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the center of our attention. Freed from a good deal of the drudg-
ery connected with the old tenement, we use our spare time to
improve ourselves and enjoy some of the finer things in life.
We take a deeper interest in the education of our children and
ourselves; we take an active part in the various social and cultural
activities of our organizations, notably the Dramatic Group
where we play an active part. This is only a small beginning. We
hope to enlarge our activities as we go along and to accomplish
great things in the near future. For these reasons the housewife
feels a special sense of gratitude and the day we moved into the
Lavanburg Apartments will always remain in our memory as
marking an important turning-point in our lives for a better and
happier future.

Have been reflecting on the effect the model tenement house has
had on the neighborhood in general and our tenants in particular.


C F/"- FR FOCf/ /. C/ . r : - f -,

The Diary 1927-1930 69

At the present it is hard to tell or measure it. More time is necessary
to evaluate the effect, if any. However, I have noticed that several
tenements across the street received a "fixing-up" in the form of
painting and remodeling. One landlord even put in a front door
which looks exactly like ours, with curtains and outside lights. This
sprucing up, of course, has helped to rent some of the empty flats
which abound in the locality. We were told that migration from
this neighborhood decreased upon the completion of our building.

As to the extent of the influence of the building on the lives of
our tenants, this, too, is hard to tell or measure. I do know that they
have learned (some perhaps under pressure) not to barricade their
fire-escapes, or to throw refuse out of the windows; and the children
have learned not to deface the walls.

The eagerness with which they carry on their group programs
and the vitality expressed in the activities all point to the fact that
these are abundantly needed. However, one should not believe that
all the adults and children residing in the Lavanburg Homes are
equally interested in the activities. There are several families who
prefer to remain isolated. These are left alone. No effort is made to
direct their lives, so long as they pay their rent and keep their homes
in good order.

Mention must also be made of the gossip, petty jealousies, and
quarrels which occur among our tenants. But when one remembers
the group that resides in these homes, a group that for many years
had been deprived of elementary human comforts, always struggling
for existence and always living from hand to mouth, one marvels
that there is not much more bickering and evidence of irritation.

On the whole the buildings have always presented a neat and
bright appearance. I do not know of any tenants guilty of intentional
damage. There are so few families who have not cooperated in ob-
serving the rules that they are of negligible importance. About 95
per cent of the apartments are kept spotless. The clean, cheerful-
looking curtains help the building stand out against the old, dilap-
idated, unsanitary tenements surrounding us.

Though the rules give me the right to enter an apartment in order
to ascertain its condition, I have not used it. Entry to apartments is
made only when repairs are needed, and these occasions have proved
sufficient to obtain a picture of the general state in which they are

v I v_, _ j li ' ^ v: i c L t i'Oi v

jo The Diary of a Housing Manager

[Since 1932 the neighborhood has been definitely on the de-
cline. Some buildings have been boarded up, some torn down.
The majority of the residents are recipients of public relief, and
there is a general air of decay all around us. The contrast be-
tween our building and the others near by is even more striking
than before.]

JANUARY 1 8, 1929

Mrs. Cooper informs me that $16 has disappeared from her cash
box. She has no idea where to place the blame or whom to accuse.

JANUARY 19, 1929

Received a letter from Harry Frank, 1 5, in which he confesses he
stole the money. I called him and in questioning learned that he
needed money to cover funds belonging to his school club which he
had lost shooting dice. It seems that Harry is already an habitual
gambler. After a long discussion about the dangers of gambling and
stealing, the young fellow promised to "keep straight." He returned
a part of the money and agreed to pay the rest at 10 cents a week.

[As Frank came in to make payments, we became very good
friends. Eventually, he repaid about half of the amount stolen.
The rest he escaped paying for a variety of reasons. About a
year later the family moved away. Two years after leaving, they
rented one of our apartments again. Frank was about 19 and a
steady wage earner. One day he came in and asked for the letter
because he did not want anything "in the record" about his act
and I returned it to him. He then admitted that the story about
his losing school money was made up.]

JANUARY 29, 1929

A health lecture on "Periodic Examinations" was given by Dr.
Nelson of the New York Tuberculosis Health Association. Two
nurses from the Health Clinic assisted. They gave information as
to where and how people may be examined. A motion picture il-
lustrated the talk.

FEBRUARY 2, 1929

Fathers' Clubroom officially opened with a party. Several fathers
spoke on the need of coming together to enjoy social contacts. The
members who helped paint and decorate the room were highly

The Diary 1927-1 930 71

praised. The clubroom looked very cosy with its wicker chairs,
tables, books, rugs, and painted walls finished in a colorful design.
Several boxes of candy were auctioned off for the benefit of the

[To provide this clubroom it was necessary to transform one of
the two baby-carriage rooms. The fathers agreed to contribute
the work involved, asking me to help them. Together we deco-
rated. They themselves could not do all the work and since I
did not want to do it for them the best compromise was to do
it with them.

The clubroom has been turned over completely to the fathers.
They are responsible for its care and they pay for the gas and
electricity used. With their approval, the English class and other
functions are sometimes held here.]

FEBRUARY 12, 1929

Tonight a photographer took pictures of the activities, to be
used in our annual report which I am preparing. To answer the many
questions visitors ask, I plan to make the report in the form of a
booklet which will describe the experiences and purposes of the

FEBRUARY 25, 1929

Several apartments have been badly damaged by the recent heavy
rains. Evidently the mortar between the bricks is no longer water-
proof. Will consult a firm that specializes in this type of work.

MARCH IO, 1929

It is definite that I leave March 20 for a four months' trip to
Europe to study housing in several European cities. Held a con-
ference with Mrs. Cooper, my secretary; Andrew, the superintend-
ent; and Mr. Rineberg, my assistant on recreational activities. Went
over a schedule of each one's duties and responsibilities during my
absence. Feel everything is almost ready for my departure.

MARCH 19, 1929

I was greatly surprised by a delegation of fathers who asked me
to come down to the Fathers' Clubroom where a farewell party had
been prepared by the tenants. They presented me a briefcase as a

7 2 The Diary of a Housing Manager

farewell gift. I was deeply touched by the surprise party and the

From this point the diary was kept by Mrs. Cooper for the period
of my trip:

MARCH 31, 1929

A Purim Party for 200 children was given by the Mothers' Club.
All between the ages of five and twelve were invited. Most of the
children were in attractive costumes, designed in large part by their
mothers. One child, dressed in the garb of an old religious Jew, acted
as though bent with years. This eight-year-old, well coached by his
mother, did not relax his role until after being awarded the first
prize. The Social Committee of the Mothers' Club took entire charge
of the program.

APRIL 2, 1929

The place was visited by eight social workers from the Associa-
tion of Volunteers. Two representatives of the Amtorg buying
agency of Soviet Russia also visited today.

APRIL 2O, 1929

Think the porters are trying to take advantage of Mr. Goldfeld's
absence. The stairways do not look as though they had been cleaned
very carefully this morning.

Spoke to Mr. Arnstein about the young man who seems to be
staying with them. Mr. A. explained that the man is his guest who
just came from Baltimore and will move out just as soon as he gets
a job.

MAY 3, 1929

Mr. and Mrs. Markow in the office to ask for work for Mr.
Markow. He said that for the past several weeks the Jewish Social
Service Association has not been helping and that they have no
money for the Passover holidays. Phoned Miss K. of JSSA who
promised to come the next day.

Miss K. came and recommended that the family move May 4,
1929, to cheaper quarters. The Mothers' Club heard of the situation
and came to the rescue with a donation of $25.

[Subsequently I telephoned the Central Employment Bureau of

The Diary 19 27-1 $ 50 73

the Bowery YMCA. The agency asked me to send Mr. Markow
for an interview. The next week Mrs. Markow informed me that
her husband was again working three days a week at his old

MAY 8, 1929

The Wiederman family moved out today because a near relative
had died, making it advisable for the family to live with Mr. Wieder-
man's mother.

MAY IO, 1929

Mrs. Alex, now occupying an apartment on the fifth floor, applied
for the Wiederman apartment which is on a lower floor. She pre-
sented a statement from her doctor indicating a bad heart condition
and pregnancy. Because of these circumstances the change will be
made. Mrs. Alex recommended her cousin for her present apart-
ment. After the lease was signed and security deposited, the office
was informed by the JSSA that this family is under its care. Al-
though the agency is not giving the family financial aid, it thought
it inadvisable for them to move. The lease was canceled and the
money refunded.

MAY 15, 1929

The Fathers' Club has passed a motion that the Club sponsor a
May party and parade for all the children in the house between the
ages of three and twelve. The office suggested that a parade was in-
advisable because there could not be sufficient supervision. Never-
theless, the Club insisted they could take entire charge of the pro-
gram and are going ahead with their plans.

[The May Day celebration was a huge success despite our
doubts. At 12 o'clock all of the children assembled dressed in
costume. Two tots were garbed as king and queen and were set
high on improvised thrones. The procession marched through
the neighborhood and then back for a frolic on the roof where
cake and ice-cream were served.]

MAY 21, 1929

The families in D 11, B n and E n came rushing to the office
early this morning to report water back-flushing in their baths, wash-
tubs and sinks. Called Mr. H. of the construction company for his

74 The Diary of a Housing Manager

advice. He referred us to the sewerage department of the city, whose
representatives went over the situation with the superintendent. Ap-
parently one of the pipes is clogged.

JUNE 5, 1929

The second family to leave the Homes moved today. The mother
of this family is seriously ill in the hospital and the family has had
to break up. The youngsters were sent to a home for children.

JUNE 25, 1929

First Annual Club Rally, which began June 21, ended today. Both
adult and children's clubs participated. One of the residents, assisted
by a few of the tenants, directed the entire program. The presenta-
tion was well worth all the work put into it.

[The stage is very low in the South Hall, making it difficult for
all in the audience to see. Later, we built a bleacher arrangement
of benches, enabling the smallest to get a full view of the stage.]

JUNE 26, 1929

Arnstein's little boy fell out of a first-floor window. Sent him
to Gouverneur Hospital to be examined for internal injuries.

JUNE 28, 1929

Mrs. Rubin in office with Mrs. Elman. Mrs. E. very upset, saying
she is going to move because her husband has deserted her and is
living with another woman. Calmed her somewhat and advised her
to reconsider her decision and let me know her conclusion in a
few days.

[Mrs. Elman later came in to inform me that her spouse had
decided to return and they are staying on.]

JULY 8, 1929

Returned from my trip today. Found the Play School already
opened. Besides the two teachers assigned last year by the Board
of Education, there is an additional male teacher. This arrangement is
a considerable improvement. Attendance is very good. The children
were apparently glad to see me back in the building, as they followed
me wherever I went.

The Diary 19271930 75

JULY IO, 1929

As a gesture of good will toward me, and to surprise me upon my
return, the Fathers' Club planted trees on the sidewalk of the Homes,
hoping the trees would furnish shade as well as beautify the buildings.

[The trees never took root in the ground and later died. Sub-
sequent efforts to plant trees and shrubs on our grounds like-
wise failed.]

JULY II, 1929

Inspection of the building shows very little mischief had been
done while I was away. Several panes of glass, broken by children
playing ball in the courts, were the only replacements I found neces-

JULY 12, 1929

Attended a welcome-home party. About eighty fathers and
mothers, who had arranged the affair entirely on their own, were
present. I expressed my appreciation of their cordiality. They asked
many questions about my observations abroad and I talked to them
about what I had seen in Europe and Soviet Russia.

JULY 13, 1929

I have learned that several tenants took advantage of my absence
by doing things they would not otherwise have done, such as putting
articles on fire-escapes, keeping baby carriages in the courts, giving
children food in the halls, and generally disobeying the rules. All
this means there are several tenants needing discipline against violat-
ing house rules.

JULY 15, 1929

The roof is as well attended this year as last. The scene on top of
the building is indeed a colorful and happy one. I noticed four
separate activities last night which were supervised by mothers and
fathers with the assistance of two of the resident workers.

JULY 24, 1929

Mrs. Marcus asked assistance today in arranging for a reduction in
the cost of her approaching confinement. The Marcus family has

j6 The Diary of a Housing Manager

had an unusually long stretch of seasonable unemployment this year.
Telephoned the maternity hospital and after talking over the family's
situation, they agreed to reduce the fee from $40 to $20.

JULY 26, 1929

Visited a large housing project opened about a year ago. Its ex-
tensive grounds, beautiful gardens, cool lawns, and large buildings
were magnificent. It had an over-abundance of space which could
have been ideally used for a variety of community activities. Yet this
project fostered no activities of that nature. While admiring the
project, I couldn't help but feel envious and found myself wishing
that such extraordinary beauty and unlimited opportunities might
exist at the Lavanburg project.

JULY 30, 1929

The Fathers' Club meeting started off badly last night with several
resignations and complaints. The president in a written statement ac-
cused the secretary of deliberate obstruction of his plans. Mr. Berlin,
another member, sent in his resignation because he could not work
together with another father named on a committee with him. Dur-
ing the excitement, five of the members walked out of the meeting.
The outlook for the Fathers' Club is not very encouraging.

[Two factions had developed in the club, one composed of the
American born and the other of the foreign born. The former
always ridiculed the stumbling English of the "greenhorns," al-
though they themselves spoke in the ungrammatical East Side

The immigrants were the ones really interested in improving the
lot of themselves and their children. The others were apt to be
flippant in the offensive manner of the worldly New Yorker.
This group snickered and poked fun at the actions and ambi-
tions of their brethren. However, it was the latter who took
their responsibilities seriously, undertaking most of the work
done by the club.

When the American born resigned in a group at the meeting,
they came to me requesting recognition as another club. "We
are going to show those others what we can do," they boasted.

But contrary to their boasts they never organized their club.
Curiously, during the summer months, all played and worked

The Diary 1927-1930 77

together on the roof without any disturbance. Most of the
tenants who later moved in were foreign born and mixed with
the old Fathers' Club group harmoniously.]

JULY 31, 1929

Installed a street shower loaned by the fire department. All day
long there is a dancing horde of delighted kids under it, enjoying the
cool spray.

AUGUST I, 1929

Several families went to the country this year. A number also go
daily to the beach at Coney Island. This, coupled with the fact that
many children attend Play School from one to five, gives the build-
ing this year an unusually orderly appearance.

AUGUST 9, 1929

I was held up today at the point of a gun by three robbers. The
three men had entered my office and began with an innocent request
for information about one of the tenants. I began to answer their
questions when suddenly one of them whipped out a gun and com-
manded me to stand in the doorway leading to the foyer of the
bathroom. I thought of the $500 rent money I had in the office desk
and realized then that these men had in some way received informa-
tion of this money. I knew the bathroom door behind me was un-
locked. Quickly I jumped for the door, and closed it behind me.
Then I smashed the window with my hand and called loudly for
help. My noise and the fall of broken glass alarmed the robbers who
fled without waiting to look for the money.

[After this experience I made arrangements to protect the office
against similar raids. Now a policeman is stationed in the office
on rent collection days from 9:30 to 11:30 A.M., and he guards
the money until it is safely deposited in the bank.]


A number of tenants have reported cracked wash-basins. So many,
in fact, that it is safe to assume that in due time all will be similarly
affected. Undoubtedly the cracks are caused by defective material.
Wrote a letter to the architect about it.

[The company supplying these fixtures was persuaded to re-
place them with new ones at a nominal charge for the labor

78 The Diary of a Housing Manager

only. However, it was not long before these too started to
crack in the same way.]

AUGUST 1 8, 1929

Arranged a vacation for the two Markow boys at a camp conducted
by a Day Nursery in the neighborhood. These boys are in need of
country air and sunshine. Mr. Markow agreed to pay back the cost
to the office on the installment basis.

Pete, the superintendent, came into the office in a very excitable
state. Relates that on the evening before his wife had a fist fight with
Mrs. Hochman. Mrs. Hochman asked him to open the toilet in the
basement for the children. After he complied, he returned later to
find the seat dirty. He reproached Mrs. H. for this but she claimed
her children were not responsible for it. Later, she went down to
the basement to look over the toilet and began arguing with him.
On her way back, Pete claims, she hit his wife with her pocketbook
which started the battle between the two women. He does not want
to stay on the premises any longer, claiming that the tenants do not
like him. About an hour later, Mr. and Mrs. Hochman came in to
tell the same story except that instead of Mrs. Hochman having
struck the superintendent's wife, Mrs. H. claimed that when she
was in the basement, Pete shouted to his wife, "Why don't you hit
her? You're a woman!" The blow was struck and that precipitated
the quarrel.

[Before I had a chance to investigate fully the affair, Mr. Hoch-
man employed a couple of "strong-arm" men from the neigh-
borhood to beat Pete up, the following evening. Mr. Hochman
felt that Pete had been insulting to his wife and that his action
was completely justified under such circumstances. Feeling, pro
and con, ran high in the house. It was the single topic of con-
versation. I felt the situation to be too critical for myself to set
judgment and suggested a group of tenants be appointed to try
the case, fasten the guilt, and apply punishment.

Mr. and Mrs. Hochman and the witnesses were heard in my
office and a court stenographer (a tenant who donated his serv- .
ices for this improvised trial) took the testimony. The tenants
found their fellow-member at fault and a fine of $25 was imposed
to be paid in weekly installments.

Despite the tense feeling in the house, the trial settled the matter
to everyone's satisfaction and sense of justice.]

The Diary 1927 1930 79

AUGUST 30, 1929

Was informed that the fathers and mothers would have a joint
meeting protesting the recent Jewish massacres by Arabs in Palestine.
Many of our adults are orthodox Jews and take a deep emotional
interest in the rebuilding of a national home in Palestine.


A large number of children are sick with whooping-cough. Re-
served a space in the backyard for them to play. Instructions were
sent to the mothers to be watchful and not to allow their children
to mix with their playmates.

[There were one or two mothers who were uncooperative in
their attitude. One said, "If my child had it, why shouldn't the
other children get it too?" I was very strict in seeing that due
precautions were followed.]

Mrs. Kaplan in to ask permission to keep boarders. She explained
that if her present income is not supplemented, she would have to
move. I could not stretch the rule forbidding boarders because of
the danger of setting a precedent, but we worked out a plan by
which she will take care of my apartment to enable her to earn
extra money.


A new janitor, Andrew, started work.

Mass meeting for Palestine relief. Sixty were present. The Palestine
situation brought about new difficulties in the Fathers' Club as the
men who lean toward Communism are very much opposed to the
Palestine drive. During the last few days one could observe much
excitement in the building because of this issue. The office was in-
formed that in several instances the high feeling almost brought on
fist-fighting. Similar conflicts are current throughout the entire East
Side between the Communists and the Zionists.


Meeting of the Fathers' Club was scheduled for 9:00 this evening.
At 9:30 only nine fathers had gathered and it was decided not to
hold the meeting. But at ten o'clock, I was called back since about
twenty had arrived. The meeting was quiet until Mr. Cohen arose
to demand who was responsible for a sign posted on the bulletin

8o The Diary of a Housing Manager

board reading, "Down with Communism" and urging reprisals for
the Communists' position on Palestine. A heated argument started
and the chairman was forced to close the meeting. Since tempers
were at a dangerously high pitch, I encouraged the men to talk the
thing through right then, rather than to risk a brawl later on the out-
side. All talked, and though no common point of view was reached,
their tempers gradually cooled.

SEPTEMBER 12, 1929

A representative of the Child Study Association came to the office
to discuss the possibility of organizing a child study group. Learned
we would have to pay the leader for conducting the session, so
thought it advisable to let the matter rest for a while.

SEPTEMBER 24, 1929

We have been having a number of changes in our resident workers.
Because of graduation from school, several of them departed and
it is necessary now to look for new workers.

Plans for winter activities are shaping up. The basement is being
redecorated and additional equipment has been ordered. New activ-
ities include a Sewing Circle for the mothers, Arts and Crafts, a
Stamp Collecting Club and a Chess Club. The various social clubs,
game-room, library, and nature study group will keep on.

SEPTEMBER 26, 1929

Our recent vacancies were on the fourth and fifth floors, and some

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