Reversing Deterioration and Restoring Confidence

By Lindsay Holcomb


In February 1976, the New York City Commission on Human Rights released a 39-page report on LeFrak City called “LeFrak City: Strategies for Stabilization in an Apartment Complex.” The report was prepared after tenants in LeFrak City and local residents in surrounding communities reported problems at the complex related to poor maintenance and security as well as unusually fast racial turnover or “white flight.” LeFrak City was the only private development studied under the commission’s program because the development’s issues carried the potential to destabilize the surrounding communities and cause the LeFrak Organization to disinvest in the complex. The report’s recommendations centered around a more involved Tenants Association, improved security and maintenance measures instituted by the LeFrak Organization, and a strengthened Community Relations Unit to facilitate communication between tenants and management. The sociological schema through which the report’s authors made their suggestions was a belief that when racial change and poor maintenance co-occur in a development, developers and the public are dangerously quick to conclude that demographic turnover is the cause of the complex’s deterioration. In light of this, the report’s authors argued that the LeFrak Organization had a “special responsibility” to maintain a high and visible level of maintenance, irrespective of cost, so that the complex social and economic realities underlying voluntary re-segregation were elevated above harmful, racist narratives.

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