MAY 18, 1959
NEW YORK—It was an interesting experience in Washington, on Thursday, to go with the group that has carried on the work of the Housing Association and see what is happening in the clearing of Washington slums. Twenty-five years ago, the alleys were the point at which we were aiming our work, and these have to a very large extent disappeared. Large areas have been cleared and are planned for rebuilding. But what appealed to me most was the fact that there is a vigorous relocation program, so that people are not moved out without having some place to go. In New York, this seems to me one of our great shortcomings: we do not seem to be able to relocate people when we decide to clear a slum area.
I also felt that in nearly all the Washington projects the new houses were better planned and better constructed than in the days when I was more familiar with the work being done. Doors to closets do not all have to open out. They are now made to slide; and the material used is plywood, which makes them inexpensive. When I remembered the arguments we went through as to whether closets should have doors or should be left open for the dust to settle on their contents, it was a source of satisfaction to see this solution. The houses are really good, not only in public projects but in private housing built for low-income groups. There is still much to be done, of course, but on the whole, even in outlying areas, there are improvements.
One area on the outskirts of Washington, which I remember as being difficult 25 years ago because the city would not extend water and drainage facilities, seems at last to be able to build up because the city has fulfilled the promises it should have been able to carry out 25 years ago. The little church and the same pastor who was there 25 years ago, with a few of the parishioners, were gathered to greet us when we arrived in the morning. I felt that advances had been made in the community and that there was increased hope for better standards of living.
On the whole, I think Washington is moving forward in the housing area, and I feel that the Washington Housing Association deserves much praise for the changes that have come about.
After the tour, I appeared before Senator John Kennedy's committee on the minimum wage bill and the covering of various groups who have never been covered before—hotel workers, laundry workers and retail store employees. Then I attended the Housing Association lunch before catching my plane back to New York.
Although many thousands of words have been published in the newspapers about the Geneva Conference, the preliminary moves still seem to give us very little indication of what will eventually happen. We can only watch with interest and some anxiety to see what will come out of these highly important meetings.