By Sabina Mollot
On Sunday, Soni Fink, a longtime board member of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association, died after a long illness. She had celebrated her 95th birthday a few days earlier on Wednesday, and when she died was home surrounded by family and friends.
When active in the Tenants Association, from 2000-2017, 15 of those years as a board member, Fink was responsible for the organization’s communications to neighbors. This meant she frequently and quickly churned out emails and press releases about the various efforts being made to fight rent increases and quality of life problems in Stuy Town as well as rent gouging legislation in Albany.
The work came naturally to Fink, who had a long career in journalism, working for a number of magazines as well as Women’s Wear Daily, where she was foundations editor. After time out for child-rearing, she worked in public relations for Macmillan, Inc., handling publicity for subsidiaries as G. Schirmer Music and Berlitz. She also continued to write as a freelancer, creating newsletters for Volkswagen of America and other clients.
On her efforts for the Tenants Association, Fink’s son Arthur said, “She was a writer and editor, ensuring they had good copy, which meant they could project their ideas with power and force.”
Fink only left her position as a board member after becoming ill in 2017 with what she only learned a couple of months ago was a rare blood condition called aplastic anemia.
John Marsh, the former president of the Tenants Association, lives in Fink’s building in Peter Cooper, and was with her when she died.
Like Fink, he lived there for decades and they met not long after he moved in the 1970s with his parents. She would sometimes request his help fixing things in her apartment like her computer, and in return, “She would feed me because I was always too skinny,” said Marsh, and the two community activist types became close. He was the one to convince her to join the Tenants Association. But long before either of them got involved with challenging the landlord on things like key-cards or pressurized walls for subdividing apartments, Fink was also applying her PR skills as a member of a resident coalition called Citizens United Against Riverwalk. The group of residents was ultimately successful in a long, drawn- out fight against a plan to put a marina and several residential towers, including a hotel, on the land east of Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village. Today, that space is occupied by Stuyvesant Cove Park.
“It was difficult, but it got defeated in large part due to the ladies of Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town,” said Marsh. On Fink’s efforts for CUAR and the TA, he added, “She would identify problems and turn out copy so fast and make complicated ideas, which often the rent laws are, understandable. This would make people take action through her writing.”
Marsh added that Fink was comforted that after so many years of tenants lobbying in Albany for stronger rent laws, it seems that just might happen this year due to a newly Democratic State Senate.
Fink, born Soni Holman, was married to Karl Fink, who died 32 years ago. The couple is survived by son Arthur, a photographer and consultant to nonprofit organizations, and Jan, an attorney for the New York State court system. Jan and Arthur were Karl Fink’s children from a previous marriage. He married Soni after becoming a widower when his children were already teenagers.
“Technically she was a stepmom, but she was a caring and sensible mom,” said Arthur. “She certainly taught me to write more as well.”
Fink also had four grandchildren as well as one who died in infancy and a brood of great-grandchildren.
A resident of Peter Cooper Village since 1961, she has been cremated and her ashes will be scattered once her children decide on the most appreciate places to do so, Arthur said.