Radical media, politics and culture.

Julia Lobbia, 1958-2001, Tenants Rights Activist & Journalist

TAZ writes: "...sad to see another "voice of the people" disappear from our daily reporting, especially someone so near and dear and familiar with the present crisis of tenant and overdevelopment issues. Her passion and enthusiasum will be missed by all.


Last night, we heard the upsetting news that Julia Lobbia, the Village Voice columnist for "Towers and Tenements", passed away Thursday after a bout with cancer. Under the pen name "J.A. Lobbia," Julia's writings focused on the problems tenants and neighborhoods face in New York City. We often reprinted her column in this newsletter -- her reporting being the only regular column in mainstream NYC media covering tenant and overdevelopment issues.

From the AP

J. A. Lobbia

NEW YORK (AP) -- J. A. Lobbia, an award-winning columnist and investigative reporter on housing and race relations in St. Louis and New York, died Thursday of ovarian cancer. She was 43. Since 1990, Lobbia was an editor and reporter for the Village Voice in New York. She got her start writing about housing issues as an intern at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 1983, and later was an investigative reporter and managing editor of the Riverfront Times in St. Louis.

Lobbia's articles in the Voice dealt with housing, community preservation, the elderly and immigrants. At the Riverfront Times, she wrote about black-on-black crime, black activism and racial imbalances in the judiciary.

The Newswomen's Club of New York recently gave Lobbia a Front Page Award for her reporting on housing. The Greater St. Louis Association of Black
Journalists honored her four times for her work. Survivors include husband Joseph Jesselli; her mother, Julia Lobbia; a brother and two sisters.

-------------------------------------------------- ---------------

From Newsday

Julie Lobbia, 43, Columnist, Tenant Rights Activist

By Joseph Mallia

November 24, 2001

Whether bicycling 120 miles from Manhattan to Montauk, or reporting the inside story on a politically connected landlord in her "Tenements & Towers" column in The Village Voice, Julie Lobbia energetically pursued her interests.

"With the New York Cycle Club, she'd lead the fast pack in Central Park. Six-foot-tall guys were trying to ride her draft. And she was only 5 feet tall," said a friend, Andrea Kannapell. "She didn't just bike often, she biked far. She did 100-mile rides all the time. She biked 3,000 to 5,000 miles a year."

Lobbia, who died Thursday of cancer at age 43 at New York University Hospitals Center, was remembered by friends and family for how she
tried, as a reporter, to preserve New York as a place where all kinds of people, not just the wealthy, can live.

"She was tremendously in love with New York City and the rich cultural amalgam of people she found here," said her husband of seven years, Joseph Jesselli. They lived in a fourth-floor walk-up apartment in Little Italy. Lobbia left a legacy, her husband said: The city is more diverse because of her work.

"I think she was always upset at the whittling away of New York City's rent laws, which she believed held the city together and was responsible for the diversity we have," said Jesselli, a former Voice editor who now works for TheSmokingGun.com.

Once, Lobbia rallied the cause of two sisters, both in their 80s, whose $500-a-month rent was tripled by their absentee landlord, a resident of
Woodmere. The landlord, stung by publicity, decided to scale back the rent increase.

"She wanted to make sure the little guys got a voice. She really focused on trying to make sure they were taken into account," said Kannapell, a New York Times editor. The friend also remembered Lobbia's wit and her love of anchovies, garlic and red wine.

Lobbia was born and raised in Chicago, graduating from Loyola University Chicago with a political science degree, then earning a master's in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She wrote briefly for The Chicago Tribune and for the Columbia Daily Tribune, then took a job at the alternative newspaper, the Riverfront Times in St. Louis, becoming managing editor. The Village Voice then noticed her work and offered her a job in New York.

"Julie was a wonderful reporter who knew the bad guys and the good guys and the world of housing in New York City," said Donald Forst, editor of the Village Voice. "The bad guys knew to fear her, and the good guys knew to cheer her."

Lobbia underwent surgery on Sept. 13, soon after doctors diagnosed her with ovarian cancer, and a short time later, she was back on a bicycle.
"She recuperated for three weeks, borrowed a mountain-style bike so she could sit up straight, and we went riding in East River Park in early October. That's the last time she rode," Kannapell said. Lobbia won many journalism awards, most recently on Nov. 9 when the Newswomen's Club of New York gave her a 2001 Front Page Award at a ceremony at the Water Club. She could not be present to accept the award, however; she was only a block or two away, in a hospital
emergency room.

"One thing that epitomizes her is that she always thought that life was full of wonder and joy," said her mother, Julia Lobbia, of Homewood, Ill. "... From the time she was a little child, she was an absolute charmer. She always wanted to save the whole world."

In addition to her husband and mother, Lobbia is survived by two sisters, Janice Szostek, of Chicago, and Loretta Lobbia, of Liverpool,
N.Y.; and a brother, John Lobbia of Northville, Mich.

Funeral arrangements were not finalized Friday, but relatives said a service was planned in Chicago with a memorial to follow in New York City.

Staff writer Víctor Manuel Ramos contributed to this story."