Clara Fox, a social visionary and a consummate professional, died on November 9, 2007, at the age of 90. She began her career as a director of programs for young people with mental illnesses. She then went on to become an expert in early childhood programs and was asked by the Lindsay Administration to organize the first Head Start Program for New York City. Her work in early childhood education led to an awareness of the housing problems that were prevalent in New York.
Clara's career in housing included jobs in government and in the nonprofit sector. Before setting up the Head Start Program, she was the Community Relations Specialist at the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal. While working for the state, she virtually created the concept of pre-occupancy training programs for shareholders in government-financed cooperatives. Even at the end of her life, residents of these cooperatives recognized her and remembered the training programs. She also became interested in promoting integration and initiated affirmative marketing programs before such programs were mandated by government.
In 1965, the late Helen Harris, Executive Director of United Neighborhood Houses, recruited Clara to create a new department to encourage the 35 settlement houses in New York to provide affordable housing in their neighborhoods. In 1969, Clara obtained a grant to create the Settlement Housing Fund.
Clara Fox was the founder and Executive Director of the Settlement Housing Fund from 1969 until 1983, when she became Director Emeritus. As one of the first professionals to initiate a joint venture between a nonprofit and the private sector, Clara was way ahead of her time. She was an advocate for public housing and, in her role as Executive Director of the Settlement Housing Fund, helped to train tenant leaders through contracts with the New York City Housing Authority, most famously at the Forest Hills Cooperative, where former Governor Mario Cuomo launched his career. Other achievements of Clara's include the first preservation projects involving rehabilitation with tenants in occupancy, and the rescue of Manhattan Plaza — the 1688 unit development for performing artists that began the revitalization of Times Square. In gratitude for her work on the project, Actors Equity elected her an honorary member.
One of the most important and consistent aspects of Clara Fox's career was her role as a passionate advocate. In 1973, Clara founded the organization that became the New York Housing Conference, which she co-chaired until her death. She was a policy expert on publicly assisted housing at all levels of government.
Clara was an advocate for Israel and made several visits there. Although she was not religious, being Jewish was very important to her. She never worked on the high holidays and had a deep respect for Jewish traditions.
There was nobody like her. Her legacy is sure to inspire generations to come.
She is survived by her daughter Roberta Fox of Manhattan.