So here is the challenge. Can the souls from the disregarded and lost graves of enslaved and forgotten people reveal to this community something extraordinarily creative? Developers and architects saved a “landmarked bank” and built a super tall tower in Downton Brooklyn for million-dollar condos. Where is the equity for our neglected landmark, and our lost brothers and sisters?
A Pathway to Equity
A current policy example is a federal agenda to advance equity for all Americans. This policy looks to serve people of color and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality. Some of the blah blah in it is worth reading, but it is still good blah, blah.
Notwithstanding that, policymakers from federal to local realize systemic approaches to embedding fairness require the public to understand the nation’s people and economy much better to advance this demand for equity into reality. Ta Nehisi Coates makes this point on reparations (here), debated (here), and it leads to several great books (here and here). This article from the New Yorker (here) by Jill Lepore also examines the equity issue, writing, “Underneath America lies an apartheid of the departed.”
The Church/Bedford development site is in what might be called “the stage of ambiguity.” It could become a green garden, a modest commercial property for retail and offices. It could include housing. For example, somewhat awkwardly, the idea of taking action based on equity and fairness issues appears to be oddly correlated to the climate change problem. Here is a leap into ambiguity and why it may be worth a thought or two.
Stumbling blocks in opposition to repairing America’s racist past today keep the issue in the past and undefined. The failure to recognize the harmful impacts of atmospheric GHG is similar, but a problem in the future. Leaders are in a wait-and-see political model. Sometimes it is called catastrophic resolution. In “demonstration” New York, it is on the ground where the odds for or against taking effective action are transparent. Is there a mindset that equates the generational damage experienced by people of color is similar to the odds of having a home destroyed by an extreme climate event in the future? Yes. Perhaps it is as simple as paying attention to the rise in rainfall flooding (here).
From a local point of view, it comes down to the impact of individual development projects as they occur (See NY Times article on this issue here). The real estate industry’s discriminatory housing practices’ significant contribution to the racial wealth gap is well documented (here) and in hundreds of other books. Since inclusion became mandatory (MIH) in NYC, the city has produced over 2,000 units using this resource in an inadequate but helpful response. Overall, Manhattan has seen 449 units, the Bronx 847, Brooklyn 476, and Queens 333 (sourced here). A complete Manhattan Institute study on this approach is available (here). The total since voluntary beginning a decade ago to date is only 10,000 apartments.
But that is rental housing. What if the Bedford/Church site could be homes owned by African-American scholars and other great thinkers of our time? An exchange condo residence. Corporations purchase apartments to do business in NYC. Why not by visiting scholars? The median cost for a two-bedroom condo in Downtown Brooklyn is $1.7M. A 30-year mortgage at 3% would cost around $7,200/month. Using the 30% of income for housing as a definition of what is affordable would require the acquisition cost to be lowered to $540,000, or the household income would need to be about $300,000. The chart/table below tells the story. Could equity be defined as homes made affordable for great thinkers on race and the future of inclusion, who would teach at Erasmus, who could make it one of the most excellent High Schools on the subject in all of New York? Sure it could.
To conclude, every problem is a housing problem. The resources and political effort to make shelter affordable and an enriching community resource for families require a lot of housing, a considerable amount, a vast supply. Why? Because if a lot of it exists, the tools and resources, programs, and policies to make them affordable and beautiful places to live become possible. If they do not exist, the world as we know it now only offers the favela. New York City has proven it can build beautiful living places, its housing advocates have failed many times on this point, but the lessons are there to learn.
The reader will find a few posts on Housing in The Report relevant to this discussion (here).
Members of “The Report” found this HUD Legal Report. Read it as it might be useful.
The image and text of the book as a pdf, the link is here:
And for the text-only view and an easier read.