The construction of Cadman Towers was approved by the City of New York in August, 1968 and construction began in 1969. Cadman was designed to be a middle-income cooperative built Lama Housing program. In 1968, the cost of the under the auspices of the New York State Mitchell project was estimated at $17 million. Unfortunately, costs have a habit of taking on a life of their own and, in 1971, with virtually all the apartments sold; cooperators were presented with a proposal for a dramatically increased mortgage -- a jump of nearly five million -- with a corresponding increase in individual maintenance costs. Meeting in local churches, community rooms and clubs, cooperators forged an association to fight the increase. While apartment sales were halted and cancellations began pouring in, determined cooperators refused to give up. Thanks to our well organized political action and intense media coverage, the City and its Housing and Development Administration (now the Housing Preservation and Development- H.P.D.) began to see the justice of cooperator complaints. The projected rate increases were forced down to reasonable levels.
After months of controversy, construction finally resumed and a new opening date was established. However, as the first tenants occupied their apartments, more than a third of the building and all of the commercial space was vacant. In add1t1on, construction problems and omissions quickly became apparent, and a thicket of lawsuits – among the corporation, the cooperators, the developer, the City and sundry others -- threatened the orderly development of Cadman. Under the circumstances, apartment sales took almost two years to complete (a far cry from our present situation of waiting lists). Still, a spirit of determination and optimism refused to die. Cooperators pitched in to act as salespersons, using their apartments as models. The great feeling of community, which had come into existence during the pre-occupancy struggles, carried over into warm neighborliness. Co-op meetings were often social affairs. There were game nights, international dinners and a lot of easy visiting. However, Cadman was in a grave economic condition following its opening. Initial under occupancy resulted in-greatly reduced income and, despite all efforts, the cooperative was falling heavily into arrears on its mortgage payments. To deal with this, the City proposed an 85% maintenance increase. Once again, cooperators organized to protect themselves. We attended hearings on the proposed increase en mass and the hearings became media events. Thanks to effective leadership and an enormous amount of grit and determination, the proposed increase was whittled down to 15% (only 1/2 of which was put into effect).
In the meantime, lawsuits were continuing to multiply. In one, the attorney for the developer started multi-million dollar suits against cooperators who had been leaders in the drive to stop the pre-opening increased costs. While the Steering Committee did its best to make physical improvements, there was no money to deal with major construction defects. The familiar answer to cooperator complaints was, "Wait till the lawsuits are settled." Then, in 1978, with the City of New York on the brink of bankruptcy, Cadman had a change in fortunes. The Federal Government offered New York a one-time cash infusion. The Government would buy City Mitchell-Lama mortgages for about 50% of their value if the City would agree to wait for the rest of the money owed to them. In our case, the government bought just under $10 million of our arrears-swollen $24 million dollar mortgage. The City committed itself to carrying a $24 million dollar second mortgage at 3% interest and not payable for forty years (unless the co-op showed "surplus cash" after the first two years). For Cadman, this- arrangement was our salvation. Our mortgage payments would now be fixed at constant and manageable levels. In addition, a large cash reserve fund was created which was earmarked for much needed repairs to the physical plant. A final bonus was the settlement of all lawsuits -- a condition of the financing package. At last, cooperators were issued stock certificates and held elections for a Board of Directors. The refinancing agreement - really hundreds of legal documents -- was signed on September 11, 1978. Soon after, we had a party to celebrate the five years of existence we had come through.
In June of 1983, Cadman celebrated its tenth anniversary and noted the occasion with another party -- on our own third floor terrace. We celebrated years of solid growth as a community. The story of Cadman Towers is a remarkable one. We are undoubtedly the best know Mitchell Lama development other than Co-op City in the Bronx. Resolving not to be pawns, we organized and, by drawing on our own diverse talents, won significant victories. We kept maintenance increases low during times of spiraling inflation. We obtained a voice in our own affairs and turned a financially disastrous picture into fiscal stability. We have constantly improved our buildings and the quality of our lives, remaining a community of neighbors rather than a faceless concrete fortress.
All of this took tremendous work and effort, not only by our leaders, but by all who served, turned out for meetings, wrote letters, made phone calls, demonstrated and refused to be pushed around. Despite the conflicts and the delays in getting things done, the end result has been more than worth the struggle.
During all the battles of our early years, our constant claim was that "Cadman Towers is unique."
Our record of success proves it.