If you’re curious about the issue of redlining, join The Washington and Chicago Map Societies on December 3, 2020, 7:00 pm when they present Linda Gartz in a Zoom discussion: “How Federal Government Redlining Maps Segregated America.”
She will discuss her award-winning book, “Redlined,” and her discovery of the redlining maps used by the federal government to exclude African-Americans from the middle-class dream of home ownership. Inspired by a trove of long-hidden family letters, diaries, photos, spanning the 20th Century, “Redlined” interweaves a riveting family story with the history of redlining. Linda will display digitized versions of original redlining maps, share photos, read short excerpts from “Redlined,” and speak about the lasting impact of redlining maps that segregated America. RSVP John Docktor at [email protected] to receive the meeting ID and passcode.
The governor has noted a Covid “yellow zone” in Upper Manhattan including zip codes 10031, 10032, and 10033.
* No gatherings indoors/outdoors over 25
* Dining indoors/outdoors no more than 4 per table
* Houses of worship at 50% capacity
A Historical Perspective on Redlining
The Where We Live NYC report has a fantastic explanation on the history and impact of redlining:
One of the most pernicious tools in promoting segregation was the construction of explicitly segregated housing developments, many of which were owned or financed by the city, state, or federal government. This practice began in 1928, when the Thomas Garden Apartments opened near the Grand Concourse in the Bronx for White families and the Paul Lawrence Dunbar Apartments opened in Harlem for Black families. It continued through the 1930s, when New York City experienced several waves of immigration in the 20th century, originally from Europe and eventually the rest of the world. The arrival of large numbers of Italians and Eastern European Jews in the early 20th century led Congress to pass discriminatory laws to limit the growth of those populations and others. Immigration patterns changed dramatically after World War II, however, with the arrival of over 600,000 Puerto Ricans in the 1940s and 1950s. By 1970, Puerto Ricans accounted for over 10 percent of the city’s total population. The passing of the Hart-Celler Act in 1965, which abolished the use of immigration quotas based on national origin, created more opportunities for immigrants from all over the world, including the Caribbean and Latin America, East and South Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. These cycles of immigration have contributed to the formation of the city’s many ethnic enclaves, which formed as networks of support and community and as a form of protection against the discrimination and violence many immigrants experienced upon their arrival to New York City. The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) opened the Harlem River Houses for black households and the Williamsburg Houses for White households in 1937 and 1938, respectively.
The most significant examples were two enormous government-supported housing developments built by the Metropolitan Life Company exclusively for White families: Parkchester in the central Bronx, which included 12,273 apartments for 42,000 people, and Stuyvesant Town in Manhattan, which included 8,775 apartments for 27,000 people.
Even though protesters denounced the City for providing land and tax breaks to these projects and sued MetLife over its exclusionary policy, Frederick Ecker, the company’s president, stuck to his position that “Negroes and whites don’t mix.” In an attempt to appease its critics, MetLife also developed the Riverton Houses, a 1,200-unit development in Harlem that, while nominally open to all races, attracted mostly Black residents. The People’s Voice, a weekly newspaper based in Harlem, predicted that these projects were “crystallizing patterns of segregation and condemning thousands of Negroes to a secondary citizenship status for generations to come.”
At the same time, federal housing policy also explicitly subordinated people of color, most importantly through a mortgage-lending process that came to be known as “redlining.” Beginning in 1933, the federal agency responsible for refinancing mortgages—the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC)—created “Residential Security Maps,” which labeled neighborhoods as
“B (Still Desirable),”
“C (Definitely Declining),”
ostensibly to judge the riskiness of issuing mortgages in each type of neighborhood. Each neighborhood was also color-coded: “A” was green; “B” was blue; “C” was yellow; and “D” was red.
The image above shows an example of a HOLC map for Upper Manhattan. The systematic use of these maps by the federal government and local banks had substantial, disastrous, and long-lasting impacts on racial inequality. Neighborhoods where HOLC found a sizeable presence of “undesirable” residents—which in New York City included immigrants from Southern Europe, “Communistic” Jews, and others— were deemed ineligible sites for federally-insured mortgages. HOLC was particularly concerned about the presence of Black New Yorkers; any neighborhood in which Black New Yorkers were more than 5% of the population was labeled “C (Definitely Declining)” or “D (Hazardous),” and it was all-but-guaranteed that a prospective homebuyer could not receive a mortgage in such a neighbohood.
The Mortgage Conference of Greater New York even commissioned a block-by-block survey of New York City to show where “Negroes and Spanish-speaking persons resided,” though blocks that housed Black and Hispanic building superintendents were exempted. The Mortgage Conference directed its 38 members to refrain from issuing mortgages to any properties on such blocks, depriving neighborhoods with Black and Hispanic residents of access to capital and encouraging White residents to move to segregated neighborhoods or suburbs where loans were available.
Mortgages were available in suburban developments on Long Island and in Westchester because the vast majority of these developments were open only to White residents. The most famous development—Levittown, New York—opened to 17,500 veterans and their families immediately following World War II under the federal government’s condition that only White residents would live there. Levittown residents also became homeowners thanks to the G.I. Bill, which offered low-interest loans and required no down payments. Almost all people of color were excluded from this crucial, life-changing opportunity to build equity in their homes and pass down wealth to future generations. During the immediate post-war period, per capita mortgage lending in Nassau County, New York, where Levittown and many other Whites-only developments were located, was eleven times greater than lending in Brooklyn and 60 times greater than lending in the Bronx.
Segregated suburban developments, which expanded with significant support from government, also helped determine who remained in or moved to New York City. Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, predominantly people of color, were forcibly displaced from their homes by the construction of taxpayer-funded highways, which served the segregated suburbs. Subsidized mortgages and segregated living patterns also drew a sizeable portion of the city’s middle-class tax base to the suburbs; in the 1950s alone, the suburban region’s population increased by almost 2.2 million people, while the city’s population decreased by 109,973 people—the first decennial decline in the city’s history.
The expansion of segregated suburban developments also pushed government officials to take drastic steps to alter some of the city’s central neighborhoods through massive redevelopment projects, which often consisted of displacing people of color from their homes and building more expensive housing in their place. In turn, people of color were directed to even more segregated neighborhoods in Upper Manhattan and Central Brooklyn.
The combined influence of redlining, segregated housing developments, and rampant discrimination in the employment and education fields concentrated low-income people of color in small geographic areas and created a “new form of urban poverty.” Poor living conditions in these neighborhoods—often referred to as ghettos—also stigmatized people of color in the eyes of many White residents, who feared that their neighborhoods and schools would become unstable if integration occurred. Many New Yorkers responded to these forms of racism, economic oppression, and subjugation with grassroots organizing and legislative advocacy, and New York City became a leader in innovative, civil rights lawmaking in the 1950s.
Complain to the DOT
If you notice something on a road, sidewalk or bridge that isn’t right, you can submit a complaint to the Department of Transportation on any of these subjects:
I contacted them recently about a lack of a pedestrian ramp on the Madison Avenue Bridge, and they got back to me the next day with the promise that they’d send a crew out to investigate within 45 days.
Speedy? No. But as we always say, they can’t read our minds, so unless we complain, and tell them what’s not working or acceptable in our community, they’ll just assume all’s well. Don’t accept. Demand better. Demand action.
While East Harlem has 1.5% of New York City’s population, it has 13.6% of New York City’s drug treatment capacity, according to data as of 2019 from NY agency OASAS. The graphic below illustrates how severely East Harlem is oversaturated with drug treatment facilities. This unfair social injustice MUST END!
With so many patients commuting into East Harlem for drug treatment, our district is overburdened while already struggling with other social, environmental, economic, and educational issues. Petition to your elected officials – Send Email or call them -to either dramatically reduce our 13.6% burden or perhaps allocate 13.6% of New York City’s budget as a compensation for this injustice.
Drilling down to the data, we can see that Beth Israel Medical Center and Harlem East Life Plan alone contribute to nearly 60% of the capacity. Elected officials should immediately discuss ways to reduce this capacity.
As for which district is not receiving its fair share of drug treatment capacities? Data speaks for itself
and (among other things) please ask the candidates to address the issue of how systemic racism has resulted in an oversaturation of addiction programs being located here, in Harlem and East Harlem, and what (as mayor) they would do to ensure that wealthier and whiter communities take their fair share of new and existing programs.
We want this issue to be on their radar, early in the process.
Racism, Heat, and Barriers to Access
WeAct for Environmental Justice has an interesting paper out on how public access to open, green spaces maps remarkably onto redlined Manhattan:
The heat stressed communities (mapped in dark red) are clearly similar to the redlined map (above):
Correlation is not causation, of course, but it does point to how systemic (and multimodal) the complex issues of racism, history, policy, economics, and more are. All these causes and consequences are not just intertwined, but also reinforcing.
As the authors note:
Northern Manhattan is home to beautiful parks, but many less visible barriers remain, limiting access to these spaces for surrounding residents. Another recent analysis revealed “parks serving primarily nonwhite populations are half the size of parks that serve majority white populations and are five times more crowded.” This poses significant safety challenges to urban residents of color who are turning to these public green spaces to practice social distancing and cool down amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, people of color may be deterred from spending time in green spaces by fear of unfair treatment by police. Other occupants of the green space, namely white people, also pose potential threats to the safety of people of color, as demonstrated by the recent example of Amy Cooper threatening Christian Cooper in Central Park.