Simeon Golar, a prominent chairman for the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), has died of natural causes at age 84. He was the first NYCHA chairman to have actually been raised in public housing, and was a fierce defender of housing projects throughout the 1970s. He remains a champion of the poor and a symbol of the struggle to end racism and poverty in America.
Golar worked his way through City College to get a business degree after his family moved to New York City in the wake of the depression. He then attended New York University’s law school. He was active in the Liberal party, and made several political campaigns: one for city council and one for Congress. He was appointed head of the Human Rights Commission in 1969, and also served as a family court judge.
In 1970, Mayor Lindsay appointed Golar to be the 12th NYCHA chairman. He took over an office that employed almost 10,000 people. It was and is still today the largest subsidized housing office in the country. At the time, racial tensions were high. Mayor Lindsay was trying to integrate low income housing projects in Forest Hills, an affluent white neighborhood. Neighborhood residents harbored a lot of resentment against Golar for championing the idea. Simeon Golar used his position as NYCHA chairman to publically say that the residents of Forest Hills did not understand poverty and did not care to find out.
Ultimately the project turned into a compromise and smaller buildings were put into place, along with a promise from Golar to carefully screen tenants. He will be remembered, however, for highlighting racial and class tensions in New York City and as an advocate for the poor and minorities. He is survived by his daughter, Charlotte Golar Richie, who is following in her father’s footsteps and currently running for mayor of Boston.