Abraham Goldfeld.

The diary of a housing manager online

. (page 8 of 11)
Online LibraryAbraham GoldfeldThe diary of a housing manager → online text (page 8 of 11)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

difficulty was experienced in re-renting these apartments. I find that
our present waiting-list is practically exhausted. A number of former
applicants have moved away and others are not interested in renting
apartments situated so high up. There have been many requests for
apartments from young married couples without children.

[We later waived the house rule qualifying applicants only if
they had children and permitted childless families to rent the
top-floor apartments. The difficulties of renting these apart-
ments compelled this action.]


Discussed the office work and our social activities with Mrs.
Cooper. It developed that she finds the combination of office and

The Diary 1927-1 $30 Si

social work too much to handle. Hereafter she will limit herself to
the office.

Made arrangements with Mr. Berlin to work in the basement. His
job will be to see that all children have membership cards before be-
ing admitted. This job will prevent Berlin from devoting so much
time to the Fathers' Club, where he continues to be a disruptive in-
fluence. He will be paid $ 1 5 monthly for his work and he is highly
pleased as his pension is small and he has much idle time on his hands.

OCTOBER 2O, 1929

On the whole, rents continue to be paid promptly. Due to irregu-
larity of employment, and illness, some tenants have had difficulty in
meeting the rent, but at no time has any tenant been in arrears for
more than a month.

OCTOBER 21, 1929

There has been some trouble in keeping our dumb-waiter shafts
free of refuse. Some of the tenants persistently throw bundles of
refuse down the shafts but it is impossible to detect the offenders as
a number of families use the same shaft. I have made inquiries among
building managers in regard to this situation. They inform me that
the only safeguard is to install the dumb-waiter lock system. The
locks automatically fasten all the doors to the shafts except when
released by a control in the basement. We are ordering locks for
one shaft to see how they work out.

[Unfortunately, the locks were not proof against abuse of the
dumb-waiters. Tenants learned how to keep their doors from
locking and the porters continued to report finding refuse. The
condition improved greatly when I provided special containers
for garbage disposal.]

OCTOBER 22, 1929

An estimate for repainting the apartments has just been approved.
It is now almost two years since they have been painted. Bids were
asked for, and I was authorized by the board to select one of the
three lowest estimates. Am planning to have the work done just be-
fore the Passover season, a time when it is customary among religious
Jews to redecorate in preparation for the holidays.

As an experiment, tried doing several of the apartments by hiring

8 2 The Diary of a Housing Manager

painters on an hourly basis and furnishing supplies. Hoped to get the
job done cheaper this way. However, after three apartments had
been redecorated, I found it considerably more expensive than to
contract the whole job.

OCTOBER 24, 1929

Today we officially started on the membership-card system. Our
plan divides the year into a summer and winter season and charges
for the card by the season. In this way our families will be made to
feel that they share the cost of the social activities. The fees for every-
one including outsiders are: up to 8 years, 10 cents; 8 to 12, 15 cents;
12 to 14, 20 cents; over 14, 25 cents.

[The membership card system worked out very well. It is re-
tained in this form up to the present writing.]

This year there has been a noticeable improvement in the recrea-
tional program because one individual, Mr. Rineberg, has been made
responsible for all the functions. Last year, every leader headed his
own activity without anyone's coordinating the whole program.

NOVEMBER 5, 1929

Andrew reports that an inspector from the Board of Health came
to inspect the water in Section A in response to a complaint al-
legedly made by the Boardman family that the water is rusty. Mrs.
Boardman, when questioned, denied knowledge of the act. The in-
spector was puzzled as he found no basis for any complaint.


Professor C. of New York University telephoned to learn whether
two of his students might come to Lavanburg for field training. I
gave my assent to the plan. The students will spend two evenings and
one afternoon a week here.

Mrs. Holland in, and very upset over her sister who has tubercu-
losis and is in need of medical care. Although her sister is not a tenant,
she spends considerable time here as a volunteer worker. Gave her
a letter to the National Committee for Tuberculous Jews.

NOVEMBER 15, 1929

Mrs. J. and Mr. A., of the Jewish Social Service Association, came
in to get acquainted. They are going to work in our neighborhood.

The Diary 1927-1930 83

NOVEMBER 1 6, 1929

Wedding of Mr. Milstein's daughter held in the South Hall tonight.
At the same time another family gave a linen shower in the Fathers'
Clubroom for a relative. I am becoming somewhat tired of attending
all these family functions such as Bar Mitzvahs, showers and weddings.

NOVEMBER 1 8, 1929

Several tenants complained that the late parties disturb them. Will
have to be more restrictive in allowing the use of the assembly-rooms.
Eleven o'clock will be the curfew.

Mrs. Patman in office, very indignant. Complained that Mr. Rine-
berg kicked her son yesterday and now he is ill. Went to her apart-
ment to see the boy. He told me he felt all right, though his stomach
ached about an hour ago.

NOVEMBER 19, 1929

Had a long discussion with Mr. Rineberg about disciplining the
children. He emphatically denied having kicked the Patman boy,
saying he had only taken him by the ear and told him to get out.
I pointed out that care must be taken not to touch the children in
any way. Acts of this sort are easily magnified and can cause serious

At their meeting tonight, the fathers established a Loan Fund.
The fund will be available for the use of every member in good stand-
ing, who may make a maximum loan of $15, to be paid back at $i a
week, without any interest. To help raise money, it was decided that
a charge of five cents a game be imposed for card-playing, all charges
to be turned over to the fund. The men appeared to be enthusiastic
about their new undertaking.

[Very often the fathers need a few dollars and there is no place
for them to get it except from "loan sharks," who charge usurious
rates of interest. The Loan Fund, providing facilities for small
loans in times of need, set up a useful service.]

NOVEMBER 22, 1929

Attended first social of boys and girls between the ages of 16 and
1 8. They are planning to hold dances on alternate Friday nights for
young people of the house and the neighborhood. Unfortunately,
last night one or two behaved in a rough manner. The Seniors are

84 The Diary of a Housing Manager

fearful that the undesirables from the neighborhood cannot be kept
under control.

[To keep out the people who disturbed the dances, the Seniors
made them invitation affairs. They still have these socials when-
ever they care to. ]

NOVEMBER 25, 1929

At the meeting of the board of directors, there was much discus-
sion relative to broadening the work of the Foundation. Mr. Straus
appointed a committee composed of three members of the board
to consider ways and means of developing the work. All the directors
expressed their satisfaction with the management of the property of
the Foundation. I was asked to prepare a statement for the next board
meeting showing the cost of social activities. I am also to get in-
formation concerning the costs of two front gates and planting
shrubbery in the courts.

NOVEMBER 26, 1929

Had a talk with Mr. P., a practising psychologist, who agreed to
give a series of lectures on child study for a nominal fee. We will
issue cards inviting parents to register for the entire series at a charge
of 25 cents. This will insure a regular attendance.

[Mr. P.'s eight lectures were a great success. His talks were
simple and caught the interest of his audience. They were mostly
about the parent-child relationship, a subject very close to these
parents' hearts, judging by the number of questions asked. For
two successive years, the tenants requested Mr. P. again, and to
indicate their appreciation of the help he gave in their problems,
presented him with a desk fountain-pen at the close of his last


Have innovated a baby-room for our children, ages four to seven.
Equipment includes blocks and punch-boards, wooden beads,
crayons, etc. This group is entirely under the supervision of the
mothers and older children. The latter take charge, even to signing
the attendance card. The mothers watch out for those difficulties
which might develop suddenly.

[These young children were formerly sent down by their
parents to play with their older brothers and sisters. To help the

The Diary 1927-1930 85

youngsters, we started the baby-room. Very young children,
without a doubt, should have been in bed by this hour, but the
fact was that they were not. In facing the problem realistically,
we provided suitable facilities for them.]

DECEMBER 15, 1929

Miss Blumenthal, one of the resident workers, informs me that
because of personal reasons she is not able to stay on. Because of the
turnover of residents and the difficulty of getting suitable people
whenever there is a vacancy, I wonder whether it would not be
better to secure trained leaders. This will be presented to the di-
rectors for discussion.

[The apartments used for residence by the social workers were
discontinued as such and rented to families. I found that the
hiring of part-time workers for special activities proved to be the
most satisfactory method for getting supervisors.]

DECEMBER 31, 1929

Am working on the annual report of the social activities. Noted a
remarkable increase in attendance. Last November, 1962 attended
and in November of this year attendance reached 3648.

Our second anniversary was celebrated this afternoon and eve-
ning. A party was given to the children by the Mothers' and Fathers'
Clubs in the afternoon. Movies were shown and refreshments dis-
tributed. In the evening, a concert and dance was held for the mem-
bers of the adult clubs. Speeches were made by the officers of the
various groups.

JANUARY 7, 1930

Went with the Traveling Group to make a night visit to the
Amalgamated Apartments. The fathers asked many questions about
the management of the buildings. Evidently this is a subject of much
discussion among them. They noted particularly that the tenants
pay for all activities as well as for the use of clubrooms and halls. They
made comparisons exclaiming, "Look, this is different," or "This is
the same as we have! "


Making plans to print The Lavanburg News instead of mimeo-
graphing it. Two of the leaders will edit the paper and news items

86 The Diary of a Housing Manager

will be contributed by members of the house. Several of the fathers
have offered to contact local business men for ads to cover part of
the costs.

JANUARY 20, 1930

Figures of the cost of operation of a number of housing projects
have been issued by the State Housing Board. This is fine; now I
am able to compare the operating costs of the Lavanburg Homes with
more or less similar projects. However, in making these comparisons
it is important to remember that the difference in size of the rooms,
height of buildings, land coverage, usable space and conditions of
crowding, all produce a lack of uniformity in basic units. The cost
of social activities in the various developments must also be one of
the major factors taken into account.

In our case, 360 children live on the premises and we conduct a
variety of social activities. These are important elements in the cost
of operating the building. I learn that the annual maintenance cost
per room, less cost of administrative management in eight projects,
runs from $30.27 to $42.95. Our figure is $35.53. The annual fuel
cost is from $8.19 to $13.94; ours * s $11-08. Wages range from
$6.41 to $12.13 compared to our $10.57. The annual cost of build-
ing repairs and supplies per room runs from $3.59 to $9.15; ours
averages $4.35 per room. Redecorating extends from $5.1 1 to $10.04;
our cost is $6.33.

JANUARY 27, 1930

Sent out a questionnaire today to be used for bringing our records
up to date. There have been many changes in income, trades, and
like matters. Considerable commotion was caused by our request for
the data; many of the tenants feel that we should not ask for this
information. I expect, however, that all will answer. At the same
time, we distributed notices in connection with the painting work
to be done, informing the tenants of the date when their apart-
ments will be painted.

[Statistical information is obtained every year. No difficulties
are experienced and everyone takes it as a matter of routine.]

JANUARY 28, 1930

The fathers are discussing ways and means of increasing their

The Diary 1927-1930 87

Loan Fund. They are taxing every member 10 cents a month, and
plan to allocate a portion from every money-raising affair to the
Fund. In addition they have invited the Mothers' Club to join the

[The mothers never joined the Loan Fund. They could not
agree on terms, and subsequently organized their own fund with
which to send their children to camp.]

FEBRUARY 7, 1930

Notices sent to Mr. and Mrs. Gottlieb, Mr. and Mrs. Cohen, Mr.
and Mrs. Markow, and Mr. and Mrs. Kummer inviting them to the
office on Sunday at 11:00 A.M. Complaints have been received about
the noise they make and their heavy swearing. These families live on
the three sides of the dumb-waiter and quarrel with each other
through the shaft.

[There was no way to find out who was at fault. Under the
circumstances informed them all that whoever started the next
quarrel would be asked to move.]

FEBRUARY 14, 1930

Informed by the fire insurance inspector that there are violations
on the premises in that a number of the tenants have installed electric
outlets with exposed wiring. Notices sent asking the tenants to re-
move these hazards and informing them that upon request we would
provide extra outlets at cost.

[Only one extra outlet was provided a room, when the house was
first wired. Obviously, modern lighting requires more.]

MARCH 1 8, I93O

First printed edition of The Lavanburg News out today. What a
change! The paper looks like a real news-sheet. The fathers obtained
$30 worth of ads for this number.

Mrs. Siegler informed the office that due to reduction of pension
she cannot continue to stay in her apartment. Mr. Feinberg also gave
notice that he is planning to move. His wife is ill and must live on the
ground floor. Several tenants have heard of possible vacancies and
came to inquire whether their relatives and friends are eligible. Gave
them application forms to be filled out.

88 The Diary of a Housing Manager

MARCH 2O, 1930

Mr. Einhorn has complained to the Board of Health of insufficient
heat in the building. Inspector here at 6:00 A.M. today and found
everything O. K. I was of course much surprised at the complaint.
Asked Mr. Einhorn to come and explain why he first did not speak
to me before appealing to the Board of Health. He was somewhat
embarrassed that I had found out he had made the complaint but
arrogantly told me that he had reported his radiator trouble to the
porters several times and that nothing had been done. I went to his
apartment with him to look over the radiators and discovered that
one of the valves had clogged which was a matter of only a few
minutes to adjust.

MARCH 28, I93O

Mr. Wermel in the office to tell me that because Mr. Gottlieb and
Mr. Krentzman have grievances (Mr. Gottlieb wants a four-room
apartment and Mr. Krentzman received a note regarding electrical
violations), they do not want to participate in our social activities.
They are also trying to influence others to withdraw. He thought if
their grievances were discussed, it would help. I told him to invite the
two men to the office on Sunday morning because if they felt they
had not been treated fairly they should be heard.

APRIL 4, 1930

The mothers are planning a Better Babies Contest for May i . The
Department of Health has written us its offer to cooperate and a
doctor will be sent to examine the children.

With the coming of warm weather, children play ball against the
wall. Windows are broken but we never know who is responsible.

APRIL 6, 1930

At 1 1 :oo A.M., Mr. Wermel, Mr. Gottlieb, and Mr. and Mrs. Krentz-
man met in the office. Explained to them how unfair it is for tenants
to allow their relationship with the manager to interfere with house
activities; that one had nothing to do with the other. If it happens
that I am unable to satisfy their wishes, that surely was no reason for
resigning from clubs, committees, etc.

Mrs. Krentzman defended her attitude. She said she would not par-
ticipate in any house activity because I had sent a letter to her husband

The Diary 1927-1930 89

regarding electrical violations in their apartment. I brought out
records showing that an identical letter had gone to at least a dozen
other families for the same reason and no personal affront was meant.
To my great surprise, Mrs. Krentzman suddenly turned on her
husband and upbraided him for taking offense over such a thing and
for being so uncooperative in his attitude. Somewhat shamefully they
all laughed about the whole incident and left the office in good spirits.

[Whenever a tenant held a grudge I tried to provide an oppor-
tunity to air the grievance. I must say that at times a number of
the adults acted like children. Grievances were often made per-
sonal and I would suddenly find that a tenant was not on speak-
ing terms with me. I disregarded the attitude, kept on speaking
to him, and shortly the whole thing would blow over. I have
found that one good helpful rule on such occasions was to be
unusually friendly with their children. It is difficult, anyway, for
a person to hold a one-sided grudge.]


The turnover in porters is still high; I think the reason for it is the
poor sleeping quarters we provide. The directors have approved an
increase in salary which will enable them to rent better rooms in the
neighborhood. Talked with men today and they seem well satisfied
with the new arrangement.

APRIL 15, 1930

Discovered that the Dubin family has a relative living with them.
On calling upon him to make inquiries, Mr. Dubin became impudent
and resentful. I informed him that he would have to move unless he
asked his roomer to find other quarters. In the afternoon, Mrs. Dubin
called to ask permission to remain in her apartment. I said that the
matter would not be discussed further unless her husband indicated
his willingness to comply with the rules of the house.

APRIL 1 6, 1930

Mr. Dubin in office very apologetic. He explained that he has so
many worries he flares up easily, and asked to be excused for what he
said on the previous day. It happens that it is his sister who is staying
with the family and he said he thought that if he wrote to the
directors they would grant permission for her to remain with them. I

90 The Diary of a Housing Manager

said I had no objection to his writing but that I did not think it would
help him.

[Mr. Dubin wrote and was informed by the secretary that no
exceptions could be made. I let Mr. Dubin know I had received
a copy of the letter and that he would have to decide whether he
wished to remain. Two weeks later the sister moved.]

Asked by the Mothers' Club to arrange for a speaker on birth
control. Telephoned the Birth Control League and they said that
they would send Dr. S. His topic will be, "Parents' Responsibility
Toward Their Children."

APRIL 21, 1930

Fifty children, accompanied by Mr. Rineberg and several mothers,
attended the circus.

New desks have arrived for the English class. The old ones, bought
from the Board of Education some time ago, were constantly in need
of repairs, and were of an inconvenient size. The new desks, of the
side-arm type, are especially designed for varied utility.

APRIL 22, I93O

The Fathers' Club is sponsoring a series of political lectures. Four
lectures are planned, by representatives of the Republican, Demo-
cratic, Socialist and Communist parties. The men tell me that attend-
ance so far has been very good at their meetings.

[Lectures on political topics have never been sponsored by the
management. When the groups wish them, they make their own

APRIL 29, 1930

Having received the board's approval, I moved today from the
building. My constant surveillance is no longer needed and, although
the tenants never interfered with my privacy, living as well as work-
ing on the premises becomes monotonous.

MAY 8, 1930

Mr. Palmetti in the office at my request. I wanted to ask him about
a third child mentioned by the family at the time of their application.
His explanation was that the third child is his sister's and that now

The Diary 1927-1930 91

she is able to take care of him. The child is now with her. I pointed
out to Mr. Palmetti that in the minds of the other tenants it was unfair
to keep a four-room apartment with but four people in the family;
and that if he wished to remain, there would be an increase of $1.50
in his weekly rental.

[He agreed to this arrangement. About a year later, another baby
was born and his rent was adjusted accordingly.]

MAY 21, 1930

Aaron Sokolsky is giving us a great deal of trouble in the basement.
He is very unruly at all times. The superintendent and the porters have
also complained of his escapades and expressed the wish to be rid
of him. That, however, is impossible so long as the boy's family lives
here. We certainly cannot penalize the parents for their son's mis-
chievous behavior. Will call a family conference to get their coopera-
tion for new ways to handle the boy. In the meantime I talked to Mr.
Rineberg about ways of providing suitable outlets for the boy's

[Occasionally I had difficulty making the porters take a lenient
view toward the mischief of children. The children found the
porters good game for teasing and took advantage of every op-
portunity to tax their patience. I tried to make the men feel that
though these acts were exasperating, they were not serious.]

MAY 29, 1930

Mrs. Marks in to pay her rent. She was disappointed to find no
announcement of her baby's birth in The Lavanburg News. Apologies
were made and we promised an appropriate item for the next issue.

JUNE 4, 1930

One of the local Yiddish newspapers printed an article about the
Lavanburg Homes that caused great excitement and indignation here.
In it was a reference to our tenants as "the poorest of the poor."

[I think that people living in bare circumstances do not like to be
labeled as "poor." Knowing of the sensitivity of the tenants, we
have avoided emphasizing their poverty.]

Our basement activities are coming to an end. A rally will close the
season. Shortly afterwards the roof will be opened.

92 The Diary of a Housing Manager

Went through the building today. The carriage room, roof, and
basement are in first-class shape.

JUNE 6, 1930

Mr. Weinstein in to see me. He was very shy and did not know how
to begin the conversation. After some encouragements he blurted out
that he wanted birth control information. He said that he and his wife
feel another child would be a great burden as they have all they can
take care of now. I referred him to the Birth Control Bureau which
has a clinic in a local settlement house.

JUNE 1 6, 1930

Mr. Rineberg at the office to discuss the program of social activities
for the past year. I told him that although there had been a tremendous
improvement in the growth of interest and attendance, there is still
opportunity for further progress. I advised that one of the aims for
next year should be the better handling of problem children who
disturb and disrupt activities.

I have advised the Fathers' Club to adjourn for the summer months.
Quarrels and resignations take place at every meeting. After summer
is over the club can be reorganized if the interest of the fathers de-
mands it. I have been thinking that with the Fathers' Club animosities
out of the way, the tenants could form a Roof Association to be
responsible for the summer program on the roof.

JUNE 1 8, 1930

1 2 3 4 5 6 8 10 11

Online LibraryAbraham GoldfeldThe diary of a housing manager → online text (page 8 of 11)