Crime has not increased. Property values have not decreased. Life is pretty much the same for those who lived on these blocks before the townhouses were built. And for those who moved in from the projects? The change of address didn’t solve all their problems, but it did make their lives safer, cleaner and measurably better.
Last month, the Obama administration announced that it would put teeth behind a policy making federal housing funds conditional on a city’s demonstrated efforts to reduce housing segregation. It won’t be easy.
Already in Westchester County, not far north of Yonkers, local politicians are sounding exactly like those here in the 1980s. Ordered to build 750 units of affordable housing in 31 of its wealthiest, whitest towns, Westchester’s county executive, Rob Astorino, staged a photo op at Hillary Clinton’s front gate in Chappaqua, warning: “This is happening right here in Westchester County, and if you live in Ohio, if you live in Florida, if you live in Maine — wherever you live in the United States — you are next.”
But if there is a new commitment from the federal government, and the longstanding but deeply frayed rules are actually (and finally) enforced, then perhaps the legacy of Yonkers can be more than Pyrrhic. Maybe we’re a few steps further along than we thought.