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Rosenberg Honored for Revitalizing CHA

Delaware County Daily Times
Tuesday April 19, 2005
By: Josh Cornfield

Outgoing court-appointed receiver praised for revamping city’s housing. Steve Fischer named new executive director.

CHESTER- The man who recreated Chester’s public housing system accepted praise and a plaque for his 10 years of work Monday, thrusting it into the air like he had just won the Super Bowl. If it were the big game, they’d have named Robert Rosenberg the most valuable player- the kid from the Bronx who came to Chester and brought credibility to an organization mired in a federal lawsuit and dilapidated housing. The Chester Housing Authority honored Rosenberg, its court appointed receiver for the last 10 years, at a reception Monday, the same day Steven Fischer began as the authority’s executive director. “What he accomplished is unbelievable to me given that it was during only a 10-year period,” said Fishcer, who comes to Chester after leading the Kingston Housing Authority in upstate New York. “I just hope that he local people understand that turnaround has begun here.” Rosenberg started in Chester in August 1994, appointed by Judge Norma L. Shapiro of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern district of Pennsylvania. Tenants had sued the authority over its poor conditions. After the Department for Housing and Urban Development failed to make enough progress in Chester, the tenants sued HUD, too. Ten years later, four of the city’s five housing developments have been either remodeled or revamped and the CHA has received a $20 million federal HOPE VI grant to demolish Chester Towers and provide new housing there. Rosenberg said it was after the CHA received its first HOPE VI grant, to demolish Lamokin Village and build Chantham Estates on Ninth Street, that he felt progress was coming to Chester. The CHA has since demolished McCaffrey Village and built Willington Ridge on the West Side, revamped the Ruth Bennett Homes into Matopas Hills, and done work at William Penn. “(It’s) beyond our wildest expectations on many different fronts,” said Lawrence Fox, an attorney who represented the tenants in their lawsuit. “(It’s) much better housing today.” Fox said safety in Chester’s public housing has gone from “Baghdad to Lower Merion.” Mayor Wendell N. Butler Jr., the former police chief, remembered when much of Chester’s problems originated in its public housing. He said 47 percent of the city’s police incidents happened in public housing before Rosenberg. Now its only about 17 to 20 percent. “ I was a nonbeliever,” Butler said. “I said, I’ll wait and see.’ Today we’re standing here with beautiful facilities. They’re less dangerous now. That was the goal of all this- a quality place to live.” “He’s done a great deal,” said Rush Minor, the president of the resident council at Chantham Estates Senior Village. He’s really done a good job as far as turning things around.” Rosenberg will remain as an adviser to guide the Chester Towers project and work with the city on revamping Highland Gardens. While Monday was a day to honor Rosenberg, Fischer was also welcomed to Chester at the reception at Widener University. He helped the Kingston Housing Authority more than triple in size in his 17 years there. “It’s a big opportunity for me,” Fischer said of coming to Chester. “It’s the kind of thing I was looking for at the next step in my career. The next challenge I want to take on.” He said it’s not as much of a challenge, though, after Rosenberg’s work.