopefully, the questions raised and processes illustrated here will stimulate groups to think about their own analytical work. But any specific practice of political analysis has to be hammered out by a group itself, given its own constraints and possibilities.

Tools are just tools In a highly technological consumer society like ours, there is a tendency to think that the latest tool can solve all our problems. We are fascinated by new toys, and sometimes expect them to provide a quick fix! It's important to guard against this understanding and use of the tools and techniques described in the following pages. Analytical tools are needed in the practice of polltical analysis for action. They can help make our analysis sharper, more creative, more participatory. Groups will choose or create tools, depending on their specific objectives, the culture and practice of the group, the time available, etc. Our primary hope is that the examples given here make people feel that political analysis is something that they can do themselves and that it will make their work more effective.



~.~ ~ ..





i '


26 Action is the key The main goal of naming the moment is to act more effectively for change. Action is the heart of this process: the analysis is based on an evaluation of past actions and leads to more strategic action in the future.


Action is the reference point in the phases; it must be taken to give meaning to any of them. It's a spiral process: we move through the four phases to plan for action, we act, then we reflect on that action and what we've learned from it. Ultimately, the reflection and action are inseparable, become one.

This chapter offers a training program in a more dialectical way of thinking. It's a bit like learning a sport. When we frrst try it, all the -movements are awkward. So there are exercises that we do to warm up. We learn the new motions step by step; the ganre itself is broken up so that we can practice one piece at a time. Then when we begin to master the pieces and put them together, we start to internalize the skills; they become second nature to us. We have divided the process of naming the moment into four phases. In the following pages, you will be introduced to several analytical tools. But our hope is that eventually the four phases meld into an ongoing process, a way of thinking.





Naming the Moment: Phases and Questions

PHASE 3 - Assessing -rhe Forces

The process of political analysis for action, or naming the moment moves through four phases:

PHASE 1 - Identifying Ourselves And Our Interests

Who's with us and against us on this issue (in economic, political, and ideological tenns)? What are their short-term and long-term interests? What are their expressed and their real interests?

Who are 'we' and how do we see the world?

What are the strengths and weaknesses of both sides?

How has our view been shaped by our race, gender, class, age, sector, religion, etc.?

What about the uncommitted?

How do we define Our constituency? Are we of, with, or for the people most affected by the issue(s) we work on?

What's the overall balance of forces?

What do we believe about the current structure of Canada? about what it could be? about how we get there?

PHASE 2 - Naming The Issues/Struggles

What actors do we need more infonnation about?

Who's winning and who's losing and why?

PHASE 4 - Planning For Action How have the forces shifted from the past to the present? What future shifts can we anticipate?

What 'free space' do we have to move in? What current issue/struggle is most critical to the interests of address our our group? How do we build on our strengths and weaknesses? What are the opposing interests (contradictions) around the Wh alll路ances with? In the be ~ . h ld issue? !ormmg om s ou we short-term and in the long-term? What are we fighting for in working on this issue - in the What actions could we take? short-term and in the long-term? What are the constraints and possibilities of each? What's the history of struggle on this issue? What have been Who will do what aild when? the critical moments of the past?



28 The four phases are intimately connected and can be The rest of this chapter provides detailed introductions to

happening almost simultaneously. When we are clarifying each phase, with examples of how various groups have

our goals or suggesting new allies, for example, we will also carried it out.

be reflecting on who we are and what we believe.

PHASE 1 -Identifying Ourselves and Our Interests

This phase involves: clarifying who we are in terms of class, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, age, sector, etc. (examples 1 and 4); expressing our views of how Canadian society is structured (example 1), how we would like it to be (example 3), and how we think change happens;

It's important to talk frankly about the different perspectives we bring to the longer term questions, even if we don't agree. The differences, in fact, may offer both constraints to and possibilities for our proposed actions. They will inevitably affect how we read and use present moments for short-term goals as well as for longer-term objectives.

identifying how we think our group can contribute to a movement for social change;

clarifying both similarities and differences in our

political perspectives.

Why is it important? If we want to change the structure of society and the course of history, we must see ourselves as part of that society and history. Our analysis will reflect our own interests, who we are in terms of class, race, gender, age, sector. Our goals will be tied to our own experiences within current power relations.

Naming the moment helps us read history and act more effectively toward social change. While this analysis shifts from one moment to another, it is based on a more permanent structural analysis: how we see society structured and how we want to change it.

r Notes



How can we do 'this? Finding out who we are and what we believe is really a life-long process. If we want to be more conscious about it, we could start by responding to the questions under Phase I on page 27.

named 'right wing attacks on people's rights,' for example; a Quebecois talked about Quebec nationalism and the Ontario-born identified 'Orangeism'.

By decade of birth

Boxed in on the following pages are examples of what some groups have done to address one or another of these questions.

When we divided by decades, we could easily see that the majority were children of the 50's. No one over 55 or r - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ' under 25 was represented; we had to acknowledge that this would affect our analysis. For fun, each age group Example 1 . Lifeboats selected a song from the decade and sang it to the group. This activity can provide a 'social X-ray' of a group. It works well with a larger multi-sectoral group, if people By cultural background don't know each other very well. Most people were of British onglO, with some The purposes of this exercise are to help people American, European, and Latin American. The absence identify common interests and to highlight the major of people of Asian, African, and Caribbean origin was characteristics of the group. identified as an important gap, which we would have to address as a group. This is the scenario: We are on a ship that might sink so we must practice getting into lifeboats. The facilitator calls out categories (gender, age, race, etc) on which basis we divide' ourselves into lifeboats. When a category is called, participants scramble to flOd others in the same category. (See A New Weave, pages 79-80, in the Resources for more details). This is how we used it in one moment workshop:

By province or country of birth This gave us a sense of each other's backgrounds. While we recognized that our analysis would be Toronto-centric because that's where we work, we learned that only 8 out of 17 were born in Ontario. We identified current political forces in our places of origin. Those from British Colombia and Great Britain

By gender We were quite evenly divided between men and women. Each group was asked to discuss what they felt the other gender would bring to the workshop. The men felt that a feminist perspective would be important to our analysis. The women expressed fears that the men might tend to make the discussion too intellectual. The 'Lifeboats' activity can be adapted to almost any group, purpose, and time frame. What characteristics are important to identify in your group: occupation, racial identity, years of involvement, positions on a particular issue? As is evident in the example, you can use each new grouping to pursue specific questions in more depth.


~A~路 *







Example 2 - Social Tree In Phase 1. as we identify ourselves. we also need to clarify our different political perspectives. how we see

society now and how we would like it to be. We have found the •social tree' a useful tool for examining our understanding of Canadian social structure. The roots represent the base of any social structure - its economic system (in Canada, our form of advanced . capitalism). This defmes the relations of production. The trunk: is the social and political structure that makes the system run (eg. our parliamentary form of government, social organizations and institutions). The leaves stand for the ideological elements of society - school, churches, media and cultural forms that transmit the beliefs and values of the system. No aspect of Canadian. society exists in isolation from the others; no tree has leaves without a trunk: or branches without roots. While the economic system gives rise to certain political structures or ideological forms, ideas and institutions also influence the shape of the economy.


There is a !;iYnamic and integrated relationship between the parts.

I Notes


31 Here are two ways this tool has been used: • One group wrote on index cards what they thought were the significant characteristics of Canadian social reality. They worked in three small groups, to identify economic, political, and ideological features.


They taped the cards on a large tree on the wall, placing them in the appropriate areas. Then they looked at the bigger picture and asked: What are the common elements of our analysis? Where do we disagree? • In another workshop, in early 1986, just after the MacDonald Commission Report suggested free trade, participants identified the key tensions in Canada at the moment as those illustrated on the tree to the right.

Critiques of the tool It is interesting to note some of the problems emerging with this tool. In a couple of instances, groups protested the use of the tree as a metaphor for society.

In the first case, they critiqued the image of uprooting the tree as the metaphor for fundamental structural change. They felt it was not an appropriate metaphor in Canada, where trees are a major natural resource and cultural symbol. And so the discussion of the metaphor itself raised important questions about how we understand the process of social change. In another context, the social tree was criticized for giving prominence to the economic roots. The role of sexism and racism in maintaining the structure is not clearly integrated into the model. Feminist and anti-racist movements are helping to reframe our understanding of social structure in this way.

I Notes





Example 3 • Vision Exercise Using the tree metaphor, some activists identified a 'lack of alternative vision' as a key ideological force.

supportive communities where there was an integration of work and home life.

In early 1987, we devoted three hours of a moment

workshop to exploring our visions of the kind of society we would like to create.

There was tension around how this vision would work on a global scale. What would happen to mass production and advanced communications technology, for example?

Taking the time to do such a thing seemed novel. As people working for social change, we often find ourselves fighting against injustices of all sorts without thinking about what we're working for in the long term.

While imagining a more just future, we still had to confront the contradictions of the present. We realized that we needed to work a lot more on our vision of alternatives, given current conditions.

And yet it takes vision to mobilize groups to act. The moment people see that something can be different, they feel a lot more energy for the work.

Example 4 - Monitors

The objective of the activity described below was to give us time to reflect on our different assumptions about what we were working toward and to begin to construct a common vision.

We recognized that our own discussion often unconsciously reflects the sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, and middle class perspectives that permeate our society.

Individuals spent 10 minutes writing down the characteristics of the society they wanted to live in.

In small groups, we shared those ideas. Then each group created a collective drawing to illustrate the common threads of the vision of its members. Groups displayed their drawings in a plenary to share

our visions and the similarities and differences in them. Most images reflected a desire for a society with values rooted in a reverence for all things - people, nature and an acceptance of diversity. People talked about

So we periodically assigned members of the group to be monitors for each of these 'isms'.

Their role was to listen especially for signs of bias in our conversations, and to point them out to us - either at the moment it was heard or during the evaluation at the end of a workshop.

For example, one person signaled the use of the term 'Black Monday,' when we talked about the stock market crash in October 1987. It made us more conscious of how 'black' is often used as a derogatory term. The monitors reminded us in a systematic way about how who we were influenced our analysis.




PHASE 2 - Naming the Issues

This phase involves: identifying the key issues/struggles in the sector where we work and in the broader Canadian and global context (example 1); clarifying what are the major contradictions (opposing forces) at play within and around an issue (example 2); reviewing the history of struggle around this issue and the shifts in forces from one moment to the next (example 2);

defining our group's short-term goals and longer-term objectives in working on the issues (example 3).

Why is it important? Some groups have very clearly-defined issues, while others may shift issues depending on the moment and need.

It is important to name the key issue we are working on and the contradictions it reflects. . As conjunctural analysis involves learning to read history, we must always look at present struggles in terms of their past evolution and where they might move in the future. The real value of an ongoing systematic analysis of events is seeing the shifts over time. Then it's possible to project develop.ments and shape them strategically. Defming short-term goals and longer-term objectives is another way of clarifying why we are working on an issue, in both conjunctural and structural terms. If we want to identify who's with us and who's against us, we have to be clear around what interests they are with or against us. If we are using the analysis to develop more strategic actions, we must know what we're working toward.








Example 1: Fleshing out an issue

Example 2: Drawing an historical

During the 1987-88 moment workshop series, the twenty participating activists chose to focus on the issue of 'free trade'.


In early 1989, the Jesuit Refugee Services-Canada (IRS-C), along with other groups, was responding to new government legislation around refugees. A shortened screening process threatened many refugees with deportation.

Because the issue seemed so big. and all encom­ passing, we felt the need to define the many opposing interests reflected in the free trade debate. This is how we did that:

In joining forces with other groups to form a national network called VIGIL, JRS-C reviewed the struggle around the refugee issue in Canada. This historical review helped activists trace how public consciousness developed in relation to key incidents over the past few years,

We brainstormed a number of ways that the issue could be looked at. Thirteen aspects were listed on a flip chart. We shortened the list to eight, and voted with sticky dots. Each participant had two votes to stick on the area she/he would like to focus on.

A synthesis of this timeline appears on the next page. The group chose to look at the past ten years, focussing on the last two.

Four areas were selected and small groups formed to examine them:



privatization of social services;


role of culture and media;


militarizatioQ and foreign policy;


trends of transnational capitalism.

The actors and actions on behalf of refugees are below the timeline in italics. Government actions which have threatened refugee rights are above the line.

Each group researched its area, and reported to the plenary a month later.

To develop strategies for the coming year, the group also projected anticipated future events and potential reactions to them. Situating present actions in the context of past and future scenarios helped to identify the kinds of forces at play.

This deeper 'naming of the issue' allowed us to see free trade as just one aspect of a neo-conservative trend, related to privatization, deregulation, decline of the welfare state, etc.

A group adapting this activity might select a different time line in reviewing its own issue. It is also important to situate your own group within the context of the history of the struggle.

!fl - - - - - ._. _. -. _-_










CD::J: ~




Reviewing The Past

Government bureaucrats informed, not public

10 Years 1978

Boat People

Close-up of past 2 Years 1987


Unemployment ('They're stealing our jobs.')

Reces足 sion

Government introduces interim measures


Hawkes proposal rejected in cabinet


Refugees from Cent. Am., Iran, Afghanistan

C-55 introduced


Media campaign against refugees


National emergency declared


Sikh Boat

New laws proposed

McLean announced intended restrictions

Singh Case


C-84 introduced


Turks deported


Fonnation of National Coalition for a Just Refugee/lrnmig. Policy

Tamil Boat



Bills passed






Bills stalled in Senate





Bills implemented




VIGil.. and court action

Projecting Government working out the wrinkles of the new system - few deportations

the next 2 Years 1989

Jan Court Action launched Vigil network fomed

April Refugee Rights Day

Once public attention has waned, more deportations

May Vigil Conference


Court action decision



Canadian Council

on Refugees


-~~--~~ ~-~ .~~~~--~~~- ~~~_.- ~._- -~~-.~--~ - ~--------- ~ -- --- ~~~ ~-~. --~~. Notes




Example 3: Clarifying our goals With an historical perspective on the issue we are working on, we can clarify what we are working for in the future. This identification of goals is critical to the naming the moment process. Some groups do goal-setting as part of their program piarming process. But they often stop with short-term goals, and fail to propose longer-term objectives. There are dangers in focussing merely on one or the other. With vague longer-term objectives, a group may flounder, not knowing how to get there from here. Action plans must be built around concrete, realizable goals. On the other hand, focussing only on short-term goals may lead a group to actions that don't build toward a longer-term impact.

Many of these indicators had technical implications. but clearly depended on a shifting of political forces and an increasing public consciousness. The group had major responsibility fOf public education in their organization, and so they focussed their short-term goals on the educational process. They brainstormed several aspects of their task: to get a working definition of 'sustainability'; to translate that definition to a broader public; •

to expand the numbers of environmentally active citizens to 400,000; to identify the sectors they want to reach;

An environmental group named as its long term objective to achieve sustainability of the planet. They distinguished this from 'sustainable development', a catch word being used by cOlporations and governments to justify a more subtle form of control.

They identified indicators of sustainability in the long-term: zero waste; soft energy and small scale alternatives; local control of bioregionalism; increased food production in urban centres; zero discharge in the Great Lakes; no more subsidy on primary resource extraction; international trading of recyclable resources.

to identify the blocks to sustainability and to uncover

good examples of it;

to work cooperatively with groups; to create a shift from NIMBY to NIABY consciousness. This last goal became the heart of their strategy. They recognized the growth of Not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) groups who were fighting landfills and dumping in their own communities. These new activists represented an important constituency for further education. The group's hope was that their programs and materials could help move such folks toward a NIABY perspective (Not-in-anyone's-backyard). This would imply a deeper analysis of the causes of environmental destruction and a broader concern for the whole planet. These would be steps toward taking more positive action for sustainability.





PHASE 3 - Assessing the Forces

This phase involves: listing the major actors (in the economic, political, and ideological sectors) that are with us, against us, and uncommitted on the issue (example I);

selecting the most critical relationships/tensions (example. 1);

identifying key groups, organizations, and institutions as well as personalities who lead the organizing for and against (example I);

analyzing the strategies being adopted by both sides

(example 2);

clarifying the real and expressed interests of the major actors, their short-tenn goals and longer-term objectives (example 2);

assessing the balance of forces for and against, who's winning and who's losing, and in what ways (examples 3 andA).

naming both short-tenn and longer-tenn allies;

I Notes



Why Is it important?

How can we do it?

This phase is the heart of the process of naming the moment.

Example 1: Listing The Actors Identify at the top of a large sheet of paper the short-term goal and the longer-term objective you are working toward.

In assessing the forces orgaruzmg for and against an issue, we are coming to terms with who is on our side and who is not.

List in three columns forces in the economic, political, and ideological spheres that are with us, against us, and uncommitted (with = red, against = blue, uncommitted =green).

Listing the actors is primarily an analytical process, while assessing their relationships is a process of synthesis. Identifying persons and groups by sector (economic, political, and ideological) helps clarify where the battle is most intense. At certain moments, it may be hottest in the political sphere (e.g. during elections), in the ideological sphere (e.g. the Rushdie affair), or in the economic sphere (e.g., the debt crisis), but the three will always be interacting.

In naming actors, describe their short-term and

long-term interests. List short-tenn allies but long-tenn opponents on 'forces with us' side but in blue; long-term allies but short- tenn opponents on 'forces against us' but in green. Put in parentheses those areas or actors requiring further research.

It's important to decide whether certain groups share our long-term interests or only our short-tenn goal. We may make tactical alliances with such groups, but recognize the limits to collaboration.

Assess the major contradictions in the three spheres (economic, political, ideological); Identify the major opposing interests;

Assessing the overall correlation of forces is the key task. It involves looking at the interrelationship of all the various forces, their strengths and weaknesses. It means coming up with a balance l:iheet, one that indicates who's winning and on what tenns, who's losing and why.


Relate the opposing interests identified in one sphere to those in other spheres; Decide the balance of those forces: who's winning, who's losing, and why.





~. >-~







Short-term goal:

To expose (fight) racism in police repression

Long-term objectives:

To fight racism in ourselves, our organizations and institutions. To build a non (anti)-racist, non (anti)-sexist socialist Canada.




Ideological Community Newspapers 足 Contrast Minority Women's Movement Black Action Defense Committee Wade Lawson Defense Committee - Sherona Hall

Toronto Sun Education System Philippe Ruston Police Association Women's Movement Churches Concept of multiculturalism

Political Teachers' Unions USWA - Michael Lewis NDP Native Peoples

Many rank and file members Church Solidarity Groups NDP Liberals

National Citizen's Coalition Ontario Housing Authority Police Association Conservative Party Immigration System Multicultural Policy

Economic Black and Eggleton pro SARC Refugee support groups Employment Equity Alliance Women's Movement

75% of population



Entrepreneurial Immigrants Ebony Magazine Business opposition to employment equity Toronto Chamber of Commerce


The chart on the preceeding page was developed by a

There was protest by other groups when the econ()rnic subgroup identified Conrad Black and Toronto Mayor Art Eggleton's support of the Social Assistance Review Commission recommendations as a positive force. The group clarified that certain politicians and corporate leaders might share our short-term goal of exposing racism in the police force, without a real commitment to the longer-term objective of fighting systemic racism.

workshop of community activists in early 1989 examining police racism following the killings of two black men. The multi-sectoral group divided' into three groups, each focusing on one sphere: the economic, political, or ideological. Only partial results of the analysis appear in the chart. The group fIrst clarified their short-term goals and longer-term objectives; one group redefined the goals in stronger terms, noted in parentheses, Sample of actors in each sphere are listeq. The listing of the actors is not often a straight- forward task. People will bring their own perspectives of which forces are most important. They may argue about who goes in which column. TItis process of debate is in itself critical; it is how the deeper interests get identified. Some contradictions in the listing illustrate this debate: •. The group examining ideological forces distinguished between the minority women's movement and the broader women's movement. They argued that if a group wasn't taking an active stance against racism, then it was a 'force against'. On the other hand, the . women's movement appeared as a 'force with us' in its support for employment equity emphasized in the economic sphere.


The group focussing on political forces looked spe­ cifically at the splits within groups. The NDP, for ex­ ample, appears both as 'with us' and 'uncornmited', One. key labour-unioni1inarnedassupportive while it is recognized that many rank and file union members may not be,

Such critical questionning of the deeper underlying interests is a major purpose of Phase 3 in the naming the moment process. After assessing the forces, groups synthesized their analysis by identifying the major opposing interests in each sphere. The economic group counter-posed the forces of wealth against the movement for employment equity. In the ideological sphere, 'multiculturalism' was identified as a key liberal concept which ultimately worked against 'us' by obscuring racism. The group also questionned exactly what is meant by 'we', by asking: Are all progressive groups working to fight racism?

This examination of systemic racism, then, forced groups to look critically within their organizations as well, to understand the more subtle internal forces acting for and against change.. The process of listing the actors and assessing their interests also suggested new allies for anti-racist struggles, for example, the untapped interest of solidarity groups, the more progressive elements of the church, etc.




Personalities count In this area is the elusive role of 'public opinion.' In trying to understand the present moment, we must also take into account the role that certain persons play. Though Refugee rights groups realized the importance of this factor they represent institutions and their interests, some as Canada began to close the doors to refugees in early individuals become important symbols of those interests by 1987. force of their personality and their position. Government strategy, aided by the media after the arrival of the boat of Tamils, for example, was to fuel the flames of During the three years of national free trade debate, for example, there were key figures pitted against each other in racism within the Canadian public. Immigrants were .also different spheres. Thomas D' Aquino of the Business pitted against refugees who were seen as 'queue jumpers'. Council on National Issues represented the economic The challenge was to help people see their deeper common interests behind the deal, while Bob White of the Canadian interests with refugees. Autoworkers Union was a kind of folk hero for the interests of working people.

Allies: short and/or long-term?

In the political sphere, especially during the 1988 elections, it was Brian Mulroney versus Jo~ Turner. Ideologically, academics put themselves on both sides of the battle line. John Crispo of the University of Toronto served as a key government consultant while Marjorie Cohen of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women was a frequent spokesperson for the Pro-Canada Network.

In listing groups that support a particular issue, we must distinguish between those that are with us in the short term and those that actually share our longer-term interests. In fighting to stop the Mulroney trade deal, for example, we found some strange bedfellows in the Liberal Party and select elements of the business sector.

The Uncommitted On many issues, large portions of the population may not be sure where they stand. It is as important to identify the uncommitted forces as it is to name those that are clearly

with and against us. These groups are potential allies. We must ask why they straddle the fence. If we understand better where they are coming from, we may find where their interests coincide with ours.

I Notes



Example 2 • The Table Metaphor In the fall of 1986, native organizations in Canada were the strategy of the native groups (to emphasize aboriginal preparing for the final First Minister's Conference on rights as an historical given, not as something being native self-government, to be held in early 1987. requested of the colonial government.)

A native leader participating in the moment workshops helped us look at the forces at play around this issue. The 'table' became a metaphor for naming the actors and assessing their interests. .

What's under the table?

First of all, the table is a western not an indigenous construct, brought to Canada by European settlers. In the same sense, the First Ministers Conferences were also called and framed by the .government. Native people would not have created this form of negotiations. In trying to examine the opposing forces, we asked three major questions:

We had placed a small table in the centre of our circle to focus our discussion. At this point, we turned the table We placed the four native groups and their lawyers on upside down and asked: What are the real interests at stake one side, the federal and provincial government in this government-constructed debate? representatives and their lawyers on the other side. We divided into four small groups to examine aspects We did a quick analysis of these actors in terms of class, of these opposing interests: ideological, political, military, race, and gender; not surprisingly, white male business and economic. class interests predominated. This activity helped identify alliances that progressive What's on the table? groups could make with native people on this issue. Peace The next question forced us to name the expressed and environmental activists, for example, joined forces interests of the two major opposing forces. We described with native people in showing how the increasing the strategies evident in the behaviour of the State actors militarization of Canada served the economic interests of (keeping the debate within the legalistic frame of the multinational oil companies like ESSO, while taking constitution, affirining the provincial and federal levels of control of the land and resources of northern native people, government as the only two sovereign governments), and destroying the ecology and culture that sustains them.

Who's at the table?





Example 3: Dramatizing contradictions Listing the actors and analyzing their interests and tensions around base-building. strategies reveals their strengths and weaknesses. Built on The drawing below shows the sculpture created by a a deeper understanding of these opposing interests, we women labour activist. finally need to assess their relative strength and

In decoding this image we find:

relationship. The teclmique of 'theatre of the oppressed' lends itself

well to focussing on contradictions in power relationships. A the domination of white men within the labour

movement; In a 1989 moment workshop, community activists learned to use the tool to examine tensions within their own groups B the efforts of feminist members to raise the con足 around the question of building a base. sciousness and activity of women trade unionists around their own rights and interests; After wanning up and learning to sculpt each other into positions of power, participants were asked to reconstruct incidents in their own experience reflecting internal




implicit racism among white women activists that excludes women of colour from their efforts.


There are several ways to use theatre to dig deeper into these contradictions: Anyone of the actors can be examined more carefully by asking: What other figures around this person would express in more detail hislher interests? Put them there.

What would each of the actors in the scenario be saying? Say it.

What would the next movement of each be? Do it.

Accepting this as an accurate picture of the present situation, how would you like to change it? Recon足 struct the sculpture to reflect the ideal. What would we have to do to get there? This is one example of the use of nonverbal tools to examine power relationships. There are many other applications not only of theatre techniques, but also of drawing, photos, music, etc. Find the forms that are culturally appropriate to the group using them and that group members feel comfortable with. Most important is that they help' the group achieve its analytical objective; if that can be done with a lot of energy and creativity, all the better!





Example 4: Drawing the·relationship of forces A group workiIlg in solidarity with the Philippines chose a graphic method of describing the correlation of forces. The time was mid-1988, two years after the Marcos dictatorship had been overthrown by the more popular government of Cory Aquino.


their proximity to each other (for example, there is an overlap between the Cory government and the Senate, Congress, and Church; and the Philippine military is placed close to the U.S.);


graphic symbols of the kind of relationships between forces (for example, guns representing the U.S.­ supported force of the military against guerrilla groups - CPP/NDP NPA - as well as the armed struggle of those groups against the government). .

The graphic below shows different aspects of the forces: The size of the circles represents the group's assess­

ment of the relative strength of the various forces at

that particular moment The relationship between forces is reflected in two ways:

This kind of graphic analysis can be done by various groups and their analyses of forces compared. It can also be done over time as forces shift. and their relative power and relationships change.





This phase involves: evaluating past actions to assess which strategies worked well and why (example 1);

reviewing the shifts in forces in the past, anticipating future shifts, and assessing the 'free space' in the present moment (examples 2 and 3);

identifying strategies that build on our strengths, take advantage of their weaknesses, and tap the uncommitted (example 4);

selecting the most effective strategies. by evaluating the constraints and possibilities of those proposed (example 4);

proposing new tactical alliances and how to build them;

considering how this moment can be used to move toward both short-term goals and longer-term objectives.




Why is it important? Political analysis has little value unless it is applied to planning for action. It can help us make more strategic decisions about how to use our organizational resources and energies. It can help us link with other allies who have similar goals, to build a broader-based response to the issues we are working on.

Example 1: Post-Electoral Strategizing Evaluation of recent actions is essential to planning future ones. Activists from eight different sectoral groups met the morning after the November 1988 elections (municipal and federal) to assess their use of the electoral process and the impact of the results of their work in the future. These are the questions used by each group:

Based on our analysis of the relationship of forces (Phase 3), we try to identify what this moment offers that others don't. Even under the most repressive circumstances, there is some 'free space' or 'room to move.' An objective understanding of the social forces involved will help us decide what is historically possible.

What key issue(s) did your organization/sector work on during the electoral campaigns? What were your short-term goals for the issue during the elections? What are your longer-term objectives in working on the issue?

But this phase also requires bold imagination. While recognizing the constraints, we need to push the possibilities. We need not only to think dialectically but also to act dialectically. This means finding strengths in what appear to be weaknesses, turning liabilities into assets.

What strategies did you use (lobbying, media coverage, base-building, internal education, etc.)? How successful were they? What other sectors did you work with during the period and how?

The strategies we adopt provide the road map for our actions. The tactics we develop are the different vehicles we choose for following that map. Tactics need to educate, mobilize, and energize the group. Both the strategies and tactics we propose should keep in mind our longer-term objectives as well as our short-term goals. Otherwise we may find ourselves winning in the more immediate sense, but not moving toward creating the kind of society we want.

How will the results of the elections affect your work on the issue (s)? Out of this collective analysis came new ideas for strategies. For example, women's groups who took anti足 Tory stands during the elections now anticipated cuts in government support. This suggested the need for exploring potential new funding sources.



48 Example 2路 A global perspective on

future events

A Canadian group working in solidarity with Latin America used the graphic tool on the next page to identify upcoming events that would affect their work and, therefore, should inform their strategy. Because their solidarity work attempts to influence Canadian foreign policy vis-a-vis Latin America, they needed to follow the unfolding of events in three contexts, including the United States because of its major influence in both Latin America and Canada. First they brainstormed what they knew of past, present and future events in each context, placing them on timelines on a large wall chart. Then they asked how events in one context affect relationships with another. For example, the defeat ofthe Contra Aid bill in Washington gave some leverage to Canadians lobbying our government for a non颅 interventionist policy. To keep this space open, however, there. needed to be real efforts to defeat the neo-conservative governments of both the United States and Canada in upcoming elections. Out of this overview analysis, there were suggestions of strategies for Canadian working in solidarity. One was to educate Canadians about the links between free trade and U.S. intervention in Central America. The development of the Central American peace process clearly was to be affected by the outcomes of elections not only in North America, but also in Central America.


The concurrence of the elections in the United States. Canada, and EI Salvador put a lot of emphasis on education and organizing to make best use of the electoral moment.




ONE YEAR AGO May 1987 Rise in N.D.P. popularity

Refugee bills





May 1988

-------------------------_-------颅 If -Privatization of crown Economic Elections Free trade corporations, services


Abortion Meech Lake Refugee bills Language rights

Free Trade Agreement

Election primaries Rise of rainbow coalition Contra military aid defeated Irangate Hearings


Soviet - U.S. summit

Contra humanitarian aid approved

November elections

October Crash

Joe Clark visit Central America


I. AMERICA I Esquipulas Peace Plan

Nicaraguan currency exchange

Anti-US demos in Honduras

Guatemalans return home

Meeting of Central Amer. Presidents

U.S. troops invade Honduras

Sapoa talks





Mexican elections

Salvadorean elections

Foreign Ministers' meeting


Example 3 • Tracing proposed strategies Once again, the role of the United States was critical to Another solidarity group also faced the challenge of analyzing events in more than one context. This group, future scenarios. U.S. interests, represented by naval and however, was made up primarily of Filipinos in Canada, air force bases on Philippine soil, are being challenged. And so, they anticipated an active military intervention rather than of Canadians. from the U.S. as the anti-intervention movement grows. The Philippine support group developed the graphic on the next page to compare present conditions in both the It is interesting to compare the analysis done by the international and domestic spheres. They saw the Canadian solidarity group working with Central America government, military and business forces in the Philippines of forces by the Filipino support group. and the assessment currently holding the balance of power. On the one hand, there are real similarities in the structural contradictions that each is confronting. The role of the United States in the Philippines and in Central America has followed similar patterns. There is a deep historical control by the U.S. expressed in economic, political, and ideological forms. Both regions have been strategically important to the United States in military terms as well. Their goal for the future was to achieve 'popular Each solidarity group reflected their own limitations in democracy', shifting the balance of forces through their analyses. It was not surprising, therefore, that the building a united left and allying with middle forces. Canadians had a greater handle on the details of the The group saw itself in the international sphere as Canadian elections than on Central American elections. At working in collaboration with progressive groups in the the same time, the Filippinos lacked such detail in their anti-intervention movement, both getting updated analyses analysis of the Canadian scene, while understanding better of the situation from them and offerring them an the subtleties of the situation in the Philippines (also assessment of international forces. reflected on page 45).



The proposed activities of their work included education of Filipino immigrants and Canadians, The Filippinos, in fact, suggested from this analysis networking with other solidarity groups, and organizing as that they make more direct links with other solidarity part of the broader anti-intervention movement to support groups to deepen their own understanding of the strategies the movement for popular democracy. and tactics needed in the Canadian context.






,I ,










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\N~R~!,TI()NI\L I




~ ~~ ~DUcATE


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52 Example 4 â&#x20AC;˘ Free Space Analysis When it comes to planning actions, we need to expand our sense of the options we usually consider. The 'free space analysis' tool helps us to do that.

In the example on the next page, they flesh out the constraints and possibilities offerred by the proposed publication of a Green Consumer Guide.

The concept of 'free space' is in itself important to political analysis for action. We need to identify what space is offerred by the present moment.


E ll-\E'i' CUT

TAA, "f5;b.O

FE...DE.RA.L pAY CARE 'PLAN FROM !HE: BU DG:.E.T! ~OW WE NEED TO USE: i\-\ISo s~ CE: TO 'FI<OHr 'FOR A. "Bs:rn;:;. f'A<:\<AGE '"

But in doing so, we often fall into one of two traps. We either discount immediately certain options as impossible, without exploring them fully. Or we select options that are poor strategies because we have not carefully assessed present conditions. With the tool illlustrated below, a group may examine the constraints and possibilities ofany proposed strategy or tactic. But the point is not simply to list those constraints and possibiliites. Rather this is a dialectical tool: it encourages a coUective process of looking for the constraints within each possibility and the possibilities within each constraint. It helps us to tum what seem to be liabilities into assets. This process was used by the environmentalist group previously mentionned. They had clarified their short- term goals and long-term objectives (see page 36) and they had assessed the major forces working with and against them on these goals. They were now examining different strategies, or spaces available, for achieving their educational goal of helping people to develop a more collective (and not merely personal) concern for the environment.






Toronto Community Housing wishes to thank the Christian Resource Centre; Dixon Hall; Regent Park Community Health Centre; Regent Park Focus; Regent Park Neighbourhood Initiative; Yonge Street Mission, the City of Torontoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Social Development, Finance and Administration Division; Toronto Social Services and Public Interest for their long and dedicated participation in the Core Committee assisting in the development of the Social Development Plan


TABLE OF CONTENTS Part I: Context . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 1. The Social Development Plan: A change management framework. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 1.1 A process based on partnership . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 1.2 Role of the Regent Park Neighbourhood Initiative . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 2. A history of social and cultural change in Regent Park . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 2.1 Physical and demographic change in Regent Park . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 2.1.1 Initial construction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 2.1.2 Design . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 2.1.3 Changing structures. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 2.1.4 Changing populations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 2.1.5 Addressing space and design. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 2.2 Community-based organizing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 2.2.1 Resident organizing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 2.2.2 Innovative community agency initiatives. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 2.3 The revitalization of Regent Park . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 2.3.1 Redevelopment and Toronto Community Housingâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s community engagement . . 14 2.3.2 Community-based planning for the redevelopment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 2.3.3 Service provider planning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 2.4 Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 3. The context for social development in Regent Park . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 3.1 City-wide context . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 3.1.1 Strong neighbourhood approach. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 3.1.2 Regent Park as a priority community . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 3.1.3 Regent Park as a model . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 3.1.4 Link to government partnerships . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 3.2 Snapshot of the current neighbourhood. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 3.3 Redevelopment process . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 4. Demographic changes resulting from redevelopment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 4.1 New residents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 4.2 Ongoing population shifts during redevelopment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29








1. THE SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN: A CHANGE MANAGEMENT FRAMEWORK In July 2003, Toronto City Council approved the plan for revitalization of Regent Park. This approval opened the way to a period of significant transition and change. Council gave direction for Toronto Community Housing, with the support of the City’s Social Development, Finance and Administration Division, to create a Social Development Plan for Regent Park to help address issues of transition and social inclusion. The redevelopment of Regent Park will replace existing housing but will also bring in new market housing. This will add to the existing population of Regent Park. It will also add to the diversity of the population, introducing a broader mix of income and tenure. This can provide significant advantages to the people now living in Regent Park. The resources of their community grow with the growing diversity of their neighbourhood, creating the potential for new relationships and new opportunities. However, without an effective strategy for capitalizing on those opportunities and resources, the risk of social stress grows as well. Realizing the opportunities and averting social tensions will become critical new roles for the various participants in the Regent Park community, including residents, Toronto Community Housing, the City, and local community-based agencies. Tackling these new roles requires forethought and planning. The changes to Regent Park will be occurring over a 15-year span, so the plan must be a thorough and dynamic change management framework that adjusts to circumstances that will change over time. Change management is about “planning for people”. It is about creating the tools, mechanisms and structures to help guide the 15-year neighbourhood and population transition and




to monitor and adjust the plan as circumstances change or unanticipated developments occur.

1.1 A PROCESS BASED ON PARTNERSHIP The key stakeholders have been partners throughout the redevelopment process and have been engaged in creating the Social Development Plan process. Toronto Community Housing, the City of Toronto, the Regent Park Neighbourhood Initiative, community agencies, and Regent Park residents have come together to creatively participate in the planning process for the Social Development Plan. The need for a Social Development Plan was first articulated by tenants of Regent Park, and tenants continue to be engaged and to provide leadership in the process. Toronto Community Housing has taken carriage of the process and has facilitated the production of the plan. The Social Development Plan process is proceeding in the context of other placebased community development strategies like Neighbourhood Action, convened by the City through the Social Development, Finance and Administration Division.

1.2 ROLE OF THE REGENT PARK NEIGHBOURHOOD INITIATIVE The Regent Park Neighbourhood Initiative (RPNI) is a social planning body in Regent Park. Formerly known as the Regent Park Resident Council, RPNI was formed in 2002 to advocate and protect the interests and assets of residents and to work in partnership through its committees and other means to identify, assess, address and evaluate issues brought forward by the community. It is a voice of the residents that provides a vision for the changing community. As the neighbourhood changes, RPNI has the capacity to work with relevant stakeholders to identify the evolving needs of all of the residents of Regent Park and to advocate for effective action to address those needs. RPNI will act as a single voice for the new homeowners, tenants and businesses as the neighbourhood becomes diversified through the redevelopment. These partnerships are consistent with a long history of collaboration in Regent Park. Throughout many challenges, Regent Park has shown that when tenants can engage with partners such as community service providers, housing providers and the City in order to deploy their collected resources to benefit the whole community, exceptional innovation and extraordinary success generally follow. This illustrates that broad-based partnerships linking Regent Park tenants with diverse partners form an effective tool for community improvement. In the following section, this history is explored in detail and provides valuable insight for the Social Development Plan.




2. A HISTORY OF SOCIAL AND CULTURAL CHANGE IN REGENT PARK 2.1 PHYSICAL AND DEMOGRAPHIC CHANGE IN REGENT PARK Regent Park has undergone many transitions since it was built more than 50 years ago. The successes of the community have reflected the resiliency of residents and the willingness of institutions and others to be responsive to community direction. Regent Park has always consisted of families working hard to improve their lives, contribute to their community and provide better opportunities for their children. Whether under-employed, raising children or coping with physical or mental health problems, residents have faced the added challenges of poverty, racism and relentless negative stereotyping of the community where they live. Residents and local agencies have a long history of working in partnership and supporting one another to address these challenges and to bring about positive and substantive changes at individual, community and systemic levels. This chapter outlines the history of Regent Park, some of the successes achieved by residents and community agencies in spite of significant flaws in neighbourhood design and structure, and the process used by residents to initiate redevelopment. 2.1.1 INITIAL CONSTRUCTION

Regent Park is one of the oldest and largest public housing developments in Canada. It is a 69-acre public housing community in downtown Toronto that houses approximately 7,500 residents in 2,083 rent-geared-to-income (RGI) units. It was developed in two phases. North Regent Park was built from 1948 to 1957 as a low-rise and townhouse development that occupies the area north of Dundas Street. South Regent Park was built between 1957 and 1959 south of Dundas Street and is composed mostly of high-rise buildings and townhouses. Regent Park was built as a ‘slum clearance’ project and was very popular with residents, politicians and media for the first few years of its existence. Before the redevelopment, the area was popularly known as Cabbagetown because the predominately Irish residents often grew cabbages in their front yards in an effort to subsist in the face of severe poverty. The new neighbourhood was given the name “Regent Park” to reflect the increased green space and the presence of Regent Street in the new development. It was widely regarded as a new beginning for the residents and for the area. 2.1.2 DESIGN

The housing was constructed in the 1950s as a social experiment. The community was composed entirely of subsidized housing and the buildings were oriented to look inward, disconnecting Regent Park from its neighbouring communities. To some extent, demographics drove the design, as the local population of large Irish Catholic families produced a public housing development with a large proportion of 4- and 5-bedroom units. Thirty percent of Regent Park’s 2,083 units are four bedrooms or larger. To a greater extent, however, the design was driven by intellectual fashion. In keeping with




the “Garden City” mode of planning prevalent at the time, the designers created a ‘pastoral’ setting, which focused inward and was cut off from the noise and aggravation of city life. The development was entirely residential, a bedroom community utterly free of commercial uses, with a large supply of unclaimed open spaces around the buildings. Regent Park is an early example of planning based on theories rather than on the patterns of use established by residents. In the contexts that emerged over the next 50 years, the theory underlying the inward-looking ‘pastoral’ design began to show its weaknesses. This design cut Regent Park off from the rest of the city and consequently from the many benefits of city life. The grievous impact would be felt for the next 50 years. 2.1.3 CHANGING STRUCTURES

In the 1960s and 1970s, public housing in Toronto began to grow. Following their first 2,000 units in Regent Park, the Ontario Housing Corporation (OHC) expanded its housing inventory by adding new units on new sites across Ontario. In response to this growth, OHC centralized its administrative offices in a single location. This was a good idea in theory, but residents knew better. Residents thought on-site management had been a key part of the success of the community. They believed that it mattered to have someone around who knew the neighbourhood and could make changes that met its real needs. They protested the creation of an “absentee landlord,” marching in the streets to show their commitment (Zapparoli 1999). Despite some initial successes, tenants watched as management gradually became more and more remote from the community, reducing its presence outside office hours and decreasing tenants’ power to make changes. 2.1.4 CHANGING POPULATIONS

The first tenants of Regent Park were mostly Irish or British families and almost all residents spoke English. Only two-parent families were allowed to live in Regent Park; singles and single-parent families were barred. There was a minimum and a maximum income level required to qualify for a unit. Only 20% of the households could be receiving social assistance and 80% had to be working families (Zapparoli 1999). While management was becoming more remote, the challenges of urban poverty were becoming more complex. As early as the 1970s, the employed two-parent families who made up the early Regent Park were disappearing. Two families in five had no work and only one adult in four had a high school diploma. By the 1976 census, one family in seven was headed by only one parent. People were staying longer in public housing, too. Rather than moving in and out like a revolving door, people in Regent Park were building a community with strong ties to their neighbourhood and to each other. But they were also facing longer-term poverty. Affordable housing was not simply something people needed temporarily while they got back on their feet; it was something people needed in increasing numbers across the province on an ongoing basis.




During the 1980s and 1990s, Regent Park underwent a dramatic shift in population. Today, Regent Park is home to people speaking more than 70 languages. Sixty percent of Regent Park residents are immigrants, one-third of them having arrived in the last five years. Onequarter of residents arrived during the last five years and another quarter arrived in the five years before that. Regent Park is currently about 15% Bengali, 10% Tamil, 10% Vietnamese and 8% Chinese. According to Statistics Canada, Regent Park is one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the country. Less than 150 households have annual incomes greater than $30,000. Incomes remain low, but over 40% of households earn most of their income from employment, while dependence on social assistance has settled back down to the 40% level. 2.1.5 ADDRESSING SPACE AND DESIGN

The design of Regent Park omitted room for service provision and adequate recreational spaces, so makeshift solutions were adopted to meet this demand. Community programs were wedged into vacant apartments and townhouses, creating a patchwork of small service providers scattered across the community. A few small stores were slipped into a low-rise building, but little employment and service came from so small a commercial area. Recreation space was created in a complex on Sackville Green, but there was still too little space to meet the great demand. Residentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; concerns about the design of Regent Park were getting louder. One aspect of the design caused the most concern: Regent Park had been intentionally constructed to turn away from the city create a separate, inward-looking space. However, this design also had the unforeseen consequence of cutting residents off from the benefits of the city. The absence of through-streets meant that residents had trouble getting normal municipal garbage pick-up, ordering pizza or giving directions to visitors. People who did not live in Regent Park rarely had a reason to go there, and thus little interaction between people from different backgrounds occurred. Moreover, the abundant, open green spaces made it hard to tell where public space ended and private space began, so they quickly became a nomanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s land and often fell to uses that did not benefit the community. Regent Park provided better buildings for the people who lived in the shanties of the East Downtown, but had not accommodated how residents connected to each other both inside and outside the neighbourhood.


There is a strong history of grassroots, tenant-led activism in Regent Park. As early as the 1960s, Regent Park residents came together to address issues of concern in their community. This section describes a few examples of resident-driven initiatives.





The Regent Park Residents’ Association (RPRA) and Regent Park Teen Association (RPTA) were strong and very active resident groups that organized social and cultural events and activities and initiated innovative programs and services from the 1970s to 1990s. At various times they worked with staff seconded by local agencies or funded for short-term positions. These resident-led groups initiated exceptional grassroots advocacy and action related to issues such as inadequate housing, housing maintenance, income and food security, the need for a community centre run by residents, and barriers facing youth who sought employment as community workers in Regent Park. The Teen Association successfully brought youth from diverse backgrounds together, provided a safe and welcoming drop-in space, organized camping trips and retreats, and initiated the annual multicultural Block-O-Rama festival in 1980. Block-O-Rama is a festival based on a Caribbean tradition, and the noon-to-midnight event offers daytime activities geared to all ages and an evening musical program geared to youth. COMMUNITY CENTRE

One of the most important tenant struggles was the fight to build the Regent Park Community Centre. For 17 years, tenants signed up to pay a $2 monthly surcharge on their rent to raise money for the community centre, raising $17,000. The community first proposed the idea of a Community Centre run by and for residents in 1969. By 1974, the advocacy work of the Regent Park Community Improvement Association (RPCIA) resulted in new landscaping, new ice rinks and the Jody Phillips Pool in North Regent. The recreation centre was built in 1986, but it took 17 years and countless volunteer hours and processes before the residents’ vision was realized.

After already investing endless hours of advocacy and negotiation to build the centre, the residents faced further lengthy processes with the City and OHC related to operational and programming control, a role which the City of Toronto Parks and Recreation Division ultimately assumed. The community centre is an example of residents advocating and working long hours to bring resources into Regent Park. COMMUNITY WORKER TRAINING PROGRAM

The community worker training program grew out of the frustration residents experienced when local youth failed to gain employment as community workers in Regent Park. Jobs continually went to workers from outside the community, the rationale being that such candidates had more experience or education. The RPRA decided to take action so that Regent Park youth had the same qualifications and opportunities as others, believing that those within the community understood the needs and could identify solutions better than anyone else. At the time, the RPRA identified that only about 6% of young adults in Regent Park had post-secondary education and that youth unemployment reached as high as 70%. In early 1982, the RPRA approached George Brown College’s Community Services Division and the Harry A. Newman Foundation to support their vision of education and employment for their own community members. The project was highly successful, with most of the youth securing employment in social service positions soon after graduation, some in Regent Park and others in agencies across the city. Many graduates of the program are still working in the social services field today.




The project not only benefited those involved but also encouraged others to follow in their footsteps and go on to post-secondary education. The RPRA demonstrated a vision of community succession long before it was popular and possessed the courage and tenacity to see that vision through. With few or no resources of their own, they provided leadership and hope to the community, stimulated economic development in the form of employment, and laid the groundwork for George Brown College to further develop the Community Worker Diploma Program, which continues to this day. SOLE SUPPORT MOMS’ GROUP

The Sole Support Moms’ Group evolved out of the RPRA in the early 1980s to publicize and advocate for the needs of single mothers and to support women who were raising children alone. The group’s creative and dedicated women engaged in advocacy to increase the Family Allowance, challenged the ‘spouse in the house’ searches undertaken by social assistance workers who were looking for evidence of undeclared men living with single mothers, and took action relating to access to nutritious food. Their Nutrition Project was a tangible and proactive means of increasing access to food, especially fruits and vegetables. This group started the first-ever organic community garden in 1984 on land donated by the Metro Toronto Housing Authority. They organized regular ‘pick your own’ trips to farms throughout the summer and fall for single moms, kids and senior citizens. They also established a free fruit-and-vegetable depot at 65 Belshaw Place. Other activities organized by this group included community potluck dinners at Park Public School and community cultural dinners featuring Jamaican, Asian and vegetarian menus. Long before community gardens, food banks and anti-poverty groups began addressing nutrition and income issues on a broader level, Sole Support Moms initiated practical approaches to food access, making a great impact in their community. THE DREAMERS’ ANTI-VIOLENCE WORK AND PEACE GARDEN

In 1995, a few courageous mothers and grandmothers, feeling compelled to take public action in response to an increase in violence affecting their community, started the Dreamers. Violent incidents involving guns were becoming more frequent and several Regent Park families were directly or closely affected by the deaths of loved ones through gun violence. The purpose of this group is to develop and implement strategies for violence prevention and to engage the community’s support to promote “love, peace, unity and justice for all.” Over the years they have held peace marches, vigils and memorials. Since 1995, the Dreamers started an informal memorial to the young men of Regent Park who lost their lives through violence, planting flowers and erecting a small handwritten cardboard sign in front of the community centre at 203 Sackville Green. Despite the impermanence of the cardboard memorial, it lasted there untouched for many years. In the spring of 2005, exasperated with the slowness of bureaucratic processes that delayed their dream of establishing a permanent Peace Garden memorial in Regent Park, the Dreamers decided to move ahead on their own. One weekend, they claimed a location next to All Saints’ Square, started digging in and invited young men in the community to assist. In a few short days, the location and beginnings of the garden were in place and the local and citywide groups supporting them pulled together to support their leadership. Today the Peace Garden is a large, well-established and beautiful sanctuary in the heart of the community.




The Dreamers have been recognized for their contributions to anti-violence work across the city. With no funding, staffing or resources of their own, they have made a difference in Regent Park. 2.2.2 INNOVATIVE COMMUNITY AGENCY INITIATIVES

Regent Park service providers have pioneered a number of initiatives and have a significant history of innovation in service provision. Community agencies in Regent Park have worked closely with residents over the years to plan and implement programs that meet the communityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s current needs as well as responding to the changing community. The following are examples of innovative community agency initiatives that have addressed individual and systemic issues, involve residents in programs seeking to break cycles of disadvantage, and are generated in partnership with residents. These programs have also sought to provide employment and economic opportunities for residents, have had the commitment and support of senior management in organizations, and demonstrate partnership between community agencies, residents and other stakeholders. BLACK PERSPECTIVES

In 1982, Dixon Hall supported the development of a Black cultural arts program known as Black Perspectives, which was initiated by a community worker named Charles Smith in response to organizational and community tensions at the time. The agency was struggling to shift its focus from serving the declining population of White children and youth living south of Shuter Street to addressing issues facing the newer population of Black youth in Regent Park. The program acknowledged the alienation and cultural void experienced by the growing Caribbean youth population in Regent Park by providing opportunities for creative cultural expression. Both participants and the broader community of Regent Park benefited from the success and positive outcomes of the program. Racism and tension between the West Indian and White population at the time was a growing concern. The program acknowledged the diversity of the Black Diaspora within the community and the value in bringing together their various perspectives. Starting with creative writing workshops for youth, the program grew to include music, spoken word, dub poetry, visual art, photography and video production. In addition to supporting cultural expression by young people from the community, writers, musicians and poets were brought in from across the city to work with and mentor Regent Park youth. A book of poetry, Sad Dances in a Field of White, was published in 1985, and photography and painting exhibitions were held in the warehouse space. As the program evolved over the years, participants brought their friends to join them and by 1989, while Black youth from Regent Park remained the focus of the program, others from across the city were welcomed. Black Perspectives was innovative and culturally relevant and opened doors to careers in the arts far beyond Regent Park. The program played a role in reducing tensions between cultural groups, as public performances were enjoyed by everyone and ameliorated cultural alienation which otherwise may have led to more negative experiences. Many successful artists producing work today had their start in Black Perspectives.





Regent Park Focus Community Coalition Against Substance Abuse began as a demonstration project in 1991 funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health. It is one of 22 projects in Ontario, with nine located in low-income neighbourhoods in Toronto. The Media Arts Program has evolved over the years into a dynamic, multidisciplinary initiative that both provides training to youth in media skills and employs Regent Park youth residents in part-time and fulltime media production roles. Youth receive hands-on training in print and broadcast journalism, photography, videography, website design and development, and webcasting. Through the use of media technology, Regent Park Focus provides a supportive environment where youth share in decision making, feel a sense of belonging, meet professionals in the field, and engage with other youth in positive activities. They explore controversial and current issues from an anti-oppression framework, express their points of view on these issues through various media and engage the broader community and all youth in thoughtful dialogue. Currently the program includes â&#x20AC;&#x153;Catch Da Flava,â&#x20AC;? a website, newspaper and radio show that is broadcast live weekly from Regent Park on CKLN 88.1. PARENTS FOR BETTER BEGINNINGS

Parents for Better Beginnings (PFBB) is an example of a project that has been dramatically influenced and shaped by Regent Park parents in ways that were not anticipated by the coalition of service providers initially involved. PFBB was started in 1991 as one of eight research demonstration projects in Ontario with a handful of parents and a coalition of local and citywide agencies. Its purpose is to reduce the incidence of children with serious emotional and behavioural problems; promote the optimal social, emotional, physical and cognitive development of children; and strengthen the capacity of parents and the local community to address the needs of its children. The focus is on children up to six years of age and their families, as well as on community issues that affect children and families. In 1991, a coalition of more than 40 parents from diverse backgrounds in Regent Park formed a Parent Advisory Committee for PFBB and sustained their involvement and influence until the early 1990s, two years after PFBB merged with the Regent Park Community Health Centre. Within broad program parameters, each project was required to tailor its programs to local needs and to involve parents in decision making. Regent Park parents exercised their influence on hiring practices, service delivery, connecting community safety concerns with childhood development and on how research was conducted. PFBB was one of the first organizations in Regent Park to consistently translate material into multiple languages, provide interpreters for all meetings, offer service in 12 languages and educate local service providers about the need to provide high-quality childcare versus babysitting for meetings or events. Together with local residents, PFBB initiated anti-racism education in the early 1990s with assistance from staff at six agencies. They developed antiracism policies that were adopted not only by PFBB but by other providers in the community.





SCAARP started in September 1999 as a broad coalition of community agencies and local schools who meet monthly. The coalition has engaged participation from a variety of frontline and senior management staff. While SCAARP has increased coordination, integration and networking amongst its members, it also has a commitment to move beyond these functions and engage in advocacy and action. Accomplishments include developing a Regent Park Code of Conduct for children and youth, which was adopted by all SCAARP members and posted throughout their organizations. The aim is to express and reinforce desirable conduct and ensure that schools and agencies are consistent in their responses when an individual’s behaviour results in suspension or a temporary removal from activities. SCAARP organized several “Take Back the Park” anti-violence marches and consulted with the City and police on redesigning outdoor environments using Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) approaches and changes to the environment and lighting around the Regent Park Community Centre on Sackville Green. They also and developed protocols between the police at 51 Division and schools during incidents that posed safety risks to children. POLICE-COMMUNITY RELATIONS WORK

Regent Park residents have voiced concerns with the policing of their community since the 1970s and have been engaged in many formal and informal initiatives to address their concerns since that time. Since the early 1980s, resident groups, community members, local agencies, the City and police bodies have met to address issues related to policing in Regent Park. In the mid- to late 1990s, police-community relations reached a critical point in what has become known as the “Riot in Regent Park” outside the Regent Park Community Centre. The scale and severity of the physical confrontation between the police and residents shocked both the community and the Toronto Police Services and brought historical conflicts to public attention, resulting in a series of initiatives that eventually led to improvements in relations. The following points highlight some of the work related to police-community relations leading up to the Building Bridges work that begun around 1997–98: 1976: The Liaison Group on Law Enforcement and Policing proposed “Project 51” to deal with poor police-community relations by establishing dialogue, but the initiative failed due to a lack of community involvement. 1982: The Regent Park Committee Against Police Harassment formed to address problems and reported to the Regent Park Teen Association. 1985: The Office of the Public Complaints Commissioner released the Regent Park Report documenting the history of police-community relations and recommending the formation of a Regent Park Police-Community Advisory Committee. 1992: The Coalition Against Police Violence (CAPV) conducted its Street Health study of health status and barriers to health for Toronto’s homeless and disadvantaged people, and found that 10% of the 458 respondents reported assaults by police. CAPV requested that the Police Services Board, the Office of the Public Complaints Commissioner and the Solicitor General conduct a full inquiry into the reported behaviour of police.




1994: The report Uniform Treatment – A Community Inquiry into the Policing of the Disadvantaged interviewed 140 people between March and May 1994, including social service workers and police. The report documented problems with the complaints system and with systemic barriers between disadvantaged people and police, and made recommendations to Metro Toronto Police, the Police Services Board, the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner, and the Government of Ontario. 1995: The Metro Toronto Police conducted an Environmental Scan, developing service goals and objectives that included more decentralization, stronger partnerships with the public and service agencies, and ongoing communication both internally and with the public. Police worked with Community Police Liaison Committees, agencies and neighbourhood groups to collaboratively identify the areas of greatest need for police enforcement. The police training, education and development unit also developed a process for training in neighbourhood policing. 1996: The Report on a Study to Identify and Address Police-Community Issues in Regent Park was funded by the Police Services Board. POLICE-COMMUNITY RELATIONS WORK: 1997–98 TO PRESENT

This work to improve policy-community relations has not been named or publicized in the same ways that programs seeking participants are. It does not operate within specific locations or times and does not have dedicated funding. But the approaches and activities undertaken have been identified as a model that can be learned from and should continue to receive support. This work does not directly target gun violence or criminal activity, but has indirectly contributed to a reduction in violent crime and has facilitated communication, increased mutual respect and understanding, reduced the two groups’ stereotyping of each other, and provided programs and supports for at-risk youth. In 1996–97, three community workers and their senior managers from Parents for Better Beginnings (PFBB), Regent Park Community Centre (RPCC) and Dixon Hall agreed to support a process that would shift their work from responding to crisis to a focus on prevention. The Toronto Police Services, the Police Services Board, the City of Toronto’s Parks Forestry and Recreation Division, Regent Park Community Health Centre, and PFBB have worked together in a very successful relationship. The results of this work have included a variety of initiatives to formalize community-oriented approaches to policing in Regent Park. SAFE WALK HOME PROGRAM

This program was initiated by SCAARP in 2000 to address concerns about children walking to and from after-school programs without supervision. It was inspired by an informal but effective practice that Dixon Hall’s Children and Youth staff had initiated in the 1980s in response to the safety of children crossing major intersections to attend programs. Safe Walk Home adapted this concept to current needs, including hiring Regent Park youth as ‘safe walkers.’ This approach not only ensured children’s safety but also provided an economic incentive to low-income youth at a time when increases in negative activities were creating fear and pressure in the community. The Gerrard Kiwanis Club eventually assumed coordination of the program with funds from the Trillium Foundation and the United Way of Greater Toronto. Until June 2006, more than 300 children a day were walked from schools to local programs and back home when these ended. The program has allowed children access to safe, high-quality after-school programs and provided part-time employment to dozens of




Regent Park youth. In June 2006, the Safe Walk Home Program was the proud recipient of the Mayor’s Community Safety Award. As of September 2006, funding to continue the program is not secure and discussions between political representatives, funders and the coordinating agency are in progress. PATHWAYS TO EDUCATION PROGRAM

The Pathways to Education program is a groundbreaking initiative that helps youth from Regent Park stay in high school, graduate, and move on to other opportunities—whether at university or college, in the skilled trades, in other training or in the workforce—that will help lead them to satisfying lives as contributing members of the community. The program involves advocacy through staff support, academic and social supports through tutoring and mentoring, and financial support through public transit costs and bursary money set aside for post-secondary expenses. The program aims not only to improve the life prospects of individual students, but also to transform a community through its children. After several years of research and planning, the program started in the fall of 2001. With initial resources of just $2,000, a two-week supply of bus tickets for 115 Grade 9 students, and four courageous staff and 60 volunteers, the program succeeded. In the 2005–06 school year, approximately 700 students were enrolled, and the program had more than 280 volunteers and an annual budget of $2.5 million. When Pathways started in 2001, the dropout rate for Regent Park high school students was 56%; as of 2006, it has been reduced to 14%. In 2006, Pathways Canada was established by Regent Park Community Health Centre as a separate entity to support the development and replication of this model on a national level.




2.3 THE REVITALIZATION OF REGENT PARK Residents and service providers have been advocating for change in Regent Park for many years. The fundamental design flaws and high level of resident organizing have made redevelopment a key issue in the community since the early 1980s. Proponents of redevelopment have reflected the previous 50 years of Regent Park history, in which residents and community agencies have worked together in partnership to advocate on behalf of people who live there. One of the first redevelopment proposals was for the northwest quadrant, north and west of Oak and Sackville streets, and was spearheaded by the Regent Park Northwest Steering Committee. This proposal was developed in conjunction with a plan to redevelop the lands owned by the Toronto Christian Resource Centre. Local activists, outside allies, developers and community service providers worked together to create a model for redevelopment that used the value of undeveloped land in Regent Park to fund the renewal of the housing along with improvements to the planning and design of that part of the neighbourhood. After several years of pursuing this model, the proposal shifted to a parcel in the northeast quadrant of Regent Park. This latter proposal was led and driven by the Regent Park Northeast Redevelopment Working Committee (established in July 1995), comprised primarily of residents who worked on the proposal from the mid-1990s. The Regent Park Northeast Redevelopment Working Committee took the lead in advocating redevelopment with the landlord and with all three orders of government. Until 2001, the Ontario Provincial Government was the owner of Regent Park through the Metro Toronto Housing Authority (MTHA). The Provincial Government and MTHA were engaged in a redevelopment process with the community for almost eight years. But during that time, financial constraints on the project prevented any significant progress. Several announcements of imminent redevelopment accompanied the unfulfilled provincial development plans; all resulted in disappointment. This was not an unfamiliar experience for the Regent Park community. At that time, the Regent Park Northeast Redevelopment Working Committee and MTHA saw the need for redeveloping the whole of Regent Park in a phase-by-phase approach. In order to continue its campaign for a redeveloped Regent Park, the Committee became a subcommittee of the Regent Park Residents’ Council (the predecessor of the Regent Park Neighbourhood Initiative), calling itself the Revitalization Committee to encompass the physical and social changes the redevelopment was to bring. This committee’s role was to continue to embed the revitalization process in a broader tenant engagement that reached all parts of Regent Park. At the same time, the Government of Ontario transferred ownership of all provincially owned social housing to municipalities. In Toronto, this led to the formation of Toronto Community Housing, a municipally owned housing company. At the time of the creation of Toronto Community Housing, Toronto City Council indicated its enthusiasm for the redevelopment process that had, by then, been abandoned by the Provincial Government. Within a year, Toronto Community Housing was actively engaged with the Regent Park Residents’ Council’s Revitalization Committee in revitalizing Regent Park.





Toronto Community Housing recognized the lessons from the history of Regent Park. Redevelopment based on the ideas and ideals of outsiders was bound to fail. If redevelopment were to work, it had to be embedded in a full-fledged revitalization of the community, rooted in the community and driven by the residents as partners in the process. In 2002, in partnership with the Regent Park Residents’ Council (later RPNI), Toronto Community Housing initiated a comprehensive community engagement process. The process was designed to break with past experiences in which Regent Park residents would get assurances about their participation and real progress only to be disappointed. The new community engagement process set out to create a plan for the redevelopment of Regent Park that delivered on the commitment to inclusion. Everyone wanted to ensure that confidence was sustained through an ongoing, effective process that would result in a community that was revitalized physically, socially and economically. People wanted a process that supported an informed resident population empowered to engage effectively in building the future of their community. To that end, Toronto Community Housing employed a fully integrated, fully inclusive process for developing the new Regent Park plan. They wanted to ensure that there was a community process that succeeded where the others had failed. The community engagement process began in July 2002. The engagement had three specific goals: To ensure that the community had a distinct voice in the planning process. To strengthen existing and emerging community infrastructure through the consultation process. To assist Toronto Community Housing staff in building new and effective long-term relationships with residents. Over 1,000 people from all linguistic and cultural backgrounds participated in the first phase of engagement, and that participation continued to be just as high and broad throughout the community engagement process. Toronto Community Housing hired Public Interest, a community engagement firm, to staff the community engagement process. Public Interest worked with local groups to identify community members who could play a leadership role in ‘animating’ a community engagement process. The Public Interest team trained the ‘community animators’ to coordinate discussions within the community on topics affecting the redevelopment. Animators worked with user-friendly consultation tools to guide discussions and organize responses for analysis. Using this process, community residents gathered information on the design of the new Regent Park, the commercial activity of residents, and residents’ service needs and potential relocation issues. This community engagement process, rooted in the work of RPNI and informed by community animators who both knew their own communities and responded to the priorities of the community, provided the basis for a new Regent Park plan.




Their ideas, priorities and preferences can be seen in Community Engagement and the Regent Park Redevelopment (Meagher and Boston 2003). The themes from that document are reflected in the following chapters as the basis of the Social Development Plan. 2.3.2 COMMUNITY-BASED PLANNING FOR THE REDEVELOPMENT

Alongside the Toronto Community Housing community engagement, several processes were put in place by service providers, tenants’ groups and grassroots groups to start planning for the redevelopment process. TENANT ORGANIZING

The residents of Regent Park have always had much to say about their community. Residents have been active in Regent Park since its inception, most notably when they fought for employment in the new, modern social housing facility, and throughout the 1970s and 1980s when, as activists on the Regent Park Residents’ Association, they fought for a safe community and recreation space for children and youth. Since the beginning of the revitalization process, several grassroots, resident-driven groups have emerged as a direct result of the lack of access to services required by their communities. Often operating on a completely volunteer basis, many groups are looking for supports to build their respective capacities to serve their communities. THE REGENT PARK NEIGHBOURHOOD INITIATIVE (RPNI)

The Regent Park Neighbourhood Initiative (formerly known as the Regent Park Residents’ Council) was formed in 2002 to advocate and protect the interests and assets of residents and to work in partnership through its committees and other means to identify, assess, address and evaluate issues brought forward by the community. RPNI’s vision is “to create a Regent Park where everyone belongs, is heard and is celebrated.” The agency’s mission is “to provide leadership in building and sustaining a healthy and vibrant community.” A Tenant Participation System was created by Toronto Community Housing in 2003 to formalize representation between Toronto Community Housing tenants across the city and the corporation itself. Although the initial thinking was that the Regent Park tenant representatives and RPNI would merge into a single organization, it made more sense to create a new, broader structure for the evolving neighbourhood, while the tenant representatives assume the responsibility for communication and issue resolution with Toronto Community Housing on day-to-day operating issues such as maintenance and security. The RPNI would then have the capacity to respond to the evolving needs of all of the residents of Regent Park—the new homeowners, tenants, and businesses—as the neighbourhood is diversified through the redevelopment. RPNI sees its role as convening, consulting, collaborating and communicating with the residents and current stakeholders in order to support engagement opportunities in Regent Park and to foster new opportunities to fill existing gaps and meet future needs. It serves as the social planning body in Regent Park over the course of the redevelopment, a convener of working groups on various arising issues, and a change promotion agent for community services.





With the proposed redevelopment of Regent Park, the service agencies attempted to engage in the process. Although some agencies had their own conversation with Toronto Community Housing and the City, for the most part the initial engagement was done through the School Community Action Alliance – Regent Park. In the spring of 2003, Toronto Community Housing’s community engagement staff visited the boards of directors of each agency in Regent Park to discuss the impacts and implications of the redevelopment. THE SCHOOL COMMUNITY ACTION ALLIANCE – REGENT PARK (SCAARP)

SCAARP is a network of school representatives, community agencies and residents. SCAARP works to ensure that programming in the community is progressive, educational and relevant to the residents in Regent Park and the surrounding communities. SCAARP has also been instrumental in assisting residents in developing a safer community. The SCAARP structure facilitated some of the initial agency planning for redevelopment: in fact, the support of the Regent Park Residents’ Council came through the participation of the Executive Directors as part of the SCAARP structure. The agencies agreed to take on the following roles in service planning: Dixon Hall to support employment; the Regent Park Community Health Centre to support health and safety; Yonge Street Mission to support education; and the Christian Resource Centre to support diversity and settlement. SCAARP spent most of its meetings in 2003–04 seeking to address the issues related to the redevelopment and revitalization. There were two key moments. First, in December 2003, the agencies were invited by Toronto Community Housing through its consultants—Ideas that Matter—to a conversation at Enoch Turner School House. In a formal sense, this was the start of the collective agency planning for revitalization, as the scope and implications of the redevelopment began to become concrete. Second, in March 2004, Ideas that Matter hosted a gathering at the Central YMCA with stakeholders interested in Regent Park. Out of that gathering, a number of working groups were formed. In preparation, SCAARP developed a strategy and identified a number of issues that the committee wanted to have underscored regarding access to programs for Regent Park residents. The development of the secondary plan and the Community Services and Facility Study provided a further opportunity for the agencies to engage with the redevelopment process. In July and September 2004, two meetings were held with SCAARP, Toronto Community Housing and a representative from the City’s planning department. OPEN SPACE: A CONSULTATION PROCESS

In October 2004, SCAARP hosted a service providers’ meeting called “Open Space” with Toronto Community Housing to talk about the Social Development Plan. From this meeting, a group of service providers agreed to work on a planning team for a wider community event catering to service providers. This led to the Open Space meeting in December 2004. The Open Space consultation process involved 13 sessions that ranged from community safety to childcare provision to youth issues. Following the Open Space meeting, the members of the planning group were invited to become the steering group or “Core Committee”




for the Social Development Plan. The Social Development Plan Core Committee has also transformed over the two years it has been meeting. CHANGING LANDSCAPES

Sixteen service providers engaged in ongoing discussions at Changing Landscapes, a network of agencies that worked together to coordinate local services and develop more effective initiatives for the community. The process began when some of the executive directors of Regent Park agencies began meeting to talk about service delivery. Through these dialogues, they became aware of a conversation about a potential tripartite agreement under discussion between the City and the Provincial and Federal Governments. In addition, from the discussions coming out of the Toronto Summit Alliance and the United Way regarding strong neighbourhoods, a changing funding landscape and service delivery expectation began to emerge. Changing Landscapes was formed by RPNI when it was approached about hosting and leading an ongoing conversation with service providers regarding these challenges. The first gathering had a number of guest speakers, including Francis Lankin from United Way and Shirley Hoy from the City of Toronto. In November 2005, a group of service providers participated in a presentation to the federal government funding table. Changing Landscapes has expanded to include other agency staff members and continues to meet regularly. EXECUTIVE DIRECTORS’ TABLE

A number of agency leaders continued the Changing Landscapes discussions at a number of different levels. The executive directors of Dixon Hall, the Yonge Street Mission, the Christian Resource Centre, K Club, the Regent Park Neighbourhood Initiative, Regent Park Focus and the Regent Park Community Health Centre began meeting to inform themselves and their boards about the redevelopment. The group met with a number of people from the City and from Toronto Community Housing. This group also hosted a meeting with the chair and CEO of Toronto Community Housing and the chairs of their own boards. More recently, the Executive Directors’ Table has been expanded to include East End Literacy and Central Neighbourhood House and has since grown outside of the Changing Landscapes process. It continues to meet monthly to develop strategies for collaboration. In October 2006, the Executive Directors’ Table initiated a series of planning sessions. They discussed service provider planning in relation to the redevelopment and the new residents who will be arriving in Regent Park at the end of Phase 1.




2.4 SUMMARY Regent Park is a neighbourhood rooted in transition and change. Its successes are a model for accommodating change in conscious, coordinated ways that reflect the priorities and understanding of the people who live there. The systems for social development that emerged for informal resident action have evolved into stable community-based services. The protests resulting from resident disengagement have led to active and creative community engagement policies. Although sometimes only gradually, Regent Park has consistently responded to complex needs though tenant-led change and has benefited from the process of community engagement.




3. THE CONTEXT FOR SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT IN REGENT PARK Throughout its history, Regent Park has shown that engaging residents in the development of initiatives designed to address their needs is the only route to success. The history of Regent Park has shown the community to be continually devising innovative and effective tools to tackle the barriers they face. The issues, challenges and opportunities have changed over the years, but the dynamic and vigorous efforts of the community have continued to mark a path forward, and when the residents have been able to engage decision makers, funders and their housing providers in pursuing that path, their successes have been impressive. Today, Regent Park finds itself facing specific challenges that reflect the demographics of the community and the political and social context in which they find themselves.

3.1 CITY-WIDE CONTEXT During the recent terms of Council, the City of Toronto has placed increasing emphasis on identifying vulnerable neighbourhoods and targeting resources to improve outcomes for their residents. The Toronto Strong Neighbourhoods Strategy was approved by Toronto City Council in October 2006 and is a civic strategy for neighbourhood building and for promoting strong and healthy communities. It is grounded in initiatives such as the City’s Strategic Plan adopted in August 2000, the Social Development Strategy adopted in December 2001 and the Community Safety Plan and Neighbourhood Action process adopted in March 2004. The Strong Neighbourhoods Strategy also responds to identified Council priorities related to strengthening at-risk neighbourhoods. 3.1.1 STRONG NEIGHBOURHOOD APPROACH

This strong neighbourhood approach advances the City’s ability to monitor the health and well-being of neighbourhoods and to prioritize neighbourhoods for investment. The strong neighbourhood methodology combines measures of socio-economic health and well-being with measures of geographical access to community services and facilities. The methodology provides a clear picture of which neighbourhoods lack the civic structures and community services identified as basic requirements for a strong and healthy community. Using this innovative approach, 13 of Toronto’s 140 neighbourhoods were identified as having a higher degree of social need and poorer access to necessary social services and facilities. 3.1.2 REGENT PARK AS A PRIORITY COMMUNITY

Regent Park is not defined as one of the 13 “priority neighbourhoods” because it does not meet the criteria regarding a relative lack of community services and facilities. Having been identified as an area of high need for many years, Regent Park is served by a strong, active network of community-based services.




The current redevelopment process provides a new focus on Regent Park and the neighbourhood building initiatives that will strengthen the community, and is a priority for the City of Toronto. The development and planning process for the Regent Park Social Development Plan, led by the City and Toronto Community Housing over the past three years, is an example of a different approach to the Neighbourhood Action process within a community with a significant, mature service sector. The City of Toronto has also recently made targeted investments and commitments in Regent Park, including support for social planning and community-based strategic planning, a child care centre in Phase 1 of redevelopment, and a pool in early Phase 2. 3.1.3 REGENT PARK AS A MODEL

The Social Development Plan engagement process was expanded beyond City services and those delivered by community based agencies—it included a broad range of residents, businesses, faith groups, representatives from the education, child welfare and health sectors and other local stakeholders. Regent Park will serve as a model for other large-scale neighbourhood-based redevelopment in communities of high need. 3.1.4 GOVERNMENT PARTNERSHIPS

The Social Development Plan creates a common agenda with agreed-upon issues, community objectives and a set of neighbourhood strategies that will form a Plan of Action over the coming years of redevelopment. The Plan of Action will allow the City and Toronto Community Housing to take advantage of opportunities and will facilitate the creation of “synergies” in the areas of investment of resources, using resources differently, and creating efficiencies in delivery systems. Implementing the Social Development Plan, however, will require the financial and decision-making involvement of all orders of government. The City of Toronto and Toronto Community Housing will not be able to implement the Social Development Plan without the cooperation and financial support of the other orders of government.




3.2 SNAPSHOT OF THE CURRENT NEIGHBOURHOOD Regent Park is the oldest and largest social housing complex in Canada. Built in the late 1940s, the complex was expected to be the answer to creating a healthy community, replacing the slums that had occupied the boundaries of Regent Park prior to the creation of this “Garden City” model housing complex. This section provides an overview of the current neighbourhood, drawing from information in the Regent Park Community Services and Facilities Study (2004, pp. 8–16). In total, there are approximately 7,500 known residents in Regent Park living in 2,083 rentgeared-to-income (RGI) units over an area covering 28 hectares (69 acres). The population comes closer to 10,000 when we include the uncounted population within the community (homeless people, undeclared family members and guests). CHANGING POPULATION

There is considerable fluctuation in the population of Regent Park as families of various sizes move in and out. Prior to the redevelopment, approximately 13% of the units changed tenants every year; therefore, population changes can be significant. A single occupant in a one-bedroom unit can be replaced by a couple; a three-bedroom unit can hold anywhere from three to six people. Recent occupancy levels have been either static or decreasing. However, these rates can change rapidly depending on who enters the community from the Social Housing Connections waiting list. ETHNICITY, LANGUAGE AND IMMIGRATION

New residents are increasingly recent immigrants, with 25% of the population arriving in Canada during the past five years. Almost 2,000 new immigrants arrived in and around Regent Park in the last five years, and over 2,000 arrived in the five years before that. More than half of the newest immigrants in the Regent Park area arrived from mainland China and Bangladesh. Immigrants from Vietnam, Somalia, Jamaica and Sri Lanka compose the majority of the remainder. Today, 63% of residents speak a language other than English as a first language. The most striking aspect of language data in Regent Park is the sudden emergence of the Bengali-speaking community. The Bengali community barely registered in the 1996 census but now dominates the language groups. The Tamil-speaking community continues to be a large presence in Regent Park, but most other language groups are declining in population and are playing smaller roles in the community. AGE

The Regent Park population has a high proportion of households with large numbers of children relative to the rest of the Toronto population. There is a very high proportion of children 14 years of age and under in Regent Park (37%) compared to the city average of 17.5%. In total, 56.4% of the population are youth aged 24 and under. But census tracts that include Regent Park have experienced a sharp decline in youth population (15–25 years of age) over the last 10 years. According to Toronto Community Housing, seniors make up only 4% of Regent Park residents, and frail seniors (those aged 75 and over) make up less than 1% of Regent Park residents. An examination of the last 10 years of census data in tracts that contain Regent Park




reinforces the identification of a trend toward residents leaving in their later years. The number of 55- to 65-year-olds residing in Regent Park in 2001 was approximately 36% fewer than the number of 45- to 55-year-olds living in Regent Park in 1991, suggesting that many of the older adults living in Regent Park in 1991 moved away. The trend deepens for older age groups, with 55% fewer 65- to 75-year-olds in 2001 than there were 55- to 65-year-olds in 1991. A similar decline in the St. James Town neighbourhood suggests that low-income seniors are not choosing to take apartments in the inner city at the same rate as they have in the past. Though they represent a modest percentage of the population, the large total number of seniors concentrated in a few buildings and the large proportion of them who live without family supports or other resources make them a population that requires special attention. INCOME

Regent Park (North) remains in the lowest-income census tract in Ontario, ranking seventh among all urban census tracts in Canada in 1990 and the only census tract in Ontario with an average family income of $20,645, which is more than 50% below the national average of $50,091. The second lowest-income census tract in Ontario contained Regent Park (South), with an average family income of $26, 912. In 1990, 68% of residents in North Regent and 60% of residents in South Regent lived below the Statistics Canada low-income cut-off. A decade later, this proportion had increased to 77% of residents in North Regent; while the rate remained the same in South Regent (60% of residents in South Regent lived below the low income cut-off in 2000). Though virtually all Regent Park families fall below the poverty line, there is also a significant proportion of working families. Toronto Community Housing tenant records for residents of Regent Park indicate that 36% of households derive their primary income from employment, with an average of $20,793 per family coming from that source. Over 100 working families in Regent Park earn incomes below $10,000 per year, due in part to low minimum wages and the preponderance of part-time and casual work, especially for women in Regent Park. Only 45% of families in rent-geared-to-income (RGI) units in Regent Park receive income from social assistance; they average $11,770 from that source. FAMILY COMPOSITION

Regent Park is composed primarily of large families. Thirty percent of all units in Regent Park have four or more bedrooms. Over 40% of households have four or five members, who make up approximately 49% of the population. More than 10% of households have six or more members and 2% of households have eight or more members. Statistics Canada data indicates that family size is growing in low-cost rental accommodation across the East Downtown as seniors move away and are replaced by families who are better able to afford inner-city rents. Demographic shifts and immigration patterns appear to be reinforcing the trend to larger families in RGI units in the East Downtown. Lone-parent families now account for 37.3% of all families in the census tracts that include Regent Park. This is a significant decrease from 1991, when lone-parent families made up 47% of families in these tracts. The economic circumstances of female-led lone-parent families (which make up 90% of lone-parent families in Regent Park) remain poor, with average




household incomes of $18,161, or just over half the $35,823 average income for couple-led families. EDUCATION

Statistics Canada data suggests that education levels are fairly high in Regent Park and are rising. According to the 2001 census, 25% of Regent Park residents over 20 years old have been to university and 17.8% have obtained at least a Bachelor of Arts degree. Almost 50% have completed high school and only 13.8% failed to enter high school at all. All of those numbers are significant improvements from a decade earlier, when almost twice as many people failed to enter high school (25.6%) and just over one-third as many had earned a Bachelor of Arts degree (6.2%). These sharp increases likely reflect changes in immigration patterns; the Canadian immigration point system favours well-educated candidates and newcomers to Regent Park are far more likely to have a university education than in the past.

3.3 REDEVELOPMENT PROCESS Toronto Community Housing proposes, over a 15-year period, to replace all existing buildings in Regent Park with new RGI housing and additional market housing. Toronto Community Housing estimates that more than double the existing 2,083 units can be accommodated on the site. The actual number of new units will depend on their size and the built form selected. The proposed plan for Regent Park reintroduces much of the original street pattern and reconnects the area with surrounding neighbourhoods. A key feature of the proposal is a large park fronting on Dundas Street. An additional park is proposed adjacent to the Nelson Mandela Park Public School grounds. Regent Park will fundamentally change as large numbers of new residential units are added. When the redevelopment proposal is realized, people with a variety of incomes and housing needs will be living in Regent Park. There will be townhouses and condominiums, market housing units and co-ops. RGI and market units will be integrated within blocks and in some cases within buildings. In addition, much-needed commercial space, spaces for community economic development and services, and live-work opportunities will be developed. This mix of people and uses will create a neighbourhood typical of many Toronto communities. Based on the best information available at this time, this report assumes that once redeveloped, Regent Park will have approximately 5,100 residential units, of which approximately 1,770 will be social housing replacement units provided for within the Regent Park Secondary Plan area. Any social housing units that are not replaced within that area are required to be replaced in the designated east downtown area. In addition to the social housing, 3,300 units of market for-sale housing will built along with a target of creating an additional 700 affordable rental units as part of the development program. A target of up to 300 units of affordable home ownership has also been identified, subject to the availability of funding. The redevelopment will be undertaken in six phases over a 12- to 15-year period. The phasing of redevelopment will allow a more orderly relocation of households affected by the redevelopment in Regent Park and the private market absorption of the new market units.




Each phase includes a planning process, relocation of residents, demolition and construction of buildings and facilities, and the return of tenants and the arrival of new homeowners moving into the new buildings. The relocation, demolition and construction stages of each of the phases are expected to be completed within two years, with each subsequent phase starting once the preceding phase is complete. The planning for each new phase will overlap with the construction period in the previous phase, to enable the demolition and construction cycles to proceed without lengthy interruptions. URBAN PLANNING PROCESS AND THE ‘HOLDING’ SYMBOL

The urban planning process required by the City of Toronto sets out several mechanisms for monitoring the redevelopment of Regent Park. The ‘Holding symbol’ on development is one of these mechanisms. The Holding symbol means that the development of the land cannot begin without City approval. Lifting this holding symbol requires that Toronto Community Housing meet a number of technical requirements in order to build the next phase. Among those requirements are documents and reports that assess the success of Toronto Community Housing initiatives undertaken in the previous phase, assess the emerging shape of the community and report on strategies for moving forward. Three specific documents are discussed here, as they provide valuable information about each phase of redevelopment. The information in these documents is important to phase-byphase planning for all stakeholders involved in the redevelopment. 1. HOUSING ISSUES UPDATE

Before each phase, Toronto Community Housing has to provide a Housing Issues Update, which describes how many units of each type of housing have been built in order to ensure that the redevelopment strategy is proceeding according to plan. The Update also reports on the proposed housing and, in particular, monitors and ensures the replacement of social housing units and rent-geared-to-income (RGI) subsidies. 2. URBAN DESIGN GUIDELINES

The Urban Design Guidelines outline the built form for the overall redevelopment and provide an update within each phase that guides the resolution of urban design issues presented by the unique circumstances of each phase. The Guidelines suggest that the requirement for an update will be satisfied through a Development Context Plan prepared for each phase. In Phase 1, the Development Context Plan addresses matters such as building setbacks and step backs, the design of the local parkette adjacent to the future Christian Resource Centre development, streetscape standards, a tree preservation and planting plan, the location of tall buildings permitted in the phase by the zoning bylaw, and access to parking and service areas for the blocks in the phase. 3. COMMUNITY FACILITIES STRATEGY UPDATE

Another condition of removing the holding symbol from future phases will be to monitor and update the Facilities Strategy. At the beginning of each phase, Toronto Community Housing will produce a Community Facilities Strategy Update that describes what community facilities are being created in the upcoming phase and how these facilities are meeting the changing needs of the community. Before the Hold is lifted for each phase, the Community Facilities Strategy Update will catalogue exist-




ing community facilities, unmet facility needs and plans for addressing gaps in facilities over this phase and future phases. The update will also be informed by the implementation process and experience related to the Social Development Plan. RELOCATION

Recognizing that relocation is among the greatest concerns for Regent Park residents, Toronto Community Housing developed its relocation strategies through a community engagement process. But any relocation, no matter how carefully devised, is stressful for residents. Toronto Community Housing, the City of Toronto and community agencies have worked on an ongoing basis to try to mitigate some of the challenges associated with relocation. There are many people from many backgrounds in Regent Park whose life experiences will make moving even more stressful than would be the case otherwise. Residentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; relocation during the redevelopment is disruptive to social networks and to the social support mechanisms upon which they rely. Relocated tenants need assistance and support to go through the transition. This includes a continuum of service provision that allows residents to receive the same services or similar services when they move into their new neighbourhoods and that foster re-connection to support services when they return to Regent Park. Fluctuations in population also add instability to the neighbourhood. With changes in population and high turnover rates during the redevelopment, service provider planning based on demographics is more difficult. Information on the relocations and timelines along with advanced planning for population movements are helpful in offsetting some of the planning difficulties during the redevelopment. The Policies and Practices for the Regent Park Relocation (2004) address a number of these issues, including a system for letting tenants move close to home if they prefer, and providing ongoing support and connection to service provider organizations in Regent Park or in their new community. The Tenant Agreement for Regent Park was developed through community consultation and addresses a number of key points. Residents can choose to be relocated to a different unit in Regent Park or to a Toronto Community Housing building in another community. At the completion of each phase of redevelopment, all relocated residents have an absolute right of return to Regent Park. Residents may also choose to stay in the community to which they have relocated. Toronto Community Housing ensures the right of return by tracking the number of tenants who choose not to return in order to ensure adequate numbers of units for returning residents. Toronto Community Housing will make arrangements for residentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; moves and will hire movers to help them move. The costs of reconnecting utilities and other moving costs will be paid by Toronto Community Housing. At the end of each phase, tenants will move back in and new condo and townhouse owners will also move in. Both groups will be adjusting to living in Regent Park, to living with each other, and to accessing and building support networks in the community. These move-in times provide an opportunity for community engagement with all residents in the phase, as well as valuable chances for cross-tenure community building.





In 2005, Toronto Community Housing began the relocation process for Phase 1 in Regent Park. About 370 households, or 1,160 people, were relocated over nine months. Households moved to the following areas: Regent Park: 40% Surrounding neighbourhoods: 48% Other neighbourhoods: 8% Left Toronto Community Housing/rent-geared-to-income housing: 4% No households were evicted through the relocation process in Phase 1. Throughout the Phase 1 relocation there was a reference group that provided ongoing and immediate feedback to the Relocation Office. Toronto Community Housing will conduct evaluations of all the relocations in order to build upon lessons learned in each phase.




4. DEMOGRAPHIC CHANGES RESULTING FROM REDEVELOPMENT 4.1 NEW RESIDENTS The Regent Park Community Services and Facilities Study (2004) looked at population changes in rental and market-rate condominiums in the East Downtown between 1991 and 2001. The following sections are based on information from the Community Services and Facilities Study (2004, pp. 54–60). The projections have been adjusted to reflect some minor changes in the development planning. The study found that in new townhouses and condominiums in Toronto’s East Downtown, family size tends to be small, with few children, and new developments tend to be targeted to higher-income households seeking property ownership opportunities. Assuming that new apartment-form buildings in the Regent Park area are occupied by households similar to those in most of the East Downtown during the last 10 years, new apartments in Regent Park will have an average household size of 1.5–1.6 persons. Making the same assumption about houses and townhouses, new house-form units in Regent Park will have an average household size of 2.5 persons. CHILDREN

In apartment-form market housing, trends are strongly toward condominiums housing young adults and few children. For instance, the new townhouses at Queen and River Streets and the newer residents in Treffan Court match the Cabbagetown trend—only small numbers of children are moving in, and most population growth in the area is from higher-income couples with no children. The population of adults rose at three times the rate of the population increase for children. Children under 15 years of age were close to seven percent (6.8%) of new residents between 1991 and 2001 within the census tract south of Regent Park and in close proximity to the St. Lawrence neighbourhood (located two census tracts immediately south of Regent Park). Seven percent is assumed to be a fair assessment of the average population of children in the new Regent Park apartments. New house-form buildings have a household size of 0.9 persons more than apartment-form buildings. Assuming, at the highest extreme, that all of these additional family members are children, house-form dwellings could be assumed to have a 17% proportion of children, an estimate well in excess of the average for census tracts that include a significant number of market house-form dwellings. YOUTH

Youth 15–24 years of age represented slightly more than four percent (4.1%) of new residents arriving between 1991 and 2001 in the two census tracts immediately south of Regent Park, where apartments overwhelmingly dominated all new dwellings. Therefore, new apartment-form buildings in the Regent Park area are assumed to attract a population of which only about 4% are youth. Youth populations in the areas directly south of Regent Park have fallen sharply over the period of development (down 17%), suggesting the absence of an




overwhelming influx of youth into that new market housing. A generous estimate of the youth population in new housing could be arrived at by taking the average youth population for predominantly house-form census tracts in the areaâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;which are consistently in the 9% range. It is also worth noting that in the two census tracts that include Regent Park, the youth (15- to 25-year-old) population fell by 9.1% and 2.9% respectively. SENIORS

Senior citizens over age 65 accounted for close to eight percent (7.9%) of population growth between 1991 and 2001 in the two census tracts immediately south of Regent Park, where apartments overwhelmingly dominated all new dwellings. Therefore, new apartment-form buildings in the Regent Park area are assumed to have a seniors population of 7.9%. In the census tract where house-form dwellings were the largest part of development growth, seniors populations have fallen sharply over the period of development (down 21%), suggesting the absence of an overwhelming influx of seniors into that new market housing. The comparatively high seniors population in adjacent neighbourhoods reflects an aging-inplace phenomenon in Cabbagetown that would not necessarily affect new market housing in the East Downtown, making it difficult to accurately assess the seniors population. Taking the East Downtown average as an arbitrary tool, however, would provide a seniors population of 10% of the total population of people living in house-forms. ETHNICITY, IMMIGRATION AND LANGUAGE

The number of new Canadians settling in and around North Regent Park and in Moss Park has remained high. South Asian Muslims and mainland-Chinese immigrants have replaced East Africans as the fastest-growing groups. While the East Downtown as a whole has a varied immigration pattern, there is a higher concentration of Filipino, South Korean and Eastern European immigrants north of Wellesley Street in St. James Town. The East Downtown has become a centre for growing Tamil and Bangladeshi populations. These groups may be drawn to new lower-cost market units in the area. This trend is reflected in the steady displacement of Anglophones from the Regent Park area. New immigrants continue to settle in Regent Park, arriving primarily from non-English-speaking nations. English as a home language fell by 28% in South Regent Park and by 50% in North Regent Park over the last 10 years. While immigration has slowed somewhat over the last five years, there remains a steady increase in families whose first language is not English, along with a steady departure of English speakers. INCOME

Sharp increases in the highest income categories have been occurring for the last 10 years in almost all areas in the East Downtown. Over the last five years, a steady decrease in the number of households earning $20,000 or less has occurred in all communities. New development has generally been targeted to higher-income households seeking ownership opportunities. Wealthier individuals purchase single-family resale homes. According to Statistics Canada, the creation of 170 new dwellings in the census tract that included South Regent Park coincided with the addition of 175 households with incomes over $60,000. These new dwellings were predominately townhouses. In St. Lawrence, the




creation of 755 new apartments coincided with an increase of 580 households with incomes over $60,000. The households occupying new market units in Regent Park are anticipated to have incomes in excess of $60,000 in most cases.

4.2 ONGOING POPULATION SHIFTS DURING REDEVELOPMENT The existing population in Regent Park consists of 7,500 people living in 2,083 units that will all be replaced. The new population occupying market accommodations is projected to be a total of 5,102 people, with 4,426 living in apartment-style dwellings and 676 living in house-form dwellings. When the redevelopment is complete, the total population of Regent Park is expected to increase to about 12,500, an increase of 40%. These increases in population occur at the end of each of the six phases, leading to an average increase of 850 new Regent Park residents in market housing every two years. At the same time, about 1,250 Toronto Community Housing residents will be moving back into their newly rebuilt units. But almost immediately after these 2,100 new residents move in at the end of a phase, about 1,250 Toronto Community Housing residents are to be relocated at the beginning of the next phase, some of them to units within Regent Park. Added to the 13% annual tenant turnover rate in Toronto Community Housing units, the shifts in population will occur as a result of both the influx of new residents in market housing and the changes in tenant population. While these population changes are significant, fluctuations in demographics are expected to be comparatively modest due to the phased structure of the redevelopment. The only group that undergoes significant growth in each phase is English-speaking adults aged 25â&#x20AC;&#x201C;50 with household incomes over $60,000 per year. Shifts in ethnicity, home language, and numbers of children, youth, and seniors are gradual, relatively consistent and are unlikely to have significant interim implications for service planning or neighbourhood activity. For instance, assuming that 225 (19.4%) of the 1,160 tenants relocated in Phase 1 are youth aged 15â&#x20AC;&#x201C;24, and 35 (4.1%) of the incoming residents in market housing in Phase 1 are youth, the overall number of youth moving into Regent Park at the end of Phase 1 is about 260. However, considering that a similar number of youth will be relocated at the beginning of Phase 2, this overall increase in youth population occurs gradually. Key spikes in population and demographics will occur in the months between phases, when new and relocated residents have moved in but when the phased relocation has not yet occurred.




IMMIGRANT INCORPORATION Seeing as that La Union has a strong connection to culture and a large membership base of immigrants, a sensitivity is needed to relate to those people and the experiences they bring to the table. How can this population of people be integrated into the community in which they share they same benefits and rights as someone who may have been born in America.


WORK & ARTICLES 303_BECOMING AMERICAN: Center for Migration Studies of New York 320_ THE ROLE OF SUNSET PARK, BROOKLYN’S IMMIGRANT ECONOMY: Economic Development Quarterly

Becoming American/Becoming New Yorkers:Immigrant Incorporation in a Majority Minority City' Philip Kasinitz HunterCollegeand GraduateCenter,CUNY John Mollenkopf GraduateCenter,CUNY MaryC. Waters HarvardUniversity Many observers have noted that immigrants to the United States are highly concentrated in the largest metropolitan areas of a relatively few states. Though immigrants diffused into many places that had previously seen relatively few immigrants during the 1990s, as of the 2000 census, 77 percent of the nation's 31.1 million foreign born residents still lived in six states - California, New York,Texas, Florida, New Jersey,and Illinois. According to the 2000 census, the two largest metropolitan areas, Los Angeles and New York, accounted for one third of all immigrants ( html). While immigrants moved into many new areas during the 1990s, making the challenge of incorporating their children a national issue, their concentration in our largest cities remained pronounced. This article examines how immigrants are being incorporated into American society in gateway cities by examining second generation immigrants in New York City. In contrast to the prevailing theoretical approach, which views immigrants as seeking to find a favorable place along the racial continuum between a native white elite on the top and native nonwhite minorities on the bottom, we argue that second generation experiences in New York are being shaped by the history of immigration among whites, by the predominance of ethnic minorities in the city's population and institutions today, and by the 'Paper presented at the conference on "Host Societies and Reception of Immigrants: Institutions, Markets and Policies," Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, May 10-12, 2001. We wish to thank the Russell Sage Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the UJA-Federation of New York and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development for their generous support. We also thank Jennifer Holdaway, Michelle Ronda and Aviva Zeltzer-Zubida for their assistance. reserved. All ? 2002 by the Centerfor MigrationStudiesof New York. rights 0198-9183/02/3604.0140


IMR Volume 36 Number 4 (Winter 2002):1020-1036




interaction among immigrant and native minority groups, not the interaction between immigrants and some core group of white Americans. We ask the readerto think not only about the social distances that immigrants must travel from their countries of origin to become integrated into American society, but the changing nature of the society which they are joining. Thinking along these lines, we argue, requires us to challenge and revise certain key aspects of the theory of segmented assimilation. Our larger project asks how the contexts in which young second generation immigrants have grown up in New York have affected their experiences in school and on the job, how they feel about their progress, and where they think they fit within American society. Here, we focus on the ways in which it matters a great deal that young second generation people are growing up in a city with a long history of immigration for all groups - including whites and blacks as well as Latinos and Asians. (The implicit contrast, of course, is with Los Angeles, where the non-Hispanic white and black populations are overwhelmingly native stock.) Given that they come largely from non-European ethnic origins, we ask what it means to grow up in a "majorityminority" city. We base our conclusions on a large-scale study under way since 1999. It conducted telephone interviews with random samples of 3,424 men and women aged 18 to 32 living in New York City (except Staten Island) and the inner suburban areas of Nassau and Westchester counties and northeastern New Jersey,followed up with in-depth, in-person interviews with ten percent of these respondents. We chose them according to whether their parents were from China (including Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the Chinese diaspora), the Dominican Republic, the West Indies (including Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, and other English-speaking islands), and Guyana (but excluding Haiti and those of Indian origin), the South American countries of Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru (subsequently designated CEP), or Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union. These groups comprised 39 percent of the 1990 second generation population in the defined sample area.2For comparative purposes, we also interviewed samples of native born people with native born parents from among whites, blacks, and Puerto Ricans. About two thirds of the immigrant second generation respondents were born in the United States, mostly in New York City, while one third were born abroad but arrived in the U.S. by age 12 and had lived here for at least ten years. 2To representthe full rangeof childrenof immigrants,we includedpeople who were born abroadbut arrivedin the United Statesby age 12 and had livedherefor ten or moreyears.To completethe Russiansample,we had to relaxthis requirementto arrivalby age 18.




In 1999-2000 we also fielded six ethnographies targeted on institutions and sites where these second generation and native young people were likely to encounter each other, including a four-year college of the City University of New York (CUNY), a CUNY community college, a large public service employees union, a retail store, several Protestant churches, and community political organizations. Together,these data sources provide the best picture yet availableof the life situations of a representativecross section of the major racial and ethnic groups in metropolitan New York.It is the first study based on a random sample of the adult children of immigrants who arrived in the United States after 1965.3 After outlining the main contours of the school and work outcomes of the different second generation groups, we address the question of what it means for them to come of age in a heavily non-white, heavily immigrant context. We take issue with some of the assertions of the theory of segmented assimilation, arguing that it has an unsophisticated model of intergroup contact, conflict, and discrimination. That theory also does not take into account the ways that institutions that promote minority advancement also facilitate the incorporation of the second generation, including mainstream as well as minority institutions. Finally, we argue that the dominance of those who are not non-Hispanic whites among our age group (where non-Hispanic whites make up only about a quarterof the population) means that immigrant and native minority young people are creating a vibrant youth culture that is neither "immigrant" nor "middleAmerican," but rathersomething new. The previous literaturehas failed to appreciatethe importance of this development. We conclude that simple theories about assimilation, whether of the old-fashioned "straightline" or new "segmented"varieties fail to capture the complexity of the ways in which our respondents are becoming "New Yorkers."As New Yorkers,they are forging identities that differ strongly from that of their parents'country of origin, but also differ from those of mainstreamwhite or black Americans. 3Portes and Rumbaut (2001) have completed several waves of the Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Survey (CILS) in San Diego and Miami, drawing initially on a school-based sample. Surveys like CILS and our own are necessary because the Census Bureau decided to drop the census question about birthplace of parents in favor of a subjective question on ancestry just as the new second generation began to grow rapidly in the 1970s and 1980s. As a result, the second generation disappeared statistically into the native minority population, preventing us from tracking their progress, particularly after leaving their parents' homes. In 1994, the Current Population Survey added a question about parents' birthplace that now allows researchersto examine the second generation for a national sample, but the CPS does not contain enough respondents for many types of analysis, nor does it ask about many domains that are critical to immigrant incorporation.




IMMIGRATIONTONEW YORK Immigration has profoundly transformed the population of metropolitan New York, just as it has those of other gateway cities like Los Angeles or Miami. About ten percent of the 900,000 legal immigrants and refugees who arrive in the United States every year settle in New York City proper.The foreign born now make up 36 percent of the city's population and the second generation another quarter. Native born whites with native born parents make up only 18 percent of the city's population. In short, New York City is overwhelmingly a city of minorities and immigrants. Moreover, New York's immigrant stock population is far more diverse in racial and ethnic terms than those of other cities. Unlike its main rival, Los Angeles, where Mexicans alone comprise 40 percent of the immigrant population (Zhou, 2001:215), New York receives immigrants from all of the world's sending regions including Europe and the Caribbean as well as Latin America and Asia. As Table 1 shows, the native children born to two immigrant parents living in New York City are less likely to be Hispanic than in Los Angeles County, the other gateway cities (San Francisco, Chicago, Houston, Miami) or the country as a whole, though New York is still home to many Hispanic second generation people. The Asian and non-Hispanic white shares of its second generation resemble those of the nation as a whole, while New York also has a large black second generation. Note that Table 1 shows that New York is home to many white children of immigrants, unlike Los Angeles County. For fiscal year 2000, the Immigration and Naturalization Service reports that the top ten countries sending immigrants to New York City (a total of 85,000) were the Dominican Republic, China, Jamaica, Haiti, the Ukraine, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Ecuador, India, and Russia (INS, 2001:Table 18). The large flow of black and Latino immigrants into New York has strongly affected the city's traditional "minority"groups. In 2000, the foreign born and their children constituted more than half of all blacks and Hispanics and virtually all of the Asian population in the city (Mollenkopf, Olson TABLE1 RACIAL COMPOSITION OF SECOND GENERATION BY CITY (VERTICAL PERCENT DISTRIBUTION)

NewYork City

LA County

Hispanic 30.0

NHAsian 13.2

NH Black 20.7

NHWhite 36.1





51.0 Gateway Central Cities U.S. Total 43.0 Source:March2000 CurrentPopulationSurvey

23.9 14.3

2.6 4.2

22.4 38.5




and Ross, 2001:Table 1.5). Of course, this is a tradition in New York.Between 1892 and 1924, thousands of European immigrants arrivedat Ellis Island every day. In 1910, two out of five New Yorkerswere born abroad,mostly in Europe, but also including many West Indians. In 1920, a quarter of the city's black population was West Indian (Kasinitz, 1992:24-25). Thus, both the white and black residents of New Yorkhave a strong immigrant tradition. We will argue that this crucially shaped the ways in which mainstreamand minority institutions have reacted to new immigrants, making the city porous and welcoming even to new immigrants from previously unrepresentedgroups. Mollenkopf (1999) has noted that the impact of immigration on the city's population and its self-conscious position as America'squintessentialimmigrant destination have shaped New York'sculture, economy, and political structure. Waldinger (1996) has outlined patterns of ethnic succession in the city's economy that have been paralleledin its politics (Foner, 2000; Mollenkopf, Olson, and Ross, 2001). Irish and German immigrants began to challenge New York's Anglo Saxon Protestant elite in the 1860s and 1870s, followed by Italian and Central EuropeanJewish immigrants at the turn of the century. Beginning in the 1960s, the rapid growth of the city's black and Puerto Rican populations in the previous decades resulted in growing minority activism, culminating in political alignments. Today,as Mollenkopf (2000:419) writes, "In New York, white Protestants are practically invisible, if still economically and socially powerful. Instead the city's white population is dominated by first, second and third generation Catholics and Jews. Far from finding intergroup competition threatening, they are masters of the art." In short, when new immigrants and their children encounter white - or black - Americans in New York, they do so along an ethnic continuum, not across a sharp boundary between nonwhite immigrants and native whites, as they do in Southern California,Texas, or Florida.

SCHOOLAND WORK Among our respondents, as might be expected, the native whites, Russian Jews, and Chinese are significantly more likely to have completed a four-year college or to have attended post-graduate education than the other groups and significantly less likely to have dropped out of high school. Table 2 shows these outcomes for the older members of our sample, who have had time to complete their educations. On this score, Puerto Ricans are faring the worst, with Dominicans, native blacks, and the CEP countries also having relatively high dropout rates and low college graduation rates. The general pattern is




that Latinos do worst and blacks only slightly better, while the Chinese, Russians, and whites do best. Within those broad groupings, the second generation groups are somewhat more successful than their native born counterparts. This underlying pattern becomes even stronger after controlling for parents' education, gender, and age, in part because the parents of Puerto Ricans have somewhat higher levels of education than those of the Dominican and CEP second generations, while the education levels among parents of the Chinese and Russian second generations are not as high as those among the native white parents (Mollenkopf, Kasinitz and Waters, 2001). TABLE2

ATTAINMENT BYGROUP EDUCATIONAL (AGED 24-32) High school dropout Still in high school GED High school grad In 2-yearcollege Some college,no degree 2-yearcollegegrad In 4-yearcollege 4-yearcollegegrad In grad/profschool Some grad,no degree Grador prof degree

CEP 10.1 .5 3.2 14.4 3.2 26.6 5.3 8.5 19.7 5.9 .5 2.1

Domin 12.4 1.1 2.3 11.9 4.5 21.5 9.6 6.8 20.9 4.5 1.7 2.8

Puerto Rican 19.6 1.4 3.7 19.6 2.7 26.9 3.2 6.8 10.0 3.7 1.4 .9

West Native Native Indian Black Chinese Russian White 12.8 1.8 3.7 .5 3.5 .6 .7 .4 4.4 .9 .5 1.1 2.3 4.1 6.3 19.0 9.2 12.3 1.8 2.9 2.3 1.1 7.0 10.8 22.8 11.7 31.0 9.9 2.3 4.5 9.4 5.5 4.0 10.8 5.8 9.0 1.8 9.4 14.6 22.2 37.1 45.9 36.0 12.6 2.9 6.3 11.4 7.0 .9 .7 2.3 4.0 1.1 9.0 19.8 14.7 3.5

Source: Second Generation Study

Refining this analysis, it is also apparent that those of our respondents who do attend a four year college attend institutions that systematically vary in quality as indicated by U.S. News and WorldReportcollege rankings.4 In our sample, 23 percent of the Chinese, 16 percent of Russian Jews and 38 percent of native whites attended "national tier one" colleges -- compared to only 6 percent of native African Americans, 8 percent of Puerto Ricans, 7 percent of Dominicans, and 7 percent of West Indians. By contrast, 22 percent of college-educated Dominicans, 38 percent of native African Americans, 35 percent of Puerto Ricans and 39 percent of West Indians had gone to "region4Weusean eightpointscale:national1, 2, 3 and4 andregional1, 2, 3 and4. Nationalcolrecruitstudentsfromacrossthecountry, withonebeingthemostseleclegesanduniversities tiveandfourtheleast.Regional schoolsrecruitfromlocalareas,againwithonebeingthemost selectiveandfourtheleast.NationaloneschoolsincludeHarvard, Yale,ColumbiaandNYU, whiletheregional foursincludetheleastselective of theCUNYschools,suchasYorkCollege, likePace. MedgarEversandLehman,aswellasprivateinstitutions




al tier four" schools - as opposed to 4 percent of Chinese and 9 percent of the Russian Jewish respondents. Thus, not only the quantity but also the quality of education varies greatly across our groups of respondents. We also compared the occupation and industry profile of our second generation respondents with those of their parents and the city as a whole. As one might suspect, the parents of our second generation respondents were highly concentrated in ethnic "niche"occupations and segmented by gender. Two out of every five fathers of our Chinese respondents worked in restaurants, while more than a third of the mothers of our West Indian respondents are nurses or nurses' aides. New York's beleaguered manufacturing sector continues to play an important role for immigrants, particularly for those immigrant women who (unlike West Indians) do not speak English upon arrival. Forty-six percent of the mothers of our Dominican respondents, 43 percent of the CEP mothers, and a staggering 57 percent of the Chinese mothers worked in manufacturing, primarily in the garment industry. Our second generation respondents depart strongly from this pattern. They are markedly less occupationally concentrated than their parents and their occupational distributions resemble each other and those of all New Yorkerstheir age and gender. For example, only 3 percent of the male Chinese respondents worked in restaurants, while 9 percent of West Indian female respondents worked as nurses or nurses' aides. This is a much higher percentage than for any other second generation group, but still far lower than that of their mothers. While greater economic opportunity has pushed the second generation away from their parents'jobs, they also have a distaste for stereotypical "ethnic"occupations. When asked what job he would never take, one of our Chinese in-depth respondents replied, "delivering Chinese food." When the daughter of the Chinatown jewelry shop owner was asked if her father would like her to take over the business, she laughingly replied, "no, he doesn't hate me that much!" Even less successful groups have exited from parental niches. There is a striking drop-off in manufacturing employment between the generations. While manufacturing is an important employer of fathers, and particularlymothers, for all second generation groups except West Indians (including Puerto Ricans), second generation employment in manufacturing drops below that of the general population of the study area. As one Colombian respondent put it when asked if he would consider taking his father'sjob "Hey, I don't do that factory thing." What do they do? Many have been attracted to New York's large Finance, Insurance and Real Estate (FIRE) sector. Indeed, Chinese and Rus-




sian respondents are more likely to work in this sector than native whites or New York City residents as a whole. The sector also employs many CEP respondents. Interestingly, FIRE sector employment is higher among the second generation than their parents in every group except West Indians. For the most part, however, second generation respondents report working at the same kinds of jobs most young people get. Given their age and the era in which they entered the labor market, retailing and clerical work are the first or second most common occupation for every group except native whites, where they are the second and third most common. Some interesting ethnic particularities in the occupational distribution suggest that some new "ethnic niches" may be forming: Chinese work in finance and as computer and design specialists; the Russians specialize in work with computers; Dominicans, the CEP, and Puerto Ricans are often financial clerks;West Indians work in health care; and native whites work in media and entertainment. The overwhelming story is nevertheless one of similarity rather than recapitulating the group differences evident among their parents. Our education and occupation data show some evidence of downward mobility for Puerto Ricans, somewhat stronger occupational differentiation for West Indians, and significant upward mobility for the Chinese second generation. But the second generation are going to school and working with each other and most do not show any signs of the second generation decline that distressed some analysts at the beginning of the 1990s (Gans, 1992; Portes and Zhou, 1993).

INTERGROUPCONTACTANDCONFLICT Because minority and second generation immigrant young people dominate their age cohort, our respondents have a great deal of contact with each other, but sometimes have little contact with native white New Yorkers. Recalling their experiences of discrimination in the multiethnic worlds in which they grew up, members of the second generation often found themselves at odds not with whites but with other nearby groups. While the second generation is on average less concentrated in immigrant neighborhoods than their parents, many still live in such areas.The 2000 Census data show that first generation West Indians are the most highly segregated, living in central Brooklyn, southeast Queens, and the north Bronx in New York as well as Hempstead, Long Island, and Jersey City, New Jersey. Dominicans remain heavily concentrated in Washington Heights, with lesser concentrations on Manhattan's Lower East Side, Sunset Park and Bushwick in Brooklyn, and Elmhurst




and Jackson Heights in Queens. While many Chinese immigrants still live in Manhattan's Chinatown, Chinese residents, especially the second generation, are spreading through South Brooklyn and Corona, Elmhurst and Flushing in Queens. The CEPs mostly live in Queens and in JerseyCity. Russian Jews are concentrated in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn. The responses that our survey and follow-up interviews gave to a series of questions about experiences of prejudice and discrimination are summarized in Table 3. As we might expect, blacks and West Indians reported facing the highest levels of discrimination while shopping, from the police, or while looking for work or at work, with the Hispanic groups not far behind, and the Chinese, Russians, and whites experiencing the least discrimination in these realms. We were surprised at the high levels of prejudice that the Chinese reported experiencing in school - more than any other group. Our in depth interviews indicated that this experience did not stem from interactions with whites, but ratherwith African Americans. The Chinese also report a relatively high level of prejudice experienced in stores. We also asked whether parents had ever talked with our respondents about discrimination against their group, as reported in Table 4. Three quarters of native blacks said that their parents had talked with them about disTABLE3 OF PREJUDICE BYGROUP EXPERIENCE PREJUDICE) (PERCENTEXPERIENCING

CEP Dominican PuertoRican West Indian Black Chinese RussianJew White

At work 20 19 26 30 35 14 8 14

Shops/ Restaurants 41 37 40 57 55 41 12 15

From Police 22 25 22 35 34 13 8 6

At School 17 14 15 17 15 25 11 9

Looking for Work 17 20 22 26 33 12 9 6


crimination against their group. But a large proportion of Russian and Chinese respondents (66 percent and 60 percent, respectively) also report talking to their parents about discrimination. Even though the Russians and the Chinese are doing the best in terms of educational attainment and labor market outcomes, they are also the most likely to tell our in-depth interviewers spontaneously that discrimination has been an impediment to their success. We can understand the variation in "paths of discrimination" as






Chinese CEP Dominican Black PuertoRican RussianJew West Indian Source:SecondGeneration Study

Figure I.

61 44 58 77 58 66 54

Prejudice/Discrimination V

FromWhites in Public Spaces V Blacksand Hispanics V Discouragement,Anger, ReactiveEthnicity


V FromWhites at Workand School

FromBlacksand PuertoRicans in PublicSpacesand School V

V Chinese,Upwardly Mobile Blacksand Hispanics

Chinese,Russians,West Indians,Dominicans,CEP V

V Try Harder


responsesto differinggroupopportunitysets, as outlinedin FigureI. The indepth interviewsrevealthat native blacksand West Indians,as well as the Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, and some CEPs, reportthat whites often discriminateagainstthem or show prejudicein public spacessuch as streets, stores,and the like.These experiencesincludeharassmentby the police, "driving while black,"whitesmovingacrossthe streetto avoidpassingnearthem, and storeclerksfollowingthem to makesurethey do not shoplift.This treatment often resultedin the kinds of discouragement,anger,and reactiveethnicity that Portesand his colleaguesidentified in his theory of segmented assimilation. In contrastto this "minorityexperience"in publicsettings,Chineseand the upwardlymobile blacksand Hispanicsin our sampleoften met a more personalformof discriminationfromwhiteswhile attendingschoolor on the job. This "faceto face"prejudiceis more common for better-offrespondents who leavetheirneighborhoods,shop in moreupscalestores,andworkin predominantlywhite settings.As a result,they aremorelikelyto encounter,and




compete with, native whites. These are the situations where parents warn their children that they can expect prejudice and should devise ways to cope with it. But in contrast to the anger and disengagement that often resulted from the experience of impersonal discrimination, many of these respondents reported that they believed they needed to try harder when encountering what was in effect a "glassceiling." Instead of disengaging, they reacted with increased effort and a sustained focus on success. Finally,given that native whites constitute a small minority in New York City, it is not surprising many members of the second generation report encounters with other immigrant and minority group members that involved conflict, prejudice, and discrimination. They often reacted to this type of conflict with distancing behaviors, as when West Indians try to distance themselves from African Americans or Dominicans seek to distinguish themselves from Puerto Ricans, or when Chinese and Russians distance themselves from blacks and Latinos from various backgrounds.

REASSESSING SEGMENTEDASSIMILATION In recent years, thoughtful observers have advanced the disturbing hypothesis that the new second generation will experience downward mobility as they are absorbed into the native black or Latino populations living in concentrated poverty neighborhoods. Gans (1992) outlines several scenarios in which the children of the new immigrants could do worse than their parents or most others their age. He speculates that second generation immigrants who go to low performing inner city schools, get bad jobs, and enter shrinking economic niches will experience downward mobility. Drawing on ethnographic case studies and the CILS survey of second generation school children in Miami and San Diego, Portes and Zhou (1993) refine this approach by arguing that the differing modes of incorporation in the first generation endow their children with differing amounts of cultural and social capital (ethnic networks and values) and different opportunity structures, resulting in several distinct paths toward incorporation. Those who live among American blacks or Latinos and face racial discrimination will, in their view, adopt a "reactive"native minority ethnicity. But those who come from groups with strong ethnic networks, access to capital, and fewer ties to U.S. minorities will, they postulate, follow one of two other paths: the "linear ethnicity" of assimilation into a native white ethnic category, or "segmented assimilation" into a retained immigrant identity that distinguishes them from American blacks or Puerto Ricans/Chicanos.




As for Gans, the fundamental point for Portes and Zhou (1993) is that second generation young people who cast their lot with America'sminority groups, whose peer culture supposedly rejects success at school and work, will experience downward social mobility. This dynamic inverts the normal model of acculturation:when "becoming American" for the children of brown and black immigrants means embracingthe values of their native ghetto peers rather than their immigrant parents, they will suffer for it. They will embrace American definitions of status and success, but, according to this view, they will also be loath to accept the poorly paid jobs held by their immigrant parents. They will disconnect from opportunities within ethnic economy, but racialdiscrimination within the mainstreameconomy will limit their alternatives,fostering an "oppositional"identity, becoming rebellious, or questioning the value of education. Our study suggests that this model holds a far too negative stereotype of native minorities and the supposed self-defeating role model they provide for second generation immigrants. Since much of the researchon segmented assimilation fails to include comparisonswith native whites, blacks, or Latinos, it fails to appreciateeither the full range of experience within these groups - much of which is quite successful - or the fact that whites as well as minorities engage in oppositional behaviors.A case in point involves the arrestrates among males in our study, presented in Table 5. The arrest rate for native whites surpasses that of every second generation group except for West Indians. But getting arrested apparently does not have the same lasting negative consequence for whites that it does for those who are branded by negative racial stereotypes or whose families have fewer resourcesto help them overcome youthful mistakes. In other words, the key factor is not a group trait but a societal response.White youth often exhibited oppositional behaviorsand made mistakes, but they typically were able to recoverfrom the same behaviorsthat left members of minority groups at a lasting disadvantage.Thus, the theory of segmented assimilaTABLE 5 ARRESTBYGROUP(MALES) (PERCENTEVERARRESTED)

No 79.8


Yes 20.2




PuertoRican West Indian Native Black Chinese Russian NativeWhite

70.9 75.5 65.8 90.2 89.6 76.9

29.1 24.5 34.2 9.8 10.4 23.1

Source: SecondGenerationStudy




tion needs to pay more attention to the consequences of behaviors and beliefs, not their existence alone.

THE UNANTICIPATED POSITIVEIMPACTOF INSTITUTIONS OF MINORITYMOBILITY While the segmented assimilation model sees assimilation into native minority status as a path toward downward mobility, our study reveals that being classified as a native minority can also provide access to institutional supports that promote success. The civil rights movement, along with the minority advancement in mainstream institutions, has created a legacy of opportunity for new members of old minority groups. The struggle for minority empowerment has established new entry points into mainstream institutions and created many new minority-run institutions. By operating in contexts where "American"means African American or Puerto Rican, our respondents have developed ethnic solidarity with native blacks or Latinos and receive signals that they will be easily accepted into "America."This dynamic also puts native blacks and Puerto Ricans in the strange position of managing the ethnic succession of second generation individuals in colleges, labor unions, and political groups while continuing to see themselves as outsiders to these power structures. While community-based social services or affirmative action "second chance" entry points into white institutions were initially set up to aid blacks and Puerto Ricans, new second generation immigrants are well situated to take advantage of them. Two tales from our ethnographies illustrate this point. One involves a Puerto Rican studies class at a community college in Queens. Founded in the late 1960s in the first wave of open admissions to CUNY, this college was designed to be particularlysensitive to New York City's Hispanic population, then overwhelmingly Puerto Rican. This class, which met the college's American studies requirement, was taught by a Cuban American professor to students who were all Colombian, Ecuadorian, Peruvian, or Dominican. In other words, an immigrant professor was using the Puerto Rican experience to teach first and second generation Latino immigrants what it means to be American (Trillo, forthcoming). Another ethnographer studied a public employee union that had been founded in the 1960s by Jewish radicalsfor a largelyAfrican American membership with origins mostly in the American south. Today, its leadersare mostly African Americanswho rose through the civil rights movement, but the rank and file has become overwhelmingly first and second generation West Indians.




At a union meeting celebratingits members' Caribbean heritage, they shouted out recognition for each of the various islands. Listening to this response, the AfricanAmerican union leaderasked plaintively,"Isn'tanyone here from Alabama?"(Foerster,forthcoming). These stories illustratethe enormous significance of racialand ethnic succession within the city'sinstitutions. Originally designed as agencies of advancement for native minorities, this community college and social service union are now "Americanizing"and "ethnicizing"immigrants and their children. In quite practical material, as well as symbolic, terms, they are promoting upward mobility - through skills, credentials,and financial support. As they make educational progress,especially compared to native blacks and Puerto Ricans, second generation West Indians, Dominicans and CEPs are well positioned to inherit leadershippositions within minority institutions and gain greateraccess to mainstream institutions. We thus posit that becoming identified as a member of a racial minority can have tangible benefits for second generation New Yorkers. Segmented assimilation theory posits that this heralds downward mobility due to the negative influences of native minority peers. This misses both the fact that native minority young people are not alone acting out in negative ways - which may be endemic to the age group - and the fact that native minorities also provide positive role models and indeed access to minority and mainstream institutions that promote minority upward mobility.

CREATINGHYBRIDMINORITYCULTURES We have noted that members of the second generation interact a lot more with each another and native minorities than with native whites, with important consequences for the patterns of prejudice and intergroup conflict experienced by different groups. But this intergroup contact also has positive dimensions. They are creating a new kind of multiculturalism, not of balkanized groups huddled within their own enclaves, but of hybrids and fluid exchanges across group boundaries. The city abounds in clubs where African American hip hop has been fused with East Indian and West Indian influences into new musical forms, for example. The real action is not in the interplay of immigrant cultures with a homogenous dominant American culture, but in the interactions between first and second generation immigrant groups and native minorities. African American young people dance to Jamaican dance hall and imitate Jamaican patois, even as West Indian youngsters learn African American slang. Puerto Ricans can meringue and Dominicans can play salsa and rap in two languages. Second generation youth growing up in




an Indian/South American/Irish/Pakistanineighborhood like Jackson Heights, Queens, or in a Puerto Rican/Mexican/Chinese/Arabicneighborhood like Sunset Park(where the aged population of "realAmericans"are Norwegians) do see themselvesas Americansand New Yorkers,but they arenot assimilatinginto the mainstreamtypical in, for example, Iowa. (Indeed, even in Iowa, Mexican workers have moved into the meatpackingindustry.)Whether one looks at the music in dance clubs, the eclectic menus in restaurants,or the inventive slang on the streets, one cannot help but be impressed by the creativepotential that second generation and minority young people are contributing to New Yorktoday. This is reflected in how our respondents identify themselves. They used the term American in two different ways. One was to describe themselves as American compared to the culture, values, and behaviorsof their parents. (For example, they were not inclined to endorse physical punishment of children.) They definitely thought that the U.S. had influenced them to approach the world differently from their parents. But they also used "American"to refer to the native whites they encountered at school, the office, or in public places, but whom they knew far better from television and the movies. They saw those "Americans"as part of a different that would never include them because of their race/ethnicity. Many respondentssidestepped this ambivalent understandingof the term "American"by describing themselves as "New Yorkers."This was open to them even as blacks or Hispanics or Asians, and it embraced them as second generation immigrants. A "New York"identity embraced the dynamic cultural activities familiar to them, but not necessarilythe largerwhite society. "New Yorkers," for our respondents, could come from immigrant groups, native minority groups, or be Italians, Irish, Jews, or the like. We argue that the individual changes necessary to become a New Yorker are not nearly so large as those required to become American. As immigration continues to transform our nation, New York may serve as a positive model of creative multiculturalism and inclusion. Whether other parts of America can replicate that openness remains to be seen. While some skeptics might argue that New York is very unique and not likely to be replicatedin many other places, we would counterargue that, being quintessentially an immigrant city, New York is in fact at its very core American.

REFERENCES Foerster, A. Forthcoming "Isn'tAnyone Here from Alabama? Solidarity and Struggle in a Mighty Mighty Union." In Becoming New Yorkers:The Second Generation in a Global City. Ed. P. Kasinitz, J. Mollenkopf and M. Waters. Under review. Russell Sage Foundation Press.




Foner,N. 2000 FromEllisIslandtoJFK New York's TwoGreatWavesof Immigration.New Haven and New York:YaleUniversityPressand RussellSageFoundationPress. Gans, H. 1992 "SecondGenerationDecline: Scenariosfor the Economic and Ethnic Futuresof the post-1965 AmericanImmigrants,"Ethnicand RacialStudies,15(2):173-193. Kasinitz,P. 1992 CaribbeanNew York:BlackImmigrants and thePoliticsof Race.Ithaca:CornellUniversity Press. Mollenkopf,J. H. 2000 "Assimilating Immigrantsin Amsterdam:A Perspectivefrom New York,"TheNetherlandsJournalof SocialSciences,26(2):126-145. 1999 "UrbanPoliticalConflicts and Alliances:New Yorkand Los Angeles Compared."In The Handbook of InternationalImmigration:The American Experience.Ed. C. Hirschman,P. KasinitzandJ. DeWind. New York:RussellSageFoundation. Mollenkopf,J. H., T. Ross and D. Olson 2001 "ImmigrantPoliticalParticipationin New Yorkand LosAngeles."In Governing American Cities:Inter-EthnicCoalitions,Competition, and Conflict.RussellSageFoundation. Mollenkopf,J., P. Kasinitzand M. Waters Forthcoming "Chutesand Ladders:EducationalAttainmentamong YoungSecond Generation and Native New Yorkers."In TheNew Immigrationand New YorkCity:Essayson Education,Healthand PublicPolicy.Ed. D. R. Howell. Employment, Portes,A. and M. Zhou 1993 "The New Second Generation:SegmentedAssimilationand its Variants,"TheAnnals of theAmericanAcademyofPoliticaland SocialScience,530:74-97. 1992 "Gainingthe Upper Hand: Economic Mobility Among Immigrantand Domestic Minorities,"Ethnicand RacialStudies,15(4):491-521. Portes,A. and R. Rumbaut 2000 Legacies:The Storyof the New SecondGeneration.Berkeley:Universityof California Press. Smith,J. and B. Edmonston 1997 TheNew Americans:Economic,Demographic, and FiscalEffectsof Immigration.Washington:NationalAcademyPress. Trillo,A. Forthcoming"PanEthnicityand EducationalTrajectories amongLatinoCommunityCollege Students."In BecomingNew Yorkers: The SecondGenerationin a GlobalCity.Ed. P. Kasinitz,J. Mollenkopfand M. Waters.Under review.RussellSageFoundationPress. Waldinger,R. 1996 Still the PromisedCity?:AfricanAmericansand New Immigrantsin Postindustrial New York.Cambridge:HarvardUniversityPress. Waters,M. C. 1999 BlackIdentities:WestIndian Dreamsand AmericanRealities.New York:RussellSage Foundation.




Zhou, M. 2000 "ContemporaryImmigrationand the Dynamics of Race and Ethnicity."In America Ed. N. Smelser,W. J. Wilson and E Becoming:Racial Trendsand their Consequences. Mitchell.Washington,DC: NationalAcademyPress. 1997 "GrowingUp American:The ChallengeConfrontingImmigrantChildrenand Children of Immigrants."AnnualReviewofSociology,23:69-95.


Economic Development Quarterly

Mapping Global Production in New York City's Garment Industry: The Role of Sunset Park, Brooklyn's Immigrant Economy Tarry Hum Economic Development Quarterly 2003 17: 294 DOI: 10.1177/0891242403255088 The online version of this article can be found at:

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INDUSTRY STUDY Mapping Global Production in New York City’s Garment Industry: The Role of Sunset Park, Brooklyn’s Immigrant Economy Tarry Hum Queens College, City University of New York Tarry Hum is an assistant professor in the Department of Urban Studies in Queens College at the City University of New York. Her publications include “A Protected Niche? Immigrant Ethnic Economies and Labor Market Segmentation” in Prismatic Metropolis: Inequality in Los Angeles (Russell Sage, 2000).

As a key production site in New York City’s garment industry, Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood is increasingly made up of small Asian and Latino immigrant-owned firms. Market conditions created by the globalization of garment production and the continued influx of low-skill immigrants promote a primary competitive advantage embedded in “low-road” strategies evident in the prevalence of sweatshop conditions. Reflecting a “carrot and stick” approach, Sunset Park has been a target for the federal and state departments of labor as well as the site for developing a garment manufacturers’ incubator, Brooklyn Mills. This article examines the mismatch of using a conventional economic development strategy to address the conditions of Sunset Park’s immigrant economy. Brooklyn Mills illustrates how immigrant firms feel the stick but benefit little in terms of innovative policy intervention, that is, carrots, to stimulate equitable development in a sweatshop economy. Keywords: garment industry; immigrant economy; business incubator; community economic development

The prospects for New York City’s garment industry, particularly for Asian and Latino immigrants laboring in small manufacturing shops, are increasingly bleak.1 A competitive real estate market, increased imports, improved quality of offshore production, and retailer consolidation continue to pose seemingly insurmountable challenges to domestic apparel production. As a local manufacturer noted, “We are dying a slow death” (M. Landman, personal communication, September 26, 2000). Despite these harsh realities coupled by decades of steady decline, the apparel industry remains one of New York City’s largest manufacturing industries, employing approximately 56,000 production workers (New York Industrial Retention Network, 1999; U.S. Census Bureau, 1999). Although imports and production outsourcing have created conditions of fierce competition and downgraded manufacturing, evidenced by the reemergence of sweatshops, key competitive advantages based on proximity to customers and suppliers; agglomeration effects that promote AUTHOR’S NOTE: Support for this research was provided by a 1999 Professional Staff Congress–City University of New York research grant. ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT QUARTERLY, Vol. 17 No. 3, August 2003 294-309 DOI: 10.1177/0891242403255088 © 2003 Sage Publications


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creativity, innovation, and flexibility;2 and access to a skilled and cheap labor force ensure that a segment of garment production will continue locally. As in the past century, apparel production continues to absorb thousands of immigrants as risktaking entrepreneurs and low-skill workers who increasingly labor under conditions paralleling those of their counterparts in Asia, the Caribbean, and Latin America. The reemergence of sweatshop conditions underscores the need for an industrial policy to ensure the future viability of New York City’s garment industry by pursuing innovative “high-road” development strategies rather than “low-road” cost savings. Promoting investment in skill development, capital improvements, and product innovation and quality is a principal high-road development strategy. In contrast, lowroad practices are premised on minimizing production costs through low wages, few benefits, and high turnover (AFL-CIO Working for America Institute, 2002; Herman, 2001). The collective efforts to sustain New York City’s garment industry undertaken by government agencies, including the federal and state departments of labor, the garment workers union—United Needletrades, Industrial, and Textile Employees (UNITE)—and other institutions, namely, the tripartite labor, government, and industry organization Garment Industry Development Corporation (GIDC), represent a two-pronged policy and programmatic strategy of carrots and sticks.3 The carrots, in the form of technical assistance, public subsidies, and tax incentives, seek to promote high-road development in quick-response technologies, just-in-time production methods, worker and management skill upgrades, and new production arrangements including modular production to improve productivity and competitiveness in a highly volatile industry (Conway & Loker, 1999). The stick regulates the sweatshop economy by maintaining a floor on the rising prevalence of worker exploitation. By monitoring sweatshops and enforcing standard labor practices through penalties and fines, the key stick-wielding institutions—understaffed federal and state departments of labor—seek to contain the “race to the bottom” by punishing the industry’s worst perpetrators.4 Brooklyn’s Sunset Park, which has emerged as a key apparel production site, represents a juxtaposition of the high- and low-road strategies for sustaining New York City’s garment industry. A growing segment of Sunset Park’s neighborhood economy is fueled by small Asian and Latino immigrant-owned garment factories and an ethnic labor force made up primarily of immigrant women. Representing 40% of Brooklyn’s apparel manufacturing base, 384 garment shops are located in the Sunset Park neighborhood (New York State Department of Labor, 2001). These shops employ a labor force of more than 10,000 workers, primarily Chinese, Dominican, and Mexican immigrant women. Targeted by the New York State Department of Labor and Brooklyn District Attorney in a series of factory raids in the summer of 1996, Sunset Park is also the site of a high-road development project sponsored by the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, and the New York State Economic Development Corporation. The project has centered on the development of a garment manufacturers’ incubator, Brooklyn Mills, which opened in September 1999 (Curan, 1999; Santiago, 1999). Brooklyn Mills represents a collaborative institutional effort to improve the efficiency, competitiveness, and viability of “legitimate” firms to succeed in a short-cycle flexible manufacturing environment. Providing affordable manufacturing space, low-cost energy, tax incentives, and business support services, Brooklyn Mills is a prototype of future reindustrialization as envisioned by state and local officials. Rather than competing with low-priced imports, Brooklyn Mills supports firms to create high-end niche products, build and improve business networks, and integrate new production technology (Golden, 1999; J. Williams, Director of Economic Development, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, personal communication, November 21, 2000). In addition to seven manufacturing tenants, Brooklyn Mills houses the Quick Sew Center operated by the GIDC to provide technical assistance and worker training to local area garment firms. Although the strategy to nurture garment manufacturers with high value-added products represents a sound industrial policy, the integral role of Sunset Park’s immigrant economy in garment production presents a challenge to conventional economic development strategies. The globalized nature of the U.S. garment industry promotes a competitive advantage embedded in low-road strategies with direct and specific consequences for Asian and Latino immigrants. Brooklyn Mills represents a missed opportunity to coordinate and target public resources to counter the current

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. . . strategies in New York City’s garment industry are not high road at all because they do not support innovation or improved business practices. They merely serve to hold on to the garment sector through subsidized rents.




U.S. and New York City Employment in Women’s Outerweara All Employees (1000s)


United States

New York City

New York City Employment as a Percentage of U.S. Employment

1947 1961 1971 1982 1992 1997 2000

310.6 336.8 416.3 374 306.3 232.8 223.7

139.5 108.7 87.4 67.3 51.1 43.8 42.6

45% 32% 21% 18% 17% 19% 19%

SOURCE: Abeles, Schwartz, Haeckel, & Silverblatt, Inc. (1983); U.S. Census Bureau (1992, 1997, 2000). a. The employment figures before 1998 are based on Standard Industrial Classification Code 233. The 2000 figures are based on the newly adopted North American Industry Classification System codes and represent Sectors 31523 and 315212, which are comparable to Standard Industrial Classification 233.

pressures and worsening conditions of garment manufacturing. This mismatch illustrates how immigrants certainly feel the stick but benefit little in terms of innovative policy incentives, that is, carrots, to promote equitable development in the garment industry. Moreover, Brooklyn Mills demonstrates that high-road strategies in New York City’s garment industry are not high road at all because they do not support innovation or improved business practices. They merely serve to hold on to the garment sector through subsidized rents. This article is organized into three sections. The first section briefly reviews the empirical evidence for New York City’s declining garment industry and the concentration of immigrant Asians and Latinos as contractors and workers. The second section documents the growing importance of immigrant neighborhoods in the outer boroughs, in particular, Brooklyn’s Sunset Park, as production sites largely dependent on sweatshops. The 1998 Street Beat Sportswear incident, discussed later in this article, illustrates how intimidation characterizes employer-employee relations in the immigrant garment sector. The third section synthesizes extensive interviews with industry leaders, community advocates, and representatives of the GIDC, UNITE, the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, and the Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation to document the development process of Brooklyn Mills and how this garment manufacturers’ incubator ultimately failed to change the practices of a sweatshop industry. This article concludes with a recommendation: Improving and sustaining a viable garment industry will require meaningful carrots that integrate immigrant economies and reinvigorate community and labor alliances. These actions are necessary to ensure equitable economic development.

THE ORGANIZATION AND CONDITIONS OF NEW YORK CITY’S GARMENT INDUSTRY New York City’s garment industry captures the extreme realities of a glamorous fashion walkway and brutal historic sweatshops.5 The following discussion of the organization and conditions of the garment industry underscores several important trends: New York City’s niche in fashionsensitive products will maintain a local garment production sector posing both opportunities and challenges; the premium of Manhattan real estate continues to push garment production to the outer boroughs, where it anchors immigrant enclave economies in Brooklyn and Queens; and New York City’s garment industry remains viable largely by exploiting an immigrant workforce. Nationwide, garment industry employment peaked in 1973 with 1.4 million jobs. By 1999, the number of jobs in apparel production fell by 53% to 660,000. This decline is expected to continue

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Occupations in New York City’s Apparel Industry

Managerial, professional, and specialties Non-Hispanic White Latino Asian African American Technical, sales, and support Non-Hispanic White Latino Asian African American Precision production and craft Non-Hispanic White Latino Asian African American Operators, laborers, and fabricators Non-Hispanic White Latino Asian African American Total apparel workforce

1980 (%)

1990 (%)

8 79 10 5 6 16 63 17 2 17 11 51 30 6 11 64 32 39 18 10

13 62 17 13 9 15 50 24 8 18 10 34 34 17 15 60 13 40 39 8



SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau (1980b, 1990).

(U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2002). Paralleling national trends, the share of apparel manufacturing jobs in New York City now numbers about 56,000, representing a decline of 62% since 1980. New York City, however, remains a key production center in the U.S. garment industry, and its share of national employment in apparel production, particularly in women’s outerwear, has steadied and even grown slightly since the early 1980s (see Table 1). New York City’s garment industry is concentrated in the most fashion-sensitive and volatile sector—women’s outerwear—with rapidly changing consumer tastes and styles. Nearly three quarters (73%) of New York City apparel firms and garment workers produce women’s outerwear (New York State Department of Labor, 1999-2000). The key advantage of local garment production relative to offshore production is the proximity of designers, showrooms, retailers, manufacturers, fabric suppliers, and sewing contractors who can respond quickly to changing styles (A. Hall, Manager for Social Responsibility, Eileen Fisher Company, personal communication, May 1, 2002). Although this locational advantage may not be sufficient to restore the garment industry to its historic employment levels, the demand for short turnaround times, quick delivery, quality control, and small batch orders may be sufficient to create a unique niche or a “spot market” for New York City manufacturers and contractors in the context of a globalized industry (Chapple, 1999). Moreover, relative to other centers of domestic production such as Los Angeles, which rivals it in employment size, New York City is unique in its historic and symbolic position as a fashion and garment center. The majority of garment manufacturers in New York City are small contractors employing fewer than 10 workers (U.S. Census Bureau, 1999). Fewer than one in four garment contracting shops in New York City is unionized (T. Lai, General Manager, Greater Blouse, Skirt & Undergarment Association, Inc., personal communication, November 4, 2000). Because capital and skill requirements for setting up a shop are minimal, New York City’s garment industry tells the quintessential story of immigrant succession (Proper, 1997; Waldinger, 1986). The key competitive advantage of immigrant contractors is access to cheap ethnic labor. The latest available statistics indicate that Asian and Latino immigrants own about 2,000 contracting firms, and it is in these

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small shops that a majority of garment workers are employed (Teddy Lai, General Manger, Greater Blouse, Skirt & Underwear Garment Association, personal communication, November 4, 2000). New York City’s garment industry remains a key labor market entry point for immigrant workers, especially women, with little English-language ability or formal skills. The nature of fabrics makes it difficult to mechanize clothing assembly; hence, apparel production continues to be a labor-intensive process. Similar to more than a century ago, garment production relies on eye-andhand coordination and the physical strength of sewing machine operators. Operator and laborer occupations made up 60% of apparel industry employment in 1990 (see Table 2). The bulk of these jobs were sewing machine operators, with a small share of pressing machine operators and laborers.6 The overwhelming majority of the more than 50,000 sewing machine operators who make up New York City’s garment production workforce are Latina (40%) or Asian (39%) women (U.S. Census Bureau, 1990). Skills training is minimal and typically gained on the job. New York City’s spot market advantage based on quick turnaround and small batch production means that workers must go through a “learning curve” with each new style and as a result, rarely have the time to achieve peak productivity and earnings (Proper, 1997). The degradation of worker conditions in New York City’s garment industry is well documented (Center for Economic and Social Rights, 1999; Lii, 1995). The state Department of Labor’s Apparel Industry Task Force estimates there are about 2,500 garment “sweatshops” in New York City.7 Most alarming is the increasing practice of withholding or not paying wages.8 Compliance reports prepared by the U.S. Department of Labor found that in 1999, about two thirds of New York City’s garment shops violated standard wage and hour laws.9 In addition, dangerous work conditions, such as locked fire exits, as well as industrial homework that harkens to sweatshops at the turn of the century were pervasive. Historically, constraints on land use patterns contributed to the decentralization of manufacturing in key industries such as garment making, printing and publishing, and food processing. This spatial dispersion led historian Joshua Freeman (2000) to describe New York City as a “nonFordist city in the age of Ford” (p. 15). Nonetheless, the competitive advantages of agglomeration contributed to the formation of industrial districts as designers, manufacturers, jobbers, and contractors sought to locate near one another for quality control, business networks, and quick response to production snags (Freeman, 2000; Soyer, 1999). In New York City, garment production centered in two distinct clusters—a Midtown garment center located between Sixth and Ninth Avenues from 34th to 40th Streets and Manhattan Chinatown, which emerged as a key production center in the 1970s resulting from a supply of inexpensive loft space and the mass influx of post1965 immigrants (Kwong, 1987). New York City’s recent real estate boom evident in rising rents and expanding corporate real estate development is forcing the relocation of garment manufacturers from these historic production districts (Bagli, 1998; Bowles, 2000). A key study of Chinatown’s garment district conducted in 1983 had already signaled the lack of affordable industrial space and encroaching gentrification as an imminent threat to garment production (Abeles, Schwartz, Haeckel, & Silverblatt, 1983). A recent study of the Midtown garment center found that 60% of the leases held by garment companies in the Garment Center Preservation Area were to expire by the end of 2002 (New York Industrial Retention Network, 2001). The tenor of a real estate study conducted for the Fashion Center Business Improvement District indicated resignation to market trends as it emphasized the retail potential generated by the surrounding upscale redevelopment of Times Square, Herald Square, and the Port Authority (Fashion Center Business Improvement District, 2000). Numerous newspaper articles track the movement of high-tech and companies into Chinatown and the conversion of factory lofts to office and high-end residential units (Casimir, 2000; Chang, 2002; Lobbia, 2001). The encroachment of “Silicon Alley” forced many garment shops to relocate to immigrant neighborhoods in the outer boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn, including Flushing, Long Island City, Ridgewood in Queens, and Sunset Park in Brooklyn. Although Manhattan continues to be a center for garment production, its concentration has declined dramatically since 1980 when 74% of New York City’s garment firms and workers were located there.10 Within the past two decades, the size of Manhattan’s garment workforce has shrunk by more than two thirds (see Table 3). The outer boroughs are increasingly important production

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New York City Apparel Production Firms and Employees in 1980 and 1999 by Borough 1980

Firms New York City Manhattan Brooklyn Queens Bronx Staten Island

5,404 4,024 810 350 196 24

Firms Employees (%) Employees (%) 100 74 15 6 4 0

148,894 104,698 25,332 12,330 5,557 977

Percentage Change From 1980 to 1999


100 70 17 8 4 1

Firms 3,183 1,867 748 497 64 7

Firms Employees (%) Employees (%) 100 59 23 16 2 0

56,345 32,869 12,205 9,825 1,200 246

100 58 22 17 2 0

Firms Employees –41 –54 –8 42 –67 –71

–62 –69 –52 –20 –78 –75

SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau (1980b, 1990, 1999).

sites; nearly one quarter of New York City’s garment manufacturing shops and workers are now in Brooklyn. Brooklyn’s locational advantages continue to attract firms seeking refuge from rising rents and a unionized work force (Bowles, 2000; M. Chen, Vice President, UNITE Local 23-25, personal communication, October 26, 2000). In particular, Sunset Park’s abundant industrial space, relatively inexpensive rents, and available workforce has led one researcher to declare it “Brooklyn’s fastest-growing mecca for apparel firms” (Bowles, 2000, p. 3).

SUNSET PARK’S IMMIGRANT ECONOMY AND GLOBAL PRODUCTION Sunset Park is prototypical of urban neighborhoods undergoing both demographic and economic transformations driven by renewed international migration and the local effects of global restructuring. Whereas earlier Scandinavian and European immigrants settled in Sunset Park during a period of industrial and urban growth, Latinos and Asians fill a marginal economic position that is steadily worsening. Although it was once a vibrant industrial waterfront neighborhood providing thousands of entry-level jobs in the American Can Company, Bethlehem Steel, and numerous manufacturing firms as well as maritime-related occupations, several factors have coalesced to facilitate Sunset Park’s economic decline. The construction of the Gowanus Expressway and its expansion in the 1960s created a physical barrier that severed the waterfront from the rest of the neighborhood (Caro, 1974). The introduction of new shipping technologies, such as containerization, and the declining international competitiveness of domestic manufacturing led to a massive deindustrialization that altered the economic landscape of Sunset Park. The shrinking employment base coupled with a growing Puerto Rican population facilitated Sunset Park’s racial transformation as White ethnic groups fled to surrounding suburbs (Sullivan, 1993; Winnick, 1990). The subsequent “White flight,” industrial decline, and urban disinvestment culminated in Sunset Park’s designation as a federal poverty area in the 1970s. Offering a vast affordable housing stock, a convenient public transportation line to Manhattan, and weak organized resistance to newcomers, notable numbers of Asian and Latino immigrants settled in Sunset Park starting in the mid-1980s (Browning, 1994; Dallas, 1991; Howe, 1987). Today, non-Hispanic Whites constitute only 17% of Sunset Park residents; more than half (51%) are Latino, and nearly 25% are Asian. Sunset Park remains a top destination neighborhood for immigrants. In the past decade, more than 16,700 new immigrants have settled in the neighborhood, with nearly one in two coming from the People’s Republic of China or the Dominican Republic.11 These newcomers are largely unskilled, working-age adults. Among the new immigrants age 16 and older, approximately half held a job before immigrating. Most were laborers,

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Sunset Park’s demographic transformation underscores the continued influx of lowskilled, non-Englishproficient immigrants in search of economic opportunities.




New York City Industry and Employment Composition, 2000 Industry


New York City Services Government Financial, real estate, and insurance Retail trade Manufacturing Transportation and public utilities Wholesale trade Construction Agriculture, mining, and other Sunset Park, Brooklyn Services Manufacturing Retail trade Wholesale trade Construction Transportation and public utilities Financial, real estate, and insurance Agriculture, mining, and other

209,475 84,746 374 29,670 40,859 10,016 7,540 20,584 10,665 5,021 2,435 461 450 566 384 240 93 171 70


Units (%)

Workers (%)

Weekly Wages ($)

3,605,978 1,389,582 549,119 484,395 424,683 239,791 206,060 181,156 117,479 13,709 34,502 11,928 9,407 4,262 4,110 2,390 1,338 920 147

100 40 0.2 14 20 5 4 10 5 2 100 19 18 23 16 10 4 7 3

100 39 15 13 12 7 6 5 3 0.4 100 35 27 12 12 7 4 3 0.4

1,136.59 891.91 873.93 2,821.53 471.53 1,120.58 1,037.50 1,130.57 992.83 606.54 484.00 450.54 335.42 501.78 569.74 714.06 708.54 620.65 277.92

SOURCE: New York State Department of Labor (1999-2000).

. . . 8 of 11 investigated Sunset Park shops were in violation of overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act. These firms were required to pay $104,350 in back wages to more than 200 workers.

sales and service workers, and agricultural workers.12 Sunset Park’s demographic transformation underscores the continued influx of low-skilled, non-English-proficient immigrants in search of economic opportunities. However, in contrast to earlier periods, it is questionable whether the neighborhood’s opportunity structures provide meaningful avenues for economic mobility. In both the scholarly and popular press, Sunset Park, Brooklyn, has been touted as an example of immigrant-driven neighborhood revitalization (Kadet, 2000; Oser, 1996; Robaton, 1996; Waldinger, 1990). The primary engine for Sunset Park’s renewal is the ethnic economy comprising numerous small immigrant-owned retail and manufacturing firms and their “co-ethnic” labor force (i.e., workers of the same ethnicity as their employers). Although immigrant activity is central to the reversal of Sunset Park’s economic decline, this new prosperity is countered by uneven growth characteristics of ethnic enclave economies. Immigrant working and jobless poverty, the expansion of an informal and sweatshop economy, and the casualization of employment relations are also part of the economic life of Sunset Park. Downgraded manufacturing, noted in the growing numbers of immigrant garment contractors, is a prominent aspect of Sunset Park’s reindustrialization. The majority of manufacturing firms in Sunset Park are garment manufacturers or contractors (U.S. Census Bureau, 1999). In addition to cheap rents—average rents for industrial space in Sunset Park are between $4.50 and $5.50 per square foot compared with $8 to $10 in Manhattan Chinatown and up to $20 per square foot in the Midtown garment center—access to a largely nonunionized and increasingly undocumented workforce are factors in Sunset Park’s emergence as a key garment production site (M. Chen, Vice President, UNITE Local 23-25, personal communication, October 26, 2000; Kwong, 1996). The New York State Department of Labor (1999-2000) ES-202 data verify Sunset Park’s greater reliance on manufacturing jobs relative to New York City (see Table 4). Fewer than 1 in 10 New York City workers is employed in manufacturing compared with nearly 30% of Sunset Park employees. Moreover, the significant wage differential for manufacturing employees in New York City at large relative to those in Sunset Park further substantiates the neighborhood’s economic base in working-poor jobs. Although the economic livelihood of Sunset Park is clearly tied to the garment industry, a series of factory raids conducted in 1996 by the federal and state departments of labor and the Brooklyn

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District Attorney exposed the prevalence of hazardous environments and worker abuses, including the withholding of wages. These sweatshop conditions have not abated, and in 1999, the U.S. Department of Labor found that 8 of 11 investigated Sunset Park shops were in violation of overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act. These firms were required to pay $104,350 in back wages to more than 200 workers. Community rallies have also shed much public attention on the extent of worker exploitation in Sunset Park’s garment industry (Buford, 1999; Lin, 1998; Sandberg, 1997). Institutional responses included the formation of new organizations, such as the local Community Board 7’s Apparel Industry Task Force and the Kings County Apparel Association created in 1996 to represent Sunset Park’s largely Chinese garment contractors.13 The garment workers union and worker advocacy organizations have set up branch offices in Sunset Park to organize immigrant Asian and Latina workers, especially undocumented ones. The Chinese and Staff Workers Association (CSWA) opened a satellite office in 1996, and UNITE opened a Garment Workers Center in 1997 (Sandberg, 1997).14 Elected public officials, including U.S. Representative Nydia Velasquez, former City Councilor Angel Rodriguez, and State Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, have also taken on the issue of a sweatshop economy in Sunset Park and its impact on the community’s quality of life. In his capacity as chairman of the New York State Assembly Subcommittee on Sweatshops, Ortiz sponsored two public hearings on Sunset Park’s garment industry and published the testimonials in two monographs. Behind Closed Doors: A Look Into the Underground Sweatshop Industry was released in 1997, and a follow-up, Behind Closed Doors II came out in 1999 (New York State Assembly Sub-Committee on Sweatshops, 1997, 1999). One characteristic of a low-road strategy in the garment industry is the prevalence of employer intimidation and threats. A particularly scandalous example of how “low” sweatshop abuses have become involved the Street Beat Sportswear manufacturer and its contractor, Hua Great Procetech, which was located in Sunset Park. In May 1998, Hua Great Procetech employers Jian Wen Liang and Feng Chen and about 40 others, including purported On Leung gang member Peter Yan, stormed the CSWA office and assaulted several garment workers and staff members who were attending an organizing meeting to protest months of labor law violations (Biederman, 1998; Rohde, 1998). During this confrontation, a CSWA organizer was sexually assaulted, and the intruders repeatedly issued death threats. The organizer released a press statement and mass e-mail stating that her “personal safety is only ensured by publicizing the incident.”15 CSWA worked with the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the National Mobilization Against Sweatshops to bring charges against Hua Great Procetech and Street Beat Sportswear for violating minimum wage and overtime laws, illegally firing employees, and failing to pay wages (Greenhouse, 2001; Port, 2001a, 2001b). This case represented the first on the East Coast to hold both the manufacturer and contractor accountable for worker abuses (Gonzalez, 1998; K. Kimmerling, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund Legal Director, personal communication, June 17, 2002). In turn, Street Beat Sportswear filed a $75 million lawsuit against the three organizers—CSWA, the National Mobilization Against Sweatshops, and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund —claiming that protests in front of their Midtown garment center building tarnished its relationship with retailers, Sears Roebuck and Charming Shoppes/Fashion Bug, who subsequently canceled their contracts. The Manhattan Supreme Court dismissed Street Beat Sportswear’s lawsuit on the basis that it amounted to a strategic lawsuit against public participation because it was designed to intimidate the activists from exercising their First Amendment rights (Allen, 2000; Greenhouse, 2000). About 3 years after the initial confrontation at CSWA, Hua Great Procetech owner Jian Wen Liang was fined $10,000 and sentenced to 90 days in jail after exhausting all his appeal options. In addition, Street Beat Sportswear agreed to pay $285,000 in back wages as well as $85,000 in legal fees and damages. The Street Beat Sportswear incident exposes the “chain of liability” that maintains the high level of exploitation in the daily conditions of immigrant garment workers. In this case, moving up the production chain to hold both the immigrant contractor and the manufacturer accountable was ultimately successful. However, the resolution of garment industry violations is rarely so favorable

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. . . this case illustrates that the stick approach is most effective when worker advocacy groups organize and leverage public attention to seek accountability and compensation for labor abuses.



to workers. Moreover, this case illustrates that the stick approach is most effective when worker advocacy groups organize and leverage public attention to seek accountability and compensation for labor abuses. In some incidences, government enforcement agencies try to “pass the buck,” as evidenced in another recent Brooklyn example in which similar abuses were found in a factory employing Mexican immigrant workers (Grace, 2002; Greenhouse, 2002; Port, 2002). In response to worker complaints, the federal Department of Labor initially declined to take action and advised workers to bring the case to court themselves (Port, 2002). Because the stick is underfunded and relatively weak, an effective enforcement strategy relies on a case-by-case basis, with workers organizing as an essential component to exacting economic justice. More important, this approach is often deployed after the fact to punish the offender and secure lost worker wages instead of offering meaningful solutions to prevent the “poor business practices” endemic to the garment industry (Garment Industry Development Ceorporation, hereafter GIDC, 2001a). At best, the stick approach can only seek to hold the floor on degrading manufacturing work conditions for some workers some of the time. Sustaining a viable garment industry, however, requires strategies beyond mere compliance with existing labor standards. Toward this goal, Sunset Park is simultaneously a target for high-road development. According to the 1997 Brooklyn Borough President’s study, Brooklyn Can Sew Up the Garment Industry (Golden, 1997), garment manufacturing is integral to the area’s revitalization.16 The development of Brooklyn Mills underscores the role of immigrant economies in high-road initiatives. Although the immigrant sector of Sunset Park’s garment industry is central to the local neighborhood economy, Brooklyn Mills as a strategic intervention fails to provide critical economic development assistance and leadership in addressing immigrant sweatshop conditions.

BROOKLYN MILLS: IMMIGRANT EXCLUSION IN HIGH-ROAD DEVELOPMENT? Brooklyn Mills is a significant project because it represents a multi-institutional collaboration to reinvigorate Brooklyn’s garment industry. The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, Brooklyn borough president, state Economic Development Corporation, and the GIDC are involved in developing, financing, and operating the garment manufacturers incubator. Cited as a model project to help sustain New York City’s garment industry (Bowles, 2000; Levitan, 1998), Brooklyn Mills is one phase of a reindustrialization strategy that includes creating a garment industrial park, launching a “Made in Brooklyn” campaign to promote local products in overseas markets, and confronting sweatshops through improved coordination among city, state, and federal investigative agencies (Block, 1999; Golden, 1997). Recognizing the growth potential of Brooklyn’s garment industry due to proximity to regional transportation networks; underutilized industrial space, particularly along the waterfront; and a ready labor supply, the Brooklyn Borough President’s study provided the rationale for the development of a garment manufacturers’ incubator.17 As a strategic response to “unfair competition” posed by sweatshops, the garment manufacturers’ incubator would reduce operating costs by sharing space, utilities, machinery, equipment, and administrative support and most important, would provide access to technology, capital, technical assistance in marketing, and help in developing export capacity and other industry linkages. The goal is to nurture fairly new garment manufacturers, especially in developing in-house production capacity. At the ribbon-cutting ceremony on September 22, 1999, Brooklyn borough president Howard Golden remarked, I am confident that Brooklyn Mills will become a model for other such facilities around the country. This partnership between government and business has provided the competitive edge that our small firms need to keep pace in today’s competitive global economy. (Golden, 1999) Golden allocated more than $700,000 toward the development of Brooklyn Mills. The state assembly provided $200,000. Additional funds were secured from various foundations, including

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the Independence Community Foundation, the New York Community Trust, and the Fund for the City of New York. Because Brooklyn Mills is located in Bush Terminal, a designated New York State Economic Development Zone, tenants also save on taxes when purchasing equipment or hiring new employees. Occupying 27,000 square feet of renovated industrial space, Brooklyn Mills houses seven tenant firms selected on the basis of financial viability and potential to internalize all aspects of the industry from design to small-scale production (J. Williams, Economic Development Director, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, personal communication, November 21, 2000). The tenants signed a 5-year lease after which they were expected to “graduate” and create vacancies for a new round of firms. The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce was commissioned to coordinate and manage Brooklyn Mills. The chamber has subcontracted the GIDC to develop a Quick Sew Center in Brooklyn Mills that will “serve as an information and resource center for the Southwest Brooklyn garment manufacturing community” (GIDC, 2001b, p. 1) by providing shared equipment as well as seminars and other workforce training opportunities. Although it is too early to evaluate the success of Brooklyn Mills, some cautionary notes in the development and implementation suggest that Sunset Park’s immigrant sector was marginalized. Consequently, Brooklyn Mills’s contribution to ameliorating sweatshop conditions may be quite limited. On release of the Brooklyn borough president’s report, Sunset Park’s Apparel Industry Task Force—a committee established under the auspices of the local community board representing a tenuous but critical forum of immigrant contractors, UNITE, and community organizations—saw an opportunity to secure resources to address the outstanding needs of a neighborhood economy based on a sweatshop industry. In addition to enhancing business competitiveness and expansion, the Apparel Industry Task Force advocated a garment center that would pay critical attention . . . to the cultural, social, and economic aspects of workers’ lives to accommodate the needs of the large number of Asian and Latino employees working within the industry, many of whom are newly arrived immigrants with little understanding of English, no knowledge of local resources, and little in the way of personal support. (Community Board 7 Garment Industry Task Force Sub-Committee, n.d., p. 3) Recognizing the integral relationship between workplace conditions and community well-being, the group’s broad vision addressed the neighborhood development needs of the working poor and included health care, affordable housing options, transportation, language skill assistance, and day care. Although the Apparel Industry Task Force’s participation helped garner project designation for Sunset Park, the goal of a garment center that would facilitate a comprehensive approach toward building a viable neighborhood economy has failed to materialize. The Chinese American Planning Council considered Brooklyn Mills a “closed-door deal” despite the involvement of Sunset Park’s Apparel Industry Task Force (C. Xie, Director, personal communication, September 17, 1998). Except for an invitation to the official announcement of Brooklyn Mills, Asian and Latino community leaders “received no news at all” about its planning and development (C. Xie, personal communication, September 17, 1998). The initial enthusiasm about the garment center quickly dissipated as it became apparent that the design of Brooklyn Mills “does not fit our expectations” (C. Xie, personal communication, September 17, 1998). The Apparel Industry Task Force advocated for a garment center that promoted business development as well as programs and services for immigrant workers and their families. The task force clearly recognized that the conditions of an immigrant economy required not only an industry sector solution but also a comprehensive approach building on labor and community alliances (Chen & Wong, 1998; Kelly, 1997). Brooklyn Mills illustrates the limitations in promoting conventional business development practices as a high-road strategy in the immigrant-dominated garment industry. The objective of an incubator is to nurture start-up businesses and create new jobs (Markley & McNamara, 1995). Aside from subsidizing operating costs, namely through below-market rents, the key benefits are “intangible” and include mentoring relationships, moral support, access to information, and

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. . . the goal of a garment center that would facilitate a comprehensive approach toward building a viable neighborhood economy has failed to materialize.



. . . Brooklyn Mills tenants primarily sought subsidized rent and are not interested in the intangible benefits of location or affiliation with a business incubator.

business networks (Markley & McNamara, 1995). These benefits help promote firm innovation, collaboration, and complementarity. The prognosis for Brooklyn Mills’s providing these advantages to tenant firms is poor. The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce on-site manager for Brooklyn Mills is also the group’s director of economic development. Her duties are split among many projects, leaving little time for on-site services or management. Moreover, her concept of the garment manufacturers’ incubator is strictly based on a narrow definition of market success. The selection criteria for incubator tenants were similar to those of a conventional loan application because “at the end of the day, it’s a business deal” (J. Williams, personal communication, November 21, 2000). According to the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, Brooklyn Mills tenants primarily sought subsidized rents and are not interested in the intangible benefits of location or affiliation with a business incubator. This observation is affirmed by a GIDC survey that found “4 of the 6 tenants in Brooklyn Mills were either unwilling to meet with the GIDC or decisively not interested in any services that could be provided in the facility” (GIDC, 2001a, p. 7). Clearly, the priority of Brooklyn Mills tenants was to reduce the cost of conducting business. They considered the key attraction to locating in the business incubator to be subsidized rents rather than the added benefits and opportunities to improve business practices. Brooklyn Mills tenants generated few if any employment opportunities. Four of the firms do in-house production; the rest are jobbers who do no production work at all. In total, about 30 employees work in Brooklyn Mills. Because they were already working for the firms that relocated to the business incubator, there has been no direct or spin-off job creation in the community to date.18 Brooklyn Mills’s Quick Sew Center provides a venue for the GIDC to expand its services and establish a presence in the outer boroughs where the garment industry is growing.19 Based on interviews with local contractors, manufacturers, and economic development institutions, the GIDC recommended the following services: bulletin boards to post notices about equipment exchange and repair, employment opportunities, and real estate availability; training in basic sewing skills, specialty machine operation skills, and sewing machine maintenance and repair; and a contractors certification seminar to provide instruction in garment pricing and financing sources. These services are similar to those offered at the GIDC’s Fashion Modernization Center in Manhattan Chinatown.20 Equipped with 30 sewing machines, the Quick Sew Center opened in September 2001 by offering a 15-week sewing skills course to about 15 neighborhood garment workers. Funding has since run out, and currently, there are no prospects for additional resources necessary to continue its operation (Geri Jasper, director of economic development, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, personal communication, April 15, 2002). Although upgrading worker skills is essential, the prospect of worker training in an industry with virtually no career ladders begs the question of the larger dilemma of innovative job creation and worker training strategies in immigrant economies.21 The planning and implementation of Brooklyn Mills represents a critical missed opportunity to continue and build on the collaboration initiated by the local Apparel Industry Task Force to convene all stakeholders in a declining industry that nonetheless remains the cornerstone of an immigrant neighborhood economy. Brooklyn Mills has failed to serve as a high-road development strategy and has had no measurable impact on Sunset Park’s garment industry. Lacking a “higher level of services” (B. Shockney, executive director, the Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation, personal communication, April 5, 2002), Brooklyn Mills merely subsidizes rents, providing a necessary but certainly not sufficient intervention to promote improved garment production practices. The Quick Sew Center also represents a missed opportunity to advance labor and community alliances that are necessary to incubate and implement meaningful and comprehensive strategies for immigrant economic development. Clearly, one project cannot be a panacea to the multiple issues of sweatshop economies. The significance of Brooklyn Mills highlights the limitations of industry high-road strategies to address the community development needs of Asian and Latino immigrant economies. The prevalent form of garment production in New York is based on the cheap labor of risk-taking immigrant business owners and their coethnic workers. Brooklyn Mills underscores the mismatch of conventional economic development tools due to poor planning and lack of commitment to effectively

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assist a marginalized immigrant sector. Without sound economic development intervention, small immigrant contractors will continue along the low road of garment production where marginal profits are based on squeezing labor. This is an especially significant challenge in a climate where even a high-road development strategy is only slightly better than compliance with existing labor laws.

CONCLUSION Sunset Park’s neighborhood economy is embedded in the economic restructuring of New York City. The decline of Sunset Park’s waterfront industries in the 1960s was related to the massive and fundamental shift in New York City’s economic base from manufacturing to service-related industries. Moreover, the reindustrialization of Sunset Park is centered on downgraded manufacturing where the key competitive advantage is cheap domestic labor in the form of risk-taking entrepreneurs and exploited workers. Despite the steady decline of manufacturing jobs, the influx of Asian and Latino immigrants has enabled New York City to hold on to the garment industry. Sunset Park’s informal economy is a key link in this global assembly line by providing cheap rents, easy access to regional transportation networks, and a vulnerable, largely nonunionized labor supply. The investment dollars in Brooklyn Mills was relatively modest, but given that public resources are rare in communities such as Sunset Park, it nonetheless represents a significant economic development initiative. The development of Brooklyn Mills demonstrates how the state intervenes in mediating the effects of globalization in immigrant communities. On one hand, the state acts as a policing entity to enforce labor laws and regulate the conditions in the sweatshop economy. At the same time, the state has not allocated resources to meaningfully address immigrant community development needs. This is reflected not only in the question of whether conventional economic development strategies, such as a business incubator, are appropriate forms of public investment for Sunset Park’s immigrant economy but also in how community involvement in the development process has been essentially token at best. Enforcement of standard labor practices is necessary to combat the prevalence of sweatshops in New York City’s garment industry. However, this stick is largely felt by the most vulnerable sectors of the garment production chain. Similar to the criticism that the American labor movement has failed to address the issues and concerns of immigrant workers, economic development policy and institutions have also failed to adequately respond to the needs of immigrant economies concentrated in marginal industry sectors (Kwong, 1996). The exclusion of immigrant economies in highroad development strategies is based on two distinct ideological perspectives that ultimately provide the rationalization for institutional and policy neglect. The first perspective argues immigrant exceptionalism, which promotes immigrant social ties and ethnic solidarity that neutralize class divisions to attain collective and shared interests in economic survival and mobility. The other perspective recognizes class exploitation and projects immigrant entrepreneurs as “unfair” and “illegitimate” competitors engaged in low-road strategies who therefore are undeserving of economic development assistance. Both views fail to critique the positioning of immigrant economic sectors in the very bottom of a hierarchical production chain. The garment industry is central to the economic livelihood of Sunset Park immigrant residents. However, local conditions indicate the prevalence of sweatshops and the related social and economic costs of working poverty and worker abuses. Chinese immigrants exploit extremely risky and marginal sectors primarily because there are no other alternatives. In contrast, Korean garment contractors are opting for other industries because of the cutthroat competition. As a state Department of Labor official explained, “The Chinese have exploitation down to a science” (L. Vanegas, personal communication, November 30, 2000). Chinese contractors will accept an unreasonable bid knowing that their slim profit margins will be eked out by “sweating” coethnic workers. The GIDC’s (2001a) studies show that “most contractors accept orders to sew garments without really understanding the true cost of production” (p. 5). Increasingly, there is acknowledgement that manufacturers also bear responsibility because they must be aware that contractors simply cannot complete a job and pay workers fair wages at extremely low bids.

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As a high-road development strategy in this economic context, the significance of Brooklyn Mills raises broader dilemmas in the feasibility of sustaining manufacturing jobs in a globalized industry, the availability of institutional resources for immigrant workforce and economic development, and the need to reconceptualize assets in neighborhoods where small business ownership is common but the goals of equity, sustainable development, livable wages, and community wealth remain elusive. As the GIDC (2001a) recommended, “The challenge for Brooklyn is to try to upgrade these businesses into legal operations rather than eliminate employment through enforcement” (p. 5). In addition to the stick, clearly, carrots must also be applied to the immigrant sector of the garment industry. To do this effectively, Brooklyn Mills illustrates the need to reconcile a heightening mismatch in conventional economic development solutions and the outstanding needs of immigrant economies.

NOTES 1. The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks have deepened this crisis, particularly for manufacturing contractors located in Manhattan Chinatown. See the Asian American Federation of New York (2002). 2. An advantage for domestic production is niche markets and high-end fashion products, especially because foreign manufacturing requires long lead times that preclude the creativity and flexibility best mined when showrooms and production facilities are nearby, as examined in recent research by Norma Rantisi (2000). Additional factors favoring small designers as a result of the September 11, 2001, tragedies are examined in Gina Bellafante’s (2001) The New York Times article. 3. Mark Levitan (1998) used the phrase “carrots and sticks” in his 1998 study of New York City’s garment industry. 4. A recent example of legislative action is the Apparel Workers’Protection Act passed by the New York State Assembly in July 2001. This act authorizes the labor commissioner to publish listings of noncompliant manufacturers and contractors on the Internet and grants a special apparel industry task force powers to evacuate and close any premises in serious violation of the fire code. 5. I use data analysis and in-depth interviews in this study of Sunset Park’s garment industry. Data from the 1980 and 1990 Public Use Microdata Sample (U.S. Census Bureau, 1990), 1990-1997 Immigration and Naturalization Services Public Use Files (U.S. Department of Justice, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997), county business patterns data (U. S. Census Bureau, 1980a, 1992, 1997, 1999, 2000), and the New York State Department of Labor (1999-2000) ES-202 data were used to compile a profile of garment manufacturing establishments and employees, including labor force characteristics. In-depth, face-to-face interviews were conducted with staff members of the Garment Industry Development Corporation (GIDC), the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, the Asian American Business Development Corporation, the United Needletrades, Industrial, and Textile Employees (UNITE), and local community organizations including the Kings County Apparel Association, Community Board 7, and the Chinese American Planning Council. In addition, meeting minutes from the now defunct Apparel Industry Task Force of Community Board 7 provided important documentation of community goals and discussion on the garment industry. 6. In addition, 10% of apparel employment was made up of precision production occupations such as tailors, pattern makers, layout workers, and cutters. The apparel industry also generated a fair share of nonproduction jobs, such as sales representatives, bookkeepers, shipping and office clerks, and managerial and designer jobs. 7. A sweatshop is defined as “an employer that violates more than one federal or state labor law governing minimum wage and overtime, child labor, industrial homework, occupational safety and health, workers’ compensation, or industry regulation” (refer to the New York State Department of Labor Web site, garment.asp). 8. Staff members of the GIDC and the Chinese Workers and Staff Association confirmed that it is common practice for workers not to be paid for up to 5 weeks at a time. This practice may be more acute in New York City. A conversation with Lora Jo Foo, cofounder of Sweatshop Watch in Oakland, California, noted that employers owing back wages is not as prevalent in Los Angeles or Oakland (personal communication, June 14, 2001). 9. A summary of the compliance report findings are available at whd/ny070699.htm. 10. A GIDC 2001 internal report notes that in the 2 years before, more than 18 buildings housing garment contractors in Manhattan Chinatown had been vacated. 11. This figure is based on legal immigration and does not include undocumented immigrants. Community leaders and residents claim that the number of undocumented immigrants, in particular the Fukienese, is increasing dramatically in Sunset Park. This pattern was observed by Kwong (1996). 12. Approximately one third of new immigrants who did not hold a job were homemakers (36%), unemployed or retired (33%), or students (31%). The Immigration and Naturalization Service lumps those who were unemployed or retired in the country of origin into one category. 13. The Apparel Industry Task Force is no longer a subcommittee of Community Board 7. In a personal interview, current District Manager Jeremy Laufer said there was no interest in reviving the committee. 14. UNITE’s Garment Workers Center closed a year or so afterward because of funding issues and the departure of key staff member Dan Yun Feng, who had made significant inroads with various neighborhood institutions, including the

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contractors group Kings County Apparel Association. The closure of the Sunset Park Garment Workers Center represents a significant void in UNITE’s organizing strategies and perhaps its growing irrelevance in mobilizing workers. 15. Trinh Duong’s statement is available at 16. This study and related press releases issued by the Brooklyn Borough president’s office are available at http:// 17. According to a recent study conducted by the Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development (2001), Brooklyn contains the largest share of New York City’s manufacturing land uses. 18. Jacqui Williams, director of economic development for the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and the manager of Brooklyn Mills, noted that the incubator was not a true incubator because not all tenant firms were start-ups. In fact, some had been in business for up to 10 years. 19. The GIDC has been searching for the opportunity to expand outside Manhattan for many years. Lin (1998) described GIDC’s exploratory efforts to expand its services in Bush Terminal during the late 1980s and early 1990s. 20. Located on 193 Centre Street in Manhattan, the GIDC’s Fashion Industry Modernization Center opened in 1998, providing demonstrations on modern production equipment and offering worker and management training classes. 21. This dilemma is at the forefront of discussions on rebuilding Chinatown’s neighborhood economy in the aftermath of September 11. See the Asian American Federation of New York (2002).

REFERENCES Abeles, Schwartz, Haeckel, & Silverblatt, Inc. (1983). The Chinatown garment industry study. Unpublished monograph for Local 23-25, International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, and the New York Skirt and Sportswear Association. AFL-CIO Working for America Institute. (2002). High road partnerships report: Innovations in building good jobs and strong communities. Retrieved August 22, 2002, from HighRoadReport/highroadreport.htm Allen, M. (2000, October 31). Organizers for clothing workers win legal round. New York Daily News, p. 1. Asian American Federation of New York. (2002). Chinatown after September 11th: An economic impact study. Available from Bagli, C. (1998, March 2). Holding on in the Garment Center. New York Times. Available from Bellafante, G. (2001, November 6). Some new talents gain as stores buy American. New York Times, p. D9. Biederman, M. (1998, September 6). Anti-sweatshop group targets Sears. New York Times. Available from http://www. Block, V. (1999, September 27). Stitch in time buoys Brooklyn firms: Incubator offers home to industry as part of plan to save apparel jobs. Crain’s New York. Bowles, J. (2000). The empire has no clothes: Rising real estate prices and declining city support threatens the future of New York’s apparel industry. The Center for an Urban Future. Retrieved June 27, 2002, from econdev/clothes.htm Browning, E. S. (1994, May 31). A new Chinatown grows in Brooklyn. Wall Street Journal, p. B1. Buford, B. (1999, April 26). Sweat is good: The hidden apparel of America’s ugliest industry. The New Yorker, pp. 130-139. Caro, R. (1974). The power broker: Robert Moses and the fall of New York. New York: Random House. Casimir, L. (2000, February 3). Year of silicon dragon: Booming internet biz pushing Asians from Chinatown. New York Daily News, p. 29. Center for Economic and Social Rights. (1999). Treated like slaves: Donna Karan, Inc. violates women workers’ human rights. Retrieved March 21, 2002, from Chang, S. Y. (2002, January 2-8). Harsh reality hits makers of fairy-tale gowns, Chinatown factory faces eviction. The Village Voice. Retrieved January 7, 2003, from Chapple, K. (1999). Economic development policy for apparel manufacturing in San Francisco. Economic Development Quarterly, 13, 78-96. Chen, M., & Wong, K. (1998). The challenge of diversity and inclusion in the AFL-CIO. In G. Mantsios (Ed.), A new labor movement for the new century (pp. 213-231). New York: Monthly Review Press. Community Board 7 Garment Industry Task Force Sub-Committee. (n.d.). [Internal report on the work and recommendations of the committee] (Concept paper). Brooklyn: Brooklyn Apparel Center. Conway, M., & Loker, S. (1999). The Garment Industry Development Corporation: A case study of a sector employment approach. Washington, DC: Aspen Institute. Curan, C. (1999, September 27). Stitch in time buoys Brooklyn firms: Incubator offers home to industry as part of plan to save apparel jobs. Crain’s New York, p. 4. Dallas, G. (1991, September 15). A rainbow grows in Sunset Park’s many cultures. New York Daily News, p. KSI 3. Fashion Center Business Improvement District. (2000). Economic profile 2000. New York: The Fashion Center. Freeman, J. (2000). Working class New York: Life and labor since World War II. New York: The New Press. Garment Industry Development Corporation. (2001a). Phase 1: Target market GIDC/Brooklyn Mills project. Unpublished internal document. Garment Industry Development Corporation. (2001b). Report No. 2: GIDC/Brooklyn Mills. Unpublished internal document.

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Golden, H. (1997). Brooklyn can sew up the garment industry: Recommendations for the future of the garment manufacturing industry in Brooklyn. Brooklyn: Borough President of Brooklyn. Golden, H. (1999, September 22). Remarks by Borough President Howard Golden at ribbon cutting ceremony for Brooklyn Mills Garment Manufacturing Incubator. Retrieved February 20, 2001, from bklynnewsltr/Garment.htm Gonzalez, E. (1998, May 5). Fired garment workers hit shop, others in suit. New York Daily News, p. 2. Grace, M. (2002, March 22). Feds ripped in wage case. New York Daily News, p. 1. Greenhouse, S. (2000, October 26). Advocacy groups win. New York Times. Available from Greenhouse, S. (2001, February 12). 3 workers accuse apparel maker of forcing unpaid overtime. New York Times. Available from Greenhouse, S. (2002, May 2). U.S. sues a sweater factory after a pop singer assails it. New York Times. Available from http:/ / Herman, B. (2001). How high-road partnerships work. Social Policy, 31(3). Retrieved August 22, 2002, from http:// Howe, M. (1987, September 13). City’s third Chinatown is emerging in Brooklyn. New York Times. Available at http:// Kadet, A. (2000, February-March). New dawn in Sunset Park. Brooklyn Bridge, pp. 64-71. Kelly, R. (1997). The new urban working class and organized labor. New Labor Forum, 1(6), 1-18. Kwong, P. (1987). The new Chinatown. New York: Hill and Wang. Kwong, P. (1996). Forbidden workers: Illegal Chinese immigrants and American labor. New York: The New Press. Levitan, M. (1998). Opportunity at work: The New York City garment industry. New York: Community Service Society of New York. Lii, J. (1995, March 12). A special report: Week in sweatshop reveals grim conspiracy of the poor. New York Times. Available from Lin, J. (1998). Reconstructing Chinatown: Ethnic enclave, global change. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Lobbia, J. A. (2001, July 4-10). A case study in displacement on Elizabeth Street, warning: Gentrification in progress. The Village Voice. Retrieved January 7, 2003, from Markley, D., & McNamara, K. (1995). Economic and fiscal impacts of a business incubator. Economic Development Quarterly, 9, 273-278. New York Industrial Retention Network. (1999). The little manufacturer that could: Opportunities and challenges to manufacturing in New York City. Available from New York Industrial Retention Network. (2001). The garment center: Still in fashion, a land use analysis of the special garment center district. Available from New York State Assembly Sub-Committee on Sweatshops. (1997). Behind closed doors: A look into the underground sweatshop industry. Unpublished monograph. New York State Assembly Sub-Committee on Sweatshops. (1999). Behind closed doors 2: Another look into the underground sweatshop industry. Unpublished monograph. New York State Department of Labor. (1999-2000). ES-202 data. Unpublished raw data. New York State Department of Labor. (2001). Garment manufacturers and contractors registration database. Retrieved August 29, 2002, from Oser, A. (1996. December 1). Immigrants again renew Sunset Park. New York Times. Available from http://www. Port, B. (2001a, February 12). Sweatshop suit today: Garment workers to file. New York Daily News, p. 8. Port, B. (2001b, March 6). Buttonholed at last: Appeals exhausted, sweatshop owner jailed and fined. New York Daily News, p. 11. Port, B. (2002, April 26). Fired worker rips feds says government fails to stop sweatshop abuse. New York Daily News, p. 5. Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development. (2001). Making it in New York: The Manufacturing Land Use and Zoning Initiative (Prepared for the Municipal Art Society of New York). Brooklyn, NY: Author. Proper, C. (1997). New York: Defending the union contract. In A. Ross (Ed.), No sweat, fashion, free trade and the rights of garment workers (pp. 173-199). London: Verso. Rantisi, N. (2000, November 2-5). How new industrial districts revive older ones: Locating the “lower east side” in the NYC garment district’s innovation system. Paper prepared for the 42nd annual conference of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning, Atlanta, Georgia. Robaton, A. (1996, September 26). Chinese stake out Sunset Park rebuilding Brooklyn neighborhood. Crain’s New York, p. 30. Rohde, D. (1998, June 12). Factory chief faces charges of labor abuse. New York Times. Available from http://www. Sandberg, L. (1997, January 3). Center toils for sweatshop workers. New York Daily News, p. KSI 1. Santiago, R. (1999, September 23). Garment center for Brooklyn. New York Daily News, p. 2. Soyer, D. (1999, spring/summer). Garment sweatshops, then and now. New Labor Forum, pp. 35-46. Sullivan, M. (1993). Puerto Ricans in Sunset Park, Brooklyn: Poverty amidst ethnic and economic diversity. In J. Moore (Ed.), In the Barrios: Latinos and the underclass debate (pp. 1-25). New York: Russell Sage. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2002). Occupational employment statistics. Retrieved November 18, 2002, from http://

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U.S. Census Bureau. (1980a). County business patterns. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Commerce. Available from U.S. Census Bureau. (1980b). Public use microdata sample. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Commerce. U.S. Census Bureau. (1990). Public use microdata sample. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Commerce. U.S. Census Bureau. (1992). County business patterns. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Commerce. Available from U.S. Census Bureau. (1997). County business patterns. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Commerce. Available from U.S. Census Bureau. (1999). County business patterns. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Commerce. Available from U.S. Census Bureau. (2000). County business patterns. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Commerce. Available from U.S. Department of Justice. (1990). Immigrant public use tapes. Washington, DC: Author. U.S. Department of Justice. (1991). Immigrant public use tapes. Washington, DC: Author. U.S. Department of Justice. (1992). Immigrant public use tapes. Washington, DC: Author. U.S. Department of Justice. (1993). Immigrant public use tapes. Washington, DC: Author. U.S. Department of Justice. (1994). Immigrant public use tapes. Washington, DC: Author. U.S. Department of Justice. (1995). Immigrant public use tapes. Washington, DC: Author. U.S. Department of Justice. (1996). Immigrant public use tapes. Washington, DC: Author. U.S. Department of Justice. (1997). Immigrant public use tapes. Washington, DC: Author. Waldinger, R. (1986). Through the eye of the needle: Immigrants and enterprise in New Yorkâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s garment industry. New York: New York University Press. Waldinger, R. (1990). Ethnic business in Sunset Park. In L. Winnick (Ed.), New people in old neighborhoods (pp. 249-271). New York: Russell Sage. Winnick, L. (1990). New people in old neighborhoods. New York: Russell Sage.

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This series of diagrams are simple graphics to contextualize Sunset Park within the Brooklyn and within the New York City booroughs.




This is a series of graphs to map the shifts in demographics across both Brooklyn and Sunset Park between 2000 and 2010. In relation to La Union, these graphs show the imposing groups bordering and pushing out the Latino population, indicating a need for a stronger presence to resist these pressures.


WHAT IS CONFLICT? cognitive mapping


Who is the main character in the city?

main character


makes the invisible visible










as strategy the opposition destruction Who is the opposition in the city?



interchangeabl cyclical productive?

Is complete dest needed for co renewal? Can you the same effect i extremes are not po 343

how is this determined?


Good can be used for evil





capitalism wrong

egy? renewal good




Can we use evil for good?


no one can agree on what is property unjust

Why does evil exist?


Jeremy Benthamâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Le gi s l at i o n

e? A cognitive map looking into how conflict and all its implications can be used as a tool to expose the issues at hand and to be utilized for greater improvement.

destruction complete you create t if such t possible? 344

CONFLICT-ID Everyday we consume numerous texts and images that represent ongoing conflicts and disputes. Although not too consciously, most of us are completely accustomed to the rhetorical vocabulary that is often used. What do these textual and visual messages actually tell us? Do they give us an objective insight or do they merely tell us something about the representation of conflict in general? The problem is rooted in the actual consumption of these messages. The independence of a western recipient is always questionable. In one way or another we are influenced by our roots. And so it is that for the Western world, most representations of western power have a trustworthy connotation. One might not support certain political or social convictions, but the basic vocabulary that represents Western power is common ground. Consciously or subconsciously we simply know how to interpret most signs and symbols. We only ask questions about sincerity when unconventional components enter these preconceived messages. Simple common sense or generalizations take over; leaders become despots, the good cause turns into a questionable form of corruption and the message is interpreted as propaganda. This is even more imminent when we are confronted with representations of non-Western power. Every exotic adjective or unconventional variation colors our perception. A portrait that is a bit too polished is taken as an indication for a totalitarian regime and a display of power that is a little bit too obnoxious for our taste is interpreted as a sign of an unstable situation. What is the actual situation and what other messages do we contract from our cultural perspective? The known and unknown in any given situation define how we interpret most representations of conflict. The same goes for the images and texts that directly represent aggression, violence and despair. Graphic depictions of conflicts are hard to ignore. But do we truly understand them? Most Western societies do not know what actual violence means. Our closest reference might be an argument, an accident or an exceptional eruption of aggression. The impact of real destruction, actual life-threatening situations and the unbearable insecurity that goes with it cannot be understood in a metaphorical representation. However, we cannot deny the compulsive thrill we sometimes experience when a violent message is consumed. The entertainment industry has been exploiting this feeling for years. With the introduction of modern communication tools this compulsive urge has found a new platform. The representation of conflict is democratized by popular demand. Within this context a journalist or press-agency no longer defines what the image of a conflict is. Everyone reports and not a single graphic detail is left out. Yes, you might get a better insight, but inaccuracy and hype become more important. Eventually only the incomprehensive thrills remain. TodaysArt has invited the theme ‘conflict’ to the city of peace and justice. Again one could ask him or herself what these adjectives actually stand for. One wonders why The Hague is actively marketing itself this way. For the average Western person, the fact that the city claims this part of conflict for itself is probably a positive thing and interpreted as The Hague wanting to promote peace and justice. Others might interpret it as simply a matter of marketing. “Peace and Justice” is the marketing equivalent of “Conflict” and the message it sends out has a Western connotation and morality. One could feel that it is dubious for a city to claim the name ‘city of peace and justice’ instead of having others claim it for them. Again, the vocabulary can be lost in translation. There is no right or wrong. Only the obnoxious game of interpretation truly says something about the identity of conflict. Peter Zuiderwijk



There are some very interesting things at play here. Beginning with Teddy Cruz’s video to describe the use of conflict actual being a motivator and tool and exposing conflict in general. Teddy Cruz does work focused on the “political equator” and the controversies that surround the cities of the Mexican border. Paralleling many of the mission so our work with La Union... how can this begin to translate? Finding “Hidden value” and “making the invisible visible” are both very interesting ideas. In addition, “exposing territorial power” may not necessarily apply well to the terms of La Union, but how can these forces be described? Thinking of conflict as a tool moving forward with this process is a powerful notion.

Teddy Cruz: The value of an image is opened up here—what our tools of representation mean. We’re trying to find our role as architects and retool ourselves to engage conflicts and crises, the conditions that are really reshaping the discourse. On one hand, our field has been burdened, as many artistic fields, with the metaphorical. So we run the risk of images that are just images— they may just be emblematic.





Surface occupation was an investigation of using formative techniques to use a surface as a community organizational tool and cultural identifier.



P U O R G O L E V E D 351

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P T N E M P O 352


Towards Common Property in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, NY (PGUD 5180) Parsons The New School for Design Design and Urban Ecologies Studio 1 Fall 2012 Mondays, 9:00am-2:40pm 6 East 16th Street, Room 1200 FACULTY TEAM: Miguel Robles-Durรกn Meeting by Appointment Alessandro Angelini Meeting by Appointment David Harvey Meeting by Appointment COLLABORATORS: Tom Angotti, Frank Morales, Paula Z. Segal, Peter Marcuse, Angel Luis Lara. I. Definition Urban Forensics is the application of dialectical research methods and actions to the investigation and later transformation of a concrete urban injustice. Its aim is to construct a relational way of understanding critical urbanization processes by transgressing traditional disciplinary boundaries, conducting broad fieldwork, engaging with urban movements and designing strategic actions for challenging the reproduction of an urban ecology.


II. Project Description “Originally, life in the community and, through its mediation, the relationship to the earth as property, are basic presuppositions of the reproduction both of the individual and of the community. Among pastoral peoples, land and soil appear merely as precondition of the migratory life, hence appropriation does not take place. Fixed settlements with soil cultivation follow – thus landed property is initially held in common, and even where it advances to private property the individuals’ connection to it appears as posited by his relation to the community. It appears as a mere fief of the community; etc. etc. The transformation of the latter into mere exchangeable value – its mobilization – is the product of capital and of the complete subordination of the state organism to it.” -Karl Marx, The Grundrisse notebook 8, 1858.

The relation between property–fixed capital–its exchange value and urbanization under contemporary capitalism establishes the general critical frame of this semester’s design studio, under this frame, the goal is to understand, negate and speculate the counter-production of communal and non-speculative forms of property, which in principle contradict the systemic forms that urban development has taken. In short, our focus will be the conception of alternative forms of property and their larger impact in the urban environment.

The development of this studio was inspired by the numerous urgent discussions on property generated by the mass mobilization of the Occupy Wall Street movement and the exchanges with many actors and organizations that conformed the urban struggle. Out of these exchanges a strong relationship with a non-profit organization for social justice from Brooklyn named “La Union” began to emerge. We not only coincided in our desire for an organized anti-capitalist struggle for urban rights, but also in their search for radically new socio-spatial development possibilities. La Unión is based in the neighborhood of Sunset Park (Brooklyn), one of New York City’s largest Mexican immigrant neighborhoods. It is a grassroots organization of people of the global south working to advance the social, economic, and cultural rights of the communities where they now live and the communities they left behind. The 600 members of La Unión are predominantly from the Mixteca region of Mexico and immigrants from across Latin America and even though its member base is large, the organization operates in a very precarious situation. The usual lack of funding and member disorganization hunts La Union on a daily basis, but this has not stopped it from developing a small Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), working on fixing the current broken immigration system through comprehensive immigration reform, improving public education for immigrant families through parent and student organizing, and fighting for various environmental and social justice issues such as safe housing and access to healthy foods. What is stopping La Union is their nomadic status and the impossibility of acquiring a permanent or temporary space for its operations. Today, La Union moves from Church to Church, from Community Center to Family Clinic to the Street, nomadism has its benefits but the type of militant work that La Union focuses on urgently requires a base. By digging deep into the intricacies of general property and the idea of “common” property, this studio aims to address La Union’s need for acquiring and transforming property into


common property, together with an urgent reconfiguration of urban practice and the need to provoke like minded individuals and organizations into claiming their right to reconstruct their environment according to the socially just principles they profess. This studio will ask of you, the student, to take an active role in the construction of an urban project based on the reconfiguration of property, something that is not common practice but that must be one of the major transformative drivers of our design disciplines if we want to ever see a radical shift in the way cities are built, outside the control of large powers and the interests of neoliberal capital.


III, Working Framework and Course Organization The general working framework for this project emerges from a dialectical understanding of critical and practical processes of urbanization, as well as its engagements with multiple disciplinary positions, institutions, society and all the individual behaviors that construct contemporary urban life. We want to call for a radical expansion of knowledge and most importantly of action that revolves around the critical dynamics of property in contemporary urbanization. For achieving this we propose three compact instances of research and action: (see diagram of Forensics Operations) A. General and Localized Forensics (10 weeks). A dialectical investigation into the critical urbanization processes thrusted by different modalities in land tenure. The objective of this phase is to develop research and fieldwork frameworks that have a capacity to grasp and operate inside the deep structures of a highly complex urban problem/situation. B. Process Design (5 weeks). The elaboration of active design frameworks that can define necessary components and processes for the collective acquiring of a recommended property for La Union, as well as for producing strategic ruptures or alterations to the ordinary land tenure statutes. It should be noted that it is not the goal of this first studio to design fully applicable processes (a bit unrealistic to achieve in 15 weeks), simply put, the overall goal will be to thoroughly introduce the design of relational/ecological processes for transforming urban conditions. C. Forensic Report & General Strategy for Occupation (Final review). The presentation of the semester’s work in front of a selected panel of interlocutors, the delivery of the General Strategies to La Union and the delivery of the Final Forensic Report. The day will conclude with a public group + panelists discussion. In order to be able to understand the urban impact of land tenure and its localized complexities, we will work in collaboration with La Unión, Parsons, yourselves and other partners who will join our team along the way. The intention is that all the players working together will function as an active think tank to produce a thorough study of the way property under capitalism shapes urban environments, as well as possible alternatives of socially just and dynamic forms of tenure. After understanding the property prescriptions, processes and agents that affect the city and most specifically Sunset Park, you will be asked to design alternative relational processes that La Union will have to follow for acquiring the common space needed for sustaining and expanding its urban operations. Group operation. The group will be divided in teams of four/five, each team will be responsible for dialectically addressing specific segments of the Parallel Components listed in section IV of this syllabus, an operative diagram of this division will be co-developed in class, following this schema of organization:



IV. Parallel Components of the Forensic Project 1. Theorizing Common Property (10 Sessions of Readings and Discussions) Political Economy -Harvey, D. Limits to Capital, Chapter 8 “Fixed Capital” -Locke, J. Second Treatise of Government, Ch. 5 “On Property” -Marx, K. Capital vol. 2, -Marx, K. Grundrisse -Mangabeira-Unger, R., Politics: The Central Texts, Ch.12 “Economic Reorganization” and Ch.13 “The System of Rights”. -Harvey, D. Rebel Cities, Ch.4 “The Art of Rent” Policy / Politics -NYC Right to the City Alliance, “People Without Homes and Homes Without People: A Count of Vacant Condos in Select NYC Neighborhoods” -Goodman, R., After the Planners, Ch.3 and Ch.4 “The Urban Industrial Complex”. -Salins, P. D., The Ecology of Housing Destruction, Ch.2 “The Housing Market” and Ch.6 “The Marginal Real Estate Market”. -Angotti, T., New York for Sale, Ch. 2 “The Real Estate Capital of the World”. -Weber, R., Extracting Value from the City: Neoliberalism and Urban Redevelopment, Legality -Proudhon, P. J., What Is Property?, Ch.1 “Method Pursued in this Work: The Idea of a Revolution” and Ch.4 “That Property is Impossible” -Grossi, P. An Alternative to Private Property: Collective Property in the Juridical Consciousness of the Nineteenth Century (excerpt) -Sprankling, J. G., Understanding Property Law, Ch.1 “What is “Property”?” -Rose, C. “The Comedy of the Commons: Commerce, Custom, and Inherently Public Property” Directions and Logistics -Goodman, R., After the Planners, Ch.6 “The Scientific Method: Salvation from Politics” and Ch.7 “Toward Liberation”. -Angotti, T., New York for Sale, Ch.8 “Progressive Directions for Community Planners”. -Lazar, S. El Alto, Rebel City: Self and Citizenship in Andean Bolivia. Ch. 1 & 2. Cultural Dimensions -Ward, C., Cotters and Squatters: Housing’s Hidden History, Ch.12 “On the Far Side of Enclosure”, Ch.13 “Plotters and Squatters of the 20th Century” and Ch.14 “The Land is Whose?” -van Heeswikj, J., “The Artist Will Have to Decide Whom to Serve” -Gidwani, V., and A. Baviskar. 2011. “Urban Commons.” Economic & Political Weekly 46:42-43. -Hardt and Negri, Commonwealth, Part I “Republic and the Multitude of the Poor” Environmental Positions -Bookchin, M., Social Ecology and Communalism, Ch. 1 “What is Social Ecology?” -Heynen, N. C., M. Kaika, and E. Swyngedouw. In the Nature of Cities: Urban Political Ecology and the Politics of Urban Metabolism, Ch. 1 “Urban Political Ecology”


-Ross, A., Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World’s Least Sustainable City, Ch. 3 “The Battle for Downtown” -Hardin, G. “The Tragedy of the Commons” Spatial Transformation -Lefebvre, H., “The Right to the City” -Hall, P., Cities in Civilization, Ch. 28 “The City of Capitalism Rampant” -Harvey, D., Paris, Capital of Modernity, Ch.4 “The Organization of Space Relations”, Ch.5 “Money, Credit and Finance” and Ch.6 “Rent and the Propertied Interest”. -Cruz, T., Rethinking Housing, Citizenship and Property -Smith, N., Uneven Development: Nature, Capital, and the Production of Space, Ch.3 “The Production of Space”. Action/Resistance -Castells, M., The Urban Question, Section 5 “The Urban Process”. -Harvey, D., Rebel Cities, Ch. 3 “The Creation of the Urban Commons” and Ch.5 “Reclaiming the City for Anti-Capitalist Struggle” -Robles-Duran, M., Unitary Urbanism: A citizens’ occupation 2. Investigations on Irregular Land Tenure: Status, Rights and Exclusions Abandoned property: Property found in a place where the legal owner likely intended to leave it, but is in such a condition that it is apparent that he or she has no intention of returning to claim it. Abandoned or “blighted” property generally becomes the property of whoever should find it and take possession of it first, although some states have enacted statutes under which certain kinds of abandoned property become the property of the state. Foreclosed property: Foreclosure is the process of reclaiming title to property that has been sold under the terms of a mortgage loan, and for which the borrower has ceased to make payments. Foreclosures have become increasingly common with the decline in real estate values and the recent economic recession. Property in litigation: Legal disputes that pertain to the right of property use between users and other organizations or persons in connection with the appropriation or withdrawal of land from the users, with the system of land management, and with the exercising of other functions of disposal and control of the land. Government property: Assets owned by federal, state or local governments. This may include residential, commercial and industrial land, as well as other physical assets, such as machinery. Property may become government-owned property through normal purchases or if it is foreclosed on for failure to pay taxes, or for other reasons. Government-owned property may also refer to the property administered by the federal government, such as consulate buildings and embassies. Property that is owned by the government is typically exempt from being taxed. Environmental designation/protection: areas which receive protection because of their recognised natural, ecological and/or cultural values that are in a state of degradation or contamination. The Environmental Protection Act 1990 defines “contaminated land” as “any land which appears to the local authority in whose


area the land is situated to be in such a condition, by reason of substances in, on or under the land, that significant harm is being caused or there is a significant possibility of such harm being caused; or pollution of controlled waters is being, or is likely to be, caused.” Heritage designation/protection: Any building, structure or site that is of interest for its architectural, historical, cultural, environmental, archaeological, palaeontological, aesthetic or scientific value. UNESCO categorizes heritage sites as either “natural” or “cultural” to include geological formations, habitats of threatened species, monuments, buildings, and archaeological sites of “outstanding universal value.” Homelessness: Approximately 3.5 million people (including 1.35 million children) become homeless each year in the U.S., but the vast majority of homeless persons are temporarily homeless. Police have often confiscated homeless people’s belongings during sweeps, but several court decisions have upheld the property rights of the homeless, including their right to occupy urban spaces. Squatting: Under a U.S. legal doctrine known as adverse possession, squatters can claim ownership over property that they continuously occupy over a given period of time. Usually occupation must last at least 10 years (or much longer, depending on state law), making this an unrealistic option for the vast majority. Some urban movements, however, have successfully used the concept of squatters' rights as an argument in favor of allowing homeless and low-income persons to claim unused property. 3. Common Property? Understanding what exists. Classic Common property: Property held jointly by two or more owners. In the U.S. much common property law pertains to the rights of married couples or natural resources owned and managed collectively by a community or society rather than by individuals. Common property is not synonymous with public property, and the historical uses and political configurations of different forms of commons has been widely debated in academic circles. Community Land-trust. A nonprofit corporation which acquires and manages land on behalf of the residents of a place-based community. The purposes of a Community Land Trust are to provide access to land and housing to people who are otherwise denied access; to increase long-term community control of neighborhood resources; to empower residents through involvement and participation in the organization; and to preserve the affordability of housing permanently. 1 Condominium. A form of housing tenure and other real property where a specified part of a piece of real estate (usually of an apartment house) is individually owned while use of and access to common facilities in the piece such as hallways, heating system, elevators, exterior areas is executed under legal rights associated with the individual ownership and controlled by the association of owners that jointly represent ownership of the whole piece. 2

1 2

Descriptions from Wikipedia and the National Community Landtrust Network, Description from Wikipedia,


Public property. A property, which is dedicated to the use of the public. It is a subset of state property. The term may be used either to describe the use to which the property is put, or to describe the character of its ownership (owned collectively by the population of a state).3 Property Cooperative. A legal entityâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;usually a corporationâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;that owns real state, consisting of one or more buildings; Cooperatives are a distinctive form of ownership that has many characteristics that make it different than other ownership arrangements such as single ownership, condominiums and renting. The corporation is membership based, with membership granted by way of a share purchase in the cooperative.4 Concession. A grant of a tract of land made by a government or other controlling authority in return for stipulated services or a promise that the land will be used for a specific purpose. Community Supported Productive Property. A type of property that supports alternative, locally-based socio-economic model of production and distribution of commodities. A CSPP can fall into different forms of land tenure, what distinguishes it is its existence by overwhelming community support. Others. Different cultures have dealt with common property in different forms. Each team will have the responsibility of researching one distinct model of common property from anywhere in the world, except the USA. 4. The economics of acquisition Banks. What are the operating structures of common lending and financing practices? what is their role in real-estate speculation, urban growth, property law, federal policy, infrastructure development and spatial arrangement. Non-profit. What relationship do not-for-profit organizations have to the property they use, trade or occupy. What are the common forms of property acquisition are there any special statuses or exceptions? Charity. Beyond its apparent simplicity, what are the financial and fiscal conditions and compromises embedded in this type of transaction? What are the premisses that structure continuous charity activities by organizations like Habitat for Humanity? Sweat Equity Programs. An alternative to cash outlays; such programs allow families and individuals to purchase a home in return for their labor. Sweat equity contributions significantly reduce construction and rehabilitation costs, as well as capital contributions. Beneficiaries and volunteers in the program receive training in construction and home repair techniques; these techniques not only provide valuable job skills, but also give individuals the capacity to extend the life of their neighborhood's housing stock. Alternative means. Trade, borrowing, sitting and other modes of altering the costs of acquisition. 3 4

ibid. Description based in


V. Localized Fieldwork 1. Recognisance mapping 2. Interviews 3. Ethnographies 4. What is property for these organizations?: Picture the Homeless ( is a citywide, multiracial, bilingual organization and our constituency includes homeless people living in shelters as well as those living on the streets and in other public places. They serve a broad population of people because homelessness cuts across all boundaries: race, ethnicity, culture, gender, family composition, age, sexual orientation, language, etc., but what all homeless people have in common as a community is extreme poverty and social stigmatization. Their outreach targets individuals from within the shelter system, as well as those who are unable/unwilling to live within it. Families United for Racial and Economic Equality ( is a Brooklyn-based multi-racial organization made up almost exclusively of women of color. They organize low-income families to build power to change the system so that all people's work is valued and all of us have the right and economic means to decide and live out our own destinies. FUREE uses direct action, leadership development, community organizing, civic engagement and political education to win the changes our members seek. Their guiding principle is that those directly affected by the policies we are seeking to change should lead the organization. Make the Road New York ( promotes equal rights and economic and political opportunity for immigrant New Yorkers. Make the Road New York catalyzes change for low-income New Yorkers by expanding civil rights and civic engagement; promoting health for all New Yorkers; improving housing and fostering environmental justice; winning justice in the workplace; promoting access, excellence and opportunity in education; and empowering youth. 596 Acres ( Hundreds of acres of vacant public land exist in New York City, hidden in plain sight behind chain-link fences in neighborhoods where green space and other public amenities are scarce. 596 Acres is building tools for communities to unlock these spaces by making municipal information available through an online interactive map, placing signs on vacant public land that explain each lotâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s status and steps that the community can take in order to be able to use this land, visioning sessions for education about public land holdings by invitation from community groups, engaging the community when an interested potential leader reaches out, and direct advocacy with New York City agencies. Organizing for Occupation ( is a group of New York City residents from the activist, academic, religious, homeless, arts, and progressive legal communities who have come together to respond to the housing crisis. They firmly believe that safe and affordable housing is a human right, and that the government and the private sector have failed to meaningfully address this crisis. O4O contends that it is up to those who are most afflicted by the lack of affordable housing, homelessness, and foreclosures to actualize that right themselves through non-violent direct action. They intend to create housing through the occupation of vacant spaces and to protect peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s right to remain in existing housing through community based anti-eviction campaigns.


Right to the City ( emerged in 2007 as a unified response to gentrification and a call to halt the displacement of low-income people, people of color, marginalized LGBTQ communities, and youths of color from their historic urban neighborhoods. It is a national alliance of racial, economic and environmental justice organizations. Chashama ( supports communities by transforming temporarily vacant properties into spaces where artists can flourish. By recycling and repurposing buildings in transition, they invest in neighborhoods, foster local talent, and sustain a vast range of creativity, commerce and culture. chashama makes thousands of square feet available to hundreds of artists of all levels, ages and mediums annually. New York Restoration Project ( protects and preserves New York City’s public spaces and parks. Founded by actress Bette Midler, NYRP set about removing garbage from Fort Tryon Park and Fort Washington Park in Upper Manhattan through grassroots efforts. NYRP engages New York City residents across all five boroughs in the long-term stewardship of their open spaces, instilling in them–and generations to come–a desire to ensure that all the beautiful green gains made since our founding do not fall into new neglect. Common Ground ( seeks to end homelessness through a housing model that targets individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Common Ground has created 3,200 units of affordable permanent and transitional housing in the northeastern United States and enabled more than 5,000 people to overcome homelessness. They currently operate 13 transitional and permanent housing residences and more than 120 scatter site units in four New York City boroughs. Hunter Center for Community Planning and Development (, directed by Professor Tom Angotti and affiliated with the Hunter College Department of Urban Affairs & Planning, is a venue for community/university partnerships where community members, students, and academics learn and benefit from each other. Center projects have addressed affordable housing, community economic development, healthy communities, workforce development, immigration and multi-ethnicity, environmental justice, and other issues of concern to New York communities. Cooper Square Community Land-Trust ( spring/angotti.htm) was the first community-based plan in the city, took forty-five years to implement and resulted in a phenomenal redevelopment of the 11-block area with an unprecedented 60 percent of all housing units for low-income households. It is a unique case that has so far not been studied. It provides low-income housing with guaranteed long-term affordability in a dense urban setting where gentrification is removing affordable units from the housing stock. Tenant and neighborhood organizing that started over four decades ago, which has resulted in a broad array of communitycontrolled land, has been a key to Cooper Square’s success, as has support from City government. Cooper Square uses City subsidies more effectively than other programs. Movement for Justice in el Barrio ( conceive and support community-based initiatives with the aim of building a movement of Latino people committed to organizing around the needs of working people for long-term change


through political action against racism and police abuse, community programs, solidarity training and organizing, arts and culture, and community media. Sustainable South Bronx ( unique and comprehensive approach delivers integrated economic and environmental solutions, resulting in more prosperous and revitalized communities. They specialize in pairing economic and environmental solutions. SSBX also prepares workers for jobs in the growing green-collar field while laying the groundwork for healthier urban communities.


VI. Strategic Design Operations 1. Designing general strategies for occupation The last five weeks of the Studio will be dedicated to the development of a general strategy for occupation per group. Each of these strategies should be conceived ecologically constructing relational operations that fall in seven of the eight categories addressed in section IV of this syllabus. The categories are: - Political Economy - Policy / Politics - Legality - Directions and Logistics - Cultural Dimensions - Environmental Positions - Spatial Transformations - Action/Resistance Examples of these strategies will be given at the beginning of this phase.


VII. Deliverables You will be required to consistently deliver advances of your work, please be advised that each of the delivery categories will have equal value for your final grade. 1. Weekly diagrams of the readings. Every of the first 10 weeks we will begin class with a 1:30 to 2 hour session based on the readings. You are required to read and develop visual diagrams of the arguments brought forward by the readings. These diagrams need to be uploaded to the class blog by 11:59pm on the day before each class meeting. 2. Weekly report and visualizations of the parallel investigations. You will also be required to write a 250-500 word weekly report + visualizations of the parallel investigations that you will conduct. This report must be uploaded to the class by 10:00am on the day before each class meeting. 3. Interim Forensic Report. This is to be delivered on the 10th week of the Studio and will be part of a closed presentation in front of a selected panel. More details on the format will be discussed in class 4. Localized Strategies for Occupation. This is to be delivered to La Union, format will be discussed in class. 5. Final Forensic Report. To be delivered the last day of class. It consist of the edited compendium of all the work done in the class. This will be on printed format, specifics will be discussed in class.


VIII. Course Schedule Week 1

27 Aug

-Introduction, Syllabus -Faculty Team Introduction -Intro to Design as Research and its Method

Week 2

6 Sept THURS meeting

Political Economy I

Week 3

10 Sept

Political Economy II

Week 4

20 Sept THURS meeting

Policy / Politics

Week 5

24 Sept


Week 6

1 Oct

Directions and Logistics

Week 7

8 Oct

Cultural Dimensions

Week 8

15 Oct

Environmental Positions

Week 9

22 Oct

Spatial Transformation

Week 10

29 Oct


Week 11

5 Nov


Week 12

12 Nov


Week 13

19 Nov


Week 14

26 Nov


Week 15

3 Dec

Final Reviews

IMPORTANT NOTES: -The schedule for the studio is subject to change throughout the semester. Should that happen, you will receive a new schedule. -You will receive more detailed assignment instruction sheets and schedules during their introduction. -Throughout the semester there will Fieldwork exercises that will be announced at least a week in advance - Due to the complexity of this project and the brevity of both the semester and studio period ATTENDANCE RULES WILL BE ENFORCED STRICTLY BY ALL FACULTY. Studio begins at 9AM sharp and after 15 minutes a lateness will be considered an absence. Note that a significant portion of the grade depends on on-time attendance and active participation in the studio.


IX. Lineaments and Evaluation LEARNING OUTCOMES By the successful completion of this course the student should be able to: -Demonstrate the ability to critically assess various complex urban conditions as framed by various disciplines and as actualized on the ground â&#x20AC;&#x201C; physically, socially and environmentally. -Develop both long-term strategic and short-term tactical design scenarios for various actors to improve the quality of life in urban situations. This involves skills in the field â&#x20AC;&#x201C; both ethnographic and design, as well as in presentation contexts, both physical and virtual. -Present and communicate these design scenarios through clear and well-organized verbal, written and graphic descriptions to various project stakeholders. Skills include site analysis, social and ethnographic assessment, physical modeling and time based communication using various media. -Diagram and trace the immaterial processes that defined the urban project of study before their proposed interventions. -Understand the role of economy, nature and its ecology in the urban condition, as well as respond to it with strategic proposals for its preservation or transformation REQUIREMENTS This is a studio-based course, which requires attendance during class time, desk critiques with instructors, periodic pin-ups including an interim and final review. All work must be formatted and archived according to program requirements. EVALUATION AND GRADING The student will be evaluated on its ability to assemble a critical urban project from the critical forensic analysis. The weekly production of strategic design processes and directed representations will be mandatory and any student that does not present work during any of the classes will automatically fail. Expectations for the final project and will be clearly defined. The final project will be evaluated on the following basis: - Development of strategic thinking and understanding of scenario planning - Performance and knowledge development in practical ethnographic skills. - Critical positioning of the design outcomes - Degree of social and environmental responsibility FINAL GRADE Weekly Readings and Diagrams Weekly Visualizations and Reports Interim Forensic Report

20% 20% 20%


Localized Strategies for Occupation Final Forensic Report

20% 20%

GRADING STANDARDS F Failing grades are given for required work that is not submitted, for incomplete final projects or for examinations that are not taken (without prior notification and approval). Make-up work or completion of missed examinations may be permitted only with the approval of the instructor and the program director. D The paper adheres to all of the general guidelines of formatting, page-length, and the minimum terms of the assignment. Written work receiving a “D” grade may be a simple restatement of fact or commonly-held opinion. These kinds of papers also will tend to put forward obviously contradictory or conflicting points of view. “D” papers may also have serious organizational and grammatical errors in evidence, which may or may not impede the reader’s ability to understand the author’s point. C/C+ These are average papers. They will demonstrate some success in engaging with the assigned readings or material. The paper will show that the student can identify and work with key terms and passages in a text and apply them to ideas and examples found in other texts, or other outside material. Additionally, the paper will demonstrate effort in the areas of analysis and critical thinking by posing an interesting problem or question. Typical of a “C/C+” paper, however, is that the original problem or question, once asked, does not move the paper forward. Often, there is no real solution given, or there is a variety of possible solutions put forward without a clear sense of where the author’s commitment lies. “C/C+” papers may also have significant organizational, grammatical and/or editorial errors in evidence. These errors may periodically impede the reader’s ability to understand the author’s point, or may lead to a paper that seems repetitive or circular. B/B+ These are very good projects. The “B/B+” paper does everything a “C/C+” paper does, but offers a sustained and meaningful structure to a critical endeavor that is more complex than a paper at the “C/C+” level. What also distinguishes a “B/B+” paper is the author’s ability to offer a unique insight, to ask questions of primary or secondary source material, and/or to set up a debate between texts or points of view. The author’s point of view is clear and an argument is sustained fairly consistently throughout the paper. “B/B+” papers are logically organized, and also respond to the assignment in thoughtful and distinctive ways. Although minor grammatical and editorial errors may be present, they are under control and do not impede meaning or clarity in the paper. A These are exceptionally good projects that go above and beyond the expectations and requirements set forth in the assignment. They demonstrate substantial effort and achievement in the areas of critical thinking and scholarship. They also demonstrate considerable interpretive connections between concrete ideas or textual moments, a high level of analysis, and flexibility of argument. The argument or point of view that is offered is consistent throughout the paper, and governs the use and interpretation of all examples, and primary and/or secondary source


material. “A” papers are very well organized, and are free of grammatical and editorial errors. Given these criteria, the majority of papers in your class can be expected to fall in the “C” to “B+” range. Although minus grades are not included here, you may, of course, assign them at your discretion. Generally, minus grades are used in those cases where a student has fallen just short of achieving all the elements characterizing a paper in a particular grade range. I A grade of I (Incomplete), signifying a temporary deferment of a regular grade, may be assigned when coursework has been delayed at the end of the semester for unavoidable and legitimate reasons. Incomplete grades are given only with the written approval of the instructor and the program director. The Request for an Incomplete Grade form must be filled out by the student and instructor prior to the end of the semester. For undergraduate students, if a grade of incomplete is approved, outstanding work must be submitted by the seventh week of the following Fall semester (for Spring and Summer courses) or by the seventh week of the following Spring semester (for Fall courses). Otherwise, a grade of I will automatically convert to a permanent unofficial withdrawal (WF) after a period of four weeks. For graduate students, the maximum deadline for completion of an incomplete is one year though a shorter period may be imposed at the discretion of the instructor. Divisional, Program and Class Policies ● Responsibility Students are responsible for all assignments, even if they are absent. Late papers, failure to complete the readings assigned for class discussion, and lack of preparedness for in-class discussions and presentations will jeopardize your successful completion of this course. ● Participation Class participation is an essential part of class and includes: keeping up with reading, contributing meaningfully to class discussions, active participation in group work, and coming to class regularly and on time. ● Attendance Faculty members may fail any student who is absent for a significant portion of class time. A significant portion of class time is defined as three absences for classes that meet once per week and four absences for classes that meet two or more times per week. During intensive summer sessions a significant portion of class time is defined as two absences. Lateness or early departure from class may also translate into one full absence. ● Blackboard Use of Blackboard may be an important resource for this class. Students should check it for announcements before coming to class each week. ● Delays In rare instances, I may be delayed arriving to class. If I have not arrived by the time class is scheduled to start, you must wait a minimum of thirty minutes for my arrival. In the event that I will miss class entirely, a sign will be posted at the classroom indicating your assignment for the next class meeting.


● Academic Integrity This is the university’s Statement on Academic Integrity: “Plagiarism and cheating of any kind in the course of academic work will not be tolerated. Academic honesty includes accurate use of quotations, as well as appropriate and explicit citation of sources in instances of paraphrasing and describing ideas, or reporting on research findings or any aspect of the work of others (including that of instructors and other students). These standards of academic honesty and citation of sources apply to all forms of academic work (examinations, essays, theses, computer work, art and design work, oral presentations, and other projects).” It is the responsibility of students to learn the procedures specific to their discipline for correctly and appropriately differentiating their own work from that of others. Compromising your academic integrity may lead to serious consequences, including (but not limited to) one or more of the following: failure of the assignment, failure of the course, academic warning, disciplinary probation, suspension from the university, or dismissal from the university. Every student at Parsons signs an Academic Integrity Statement as a part of the registration process. Thus, you are held responsible for being familiar with, understanding, adhering to and upholding the spirit and standards of academic integrity as set forth by the Parsons Student Handbook. Guidelines for Written Assignments Plagiarism is the use of another person's words or ideas in any academic work using books, journals, internet postings, or other student papers without proper acknowledgment. For further information on proper acknowledgment and plagiarism, including expectations for paraphrasing source material and proper forms of citation in research and writing, students should consult the Chicago Manual of Style (cf. Turabian, 6th edition). The University Writing Center also provides useful on-line resources to help students understand and avoid plagiarism. See http:// Students must receive prior permission from instructors to submit the same or substantially overlapping material for two different assignments. Submission of the same work for two assignments without the prior permission of instructors is plagiarism. Guidelines for Studio Assignments Work from other visual sources may be imitated or incorporated into studio work if the fact of imitation or incorporation and the identity of the original source are properly acknowledged. There must be no intent to deceive; the work must make clear that it emulates or comments on the source as a source. Referencing a style or concept in otherwise original work does not constitute plagiarism. The originality of studio work that presents itself as “in the manner of” or as playing with “variations on” a particular source should be evaluated by the individual faculty member in the context of a critique. Incorporating ready-made materials into studio work as in a collage, synthesized photograph or paste-up is not plagiarism in the educational context. In the commercial world, however, such appropriation is prohibited by copyright laws and may result in legal consequences.


● Student Disability Services In keeping with the University’s policy of providing equal access for students with disabilities, any student with a disability who needs academic accommodations is welcome to meet with me privately. All conversations will be kept confidential. Students requesting any accommodations will also need to meet with Jason Luchs in the office of Student Disability Services, who will conduct an intake, and if appropriate, provide an academic accommodation notification letter to you to bring to me. At that point I will review the letter with you and discuss these accommodations in relation to this course. Mr. Luchs’ office is located in 79 Fifth Avenue, 5th floor. His direct line is (212) 229-5626 x3135. You may also access more information through the University’s web site at




Further Advancement in Research Progress RAFTD – Research in Action For Tactical Design I would like to propose that we approach and articulate our collective research around the motif of a nautical expedition, with the ‘makeshift raft’ positioned as the metaphorical container that grounds our research. The raft has long been a very powerful metaphor, not only in allegory but also in form and use. Often constructed in times of crisis, adventure and or with haste, the raft is by definition a makeshift craft brought together temporarily by disparate yet locally available resources. While primitive in basic form and technology, the flexibility of its form in fact allows for valuable and potentially complex DIY (do it yourself) customization. Unlike the specialized and therefore inflexible tugboat or cruise ship, the raft is easily adjustable in form and therefore conveniently malleable to our changing visions, needs, and priorities. It is therefore a perfect metaphor to imagine and organize our research and practice this term. As a team we can extend this metaphorical context and imagine ourselves as a fleet of five crafts on a wild expedition. Each raft will be built autonomously from the other, embodying the skill sets, practices and approaches of each team member. There will therefore be a healthy diversity of form and approach in our fleet allowing for a greater flexibility to deal with unforeseen obstacles and conditions. Building the boat as the journey Each team member will be the autonomous maker and captain of their own raft and we will build up and alter our rafts as we undertake our journey. We will each draft basic blueprints for our rafts. These will be preliminary imagined roadmaps for our research. We will each then simply start building our raft with the most essential element first, this being the floatation device. Since we are all new to this process we will have to intentionally build up our rafts slowly and sequentially. Finally it is important to remember that our plans will change, as each experience will inform the next step forward. I propose that we plan our raft construction process as follows. Ie. Break the metaphorical RAFT into these conceptual sections.




1. Floatation- What grounding knowledge do we need to commence our inquiry? Example: Barrels – my raft would have 4 barrels, each representing an area of inquiry I would research as the first stage of my inquiry. a. Basic theory of property, b. History of Gov. Property, c. Research methods (participatory, Primary, Action, experimental, etc), and d. Theories of ……… 2. Deck / platform – based on the findings of my flotation research my base will be constructed of planks of wood representing the significant areas of base knowledge that I choose to then ground my further research upon. 3. Steering – What key questions of inquiry will lead your research? Example: a) Rutter – main questions, b) compass – ethical compass 4. Propulsion – What research methods and strategies will you use to move through your area of inquiry? Example: a) Mast + Sail – (could be primary research, or any other methods we discovered in our initial research. But it really represents the format we set up for gathering info. Based on different research methods we will gather different kinds of info so this is really important. It is of course ok to have multiple kinds of propulsion on your raft.) 5. Storage: – How will you store and track your findings? Example: book, photo album, box, etc… 6. Captains Log: – In what way will you track your journry? 7. Excursions: How will you take risks and step outside our comfort zones? While most of our research may be able to take place internally, there may be moments when we will need to leave our rafts and take the risk of swimming in the open ocean, walking out onto land, ect. In these moments we will loose full control over our process but amazing and unexpected things may occur.





Working as a fleet: Finally I propose that we internally design strategies for our fleet to connect, collaborate, learn from each other and work towards our common goal. Taking on a few elements of a nautical fleet these planned activities could include.: 1. An agreed internal communication system (email?, phone?, etc) 2. Debriefs – How will we update each other on our autonomous reseach? 3. Knowledge sharing – Workshops, skill sharing, etc 4. Socializing – as with a fleet out on the sea it is important that we socialize and simply have fun from time to time, socializing outside of work build moral, breaks down barriers, and makes working together more enjoyable. 5. Support – How will we offer support to each other? 6. Critique – How will we offer critique to each other? (possible areas of critique that could be relevant are ethics, process, productivity, creativity, constructive suggestions..etc.) 7. Collaborations – What activities will we undertake collaboratively?

The collective Outputs of the Fleet: 1. Reports to the outside world 2. Diagrams and maps to be shared with the world.




Anze: Steering Question: Looking though government property, how can it be implemented in La Union’s situation. Topics of discussion: Common Ground, Private vs. government funds, researching from architecture lens. Deliverables: Contact architect at Common Ground, will be creating reports on findings. Bonnie: Steering Question: What is the relationship between tangible and intangible space? What is that boundary? Topics of discussion: Researching the battle between Palestinian colonies and the claim for land enveloped by the Israeli state. Gathering a further understanding of CLT through Cooper Square. Understanding the processes of tactics and activism of the International Design Clinic. Deliverables: Diagram the different perspectives and applications of the word “boundary.” Josh: Steering Question: What research methodology would I like to use for this project? What alternative forms of social housing redevelopment exist outside of government/private partnership. Topics of Discussion: 1. Social Housing in Canada vs. New York. (Toronto Community Housing, Cooper Square, ETC). 2. Research methodologies. (Action research, participatory research, social practice, popular education methods). Deliverables: Small presentation on social housing for poliSOCIAL. Graphical toolkits for research methods. Shirley: Steering Question: What la Union’s relations to space is? Topics of Discussion: CB7. Global aspects of land trust. Free Haus Organization in Netherlands. Deliverables: Demographic diagramming. Socio economic diagramming. Public Housing Diagramming. Attend CB7 Board Meeting. Charles: Steering Question: How can different government systems inform and be incorporated as a form of action or resistance? He is using factual research as the vehicle for his study. Topics of Discussion: Gathering Journals about Sunset Park, Migrant Communities, and Gentrification in New York City. Deliverables: Create a presentation to share with the group. Diagrams and summaries of the information gathered above. There will also specifically include a property and value diagram. In addition to all of our individual studies, we have all been attending various events to broaden our scope of research. This includes going to the OpenSource GIS workshop at Foursquare, viewing “MyBrooklyn” from 596 Acres, and attending the FutureNow conference sponsored by AIANY Emerging New York Architects to describe the evolution of the architectural profession.













27 28 29 30 31















10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30











Harvey - Limits to Capital - Chapter 8


Mangabeira - Unger - Politics - Chapter 12,13


Angotti - New York For Sale - Chapter 2


Rose - The Commedy of the Commons


Goodman - Aft











W R 3





9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31













W R 1













man - After the Planners, Chapters 6,7 Gidwani - Urban Commons Ross - Bird on Fire - Chapter 3 Harvey - Paris - Chapters 4-6 Castells - The Urban Question - Chapter 5











10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 1












WEEKLY REPORTS September 9th, 2012 Seeing as that we are all building a fleet of individual ships (approaches) and we are using the idea of the Captain’s log to document and communicate our individual research components… I am using an individual website to log my explorations. This will serve as a resource both to you as well as to others that I will be contacting in the field along the way. This website is still in its bones, and I hope to build it as I continue to build my methodology and research. The most important thing to look at right now is the poliSOCIAL_beta page (I have decided to call my individual adventures as beta, you guys can come up with names as well if you wish.) This page has an issuu link to my specific approach.

September 17, 2012 poliSOCIAL is currently in the foundation stages of building our explorations–just trying to absorb as much information as possible. Like the others, our group met with Alessandro and Sara on Thursday to discuss where our group is and where it was going. The conversation provoked us to really consider: what does La Union really need? Do we propose something that is beyond what they are asking and simply needs to be revealed to them? Our group attended the general meeting held by La Union in their current (temporary?) homestay of the church in Sunset Park. Many of us tend to agree that if there were less of us in attendance, the conversation would have been far more intimate. Nonetheless, it was helpful to hear what La Union and nearby collaborative groups envisioned for that space. Seeing as that is the space that they have now, they focused on what they could do with that particular space. Inherently, because that space is shared, conflict rises in the different activities wanting that space for the same time. Some of the main concepts brought up during the meeting include community and healthy living. Using each other as a resource was very much prevalent. Meanwhile, each of us are currently building our studies. Here are some highlights: Joshua Barndt is currently developing his foundational research topics. He divides these methods in two ways. 1. Research methods: (Participatory research methods, Action Research, Popular Education (Paulo Freire), Social Practice (Kester). He will be synthesizing his research into a small series of Diagrams about each relevant approach that he would like to share with our team and maybe class. 2. Foundational Research about Cooper Square. Shirley Bucknor is collecting data on CB7, or the community board 7. She is currently exploring the idea of how to strategize without property. Her main question right now is “is property necessary?” Bonnie Netel is researching the concepts of intangible/tangible property? She is doing concept studies of particular scenarios that begin to address physical attachment to place as well as the immaterial attachment. Her main questions are: is there an in-between? What is the moment when people take claim/ownership to space/place/thing emotionally and physically? These are only just some highlights as to the work that is occurring as a whole and from just a few of our group members. Each of us are developing individualized studies to then find the intersections between our findings. The beauty is in the unknown. Cheers!


September 23, 2012 To begin, we will discuss the work leading up to and derivative of our conversation on Thursday by person. Each person is in the foundation stage of building our action plans. Anze: Steering Question: Looking though government property, how can it be implemented in La Union’s situation. Topics of discussion: Common Ground, Private vs. government funds, researching from architecture lens. Deliverables: Contact architect at Common Ground, will be creating reports on findings. Bonnie: Steering Question: What is the relationship between tangible and intangible space? What is that boundary? Topics of discussion: Researching the battle between Palestinian colonies and the claim for land enveloped by the Israeli state. Gathering a further understanding of CLT through Cooper Square. Understanding the processes of tactics and activism of the International Design Clinic. Deliverables: Diagram the different perspectives and applications of the word “boundary.” Josh: Steering Question: What research methodology would I like to use for this project? What alternative forms of social housing redevelopment exist outside of government/private partnership. Topics of Discussion: 1. Social Housing in Canada vs. New York. (Toronto Community Housing, Cooper Square, ETC). 2. Research methodologies. (Action research, participatory research, social practice, popular education methods). Deliverables: Small presentation on social housing for poliSOCIAL. Graphical toolkits for research methods. Shirley: Steering Question: What la Union’s relations to space is? Topics of Discussion: CB7. Global aspects of land trust. Free Haus Organization in Netherlands. Deliverables: Demographic diagramming. Socio economic diagramming. Public Housing Diagramming. Attend CB7 Board Meeting. Charles: Steering Question: How can different government systems inform and be incorporated as a form of action or resistance? He is using factual research as the vehicle for his study. Topics of Discussion: Gathering Journals about Sunset Park, Migrant Communities, and Gentrification in New York City. Deliverables: Create a presentation to share with the group. Diagrams and summaries of the information gathered above. There will also specifically include a property and value diagram. In addition to all of our individual studies, we have all been attending various events to broaden our scope of research. This includes going to the OpenSource GIS workshop at Foursquare, viewing “MyBrooklyn” from 596 Acres, and attending the FutureNow conference sponsored by AIANY Emerging New York Architects to describe the evolution of the architectural profession.


September 30, 2012 This week the PoliSocial team culminated our FOUNDATIONAL RESEARCH. Each team member presented their research findings to the rest of the group. Through this process we were able to a) become informed about each other’s personal research areas, b) create a new group map of our collective research, and c) reorganize our efforts into one stream of group research. THREE EXAMPLES OF PRESENTATION JOSH: Community Land Trusts: What is a Community Land Trust? Cooper Square Land Trust, Burlington Community Land Trust, New York City Garden City Land trusts. Government Owned Social Housing: Regent Park (TCH), Alexandra Park (TCH), Lawrence Heights (TCH). Community Hubs: Regent Park Arts and Culture Center, Center for Social Innovation. (***Community Bonds) (full info available on Josh’s Captains Log) CHARLES: State of NYC & Sunset Park: Identifying the major players in Sunset Park and mapping out the relationships between these organizations and government. Analyzing current economic trends in the neighborhood and how these could influence the working-class Latino and Asian community. Alternative Methods of Organizing: Branching out to look at how other migrant/immigrant communities have sought better representation to government and planners in the United States. i.e. Trusted Advocates in Seattle BONNIE: Identifying the Natural Boundaries of Sunset Park Brooklyn An in-depth look at 8 maps that tell us allot about the ethnographic make- up and natural boundaries of Sunset park. (viewable here: ——————————————————————————————————NEW COLLECTIVE RESEARCH PLAN Our team has created a unified physical map to track our research. It is presently in the 12th floor studio. The map consists of two key areas: Footprint of operations: A map of NYC and Sunset Park with key players and organizations identified. This map focuses on our local investigations. Parallel Investigations: A pin board representation of our parallel investigations that splits our findings categorically, tracking A) key articles and texts, B) Key Orgs, C) To do’s, D) proposed field work, E) Residual Questions, and F) Opportunities relevant to La Union. We will now use this map to lead and track our collective research


October 7, 2012 After our presentation last week, we realized areas we wanted to focus on more with respect to Sunset Park as a whole and the La Union as an organization. We also realized the possibility of having some sort of sustained interaction would be beneficial to our research and objective as a whole. Thus, we discussed starting an open dialogue between La Union, community members and the UE program i.e. developing a platform of sort to spark interactions between the afore mentioned members. An example of this is seen from or Their mission “is to revitalize the Downtown Syracuse through small, concentrated efforts, with the hope that their accumulated effect will improve the urban vitality, and inspire others to creatively reengage their relationship to the City” Our research foci have been listed below: Anze: • Anze has been investigating open green spaces and abandoned spaces with the possibility of reusing them as urban gardening areas. He first marked existing urban gardens, existing parks and evaluated their efficiency through an existing portal called, an organization that monitors urban gardens in NYC and reports on their efficiency and exact amount of picked harvest. He also looked at empty lots through website and is preparing a proposal on alternative occupations for open green space for La Union. ♣ Diagram open spaces Bonnie: • Looking into the organizational structure of La Union and what they can do to define and enhance their identity • look into boundaries- invisible and visible ♣ Diagram organizational structure Charles • researching the Relations between organizations • looking into Sewer park – Urban renewal areas • looking at how city property is run by non-profit organizations and the relationships that form from this ♣ Listen to conducted interview with Jeremy Laufer. Continue on research Josh: • Looking into community hubs, organization conception, networks and alliances • Look into development of relations ♣ Conduct interviews with organizations in Toronto over the weekend Shirley: • Looking into vacant warehouses and waterfront property • Researching available options for these spaces to be used by organizations such as La Union • Conducted an interview on Thursday [along with Kaitlin and Joel from GreenSpace group] with Jeremy Laufer, district manager of CB7. Narrative of interview to follow. ♣ Diagram development plan of the in between spaces & residential areas i.e. areas in between the industrial and residential ♣ Discuss with class and Miguel tentative group tour with CB7 DM next Monday 386

October 14, 2012 Hello everyone! This past week the group has been pushing forward with all of the several questions we have been pursuing. Initially, as you can recall, we each started with our own “steering question,” but those divisions between research inquiries have slowly converged. Leading up to our most recent discussion, our group has gathered data on vacant areas and waterfronts, diagrammed the structures of power, and conducted interviews with different organizations such as Community Solutions, Kirshenfeld Architects, and Parkdale Activity and Recreation Center. Please see the below posts for the link to the documented interview. Josh was able to attend the Theatrum Mundi/ Global Street: Presence and Absence in the City at Columbia University, with Teddy Cruz as one of the attending speakers. You can view the event details here: cities_conference/ However, we have reached a point where we are rerouting our conversation and questions as a collective group. In analyzing demographic maps, current political contexts, major developments, and so forth, it seems clear that La Union and other members of the Latin community are vulnerable to the changes that the community will see. We were told this from the start, but we have found data to bring this to a better understanding. We are realizing that a strategy, more than anything else, needs to be developed to provide La Union with the ability to resist these forces. Simultaneous to this however, the resources are constantly changing due to the various forces on Sunset Park as a community such as waterfront development and encroaching ethnic groups. This has brought us to think that space is not the answer. Rather, we need to create place. Though, what is the relationship of space and place beyond the generic term of “placemaking.” Is this physical or not? We are realizing that there are other communities such as the large Chinese population that are far more self-sustained to compete in the system (ie. they have their own bank.) We are thinking about a layered approach to think about place that overlays social, physical, economical, and political strategies. We are realizing that La Union seems to have a lot of connections to local groups and resources, and in the end, the change needs to be created from within by them, not for them.


December 12, 2012 Starting from Harvey’s critique of our presentation from last Monday, we decided to explore forming a narrative based upon possible action, rather than inquiry. From the “Identifying the Moment” introduction, we delved into the different frames and pondered how we could engage our audience. Concurrently, we also included “lofty, utopian goals” for La Union’s future as those need to be connected with the courses of action that will be proposed. Linking with the powerful talks from the Urban Uprisings conference, Anze brought up a fascinating endeavor: creating new unions – including a renters’ union. Considering the already expanding organization in Sunset Park of various groups for rent strikes, eviction protections, and pre-foreclosure alerts, it could be a feasible moment to mobilize these groups together into forming a renters’ union to ensure further rights and safety for all those who live in Sunset Park. Logistics and details about this organization are still being decided upon; but, an overall goal of this group should be moving the domicile from the rental world to off-market. These conversations mobilized the production of story-boards on how this narrative will develop, with our research peppered into each slide. In conversing and brainstorming with Braden on the status of St. Jacobi in the community, we are provided with a unique opportunity: the ability for La Union’s space to be from within via a common use agreement. This is to be further explored in contingencies and details. However, this knowledge further allows a new channel to be explored: the potent role of church space in the urban environment. By ascertaining churches, temples, and mosques (and their property) as critical spaces of pre-capitalism in the current built environment – already with a naturally socialist tinge through Judeo-Christian theology, one can envision this space as the means and mobilization of social change, even already documented in the efforts from Occupy Sandy. Rev. Susan Johnson in a journal on church spaces wrote, “Religious institutions are agents for social change; they are also caretakers of the community. Where congregations are active in their communities, their neighborhoods deal better with all kinds of social change. Where these religious organizations have been closed or decreased their role in the community, these areas are at greater risk of deterioration and upheaval. For the sake of our mission and the well-being of our human community — it is well worth the effort to share our buildings.” This quote from a religious official really makes wonder how this can truly translate into something different. Based on current information from Letitia, it is still questionable how the church leadership would respond to such an idea; but, considering the dying parishes of churches (at least ones for older communities that are dispersing or no longer living), this idea of social change certainly can give these places a second chance at life at creating lives in the community. Moreover, we can consider St. Jacobi as an ideal initiator for the community land trust. By looking at past American examples of CLTs, the church – with its tax-free exemption and community involvement – makes it an opportune moment to bringing a community to a better level and status. Sister Lucy of the Woodland CLT in Maine – who fought five years for a CLT to provide housing for their poor parishioners – said “We are not building houses; we are building communities for the dispossessed.” The justification for a CLT through an institution like St. Jacobi already lives within Christian theology: consider it a preferential option than merely giving alms. ( a%20pastoral%20point%20of%20view.htm)



POLITICAL ECONOMY Harvey, D. Limits to Capital, Chapter 8 “Fixed Capital”


READING DIAGRAMS POLITICAL ECONOMY 2 Mangabeira-Unger, R., Politics: The Central Texts, Ch.12 “Economic Reorganization” and Ch.13 “The System of Rights”

2 390

READING DIAGRAMS POLICY Angotti, T., New York for Sale, Ch. 2 “The Real Estate Capital of the World”




READING DIAGRAMS LEGALITY Rose, C. “The Comedy of the Commons: Commerce, Custom, and Inherently Public Property”



READING DIAGRAMS LOGISTICS Goodman, R., After the Planners, Ch.6 “The Scientific Method: Salvation from Politics” and Ch.7 “Toward Liberation”



READING DIAGRAMS CULTURAL Gidwani, V., and A. Baviskar. 2011. “Urban Commons.” Economic & Political Weekly 46:42-43



READING DIAGRAMS ENVIRONMENTAL Ross, A., Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World’s Least Sustainable City, Ch. 3 “The Battle for Downtown”



READING DIAGRAMS SPATIAL Harvey, D., Paris, Capital of Modernity, Ch.4 “The Organization of Space Relations”, Ch.5 “Money, Credit and Finance” and Ch.6 “Rent and the Propertied Interest”



READING DIAGRAMS ACTION Castells, M., The Urban Question, Section 5 “The Urban Process”

Manuel Castells The Urban Question ReBound & PoliSOCIAL The Urban Process = Urban Structure

Regiaonal and agricultural economies devastated Rural


urban politics


Follow the money

SUBURBANIZATION More Money - Power Rise in Workers Wages Increased purchasing power & Credit Access

Capital Concentrated in Metro Communities

Cities Grow Rapidly Unable to Keep up With Influx

Continuous Cycle of Capitalist Production Instead of Social Production




Highways, Government Guearanteed Mortgages

Production Labour Force

Friction Oils the System Us Versus Them Mentality

Mass Exodus Urban Core CBD



Housing Act 1949, 1954

Decreased Tax Base

SOCIAL-POLITICAL FRAGMENTATION Racial Discrimination Decrease Social Order Educational Disparities Income Inequality Decaying Infrastructure Deterriorating Housing Stock/Public Transportation Devalued Tax Base - Lack of Public Services Unemployment


Crime, Poverty, Dilapidated housing...





poliSOCIAL_Semester Report  

Fall 2012 Studio: Parsons the New School for Design Charles Chawalko Anze Zadel Shirley Bucknor Joshua Barndt Bonnie Netel