Wadiyah Latif retires from Restoration after 47 years of service

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Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation bids goodbye to Wadiyah Latif, who retired from our Asset Management department on December 29, 2017, after serving Restoration for 47 years. Remarkably, Ms. Wadiyah, as she was widely known, began her career at Restoration only four years after the organization was founded. She has seen many changes, including the tenures of three Chief Executives and the physical and social transformation of Bedford-Stuyvesant both before and after the current wave of gentrification. This extraordinary employee, friend and co-worker carries with her a rich treasury of memories, insights and advice, some of which she shared with us in the following interview.

1. Tell me how you first got involved in with Restoration?

A friend had just been hired and she said there were many job openings, so I applied and was hired on the spot. I quit my then current job and left on Thursday, New Year’s Eve, and began working at Restoration the following Monday (right after New Year’s Day in 1971).

2. What role did you bring with, what role are you leaving behind?

I started as a Research Assistant in the Mortgage Pool. I was to interview homeowners to ascertain how they obtained mortgages, had they been blacklisted, what rates they were paying. The Mortgage Pool was offering mortgages at very low interest rates and for low fees. Since it was winter (January) the assigned tasks, which would include canvassing homeowners in Bed-Stuy, would have to begin in the spring. I started out developing the questionnaire. And, I worked with the Restoration Funding Corp. staff filing, following up on mortgage pool applicants and learning the mortgage application process. One of the attorneys asked for my help one evening. He needed a rush job and I took care of it for him. On a couple of other occasions, he asked for my help. Unknown to me, he asked my boss, Charles Shorter, if he could have me transferred to the Legal Department. Mr. Shorter agreed, thinking I could still do the mortgage pool canvassing in the spring. As it turned out, I worked in the Legal Department for about 20 years in many capacities: Administrative Assistant, Paralegal, and Office Manager. I then was transferred to Physical Development (now Asset Management) as Leasing Manager and Insurance Administrator. That’s the role from which I’m leaving.

3. What have you gained from working at Restoration?

Community Development work – at its finest. I always wanted to work with the community with the goal to make their lives better. I find that to be fulfilling.

4. What has been your favorite project you worked on or oversaw?

There are so many over the years. One favorite, in that it was exciting to me, is when I was assigned the task of flying to Washington D.C. to receive the Approved Mortgage Lender license for Restoration Funding Corporation from the federal government. It was simply a messenger job, but I had not flown before. So, one of the corporate drivers drove me to the airport, I went to D.C., to the Federal Building, obtained the certificate, called my D.C. relatives and let t hem know I was in town, went back to the airport, took a cab to the job. My co-workers said I should have visited family and returned the next day.

The next morning, senior staff had a meeting in the Board Room. Mr. McClendon, General Counsel, had me come into the Board Room – unannounced. Mr. Thomas, President, looked up and demanded to know why I entered the room. I was sooooooo embarrassed, I could barely talk, but Mr. McClendon spoke up that I came to present to them the certificate that enabled Restoration Funding Corp. to be an approved mortgage lender.

5. Favorite past or present Restoration event?

When the Bubble Gum Players were in full force in the Billie Holiday Theatre, I brought my son on Saturdays for rollicking good times. The Theatre would be packed and the entertainment was so much fun for us all (kids and parents).

Also, I have volunteered for almost all of the 10K Community Run events. I actually may have been here for all of them. And, although I’m not a runner, I always wanted to make sure all participants had a wonderful time at our event. I used to go to Staten Island, Harlem, and Prospect Park and give out flyers at running events that took place before ours. Then when the runners would come, they’d remember me and I’d register them. Then I’d holler and cheer at the finish line (because they could not complete the run without my yelling). Much fun.

6. If you could pick one theme for Restoration to turn into a book about the company, what would it be?

Something along the line of paying it forward or ‘Give it Back’

7. What do you hope the next generation of Restoration workers continue or improve?

The continuation of providing services to the underserved—I think there is the notion that people are doing fine economically. I happen to know many people who simply cannot afford to pay their rent. I hope more affordable housing will be available and that Restoration will be the hub of getting that affordable housing information out. I believe exposing the community to all types of art (we’ve had quilts exhibited, photographs, crafts), theater, and perhaps calls for raw community talent to come and understudy (perhaps in association with drama schools for credit) would be of benefit to the community.

8. What are you looking forward to most in your retirement?

Finding out what I’d like to do. Since I’ve never been unemployed my entire life, I want to know how people live when they don’t have a 9 – 5 commitment. I also want to complete some home improvement projects and work in my Islamic community.