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City Council report seeks to tackle segregation in NYC

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Fifty years after the Fair Housing Act of 1968 was enacted, NYC still has some segregation issues to address

Flickr/Andreas Komodromos

It’s been 50 years since the Fair Housing Act of 1968 went into effect, but New York City remains sharply segregated to this day. A new report titled Desegregating NYC: 12 Steps Toward a More Inclusive City delves into the housing, education, and infrastructure policies that have allowed the city to remain this way. It also proposes critical changes in achieving a more integrated city moving forward.

Per the report, by City Council member Brad Lander, in partnership with Policy and Budget Director Annie Levers and several other council members, New York’s public transportation and infrastructure, paired with housing discrimination and other key issues have stagnated the city’s rate of integration. Only one in four New Yorkers are considered to live in integrated neighborhoods and a 2014 study found that New York schools were among the most segregated in the country. Lander highlights several approaches that can work to correct the city’s disparities.

His first suggestion for desegregating neighborhoods is to make the Obama-era “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) act, which has since been de-prioritized under the new presidential administration, a law in New York City. This would include investing more in low-income communities and planning for affordable housing not just in poor minority neighborhoods, but in all neighborhoods as a way of allowing for integration.

Desegregating NYC.

Lander also suggests rezoning more affluent parts of the city to spur integration and counterbalance gentrification. “To realize the potential of MIH (Mandatory Inclusionary Housing) to increase overall housing opportunities citywide, and to achieve integration without displacement, the City must also rezone whiter, wealthier neighborhoods to create affordable housing opportunities all across NYC,” writes the council member.

Lander calls out Brooklyn’s Gowanus area as what he believes could be the “first neighborhood rezoning with potential” to achieve an integrated neighborhood “through new inclusionary housing development, in-between the mostly white neighborhoods of Carroll Gardens, Boerum Hill, and Park Slope.”

According to Lander, whatever plan the city enacts must make it a priority to not only create new affordable housing in mixed-income developments, but to also strengthen and preserve public housing that already exists, while also ensuring that residents are given access to better economic opportunities.

Desegregating NYC also urges that the city establish a way to combat housing discrimination in co-op buildings, strengthen rent regulations, and eliminate the “preferential rent” loophole that allows landlords to raise regulated rents over the years and then increase rent prices drastically in response to gentrification. Housing advocates are already leading the charge with this by pushing for amendments to current laws that allow for the precipitous raising of rents on rent-stabilized apartments.

Lander notes that 76 percent of the city’s total capacity for waste disposal is overwhelmingly located in communities of color, contributing to a negative impact on the health of residents. “Meanwhile, significant investments in signature parks (like the High Line and Brooklyn Bridge Park) have been concentrated in whiter, wealthier communities, making those neighborhoods greener while driving up real estate values further,” says Lander.

Additionally, many “transit deserts” are located in underserved, low-income neighborhoods of color, limiting access to better jobs, education, and healthcare. To rectify this, the city must look to reform its infrastructure practices through new campaigns that addresses the city bus system’s declining service while also focusing on equal distribution of waste facilities throughout NYC.

Lander hopes Desegregating NYC will spark city officials to take increased action toward creating a fairer, more integrated New York.

You can read the report in its entirety here.