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Queens Rabbi Opposes Housing Project As Threat to Integrated Community

March 6, 1968
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A Queens rabbi who appealed to Mayor John V. Lindsay to drop plans to place a low income housing project in the Queens section where his synagogue is located said today he had done so because of fears that the project might destroy an already integrated and stable community. Rabbi Sholem B. Kowalsky, spiritual leader of Young Israel of Hillcrest, said he had told the Mayor in a letter that “as a religious leader of my people,” he wanted to describe “how we feel about this project and what it will do to the existing community.” He emphasized that “all decent people” supported the right of individuals to choose housing in accordance with their means and that this was why “we take pride in considering Hillcrest a well integrated community.” He reported that the community was made up of about 60 percent whites, 38 percent Negro and two percent Chinese. Some 90 percent of the white residents are Jews. The religious leaders of the various groups, he said, meet frequently at local police precinct station “to discuss mutual problems”.

He said that implementation of the low income housing project would lead to creation in the area of “another ghetto” and reduce a “decent neighborhood to shambles.” He declared that such a project “in the heart of a middle class community” would inevitably “reduce the entire community to the level of the lower income element.” He asserted some families had already started to move away.

In a telephone interview he said that the low income project would provide apartments for 5,000 families in a community of 20,000 and said this would impose severe new strains on present community facilities and city services. He added that there had been many community meetings, some in his synagogue, to protest the project and that community leaders were planning legal action to block it.

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