NYC Public Advocate Calls for Racial Impact Study To End Housing Segregation

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams has introduced a bill that would require city rezoning proposals to conduct “racial impact studies” to stop segregation in the city’s housing.Williams introduced the bill to the New York City Council on Wednesday, May 29. The proposed bill would conduct an analysis of racial and ethnic impacts resulting from rezonings and other land use in the city. The analysis would determine whether a rezoning project would “further fair housing within the meaning of the Fair Housing Act,” the bill read.

The Fair Housing Act protects potential homeowners and renters from being discriminated against on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, disability, and other factors. “Rezonings are one of the primary drivers of gentrification, which leads to displacement, which leads to racial segregation,” Williams said to The New York Daily News.

The bill states that the studies would have to go through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), which dictates that an environmental impact report be created and reviewed by the city planning commission, according to The Gotham Gazette. The new bill would require an additional study of how new developments could affect the demographics of the community and how they would impact real estate projects in the surrounding area.

“[E]ven the announcement of ULURP leads to rampant speculation that coincides with a rise in harassment and displacement,” Williams told The Gotham Gazette. “The link between [neighborhood] rezonings and racial segregation is very clear. I don’t think anyone can argue with the results of it. Yet the city has failed to even acknowledge the problem.”Williams told The New York Daily News racial segregation must be studied in order to be combated.

“The increased density that comes along with rezonings and development incentives… is dramatically displacing and segregating our communities,” Williams told the publication. “Pretending it doesn’t happen as a result of rezonings amounts to the city turning a blind eye to the realities of the segregation and community displacement facing this city, and the role city government plays in making it worse.”

The bill has been co-sponsored by New York City Councilmember Rafael Salamanca Jr. and would go into effect 180 days after it becomes law. A study from the Black Futures Lab released on Tuesday, May 28, titled “More Black than Blue: Politics and Power in the 2019 Black Census,” found that 90 percent of respondents believe that there is a lack of affordable quality housing in the Black community.

“As a solution to this issue, 87 percent of respondents believe in a right to housing: the government should provide adequate housing for people who do not have access,” the study read. Segregation in public schools across the US remains a problem. A report released earlier this month titled “Harming Our Common Future: America’s Segregated Schools 65 Years After Brown,” found that segregation in schools has increased since the 1990s. The report was developed by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA with the Center for Education and Civil Rights at Pennsylvania State University.

The report revealed that white students attend schools where 69 percent of the student population is white, and Latinx students tend to go to schools where the population is 55 percent Latinx. Segregation for Black students is also increasing in the US, as many Black students attend schools that average 47 percent of Black pupils, the study reported.

The report also found that states including New York, Maryland, California, and Illinois have the most segregated schools in the country for African American students. The study reported that 65 percent of African American students in New York are attending “intensely segregated minority schools.”

A New York Times report published in March found that Black students made up a small percentage of the population at elite public schools. Brooklyn’s Stuyvesant High School admitted only seven Black students to its 2019 freshman class, which totaled 895 students.

Researchers of the “Harming Our Common Future” study suggested that the best way to combat segregation in schools is to create federal programs to increase integration in schools across the US.

“Segregation can only be countered by information and successful plans involving more than the school districts, including housing, transportation, and other local and regional government agencies and private partners,” the report stated. “The choice we face now is about what kind of communities and society we want to have.”

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.