MARCH 28, 1960
LOS ANGELES—I have just received information from the East Side neighborhood group in New York which is fighting the demolition of a block of historic brownstone houses located on Second Avenue between 19th and 20th Streets. Their problem is one with which middle-income apartment dwellers everywhere can readily sympathize.
In New York's current building boom it is natural, I suppose, that Second Avenue should now be coveted by those who want to build luxury apartment houses which will rent at a higher rate than the old-fashioned "Florida Flats." But these tenants are putting up a fight because their apartments, while old-fashioned, still provide good housing for their families and should not, they feel, be destroyed.
Some of the old residents have been there 45 years. The apartments, ranging from four to eight rooms, were built at the turn of the century and were once elegant homes. Though no longer elegant, they are comfortable and rent from about $50 to $135 a month. This is a manageable price for those who need moderate-priced housing, whereas there will probably be nothing as comfortable and inexpensive in the new house which will go up.
People in this middle-income group do deserve some consideration. The Florida Flats' tenants council's attorney thinks they have some good legal points on which to base their case. There will be new zoning laws in force in 1961 and the new luxury apartment building would violate these future laws.
It seems to me that there would be great sympathy among the average public for people in this situation. They live in New York City to be near their work, and it is understandable that the Rent Commission hearing attended by 30 members of the tenant association, according to the N. Y. Times, was "noisy." If you were trying to preserve your home, I think you would be noisy too. Certainly I have great sympathy with the tenants and hope they will find enough legal points so that they can stay where they are.
I wonder how many people have seen a booklet called "One Hundred Countries, One and One-Quarter Billion People," written by Paul G. Hoffman and published by the Albert D. and Mary Lasker Foundation. In this book, Mr. Hoffman tells how to speed the economic growth of these countries and at the same time help our own economic progress. I think it is a most informative booklet which every American citizen should read. It takes a comprehensive look at our own future and at the future of world development, and it shows how only by long range planning and mutual cooperation in the U. N., and with the U. N., can we really accomplish what in the end will help both ourselves and these various countries.