Streets: Pandele Țărușanu, Constantin Dissescu
M.I. Canturiani, M. Ottulescu, V. Bruckner, Anton Filitti, I. Hălăuceanu, Al. Antoniu, M. Ghimpețeanu, Andrei Constantinescu, Ion Negulici, V. Economu, Șt. Andrei, M. Sărățeanu, M. Chiriceanu, C. Năstase, V. Cordea, V.G. Liteanu
C.F.R.: Al Ottulescu, Max Cratero
Radu Dudescu, Constantin Pomponiu
Despite not being a typical lotissement, Inginerilor coincides with the construction of the Steaua and Viilor projects and has been assigned to the senior staff of C.F.R. This has led to numerous disputes between the workers and the directors, and the context of this conflict explains the reasons behind the ideological connection between the workers and the communist and socialist ideas.
Approval of the lotissement
Work on the lotissement started in 1922, with the the authorization file submitted by the Labor House C.F.R. at the City Hall of the 4th Green Sector (“The labor House C.F.R lotissement from Calea Griviței no 158-166, the former property of Col. Slăniceanu”). Colonel Slăniceanu had been the Chief of the General Staff during the War of Independence. From a 1922 application, we learn that the Director of the Labor House C.F.R submits for approval to the president of the Intermediate Commission an address by which he requests the plotting of the former property of col. Slăniceanu, in order to distribute it to the officials of the General Directorate of C.F.R. The impediment was that the 1919 Systematization Plan of the Capital had mapped out the opening of a street starting from Cuza Boulevard, through a land belonging to the Ministry of Public Instruction and the land that was to become the lotissement. The request is incomplete, as the mayor wished to annex the lotissement plans. A few months later, in February 1923, we find out from the explanation sent by C.F.R. that the land is “intended to be distributed to the destitute staff to build their own houses.” C.F.R. requested the building permit and proposes that the construction work to be funded by C.F.R and to include ” streets building, paving, sewerage, water and electricity”, probably to speed up the process. The lotissement plan presented by the General Directorate of C.F.R. was modified by the Technical Commission of the City Hall – who suggested the drawing up of two streets, namely the extension of Vasile Lupu street (today Ioan Bianu) and the opening of a street behind the houses on the Ing. Pandele Țărușanu. The plan indicates the names of the future owners and the surface of each plot, with a vacant space in the middle, which had been reserved for the Ministry of Instruction. On this lot, C.F.R. raised a building between 1927 and 1929. The plans for the lotissement were signed by the architect C. Pomponiu.
On March 29, 1923 the Technical Commission of the City Hall approves the project, considering that the plot “was drawn up in relation to the announced plan of the neighborhood”. However, certain conditions had to be fulfilled, including the passage into the Commune’s patrimony, paving the road with cobblestone, and the sidewalk with asphalt and granite curbs “under direct supervision and according to the indications of the respective communal service”, the execution of the water and sinkhole installations, the installation of the street lamps. One of the most important provisions was related to the submission of a financial assurance “to guarantee the complete execution of the public works”. If the Labor Department did not carry out the construction work, the City Hall could not issue the authorization. The bureaucracy with which we have already become accustomed from the previous lotissements remains an interesting aspect: the plan, after having been approved by the Technical commission within the City Hall, was submitted for approval to the Intermediate Commission (who approves it in April 1923), afterwards to the Ministry of Interior and the Superior Technical Council “for approval and sign-off ”. The chairman of the Intermediate Commission was Dr. Costinescu, the General Manager of the Works House was Cincinat Sfințescu, and the costs of the construction works are found in the payment quotation, stretching across ten pages.
The file reaches the Technical Council which meets on May 1923 under the chairmanship of the engineer Elie Radu. Among its members were distinguished names such as Petre Antonescu or Duiliu Marcu. We find out from the presentation that there is a total of 35 plots with a street frontage of 14m on average, with different depths, a square and a place belonging to the Ministry of Public Instruction for the construction of a school, probably for the engineers’ children. The last signature belongs to King Ferdinand, who by high royal decree approves the parcel in July 1923.
However, the work is progressing with difficulty. In 1924 the studies for the set-up of electrical installations begin, following two more years in which the approval of the constructions is delayed because the construction works are not carried out in accordance with the stipulated conditions. In 1928, 5 years after the approval of the lotissement plans, the City Hall agrees with the stage of the works, and a last address from 1931 of the 4th Green Sector City Hall demanded insistently the file with the approval of the lotissement, still missing the proof of the date on which the construction of the houses began.
“The irregularities found at the Labor House”
An article bearing this name is published in 1930 in the Muncitorul Căilor Ferate newspaper (“the body of the General Association of Ceferiști’s Unions in Romania”, as it is written on the title page of the newspaper), during the national and international economic crisis. The author addresses the problem of social housing and the way in which the Labor House handled this problem. Firstly, the author (the article is not signed) presents a brief history of the Labor House CFR, established during the directorate of General Macri, (“ie in the sadly remembered year of 1920”), an institution that had the role of “coming to the aid of office clerks and workers, as well as their families, in order to make their lives easier, to contribute to the growth and education of the children left orphans by the death of the civil servant father or worker at CFR”. Next follow the first question marks they raise, related to the ability of the Labor House leadership to understands the problems of the workers, since “only senior staff from the Railway Department and no representative of the small servants and workers are installed in its management”. The position of the author of this article, (probably one of the leaders of the CFR Union) regarding the social housing built in Inginerilor lotissement is as follows.
According to the data provided by the author, we find that “at its meeting on November 26, 1920, its Board of Directors (of the Labor House) decides to buy a plot of land on Calea Griviței, quickly signing the documents. The surface of the Colonel Slăniceanu’s land was 21.000 sqm, at 270 lei per sqm[…] In the intention of the Board of Directors at that time, as can be seen in the stipulations of the contract concluded between the Labor House and Colonel Slăniceanu, was the building of a sanatorium and a high school for the children of the railway workers. The plans had even been drawn up and approved by the director of the Labor House.” However, the plans had not been respected. Thus, “in 1922, the Board of Directors of the Labor House finds that it is more appropriate to build houses on this land that were to be left in full ownership to those who will take over. To this end, the good faith of the Ministry of Communications and the Council of Ministers, who are presented with a new regulation of the Law of the Labor House, stipulating that the houses built by the Labor House remain in full ownership of the CFR staff”. The article adds that “the law said that everything that would be created would be given to the staff for use only. Accordingly, the regulation modifies the law of operation, although it is illegal and “the land was plotted out giving those parcels at derisory prices to senior officials from the C.F.R. and from the Board of Directors of the Labor House ”.
The author’s presentation therefore points to an ignored direction in the studies related to social housing reform, namely the point of view related to who should receive housing. The perspective of the representatives of the Syndicate that publishes the newspaper is unequivocal: the houses should be rented to the C.F.R. only during the exercise of the function, and in no case sold, because of the risk that they will be bought by senior officials who can afford them. In fact, their reaction is determined by the way in which the houses were seized by these officials responsible for implementing the reforms.
Essentially, they are accused by the author of the article that they do not even pay the price of housing (only 10 – 20%, at least until 1930 when the article was written), and the amounts paid are also borrowed from the funds of the Labor House. Moreover, the lotissement plans sent for approval to the Technical Commission of the City Hall already included the names of the engineers who will receive these buildings, a sign that the distribution had been made before the construction of the buildings began.
The director of the Labor House – under investigation by the Ministry
Virgil Madgearu – the Minister of Communications (which was in charge of CFR) after having found these irregularities, puts forward the following resolution: “it is not permissible not to impose severe sanctions against the officials who violated the law of the Labor House C.F.R for their personal benefit. In no case can it be tolerated for them to continue to operate at the Autonomous Administration C.F.R. Accordingly, Mr M. Ottulescu, CFR deputy director general and M Cratero, inspector general of control will be sent before the disciplinary committee, and the board of directors will decide which of the other guilty officials to be sent to the same court.” The prospect of a process to solve this problem seems almost certain, but … shortly after these testimonies, Mr. Ottulescu and Cratero found it appropriate to retire to escape the judgment of the disciplinary council. But “thousands and thousands of workers are waiting for justice”, says the undeclared author of the article. We do not know exactly whether this process has taken place, whether the irregularities have been corrected, whether the buildings were eventually given back by the owners or subsequently granted to the trade unions or to other workers. It would be interesting to see if the new regime installed after 1944, under whose leadership were many Ceferiști, has made some decision in this regard.
It is certain that the result of this whole journey is the construction of a new neighborhood, characterized as a “vulgarian, with beautiful villas, modern constructions, wonderful castles … The engineers Cratero and Ottulescu, first inspector general at CFR and president of the Labor House moved into the villas, along with other “bigshots”. Forty senior civil servants from the railway thus became full owners of the lands on which they raised their magnificent personal buildings, instead of the sanatorium for the small and the under-privileged”. In 1942, in a report on the houses built by CFR, the author mentions that this neighborhood was made on the basis of mortgage loans, although initially, “the land… was bought by the CFR Administration for the construction of a hospital, but the work could not be completed due to the City Hall’s refusal to authorize this building, it was plotted by the Technical Service of the Labor House and sold to the senior staff with the obligation to build houses, according to the regulations. The benefits are remarkable: The loans are repayable with an interest rate of 2% over a period of twenty years, being practically deductions from the salary. In this way, all the houses were erected in six years. Whatever the variants of this story are, one thing is certain: the system that should provide cheap housing for workers and employees with low or medium wages does not work according to their wishes.”