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The big question is whether the Foundation will have to pay taxes
on the building and the land.

[Eventually, through court litigation, the buildings and land
were declared tax exempt because of the charitable nature of the
Foundation.]

APRIL 17, 1928

First meeting of the resident-workers held in office. After having
outlined the background and fundamental purposes of the Lavanburg
Homes, we discussed the schedule of work and responsibilities:
Mr. Rineberg is to be in charge of the Pioneers and a period on
the roof Sundays.

Mr. Eisenstein is to lead the Health Club and assist with the sev-
eral children who present a behavior problem.



34 The Diary of a Housing Manager

Miss Sohnfeld is to make a survey of the neighborhood in order
to measure the influence, if any, of model housing on delinquency
and health.

Miss Mack is to keep in touch with the mothers who have indi-
cated they want a club, and will take charge of the library.
Miss Finestein is to supervise roof activities.

APRIL 22, 1928

The superintendent complains he spends much time clearing
clogged toilets due to tenants' carelessness in throwing hard objects
down the drain. Told him we would notify tenants that in the future
there would be a small charge whenever clogging is the tenants'
fault.

[It would be a good idea when tenants first move into a building,
to give them not only a copy of the house rules but also a list of
charges for breakage and other damages due to carelessness.]

Miss Fineblum, daughter of one of our families, has organized the
girls of nine and ten into the Jolly Girls Club. Today they met in
my apartment and I enjoyed being with them for a while. They
made several kinds of artificial flowers with the help of their con-
scientious leader, who seems to take her duties seriously.

APRIL 25, 1928

The weather having become quite warm, groups of fathers gather
at evening in front of the building. They discuss all kinds of things,
from the political scene to their marital difficulties. Mr. Kirchbaum
and Mr. Sokolsky are coaching the boys' basketball team. It is evi-
dent the time is not far distant when they will want to form a
fathers' club. One reason they cannot start now is the lack of a
meeting place. As soon as the basement rooms are completed, space
will be available.

APRIL 27, 1928

Several tenants have reported petty thefts from the carriage-room
in the basement. Hereafter will keep this room locked and will sup-
ply keys only to tenants owning carriages.

Have noticed that the street in front of our house is littered with
our neighbors' garbage. Before I came to know the neighborhood, I
thought the city street cleaners never visited this section. Now I



The Diary 1927-1930 35

know that they come and do their job every day, but five minutes
after they leave, garbage is scattered over the pavement again, and
one could never guess it had just been cleaned. The refuse in the
tenement houses is not collected at regular hours, so the people bring
or fling their garbage into the street whenever they choose. Paper
wrappings burst and the resulting mess is revolting. Will put large
refuse cans with swinging tops in front of our building so that at
least this small part of the street will be kept clean.

[The cans, if anything, aggravated our situation. The refuse of
the neighborhood was dropped into them, soon filling them to
overflowing, making the sidewalks in front of the house filthier
than ever. I gave up trying to do anything about it and had our
cans brought in.]

APRIL 29, 1928

Two groups of mothers' clubs from various settlements came to
the building. They are studying the housing problem. I went over
the policy and aims of the Foundation and escorted them through
our building on a tour of inspection. Overheard a number of wish-
ful sighs and remarks such as, "When will we have apartments like
these?" A few realized that it will take many years before compa-
rable homes would be made available for them. Private real estate
interests cannot provide decent low-rent housing and it will be a
long time before the government, that is, the community, will build
for them.

It was a welcome relief to see the sun shine again after the con-
tinual rains of last week. The children and the adults took full ad-
vantage of the fair weather and the roof had its largest attendance
so far.

While playing ball, Irving Kummer was knocked down by an auto-
mobile. Fortunately, he escaped bad injuries but he was terribly
frightened. This is the second automobile accident in this block in
a short period of time. Society, in accepting the automobile, must
make provision for safe playing space for the children.

My secretary is getting in touch with various camps by letter and
telephone. The camps are indicating their willingness to cooperate
with our tenants, and I think many parents will be able to secure
accommodations for their children, as the cost is very nominal.

Three young women from a training school for teachers came to



36 The Diary of a Housing Manager

offer volunteer service. They said that they had read about the Lavan-
burg Homes in the newspapers and thought it was the kind of project
they would like to do volunteer work for. We decided one would
conduct a story-telling hour, another a group in dramatics, and the
third a class in physical training.

Mr. Kirchbaum in office. Told me he represented several fathers
who want to organize a fathers' club and wondered if notices could
not be sent by the office to announce the first meeting. I said I would
be glad to cooperate and we set the date for Wednesday, May 2,
at 8:30 P.M.

APRIL 30, 1928

Received several complimentary tickets for a concert at Town
Hall which I gave to tenants. As most of the families live on a very
close margin which does not allow them any leeway for recreation,
they cannot afford concerts. The matter of recreation, a vital need,
will be partially solved with the inauguration of our own program
of social activities.

MAY I, 1928

Mrs. Wermel and her daughter, Augusta, called at the office. The
mother complained that her daughter is very slow at school. She is
thirteen years old and is only in the fifth grade. I suggested the
possibility of a psychological test and gave her a letter to Dr. H's
Clinic.

[The tenants are now coming to the office with all kinds of per-
sonal problems and I have to draw the line between those we
ought to assist in solving, and those which ought to be left solely
to the tenants. The question of independent action is a very seri-
ous one. It is so easy in our set-up to encourage the tenants to
depend upon us in all things that they may come to feel we are
ready to assist them in all their problems.]

Engaged a new superintendent. The previous one persisted in hav-
ing public quarrels with his wife, despite several warnings that he
must keep such difficulties behind his own doors.

MAY 2, 1928

Walter W. Pettit of the New York School of Social Work re-
quested a brief outline of the activities of the tenants at the Lavan-



The Diary 1927-1930 37

burg Homes during their first three months of residence. Report sent
today.

Mrs. Marcus, who was one week in arrears with her rent, made
payment today. Her husband has been out of work and it was neces-
sary for their fraternal society to assist them. She asked for an ex-
tension of her next week's rent which we allowed.

Mrs. Holland, a tenant, at the office. She is a young woman who has
a public school education, and who seems to be aware of the diffi-
culties of her three young children. Related how her son, Howard,
aged four, has extreme temper tantrums whenever his wishes are
crossed. According to her description they appear to be of a serious
nature. I spoke to Mrs. Holland briefly about emotional outbursts in
children and gave her a pamphlet entitled: "Habit Training of Chil-
dren," wherein this problem was discussed fully. Suggested that if
she wished, she might consult with Mr. Eisenstein about the child
and she indicated she was very ready to do so. This mother shows
intelligent insight in the rearing of children. She also mentioned that
her daughter, Matilda, eight, is anxious to join a club and I am send-
ing her an invitation to come to the next meeting of the Jolly Girls.

I took this opportunity to talk to Mrs. Holland of our plans to
form a mothers' club where matters of common interest to the group
could be discussed. She assured me she would be glad to become a
member.

Our parapet on the roof is not high enough for some of the more
venturesome children, and a fence is essential. Children were seen
climbing onto the parapet and it quite upset a few mothers who hap-
pened to catch them.

The first meeting of the Fathers' Club was held tonight. Thirty-
two fathers responded to the call, a very satisfactory attendance. I
addressed the group and told them of the advantages to be derived
from the organization of the club and of the responsibilities they
have toward their children and themselves in the matters of recrea-
tion, education, and health. Also pointed out that the experiences
at Lavanburg would be of great value in the movement for better
housing.

Mr. Wermel proposed the appointment of a committee to investi-
gate the possibility of closing Goerck Street for children's play pur-
poses. Mr. Kummer suggested a plan for buying ice cooperatively.
The proposal was postponed for future consideration.



3 8 The Diary of a Housing Manager

The discussion was unusually lively for the first meeting and a
number of the fathers participated. Some, of course, did not express
themselves as fluently as others, but there was no feeling of reticence.
The members were greatly interested in the possibilities of coopera-
tive buying, but all such plans must be held in abeyance until the
club is better organized.

[The plan for buying ice cooperatively never materialized, be-
cause some of the tenants began to get ice at the docks a block
away at a price lower than the neighborhood iceman could
charge.

Because of the relatively small number of families residing at
Lavanburg, cooperative buying was never attempted, although
the Eastern League Cooperative contacted the tenants concern-
ing their milk supply. The tenants, however, showed very little
interest.]

MAY 3, 1928

An enormous amount of office work yet to be done. Detail piles
up. Mr. Somers, treasurer of the Foundation, came to the office with
the accountant to look over the books and to install a more efficient
method of bookkeeping.

[For a number of years the auditing and most of the bookkeep-
ing were done at the office of the Foundation. Since 1935, how-
ever, the bookkeeping has been done on the premises. Every
month a statement is sent to the auditor showing the amount of
rent collected, deposited, the accumulated security on deposit,
arrears, loss from vacancies, and loss from unpaid rents.]

MAY 6, 1928

John, the new superintendent, has a number of ideas to improve
the operation of the building. One is an ash hoist. He tells me that
hauling the ashes up the stairs from the basement by hand is very
time-consuming.

Dr. Edith Elmer Wood, writer and lecturer on housing problems,
at Columbia University, visited the office for information on the
project. Wishes to use the information in a book to be published
shortly.

[The book, Recent Trends in American Housing, by Edith
Elmer Wood, was published in 1931.]



The Diary 7572 7-75730 39

Mrs. Jacobs gave notice that she could not afford the rent and
must move. I talked over the situation with the family and offered
to accept small sums in payment for rent until things improved;
provided they agree to then pay full rent plus small installments on
accumulated arrears. They are considering this arrangement.

[The family decided, finally, to move. But on the day before
leaving, Mrs. Jacobs was suddenly stricken with appendicitis and
was rushed to the hospital. Her husband came to ask permission
to remain in the apartment, explaining that as he was out of work
he could not pay more than half the rent. He promised to begin
paying arrears when he became reemployed. He deposited se-
curity which, together with past payments, was sufficient to
cover his rent for the coming month.]

MAY 8, 1928

Meeting of the "commissioners" today. Attendance poor and in-
terest at low ebb. Announced a picnic at Pelham Bay Park where this
group would take charge of a younger club. The lagging enthusiasm
brightened considerably at the prospect of an outing.

Mrs. Goldman complained that because the family above her takes
so many showers, water is coming through and is spoiling her bed-
room ceiling. She asked me to place a limitation upon the number
of showers in order to avoid further damage. Explained to her that
the leak was very likely due to a defective pipe rather than to an
excessive use of the shower. Assured her we would attend to this
at once.

[Many of the tenants, when reporting a need for repair, as-
sumed an apologetic air, usually saying, "I do not want to bother
you or to make trouble, but . . . ." We emphasized, again and
again, that reports of this kind were not "complaints." The office
stressed the need for knowing about anything not working
right so that proper repairs might be made.]

MAY IO, 1928

Mr. Dubin complained about Mrs. Marcus, who had created a
commotion in the hall of her section. It all began from quarrels among
the children. Mothers joined the quarrel and it seems that Mrs.
Marcus cursed Mrs. Dubin: the latter, superstitious by nature, feared
some evil might befall her. Mr. Dubin was careful to report that Mrs.
Marcus in her fury had even included me in her denunciations.



40 The Diary of a Housing Manager

Later, when Mrs. Marcus called at the office in reference to another
matter, I asked her about the incident. She stated that Mrs. Dubin
had made insulting remarks to her child about the manner in which
she was dressed, and Mrs. Marcus felt justified in retaliating as she
had. She keenly feels the slurs cast upon the appearance of her chil-
dren's clothes but is helpless because she has not known economic
security for a long time. In addition, she had been very ill for the
past week and had found it difficult even to feed her children
properly. Her husband had assisted by preparing food in the morn-
ing before going out to look for work. She was very bitter in her
attitude toward her neighbors who, she declared, are unfriendly.

[Later, the Mothers' Club, in real emergencies, did much to

assist mothers who could not attend to their children because of

severe illness.]

MAY 12, 1928

Sent notices about Mothers' Club meeting for May 15. The
mothers are anxious to get started. Their feeling, as one put it, is,
"There are other things in life besides washing dishes and scrubbing
floors." A great need for social contacts exists here among the adults
as well as among the children.

Miss A., principal of a near-by kindergarten school, came in to
talk about interesting our mothers in sending their very young chil-
dren to the kindergarten class. The school has new plans for the fall
which she would like to explain. Offered to give her the names of
mothers having small children so that she can talk to them personally.
Later, when we are ready for assembly, she will be invited to address
all the mothers.

MAY 14, 1928

This evening a group of boys and girls were to go to the movies.
Twenty-five children had been invited; only three responded. The
poor turnout is probably owing to the fact that today is a week day
and the children have to stay home and do home-work. At any rate,
it indicates that the children should not be invited on "week day"
parties.

MAY 15, 1928

Organization meeting of the Mothers' Club. Fifty-eight attended.
They agreed to the appointment of a Mutual Aid Committee of ten



The Diary 1927-1930 41

mothers to lend a helping hand with cooking meals, taking care of
the children, etc., for members who are ill. The Fourth of July cele-
bration was announced and several mothers gladly volunteered to
contribute refreshments. A committee was appointed to make the
necessary arrangements.

MAY 20, 1928

In registering the families residing in the Lavanburg Homes with
the Social Service Exchange, found that thirty-six have received
service from twenty-five agencies. Letters have been received from
these agencies giving reports of the contacts. This information will
be of value in dealing with the families who may come to us for
assistance.

MAY 24, 1928

The younger boys, many of them brothers of the "commissioners,"
have been anxiously inquiring whether I have "jobs" for them. Today
I appointed a number as deputy-commissioners who will see that
paper and other litter is not scattered about the premises. Others
were made letter-carriers to deliver notes from the office to the ten-
ants. I am holding a party for the new "staff" on June 3. One little
fellow, who holds the double position of letter-carrier and deputy,
asked if he couldn't come "twice"!

The second meeting of the Fathers' Club was held last night. The
constitution, as prepared by a committee, was the subject of most
of the discussion. It was accepted with some modifications. One of
the changes, to my amusement, stipulated that the board of directors
and the manager are to be honorary members of the club instead
of having only the right to be present as originally stated. At my
suggestion it was agreed that they are not to have a vote. Election
of officers was held. The posts were hotly contested and a great deal
of interest was shown by all members.

MAY 27, 1928

Miss Mack will lead another group instead of the Mothers' Club.
I felt that Mrs. Cooper, my secretary, who has constant contact with
the tenants, is better situated to lead the Mothers' Club than a new
resident who does not see them frequently. This move was made to
prevent the feeling that an outsider is leading their activities.



42 The Diary of a Housing Manager

Schvuoth, a Jewish spring festival, is almost here, and the wives
are busily preparing for the holidays. They come from the market
with overflowing baskets, and windows and apartments are being
cleaned with gusto.

MAY 29, 1928

The Bonnes Amies (we have a relish for fancy names) were unable
to go on their hike today because of rain. They met instead in the
office where a spelling bee and other games were held. Miss Sohn-
feld, leader of the club, brought down a portable victrola from her
apartment, and the girls danced. Later they went to the movies and
on their return ate their picnic lunch in the office.

[The use of the office for social activities was avoided after ade-
quate space in the basement was provided.]

In the evening the executive committee of the Fathers' Club met.
Outings, a boat-ride, celebrations, and lectures were discussed. It
was decided to sponsor a Fourth of July celebration. The fathers will
decorate the roof for the holiday and arrange to secure an orchestra.

Today being Schvuoth, all the children were home from school,
playing in the courtyards and on the roof. The children and their
parents were dressed in holiday clothes and a general air of festivity
pervaded the building, which fairly glistened on this happy, bright
day.

MAY 31, 1928

Had a meeting of the janitorial staff. Discussed such matters as
pencil marks on the walls and paper and waste thrown about the
basement. Tried to make the workers take more interest in the build-
ing and its appearance. They are going to meet once monthly with
me to talk over the care of the building. The superintendent reported
that several of the electric light bulbs had been stolen from the halls
during the night. He suggested wire guards and I told him to install
them.

[Regular meetings of janitor and porters did not work out.
After the first few months, occasional meetings were called to
discuss such problems as washing of uniforms, wearing caps
with the Lavanburg insignia, the staff's relationship with the
children, and courtesy to tenants.]



The Diary 1927-1930 43

From the report of the superintendent and my own impressions, I
judge that at present the children are our chief problem. With the
coming of warm weather, they play in the courts the entire day and
evening, creating a great deal of noise and general disturbance. We
have a rule prohibiting the children from playing in the courts after
the lights are turned on, but in the last week or two the rule has been
disregarded, and there is much noise until eleven at night. Instructed
the porters to be on duty in the courts every night until this dis-
turbance subsides. This is important because the parents, and espe-
cially the fathers, are entitled to a quiet home when they return from
work.

The halls, too, are getting more wear than usual; the children run
in and out all the time. There is no willful destruction, but with
340 children living here, it is very difficult to keep the building as
clean as I would like to see it.

I have noticed, however, that the fire-escapes continue to be kept
in excellent shape.

JUNE I, 1928

How strangers misinterpret our house rules was illustrated to me
the other night. Coming home in a cab, I gave the driver my address.
"Oh," said he, "I know that building! That's where they have a fel-
low who goes around every night at eleven o'clock to see that every-
one is in bed!"

The first meeting of the social club leaders was held this evening,
and the following topics were discussed:

The importance of keeping correct records in order to prevent
children joining two or three clubs at the same time. This con-
dition exists at the present. A system of membership cards was
suggested.

The July Fourth celebration was taken up. Various clubs will
participate in the program.

The leaders will help organize a library for the tenants.

It was decided that whenever children are taken on hikes, per-
mission blanks are to be signed by the parents.

Afterwards, the residents joined in the meeting and we discussed
the progress of community activities.



44 The Diary of a Housing Manager

JUNE 3, 1928

Mr. Leavitt, a tenant, in to inquire about the policy of the board
in connection with tenants opening a business. He wants to open a
candy store in the neighborhood. Told him I was not ready to
answer his question, but would do so in a few days.

JUNE 4, 1928

Met with the board of directors, and the following matters were
acted upon:

1. Roof supervision for the summer months. It was decided that
should Mr. Somers be unable to have the Board of Education
provide teachers, I am to determine whether a teacher be en-
gaged for the vacation period.

2. Realizing the need to protect the roof from the sun, the board
required me to investigate how shade is provided on the roofs
of other buildings.

3. I was authorized to spend up to $150 for lights to illuminate
the roof.

4. I wanted to know what the directors thought about a tenants'
council. It was agreed that the time was not yet ripe for this,
although the consensus was that such a council would be
helpful.

5. After considering the estimate for the improvement of the
basement, the board decided to leave the matter at Mr.
Somers' discretion after he had determined whether the im-
provements were in accordance with the tenement house and
fire department regulations.

6. Discussion was held on the policy of the board in regard to
tenants whose earnings increase. It was decided that for the
present no action be taken so as not to disrupt the friendly
relationship. As for Mr. Leavitt's proposed candy store, they
felt it should not affect his status here, as it could not ma-
terially alter his financial standing. Their entire attitude on this
subject was very liberal. They did think, however, that if a
tenant earns a great deal above the average income prevail-
ing in these buildings he should move out and let someone
else have his apartment.

7. The last item discussed was my vacation. It was agreed that I
take one month's leave of absence and the two months' vaca-
tion due me and go abroad to study housing.

The whole spirit of the meeting seemed to reflect satisfaction with



The Diary 19271930 45

the present state of affairs at the Lavanburg Homes. The directors
were most cooperative in granting the various requests.

JUNE 6, 1928

Fathers' Club meeting. About forty-five were present. Twelve new
members joined, bringing the total membership to sixty-five.

The meeting in general was very poorly conducted. Mr. Berlin
and Mr. Landow asked prolonged and foolish questions. Mr. Kirch-


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