Friday, August 3, 2012

The Bloomberg Legacy: Hyper-segregated Schools and Neighborhoods

As I was driving down 6th Street in Park Slope to head toward Manhattan, I noticed two brand new construction sites at the corner of 6th Street and 4th Avenue. But rather than be thrilled that the local economy was reviving, I was concerned that the addition of two more luxury constructions in my neighborhood were going to cement its character as a enclave for the rich and the white. The street where these buildings were once placed, and the schools that served them, were once thoroughly multiracial and mixed in class. Now, the neighborhoods two best known elementary schools, PS 321 and PS 107, which were once more than two thirds Black and Latino are more than 70 percent white, with the local middle school, JHS 51 approaching this percentage. And this transformation has been fueled by housing policy. In the last ten years, the more than fifty new constructions that been placed in once vacant lot or on converted commercial spaces in the “lower slope,” both along 4th Avenue and on side streets between 4th and 5th Avenues, have all been market rate, with no requirement that they include a percentage of affordable housing. The result- they have whitened the neighborhood- and the local public schools with breathtaking rapidity. Now officials of the Bloomberg administration would say, with some truth, that they have made huge strides in providing affordable housing for New York’s working class and lower middle class families, much of it of high quality. I have seen this for my own eyes in the South Bronx. Along Westchester Avenue, and along 161st Street and 163rd Street between Melrose Avenue and Southern Boulevard, I have seen one affordable apartment complex after another go up, while side streets in Morrisania, Melrose and Mott Haven have been filled with spanking new town houses, all of which are subsidized so that families whose income is between $30,000 a year and $70,000 a year can buy them or rent in them. There is only one problem. All of the people moving into the new “affordable housing in the South Bronx” are Black and Latino and the neighborhoods they are moving into are already hyper-segregated, with local schools that are 99 percent plus Black and Latino, few youth recreation opportunities, high rates of crime and violence, and shopping districts that provide little variety and almost no opportunities to purchase healthy produce. What you have is an approach to housing policy that increases segregation by class and race in an already divided city. And make no mistake about it, this IS city policy. Take the new constructions in Park Slope, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Williamsbugh and Bushwick. If you had placed a requirement that NO market level housing could be constructed in those areas unless 30 percent of the units were designated as affordable housing, you would have maintained the multiracial, multiclass character of those neighborhoods even through the housing boom that proceeded the 2008 crash. And it would have spilled over into schools. More and more children of color would have had the opportunity to attend schools that were diverse in class and race, that had excellent arts programs, and were supplemented by first rate neighborhood youth programs. But since the Bloomberg administration not only presumed segregation by class and race was the norm, but pursued policies which intensified that segregation, their education policies gave NO priority to racial diversity. Not only did they allow elite schools like Stuyvestant, Bronx Science and Hunter HS to become white and Asian enclaves to an even greater degree than they had been in the past, but they made their most celebrated innovation the creation of charter schools which provided what was allegedly a superior education to Black and Latino students with nary a white student present. Nowhere in the Bloomberg Department of Education was creating integrated schools, nor celebrating and preserving those that already existed, a serious priority. Segregation was presumed to be the norm, with the policy goal being to reduce gaps in performance between racial and cultural groups who lived in different neighborhoods and attended different schools What you have is a city in where white and Asian and Black and Latino young people grow up in different neighborhoods, go to different schools, have a totally different relationship to police and a totally different sense of urban social space. The first group has far more freedom of movement, less fear of crime and violence, far less terror of the police, and more options in shopping, schooling and recreation This is neither right nor inevitable. It is magnified by a Bloomberg Administration which had a development strategy which reinforced class and race segregation and an educational policy which accepted and consolidated it. This needs to be changed, beginning with the next Mayor. We should insist that all of the mayoral candidates come up with strategies for diversifying the city’s neighborhoods and schools, and require that all new market level residential construction in the city, no matter what neighborhood they are in, reserve at least 30 percent of all units for affordable housing Aug 3, 2012

1 comment:

Bob said...

Good column, Mark, I agree with you that this is a very important issue for the 2013 election