The article by Craig Gurian — website below — on the continuing ghettoization of NYC is both accurate and depressing. He is a long time civil rights advocate who teaches courses in this area at Fordham Law and knows whereof he speaks.

For many years my wife and I worked on problems in one such ‘ghetto’ — lower West Harlem. While were grad students we moved into a housing project on West 125th St. as part of a desegregation program. Except for one elderly woman, we became the only non minority people then living in a huge 21 story building, one of several with the same situation. Unfortunately that desegregation program was discontinued on the basis that we were being favored versus long waiting lists — it was much to be preferred to the alternative run down and dangerous old tenements where crime was rampant and maintenance was virtually nil.

Unhappily now a half century later our good city is still ghettoized and those living in the poor areas suffer a broad range of injustices — poorer schooling with massive dropouts prior to high school graduation. One in ten of such dropouts ends up in prison. Some of the borderline areas are now experiencing some integration — but with exploitation that drives out people living in affordable housing by a variety of legal and illegal tactics. Such is the case with some of the west side of Harlem where my wife and her friends were particularly active in housing preservation and protecting people from being abused by such expulsion. There is a huge complex at W. 135th St. built with the help of city funds which has now reverted to private ownership per the legal arrangements set up 25 years ago. The new private owners are now apparently pushing lower income people out per regular protests against such — which are not covered by our NYC media.

Public housing, itself, is under attack with all sorts of indignities being inflicted on residents, e.g. mandatory unpaid work per month. When we lived in 430 W. 125th St., Apt. 14G, no such was the case. We did have some problems which my wife and I were able to resolve such as adding locks on the entrance doors to keep addicts out, getting elevator repairs when ours would frequently fail late Friday when the staff offices were shut down for the weekend (we got hold of an emergency number that spared people climbing 21 floors all weekend). Activists are very much needed in ghetto communities. But they cannot stop many of the horrors there such as stop and frisk abuses, focus on arresting drug suspects which does not occur elsewhere, minimal maintenance of residential buildings, little security in same.

The U.S. has made considerable progress with improving the situations of our minorities. When I began teaching at Brooklyn College in 1970, the doors were suddenly opened to them. I had been drawn to teaching in the City University of NY precisely because I had earlier not been able to get students into City College whom Yale would accept. Still the numbers break badly along gender lines even in CUNY with far more African American women than men among our students. Presumably something is wrong with the education process to produce this discrepancy. Perhaps young men get depressed or angry more with their treatment in our ghettos? There was a sad story recently of a bright honors student who did not want to join a gang getting killed when he tried to break up a gang fight. Kids join gangs for company and protection in our ghettos. They apparently do not find either in our schools.

Our current candidates for Mayor attack each other for having run failing education programs. The article cited below cites Bloomberg’s failures in maintaining civil rights. I don’t know who or what to blame. Pols and punitive law enforcement cannot solve all our problems. Possibly we are up against deep and long-standing flaws in our culture? We are one of the later nations to abolish slavery. And our Latino immigrants are under heavy fire now — ironic in that we stole a huge chunk of Mexico in 1848. Obama has not gotten to this problem yet. I favor amnesty for the millions here who are working, contributing, and do not have criminal records. We tend to look the other way when we admit talented people from other backgrounds to do things for which we have not trained enough people. Our jobs are being lost to China and India — not undocumented immigrants.

Enough said even though I have not mentioned some of the other major problems that are getting worse with our recession, e.g. high unemployment rates among our African American men — 27 percent for NY state.

Where do we go from here? What do you think?


Bloomberg’s Calmer — But Still Divided — City

by Craig Gurian
October 13, 2009

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent 212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]

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