Members and Meetings:
The Coordinating Council of Cooperatives has brought several key truths home to me:
- The role of leadership is crucial in strengthening our member co-ops. We owe an enduring debt of gratitude to those leaders who preceded us in the movement.
- We can learn so much from each other. By sharing ideas and experiences, we can avoid pitfalls and best fashion solutions to problems we all face.
- The council and our co-op partners and affiliates can be effective advocates for change in the legislative and policy arenas.
“The Coordinating Council of Cooperatives motto, ‘Cooperation amongst Cooperatives,’ has resounded at every meeting it has held. So much has been learned and will be learned; so many friends have been made and will be made – all in the spirit of cooperation.”
East River Housing Corporation
“If knowledge is power, then those who regularly attend and learn from meetings of the Coordinating Council of Cooperatives must surely rank among the most powerful. More importantly, they are the best informed cooperators anywhere.
And then there are the friendships . . .”
The CCC is made up of housing cooperatives, most with roots in the United Housing Foundation family of co-ops. Most of our members were all built as limited equity cooperatives, under state laws such as Limited Dividend, Redevelopment, or Mitchell Lama. Some members have since reconstituted, and several non-UHF co-ops have joined the CCC. Member co-ops range in size from 70 families to several thousand families. Our median member is home to almost 1,000 families.
Representatives of member cooperatives meet once a month, except for July and August. Meetings are two hours long, with almost half the time devoted to a special focus topic often presented by an outside expert. Meetings are held at member cooperatives.
Our members today are home to more than 20,000 New York households, and include:
- Amalgamated Houses Bronx
- Big Six Queens
- East River Brooklyn
- Kingsview Brooklyn
- Morningside Manhattan
- North Queensview Queens
- Park Reservoir Bronx
- Penn South Manhattan
- Queensview Queens
- Rochdale Village Queens
- Seward Park Manhattan
- 2 Charlton Street Manhattan
- Berkeley Towers Queens
- Sun Garden Homes Brooklyn
The Coordinating Council of Cooperatives – A Creature of United Housing Foundation By Ralph Lippman, Coordinator
This article is adapted from a longer article for the 1977 Anniversary Journal of Amalgamated Houses, Park Reservoir Houses and United Housing Foundation.
The Coordinating Council of Cooperatives, an offspring of United Housing Foundation, is now ten years old and meets every first Saturday morning in the month, in the UHF building on Grand Street, except for July and August. C.C.C. consists of elected directors and officials, representing the various cooperative housing developments sponsored by or affiliated with United Housing Foundation (plus a contingent of regular visitors from several nonaffiliated co-ops). This dedicated group of volunteers shares the common desire to study, analyze and learn everything possible about cooperative housing. Its purpose and raison d’être is to work together in maintaining decent homes for families of moderate means, within the framework of principles and practices of mutual aid–Cooperation, in short.
To dedicated and clear-visioned cooperative leadership, it became obvious that a vehicle was needed whereby they and their counterparts throughout the “sprawling empire” of United Housing Foundation could come together on a voluntary but regular basis. And so, pursuant to action at the Annual Meeting of U.H.F., the Coordinating Council of Cooperatives was officially sanctioned early in 1966.
Specifically the Council was designed to serve a triple function: a) to serve as a clearing house for experiences in each of the local communities that might apply to other cooperatives; b) to be the sounding board for discovering, disseminating, questioning and testing new ideas; and c) to be the springboard and if need be, the mobilization instrument for initiating and implementing plans and programs for joint economic and political action.
Through this Coordinating Council the cooperative family has maintained and intensified its cooperation with one another. They learned how to know one another more intimately when, for a period of time, the monthly meetings were held in turn at each of the local communities rather than at a central gathering place. During this swing around the circuit, the host organization would recount its history, its method of operation and would lead a tour of its physical plant. The local cooperators learned about the Council, its aims, achievements and programs, and the Council familiarized itself with the problems and personalities in that community.
Over the years the Council delegates have given and received a wealth of practical information on day-to-day problems. Experiences have been shared in dealing with bread-and-butter issues, such as expense escalation, energy and fuel oil shortages, techniques for garbage disposal, security systems, union contracts and management efficiency. They have learned from each other how to involve themselves in community improvement via citizen participation, such as city-sponsored block security programs. They have taught each other the value of self-help and mutual aid in organization of lobby patrols and auxiliary police units. They learned from each other the importance of greeting and educating new cooperators through “welcome wagon” evenings and “operation handshake.”
With the onset of inflation, cantering at first, but then turning to an insane gallop, it became inevitable for the Council to add an additional dimension to its activities: participation in legislative action. Under the leadership of a very active and aggressive Legislative Committee, annual borough-wide conferences were held, attended by leading housing officials and by the elected City, State and Federal legislators; massive letter writing campaigns were launched and many thousands of cooperators converged on Albany annually via well organized bus caravans. During the legislative sessions there were the additional day-to-day personal pressures of our legislative representative. Together with our man in Albany, Al Smoke, President of the New York Consumer Assembly, another lusty offspring of United Housing, we have earned the respect of the lawmakers in Albany and City Hall.
Many cooperatives and cooperators have benefited immeasurably by ordinances and laws initiated by the Coordinating Council of Cooperatives. These statutes include such items as shelter rent tax, senior citizen rent supplements, retention by the housing companies of a proportion of surcharges paid, the phasing out of tax abatement for redevelopment companies when they would reach the end of their tax abatement periods and similar issues. The Coordinating Council fought the emasculation by the City Council of the J51 recoupment program, and were finally successful in having an amendment issued which made these benefits available at least to those portions paying full real estate taxes to the City of New York. The justified benefits derived from these various legislative victories run into many millions of dollars annually.
There is an added function which the Council performs. Its meetings serve as the arena in which the fundamental differences between the operation of a cooperative entity and the typical rental house can be discerned and discussed.
It is interesting to note that 24 years after the Public Service Commission outlawed the sub-metering of electricity because under sub-metering the “landlord” could possibly abuse the “tenant,” hearings were initiated to reconsider the ban. It was finally recognized that “given the nature of the relationship…in atypical forms of tenancy such as cooperatives” (Order of the Public Service Commission, August 16, 1976), there is little likelihood of abuse because the tenants and the landlords are identical. Kazan, in his testimony back in 1951, had advised the Commission accordingly, but cooperatives at that time were too few and politically inconsequential, and the Commission, under Con Edison influence, did not recognize the logic of his testimony.
But the co-op built and operated electric plants at Rochdale, Warbasse and Co-op City have made plenty of economic logic, and combined with a system of individual metering, this pattern trail-blazed by the Bronx Amalgamated from 1936 to 1942 may well point the way to taming Con Edison vis-à-vis Cooperative electric power, if in no other housing.
Certainly, there are many private landlords who do an adequate job in operating their properties. They give sufficient heat, their halls and grounds are clean, their rents are collected, their expenses are paid–and they stay as far away from the tenants as possible.
Unlike commercial housing based on the profit motive and traditional landlord-tenant hostility, we, of course, are different. We built family-oriented, culture-oriented, occupant-involved cooperative communities. It was not ‘real estate’ but communities which were to be built; it was not profit but service which motivated us. In a cooperative the emphasis is on the people rather than on the dollars–and it is the interests of the people which are to be served and the will of the people which is to be respected.
Involvement in so different a concept is no accident. Its philosophy, its principles and practices, are shared by all forms of consumer cooperatives. The foundations were laid long before 1927; it dates back to Rochdale, England in 1844. Yes, and it is also a function of the cooperative housing communities throughout the City–of our identification with the cooperative movement everywhere.
The Coordinating Council of Cooperative has lots of work to do. We have succeeded in building a strong front of cooperative solidarity. We have proved that we have ability, imagination and practical idealism.