My wife and I lived happily in public housing for three years (430 W. 125th St. in lower West Harlem) when we were graduate students. We had been given the privilege of bypassing the waiting list by a program designed to desegregate our project (later discontinued because of this special preference).

The cost for residents was 30% of income which saved us on graduate fellowship monies. We were seen as aliens at first — bill collectors, school truancy officials, whatever. In time, however, people got to know us and the project did my wife the honor of electing her to the NYC Democratic Committee.

While living there we were able to make a difference in several ways. The entrance doors were open, making our stairwells a shoot up location for addicts. We suggested locks for the doors which ended the problem when installed. The elevators for our 21 story building regularly went out of service Friday nights, leaving us with no elevators until Mondays. We got the repair number and our elevators were repaired in hours.

My basic point here was that we made respect for residents by management a basic right and expectation.

I have been increasingly horrified by the decline in that respect of which the article below is only the most recent instance.

All sorts of games are being played with residents. Mandatory hours of community service and such are demanded as though they owed society for its largess — not the sort of thing required of corporation CEOs!

What particularly impressed us was the improvement in the lives of kids living in decent homes where they could do homework etc. without disruption.

I see this horrendous abuse as just one more example of the split in American culture — vast wealth for a few versus the well-being of the rest of us!


Lack of Democracy in Public Housing

“The city’s Housing Authority is violating federal regulations that ensure residents participation in policy making, according to this new report by Community Voices Heard. Among the worst violations are the agency’s mismanagement of over $20 million in funds earmarked for resident participation activities and the demolishing of a Brooklyn development without holding a public hearing, the study says. It also finds that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is failing to provide the appropriate oversight to ensure that residents can meaningfully and democratically participate.”

For the full report, visit

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent [blind copies]

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