Four-Room Co-Op in Circa 1900s Walk-Up

 Location Stuyvesant Square
Price $3000 in 1974 ($500 maintenance)
Square feet 650
Occupants Pauline Goodman (activist), Bernard Goodman (painter; former tenant adviser, Legal Aid Society)

[Part One of the Goodmans' story ran last week] [Pauline] Now—Esther Moscow! She was relocation director for the city. [Bernard] Esther was throwing all these old people out of their homes. [Pauline] One day I said, "Where does this Esther live?" Rent-regulated, tax-abated Stuyvesant Town! She had the best of everything. [Bernard] Once she allowed people's relocations, old people lost their doctors, their friends; they died. [Pauline] Our landlord here got relocation orders for everyone in our building so he could "renovate." We went to look at the apartments in the Bronx where they were relocating people. [Bernard] We were horrified—rats, roaches. [Pauline] We decided to do a big job on Esther. We picketed her out of her skin. Everybody came from all over the city. [Bernard] I want to emphasize— [Pauline] Don't cut me off. Bernie has a tendency to cut me off. Bernie organized the tenants. It was great. Oh, go ahead, describe your organization. [Bernard] In this continuous battle, we realized there were 4 million people in New York who paid rent. They should be masters in their own house. Koch was congressman at the time. We told him tenants were getting a terrible deal. He said, "That's not my field. I'm on the House Banking Committee." We stormed out of his office. We organized the Tenants Party, a party no tenant could resist, for reinstatement of rent control, rollback on rents. They ran me against Koch in the congressional race. We got 6000 signatures. We presented them to— [Pauline] You know who? David Dinkins. [Bernard] Dinkins looked at us and sneered. [Pauline] Could I cut in? Dinkins worked under Koch. [Bernard] Dinkins said, "You'll never be on the ballot." Two weeks later, Koch challenged our signatures. The Village Voice arranged a debate. I debated Koch directly. [Pauline] It was very powerful. Jack Newfield was there. But then Koch found Josie, the little old lady in front of the supermarket. She'd witnessed our petitions. [Bernard] Koch found out she'd been gerrymandered out of our district, and I was knocked off the ballot. [Pauline] What a job! [Bernard] We wanted to go to the feds to get some justice.

Meanwhile. [Pauline] Mickey Schwartz, our landlord's lawyer, kept giving us eviction notices. He actually told someone down the street he couldn't take this case anymore because Bernard Goodman was driving him crazy. [Bernard] I used to organize tenants from one end of the city to the other. [Pauline] One night, Bernie had a meeting. I said, "Bernie, I have a feeling they're going to harass the older people." I'm outside the place. Here come these Fearless Fosdicks, two characters, walking in the building. I start blowing a whistle. I really made a big fuss. [Bernard] They were thugs. They started running down the street. People surrounded their taxi, pushing it back and forth.

Bernard and Pauline Goodman in their Stuyvesant Square walk-up
photo: Jay Muhlin
Bernard and Pauline Goodman in their Stuyvesant Square walk-up

We never got to the paint-box part. How you bought Bernie one for his 80th birthday, and now he has shows everywhere. Anyway . . . [Pauline] Housing shouldn't be part of the profit system. [Bernard] Housing expenses should be on the sliding scale. The city has buildings that could be turned into co-ops. If people owned their housing, they'd take care of it.

Have you formally retired from the struggle or are you still dabbling? [Pauline] We can't stand it anymore. When we took this building over, we were so busy renovating. Bernie put in 36 sets of windows—with his own hands. Then we were up to here in the civil rights movement. Now we're waiting for the young people. But there's a new generation called yuppies leaving social questions behind them. [Bernard] No, they are acting out of their economic status, not greed. If times are good, you get the selfish. [Pauline] No, young people today—Bernie, let me finish!

 
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