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Letter: Diversity in New Rochelle Public Housing

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. – The New Rochelle Daily Voice accepts signed, original letters to the editor. Letters may be emailed to newrochelle@dailyvoice.com .

To the Editor:

Recently, I was asked by some friends in the West End how one gets into public housing in New Rochelle. It seemed to me that my friend was eligible: He was working-class with three children, and, based on his income, he should be eligible, so at least he would be placed on a waiting list. What I found out was even more dramatic.

Twenty years ago, right out of law school, I worked in legal aid in Texas, where we found that African-Americans and Latinos frequently encountered discrimination when searching for housing at all stages: Upon entering a Realtor’s office they received inferior service, they were told fewer homes were available, and they were shown fewer homes than whites were. But now in 2013, I discovered different issues, which are alarming.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2012:

  • There were 74,323 people in New Rochelle;
  • 19.9 percent were Latinos;
  • 18.95 percent were African-Americans.

We had 10,596 children in our public schools, according to New York State Department of Education's 2011 report card:

  • 41 percent were Latinos;
  • 24 percent were African-Americans;
  • 31 percent were white.

So how does this parlay into what our public housing looks like? Our New Rochelle Municipal Housing Authority, as an instrument of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, is required to administer its public housing programs in ways that affirmatively further fair housing and encourage greater residential integration. But public housing edifices are often built away from affluent neighborhoods. Housing authorities often yielded to public and political pressure not to locate public housing or its tenants in white neighborhoods, i.e., on Wilmot Road, Pinebrook, Quaker Ridge, etc.

Given the persistence and prevalence of housing segregation throughout Westchester County, it is evident that, despite New Rochelle’s expressed concern about persistent disparities in the enjoyment of, in particular, the right to adequate housing, New Rochelle has not satisfactorily complied with its obligations under federal law.

Look at the attached New Rochelle Municipal Housing Authority Household Composition Report that the authority provided in February 2013.

My question to Mayor Noam Bramson and Steve Horton, director of the housing authority, is, Any thoughts on how we could be more inclusionary?

Martin Sanchez New Rochelle resident

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