Cooperative Homes for Justices Where Three Supremes Lived

When Elena Kagan was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010, many in the United States celebrated the fact that there were now three women on the Supreme Court, the most women in the court’s history. However, women justices are regretfully, late arrivals at the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court was established in 1789, but Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman on the court was not appointed until 1981, 192 years later. Next were Ruth Bader Ginsberg in 1993, then Sonia Sotomayor in 2009, Elena Kagan in 2010 and Amy Coney Barrett last year.

Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Elena Kagan: the three women associate justices pictured together after Kagan’s swearing in at the Supreme Court in 2010.

However, this story is about a little-known fact that was shared by the three women justices in early 2020. Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan had one thing in common. They and their families had all lived in a housing cooperative. Here’s a short biography of each of their lives in a housing cooperative.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg

In 1980, President Jimmy Carter appointed Ginsberg to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit where she served until her appointment to the Supreme Court in 1993. She served until her death in September 2020.

Ruth and Martin Ginsberg moved into their cooperative apartment in Watergate South, Washington, D.C. during her court of appeals appointment. At the time, Ginsberg was the only Supreme Court justice who lived in the city.

Martin Ginsberg died at Watergate South in 2010, but Ginsberg continued to live in their cooperative apartment. Among other benefits, Ginsberg appreciated being able to attend concerts at the nearby Kennedy Center. It is not yet known whether one of their two children will take over the cooperative apartment.

Ginsberg lived in her cooperative apartment for 40 years (1980-2020).

Watergate South, 257 apartments, 700 New Hampshire Avenue, Washington D.C. 20037

Sonia Sotomayor

President Barack Obama nominated Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. She has served since August 8, 2009. Sotomayor is the first Hispanic and Latina member of the Court.

In 1970 Sotomayor’s mother, Celina moved the family into Co-op City in New York City when Sonia Sotomayor was 16. The family had been living in the Bronxdale Houses, a public housing project that had become increasingly unsafe to live in. Her father had died in the Bronxdale Houses when Sonia was nine.

Co-op City is the largest housing cooperative in the world. Over 43,000 people live at Co-op City, and it has its own zip code, 10475. Soon after her mother had moved into the cooperative, four other Sotomayor families (mainly cousins) then moved into other Co-op City apartments.

Sotomayor graduated as valedictorian from Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx in 1972. Although she left to go to Princeton (1972-76) and then later Yale (1976-79) for her law degree, her mother’s cooperative apartment was still the family home. Later, Celina married again, and she and her husband finally left the apartment in Co-op City to retire in Florida.

Sotomayor’s family lived at Apt. 5G, 100 Dreiser Loop, Co-op City for 29 years.

Co-op City, 15,372 apartments, 2049 Bartow Avenue, Bronx, NY 10475

Elena Kagan

President Barack Obama also nominated Kagan to the Supreme Court. She has served since August 7, 2010. Kagan is the second Jewish woman and the fourth woman to become a member of the court. Kagan was born in 1960.

As a child, Kagan grew up in a housing cooperative in Manhattan. In about 1960, as a lawyer, Kagan’s father Robert, was actively involved in helping tenants collectively purchase their building as a cooperative. The Kagans so loved the building at 320 West End Avenue that when Robert and his partner organized the resident renters to buy the building as a cooperative, the Kagans bought apartment 3B, and the cooperative became the family home. Kagan grew up in the Westside cooperative until she left for Princeton in 1977.

Apt #B 320 West End Avenue remained her home. Even though her father Robert died in 1994, her mother Gloria continued to live there until she died in 2008. Neither parent lived long enough to see her appointed to the Supreme Court.

The estate of Kagan’s mother sold the cooperative apartment at the 320 West End Avenue Co-op in 2009 (49 years in the Kagan family).

320 Owners Corporation, 31 apartments, 320 West End Avenue, New York, NY 10023

If you count all the years these Justices families lived in their cooperative apartments it amounts to 111 “supreme” years.

This article was featured in the Summer issue of CHQ. Click here to read the PDF newsletter.

David J Thompson is president of Twin Pines Cooperative Foundation and a co-principal of Neighborhood Partners, LLC,

Living on the Sixth

ON JANUARY 6, my pen and thought process were halted by the horrifying display of division and acrimony that paraded itself as patriotism at the U.S. Capitol. There was no shortage of commentary on the incredible events America unfortunately witnessed. Each broadcast, printed article and radio account challenged the long accepted descriptive phrase, “…one Nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Yet, after the long-suffocating weight of the unimaginable was removed, I had a surprisingly new declaration, “I could breathe.”

However, the sixth is more than a day on the calendar. The cooperative community recognizes it as the principle linking us to others who embrace the cooperative movement. Cooperation among cooperatives as the sixth principle is intended to guide our unique economy and protect it from the impulses of any single person or entity. It supports the realization of a fully functioning network of like-minded people who have collectively decided to determine their destiny in a manner that is controlled democratically by its members. Unfortunately, many housing cooperative members limit their involvement to the housing sector and nothing more. Thus, they fail to live on the sixth.

In most American communities, one will not have to look too far to find cooperatives whose focus is more than just housing. These cooperative sectors, if properly linked, can be leveraged to build a robust economy to which each participant contributes. It is my goal and, therefore, that of NAHC, to broaden our circle of cooperation to include other sectors, to the benefit of our members. I believe we can educate and support our members in the quest to discover cooperative enterprises in their communities and find ways to overcome a host of economic and human challenges.

One sector that is most easily accessed is that of banking. Credit unions are built on the cooperative model and are owned by their members. Researching and becoming acquainted with local credit unions can be a first step in the effort to live on the sixth. However, don’t just join a credit union, become active in the organization. Seek out other members and identify yourself as a fellow cooperator. You will find, as in most conversations about cooperatives, those you meet will likely be unaware of the role housing cooperatives play. Invite the credit union to participate with your housing cooperative. Discover ways to cooperate for the benefit of your members, perhaps through share loans and depository agreements. Speak with your board members about moving accounts from banks to credit unions. That could be a good start to this relationship building between cooperatives.

I recently discovered a food cooperative in a neighboring community. Checking out its website, I noticed one of its board members is someone I’ve known for quite some time. After making contact and talking for a bit, it was apparent we had never discussed the cooperative movement, though we are both passionate about our involvement. I plan to join. It was a wonderful discovery.

I made another discovery. While seeking a solution for a cooperative’s web presence, I was fortunate to find a tech cooperative in the Boston area. It has developed a web platform that affords users the ability to create and maintain their websites and satisfy data management needs, using open-source tools created by and for cooperatives. I took the time to introduce the cooperative to the world of housing cooperatives. The members are excited at the prospect of working with our sector to help resolve the technical challenges we all face, given the high cost and steep learning curve of technology. I will be working to establish a substantial connection between this tech cooperative and our members in the near future. Stay tuned. NAHC will endeavor to expose our members to a variety of cooperatives, beyond our sector of housing and will lead the way, living on the sixth.

This article was featured in the Spring issue of CHQ. Click here to read the PDF newsletter.


Fred Gibbs, NAHC President


Increase Member Participation at Your Cooperative

Cooperatives often times seek methods of increasing participation in their cooperatives. Acquiring and motivating board members and building a sense of community can go a long way into making a house a home.

Paying Board Members

“How much does it pay?” a cooperative member once asked me regarding serving on the board. “It doesn’t,” was my reply. That member then turned and walked away; apparently that ended the conversation – fast. Another cooperative I worked with once offered one month off maintenance (common monthly charges) in exchange for board service. Though that resulted in lots of interest and many people running for the board, I do not think it resulted in its ultimate goal: dedicated volunteer members, working for the benefits of all.

The laws of your state and/or the bylaws of your cooperative may specifically prohibit compensating board members for their service in any way; therefore, this may be a moot point. But beyond the law or bylaws, this generally seems to be a discouraged practice as it can result in conflicts of interest, poor transparency and disenfranchisement. For a more in-depth discussion of this option, see the article “Board Compensation” by Kristina Valada-Viars (Cooperator, September 2017).

Appointing Board Members

In every community there will resignations, transitions or life changes; the resulting vacancy will affect the board. As with the previous section, the laws of your state and/or the bylaws of your cooperative may have a specific protocol about filling board vacancies, like a board appointment or a special election. For a more in-depth discussion of this option, see the article “Filling a Board Vacancy” by David L. Berkey, Esq. (Cooperator, February 2006).

If it is possible to appoint a cooperative member to the board for a temporary or conditional term to fill a vacancy, this can be a great opportunity. Once I was talking to a member who seemed like she would be an ideal board member. When I asked why she did not run for the board, she said that she “hated public speaking” and that the whole election process felt like a grown-up high school popularity contest. She was not averse to hard work on the board, far from it, but she was just turned off about seeking election from her community. A sudden vacancy allowed for her appointment, and then when it came time to seek election for the seat that she filled, she felt a little more comfortable running – this time as an incumbent.

Motivating Board Members

In thinking about this topic, I asked several cooperative members why they volunteered to be on the board in the first place. Aside from those who were appointed (see above), some of the responses included the following:

  • My downstairs neighbor was complaining about the noise from my apartment, so I ran for the board so that her complaints would not matter anymore.
  • I think the board/staff is corrupt and stealing money.
  • I don’t like the perks that board members seem to be affording for themselves.
  • I’m concerned about nepotism in staff hiring of relatives of board members.

The theme in the above reasons is general unhappiness with the current or previous board or staff. One cooperative actually considers themselves doing well by low turnout at meetings and disinterest in running for the board with cooperative members actually saying, “I would participate more if I thought things were going poorly.

However, not all volunteers are motivated by the negative. Many cooperative members do have a positive sense of civic engagement and altruism with a specific goal in mind to make a community a better place overall.

Community at its Core

The work of board members can be taxing and draining, especially for a volunteer position, so I will close with a reminder that at our core cooperatives are more about community and home than mere housing. While it is imperative to do the work for the cooperative (i.e. hold meetings, review budgets, plan projects), taking the time to be a real community does not take that much time and effort but reinforces bonds that separate cooperatives from other forms of housing. Celebrating a birthday, holding a holiday party and participating in a conference can be the fringe benefit that makes all the hours spent working for the good of the community worthwhile.

NAHC and Walker Consultants do not endorse or recommend any commercial products, processes or services. Therefore, mention of commercial products, processes or services cannot be construed as an endorsement or recommendation. This article is for general informational purposes. NAHC and Walker urge cooperatives to consult with a qualified industry professional for analysis and for answers to specific questions and sites.

Leon Yudkin Geoxavier is a registered architect (NY/NJ) and restoration consultant with Walker Consultants in New City, NY. He is a former president of Southridge Cooperative Section #1, Inc., in Jackson Heights (Queens), N.Y.

Names Give Life to Cooperative Spirit in Owendale, New Harmony Communities


“New Harmony” is what they called it, and nearly a thousand people lived there at the peak of its popularity in 1825, on the banks of the Wabash River in southwestern Ind., where visionaries from all over the world gathered to experiment in the ideals of cooperative living.

Nothing at New Harmony was more important than the education of children, for both boys and girls, who studied side-by-side – a radical concept for its day. The leaders practiced science. They valued art. They emphasized equal rights and responsibility. To live in New Harmony, you had to be kind and courteous. You could say what you want, as long as you also listened.

Today, some of the spirit of the New Harmony community of two centuries ago still thrives under the banner of Mutual Housing California in two developments in Davis. One took its name from Robert Owen, the Welsh-born icon of the international cooperative movement. The other, the New Harmony Mutual Housing Community honors the community in the wilds of the American frontier, where Owen and his family and supporters and hundreds of followers put their utopian theories into practice; where their ideals helped launch the careers of practitioners such as Owen’s oldest son who later became a prominent abolitionist and a U.S. congressman from Indiana.

Top: Owen Building: The Robert Owen Hall is located in Newton, Wales, United Kingdom. Above: This name plate designates the birth place of Robert Owen, the Welsh-born icon of the international cooperative movement.

To be sure, the traditions of education, self-management and leadership development live on in all 19 Mutual Housing communities in Sacramento and Yolo counties. At the two Davis locations – the Owendale Mutual Housing Community and the New Harmony Mutual Housing Community – the concepts are embedded in the historical implications of their very names.

“Discovering the story of Owendale in our midst – the spirit of hope and the spirit that change is possible, and that it is possible when there is respect for individuals, and where there’s a voice, and where people can practice that voice – it renews the sense of values that make Mutual Housing what it is and what it wants to continue,” Mutual Housing California CEO Roberto Jimenez said. “All this time, that spirit has emanated from Owendale and from New Harmony.”

The naming of Owendale and New Harmony – it didn’t just come out of nowhere. David J. Thompson, a Davis resident and longtime advocate for cooperative enterprises, was president of the Twin Pines Cooperative Foundation in the late 1980s when the organization decided to pursue the creation of an affordable housing enterprise in conjunction with the city of Davis. Thompson, it turned out, was a huge fan of Robert Owen, one of the leading figures in the worldwide cooperative movement that took hold in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. 


When Twin Pines spun off Davis Mutual Housing Association to develop and manage an affordable housing community, and when the city awarded the property at the Albany Avenue site to Twin Pines, it was Thompson who suggested that it be named in honor of his hero.

Thompson, 76, is a native of the county of Lancashire, England, which is also the home of the world’s first consumer food cooperative, called Rochdale, which was founded in 1844. He also was a board member of the Davis Mutual Housing Association, and he thought that merging of Robert Owen’s name with the name of the historical experiment from his home-county made sense some 178 years later in the land of California.

“I would have called the place Rochdale, but that wouldn’t sound so good to Americans,” Thompson said. “Americans pronounce ‘Roch’ as ‘roach’ rather than as in Scotch. It would make you think of cockroaches, and nobody would want to live there. Owendale, though, just sounds lovely.”

Top: Owendale opened in 2003 in Davis, Calif. The community has 45 units one- and two-bedroom apartments and three-bedroom townhomes and is home to 92 residents. Above: The Owendale community recently underwent a $2.7 million upgrade in which all the apartments were remodeled with features that include extensive energy and water-saving improvements.

Owendale opened in 2003 with its 45 units that are now home to 92 residents. The Owendale community recently underwent a $2.7 million upgrade in which all the apartments were remodeled with features that include extensive energy and water-saving improvements.

Construction on New Harmony, meanwhile, began in 2011 and was completed in 2013, at a site right next door to Owendale. The new community’s 69 units house 179 people. Green Builder magazine honored New Harmony in2013 in its “Home of the Year” awards. Solar panels at the site produce around 80 percent of the community’s electricity.

Thompson was no longer affiliated with Mutual Housing when New Harmony opened and had nothing to do with the naming of Owendale’s next-door neighbor community. That distinction went to Kim Coontz, who was then the executive director of the Yolo Mutual Housing Association, (YMHA) which would later merge with the Sacramento Mutual Housing Association (SMHA) to form the current Mutual Housing California.

Koontz wrote at the time of the New Harmony opening that the name “reflects the efforts of SMHA and YMHA to bring the two communities together.”

“By naming the new project ‘New Harmony,’ we will be preserving the connection between Owendale and the new development and the symbolic links to the cooperation and community,” Coontz wrote. She is now the executive director of the California Center for Cooperative Development.

And it all goes back to Robert Owen.

By the time Owen moved his cooperative way of thinking to Indiana, he had already gained a reformer’s reputation when in 1799 he turned his father-in-law’s textile mill in New Lanark, Scotland, into a laboratory of social change. Owen’s first move was to fix what had been the deplorable housing and sanitation conditions for his employees. Then he reduced their work day. For the children, he raised the minimum work age from 5 to 10, and he made sure they went to school. Owen pioneered early childhood education with an emphasis on character development, taking them in as young as 2-years-old and turning the natural world and everything in it into their classrooms.

In 1824 Owen learned that the original founders of New Harmony in Indiana were abandoning the cooperative living project. He made a $150,000 offer to basically buy their town from them, and the next thing he knew he owned 20,000 acres and 160 homes and other assorted buildings. On his trip from Scotland to the Wabash River, he stopped in Washington, D.C., to give a talk on his theories about utopian socialism. It was quite a crowd that gathered to listen, one that included the president of the United States, James Monroe, three former presidents (John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison) and one president elect (John Quincy Adams).

At New Harmony, Owen sought to create what he called a “community of equality.” Its founding principles included such concepts as equal rights for women, community property and equal pay for equal work, as well as sincerity, kindness, courtesy, order, learning and obeying the law. The community made its living off agriculture and manufacturing, but ultimately, it failed, when its people dissolved into factions, and when Owen himself sewed a spirit of disunity with his attacks on what he viewed as the evils of marriage and religion. By mid- 1827, the New Harmony experiment was over, and Owen had returned to England to pursue his version of cooperative economics.

Many of the scientists and others who tried to make New Harmony work advanced into notable careers. The most prominent among them was Owen’s son, Robert Dale Owen, who was elected to Congress in 1842 after writing and speaking for years on subjects such as free public schools, birth control, the rights of women to property and divorce, universal suffrage and – most notably – the abolition of slavery. As a congressman, Robert Dale Owen introduced the bill that led to the founding of the Smithsonian Institution. After the Civil War, he was appointed to the forerunner agency of what became the Freedmen’s Bureau to assist the former slaves in their transition to freedom.

In assessing the Robert Owen legacy, Thompson said that the godfather of the cooperative movement tried to make pure demo-cracy work but that it was a tall order with an idealistic population that he said had “not enough sense of economic responsibility.” Dianabol, a very well known anabolic steroid comes to our attention for a thorough review. In the next lines, you could find out if this popular product suits your programme and your efforts for muscle strengthening and reconstruction, benefits for which Dianabol for sale is famous among bodybuilders and athletes in general. All persons engaged dianabol hulk roids either in a training programme or in a professional plan seek to increase or better to improve their performance at a point where their efforts alone cannot provide anything more.

“Robert Owen had a fascination for building utopian communities here on earth in his lifetime,” Thompson said. “He wasn’t happy just to write about what they looked like. He wanted to build them, to carry out a utopia on earth. They all ultimately failed. Building a perfect community in an imperfect world, he found out, was just not possible.”

While perfection may be unattainable, the Mutual Housing model continues to create opportunities that translate into stronger communities. Affordable housing is the necessary first step in that equation. Once it is achieved, residents in Mutual Housing communities live together in a supportive, possibly even a cooperative fashion, where education is paramount, where leadership is developed, and where a sense of responsibility is created. It’s happening at Owendale, at New Harmony and at all 19 Mutual Housing communities.

“It’s not just about the housing,” said Jimenez, the Mutual Housing CEO. “It’s about the people who live in the housing. We can design communities that facilitate community engagement and foster a sense of community and possibility. That’s what the programs are actually designed to elicit.”

Andy Furillo is a former newspaper reporter who is now a writer and communications consultant. He wrote this article for Mutual Housing California.


Housing Cooperatives are Shining Examples of Community

The Concept of cooperative community living has produced self-sustaining communities.

A community can be defined as, “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common goals for maintaining a living environment.” Even brief attention to most news outlets can leave one with the feeling that the fabric of America is being ripped and shredded. Fortunately, we who live by and/or support the cooperative concept see a different picture within our communities based upon the Rochdale Principles. No other form of multi-family housing has successfully removed the profit as an underlining motive from consideration. Cooperatives are democratically controlled, and, therefore, the residents make the decisions as to what they want and keep budgeted monthly charges as low as possible to remain affordable to its members in perpetuity.

Additionally, that democratic control ensures that each member has a voice and that their concerns regarding how the community is ran are heard. By their design, cooperatives are inviting living environments, insulated from much of the divisive behavior that is plaguing our country. We stand as a shining example that people can exist as “we” rather than “us and them.”

To ensure that our communities sustain that sense of harmony and security, we must be vigilant in our efforts to create programs within our cooperatives that are intended to educate our members and their families. It should be hoped that the children of our members would become members of the cooperative when they’re faced with the decision to make housing choices. Some NAHC member cooperatives enjoy multi-generational membership. This is a testament to the strength of those cooperative communities. NAHC can help your cooperative create these educational opportunities. We have many publications and traveling training sessions that will help you maintain your cooperative’s cohesiveness. Simply visit our website and look for the Education tab. There, you will find links to training opportunities for your cooperative. Additionally, many regional associations offer publications, training and one-on-one coaching opportunities for you to review. Cooperatives also are encouraged to buy copies of publications or make copies for cooperative member occupants. Go to the Publications tab for back issues of the Cooperative Housing Quarterly, the Cooperative Housing Journal, the Cooperative Housing Blog and the bookstore.

As you engage with the youth in your communities, strive to prepare them for cooperative living by involving them in the business of the cooperative. Young cooperators should understand the type of homeownership they enjoy and that their families have chosen. This understanding will result in a sense of pride. That will pay huge dividends to any cooperative housing community. When the youngsters buy-in, you truly have achieved community.

The Rochdale Principles open with, “Voluntary and Open Membership.” The mere fact that cooperative communities are open to all is an example to the surrounding neighborhoods of what community should be. Therefore, if we’re all in it together, the us/them feeling cannot exist in a community that is supported by this principle. Cooperative boards are encouraged to adopt policies that guard against community division and that foster inclusiveness that addresses every family.

You’ve heard the saying, “There is power in numbers.” NAHC calls upon its members to increase the number of thriving cooperative communities. Use the resources available to you. Get training where needed. Partner with your towns, cities and county governments. Raise the banner of cooperative homeownership high for all to see. Be cooperative-proud.

Fred Gibbs
NAHC President