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New Project Evokes Sharp Debate: Assurance Given Local Housing Council Will Have Advisory Role in Te

January 5, 1972
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

An Orthodox rabbi in the Rockaways in Queens, where a 712-unit low income housing project is scheduled to open in June, declared today that as a result of community pressure, assurances had been given by the City Housing Authority that a local Community Housing Council will have an advisory role in selection of tenants for the project.

The housing project has evoked sharp debates in the Arverne-Edgemere site, but on a far smaller scale than the protest actions of residents of Forest Hills against a proposed 840-unit low-in-come housing project there, now tied up in several court actions. The demand that the local Community Housing Council be given the right to screen tenants for the Arverne project was made by Rabbi Herschel Solnica of the Young Israel of the Rockaways at a meeting at a local high school last month attended by 700 residents.

The meeting was halted by police after first fights and conflicting reports of clashes between members of the Jewish Defense League and the Black Panthers. The presence of the Black Pan-there was attributed to a report by Capt. Victor Rowe of the 10lst Precinct but local Black leaders said they doubted any Panthers had attended the meeting.

Ernest Brown, chairman of the Arverne Urban Renewal Area Advisory Council, opposed Rabbi Solnica’s demand to screen tenants. Brown said that “the thought of the rabbi and his colleagues sitting down and saying we don’t want this or that one is a dangerous precedent.” He asserted there were no Blacks or Puerto Ricans on the Community Housing Council.


Rabbi Solnica conceded that he was using the word “screen” as a device to force Simeon Golar, the Housing Authority chairman, into providing social services, crime control and other safety procedures before the low-income tenants, many of them welfare cases, move into the middle-income neighborhood. Rabbi Solnica told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that “We’re beginning to see changes made. There has been a drop in area crime” and “a better quality of tenant” is being selected for the new project. He added that by “better quality” he did not mean white tenants, since most of the tenants are expected to be Black.

Arverne-Edgemere has not received the headlines Forest Hills has, Rabbi Solnica explained, because the Arverne residents have not engaged in demonstrations, picketing or other “fanfare,” preferring to rely on “quiet diplomacy.” Noting that he is just trying to obtain “humane treatment for a community,” Rabbi Solnica said that the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith is “working closely with us.”

In addition, he said he is seeking meetings with such other organizations as the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York and the American Jewish Congress. Asked if the Jewish Defense League was playing a role in the situation, Rabbi Solnica said that it was but in a supplementary capacity. Its members are “very cooperative,” he said. “They are assisting old ladies from Waldbaum’s (supermarket) to the shopping center to the bank” or wherever else the residents want to go without fearing for their safety.

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