Abraham Goldfeld.

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baseball games!" The Silver party platform in the last campaign
promised a workshop for the girls and a cooking class for the boys.
The aldermen meet frequently to discuss ways and means of keeping
the place clean and to suggest improvements. A staff of members acts
as an advisor for each party.

The relationship between the children and the management con-
tinues to be a very friendly one. I have now observed these children
grow and develop over a space of nine years. I have watched the
problem children of six or seven years of age grow into fine young
men and women. I have seen new problem children arise but I have
never had to contend with a really vicious child who deliberately
planned mischief.


Some of the Seniors (young men and women between seventeen
and twenty-one years of age) of the hcuse and the neighborhood
changed into grown-ups before my eyes. They constitute a very
serious group and are vitally concerned with the problems of unem-
ployment and vocational guidance. Many of them just kill time doing
nothing and frequently I have a sense of guilt in not knowing what
to tell them about their predicament. Only on rare occasions was I
able to find any of them jobs. Several of the girls who volunteered
their services are being trained as leaders by a member of the staff.
For the past two years, about forty Senior boys and girls have used
the basement as a recreational center between the hours of 9:30 and

Activities During the Period 1931-1931 105

11:00 P.M. They are supervised only when required. Their evening
program includes dramatics, a current events study group, dances,
and games. The basement, therefore, now accommodates two groups:
Juniors, from 7:00 to 9:30, and Seniors, from 9:30 to 11:00.


In 1933, a nursery school was organized for children of from two
to five years, under the direction of a member of the staff. At first
the nursery used the South Hall, but as its success became assured, a
five-room apartment on the first floor was converted into a nursery.

In the beginning, mothers had to be educated in the idea of pre-
school training for their very young children. Many were foreign-
born anji were opposed to "losing" their babies sooner than the con-
ventional kindergarten age. Others were in the habit of putting their
children to bed very late, with the result that they did not arise suf-
ficiently early for our morning session beginning at 9: 30. After the
first year, however, the mothers of the children in our first class were
only too glad to return their children to the nursery. They also en-
couraged other mothers to send theirs.

The nursery holds morning and afternoon sessions with rest and
milk periods in between. When the weather is good, the children are
kept out of doors in a nearby park or playground, or go on outings.
Among the interesting city sights which have been visited are a
chicken market, the East River piers, a lumber yard, and a fire-
engine house.

Children are charged only 20 cents a week for their milk and
crackers. Several families in difficult circumstances pay 10 cents a
week and those on relief do not pay anything.

I am very proud of the nursery. Its rooms are bright and colorful,
well-equipped and ably directed. One of the fathers last year painted
nursery rhyme murals on the walls that are very lovely. Mothers
have told me their children's development and behavior have notice-
ably improved after a season's attendance at the nursery.


The depression brought homework into Lavanburg. A large num-
ber of families supplement their income by cutting lace. The amount
they can earn is very small and yet a number of mothers, older chil-
dren, and occasionally even young ones sit endlessly for hours cutting

106 The Diary of a Housing Manager

lace. The NRA stopped it for a while but it was revived when NRA
restrictions were abolished. Many mothers have complained that
their eyesight is going bad because of this exacting work but they
remark, "I can't help it. I must do this work for a living." Even a few
dollars means a great deal to them.

Several families became sub-contractors and soon about eighty
per cent of the tenants were cutting lace.

The physical condition of the house showed the effects of the
homework. In spite of repeated notices to the lace-cutters, scraps of
lace littered the hall- ways, roof, and courts. Families took in outsiders
to work in their homes and the sub-contractors gave out work to
people of the neighborhood, so that there was a constant traffic of
people coming and going with bundles of lace. I did not like to stop
this source of income, meager though it was, since in many cases it
was the only means of subsistence for the tenants. Circumstances,
however, forced the step.

Under the state law, the building in which homework is per-
formed must have a license from the Department of Labor. This
was secured at the tenants' request. It then came to my notice that
children under fourteen had been put to work, since young eyes are
good for this painstaking work, and that they worked far into the
night. I notified the Department of Labor and asked them to revoke
the license until the tenants indicated their willingness to abide by
the state child labor laws.

The license was discontinued October i, 1933, and on October 26
the tenants called a meeting to discuss the situation. They pleaded
for the re-issuance of the license, pointing out how badly they needed
this work. I agreed to renew the license provided the tenants ob-
served strictly the child labor laws and took extra pains to keep the
building clean. The following agreement was drawn up for the sub-
contractors living in the building:

For the privilege of obtaining a permit to give out work on
the outside, I, the undersigned, agree to abide by the following

1. Submit to the manager names of those people to whom I
give out work.

2. See that the hall of the building in which I live is kept free
of lace scraps.

3. No children under fourteen years of age are to be em-

Activities During the Period 1931-1937 107

ployed at any time by anyone cutting lace for me. The children
between fourteen and seventeen cutting lace must have work-
ing papers.

4. See that the person to whom I give the work is licensed or
lives in a licensed house.

5. No work after five o'clock in the evening for those who
have working papers and are under seventeen.

6. No one except my immediate family is to be allowed to
work in my apartment.

It is understood that if it is found that I do not abide by the
above rules, my permit will be automatically canceled.


Since the signing of this agreement, there has never been any viola-
tion. The outcome of this situation is very interesting. It shows how
even the most unusual of tenants' problems can be adjusted and how
they themselves can be made to shoulder various types of re-


Early in 1933, a rumor reached me that several fathers were circu-
lating a petition among the tenants asking for a general rent reduc-
tion. When the alleged leader of the group happened to come into
the office I asked if this were true. He readily admitted the fact, and
I suggested that he bring the other men into the office to talk the
matter over.

At our meeting a few days later, I outlined to them the Founda-
tion's reasons for not having reduced the rent. I pointed out that
the Foundation does not dispossess tenants for non-payment of rent
due to unemployment as landlords do all over the East Side, and
that we are providing part-time work for families whose economic
conditions are very bad. I stated, also, that I could see no reason
why people who are still able to pay our rent scales should need or
ask for reduction.

The men saw the reason in my expressions and they suggested
that a tenants' meeting be called where the matter could be ex-
plained to all. I named a date for the meeting. Then I expressed to
the men my disappointment over other matters that indirectly came
to my attention, and referred to the rumors of a strike, and other
methods to gain distasteful publicity should the Foundation fail to
accede to the tenants' demands.

io8 The Diary of a Housing Manager

At a meeting a few days later, about eighty families were repre-
sented. Several of the tenants made very emotional speeches and
afterwards a resolution was passed unanimously to ask the Founda-
tion for a rent reduction of $1.50 a room per week.

On February 17, 1933, a tenants' committee met with Mr. Straus
and Mr. Stern. The two directors were very sympathetic. They
asked various questions and then gave in substance my explanation
to show that a horizontal rent reduction could not be the solution.
However, they offered to present the matter to the board and to
advise the committee of the result.

Shortly afterwards, the tenants' committee received a letter con-
taining the board's resolution to the effect that since it was not pos-
sible to grant a general rent reduction and at the same time to
continue rendering aid in individual cases, only the latter policy
would be continued. The board further recommended to tenants
who felt they could not meet the full rental to talk their situation
over with the office so that an adjustment could be made, if found
necessary. This decision and plan seemed to satisfy the tenants.

An interesting development of the petition and the conference
with the directors was the formation of a Tenants' Council. Un-
fortunately, after its formation the excitement subsided, and no
further council meetings were arranged.

In June, 1935, I felt it would be wise to get the Council together
once more. Carelessness on the part of the tenants in maintaining
house rules was causing us considerable trouble. I seemed to sense a
general feeling of discouragement because of the difficult struggle
to make ends meet. As a result there was an air of irresponsibility and
disorganization in the building. I thought that a Tenants' Council
ought to take a hand in the situation, and call a tenants' committee

I explained to them that we were having more problems touching
their own comfort than in the past, and that in unison we might be
able to overcome them. The question was immediately raised whether
a Tenants' Council would be able to discuss problems such as ice-
boxes and rent. I indicated that whatever concerned the tenants could
be fully discussed, with every effort made to reach amicable ad-

We decided to call a general tenants' meeting so that I might ex-
plain some of the problems facing the management. Mr. Cohen was

Activities During the Period 1931-1931 109

to suggest that each hallway re-elect two delegates to the council.

Seventy-one families were represented at the meeting held June
28. Election of representatives was the only transaction concluded.
It was decided that one vote be allowed each family in order to pre-
vent ballot stuffing. The elections were then held and the duly
elected council immediately laid plans for action.

At their first meeting, the tenants' demands held the center of the
floor. The subject of a rent reduction was again brought up. They
also asked for new ice-boxes, new gas stoves, and that every apart-
ment be painted every two years regardless of rent arrears. I told
them that I was aware that the ice-boxes had outworn their usefulness
and that I was arranging for the purchase of new ones. As for new
gas ranges, I informed them I was planning a change, but only for
those who had taken reasonable care of their stoves.

On the subject of rent, the council decided to ask for a cancelation
of all accumulated rent arrears. Under date of September 16, 1935,
the following communication was sent to the directors:

The Officers and Directors
Fred L. Lavanburg Foundation
1 20 Broadway
New York City


We take this opportunity to inform you that the tenants of the Lavanburg
Homes reorganized on July i, 1935, for the purpose of bettering their condi-
tions through organized cooperation with the management of the Homes.

We who live here are well aware of the advantages to us of these houses,
and it is in no spirit of criticism that we feel it necessary to call your attention
to certain situations which seem to us to need correction.

In 1932 a committee from the board of directors met with representatives
of the tenants and agreed to a policy of rent adjustment in proportion to the
economic circumstances of the families here. At that time you and we believed
that the depression would last but a short time, and the arrangement we made
was suited to this belief. We agreed to record all reductions made as a debt
against the tenant, to be paid as soon as general economic conditions improved.

Nearly three years have passed since that agreement was reached, but in-
stead of finding ourselves out of the depression and able to pay these rent
arrears, most of us are a little worse off. Instead of finding ourselves with
a comparatively small debt, accumulated over a few weeks or months, we are
now faced with the accumulation of years. In the cases where economic con-
ditions may improve with a family, this debt will be an overwhelming burden
for a long while; and in most cases there is no sign of improvement.

We, therefore, request that, in honesty on our side and fairness on yours,
you reconsider the agreement we made three years ago, and declare these
debts annulled. This does not mean that we never expect to pay the standard

1 1 o The Diary of a Housing Manager

rents again. On the contrary, it is agreed by us that we shall as soon as possible
resume paying of the standard rent, just as soon as the economic conditions
improve with any tenant; but in the meantime we ask you that the accumulated
debt be considered no debt at all but a temporary and actual reduction.

Another problem, related to the question of rents, is that of painting the
apartments. It is at the present time the practice to paint apartments regularly
every two years, where the rent is not in arrears, but not otherwise.

In discussing this question, the tenants agreed to request that painting be
done every two years without regard to arrears in rent. This seems to us to be
a good business judgment as well as an advantage to the tenants. Obviously,
deterioration will go on more rapidly if painting is not done for any reason.
More urgent to us is the fact that living in an apartment for four years without
its being painted is unpleasant and unsanitary. This fact is so clear that we
feel sure it will require no further argument.

We also wish to inform you that the above is not the only problem undertaken
by the committee. We assume the responsibility of various problems concerning
the office and the tenants. If you desire more detailed information, we know
that Mr. Goldfeld will gladly furnish you with same.

And finally, we request that a committee be set up, consisting of one repre-
sentative of the board of directors, the Supervisor of the Homes, and two
representatives of the tenants, to meet at the common convenience of all, on
the call of any one member, to discuss any problems which may arise in the
future. It is our belief that such a committee, meeting more or less regularly,
will promote mutual understanding and cooperation between the tenants and
the management.

Very truly yours,


The directors were very sympathetic to the requests of the tenants
and replied as follows:

September 24, 1936
Mr. Louis Holland, Chairman
The Tenants' Council of Lavanburg Homes
132 Goerck Street
New York, N. Y.

My dear Mr. Holland:

I am in receipt of letter of September 16 on behalf of the Tenants' Council
of the Lavanburg Homes, signed by you and Frieda Klaus as Secretary. This
letter was presented at a meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Fred L. Lavan-
burg Foundation yesterday.

The Trustees asked me to express our appreciation of the sentiments expressed
by the Tenants' Council, and to assure you that we reciprocate them, and are
interested in the welfare of all the tenants in the Lavanburg Homes.

With regard to the plan of rent adjustment inaugurated in 1932 to which you
refer, the Board of Trustees authorized the cancelation of the rent arrears
due to such adjustment up to April i, 1935.

With regard to the question of painting the apartments to which you refer,
the Trustees asked me to inform you that it was their general policy to keep the
building in proper repair, but that the detail as to which apartments are to be
painted is left to the discretion of Mr. Goldfeld.

Activities During the Period


In connection with your suggestion that the Board appoint a member, who
will from time to time as occasion requires meet with Mr. Goldfeld and a com-
mittee of two from the Tenants' Council of the Lavanburg Homes, the Trustees
are glad to comply with your request and have appointed Mr. Edward Schafer,
Jr., to this committee.

We are delighted to cooperate with your committee as well as with the
individual tenants themselves, with the view of making the Lavanburg Homes a
comfortable home for the tenants.

Sincerely yours,

ROGER W. STRAUS, President

Needless to say, the Council was delighted with the spirit and
contents of this letter.

In the beginning, I was afraid the Council would be interested only
in what it could get, and that it would extend no cooperation to
the office. My fears were quieted, however, when I received a Coun-
cil letter asking me to make known what my problems were. An-
other instance of its cooperation is contained in the following letter
which was sent to every family:

Dear Tenant:

There have been instances of tenants disregarding the rules of the Lavanburg
Homes. Although the office has taken the necessary steps to remedy the situa-
tion, some of the tenants continue to ignore the rules. Therefore, we, the
Tenants' Council (with the full cooperation of Mr. Goldfeld), are urging all
the tenants to abide by the following rules:

1. No garbage to be placed in cans on roof or courts.

2. No articles to be kept on fire-escapes.

3. No pillows on window-sills.

4. No eating in courts, halls and roof.

5. No playing (children) in the halls.

6. No screaming in court after 10:00 p. M.

7. No radio playing after 11:00 P. M.

8. No rubbish thrown down the dumb-waiter shaft.

9. No writing with chalk.

10. No skating on sidewalk after gate lights are turned on.

11. No children to use fire-escapes.

We wish to inform you that should a tenant fail to comply with the above
rules for the first time, said tenant will be called down to a Tenants' Council
meeting for an explanation. A fine will be imposed upon anyone disregarding
the rules for a second time. Parents will be held responsible for the behavior
of their children.

Please bear these rules in mind and avoid future embarrassment and expense.

Very sincerely yours,


There has been a considerable change in the attitude of the tenants.
The Council has taken cognizance of every violation, following up
the case of any offender.

1 1 2 The Diary of a Housing Manager

On the other hand, it has notified every tenant that if any office
decision is unsatisfactory, it will look into the matter upon request.
One case it handled jointly with me was a rent adjustment for one of
the families; another was a removal of a family to a lower floor. In
the last several months the energies of the Council have been spent
primarily on sponsoring social activities for children and adults, re-
placing the Roof Association in this work. At the present time there
are no burning issues calling for Council intervention or cooperation.

All in all, I think the Tenants' Council is our most important recent
development and I feel it to be, in function and purpose, a very con-
structive organization.


It is evident from the foregoing remarks that the Foundation is
ready to adjust rentals in proportion to an individual's ability to pay.
However, some time ago, a question was raised by the directors re-
garding the advisability of continuing this policy. A committee was
appointed to study the matter. I was asked to prepare a report that
would indicate the potential rent which could be charged, elimi-
nating social service considerations.

After the investigation, the board again approved the policy of
basing rents on the individual's ability to pay.


Our regulations against boarders and over-crowding still hold, but
we no longer interview families in their homes. The application
forms are still used, the credit of each applicant is checked, and as a
matter of routine every new family is cleared through the Social
Service Exchange.


When the Lavanburg project first opened, there was a great deal
of local curiosity and excitement. Then followed a fairly long period
when unusual interest was not openly manifested and only infre-
quently did people visit the building or come to talk with me. But
in the last two years the question of housing has received new stimu-
lation and Lavanburg has again become a source of study for students
and other groups interested in the question. In the last few months,
visitors have come from New York Hospital; the Senior High School
of Long Branch, New Jersey; Hunter College; New York University

Activities During the Period 1931-1931 1 1 3

School of Architecture, and other institutions. Information regard-
ing our project has been requested by a number of private and gov-
ernment organizations; and we have had inquiries from as far away
as Australia and Japan.

Of the 107 families now living here, we find that:

55 families have been living here for 9 years
5 families have been living here for 6 years
5 families have been living here for 5 years
4 families have been living here for 4 years

8 families have been living here for 3 years

9 families have been living here for 2 years
12 families have been living here for i year

9 families have been living here for less than a year

It is interesting to observe that although there have been a number
of changes in tenancy, the type of tenant has not changed markedly.
For the purpose of comparison, I cite below [page 114] the list of
occupations of tenants in 1928 and 1937.

In comparing the number of children in the building, we find there
are approximately the same number as in 1928:

1928 1937

Boys 1 68 170

Girls 161 156

329 326


Since the opening of the Lavanburg Homes, the activities of the
Lavanburg Foundation have considerably expanded. Nevertheless
the pressure of my work at the Homes has lessened and much of my
time is spent outside of the building, enabling me to pursue studies
of general interest in the field of housing. One of these was a survey
of the community activities in five housing projects. Another was en-
titled, "What Happens to Families Who Are Made to Move Because
of Slum Clearance," a study conducted jointly with the Hamilton
House and published by the Foundation. At the present time I am
completing a study of the relationship of juvenile delinquency and


It was Mr. Lavanburg's thought that the erection of a model hous-
ing project such as the Lavanburg Homes would react favorably

1 14 The Diary of a Housing Manager



Auto mechanic i

Baker 2

Basket weaver i

Barber 3

Bookbinder 2

Building sup't

Butcher i

Bus driver

Cable clerk i

Cap maker 2


City employee

City laborer 2

Clerk, Custom House i

Cloak operator 21

Color works 2

Conductor i

Coppersmith i

Electrician i

Elevator operator

Embroiderer 2

Fur nailer i

Garter maker i

Hebrew teacher

In business

Lace cutter

Laundry salesman

Leather cutter 2

Letter carrier i

Manager of theatre . .
Millinery worker i













1928 1937

Neckwear operator i i

Newspaper deliverer i

Painter i

Peddler 9 4

Pianist i

Plumber 2 2

Pocketbook maker i

Post Office clerk i i

Postman i

Presser i i

Printer 2

Rags sorter 2

Rodman i

Sales clerk 3 i

Salesman 6

Sheetmetal worker i

Shipping clerk i

Shoemaker i i

Slipper operator i

Solderer i

Stenographer i

Steward i

Street cleaner 3 i

Tailor i

Taxi driver 6 2

Teacher i

Truck driver 4 3

Waiter 2 2

Watchcase maker i i

Watchmaker i

Window cleaner i



Basket weaver

Bus driver

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10

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