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Parent Power

g uess what? Community School Board 9 is a den of patronage and corruption. Then there s Board 7. And 10. And 17. What else is new?

For legitimate reasons, the press and the Board of Education's senior investigator, Ed Stancik, are obsessed with community school boards, their scandals and their man-

ifest failures. Report after report leading up to the May 7 school board elections has critics arguing that we should trash the whole dirty system. And they are probably right. But corruption is not the only problem with the city s schools. In fact, it s one small element of a much larger cri- sis in pubic education. Problem is, no matter how on-target all these investiga- tions are, the focus on corruption has side effects. When it comes to public schools, public opinion these days is of one, cynical mind: there isn't much we can do. Parents are the only force that could change

this. Yet in New York, they have never been effec- tively organized as a movement. They are not speaking out about the Pataki administration s failure to ensure an equitable distribution of state education funds. They are only just begin- ning to speak out, here and there, about the

School Construction Authoritys poor oversight ofdozens ofdelayed construction and rehabilitation projects. Albany legislators have put forward new models for school governance that don't include parents in any mean- ingful way. Both Democrats and Republicans have plans that call for centralized school management and advisory- read toothless-school-based councils. Our feature stories this month find that a parent organiz- ing renaissance is underway, but it still has a long way to go to become a major political force. As Senior Editor Glenn Thrush and writer Jordan Moss illustrate, some of the resources are already there-and parents have a natural tal- ent for forcing bureaucracies to be accountable. Acceptance of reform legislation that doesn't include par-

ents in real decision-making roles would spell the death of the parents' resurgence. Corruption can be stopped by cre- ating meaningful, consistent oversight-and giving more power to the people who really care: parents, not politicians. If the same degree of investigative scrutiny expended on the school boards were targeted at council members, assembly reps ·and senators, and the patronage mills they control in the schools and nonprofits, the public would certainly not trust them to have total control of the institutions that help raise our children.

of the institutions that help raise our children. EDITORIAL Andrew White Editor Cover illustration by Todd

Andrew White


Cover illustration by Todd L. Katz

Andrew White Editor Cover illustration by Todd L. Katz City Limits Volume XXI Number 5 City

City Limits

Volume XXI Number 5

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Photographers : Ana-Aslan. Eric R. Wolf

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FEATURES Where are the Parents? They have been shut out of the effort to save
Where are the Parents?
They have been shut out of the effort to save the city's sinking school
system-and they're starting to get mad. When it comes to education reform,
where there are angry parents, there's hope.
By Glenn Thrush
Cracked Foundation
The School Construction Authority was supposed to revolutionize the way
the Board of Ed built new schools and renovated old ones. Instead, there
are endless delays, parents in the dark and kids in the hallways.
By Jordan Moss
Downloading Democracy
Social justice fInds an audience on the Internet. Converting Web-style
passion to action in the real world is another thing altogether.
By Kim Nauer
An Artful Vision

The Point teaches artists in a South Bronx neighborhood how to cash in on their cultural genius.

By Kemba Johnson

how to cash in on their cultural genius. By Kemba Johnson MAY 1996 PIPELINE Strike Out
how to cash in on their cultural genius. By Kemba Johnson MAY 1996 PIPELINE Strike Out

MAY 1996


Strike Out

It's "one-strike-and-your-out" when it comes to crime in public housing. Tenants are split on whether they should have the same due process rights

on whether they should have the same due process rights as tenants in private housing. By

as tenants in private housing.

By Kierna Mayo Dawsey

He Came Back


Comeback Kid Carlos Pagan rises from the mat-again-and turns Williamsburg's El Regreso into a substance-abuse powerhouse. By linda Ocasio


The Cold Coast

The poor aren't exactly living it up in Martha Stewartville, Connecticut.

exactly living it up in Martha Stewartville, Connecticut. By HoUy Rosenkrantz REMEMBRANCE Don Terner 1939-1996 An

By HoUy Rosenkrantz


Don Terner 1939-1996

An urban visionary.


Turning the Tables


Frieze Frame


Spare Change

Green Achers


By Andy Reicher


By Jim Young

By Helen Stummer


By Thomas Kamber



7-Ain't the Same

Piano Ire

Babies , Please Don't Go







Job Ads



33. 31


Scores of protest- ers massed on lower Manhattan's Federal Plaza last month to demon- strate against congressional plans to limit immigration. The organizers, who included the Immigrant Workers Association and the Latino Workers Center, also spoke out against recent federal raids on midtown garment factories.

against recent federal raids on midtown garment factories. 7-AIN'T THE SAME In the five years since


In the five years since louise Fincher has been the court-appointed administra- tor of 938 St. Nicholas

Avenue, the building has become a much warmer, safer place to live. Fincher, who has

lived there for 31 years, has gained the respect of her fel- low tenants, area community groups and the Department

of Housing Preservation and Development (HPDI, which administers the 7a Prop-

erty Management Services Program. But if HPD proceeds with a new plan to mandate that all 7a administrators be associated with larger orga- nizations, Fincher and other tenant-administrators may be out of a job. Under the 7a program,

when a building has been so neglected by the owner that it threatens the life, safety and health of its tenants, a hous- ing court judge may appoint a certified "administrator W to collect the rent and make necessary repairs. But the number of structur- al and other problems in 7a

But the number of structur- al and other problems in 7a PIANO IRE A $30 million


A $30 million plan to reno- vate the old Steinway piano factory-which would include construction of 50 mod- erate-income apartments-has struck a sour chord with some Astoria residents. Earlier this year, Manhattan developer Nikos Kefalidis unveiled plans to convert the

vacant factory he owns into a 250-unit housing complex, complete with playrooms, a gym and 75 parking spaces . But the plan ran into neighborhood opposition when Kefalidis announced he would rent 20 percent of his apartments to families earning between $19,600 and $24,500 in order to

take advantage of a low-inter- est mortgage program through the city's Housing Development Corporation. At a recent community meeting, Astoria residents repeatedly expressed fears the factory would become "a welfare hotel:

"Not everyone can afford



Kefalidis' architect, Richard Dattner, responded. "All we're trying to do is build a slightly



a private

Short Shots



mayoral race. A recent Quinnipiac (ollege poll shows that Geraldine Ferraro has the best name recogni- tion in the non-Rudy field- but that's only if the voters

can spell. Freddy Ferrer-two small vowels and a mustache removed from Ferraro-will also be on the ballot. If she runs, expect the former veep candidate to run the most visible "Geraldine" campaign si nce FI i P Wi lson went off the air.


first name means "savior" in Italian, may need a spark of divine intervention to ener- gize his progressive mayoral bid. According to the same late-April poll that chris- tened Ferraro the front-run- ner, Albanese would finish

dead last if the primary were held today, snagging a mere five percent of the vote. Among black voters, Sal managed a pale 9 per- cent approval rating. How bad is that? New police boss Howard Safir scored only two points worse.

different type of housing in this community." "I'm not going to build hous- ing for the homeless," Kefalidis added. Still, before he can get the necessary variances from the City Planning Commission, Kefalidis must win the approval of the local community board, which will vote on the plan in June. Two years ago, the board rejected a previous owner's plan to turn the Steinway site into a 60,000 square- foot Pathmark superstore. Kefalidis says he may consid- er refloating a mega-mart pro- posal ifthe community doesn't give the green light to the housing complex. "I can put a superstore here," he says. "Would that be better for the community?"

Mohamad Bazzi

can put a superstore here," he says. "Would that be better for the community?" Mohamad Bazzi



buildings are often more than an individual administrator can handle, and HPD is forced to become directly involved in building management Under the new plan, officials hope that will change . " We will not have to get so involved," says Betty Terrell-Cruz, assistant commissioner for the 7a Program. The city plans to select new administrators from among 45 nonprofit and for-profit management firms now being evaluated. Tenant advocates say the move could be problematic. "If things are going well with a current administrator, don't replace that person with someone who doesn't have a relationship with the ten- ants,· says Anne Pasmanick. director of the Community Training and Resource Center. Fincher says she can do a better job than outside firms.

"I'll step out of my 7a role in a minute when I see someone has a problem," she explains. "Irs that little personal touch when you see it's needed:

Worse still, there's so lit-

tle money to be made in the

program that administrators hungry for a profit would have an incentive to short- change tenants. Wayne Saitta, an attorney with Williamsburg Legal Services, envisions "the worst of both worlds· in which administra- tors become as negligent as the buildings' previous own- ers. "To make any kind of real

profit from 7a you have to

milk the building: Saitta says. "If you're in it for profit, you take the fee and do as lit- tle work as possible." Tenants, who lose their right

to engage in rent strikes

when a building is in 7a, will

have little recourse.

Kemba Johnson

building is in 7a, will have little recourse. Kemba Johnson BABIES, PLEASEDON160 Emulating the Biblical custom


Emulating the Biblical custom

of painting lamb 's blood on the

door to ward off the Angel of Death, four protesters smeared

red paint on St Luke's Hospital in

hopes it would be spared the

corporate hatchet This act, part

of a demonstration last month

outside the Morningside Heights hospital, heralded a new battle in

a 10-year war between St.

Luke's/Roosevelt Hospital Center

and the St. Luke's Com- munity/Labor Coalition about

removing services . The hospital wants to transfer what remains of its maternity unit- 22 obstetric beds and 14 newborn intensive care beds-

to its Roosevelt division, almost

60 blocks south of Morningside Heights. The hospitals merged 17 years ago.

Six years ago, the state

required the hospital to retain some maternity beds at the uptown site. But St. Luke's/ Roosevelt executives argue that those facilities are now under- used. They also want to consol-

idate the maternity care unit with the maternity and pedi- atrics center at Roosevelt, now

that extensive renovation work there has been completed, according to Michael Scahill, hospital spokesman. But organizers say Harlem mothers suffer, on average , twice as many pregnancy com- pl ications as the West Side pop- ulations serviced by Roosevelt

Hospital. "We think irs discrimi- natory and I personally think it's

a racist practice,"

Reverend Earl Kooperkamp of

says the

MEMORANDUM CO 96 · 59 Date: March 28, 1996 To: !-rom : Subject: PRIORITIZATION OF
96 · 59
!-rom :
Thi S is a rem inder to EligibHity Speaa lists , Group Supe!'V Ears ana Administrative Office
Managers in all units on ine priority in which case acti<ns are to be processed .
priority IS as follows:
# 1
Case ClosingS
Case Rejectiorl$
Removals of lnetigible Individuals
Case Reductions
Case Acceptances (closely adhering to malMjated timeframes)
III 11_ times of financial oonstraints. it is ill~
strictly followed.
tlU ! the above listed pOorlty be
If there are any questions. the Center Director or deE~:JI1ee may can the Office of
Procedures at (212) 274-218012181 .
IS Cabinet
FSAO Cabinet
A MitcheU
W. Dworkin
L Jeffery
Codg y:(

Irs official. The Giuliani administration 's welfare policy is : Kick 'em out. ask ques· tions later. Advocates obtained a March 28 internal memo circulated by Burton

Blaustein , the senior Human Resource Administration official in charge

support, instructing his staff to purge the agency 's rolls . In the memo , Blaustein

lists five priorities HRA welfare workers

followed by " Case Rejections ." The last: enrolling new welfare recipients .

of income

must follow . The first: " Case Closings:'

the Church of the Intercession, a coalition member. "They are moving beds out of a predomi- nately black and Latino commu- nity to a white community." To counter the hospital's move, coalition leaders say they may take legal action with the help of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund, argu- ing that the hospital did not fol- low proper health department regulations. Still, previous law- suits and civil rights complaints have yielded little success. The group plans to ratchet up politi-

cal pressure on the hospital and hold more demonstrations.

Meanwhile, a new struggle looms as the hospital and Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center move forward with merg- er talks. Kooperkamp and others worry that if the new merger goes through, St. Luke's will seek to shift other vital services out of the neighborhood. But coalition members say they intend to continue the fight as long as services at St. Luke's are threatened, "We've raised some anger on this whole issue, but we're not the bad guys," says the Reverend Bob Castle, of St. Mary's Episcopal Church. "We want the hospital to stay."

Kemba Johnson



doubt that tenant-run cooperatives are the best low income hous- ing stock in the city. The study by the Task Force on City Owned

MAY 1996

Property presents rat- ings from Brooklyn tenants, and shows that resident-owned buildings were by far the most popular form of housing, while dty- man~ed buildings were generally reviled by their tenants. Public

projects and nonprofit- run buildings were given middling marks. And the performance of for-profit landlords varied so wildly the ratings were difficult to assess, the authors say. For a copy of "No More 'Housing of Last

Resort,'" contact the Parodneck Foundation at: (212) 431-9700.


congressional represen- tative's mind is a lost cause. That's sound advice to live by, con-

sidering where the power lies in this con- servative era. The Center for Community Change reminds grass- roots activists that most politicians are willing to make a deal, if that's what it takes to get some peace and

quiet. For a manual full of advice on cracking the right wing, call (202) 342-0567 and ask for the Winter 1996 "Action Guide for Community Organizations."


1 • , PROFILE i An Artful Vision The Point hones the business of culture in

An Artful Vision

The Point hones the business of culture in the South Bronx. By Kemba Johnson

I na sunlit comer inside acovered South

Bronx marketplace sits Marvin Mena's

first attempt at being a businessman.

It's a wooden cart that once held Swift

Records, a mobile music store. The cart has been abandoned, but 15 feet away he lifts the metal shutters and enters his second attempt-a storefront record shop just two weeks shy of its grand opening. A year ago, Mena was a manager at a Dunkin ' Donuts in Hunts Point At 19, he hadn't finished high school and was soon to be a father. Even with the money he made on the side deejaying at parties as DJ Marv

money he made on the side deejaying at parties as DJ Marv Poet and play- wright

Poet and play- wright Steve Sapp set out to keep artists and their patrons in the Bronx. He and his partners are linking hip-hop culture to the local economy.

Swift, he wasn't earning enough to raise a family or make a future. ''It was hard mak- ing $4.25 an hour," he says. ''I said to myself, 'I have to start making moves.'" So Mena set out to use his knowledge of music to change his life. He soon dis- covered, however, that starting a business is not easy. The $2,000 monthly rent on the

first storefront he considered leasing would have drained his budget. And the irresponsibility of his first business partner was already straining his patience. Enter The Point Community Develop- ment Corporation, Inc. Since it opened its doors late last year, The Point has made a mission out of developing small business- es and promoting cultural activities in the South Bronx.

From th. Edg.

Inside the 12,000 square-foot, red brick building, art and business mesh. On one side, a 180-seat theater, called Live From the Edge, hosts plays, amateur nights and art workshops. On the other, the business incubator nurtures neighborhood entrepre- neurs by providing cheap space in the cov- ered market and storefronts, as well as computers and advice. The Point takes these resources and goes one step further:

all of the businesses are based in the arts, and many of its cultural programs have a commercial angle. Here, Mena and six other neighbor- hood entrepreneurs have learned how to develop a business plan, track inventory, open a business banking account and take out loans. In monthly meetings, they share their experiences and talk about what kinds of services they need. When he first opened his pushcart busi- ness inside the marketplace last November, Mena's first customers were two of The Point's founders, Mildred Ruiz and Steve Sapp. 'They gave me more than advice," Mena says. "They gave me time, space and support. It would have taken me another two years to get to the level I'm at now." Well, that's The Point. By sharing resources and knowledge, small business- es can take off more easily and communi- ty people can envision themselves as working artists, says Sapp, himself a poet and playwright. "Just the idea of an art environment and commercial facility is amazing," says Robert Zagaroli, an archi- tect from the Brooklyn-based Pratt Planning and Architectural Collaborative and the designer of the building's interior. "There 's little precedence for it. It's groundbreaking." "In this area, especially in the Bronx,

there aren't many artistic things around," Sapp says. Too many people, artists and their patrons alike, leave the Bronx for Manhattan to fulfill their cultural needs. Before The Point helped create one, there wasn't even a bookstore in the South Bronx. "I want people to feel proud about the Bronx," Sapp continues. 'The Apollo does something for Harlem. I want people to say we have The Point." But The Point's founders also want neighbors to realize that the work of Bronx young people-street culture, music, design-should be valued as art, says co- founder Paul Lipson. "We want people to see the connection between hip-hop and rap and poetry," Lipson says. Lipson, Ruiz, Sapp and Maria Torres first worked together at a Bronx youth pro- gram based at Seneca Neighborhood Center, where they met Mena. In 1994, when Seneca's funding began to dry up, they left and developed The Point. Armed with some seed money from the J.M. Kaplan Fund and a book on how to start a nonprofit, they leased the old American Banknote building, which was a bagel factory in its last incarnation. For more than a year, the quartet worked weekends and nights on the renovation, building walls, painting and installing win- dows, and getting as much help as they could from community volunteers, includ- ing Mena. Today, they keep The Point afloat with money from foundations and corporate sponsors. They have managed to instill the idea of self-help at every level of the organiza- tion, from the business owners to the artists to the young people who take part in the many classes and cultural events. Outside of her marketplace T-shirt shop, BronxGear, Carey Clark teaches a drawing class with two students who are working on new designs. When Clark transferred BronxGear to The Point, she decided her students would learn more if she mixed art with entrepreneurship. Therefore, much of her students' work is silk-screened on the shop's T-shirts, for which the student-designers get 30 percent of the profits. A Paris modeling agency recently told Clark it might be interested in marketing the hip-hop designs. 'They would make the T-shirt and they can get paid," she says. "It's introduced the young people to all the facets of the business." Across the way in the theater, the Tats Crn, a trio of graffiti muralists, teach anoth-


\ \


er art class to about 12 young students. When they were growing up together, no one taught them how to get work or to have respect for the graffiti art that blanketed the neighborhood, says "Bio" Feliciano. Yet they eventually started their own mural company painting signs for local stores and for the Coca-Cola Corporation-as well as memorials for young people murdered in the neighborhood. Now they want to help students be as successful with less struggle. "No one did anything for us," Feliciano says. "You can do it yourselves. There's a lot of opportunity there certainly, but you have to meet it half-way. It doesn't just come to you." The Point also takes its self-help mes- sage to the community, sponsoring a sum- mer camp and an internship bank, which help almost 30 kids each. Even so, it has been difficult getting large numbers of community residents to visit. Neighbors know The Point exists, they just aren't familiar enough with it yet,


throw more money into marketing right now. ''When you have limited funds, it's not a priority," Sapp says. "It's word of mouth. When you do a good show, people come back. It's all part of building an institution." U1timately, The Point's nurturing atmos- phere will pull in people from the neighbor- hood if they just give the place a chance, Mena believes. "Many people say this place is going to make it. It's in the middle of nowhere, but it's going to make it."

says. But The Point can' t afford to

First Failure

On the other side of his storefront, however, sits a heap of leather jackets-a testament to a closed-up leather goods store. It's the first of the businesses in the marketplace to fail. But Maria Torres does- n't see it as a failure for The Point. The owner, she says, never fully moved in and never worked as hard to succeed as the other owners have. "If a person is in here every day and on the phone to get loans, that's good. We can't apply for loans for them or make the merchandise." The Point's founders hope the organiza- tion will own the building in two years, an undertaking that will cost more than $400,000. '1 want this place to be here long after we're dead and buried," Sapp says. Meanwhile, The Point continues to expand. The next phase is to develop an outdoor market area that will house a fruit stand and other businesses. Also, the

MAY 1996

house a fruit stand and other businesses. Also, the MAY 1996 Manhattan-based International Center of Photography

Manhattan-based International Center of Photography is considering teaching class- es in a small detached building on the property. The group hopes to add dance and recording studios, a low-range radio station and cultural ftlm festivals. They even have a vision of building an endow- ment fund for college scholarships for local students. And in the next few months, Sapp plans to produce The Point's first play-one of his own. Upstairs in the theater sound and light- ing booth, Mena is working the turntables. He is preparing for the first of two fundraising hip-hop shows he's holding for

Swift Records. It will cost about $6,000 for Mena to buy the inventory and racks he needs to complete the store, roughly half of which he plans to make on the ftrst show. He's a couple of weeks away from his grand opening, yet his storefront is empty, except for the phone, fax and a portrait of his baby daughter on his desk. His opti- mism is boundless, however. "I could rule the world if I wanted to, as long as I set my mind to it," Mena says, adding that he plans to own at least two stores within the next few years. 'There are no limits to anybody. That's what they've shown me, that there's no limit." •

Marvin Mena spins discs to raise the cash it will take to open his new storefront record shop.


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Public Housing tenants are split over whetherfast-track eviction for criminals justifies weakening every tenants'

due process rights. By Kierna Mayo Dawsey

loses, Graham could be out by the end of the summer. NYCHA spokesman AI Davila says that if Graham agrees to never let her son set foot in her apartment again, the evic- tion order will probably be dropped. "But under the circumstances her son can never, ever appear at Pink Houses again." he adds.

AcceleratH Timetable

Under the city's old eviction policy, tenants like Graham were tried before a housing court tribunal and given the option to have their cases heard in state court, where they often could obtain sub- stantial delays. Since a federal judge void- ed this system last month, residents must now plead before NYCHAjudges and can resort to outside courts only for appeals. Even those cases will be processed on an accelerated timetable, says authority spokesman Hilly Gross. "What about [an evicted tenant] who's rehabilitated himself?" asks Leslie

"ISthere anyone here who doesn't

know someone on drugs or have a close relative who is addicted to crack?" Ronald Ward asks the 50 elderly tenants who have gathered in the community room of the Reverend Brown Houses in Brownsville. Almost instantly, in unison, the many silver-haired heads shake "No." "Well, then you all know families that could be put out on the street under this 'one strike and you're out' business," Ward, a longtime tenant leader, warns his attentive audience. In March, President Clinton an- nounced the tough new public housing eviction policy-"One Strike and You're Out"-with the aim of cleaning drug deal- ers out of federally fmanced housing developments. Under One Strike, offend- ers can be evicted much more quickly than in the past because housing authori- ties now "need not meet the criminal stan- dard of 'proof beyond a reasonable doubt' in eviction proceedings," according to the federal policy manual. But if the policy was billed as a radi- cal innovation, Clinton's plan was old news in the five boroughs. For a year, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) has been bringing similar fast- track eviction proceedings, expelling 1,500 convicted or accused criminals last year alone. And in April, the housing authority won a major court victory that now allows them to shorten eviction appeals, which used to take as long as two years, to under 90 days.

knowledge," says NYCHA spokesman Hilly Gross. But an authority official in the tenant organizing division, speaking anony- mously, tells a different story. ''There are times when Housing feels like they have a case and they just go in and change the locks," says the official. Tenants themselves are deeply divided over the policy. Many of them believe it will improve their quality of life. ''We are always so afraid for our kids. You get tired of being afraid," says a One Strike sup- porter in Fort Greene's Farragut projects who was so afraid of retribution she refused to have her name in print. "The only people who will complain about this policy will be the drug dealers themselves and their supporters,"

The policy allows entire households to be booted for one person's crimes, leading to the expulsion of innocent parents and grandparents.

Holmes of Harlem Legal Aid. "What about the woman who is a victim of bat- tering and becomes subject to eviction because of her husband? Where do these people go?" Gross admits that no one is really sure how the newly speeded-up system will impact tenants, "But," he says, "we intend to maintain all the safeguards." Still, those assurances aren't very comforting for people living in the cross- fire of the drug war. ''I'm scared. They say you have to be responsible for the people coming to visit you," says Ethel Velez, a tenant leader in East Harlem's Johnson Houses who often tries to help out drug- addicted neighbors. "But if someone leaves my apartment and tries to sell something to a cop, if there's no [adequate appeals] procedure, then I'm out."' _

adds Ray Normandeau, a tenant council leader in Long Island City'S massive Queensbridge project. Yet Fannie Graham, a 49-year-old ten- ant in the Pink Houses in East New York for 20 years, was recently served papers by NYCHA to attend an eviction hearing in June. Graham, a severe diabetic, recounts her tale from a hospital bed at Downstate Medical Center, where she may lose a second leg to the disease. "Now they're about to throw me in the goddarnn street," she says. According to Graham, the trouble started last year when her 30-year-old son, who is now in jail, moved in with his girlfriend on the floor above her. "He was accused of setting his baby's moth- er's door on fire," she says, explaining why the city wants to kick her out. If she

Parents and Crandparents

Problem is, the policy also allows entire households to be booted for one person's crimes. Tenant lawyers like Judith Goldiner of Legal Aid's Civil Appeals and Reform Unit say that new procedures are already leading to the expUlsion of innocent parents and grand- parents. Officials deny that's the case. "The only time a whole family is evicted is when the apartment is being used for criminal activity with the family's






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MAY 1996

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The Cold Coast

Suburban Connecticut may be a New Canaan for the rich, but it's the same old Calcutta for those with no cash to spare. By Holly Rosenkrantz

S outhwestem Connecticut is made

up of a cluster of small towns

where the cops have time to stand

around telling pedestrians when to

cross the street. Martha Stewart, Phil Donahue and David Letterman live here, just a 3D-minute train ride away from Metro-North's Harlem station, Two of these towns, Greenwich and New Canaan, share with Beverly Hills the dubious title of being the most expensive places in the country to buy a house. When "A Current Affair" did a sensational expose on racial discrimination, they chose to bring their hidden cameras to Greenwich. Maria Gray lives in Norwalk, one of the urban hubs in this network of southern Connecticut wealth. For almost five years,

this city the sixth best place to live in America. But for the thousands of people with very low incomes here and in the sur- rounding region, the housing situation couldn't be much worse. In cities and towns across southern Connecticut's Fairfield County, poor people are a mostly hidden, ghettoized group on the fringe of society, barely noticed by their neighbors or their local governments. Virtually the only battles taking place here today over housing affordability have to do with new apartments slated for working people with moderate incomes-and even these pro- posed projects have been subjected to the wrath of conservative officials and resi- dents. "Poor people here are really left on their

resi- dents. "Poor people here are really left on their Tenants of Carlton Court (above) and

Tenants of Carlton Court (above) and other poorly maintained, subsidized developments can·t afford to live elsewhere in wealthy Fairfield County.


she has moved her family back and forth between cheap apartments and motel rooms. Once she finds an apartment she can afford, it's usually so beat-up the city winds up condemning the place because of shoddy wiring or gas leaks. She and her family spent Christmas in a motel, cooking dinner on a hot plate. Two years ago, Money magazine rated

own to make their way," says Peter Wood, a former New York City housing advocate who is now the executive director of the Mutual Housing Association of South- western Connecticut. "You don't have the concentrations of poverty like you do in New York or Boston, where it just hits you in the face every day," he explains. "It's a small percentage of the population living in




in _1IIII!lM --'.''''.- , OUT OF TOWN densely populated areas that have the same problems as

densely populated areas that have the same problems as a bigger city." According to the Census Bureau, about 4.5 percent of the region's population lives below the poverty level. In most of these towns, barely two percent of the housing stock is considered affordable, even to working class families, according to the state's Department of Economic Developement. And while African- American communities-and more recently, Latino communities-have got- ten organized and elected some local lead- ers, the town and city councils they serve on have strong conserv~tive majorities. Local governments seem more interested in the development of new corporate head- quarters than in low income housing. "It's a very wealthy area, a conserva- tive area, and the people in power don't believe housing problems exist," says Roseann Janasov, a former fair housing officer for the city of Norwalk. "They live in beautiful homes in an entirely different world. They don't know, or they just refuse to acknowledge, that the rest of us don't live like them."

Isolation of Pov.rty

Maria Gray is on a years-long waiting list for subsidized housing. If she makes it to the front of the line, she'll likely get an apartment in a housing project where vio- lence and drug-dealing are constant reminders of the isolation of poverty in the outer suburbs of New York City. "This is my town. I was born and raised here, my mother worked for the hospital and my father worked for the power com- pany," says Gray. "You know, nobody seems to feel like I belong here. They'd rather leave me and my father in a hotel room than help find us decent housing." Ironically, Norwalk is one of the few places in the region that has applied city money to the housing problem. During the past 10 years, Norwalk has spent $4.5 mil- lion to build 631 units of low income hous- ing, and now it's one of the only munici- palities in southern Connecticut that meets minimum state standards. It is also one of the only cities that pays a city staffer to work full-time on housing discrimination, This was a commitment Norwalk was forced to make, however. Ten years ago, the local branch of the NAACP sued the city for building all its low income housing in one section of the city-and in effect, the group claimed, creating a ghetto. The law-


suit was settled out of court, with the city agreeing to the $4.5 million housing plan and the creation of a fair housing office. The new office quickly received thou- sands of calls from people claiming they were victims of racial prejudice. Some of these claims were about blatant, I-don't rent-to-blacks discrimination, Janasov says. But her job also involved solving landlord-tenant disputes, organizing resi- dents and educating real estate agents about income discrimination laws. The office also organized a residents' council at the city's worst subsidized housing com- plex, Carlton Court, where residents said they felt powerless about changing their conditions. Yet, overworked as they've been, the city's fair housing officers have always had to fight with Norwalk officials to prove the office is important enough to keep. Conservative city lawmakers have often proposed combining the position with other jobs. And in 1995, when the city moved Janasov to a smaller office and cut her budget, NAACP leaders feared the city was trying to phase it out. Janasov quit in a noisy huff. City officials respond- ed with statements about their commit- ment to housing issues. But for five months the fair housing position remained vacant, inspiring a wave of angry petitions from black church congregations and res- idents of poor neighborhoods, and NAACP officials considered re-opening their lawsuit against the city. "It was like being slapped in the face," says AI Robinson, head of Norwalk's NAACP chapter. "Hardly anything is ever done to help poor people, and it seemed like the city was taking away this one thing, saying everything is all right." At least Norwalk eventually hired a replacement. A similar fair housing and human rights office was eliminated in 1994 in nearby Stamford, southwestern Connecticut's other city. Yet the lack of affordable housing is a constant problem in Stamford. Soon, the city will demolish several poorly maintained high-rise build- ings containing 250 apartments in a crime- ridden housing project called Southfield Village. The hundreds of families that will lose their homes have been bumped to the top of the waiting list for federal Section 8 rent subsidies, which they can use on the private market. Others are being moved to empty apartments in public housing. The day the city invited these tenants to

MAY 1996

sign up for the Section 8 program, more than 600 desperate Stamford residents showed up, mistakenly thinking that they, too, could get some assistance. In fact, the city's waiting list for the program has been closed since 1992, except for emergency situations. And while Stamford has promised to help relocate the displaced tenants of Southfield Village, that pledge is still open to question. Some city officials say they have no obligation to help house the poor. "People are supposed to take care of them- selves," says Edward Schwartz, the head of the Stamford Housing· Authority. Even if Stamford could simply give Section 8 certificates to every needy resi- dent, the city could not find them all a place to live. There simply are not enough afford- able houses and apartments, advocates say. And longtime federal regulations that required construction of new apartments to replace every demolished unit have been waived, so Stamford will see a substantial net loss of low income housing when the demolitions take place.

Bitter Fight

While Stamford loses a large part of its housing stock, and families like Maria Gray's remain in Norwalk motels, the sur- rounding wealthy towns are battling the state's 1990 Affordable Housing Act. The law allows developers to ignore many local zoning rules if they build moderately priced apartments affordable to young people fresh out of college who want to live in the towns they grew up in, or to government workers-such as police offi- cers and teachers-who want to live in the towns where they work. The law is explicitly not aimed at cre- ating low income housing, yet townspeo- ple have reacted to the new development projects like Manbattanites protesting against new drug treatment facilities and AIDS housing. In New Canaan, one of the wealthiest towns in Connecticut, Avalon Prop- erties-a large developer of rental apart- ments-is planning to build some so- called affordable housing under this new law. The rent on these apartments will be between $1,150 and $1,450 a month. Still, the local government has spent hun- dreds of thousands of dollars fighting the project, which the selectmen and plan- ners insist will ruin the town's charm. Part of the opponents' argument is a

Even newhousing for working people has been subjected to the wrath of conservative officials and residents.

common one in southern Connecticut:

they charge that an influx of new resi- dents would ultimately suck up too much public money. The fight against the moderate-rent apartment complex is turning bitter. At pub- lic hearings, residents have argued the development is too big for their "quaint New England village." Others insist they need a new parking lot more than they need affordable housing. Many New Canaan res- idents have taken the ironic stand that the proposed apartments aren't cheap enough to help "poor" people: ''You know, the teachers, the policemen, the people strug- gling to make a living," argues Hamilton Herman, a local resident who has led peti- tion drives against the project. "Those apartments will never help people who can't find a cheap place to live in Connecticut." Ultimately, local misunderstandings of exactly whom the Connecticut Affordable Housing Law is designed to help probably won't halt development. In recent rulings, the state courts have recognized the man- date for moderate income housing as well as the role private developers can play in filling that need. The state legislature is not preparing to pass any laws aimed at providing housing for poor people. And advocates say recent cuts in federal and state housing subsi- dies-as well as a tight-spending mood at the local level-means their jobs are becoming tougher. Wood points out that Legal Services, which defends poor tenants, has been reduced to a two-person operation. "Now, Legal Services is barely able to handle their workload," he says. "Everyone is just trying to survive." •

Holly Rosenkrantz is features editor at the FairfieldlWestchester County Business Journal.

trying to survive." • Holly Rosenkrantz is features editor at the FairfieldlWestchester County Business Journal.

It's high time for a schools revolution:

It's high time for a schools revolution: A fledgling movement strives to tap the city's greatest
It's high time for a schools revolution: A fledgling movement strives to tap the city's greatest

A fledgling movement strives to tap the city's greatest natural resource-parent rage.

by Glenn Thrush



the obligatory rolled ham on toothpicks and was now waiting, arms crossed, for the mothers and fathers of the South Bronx to

arrive at New Hope Lutheran Church. ~

They never showed up. ~

Crabb, a former Marine weapons expert, stared out of his storefront chapel at the clots of April snow falling onto Morris Avenue and pondered the fizzle of his first parent organizing session. It was an event that was sup- posed to help kick off a parent uprising that would overturn Community Board 9,

session. It was an event that was sup- posed to help kick off a parent uprising
arguably the most corrupt and educationally impoverished of New York's 32 school districts. Only two

arguably the most corrupt and educationally impoverished of New York's 32 school districts. Only two mothers, both of them event organizers, had turned up by the time Crabb decided to say the opening benediction . "It's awfully hard to get parents together in a community like this," he said. Olga Porter-Perez, one of the two parents at the meeting, broke in: "After all the stuff that's gone on, after all the scandals, parents still think the schools can do miracles. They think they don't need to do anything. " Porter-Perez and a lot of other people know that now would be the perfect time for parents in the city to come forward and take back their schools. Hollywood would script it this way:

The ignored, abused, overworked parents of District 9 . (Angela Bassett plays Perez-Porter) gather in the street outside their kids' school, storm the double steel doors like the Bastille gate, trailing school guards and adminis- trators in their wake. Windows are thrown open. Corrupt school board members are hung out and spun until all the booty falls from their pockets. Science books from the 1950s flutter down to the street below. A gleaming future beckons. Roll Credits. Back to reality. 'The only time things really change is when parents get loud and get angry-and the parents haven't gotten loud or angry in quite a while," says Diane Ravitch, author of 'The Great School Wars," a landmark history of the city school system. "Parents rioted when the schools were too overcrowded at the turn of the century. They took over the schools in the sixties to get commu- nity empowerment. If people want this system to

improve, they ' ve got to get angry again.

'That's when they scare the hell out of the politicians." For the moment, however, parents aren't scaring any- body. Community organizers scattered in districts across the city have only started to recognize that organizing parents may be as important now, at the turn of the new century, as tenant and welfare rights organizing was in the 1960s and 1970s. In the absence of a populist uprising, politicians are talking about radically reforming the school system on their terms. Within the next year, the state legislature is likely to pass laws stripping power from the community school boards. It's a move that may cut corruption, but could also foreclose the possibility of parents having real authority in their children's schools. "Basically, it's a joke when it comes to parent power," says Helen Schaub, a lead organizer with Mothers on the Move, a grassroots parents organization in the southeast Bronx. Nothing's been passed yet, however. And in recent months, par- ents and community leaders around the city have been preparing for the May 7 school board elections by mounting a number of small insurgent campaigns they hope will spawn a wider movement. AIl combined, they represent the most serious attempt in years to har- ness the anger and the democratic promise of concerned parents. From some of these efforts has sprung the nascent Parents Organizing Consortium Unlike other failed efforts to build an effective citywide parents' union, the new group hopes to start from the bottom up, recruiting angry parents fed up with lousy,


dangerous schools who have never had a constructive outlet for action. The consortium, led by community activist groups includ- ing ACORN and the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, hopes to raise $1 million to fund an army of 40 parent organizers within the next year or so. If it succeeds, it will be the largest grassroots effort to mobilize parents in decades. ''The goal is to build a citywide parent organization that has a real impact on individual schools and the overall restructuring of the school system," says ACORN's Jon Kest, who heads the consor- tium's braintrust. ''It won't happen overnight, but it will happen." "There are two conditions that need to exist for things to change in this city," adds Schaub, whose group is one of the con-

to be hurting. We

got that. Second, there needs to be some hope that things can

sortium ' s charter members . "First, people need

change. That 's what we need to work on."



Brooklyn neighborhoods of Ocean Hill and Brownsville had the same idea when they rose up to wrest power from the white-dom- inated central school board. They gave birth to a national "com- munity control" movement, staging a series of dramatic school takeovers that worked because black and Hispanic parents mobi- lized in unprecedented numbers. Their actions led to the creation of community school boards, giving local parents the power to elect their own nine-member boards, who, in turn, were given broad authority to hire superin- tendents, principals, administrators and school workers. It seemed like a great idea at the time. But today, the great majority of politicians and educators-and many parents-

The Reverend Bob Crabb held a parent organiz i ng ses si on i n his South Bronx chu rch- but th e parents fa iled to sho w up.

Bob Crabb held a parent organiz i ng ses si on i n his South Br


agree that the boards have utterly failed in their promise to empower minority neighborhoods and improve schools. Instead, many boards in poor communities became hiring halls where members brokered jobs for political payback and, in some cases, cash payoffs. Afew blocks from the Reverend Crabb's spartan little church Board 9's office, a lushly-appointed den where president Saez, a self-confessed "full-time" board member with no means of support, allegedly raised $30,000 in undocu- campaign contributions. Saez, who is being investigated

schools watchdog Ed Stancik, has also been accused of sitting by while one board member tried to bribe another. (At press Stancik's office was preparing to release a report detailing alleged misuse of campaign funds and district staff.) even Saez is a sideshow compared to the quality of edu- inside many classrooms. Test scores remain in the cellar in poor neighborhoods, worst of all in the South Bronx. Less third of the children in District 9 read at their grade level. February, Schools Chancellor Rudy Crew took his first toward dismantling the system Ocean HillIBrownsvilie cre- ated. Not only did he suspend Saez and his fellow board members along with neighboring Board 7, he also got Albany leaders to gi ve him broad discretion in re-suspending the boards if ousted members are reelected. Most significantly, Crew's actions appar- ently galvanized a bipartisan drive to end the era of strong com- munity school boards. In Albany, legislators are forging a reform law from two com- peting plans which give power to the mayor or to a reconfigured central school board. A bill may not pass immediately, but Democrats and Republicans both agree that it's time to take power away from the elected community school boards. They have also

proposed creating toothless school-level councils, which would include parents but have strictly advisory powers. Whatever its ultimate shape, the reform legislation seems destined to pass without much parent protest. "The talk behind the scenes is all about power at the top," says a legislative source close to the Albany bill drafters. "I've never heard a sin- gle person mention getting parents involved. That's just not an issue. There's absolutely no one in there lobbying for [commu- nity control]." ''There's a union for teachers, there's a union for principals, there's a union for custodians," says John Fager, leader of the Parents Coalition, a 12-year-old reform group. ''The only people who don't have a union are the parents."



Latino and Asian parents who felt school administrators had co- opted local parent associations, failed because it could not muster

either money or significant membership. Today, it barely survives, chronically low on cash and largely fueled by Fager's own ener- gy and access to the media. Its lingering presence serves as a warning to today's parent organizers, like the half-submerged hulk of a ship in hazardous straits. Despite its success in drawing attention to issues like kinder- garten overcrowding and the custodial union's wasteful contract, the coalition was never able to shift its focus on citywide policy issues to local organizing. As a result, it never developed a reliable base of support among parents. "Our basic problem is that we saw ourselves as a citywide group," concedes education consultant Jon Moscow, one of the organization's founders. ''We started with no budget at all and we just never saw our organization in the role of coordinating local

Now I've come to realize that grassroots organizing is

absolutely critical." There are also lessons to be learned from the official, school-

backed parents associations, those immemorial fixtures in every city schoolhouse. The PA's are supposed to represent parents' interests. But often--especially in poor communities-they are rubber-stamp committees for the administration. "Parents associations are never used as a tool to change the schools," says organizer Schaub. "Most of the time the principal tries to divert their attention by giving them all sorts of paper-



should shut up and just vol unteer in the cafeteria or raise some

money." The PA's haven't been a player in school reform because

they ' ve

association is effective, the administration knows that good par- ents will get tired, other parents will get bought off in exchange for special treatment and the rest just move on out of the school as their kids grow up," he says. "That's why parents need back-up. They need full-time people ensuring that constant pressure is applied to the system." But organizing in such an environment is tough. In District 9, with its grinding poverty and high concentration of Spanish- speaking parents, it's a chore just to fill meetings or rallies. "It's

never been organized, Moscow adds. "Even if a parents

In poor schools, parents are guilted into thinking they


hard enough to get parents to do homework with the kids," Porter-Perez says. "Forget about politics."



tired of reading about school board scandals in their own neigh- borhoods, began canvassing local parents and activists to see who would be interested in trying to run against Carmelo Saez's crew. Although the coalition waged an eye-opening campaign to regis- ter 4,000 voters, not a single parent was willing to brave the rig- ors of a school board race. "People were either too scared of Saez or too busy to run," says Crabb. "It was really frustrating." Unknown to the church leaders, Omar Oliver Ortiz, a harried 23-year-old college student with a baby face and braces, decided he would take on Saez all by himself. Ortiz, who lives with his mother, does not have any children of his own, but he has an inexhaustible, optimistic drive. Since 1986, when his father was shot dead in a drug deal gone wrong, he has been the man of his house, helping to raise three broth- ers and sisters. The loss of his father spurred Ortiz to play a paternal role in the lives of neighborhood kids. Eventually, he founded his own youth group and he still spends spare time mentoring teenagers who he says have been "victimized" by District 9's schools. "It's a system that makes young people feel worthless," says Ortiz, whose mother is a special education teacher. 'Their book- bags would be stuffed with crinkled homework that teachers never bothered to check. They'd tell me that the teachers couldn't give a damn if they were dirty or clean. None of these kids ever has a teacher that makes a difference for them." Starting in late winter, Ortiz undertook the tedious door-to- door work of soliciting petition signatures along with his girl- friend and his mother, plodding through the endless hallways of the projects. Together they wrenched 293 signatures from reluc- tant residents, 93 more than he officially needed to get on the bal- lot. The reactions he got from parents first shocked him, then steeled his resolve to win. "Parents were so utterly hopeless about the schools," says Ortiz, who hopes to be a social worker after graduating from Marymount Manhattan College next year. "I knocked on one woman's door and she asked me, 'How do I know you're not going to get corrupted?' And she refused to sign the petition. She told me she didn't think anybody could make a difference. I told her I would." In truth, Ortiz may be a little too optimistic. In early April, his democratic dream slammed into the vengeful realpolitik of Carmelo Saez. The board president, wearing a chocolate-hued pinstripe suit and his signature Jheri curls, strolled into a Board of Elections hearing and knocked Ortiz off the ballot instantly on what seemed to be the most insignificant technicality. A tiny tally box on each petition page had not been ftlled in, Saez's lawyer Dominick Fusco pointed out. "Unfortunately, it's fatal, sir," an apologetic elections commissioner told Ortiz, as Saez nodded approvingly. By the end of the petition-challenging procedure, only five candidates-Saez's entire slate of incumbents-were left on the ballot to fill nine board seats.


(Fusco, a Bronx Democrat, is also representing Board 9-at city expense-in its appeal of Chancellor Crew's suspension order. In also serving as Saez's private lawyer to knock chal- lengers off the ballot, Fusco may have violated Board of Education conflict-of-interest regulations. Both Saez and Fusco are being investigated in the matter, says Bob Brenner, a top aide to Ed Stancik, the board 's special commissioner for tions. Board 9 authorized more than $20,000 in n~~'mpnt~ Fusco for legal work over the last several years, according central school board official.)

Ortiz may still have the last laugh. Running along with a longtime family friend, he is waging a write-in campaign to win a seat. Ironically, the absence of other candidates in the district should work in his favor: Because there are less than nine names on the ballot, Ortiz only has to out-poll his fellow ins to win Ortiz, who has never run for elective office before, nonetheless won the endorsement of District Council 37, powerful municipal employees' union. The union has agreed to print campaign literature and palm cards for free. addition, he is getting technical assistance from New York University 's Institute for Education and Social Policy, a pro- gressive think-tank that has held numerous how-to workshops for school board candidates. "Our whole goal was to create a means to give communities and parents a greater voice in this process," says institute co- director Norman Fruchter, a school reform expert who also se.rves as a school board member in Park Slope, Brooklyn . "We are trying to give people the tools to function in a system that

wasn ' t designed to encourage their

have someone helping you negotiate this system, you're dead."

If you don't



THOUGHHISSERVICESWEREAVAILABLE TO ALL COMERS, MOST OF the groups that sought Fruchter's help turned out to



the groups that sought Fruchter's help turned out to be inexperi- enced, insurgent candidates running long-odds challenges against entrenched incumbents: candidates in District 17 in Crown Heights, would-be board members in northeastern Bronx's 10 (some of whose members faced criminal indictments time) and District 8's insurgents, Mothers on the Move. district, which encompasses the Hunts Point and Neck sections of the Bronx, is dominated by white, con- allies of State Senator Guy Velella, the Bronx GOP "The northern part of the district is white and Republican

has good schools," explains Helen Schaub. "The southern mostly black and Hispanic and we ' re in a shambles. That's so important we get elected. To have our voices heard." racial divide is equally pronounced in Coney Island, Fruchter has helped seven parents and grandparents who a slate to land the fIrst-ever African-American board shorefront Brooklyn's District 21. As in the Bronx, the candidates believe the dearth of minority board members has created racial disparities within the district A superfIcial glance at District 21 's elementary school math and English scores show that students are well above the citywide medi- an. But in the western part of the district, where more than a third of the students live-most of them black or Hispanic--educational failure reigns. 10 the four majority-black and Hispanic schools in Coney Island, reading scores are as bad as in the South Bronx. "And there are subtle forms of discrimination that take place," says candidate Anthony Morton, whose son just graduated from junior high school. He also has a granddaughter starting elemen-

tary school next year. "We had a situation out here where the teachers had turned a school playground into a parking lot for their cars. That meant the children had to have their recess and gym classes indoors. "When we asked them why they did it, the response was 'Because we're afraid of getting mugged on the way to our cars. '"



where else. But changing educational priorities at a school where teachers and administrators value easy parking over kids' access to fresh air has been a much larger battle. Therein lies the main challenge of the Parents Organizing Consonium. "The problem about education organizing is that most advocates, even experts, can't tell you exactly how to tum a bad school into a good school," Jon Kest explains. "It's an abstract and difficult thing. But I don't think it's impossible." So far, the POC has raised $250,000 to embark on its fIrst campaign, a text- book and school facilities improvement drive due to kick off this month. The other, more general push is to get par- ents of students in poorly performing schools to make their presence known. At P.S. 329, a Coney Island elemen- tary school where grade-level reading profIciency hovers 20 percentage points lower than District 21 's average, Morton did just that. He called a con- ference with the principal to ask for spe- cifIc solutions to the school's educa- tional malaise. When the administrator began explaining that the school's scores had recently risen a few percentage points, Morton-whose group belongs to the POC--<:ut him off. "I said this to him: 'If I were drowning in ten feet of water and I was able to climb up three inch- es, wouldn't I still be drowning?''' Morton had seized on the central tenet of the parents move- ment: that schools should be held directly accountable for the quality of their students' education. It's the notion that politicians, teachers and administrators can't be allowed to rationalize failure in poor communities by saying: "With parents like those, how can you expect the kids to do any better?" "The children are bearing the cross for the failure of the sys- tem," says Bob Crabb. "For years, everyone has always been blaming the parents. And it's just not fair. It's the schools that have failed. Sure, parents need to be more involved. Sure, they need to help their kids do their homework." He pauses and scans the empty chairs in the church. "But it's about time that the schools start taking some of the burden off the parents." •


Its mission is to build new schools and renovate old ones-but on many projects, the School Construction Authority deserves a failing grade.


By Jordan Moss



the School Construction Authority (SCA), appeared on a New York 1 cable-TV talk show to explain, in great detail, his "suc- cesses" in managing construction contractors and weeding out bad ones through his agency's stringent prequalification procedures. Parents and school administrators must have been scratching their heads in living rooms across the city, wondering just which contractors-and which SCA-Thacher was talking about. Although the construction agency has completed 28 new schools and 34 building modernizations since its creation in 1988, many of its projects have fallen years behind schedule and a few have been so poorly managed that they've required major structural overhauls. In fact, according to a City Limits analysis of the agency's own records, at least one-quarter of the new-school construction pro- jects the SCA has planned and contracted for since 1990 have been delayed by a year or more and remain incomplete. Remarkably, seven of these are two or more years behind schedule. The list of blunders and stalled openings is long. A score of projects, including building additions, gut rehabilitations and more moderate renovation work; have overrun their original com- pletion dates and are delayed by more than a year. Six vital high school modernization projects are also more than a year behind schedule, five of them delayed at least two years. The most noto- rious of the lot, Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn's Flatbush neighborhood, will have taken four extra years and $20 million more than planned if it is completed on the contractor's latest schedule, in December 1998. As the SeA stumbles, the city school system's need for more quality facilities is becoming desperate. With the public schools' student population growing by nearly 21,000 children every year, almost 100,000 students lacked regular classroom seats last year, according to city Comptroller Alan Hevesi. And that number, Hevesi adds, will more than double by the year 2002. Despite more than $4.4 billion comitted to school infrastructure since 1989, only $1.7 billion worth of projects has been completed and hundreds of school buildings remain in need of serious repair. City Council Speaker Peter Vallone's recent proposal to raise another billion tax-dollars for school ('onstruction and renovation has gained the support of many parents-but it will also put more responsibility on an agency that's having trouble handling the work it's already been given.

MAY 1996

"You shouldn't just throw good money after bad," says Harr, a parent and member of the Northwest Bronx ,""VULUllUUJJL] , and Clergy Coalition's education committee. Harr and her leagues support the Vallone plan-as long as the SCA and its tractors are made accountable to the public. "Let's build ~W.\'F.U'UI into the process," she says, "The SCA should be monitored."



badly in the Bronx's District 10, one of the most overcrowded in the city. PS 20, a new elementary school for 1,200 students in Norwood, was originally scheduled for completion in September 1993. Two-and-a-half years later, officials say the school will finally be ready for opening next fall. Mishaps and contractor troubles plagued the ill-fated con- struction project from the start. First, inspectors discovered the landfill used to support the foundation was too soft, but only after



the contractor put up the steel and concrete skeleton of the main classroom building. The discovery delayed construction by two years. Months later, after the SCA forced the general contractor, Koren DiResta, off the project, another company drove piles to support one of PS 20's three buildings in the wrong place. Because of these and subsequent contractor errors, the school's completion has been rescheduled no less than six times. The delays hurt kids. Six severely overcrowded schools are

. relief from PS 20. This year, students at nearby PS 8 to attend school in two shifts, the first beginning at 7:00 Only when the new school is completed will the children to a normal schedule. "We need this school desperately," says Toni Rodriguez, 7-year-old son Christopher must share textbooks and space in a school where overcrowding means an abbrevi- period and no play time. "If it were [SCA officials'] they would see what we mean," she says. Another new District 10 school in University Heights, PS 15, under the incompetence of the same general contractor, DiResta. PS 15 opened last September before construction complete, and students are still navigating hazards. A child snared in an improperly constructed playground fence last school officials report, and another had a fmger crushed an incorrectly hung door. The Bronx is not alone with these troubles. In Sunset Park, PS 24's opening, slated for September, has been pushed one year due in part to troubles with its contractor. The con- on another new Brooklyn school, PS 22, was recently ter- and that project is more than three years behind schedule.

Albert Gallardo. "You have weather, labor, manufacturing. You


have bumps. It's a rocky ride." Gallardo says that contractors are generally held to a fixed timeline, and that any changes must be reviewed by the agency's

managers. He adds that school parents often assume a project has ground to a halt when they see work stop for a few days. "It takes time to get a permit, or to transport steel. You can't pour concrete

when the ground is frozen

Community people see a building

have subcontractors who have to pay their employees

with only two laborers working, they jump to the conclusion that work is behind schedule." Yet all too often, SCA's work is well behind schedule-and the agency's explanations have critics' blood boiling. A 1994 report by State Senator Roy Goodman (R-Manhattan), a key sponsor of the legislation creating the agency and chainnan of the senate's investigative committee, was harshly critical of the SCA's performance. The report found problems with the majori- ty of renovation and new construction projects it investigated, and

cited insufficient accountability, ineffective management and contracting policies, and poor communication procedures. SCA's Gallardo says his agency responded to the report's fmd- ings to the satisfaction of Goodman's staff in a "conftdential" meeting. Goodman's chief counsel, Rachel Gordon, says that's not true. The fmdings were "never adequately addressed by the SCA. If those were adequately addressed, they'd be a lot better off," she says, adding that the agency's aversion to criticism is part of the problem. ''To not take the complaints of a client seri- ously is not professional," she says. As City Limits went to press, Goodman was preparing to release a follow-up report, again highly critical of the SCA.


school construction from the corruption and bureaucratic lCOlnpe:tence of the Board of Education. To speed completion of state legislators exempted the new agency from time-con- land-use review procedures and freed SCA from the Wicks which requires municipal agencies to issue separate plumb- electricity, heating and construction contracts instead of allow- general contractors to hire whoever they believe can get the job The state also created a three-member board of trustees, con- of the schools chancellor and appointees of the governor and to streamline accountability and oversight of the SCA. high hopes surrounding the agency's founding mission display in the lobby of its Long Island City headquarters, glass box showcases display delicate models of several schools. The designs have won several arclUtectural and design awards, and it just takes a visit to one of the real tIllngs to understand why. At PS 15, tall windows illuminate a spacious library with modern benches. Solid oak cabinets adorn class- rooms. A terraced amplUtheater nestles into the building's rear facade. Such buildings were designed to improve upon the old, antiseptic, factory-style schoolhouses so many clUldren attend. Yet turning the designers' vision into real-world structures has been an ordeal . Officials of the agency place most of the blame for the delays and construction errors on the pitfalls of the con- struction industry. "Our contractors all have problems. Construction by its very nature will never be a perfect process," says SCA Vice President


municate with the communities it serves . In its own documents, the SCA claims to have "structured mechanisms for involving communities in the construction process, so that schools may truly serve as community centers that foster community strength. " But the agency seldom keeps parents up to date on the progress of their schools. In fact, the only routine interaction with parents takes place prior to construction. This lack of information and accountability frustrates parents. And even superintendents, local school board members and other top officials say they have difficulty getting accurate information from the SCA. After several delays at PS 20, and during a time in wlUch seri- ous safety issues were raised at PS 15, then-SCA clUef executive Barry Light repeatedly refused invitations to brief parents at com- munity school board meetings-until top Board of Education officials intervened. At a November meeting in District 10, Light announced that PS 20 would not open as planned on February 1, and would not be completed until March 31. After Light left the agency two months ago, SCA IUgher-ups announced that deadline too would be missed. Light had also promised that all work at PS 15 would be completed by November 30, but several key tasks remain unftnished today. By repeatedly breaking promises, often with no public expla- nation, the SCA fuels the distrust of parents and school officials. A window replacement project at PS 81 in Riverdale was supposed


to begin more than a year ago, according to Lori-Jo DiGiulio, the school's parents' association president. When work fmally began this February, it stopped after five days. While it is unclear which company is at fault, the general contractor, HRH Construction of the Bronx, says it could not keep its promise of completing one classroom per day, and instead could commit to only one per week. DiGiulio says SCA staff have not been able to hold HRH account- able. "It's almost as if their hands are tied," she says.



given new, high-profile responsibilities . The new plan by Council

Speaker Peter Vallone, which proposes to extend for three more years the income-tax surcharge that paid for police department expansion and use it for schools, will place the agency under far fiercer scrutiny. State Senator Guy Velella (R-Bronx) offers a preview of the coming debate. "Not a penny will go to the SCA until we reform it and get it productive," he vows, blasting what he describes as the SCA's bloated bureaucracy: 'They've loaded the agency with employees. What are they all doing? Give them a hammer and a paintbrush and let them go out and work." Such knee-jerk, politicized critiques are likely to ring true to jaded New Yorkers-and perhaps undermine future school con- struction projects-despite the fact that the SCA has shrunk to 571 employees from 654 employees in 1994. Yet the Democrats, who trumpet education as their top issue,

are ceding the debate to the Vallone plan's critics by having little to say on the matter. "I don ' t expect that we will have a report [on the SCA]," says Steve Sanders, chairman of the Assembly Education Committee. "But we are trying to ascertain if we have to go to some other agency to administer a larger pot of money." The assembly is considering a school construction financing plan of its own which may rely on new lottery revenues. "Just because the SCA has a problem doesn't mean we stop building schools," adds Lois Harr of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, which has been calling for an entirely new system for holding the construction agency account- able. Her organization has also joined with other members of the newly formed Parents Organizing Consortium (See "Where are the Parents?" page 12), which also includes ACORN and the Hunts Point-based Mothers on the Move, in a campaign demand- ing new investment in school repairs and construction. Parents at PS 64 in Queens, where the SCA built a new addi- tion in 1992, couldn't agree more. Since the project was complet- ed, the school's heating and cooling systems have not worked properly. Students wear coats in the winter, and for a time, the fire alarms were going off whenever the air-conditioning switched on. The SCA never adequately addressed many of these problems, charges Pat Ralston, president of the school's parents association. "I want them to think about who it is they are doing this for," she says. 'These children are our future." .

Jordan Moss is editor of the Norwood News, a Bronx community paper.

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from traditional organizing tomes like Saul Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals" as he goes. One of his fJrst pieces of advice is an old Alinsky standard:

"Always strive to go outside the experience of your target." In other words, don't be predictable. Though Internet organizing is relatively new, Deutsch says, some of the techniques activists have grown to depend on are getting old fast. Barraging the White House and Congress with electronic mail, for example, is rapidly becoming within the experience of the target. The Internet offers users a whole toolbox for organizing-instant research, instant contacts, instant communication. But, he adds, activists' work must be focused on producing results in the real world, not just on the Net. A case in point is the federal Telecommunications Act campaign Deutsch designed last year for the nation's seven regional "Baby Bells," including Nynex, Arneritech and Bell Atlantic. The act, which ultimately passed into law in February, freed these companies to jump into lucrative markets held by long-distance telephone and cable companies. During congressional debate over the bill, the Bells' public mes- sage, repeated like a mantra in advertisements and press releases, was that deregulation would spark competition, and competition would be good for consumers. What better way to get this point across than to provide a quality on-line service to help legislators, consumers and the corporations' own competitors track the proposed legislation as it passed through congressional committees and mark- up sessions? The act itself was highly technical-the final version was more than 200 pages long-and various sections of it were, at any given moment, on dozens of different staff and committee desks. Bell lob- byists gathered the changes daily-almost hourly in the final weeks- and posted them for all to use at bell. com on the World Wide Web. Also posted, of course, was a liberal dose of the Bell spin-just in case anybody needed to know. As the debate neared climax, Deutsch claims that the site was accessed by users more than SO,OOO times a week. There's no way to measure the impact of the campaign, which was a form of targeted advertising. Still, Congress and the President signed off on a bill that gave the Baby Bells much of what they sought, and when the association shut down the Web site, Deutsch got e-mail from staff and reporters who told him they were sad to see it go. "The influ- ential people read it," he says. "It served the role of making sure the word was heard."


wo and a half years ago, Deutsch was a FJeld director for Public Citizen's Congress Watch, where he did his best to carve a niche in on-line activism. But he left the organization frustrated that his bosses were leery of devoting the staff time and money needed to use the Internet effectively.

Now he is director of "information marketing" at Issue Dynamics, Inc. in Washington, D.C. He argues that activist nonprofJts should be more focused on the opportunities offered by communications tech- nology. Tools like electronic mail can sharply reduce phone and fax costs. Newsgroups and listservs-essentially e-mail clubs open to anyone who wants to subscribe-offer local organizations unprece- dented power for sharing strategies and gathering intelligence. And imaginative activists can get a lot of mileage publishing a Web page, Deutsch says-if they focus on their market and remain clear in their


goals. "Someone's got to breathe some fire into the nonprofits to get them to realize that this will be a cost-saver, first and foremost, and will make them more effective," he says. Grassroots activists, used to working door-to-door, have been suspi- cious of this latest brand of organizing. The Internet, after all, remains a

tool of the elite. Only 16 percent of households have moderns and only

II percent subscribe to an on-line service. Far more people use the

Internet at work, but it is certainly not yet a full-fledged mass commu-

nication tool. Anyone who has attempted to explore the World Wide Web knows that searching for information, or even simply moving about, can be maddeningly slow even with a high-speed modem. Yet those who populate the Internet and understand its quirky dynamics have demonstrated that it is too important to ignore. Two years ago, Net users derailed development of the Clipper Chip, a device designed by govemment security agents to encode digital telephone communication, making it safe to send things like credit card numbers over the Internet. Net enthusiasts adamantly opposed the Clipper Chip because the Clinton administration wanted the device to become the national coding standard. Though people's e-mail would be "safe" from prying eyes, government officials would know how to decode Clipper transmissions and, hence, would have the capability to monitor any- one's messages. Leaders at Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR) rallied the Internet's civil libertarians and privacy activists, getting more than 51,000 people to "sign" an on-line petition oppos-

ing the chip and delivering it to Vice President Al Gore. Thousands

also contacted their elected officials and the media. Eventually, the

campaign spilled onto television and into the newspapers, engendering enough bad publicity to force the administration to back off.

Certainly the Internet is capable of generating a lot of noise quick-

ly, if the cause suits its tecbnophile audience. But those who prefer to

organize in the real world are also finding the modem wire impossible to ignore. To wit:

D Anti-smoking activists track the tobacco industry and health regu-

lators using a members-only on-line service called the Smoking Control Advocacy Resource Center Network, or SCARCNet. In addi- tion to trading information and strategies on topics ranging from

indoor clean air laws to advertising regulations, they also use the forum to track how the media play their messages, doctoring the spin in future interviews as needed.

D Marian Wright Edelman's son, Jonah, in charge of pulling off his

mom's mammoth June 1 Stand for Children rally in Washington, D.C.,

is using a full-time, on-line organizer to coordinate the event.

Organizer Nalini Kotarnraju reports that their automatic e-mail server

alone is handling more than )00 requests for information a day. More

than a third of the I,SOO participating organizations have e-mail, cut-

ting down the cost of faxing and mailing updates. Also, e-mail lists and

Web links have notified thousands of people, particularly those in iso-

lated communities, who might otherwise have never been invited to participate.

D Even an urban-based, avowedly low-tech organization like the

Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN)

has decided to get on the Web. The selling point was employee recruit-

ment-ACORN needs a fresh supply of college kids every year to restock its low-paid organizer positions, and students, asserts ACORN's 26-year-old Nathan Henderson-lames, spend a lot of time goofmg off on the Web.

Over the longer term, ACORN will use the Web to link with unions and progressive groups it has never worked with before. "This is about raising ACORN's profile in general," says Henderson-James. "People should think about ACORN when they're pissed off and want some- thing done."

hat will the Internet actually do for people too disenfran- chised or undercapitalized to lobby Congress and stage media campaigns? It's the first question any activist should ask before considering on-line organizing, Deutsch says. "If your constituency is not on the Internet, it may not be a good tool to use," he says. "Unless, of course, you can figure out a way to get them on." Twenty-seven-year-old Barbara Duffield has thought about this. Last year, using an old PC brought from home, she built a Web site for the National Coalition for the Homeless, primitive compared to com- mercial sites but a veritable feast of activity by nonprofit standards. In addition to uploading volumes of educational materials, Duffield has photographed and interviewed dozens of homeless people in the Washington area. Their pictures can be viewed on the coalition's Web pages and their stories are told on downloadable audio files. It's an experiment, she says, in getting people involved in serv- ing homeless people and boosting public concern about the politics of housing and poverty. People can look at the pictures, listen to the stories and request information on how to get involved. She argues that this instant connection is important-and new. In the past, people who had progressive political sentiments and vague feelings of compassion for the poor had to be lured into soup kitchens and activist projects through all kinds of complex organizing efforts-using churches, advertising, door-knocking and phone banks.

here's an old saying in the business world: Computers don't improve management-they just help managers do the wrong thing faster. It's a lesson worth heeding, notes Audrie Krause, executive director of CPSR. She heads up one of the Internet's oldest activist organizations, but she herself is only a recent arrival to Net culture, having served for 11 years as an organizer for various grass- roots causes in California. There is a tendency toward myopia among on-line organizers, she notes. Many of those enthralled with the Net concentrate on elaborate education campaigns only to realize, after the fact, that they aren't reaching the type--<>r the number--<>f people they imagined. "I think some people who are on-line do not really understand that most of the world is still off-line," she says. Jonah Seiger, a policy analyst at the Center for Democracy and Technology, admits it's a lesson he learned coordinating the campaign against Senator James Exon's Communications Decency Act. Signed into law earlier this year as part of the telecommunications bill and now being challenged in court, the act would fme or imprison Internet pub- lishers found gUilty of making "indecent" material available to minors. There's no arguing that the opposition's natural constituency was on the Internet. Not only did the bill effectively outlaw Net-porn sites, popular with sweaty-palmed college types, it also threatened the Web's anything-goes publishing culture. Using classic Net organizing techniques, Seiger and others, most notably Shabbir Safdar at the Voters Telecommunications Watch, spread the word, getting permis- sion to present their case against the bill on various forums and list- servs. They also posted detailed educational material with specific instructions on how people could contact their representati ves. At first, Seiger says, the troops responded by sending legislators

moving e-mail messages like: "Censorship sucks!" But the campaign UU Anthony Wright, who monitors on-line activism at the

ou've got to make the information compelling," says

This is

Of course, all these tools are still necessary. But the Internet provides a cheap, simple mechanism for roping in sympathetic people and instant- ly giving them the information they need to get involved locally. "It's not like people can go to the Yellow Pages and look up 'shel-

"It was a visual image that people could make sense of," says Seiger. "It helped define the issue-although, admittedly, a little too late."

the issue-although, admittedly, a little too late." ter,'" Duffield says. "People don't know

ter,'" Duffield says. "People don't know where to start


action. It's taking education and doing something with it."

eventually took hold. As the months progressed, Internet users regis- Center for Media Education. Otherwise people will

tered their disapproval with

complex opinions about free speech and broadcast rights. The reach of

the legislation was scaled back. A provision holding service providers and academic ones. They may be bare-bones, they may not look pret- liable for the actions of the publishers, for example, was stricken. Still, ty, but they have the most useful information."

often, is what people desperately need-although it's

important to remember that the best information isn't necessarily found on the Internet. Sometimes, you have to use old-fashioned

Clinton signed the Communications Decency Act into law. That's the techniques. Duffield answers a lot of e-mail, including a fair number

of letters from people threatened with homelessness themselves (You

these days, she says). In early

April, a man wrote, carefully relaying a story about his children, his

have on the Web's independent publishers. In the days before, orga- ailing health and an apartment he expected to lose in six days. Only nizers broadcast the idea and protesters jumped on board: For 48 hours the last line belied his panic. In capital letters, he shouted: "I NEED after the signing of the bill, more than 2,000 Web pages went dark, SOME HELP."

including important hubs like Netscape, where people can download Duffield could only print the letter out and pass it along to her col- important Web software, and Yahoo, a popular search engine. The leagues. On the bottom, she scribbled a quick note, using old-fash- stunt served to keep press coverage riveted on government censorship. ioned interactivity: "Any ideas?" •

e-mail, phone calls and letters outlining

never come back. "That's why I firmly believe that the best sites on the Web right now are still the nonprofit

most of the bill passed into law. Seiger admits today that he did not truly understand the importance of capturing the collective imagination until just before President

day he and others, attempting a grand act of civil disobedience, staged

And that,

a partial blackout of the World Wide Web. would be surprised at who is on-line

The goal, he says, was to illustrate the impact censorship could


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He Came Back

Overcoming addiction can be a life's work. A North Brooklyn fighter makes the comeback trail his spiritual path.

By Linda Ocasio

family when they came to Brooklyn from Puerto Rico in 1950. He first got caught selling heroin in 1957 when he was 19. He spent nine months in jail, and then returned to Puerto Rico to live with his grandmother. But when Pagan returned to New York City in 1961, he was back on the streets, wheeling and dealing. He hung out with gangs like the Phantom Lords. 'They were street fight- ers," he says. "But I was a fol- lower, not a fighter." He could always count on his family to take him in, no matter what, because that was how his grand- mother wanted it. "My grandmother was my guardian angel," he recalls. Yet Pagan did not enter heroin detox until soon after she died. "When my grandmother passed away, I knew my support system was going to come to an end." In the winter of 1966, he entered a program at what is now Beth Israel Hospital: It was there, in May 1967, that he joined five other ex-addicts-including Julio Martinez, who would later become state commission- er for drug addiction services--to start Phoenix House, a place for recovering addicts like themselves to learn to live drug- free in a strict but nurturing environment. " We were six guys in a furnished room, and

environment. " We were six guys in a furnished room, and W hen Carlos Pagan re-

W hen Carlos Pagan re- flects on his life, he compares himself to a young boxer in the ring, riding high with

fame and money before the inevitable col- lapse. "You see kids who become profes- sional fighters, they make it big and with- in a short time they're broke. Their man- agers have ripped them off," he says. Pagan, 57, knows what it feel s like to hit the mat hard. And then rise again. And fall. And rise. Pagan went from streetwise drug addict to co-founder of Phoenix House, the drug treatment organization-and he' d accom- plished all that by the time he was 28. Since then, he has helped create another renowned treatment program, Project Return, waged a personal battle with alco- holism, lost his job and started over yet again. In 1986 he founded the organization he leads today, EI Regreso (The Return) , a

residential treatment center for men in Williamsburg. The drama doesn't end there, however. A few years ago, he was the subject of a state investigation over allegations of mismanagement of more than $1 million in state funding. Yet today, El Regreso has received a

clean bill of health from the state and recent- ly graduated a third group from its treatment program. In fact, Pagan says memories of the state investigation don't bother him any- more. That was minor trouble compared to what really haunts him-the loss of his posi- tion as president of Project Return 10 years

liThe only thing I can say is, try to stay clean and follow the rules."

ago following his bout with alcoholism. "I take a lot of the blame," he says. "I was a little boy in Disneyland, I was fed with a silver spoon in the playpen. That's what they told me in alcohol rehab," he

recalls. "I hurt myself, but there were other people hurt because of that. My life is dif- ferent today. I don't drink. I will never


that' s how much it hurt me." He's

learned his lessons, he says, and now he keeps his work close to home.

Seiling Heroin

Just down the block from EI Regreso's center on South Second Street is the apart- ment building where Pagan lived with his

we pulled our welfare checks together to create Phoenix House," says Pagan. The organization drew the attention of Mayor John Lindsay, who provided city

funding, and Pagan and the others became paid staff members. "It was exciting," he says. "I never had anything, and suddenly

I had a title.

recognition I'd never had." When Pagan and Martinez decided to strike out on their own in 1969, they joined the city's new Addiction Services Agency, which was opening storefront offices throughout the boroughs to offer referrals and counseling to addicts. Pagan was assis- tant director at a storefront in Clinton on the

I was getting money and

Carlos Pagan (above) opened EI Regreso i n two buildings that, just a few years ago, were heroin shooting galleries.




West Side of Manhattan; Martinez headed the Longwood Avenue office in the Bronx. When they started Project Return together in 1970, it was a natural out- growth of their government experience. In addition to providing referral services for substance abusers, they set up a senior center and a women's shelter. Pagan was vice-president, but in 1982, when

Martinez became head of the Division of Substance Abuse Services in Mario Cuomo's ftrst administration, Pagan took the helm of Project Return. It should have been the best of times for Pagan, but that was not to be. "I found myself drug-free, with a bunch of people on a positive, spiritual mission, and I'm getting empowered," he says. ''That power does something to people. It did something to me. It made me lose focus. I thought I could do anything I wanted." At the same time, his drinking got out of hand and his marriage collapsed. "I was deeply into drinking and I was not able to function ," he recalls. "Most drug rehab programs allowed people to drink, and I was drinking my life away." Pagan checked himself into a recovery program in Pennsylvania, but he only found out how much he had lost when he came back to New York after a month in rehab. The Project Return board-many of whom he had appointed-<lemoted him to community relations director. "I was shot down," he says. He believes the board did- n't give him a chance. "I left Project Return in 1986, after 16 years. I resigned

but with

started it up, and someone else is enjoying the fruits of our work." Nonetheless, Pagan takes responsibility for his behavior. 'The only thing I can say is, try to stay clean and follow the rules."

ill feelings. It ' s still painful. We

Dark Pride

Pagan decided to return to Williamsburg and focus on the people and the streets he knew best. He opened the EI Regreso outpatient referral service in 1988 in a storefront on Roebling Street. El regreso means "the return" in Spanish, but Pagan likes to point out that if the last syl- lable is accented, the meaning becomes,

"He came back." The program began by serving home- less ex-addicts, mainly Latino, who had gone through detox and needed help get- ting back on track. Pagan's plan was to provide shelter and job training, and help


his clients find jobs and permanent hous- ing. Still, his problems weren't over yet. By 1989, he had received more than $1 million in state funding to open up the residential center he dreamed of. But his progress was suspiciously slow. And before long, state investigators were examining the way Julio Martinez, still DSAS commissioner, was doling out grants-especially those he'd given old friends. The Commission on Government Integrity, headed by Fordham Law

School Dean John Feerick, called Pagan in for questioning . He is still incredulous about the way he was treated. 'They asked, ' Do you gamble?' And I said, no, I

don't gamble

money. He gave it to a not-for-profit agency." Pagan was receiving a $40,000- a-year salary at the time and had four full- time staffers. In the basement lounge of the 54-bed residential treatment center, which Pagan finally opened in 1991, he has hung framed newspaper articles about the state probe. He

Julio didn ' t give me any

seems to take a dark pride in the evidence of the rounds he spent on the ropes, before he proved to the world that he was really back for good. The Feerick Commission ultimately found the delays were caused mainly by difficulties Pagan encountered obtaining and renovating the property. But Feerick's report also found that Martinez had bypassed state contracting procedures in awarding contracts to EI Regreso. Today, Pagan heads an organization with 32 employees and oversees a budget of $2 million. The state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (the successor agency to DSAS) continues to fund the group, and state auditors give Pagan high marks for management. He was recently given a three-year license for the treatment center, and a state quality ass~anceteam has just completed a fteld audit of the organization. "The supervisor of the audits says they're doing very well," says OASAS spokesperson Dan McGill. Pagan's friend, Martinez, however, did not survive a wider probe of his






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Reconstructing Llv.s

EI Regreso's center on South Second Street occupies two renovated buildings that, just a few years ago, were heroin shooting galleries. The program is clear and simple. During a one-year stay, residents are assigned a bed, a per- manent counselor and a mentor, usually an older resident. They eat comida criolla in the cafeteria, and can jam on the congas in the basement or work in the backyard wood shop. At fIrst, they have no income and no expenses. ''We take that responsibility from them so they can focus on other issues, like self-destructive behavior," says Edwin Ahmad Trujillo, the residential facility director. Residents slowly earn back responsibilities and privileges. Graduates have been placed in training programs, such as food and management courses, and in jobs, often as support staff with other social service agencies. There are new fights for Pagan these days: Governor Pataki's latest budget proposal includes a block grant plan that would reduce funding for substance abuse treatment programs by 10 percent or more. Currently, addiction pro- grams in New York City hold direct contracts from the state. This would no longer be the case. Instead, the city would dole out the state money. "It would make a signifIcant change for New York City," says John Russell, deputy director of the city's Bureau of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services. "We'd like to see the same level of fund- ing, but the state has already proposed a $42 million reduc- tion" from the current $500 million. "All our providers took a hit" this year, McGill adds. El Regreso kept most of its $1 million state contract. But some $2 million in state aid intended for a new EI Regreso women's residential facility is now in limbo. In March, the organization held its third graduation. Among those present was 29-year-old Noel Estrada, who now works two jobs, one as a cook for United Bronx Parents and another as a security guard in Queens. "I was sick and tired of being sick and tired," Estrada said. 'The state took my kid away. That gave me the incentive to get my life together. How could I lose my son?" Another graduate, 43-year-old Jose Perez, will stay on at EI Regreso as an HIV counselor. Perez, who was diag- nosed with the virus in 1990, says the center has helped him find a mission. "I reconstruct lives," said Perez, who used to own a con- struction company in the Bronx. ''I'm not making the money I was, but the rewards are greater. It gives me a sense of fulfIllment." Then it was time for Pagan to speak. "Stand tall and be proud," he told the group. "You have nothing to be ashamed of." He beheld his own reflection in their eyes. •

Linda Ocasio is a former member of New York Newsday's editorial board.


CITYVIEW T he national leadership of organized labor may have recently vowed to adopt a


T he national leadership of organized labor may have

recently vowed to adopt a more militant political

stand, but the best lessons about labor activism are

still learned locally. In Chinatown, a small indepen-

dent union has not only won a major contract victory and a million dollar court battle, it has also carried out a complex three-year campaign that can serve as a model for aggressive organizing of low-wage workers everywhere. During the last few months, the workers at the Silver Palace-the only unionized restaurant among 300 in Chinatown-have successfully turned the tables on manage- ment, taking control of the restaurant and locking out law- breaking owners by using the bosses' own bankruptcy pro- ceeding against them. In most of Chinatown's ballroom-sized dim sum restau- rants, including Jing Fong, Harmony Palace and Triple Eight Palace, waiters, busboys and waitresses endure difficult condi- tions and low pay, frequently well below the restaurant work- ers' minimum wage of $2.90 an hour plus tips.

Slave Labor" in a mock funeral procession. The lines for dim sum outside the cav- ernous, 800-seat restaurant slowly disap-

peared. Finally, in March 1994, after it was clear the workers were not going to give in to the owner's demands, an agreement was reached between the union, Restaurant Workers Local 318, and Silver Palace management. The new contract reinstated the workers, maintained health

benefits and stopped management's policy of sharing tips. Yet members of Local 318 were in no mood to celebrate, having lost significant income because of the lockout and tip- sharing scam. They next pursued aggressive litigation. They complained of unfair labor practices to the National Labor Relations Board and the New York State Attorney General, demanding back wages and tips as well as the enforcement of overtime laws. When Richard Chan fIled for Chapter II as a shield against workers' demands for back pay, the union hired its own bankruptcy lawyer to fight back. According to Wing Lam, executive director of the Chinese Staff and Workers Association and a longtime advisor to the union, the community 'S anger with Chan

Not long ago, this was also the case at the Silver Palace.

Turning the Tables

By Jim Young

case at the Silver Palace. Turning the Tables By Jim Young Jim Young is a staff

Jim Young is a staff member of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH).

During contract talks in August 1993, the demand that antagonized workers most was owner Richard Chan's ille- gal and unconcealed attempt to grab a cut of waiters' tips for himself and the other bosses. But the union, originally organized in 1980, refused to knuckle under, voting to reject a proposal that also included wage cuts of up to 66 percent, loss of all health bene- fits and employee layoffs. So Chan locked out the union for seven months. During that time, Silver Palace workers extended their struggle into a Chinatown community hun- gry for labor victories. News of the fight resonated within this self-contained neighborhood

where sweatshop conditions are commonplace in garment fac- tories, on construction sites, in retail stores and in many other small businesses. For more than half a year, Silver Palace strikers-support-

ed by other workers,

and students-set up picket lines at lunch and dinner outside the entrance to the restaurant at 50 Bowery. Picketers carried

signs that said "No more slavery. Justice for workers!" and shouted "No more slaves!" to passersby. During one protest, workers carried a coffin emblazoned with the slogan "Bury

local labor unions , community activists

swelled when he announced a plan to trans- form the Silver Palace into an upscale Off- Track Betting center, where wagers would

be placed on U.S. horse races by day, and on Hong Kong races by night. But in December, a bankruptcy judge ruled that Chan had

destroyed evidence requested by the court and turned control of the restaurant over to a court-appointed trustee. Members of Local 318 came to work on December 11 and, after a lock- smith changed the locks, they triumphantly closed the door on Chan and other managers. Then, in February, the NLRB and the attorney general ruled that Chan and the Silver Palace had to pay workers back tips and wages totaling more than $1 million. Today, the Silver Palace has regained much of the business lost during the worker lockout. Members of Local 318 are the top creditors in the bankruptcy proceeding and are spearhead-

the reorganization effort called for under Chapter 11 . The


workers aim to expand the restaurant's successful wedding

(continued on page 31)

The community-wide IICampaign Against Slave Labor" that started at the Silver Palace now includes a boycott and picket ofling Fong.

MAY 1996


Homesteading Assistance Board was born. As UHAB's fust executive director, Don articulated the view that residents in low income communities-or any community--can help solve their own housing problems as long as they have the necessary resources (loans, grants and abandoned buildings) and appro- priate training and technical assistance. He believed tenants and residents were not only capable of this task, but that they were often more effective at it than anyone else. One thousand buildings and more than 20,000 apartments later, this self-help approach has proven to be a New York City success story. Second, is the notion (Don often spoke of ideas as notions) that self-help programs and nonprofit developers should adopt the techniques of the for-profit housing industry and become integrated into the regular housing production system. This is the notion underlying Bridge Housing Corp., a San Francisco- based nonprofit development company Don helped create in 1983. As its president, he was responsible for more than $600 million worth of housing devel-

opment and the creation of more than 6,000 affordable apart- ments and houses. Bridge

worked primarily in the Bay Area, but in recent years the organization began working in other parts of California and

around the world. Throughout, Don remained committed to his nonprofit prac-

tice and convinced of government's responsibility for eradicat-

ing the "unspeakable"-his word-housing conditions forced upon men, women and especially children living in poverty in

a country that can afford to do better. When Don lifted his long frame from the chair in your office, shook your hand, and gave you a slap on the back, you knew you had experienced the ''Terner shrnooze," a rush of charm that made the piles of paper on your desk seem small- er, your office a little sunnier. Don energized you and made you feel good about your work. In 1978, when I was his spe- cial assistant and he was California's newly appointed Director of Housing and Community Development, I watched in nervous amazement as he had the same effect on a grumpy

and embattled Governor Jerry Brown. Don was in Bosnia as part of a peace and redevelopment effort. Some 25 years ago he had done similar work in Vietnam, caring for the housing needs of tens of thousands of war refugees. Listening to the descriptions of Commerce Secretary Ron Brown over the past few weeks--charming, persuasive, charis- matic, a tireless worker, a brilliant leader, and yes, a large ego-

I kept thinking how these attributes applied equally well to

Don . We lost our Olympic team for redevelopment last month and I like to believe that, before the plane went down, Ian Donald Terner was elected captain. •


--- ~-'--."'.- REMEMBRANCE
--- ~-'--."'.-

H e could get excited about the simplest things: dis- covering the sugar left in the bottom of his empty cup of coffee (he called it pudding), getting a free sample at the grocery store, spending time with his

family or finding that spark in each of us that makes us pas- sionate about our lives and what we do. Don Temer, who died last month alongside Ron Brown in a plane crash outside Dubrovnik, Croatia, could speak to anyone and everyone: the Secretary of Commerce, the secretary in an office or the secretary of a tenant association. He had a remark- able ability to engage people with his ideas and projects, a remarkable facility for communicating.

Don Terner, 1939-1996

By Andy Reicher

for communicating. Don Terner, 1939-1996 By Andy Reicher IfustmetDonin 1974, when I was a graduate stu-

IfustmetDonin 1974, when I was a graduate stu- dent studying architecture

at U.c. Berkeley. He gave

a talk that brought to life

the homesteaders of the Lower East Side, the Renegades of East Harlem and the leaders of the People's Development Corporation. So much to life, in fact, that by the end of the year I had left school to become a VISTA volunteer in the South Bronx. 10 the days since his death, many of his former planning and architecture students from Harvard, MIT and Berkeley have been telling each other how their choice of a career in housing was due at least in part to Don's teaching. He was a special kind of visionary; he helped his students combine his ideas with their own to create a personal vision. In my case, that vision has been my life's work for more than 20 years. At the 1973 publication party for Don's book, "Freedom to Build," at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, the Urban

Andy Reicher is executive director of the Urban

Assistance Board. A memorial celebration will be held at the


Cathedral Church

of St. John the Divine, June 19 at 1 pm.



-.,. ".-


"The New American Ghetto, " by Camilo

Jose Vergara, Rutgers University Press, 1995,235 pages, $50.

nest on the tallest of the city's great old towers of commerce, and "madmen," "wanderers" and deer roam the empty, narrow canyons

among pre-Depression architectural wonders built to last forever. It is an urban place reverting back to prairie, but without the bliss and sense of well-being.

Vergara examines the popular myth of a nation that felt progress would never end, an industrial power that now has more urban ruins than any other. Residents and visitors to ghetto areas, Vergara points out, can view our ruins "as symbols of whites walking away from their property and of Washington's neglect." Vergara's photographs are wonderful and important socio- logical records, rich in historic information and detail. Yet I

G rowing up in a family in which, as a child, he expe- rienced the fall from riches to poverty, Camilo Jose Vergara understands how the passing of time can devastate people and places. "Things that remain the

same are unsettling to me. I am attracted to what is shunned, falling apart, and changing," he writes in his elegantly produced book, ''The New American Ghetto."

For the past 20 years, Vergara, a sociologist and photogra- pher, has meticulously documented the struggle, the death, and people's hope for change in the South Bronx, Central Brooklyn, the south and west sides of Chicago, South Central Los Angeles, Detroit, Newark and other urban neighborhoods. By walking readers through the bleak public housing stairways, elevators, apartments and rooftops as he photographs, observes

apartments and rooftops as he photographs, observes have to take issue with Vergara's statement that

have to take issue with Vergara's statement that "photographs

depicting only an

light and strong compositions that hide important details shape more than record reality. " As a documentary photographer myself, I feel the combination of art and record can be achieved, resulting in a more profound emotional understand- ing than Vergara was able to achieve with his strictly anthropo- logical, time-lapse approach. ' 'The New American Ghetto" is an important work. The fact that we as a nation want to destroy rather than renovate our landmarks and urban housing stock says much about us. Will we learn our lessons or will we continue to tolerate the endless waste of our cities, thereby diminishing all of us? "All I can do," Vergara concludes, "is record the fading splendor of the buildings and the disjointed and anguished cries of those who try to make a home among them." .

and constructed through dramatic

Helen M. Stummer is a visual sociologist arui the author of "No


1980-1993, " published by Temple

Walk, Newark,

University Press.

Frieze Frame

By Helen Stummer

and interviews, Vergara draws us into a world others have cho- sen to leave behind. Most Americans do not share his passion for the urban landscape. Today, he writes, there is an eagerness to raze the abandoned buildings that symbolize the loss of an urban dream. "We either ignore [the ruins] or react to them with anger, resentment, guilt, and despair." But these buildings are our "American Acropolis ," he argues , and should not be destroyed. Through Vergara's 400 photographs-in color and black and white-we are taken on a visual and descriptive journey through what were once-bustling cities and a way of life that seemed like it would last forever. There is Little action in his photographs except in the

dimension of time, as he presents repeated images of the same building or landscape evolving over the decades. By returning to a piece of property over and over again, he illus- trates the process of decay, unflinchingly watching vibrant


comers tum into vacant, rubble-filled lots . He docu-

ments the flimsy buildings, the fast-food franchi ses, the storefront churches. There are bleak scenes where street dogs roam through the weeds and empty spaces, and where one resident says: "Without jobs, people are not only poor, but their lives are rendered meaningless." Ghetto residents are living through "an economic earthquake," Vergara reminds us, existing behind barricaded doors and windows, surrounded by razor-wire. They live without the sympathy, heroic labels, and the government aid given to survivors of other disasters. Vergara's description of the abandonment of downtown Detroit is startling. Here, he witnesses a place where trees and grass grow on rooftops and through the sidewalks, where Peregrine falcons



a place where trees and grass grow on rooftops and through the sidewalks, where Peregrine falcons

MONDAY, APRIL 15, 1996

City Limits Weekly

A fax update from lIew York'. Urban Affairs lIews Maga&iDe

from lIew York'. Urban Affairs lIews Maga&iDe City Limits Weekly is a news and resource guide

City Limits Weekly is a news and resource guide for nonprofit and community leaders of New York. The fax and e-mail weekly is a free service of City Limits magazine, Foundation and The Robert Sterling Clark Foundation. H you have information to you want to be added to our distribution list or if you would like to subscribe to

call Kiema Mayo Dawsey at (212) 925-9820. Fax: (212) 966-3407.


Black and Latino parents are treated like second-class citizens when they visit their children's public schools, while whrte parents get the red carpet treatment , according to the authors of a soon-to-be-released survey by the Association Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). A summary of the 40-page report , obtained by City Limits Weekly, analyzes the resutts of

made to schools in half of the crty's 32 community school districts between the same resuHs - white parents were welcomed and wrth disdain and sent on their way ," reads an

Weekly to obtain comment







• (continued from page 27) and banquet business. Although Chan has appealed the bankruptcy ruling

(continued from page 27)

and banquet business. Although Chan has appealed the bankruptcy ruling barring him from the premises, observers say it seems unlikely a decision will go his way: Court documents reveal a history of contradictory statements and ques- tionable business practices, including the destruction of the restaurant's "Banquet Book," a valuable annual reservations log. Meanwhile, more than a year ago, picket lines reemerged-this time on Elizabeth Street in front of ling Fong, Chinatown's largest restaurant, which employs 100 non-union workers. The state attorney general's office charged that ling Fong management had taken employees' tips, kept fraudulent payroll records, paid workers sub- minimum wages and fIred at least one worker who complained. The community-wide "Campaign Against Slave Labor" that started at the Silver Palace now includes a boycott and picket of ling Fong. Students conducted a seven-day hunger strike. Five thousand residents signed petitions calling for enforcement of labor laws, and the state attorney general fined ling Fong $1.1 million for violating minimum-wage, overtime and tip-sharing laws. Both inside and outside the two square miles of Chinatown, the obstacles facing the labor movement are tremendous. Stiff international competition, a hostile political climate, new technology and sophisticated anti-union busi- ness leaders have helped drive union member- ship down to barely 15 percent of the U.S. work- force. Yet the success of Local 318 offers some


HOUSING AND COMMUNITY DEVnOPMENT SPECIALIST. The Affordable Housing Network of New Jersey seeks a highly qualified Housing and Community Development Specialist. Respon- sibilities include assessing non-profit development organizations' technical assistance needs and providing in- depth, on-site assistance in organiza- tion development, community planning, project development and property man- agement. Requirements: Substantial experience working in community based organizations on real estate develop- ment projects and in community plan- ning and organizing. Statewide travel/Flexible work hours. Competitive Salary/Excellent benefits. Minority can- didates are encouraged to apply. Send resume to: Martha Lamar, Affordable Housing Network, P.O. Box 1746, Trenton, New Jersey 08607

MAY 1996

hope. Using a combination of traditional strate- gies (legal action, a militant strike) and non-tra- ditional tactics drawn from other social justice movements (hunger strikes, street theater), the Silver Palace workers won a victory for working men and women throughout Chinatown. Some hope this is only the fIrst step in a movement to

unite labor and community organizing efforts addressing social injustice. ''This is laying the groundwork for other actions," says Wing Lam. "Workers in Chinatown are sending a clear message, and management

must deal with them

If they don't, workers will

be standing outside their front door forever." •


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ence and a BA or six years experience. The position will require regular evening hours but can offer a flexible schedule. Graduates of NYC high schools preferred. Candidates with experience injob counseling or rehousing and fluency in a second language (28 languages spoken at the school) will receive priOrity. Salary: high $20s with good benefits. Send resume and writ- ing samples (no calls please) to Gregory Cohen, Comprehensive Development, Inc., c/o Manhattan Comprehensive Night & Day School, 240 Second Ave., New York, NY 10003.

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coordinator for national office in New York City to start immediately. Responsibilities: bookkeeping; updating database; general membership and financial oversight. Requires familiarity with basic accounting, com- puter accounting programs, organizational budgets; ability to work inde- pendently. Rexible schedule. Salary: $24-28,000, DOE plus benefits. Reply to Jordan Yaeger, 100 N. 17th St . , 7th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19103. Affirmative Action Employer.

DEPUTY DlR£CTOR. The National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions seeks a multi-talented deputy director. S/he will assist the Executive Director in managing, developing and fundraising for a variety of programs, including African American church project, youth project and AmericorpsjVlSTA. Excellent supervisory, administrative and writing skills are essential. Ten years experience in community economic ' development or a related field (association management, foundation, banking/finance, civil rights, church, etc.), including five years in supervisory or management posi- tion, is preferred. Commitment to low-income and minority empowerment is a must. Some national travel. Send resume and cover letter by May 20 to Clifford Rosenthal, Executive Director, NFCDCU, 120 Wall St., 10th Roor, New York, NY 10005 . Equal Opportunity Employer.

PROGRAM OFFICER. Seedco, a national community development intermediary, seeks program officers. Responsibilities include: providing technical assis- tance to community development corporations on housing or economic deve~ opment; financial packaging; organizational development; and community co~ laboration. Qualifications: experience in affordable housing or economic development; strong financial feasibility and organizational development skills; excellent interpersonal, writing and presentation skills; ability to marr age numerous projects; computer literacy. Knowledge of historically black co~ leges and universities a plus. Substantial travel. Salary negotiable, excellent benefits. Resume and cover letter to Bab Freiberg, Vice President for Program Operation, Seedco, 915 Broadway, Suite 1703, New York, NY 10010. No phone calls. Affirmative Action Employer.

HOUSING MANAGER The Rockefeller UniverSity, with a residential portfolio of

600 faculty apartments, 100 dormitory and 50 hotel units on the Upper East

Side, seeks a Planning & Operations Manager to assist with building marr agement and act as liaison with tenants and university services. Analyze oper- ational problems, coordinate multi-faceted response involving mainte- nance/office staff and vendors, develop bid packages, plan and oversee cap-

ital projects, develop financial analyses and monitor costs. Requires Bachelor's or Master's Degree and 10 years' experience in housing, planning, real estate, finance or administration. Must have excellent oral and written communication skills and be computer proficient. Experience with financial planning and understanding of building/housing operations necessary. RU is a premier biomedical research institute. We offer an excellent benefits pack- age and a competitive salary. Resume and salary history to: The Rockefeller University, 1230 York Ave., Box 125 , New York , NY 10021. An AA/EOE.

COMMUNnY ootRPRISE MANAGER Community Automotive Repair Services, Inc. (CARS), a quick oikhange franchise opening in lower Park Slope, seeks a qualified manager. CARS is a joint venture of the Rfth Avenue Committee and LEAP, Inc., committed to employing and training area residents . CARS seeks an entrepreneurial manager, experienced in customer service, training and managing people, to help launch and manage the oil-<:hange. Responsibilities include: service delivery, inventory, financial management, personnel and marketing. Competitive salary, performance bonus and exce~ lent benefits. Send resume to CARS Manager Search, c/o FAC, 141 5th Avenue ., Brooklyn, NY EOE. All are encouraged to apply.

ECOMM MANAGER Community Wetcleaners, Inc. (CWI) seeks manager for an environmentally responsible coirroperated Laundromat and garment cleaning facility. CWI is a for-profit entity, owned by the Fifth Avenue Committee, com- mitted to employing and training local residents. CWI seeks a responsible manager, experienced in customer service and managing people. Professional

garment-<:Ieaning experience is a plus. Responsibilities include service deliv- ery, financial management, personnel, inventory and marketing. Competitive salary and excellent benefits. Resume to Ecomat Manager Search, c/o FAC,

141 5th Ave., Brooklyn , NY 11217 . EOE/AII are encouraged to apply.

YDIJT1I11WNER. Nonprofit student service center within an innovative public high school seeks an energetic self-starter to counsel older high school stu- dents (18-21) to become self-sufficient by obtaining jobs and housing. Teach students how to develop job leads, prepare for interviews and keep the jobs they get; initiate a student-run employment service; develop contacts among housing providers and private landlords. Start a roommate matching service. The successful candidate will have experience in youth development/training, excellent oral and written communication skills, program development experi-

EXECU11VE DIRECTOR to lead New Destiny Housing Corporation, a nonprofit organization, in developing supportive emergency, transitional and perma- nent housing. Master's degree (or equivalent) , ten years experience in hous- ing, finance/development or banking, excellent communication skills. Salary to upper $50s. Resume/cover letter: Michael Kaiser, Victim Services, 2 Lafayette Street, NYC 10007, EEO/AA.


MAY 1996


e r e Achers By Thomas Kamber f New York City were a person, it



By Thomas Kamber

e r e Achers By Thomas Kamber f New York City were a person, it would
e r e Achers By Thomas Kamber f New York City were a person, it would

f New York City were a person, it would probably need extensive therapy. What with so many people calling it

filthy, disorganized and antisocial, the shrink: bills would sink the budget. "I know people treat me like a doormat,"

it might say. "But I'll take any attention I can get." Clearly, the city has an inferiority complex.

That may explain why the city government shows disturb- ing evidence of a borderline personality disorder. Its psychi- atric charts catalogue years of internalized abuse. Funny thing is, in New York, government officials call this kind of behav- ior sound public policy. For example, the city Department of Transportation recently displayed classic symptoms when it decided to drop a plan that would have limited automobile access to the loop road in Brooklyn's Prospect Park. Never mind that thousands of joggers, cyclists, roller skaters and strollers use the same park road for recreation every day. Gotta keep those cars rolling. Neighborhood activists gripe about the ill effects of auto- mobile and truck traffic in their neighborhoods-the fumes, the honking, the speeding, the soot. Anor- mal, psychologically healthy city would deal with these complaints in a

2. illegal street vendors aggravating local merchants? The

parks are a natural market just crying out for the "ten reasons a

beer is better than a woman" T-shirt crowd. A big business in fanny packs is a sure bet.

3. Remember how they wanted to dredge the sludge out of

the boat channel in the Hudson, but it was too toxic to be dumped in the ocean? This is a no-brainer! Better than the garbage barge! 4. Medicaid cutbacks have forced belt-tightening at city hos- pitals. Those wide lawns are an untapped resource. Let's give new meaning to the words "oxygen tent." Besides, hospital bedS in the park are so conve-


nient for those pedestrians who unwisely stray onto the asphalt.

5. I hear a few people over in Lincoln Towers on Manhattan's West Side are a bit peeved that a certain developer wants to build high-rise tow- ers blocking their spectacular !C::""'-~ river views . He did such a great job on the skating rink- why not sell him a few acres to help alleviate overcrowding? You've got to like the sound of it: "Trump Parc." Let's face it: New York is a stinking pit. Ignore those whin- ing special interest groups. We've got to make this city safe for com- merce again. Those cars coming in from Long Island carry a precious cargo: commuters, and not the type who work at entry level service jobs, either. Our highest priority should be to keep those folks moving to their jobs in the manner in which they are accustomed. If this means a few less roller bladers out on the loop at sunset, then so be it. So this is what being well-adjusted feels like. Unleash your repressed attraction to the smell of burning oil. Express your inner "wild man" through a good hom blast. You have nothing to lose but your daisy chains.•

Thomns Kamber wrote this column while waitingfor the F Train.

directmeasuresfashion,to controltaking strongtraffic.j~~J~!.'!.~~~;~~~ New York City opts instead to put the brakes on the plebes who use the park for exercise. Cars grid- locked on your streets? Let them make up lost time on those wide-open park roads! On second thought, perhaps we shouldn't be so neg- ative. After all, John Stuart Mill wrote extensively on the virtues of eccentricity. Sometimes, one can exploit a patholog- ical personality through clever marketing. Just look at Rush Limbaugh or Ross Perot. Why not just pull out all the stops? What if New Yorkers decided to just admit that our city is a filthy, disgusting place to live, that the parks are a cruel joke, and that we should just get used to it? Forget those half-baked pastoral fantasies! Let's put that green space to really good use! Here are a few possibilities:

I. Pushy squeegee guys? Let's move them into the park, too! There are stop lights there, and the squeegee men can go after an entirely untapped market. It's better than having them harassing tourists at the Holland Tunnel.

after an entirely untapped market. It's better than having them harassing tourists at the Holland Tunnel.


mBankers'Iiust Colllpany Community Development Group A resource for the non-profit development community •

mBankers'Iiust Colllpany

Community Development Group

A resource for the non-profit development community

• •


Gary Hattem, Managing Director Amy Brusiloff, Vice President

280 Park Avenue, 19West

New York, New York 10017

Tel: 212

454 3677

Fax: 212

454 2380


We have been providing low-cost insurance programs and quality service for HDFCs, TENANTS, COMMUNITY MANAGEMENT and other NONPROFIT organizations for over 15 years.

We Offer:



"Tailored Payment Plans"


146 West 29th Street, 12th Floor, New York, NY 10001 (212) 279-8300 FAX 714-2161 Ask for: Bala Ramanathan

MAY 1996

ANN O' U N C I N 6

ANN O' U N C I N 6




at Hostos Community College, 500 Grand Concourse, Bronx, New York Two days of workshops, networking and information exchange on:

'Public data .access


Skills workshops

Demonstrations of latest hardware and software

Issues of confidentiality and privacy "

Hands-on workshops

Community computing

and much, much more.


of the Walter A. Wannerstrom Progressive Computing Award to honor a community-based group that has used computer technology in especially innovative ways to improve its community.




We need your help in identifying grassroots organizations and neighborhood groups using computer technology for social change. We encourage groups to nominate themselves or others. To nominate, contact Megan Nolan at the phone or fax numbers below. The deadline for submissions is June 10.



The preregistration fee is $55 for the two-day conference ($65 at the door), $35 for one day. Includes continental breakfast, box lunch and many "free" resources.

Ifyou have questions or would like to reserve a place, contact Computers for Social Change or M~gan Nolan at (212) 452-7132. Fox: (212) 452-7150. [-moil: