Abraham Goldfeld.

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ing could be devoted to educational and social activities.

AUGUST 6, 1928

Two of the 1 6-year-old boys have asked for jobs as porters. Will
give them a trial for the rest of the summer to see how such an ar-
rangement works out.

[After they had worked one day, one of the boys' mothers de-
cided the job was below her son's dignity, and the whole matter
was dropped. With the advent of the depression, however, many
fathers and older boys have asked for work. One of our tenants
is now our highly satisfactory superintendent, and other of the
boys and men do such odd jobs as polishing floors, removing

The Diary 1927-1930 57

snow, etc. Nothing is beneath them so long as they can make
some money at it.]

AUGUST 8, 1928

In the morning had a talk with Mr. Eisenstein, who has just re-
turned from his vacation. For the remainder of the summer, he will
concentrate his attention upon individual boys who present prob-
lems, as well as the group of boys involved in sexual delinquencies.

[Mr. Eisenstein succeeded in a measure with the boys who gave
difficulty. However, after his departure, we had no one to con-
tinue his work. In a few instances where the situation was very
serious we referred the parents to clinics.]

Again was gratified to see a large group of parents and children
playing together on the roof. Some were enjoying games of checkers
and chess; others a fast game of handball. In one corner, a mother
was leading a group of small children in songs and games. This spirit
on the roof is very fine. Practically every night there is some im-
promptu entertainment. I am learning that I do not have to be on
the roof every night since the parents and resident workers are able
to supervise activities successfully.

AUGUST 9, 1928

Mrs. Cooper called Mrs. Reskin's attention to her rent arrears of
one week. Mrs. R. denied owing the rent, claiming she was up to
date in her payments. Mrs. C. went over the records in order to con-
vince her that she was mistaken. When asked to compare these de-
tails with her own rent-book, she claimed it had been lost just at the
time the arrears occurred. This being the case, we pointed out that
she would have to accept our figures. She left the office feeling dis-
satisfied and unconvinced.

AUGUST 10, 1928

Mr. Reskin in to corroborate his wife's story and claimed that his
wife is sure she paid the rent. I repeated what I had told his wife the
day before that since the arrears occurred at the time the rent-book
had been lost, and since there existed no other way of checking, we
were obliged to abide by our books. He was displeased, but let the
matter rest.

5 8 The Diary of a Housing Manager

Three students from the New York School of Social Work visited
to look around the building.

Fifty of our children went to the Rivoli, an uptown motion pic-
ture theatre. This was the first time for many of them to see a talk-
ing moving picture.

Have been investigating the cost of heating. Ours appears to be
excessive compared to similar buildings. Someone has suggested that
the uncovered pipes in the basement cause losses in heat and that
they will constitute a source of danger when our proposed basement
activities commence.

[Although the pipes were subsequently covered with asbestos,
the high fuel costs persisted. In 1933 a consulting engineer was
brought in, who advised certain technical changes which when
installed did effect substantial savings in fuel costs.]

AUGUST 14, 1928

Noted that attendance in the afternoon Play School has dropped
considerably. Milk period attendance, too, has decreased. Appar-
ently the novelty has worn off.

AUGUST 20, 1928

Mrs. Kummer reported to my secretary that for the second time
a pillow had been taken from her baby carriage kept in the base-
ment. She was incensed about the theft, although her chief complaint
was about the "pettiness" of it. When her temper was calmed, we
urged her to remove all pillows and bedding from the carriage here-
after as she could readily understand there was very little we could
do to prevent recurrences of the thefts.

AUGUST 24, 1928

Two of our cooperative fathers in to find out whether we would
furnish wire if they gave their labor to extend the fence on the roof
so that the volley ball would not fall off. Appreciating their interest,
I was glad to arrange for the purchase of the wire.

AUGUST 31, 1928

Ice cream party given to the children of the Play School. About
1 50 present. Many had never been to the Play School before, but the
magic words "ice cream" brought them out in large numbers.

The Diary 1927-1930 59

Have had several reports of minor accidents on the roof caused by
children running into the vent pipes. Another difficulty, leaders and
parents inform me, is presented by the lack of toilets and water foun-
tain for the children. The building's being a six-story walk-up makes
such equipment on the roof very necessary.

[There was nothing that could be done about the vent pipes, but
a water fountain and boys' toilets were installed. This additional
expenditure could have been avoided, had the installation been
made while the building was under construction.]


Have been thinking of ways to stimulate the lagging interest of the
"commissioners." Called the boys into my office today to suggest a
clean-up drive to be launched with a mass meeting. They accepted
the idea enthusiastically. I held forth the possibility of getting a
magician to perform at the meeting, whereupon they suggested get-
ting out a newspaper for that day. I left them in the office busily
planning posters to announce the event.


Dropped in to see the evening rehearsal of the Adult Dramatic
Group. Was impressed with their eagerness to act well. Ironically,
Mr. Berlin, the bane of the Fathers' Club, is the star performer. Sev-
eral babies slept peacefully in the hall while their mothers rehearsed.
Of the nine in the cast, only one had ever acted in a play before.
After the rehearsal was over, there was a great deal of discussion
about invitations to people, admission charges, and publicity plans.


When I returned from a Labor Day week-end in the country, I
was pleasantly surprised to find that not only had the fathers raised
the fence with the wire we provided, but they had also put up an-
other net so that more people could play volley ball on the roof.

Mrs. Cohn has gone to the hospital for a very serious operation.
All the tenants were concerned about her condition, and constantly
asked for information, indicating the great interest they have in the
welfare of their neighbors. Neighborliness is apparent in other ways
as well. Mothers care for their neighbors' children to permit shop-
ping, they visit sick neighbors in the hospitals, and help one another

60 The Diary of a Housing Manager

out in various other ways. One father remarked, "Before I came to
Lavanburg I had one neighbor. Now I have many."


Discovered more pencil marks than usual in the building. We have
also had a report recently of a tenant throwing bundles of refuse
out of the window. I spoke to Mr. Holland (one of the leaders
among the tenants) about these violations of rules. He suggested a
special meeting of the tenants to put the problem up to them as a
body. He thought that once they realized the situation, they would
be helpful about it. Sent out notices of a tenants' meeting for Friday,
September 13.

[It is now our custom to hold one or two meetings a year devoted
to the question of building sanitation. The last meeting was held
under the auspices of the Tenants' Council. Have found these
meetings very effective. They tone up the general morale and
also provide an opportunity to tell the new tenants of our ob-

Mailed a report of our summer activities to the directors.


The Lavanburg News out today, consisting in the main of con-
tributions from the tenants. Announcements of fall plans of the
different groups are featured.

In the evening the Adult Educational Group met.

[After we had more or less exhausted the topics of interest, this
discussion group turned into a Traveling Group and I went
with them to visit a number of places of interest, such as the
Daily News Building, the telephone exchange, a Broadway
play, etc.]


Our library has been open for a week now, and Miss Mack reports
that seventy-five children between the ages of seven and fifteen
registered. I tried to get a loan of books from the neighborhood
public library, but was informed that because the library is located
only five blocks away, it would be preferable to have the children
go there.

The Diary 1927-1930 61


Visited the roof tonight and found a large group of fathers
gathered in a corner discussing the situation of the Markow family.
The mother had been taken to the hospital late in the afternoon and
the children were left all alone. The men asked me whether they
could not do something for the unfortunate family. Told them the
family was being cared for by the Jewish Social Service Association.
In this particular case the cooperation of the Fathers' Club was not
needed, but I thanked them for their splendid spirit. Shortly after-
wards, a housekeeper, sent by the JSSA came to look after the family.


Joseph Bernstein, age 12, left his home on Monday evening at
8 o'clock and did not return until the next morning at 1 1 o'clock.
His mother was frantic with worry. Joseph told the following
story when he came to the office. He was playing with some boys
on Avenue D and 3rd Street when a truck came along. The driver
invited all of them for a ride. The other boys refused and ran away
but the man grabbed Joseph and forced him to go. They rode around
all night. In the morning the man let him go. After walking for two
hours, Joseph found his way home.

The entire story sounds improbable. There are several discrep-
ancies in the tale. Will refer the boy to Mr. Eisenstein.

Mr. Domroff, a tenant, started painting the basement in prepara-
tion for the winter activities. I have worked out a design that will
create a cheerful effect in bright colors.

SEPTEMBER 12, 1928

Miss Mack, resident worker, tendered her resignation as of Sep-
tember 15, to take a position in St. Louis.

SEPTEMBER 13, 1928

The first meeting of the tenants was held this evening. About two
hundred people were present, mostly adults; and from a roll-call, we
found eighty families represented. I talked to them about the condi-
tion of the back-yard, dumb-waiters, sidewalks, carriage-room, and
fire escapes. They listened attentively. Afterwards, the officers of the
Fathers' Club spoke and pointed out that the responsibility of the

62 The Diary of a Housing Manager

tenants is as great as that of the management and exhorted all to
give their most active cooperation. In turn, the tenants took the
opportunity to complain about the ice-boxes which continue to
give trouble. I promised to do whatever was possible.

[I employed a carpenter to raise all ice-boxes several inches.]

Mr. Falk of the Board telephoned to say that he liked the report
about our summer activities very much.

SEPTEMBER 1 8, 1928

Several children were stopped from eating in the court and their
mothers came into the office to protest. They claimed their children
would not eat bread and butter in the home and they therefore found
it necessary to bring it to the children wherever they might be. I
explained that this encouraged poor habits of eating and created extra
work for the porters. I was very firm about enforcing the rule.

Training children to eat at the table might be a suitable topic for
discussion of the Mothers' Club some day.

[The eating rule has always been rigidly enforced, and some-
times drastically. That is, if a child was found eating in the
court, he was made to throw the food into the waste can. In
many instances there were tears, but results were obtained. It
is very seldom now that a child is seen eating in any of the for-
bidden places about the building.]

SEPTEMBER 26, 1928

Mrs. Wermel's dog bit Ida Reskin. Mrs. Reskin took out a summons
against Mrs. W., but I suggested that a settlement be made instead.
Both women readily agreed to the decision I would consider fair.
So we arranged for Mrs. Wermel to pay $5 compensation to Mrs.
Reskin, which satisfactorily closed the matter for both parties.

[I was the first to break the rule forbidding dogs in the house by
bringing mine when I moved in. For about three years there
were only two other dogs on the premises and they caused no
trouble, except in the above mentioned instance. Then we had an
epidemic of dogs. At one time there were fourteen kept by
the tenants, causing considerable extra cleaning for the porters.
Dog-owner meetings were held and the tenants agreed to give
up their pets if they could not care for them properly. Gradually
the number of dogs decreased, as the tenants discovered how

The Diary 192 7-193 o 63

difficult it was to keep a dog in an apartment. There are only
about five dogs in the building now.]

SEPTEMBER 30, 1928

At 2:30 the "commissioners" held their mass meeting. About one
hundred and fifty children and several parents attended. The "com-
missioners" put their case in the form of a skit entitled "The
Cleaning-up Process, and the Appearance Afterwards."

The magician, of course, was the hit of the program.

[By and large, to maintain thorough cleanliness in the building
was beyond expectation. Now and then individual children and
adults need reminding. Many visitors have commented that ex-
pensive apartment houses in more fashionable parts of the city
are not better kept.]

Attended Mothers' Club meeting in the evening. Spoke to them
about an English class which is being formed, health works for the
children, and the memorial ceremonies the fathers are planning in
honor of Mr. Lavanburg.

[For three years we had an English class conducted under the
jurisdiction of the Board of Education. For reasons of economy
necessitated by the depression the Board discontinued the class.
A year later, however, the teacher who had been in charge came
back and offered his services in exchange for an apartment at a
somewhat reduced rental. This was arranged and the class be-
came one of our own activities. The attendance has been well-
sustained but the majority of the women are enrolled from the

OCTOBER 2, 1928

Bought furniture for the Fathers' Clubroom, games for the game-
room and chairs for the social hall. Slowly the basement is taking on
an attractive lively air. Curtains (which the mothers have volunteered
to make for us), lamps with colorful shades, and some vivid wall-
drawings will give the finishing touches.

OCTOBER 4, 1928

Mr. Hochman, the tenant who runs a taxi-cab, is in difficulties.
Yesterday he became involved in an accident a child ran under his
cab. Although the child was unhurt, the case was reported to the

64 The Diary of a Housing Manager

Yellow Taxi Corporation where he is employed. Mr. Hochman
claims that because his superior does not like him, he used the ac-
cident as an excuse to fire him. He asked me to write a character
reference for him which I was glad to do.

OCTOBER 15, 1928

Since a father came in to find out whether he could use the
auditorium, I announced that anyone may rent it for $5 an evening
or $7.50 with the use of the kitchen. Tenants sometimes desire the
auditorium for family affairs, such as confirmations, weddings, or
parties. The space is just right for family social functions, and its use
will help to prevent abuse of the apartments, and annoyance to the

In the evening the Educational Group, Dramatic Group, and
Memorial Committee all met. Find that the same people participate
in all of these activities, which causes confusion. If only our project
were larger. In my opinion a community with three or four times as
many adults would be healthier.

OCTOBER 22, 1928

Memorial Evening, in honor of Mr. Lavanburg. Services were
conducted by one of the tenants according to orthodox Jewish rites.
A picture of Mr. Lavanburg was presented to the building by the
Fathers' Club. Roger W. Straus, representing the board of directors,
and Rabbi Schulman, of Temple Emanu-El, eulogized the life and
interests of the founder.

At the beginning of the evening a slight disturbance was caused
by some tenants who had neglected to secure tickets in advance.
Attendance at our affairs must be controlled, and this situation
served as a lesson to those who thought admission would be a free-for-
all despite the advance notice.

OCTOBER 25, 1928

Am starting to equip my office with all the data on housing I can
secure. This will include books, pamphlets, magazine articles, and
newspaper clippings.

NOVEMBER 2, 1928

Our game-room is officially open and in full swing. Among the
games are ping-pong, crokinole, checkers, chess, and puff-ball. The

The Diary 1927-1930 65

racket is terrific but I feel this should be one place where the boys
and girls can let off steam. The children are not disciplined unless
they interfere with one another. Three fathers supervise the activ-
ities at all times.

Visited the library which continues to be popular with the chil-
dren. However, two or three, instead of reading were playing and
annoying others. I noticed that when Miss Wermel, a volunteer
leader, is in charge the library is in a turmoil. Evidently she does not
know how to handle the children. It will be better to keep the
library closed on evenings when Miss London, the regular librarian,
is not here.

Story Hour is well attended. About one hundred eager faces were
in the circle listening to the tales tonight.

NOVEMBER 12, 1928

Mrs. Broun, who lives in one of the tenements across the street,
came in weeping because she had been dispossessed and did not know
what to do with her furniture. She asked leave to store her belongings
temporarily in our basement; I agreed. Neighbors occasionally come
in and ask for help. Of course, as with tenants, I assist them only
when it is a problem they cannot handle themselves.

NOVEMBER 23, 1928

Alexander Bing, Claude Leah, and their wives visited. Mr. Bing
is the president of the City Housing Corporation and a member of
our board. Mr. Leah is engaged in real estate in London and came
to New York to study the housing situation and also allied social
and community work problems. They commented on the state of
cleanliness in the building and were impressed with the variety of
the activities.

NOVEMBER 24, 1928

Miss D., social service worker from Beth Israel Hospital, in office
to discuss the case of the Solomon family. Mr. Solomon has been out
of work for several months. Mrs. Solomon refuses to go to the
Jewish Social Service Association for financial aid as she does not
want to accept charity. The hospital has been helping the family
out with food and clothing, but since this is not its function, it cannot
continue to do so. Informed Miss D. that the Foundation could

66 The Diary of a Housing Manager

not help the family directly, as we are not a relief organization, but
we would try to persuade the mother to go to the JSSA. Miss D.
will ask Mrs. Solomon to see me at the office.

[Prevailed upon Mrs. Solomon to let the JSSA assist. Fortu-
nately, her husband found work soon afterwards.]

Attended a meeting of the Lavanburg Seniors, boys between the
ages of 1 6 and 18. Two cliques in the club have made it difficult
for the group to continue and they decided to disband.

A dietitian came to speak to the members of the Mothers' Club
on "Jewish Food Habits." She stressed the values of vegetables which
are often lacking in the Jewish diet.

NOVEMBER 28, 1928

Have been reading The Neiv Day in Housing by Louis H. Pink
which has just come off press. What he writes about the Lavanburg
Homes experiment is very interesting:

. . . Mr. Lavanburg's splendid gift to the poor of New York
City is an out-and-out philanthropy. It offers no solution for
the housing problem. While Mr. Lavanburg expressed the hope,
before he died, that many other wealthy men would follow his
example, we know that this is not likely to be the case. Per-
manent housing relief can come only from the intensive use of
private capital at a fair return, or from government subsidy in
some form, or both.

. . . there is little danger of vandalism or serious abuse, if proper
emphasis is placed upon management. It is management which
will make or break this experiment. Only time will tell whether
the tenants will respond to the new environment. Those who
are supercritical do not realize how hard it is to keep spick-and-
span a dark, dingy flat, without sunlight or modern plumbing
or even ordinary repairs.

Rentals, while on a weekly basis, average $9 a room per month.
The building is not expected to make a profit. Mr. Lavanburg's
idea was to provide the very best for families who could only
afford the worst. It is rather astounding, and not encouraging
to those who offer to produce $8 rentals in Manhattan, that it
is necessary to charge $9 a room even though no interest is asked
on the money invested. In fairness it must be pointed out, how-
ever, that management costs in this group are undoubtedly high.

The Diary 1927-1930 67

It is small for economical supervision and the social activities
require extra service. This is all essential to the success of the
plan but increases the rent.

The Lavanburg Players presented "The Crisis," a play in two acts.
As far as I know this is the first dramatic group of tenants in New
York City. The play was given much publicity in the Jewish press.
Three performances were given in the South Hall and more than
one hundred and fifty friends and neighbors were present each time.
Their success went to the heads of some of the players; two of them
very seriously discussed putting on the play in one of the theatres
on Second Avenue, the Jewish Rialto of New York City.

DECEMBER 5, 1928

Noticed that in spite of the cool weather, the clothes-lines on the
roof are in use as much as ever. The women seem to prefer open-air
drying to the overhead dryers in their kitchens.


Moving pictures sponsored by the New York Evening Sun shown.
Children who are members of the game-room were admitted free;
others were charged three cents.

DECEMBER 1 8, 1928

A representative of the Travelers Insurance Company came to get
particulars of an accident which happened on our stairs a few weeks
ago to a Mrs. Rose Meizman. She claimed that when she left the build-
ing after visiting one of the tenants, she fell on the steps because it
was dark and slippery. She is suing the Foundation for $350.

[After investigation, the insurance company informed us that
Mrs. Meizman had a long record of accidents. Subsequently, the
case was dropped.]

DECEMBER 26, 1928

A group of youngsters have organized the Lavanburg Savings
Bank. Accounts may be started with a i-cent deposit. The bank is
open twice weekly in the office where the officers of the bank con-
duct their banking business.

[This lasted about two years. But because it required too much

68 The Diary of a Housing Manager

work on the part of the office staff, who had to help the bank
president with the books, it was finally discontinued.]

The Jacobs family suddenly decided to move out. Upon question-
ing, Mrs. Jacobs admitted that her husband had deserted the family.
I further learned that he has been out of work for some time and
she confessed that she had been nagging him. She plans to take the
children to her mother and then look for work.

DECEMBER 2 8, 1928

Today we celebrated our first anniversary. A special issue of The
Lavanburg News carried several testimonials from the tenants. Mrs.
Mannheim wrote:

Much has been said and written of the many advantages and
blessings that the Lavanburg Homes offer to the family of lim-
ited means. We who have lived in the old tenements know
that the surroundings in general were such that the housewife
could not take any interest in her home and in her children's edu-
cation and up-bringing. The terrible hallway, and the dismal,
gloomy view of the entire tenement were so depressing that
even the bravest housewife became discouraged and simply let
things drift. Her only hope was for supper to be over so she
could hurry to the local movie there to forget for a while her
unhappy lot.

What a change the Lavanburg Homes has brought about in
our lives! Not the moving picture house, but our Home is now

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