The City Rent and Rehabilitation Administration had a similar problem in rent control. Rent-control officials announced on the first day of the strike that they had won $1,400 in refunds for twenty-two Bronx tenants who had been overcharged on deposits. Nobody reported the story, and other tenants who could have been helped were not alerted.
On January 7, the Rent and Rehabilitation Administration announced a schedule of rent increases that would be permitted for the installation of new kitchen cabinets. Before the strike, gouging in kitchens had created a scandal, but now only the interim Metropolitan Daily and the New York Law Journal reported the story in print.
The Health Department had found that the venereal disease rate was up, but the campaign against it was “seriously impaired” without the help of the newspapers, especially the Daily News and the Mirror.
The Real Estate Department found itself unable to advertise in the usual way its monthly sales of city owned property. In place of newspaper ads, the department tried notices in subway-car windows. The January 10 sales got the best public response in memory—more than 1,000 telephone inquiries. The department planned to use subway ads in the future.
There were examples of problems in communication among government agencies during the strike, Roland Sintron, director of the “tension control” unit of the City Commission on Human Rights, said he normally would have found out through the newspapers, rather than belatedly from the police, that two members of the Black Muslim movement had been arrested in Times Square December 25 on disorderly conduct charges. As it was, Mr. Sintron did not find out at all until January 14, when 400 Black Muslims marched in protest to City Hall. He said the protest march might have been prevented if he had learned about the arrests earlier.
Earl Fisher, chief of the commission’s complaints division, noted that the lack of real-estate advertising led to a decline in the number of complaints about discrimination in apartment rentals. Usually the volume runs to twelve or fifteen complaints a month. In December, eight complaints were received; in the first half of January, only two.
Deputy Police Commissioner Walter Arm said the police campaign to recruit 3,000 new patrolmen suffered because of the strike. He reported that applicants taking police tests dropped from more than 900 a week to 359 the first week of the strike, and later leveled off at about 500 a week. The volume is important because usually only one of ten men tested is finally accepted.
Important court news went unprinted, Bernard Botein, the Presiding Justice of the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court, First Department, said reorganization of the court structure in the city on September 1, 1962, had “immensely” reduced the number of persons held in detention awaiting trial.
He also disclosed that Justice William C. Heckt Jr. of State Supreme Court had completed final liquidation of guaranteed and certified mortgages, valued at more than $700,000,000, which had been taken over by the courts during the depression of the 1930’s. That ended a valuable source of political patronage—the appointment of trustees.
Yet neither story was reported, because the courts maintain an austere public-relations policy, and as a rule they wait for the reporters to ask the right questions. Reporters were not there on their beats to ask.
II. Public debate
The newspaper strike dampened public debate. During the first eight weeks of the strike, many important decisions in government were taken in a semi-silence. Other decisions were not taken at all.
There was no public discussion before the election of Mario J. Cariello on January 2 to fill a vacancy in the borough presidency of Queens. The factionalism of Queens Democrats extended to the borough’s five-member delegation in the City Council, who were charged by law with filling the vacancy. All five were Democrats, but two had strong old-line ties, two were reformers and the fifth was a former insurgent. The newly installed county leadership, moving behind the curtain of the news blackout, sidetracked several candidates and persuaded Cariello to give up a twenty-one-year career on the bench—but without debate. When an identical situation existed in Queens in 1959, debate over the vacancy, fanned in the press, produced one of the most bitter primary battles in Queens history.