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"This is the first time I have seen a landlord who does not want his

[After a few such experiences, the tenants realized we were
serious about keeping office hours, and we seldom had any
further instances of people wandering in at any hour to pay their

FEBRUARY 19, 1928

Called in a group of the older boys (between 14 and 16) to help
me maintain the house rules. Asked whether they were ready to aid
and, judging by their answer, felt that my invitation and man-to-man
talk had pleased them. Told them it will be their job to see that the
courts and hallways are kept clean and quiet. Delegated two boys
to each hallway. They will go through them twice daily and report
on their condition; see that stray papers are picked up and thrown

2 2 The Diary of a Housing Manager

into the waste cans; and be of assistance to the younger children
whenever they can. After talking with the boys about the respon-
sibilities I was entrusting to them, I asked what they wanted to call
themselves. Of the suggestions offered they decided on "commis-
sioners." They plan to have elections, meet regularly, and proceed
in a systematic manner. The plans completed, they left the office
elated and excited about their new undertaking. I was glad to make
this contact with them. Children must feel that adults consider them
responsible people.

[This group was extremely successful. Though new to Lavan-
burg, these boys were well behaved because of the responsibility
placed on them. The work we did together formed a friendly
basis for good will and cooperation. By this group's example,
the younger children, too, were taught early how to keep the


Five different people were here today to inspect the boiler plant
to see what could be done to remedy the hot water shortage. I was
told the average allowance of hot water in the city is 20 gallons per
family. Our allowance of 40 gallons is not sufficient.

[The installation of a Gleason heater was the satisfactory solu-
tion of the problem.]

FEBRUARY 21, 1928

Not a single repair complaint today. The tenants are getting settled.
Even the interest of the surrounding neighborhood is decreasing.
Two or three weeks ago, it was difficult to get through the courts
because of the crowd of visitors, all curious to see the new building.
Many were relatives and friends of the tenants, and much showing
off went on in the face of all the envy displayed.

FEBRUARY 22, 1928

Washington's Birthday, and the office is closed. Just came in from
playing with the children outside. The adults gathered in front and
seemed surprised and a little amused to see a grown-up at play with
their children. Although the parents are devoted, they do not know
how to play. I believe playing with the children to be a good policy,
and I enjoy the games as well. In my opinion, such a relationship

The Diary 1 92 7-1930 23

makes for a happy understanding between the management and the

FEBRUARY 23, 1928

Told several mothers they could not keep their carriages in the
courts and on the sidewalks. There are so many babies in the house
that when the weather is fine it is difficult to pass through the courts
because of the carriages. Suggested to the mothers that they take
their babies to the roof.

[It being a task for most of the mothers to get their baby car-
riages up the stairs to the roof, we relaxed this regulation.
Mothers were asked not to place the carriages in the courts, but
to keep them on the wide sidewalks in front of the house.]

FEBRUARY 24, 1928

Received a letter from the architect informing me that we are
to take over the management of the boilers from the steam engineers.
Until now they had been responsible for the operation of the heat-
ing system.

FEBRUARY 25, 1928

Mrs. Cooper, who took Miss Brown's place, has been spending
several afternoons investigating applicants with a view to renting
several remaining top-floor apartments. The last apartment, with the
exception of the two tentatively set aside for resident recreational
workers, was rented today. The following data summarize the in-
formation about the tenants:


Men 107 ! 3 Tenants make $2530 per week

Women 1 1 1 38 Tenants make 3035 per week

Total adults .777. ...218 3 2 Tenants make 35-40 per week

B l68 10 Tenants make 40-45 per week

Qifls jgj 5 Tenants make over 45 per week

~ '"." ' " 9 Tenants are supported by agencies

Total juveniles 329

Total population 547


Cloak operators 21 Shipping clerks 4

Peddlers 9 Street cleaners 3

Taxi drivers 6 Sales clerks 3

Truck drivers 4 Barbers 3

24 The Diary of a Housing Manager


Bookbinders 2 Clerk Custom House

City laborers 2 Watchcase maker

Plumbers 2 Fur nailer

Color workers 2 Newspaper deliveries

Waiters 2 Neckwear operator . .

Leather cutters 2 Solderer

Painters 2 Shoe maker

Cap makers ; Conductor

Embroiderers 2 Pocketbook maker . . .

Bakers . . 2 Post Office clerk .

Rag pickers

Cable clerk



Rodman Bureau of Construction . .

Slippers operator
Garter maker . . .
Basket weaver . .
Letter carrier . . .
Auto mechanic .

All but two of the tenants came from the Lower East Side. The
two exceptions are from Yorkville and Brooklyn.

[For similar information about tenants living at the project in
1937, see page 114.]

FEBRUARY 26, 1928

Supervised the play on the roof for the first time this afternoon.
Started with a group of ten boys. By the time the program of games,
story-telling, and cheering was over, sixty children were taking part.
Announced similar play periods for every Sunday afternoon, and
invited the neighborhood children as well as those in the house to
take part.

[Slum areas are particularly dangerous to children because they
provide no adequate facilities for play and recreation. Housing
projects which bring great numbers of children of all ages
together must provide playtime facilities and community organ-
ization of play. Absence of these will show themselves in a num-
ber of ways mischief, rowdyism, property destruction, delin-
quencyso that project managers in self-defense, if not in any
other spirit, must provide a rounded program of recreation
based upon the leisure-time activities and needs of the children at
their projects and in the neighborhood of the projects.
At the Lavanburg Homes the children were supplied with all
the facilities for a complete recreational program; the resources
in the neighborhood, city, and other agencies were used only
to fill in the gaps.]

The Diary 19271930 25

Met with the "commissioners" in the early evening. Two new ap-
pointees were made. Irregularities such as playing in the hall and bell-
ringings were discussed. These children are a great help.

FEBRUARY 27, 1928

Four o'clock. Went through halls and courts. Latter very clean,
halls fairly so. Stairs need painting owing to the wear and tear of
moving day. Walls in D section have many pencil marks. Will men-
tion this to the "commissioners" of this hallway.

FEBRUARY 28, 1928

The janitor and his wife startled the house by the violent quarrel
they had last night. The wife broke two windows with her hands
and cut her wrist so seriously that stitches had to be taken. The
reason for the disturbance is the wife's jealousy. Our janitor is not
much in evidence today. . . .

FEBRUARY 29, 1928

Learned from our secretary's office that Mr. Marcus, in F 30,
wrote to the president of the Foundation for another day on which
to pay his rent. The letter was referred, of course, to this office.
Asked Mr. Marcus to see me. This will give me an opportunity to
impress upon him (and through him the other tenants) that the
management problems are handled solely on the premises, and that
only really serious problems can be taken up with the directors.
Unless the tenants are straightened out on this, they will be con-
tinually carrying petty complaints to the board.

MARCH I, 1928

One of the mothers remarked about Mrs. Gold's having two
sets of twins. Our file records but one. Mrs. Cooper paid a visit to
Mrs. Gold and discovered she really has two sets. Mrs. Gold ex-
plained with some embarrassment that she was ashamed to admit the
four children were two sets of twins. She felt that people laughed
at her because of it.

MARCH 2, 1928

Am hastening the construction of the assembly hall. Putting things
on fire-escapes, parked baby carriages in the courts, and littered hall-

26 The Diary of a Housing Manager

ways still continue. It would be best to handle these matters by hav-
ing group meetings of the whole house so that I could make the
tenants understand that the cleanliness of the building is their re-
sponsibility. Just as soon as the assembly hall is ready, I will call a
tenants' meeting.

[I do not want to create the impression that the building did
not look well; but there were a few people who did not respond
well to the rules and it was primarily for their benefit that this
action was contemplated.]

MARCH 4, 1928

Sunday afternoons on the roof are attracting greater numbers of
children every week. Counted over one hundred last Sunday. Am
planning to engage a recreational assistant to help with the activities.

Two of our i4-year-old girls called on me today to ask if the girls
might have a club and also participate as commissioners. I was de-
lighted with their attitude and suggested they speak to other girls
and arrange for all to meet me on the roof the following Sunday
morning at ten o'clock to form their club.

The superintendent tells me that Mrs. Halpern had new furniture
brought in last night and the old taken out. It was done after dark
because she was ashamed to have her neighbors see her old furniture.

MARCH 5, 1928

Have several times accepted invitations to dinner with families.
Decided not to accept such invitations in the future. Some, having
entertained me, might feel themselves in a position to ask special
favors. Others might feel that they too must entertain me.

[The relationship of the manager with his tenants cannot be
easily codified for no set of rules can possibly be formulated.
Every manager should have his share of common sense, maturity
of judgment, wide experience, and an uncompromising sincerity.
Thus equipped he will apply the principles of management in his
own way.

I have found, however, the following general rules of conduct
efficacious in my dealings with the tenants:

i . Fair treatment to all tenants, making no favorites nor handling
them with abnormal severity or leniency.

The Diary 1927-1930 27

2. Special favors to none. Abide religiously by the house rules
and permit no deviation either for particular cases or for
limited periods of time.

3. Carry out every promise made to the tenants.

4. Courteous treatment to all. Avoid undue interest, over-
familiarity, exaggeration of formalities. Be wary of creating the
"one big happy family" feeling and shun paternalism.]

Made a sketch of wall decorations for the assembly hall. The base-
ment is so dark that bright and cheerful colors would help. Think
it will be a good idea to have these decorations carried out by tenants
who are available and can do this kind of work. One who is a painter
has already expressed his willingness to help with the job. Naturally,
such work would carry a nominal remuneration.

MARCH 9, 1928

Still having difficulty keeping the baby carriages out of the courts.
The mothers say the sidewalks become overcrowded and they can-
not get the heavy carriages up the stairs. Will investigate the cost of
small hammocks in which the babies could be more conveniently
kept on the roof.

[Found nothing suitable in hammocks, but did arrange for group
buying of light collapsible baby carts at a reduced cost. Many
bought carts and found them convenient for the street as well
as the roof. The mothers fell into the habit of keeping the car-
riages out of the courts and we have not had this problem for
several years. ]

MARCH II, 1928

Small bulletin boards have been placed in every hall. They were
put to use today when we hung posters inviting the children to
Sunday afternoon roof-play.

Met the two girls who wanted to form a club and their friends
on the roof. We organized the FLL Girls. Membership, they decided,
will be open to girls of the building and the neighborhood who are
between u and 14. They plan to alternate social programs with dis-
cussions of books. Mrs. Cooper agreed to lead the club.

[I want to emphasize that from the beginning the neighborhood
was invited to join all of our groups. I had several definite
reasons for stressing the activities as being for the neighborhood
rather than just for the house. First, I felt it would help promote

2 8 The Diary of a Housing Manager

a friendly relationship with the neighbors; second, it would teach
our children that they had no privileges other than those avail-
able to all children; and third, in social activities, interest is
always enlivened by new blood.

In the beginning, the fathers and mothers were opposed to in-
viting neighbors and their children. They wanted to feel they
possessed special advantages, but gradually, they themselves
started inviting outsiders.

Experience has proved our policy to be a good one. The people
of the neighborhood have always been friendly and helpful,
and we have had no difficulty with neighborhood children as
might otherwise have been expected.]

MARCH 12, 1928

Miss Wermel and Miss Sokolsky, daughters of tenants, have of-
fered to assist at Sunday roof-play. They will supervise the girls
and I will continue with the boys. Received a new basketball that
will be put to hard use next Sunday.

During the week the children freely drop into the office to talk
to me, especially the six- and seven-year-olds who find my waste-
basket very fascinating. I have found that those who know me well
accept my occasional admonitions in a friendly way. The more
children I make my friends, the easier they will be for me to handle.

MARCH 14, 1928

Board meeting. Much time spent discussing the need for facilities
as a means to develop community interest. The assembly hall and
game-room were considered the most important with which to
begin. It was also made definite that the two top-floor apartments be
turned into residences for students of social work who will help with
the fast developing club and handicraft groups.

The trustees were very pleased with the appearance of the build-
ing. The fire-escapes are perfectly clear, there is no rubbish in the
halls and courts, and the trimly curtained windows lend a cheerful
and inviting air to the building.

MARCH 1 8, 1928

The tenants are getting to know one another and new friendships
are being formed. I see many busily chattering groups of women
gathered in front of the building every clear afternoon.

The Diary 19 27 -19 30 29

MARCH 22, 1928

The rent is being paid regularly. So far, no trouble with collec-
tions. The wives, who usually bring in the rent-money each week, are
very friendly and stop to chat with Mrs. Cooper. We are beginning
to know them by name and to become acquainted with some of the
happenings in their families, such as baby Harry Wemel's two new
teeth, and Rose Sitnitskey's exceptional school marks.

MARCH 25, 1928

The Purim holidays are here and the children are dressed in their
finest. This is a Jewish holiday of thanksgiving. Following custom,
shalachmonus gifts of goodies have been sent to the office. These
small tokens of good will from the tenants please me very much.

MARCH 26, 1928

The basement was initiated today with a social meeting of the
FLL Girls.

Sunday afternoons on the roof are attracting a number of parents.
We shall have to get some small tables and benches so that the adults
can play chess, checkers, and other games. Our roof provides a beau-
tiful view of the East River with its constantly changing panorama
of boat traffic. Off to one side looms the Williamsburg Bridge and
in the distance are the outlines of Brooklyn's huge navy yard.

Mrs. Boyarsky reported that her tile dish tray had been broken,
and asked us for a new one. I pointed out that where damage is done
because of carelessness, the tenant would have to stand the cost.
Mrs. Boyarsky readily admitted being at fault and was willing to
accept our nominal charge for replacing the tray.

[It is my belief that the tenants should pay charges of this sort
even if it does not cover the cost of the damage. They should
have the feeling of their own responsibility.]

MARCH 29, 1928

Mrs. Cooper informs me that the FLL Girls split into two groups
at their last meeting. This was because the girls of 14 had no com-
mon interests with those of 1 1. The club had also become very large.
Junior and senior groups will be easier for Mrs. Cooper to handle.

We were visited by a class in social science from Columbia Uni-

30 The Diary of a Housing Manager

versity. They showed considerable interest in our housing project
and asked many questions, but it is amazing how little college seniors
know about the subject of housing. Several of them thought that the
City Housing Corporation is an agency of the City and few realized
that the number of tenants in old law tenement flats in New York
reaches the staggering figure of 550,000.

MARCH 30, 1928

Asked several mothers to give a certain amount of time each after-
noon to supervise children who wish to play on the roof and to look
after babies left in their carriages by mothers who wanted to go on
with their work. The women I spoke to were enthusiastic about the
idea and expressed their willingness to cooperate. They decided that
each would give one afternoon a week. This is a first attempt of the
tenants to assume some measure of community responsibility, and I
am curious to see how it will work out.

[I believe it is very important for our mothers and fathers to
engage in activities of this nature because it betters their rela-
tionship with their children. For instance, soon after a schedule
for mothers' roof supervision had been posted on the bulletin
boards, I overheard a boy who had been reading it exclaim,
"Look, my mother a teacher!" That is, it gives to a parent the
status of a human being qualified to do other things than hand
out pennies.]

MARCH 31, 1928

Have been interviewing students of social work for our resident
staff. Three women and two men have been engaged and they are:

Miss Finestein of the Jewish Social Service Association, B.A.,
Barnard College, and courses at the New York School for Social

Miss Sohnfeld, B.A., University of Wisconsin; student, Train-
ing School for Social Work.

Miss Mack, A.B., Western Reserve University; student, Train-
ing School for Social Work.

Mr. Rineberg, boys' worker, Federation Settlement.

Mr. Eisenstein, A.B., New York University; graduate, Train-
ing School for Jewish Social Work.

Under our terms these residents will be charged $12 a month to

The Diary 1927-1930 31

cover the cost of gas, electricity, wear and tear of furniture, maid
service, and other incidentals. Each of these residents will devote two
afternoons or evenings a week to community or recreational work.

[The reasons for engaging these residents were twofold. First,
the sixth-floor apartments were very difficult to rent; and, second,
it was thought we might be able to secure trained people at a
reasonable cost. At the same time, an opportunity for field work
training was given these students such as would be difficult to
find elsewhere.]

APRIL I, 1928

Two boys' clubs, the Lavanburg Health Group, and the Lavan-
burg Pioneers, have been formed. The children plan many hikes and
outings. Next week the Pioneers are making a trip to the Palisades,
and the Health Group will go to the Bronx Zoo. We also have a folk-
dancing class for girls and we have been promised a performance

Our "commissioners" reported about their work. The misde-
meanors of eating and playing in the halls by the youngsters seemed
to have caused the most trouble.

Happened to stay late in the office. Several of the neighbors from
across the street dropped in to chat. They told me a great deal about
themselves and of what they thought of the Lavanburg Homes. One
said, "Honestly, Mr. Goldfeld, if someone had told me some time ago
that a building across the street from me could be kept so clean I
never would have believed him. You know, not all people who live
in slums are dirty, but there are some living in my house who make
the place smelly and bad. You don't have such people. My wife
always tells me, 'Abe, look at the windows of the Lavanburg Homes
across the street. They are so nice and clean! ' " Of course, in my mind
I asked myself, "How long will it last? Is it just because of the new-
ness? Or will the building always look this way?"

APRIL 2, 1928

It seems to be difficult to enforce our ruling about keeping the
window-ledges clear. Many tenants do not realize the danger of
objects falling on children playing below. Yesterday, a flower-pot
dropped, missing little Frieda Kirchbaum by barely an inch. Her
irate mother ran up to the apartment from where the pot fell. . . .

3 2 The Diary of a Housing Manager

Fortunately I overheard the commotion and straightened matters
out. Wonder whether the architect could not have constructed the
ledges on a slant, making it automatically impossible to put things
on them.

[The realization that a number of management problems could
be eliminated by wiser architectural design and construction
served as an impetus to keep track of the desirable and undesir-
able features of the building. For instance, no matter how often
we washed the panes of glass in our doors, they could not be
kept clean, because of the large number of children here. Doors
with opaque panes would have been the answer. Easy access to
plumbing would have made our problem of breaking up tile
and patching it again unnecessary. Such considerations were
incorporated in a study made by the Housing Study Guild en-
titled A Preliminary Study of Low-Rental-Housing Maintenance
Problems as Affected by the Work of the Architect, published
May i, 1935.]

The mothers, three at a time, are supervising play periods on the
roof week-day afternoons. The plan is working beyond expectation.
The mothers enter into the spirit of play and help organize games
for the children. Afterwards they told me of their satisfaction and
pleasure in doing something for others.

I notice an average attendance of about eighty children on the roof
every afternoon.

APRIL 4, 1928

In order to keep the families informed about the widening range
of social and community activities, decided to publish a house bulle-
tin. The mimeograph will serve as our printing press.

Several complaints about mice. Apparently the exterminating com-
pany engaged on a contract basis is not doing the work effectively.
They will have to show better results or we will get another

APRIL 6, 1928

Great concern in the neighborhood about the children playing
in the street. A boy living across the street was run over by a truck
while playing ball and has been taken to the hospital in a serious

The Diary 1927-1930 33

APRIL 12, 1928

Mr. Cohen, one of our tenants, came into the office to inquire
about Mr. Lavanburg's Yiddish name. He and his wife have decided
to name their new baby boy after Mr. Lavanburg. I have been in-
vited to the "brith," the Jewish rite of circumcision when the child
is named. Rumors have spread in the neighborhood that the Founda-
tion would give cash to the first baby born in the Lavanburg Homes.
Of course they are unfounded.

Today The Lavanburg News came off press and the "commis-
sioners" distributed the copies.

APRIL 13, 1928

Mrs. Krentzman, inspired by an appeal in the Jewish Daily Forward
to help the striking miners in Pennsylvania, decided to make a door-
to-door collection. She arrived at the office with a little over five
dollars, and somewhat fearful of being scolded for making the col-
lection. Both Mrs. Cooper and I added to the fund, but I did caution
Mrs. Krentzman that in the future she must carry a statement and
have each contributor write his name and the amount given. I ex-
plained this as a procedure to avoid unpleasant reflections about her
integrity in making the collection.

[The practice of collecting from door to door is very prevalent
in the neighborhood. It is the old-world idea of neighbor help-
ing neighbor.]

Worked on estimate of income and expenditures for the year.

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