Monday, July 1, 2013

Yonkers Has A Segregation Policy

Public School #6, Yonkers, New York

As reported in the New York Times, "Judge Finds Yonkers Has Segregation Policy," by Lena Williams, on 21 November 1985 -- A Federal judge ruled yesterday that city and school officials in Yonkers had ''illegally and intentionally'' segregated the city's public schools and public housing along racial lines.

In a 600-page decision, Judge Leonard B. Sand of Federal District Court in Manhattan said the segregation that existed in the Yonkers schools resulted from actions taken since 1949 by city and school officials.

He said these included the deliberate placement of publicly financed and subsidized housing projects in residential areas with large minority-group populations.


''The Yonkers public schools not only are racially segregated, but also are unequal in the quality of educational opportunity afforded to students in these schools,'' Judge Sand wrote in his opinion.

The judge did not order specific action to desegregate the schools or housing, but said further proceedings would be held on the issues. He set a hearing for Dec. 18 at the United States Court House on Foley Square in lower Manhattan.

The ruling yesterday was issued in a five-year-old landmark Federal suit that charged Yonkers officials with causing school and housing segregation. Although the officials did not dispute the allegations of segregation, they denied having been responsible for actions that caused it.

The suit, filed Dec. 1, 1980, marked the first time the Federal Government had linked school and housing discrimination in one case, according to Federal officials.


Yonkers officials said they had not decided whether to appeal the decision.

After a detailed review of more than 30 years of housing development in the city, Judge Sand said, the record ''clearly demonstrates race has had a chronic and pervasive influence on decisions relating to the location of subsidized housing.''

Furthermore, he said, the city's ''own discriminatory housing practices contributed substantially to the systemwide perpetuation and exacerbation of racial segregation in both housing and schools.''


Concentrations of Races

''This court,'' Judge Sand wrote, ''is fully persuaded that the extreme concentration of subsidized housing that exists in southwest Yonkers today is the result of a pattern and practice of racial discrimination by city officials, pursued in response to constituent pressures to select or support only sites that would preserve existing patterns of racial segregation, and to reject or oppose sites that would threaten existing patterns of segregation.

''As a factual matter,'' the judge added, ''the existence of such disparities has clearly worked to the disadvantage of minority students, who for many years have received their educational instruction in generally inferior facilities, from generally less experienced staff, in generally more overcrowded unstable conditions.''

In Yonkers, a city of 194,000 people just north of New York City, nonwhites are concentrated west of the Saw Mill River Parkway, and most whites live east of the parkway.


'Segregative Practices'

The Justice Department suit specifically cited six categories of what it termed ''segregative practices'' perpetuated by city and school officials. These included the assignment of faculty members and administrators by race, according to the racial composition of the enrollments of individual schools and the board's historical operating hypothesis that minority-group students could not perform at the level of white students.

Judge Sand concluded that school officials had engaged in a practice of assigning disproportionate numbers of minority-group staff members to disproportionately minority-group schools in southwestern Yonkers.

The practice, he said, ''served as a clear indication that racial segregation was acceptable, even where residential segregation and transportation concerns did not impede the implementation of race-neutral assignment policies.'' Role of H.U.D. The case was one of a few in which a Federal agency was a plaintiff and a Federal agency a defendant. The Department of Housing and Urban Development was named as a defendant after city officials had argued that the responsibility for the housing pattern lay with H.U.D., which approved all sites selected by city officials.


In February 1984, H.U.D., the Justice Department and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which joined the suit as a plaintiff in 1981, separately settled the housing portion of the suit. There was an agreement from H.U.D. to provide money to build a low-income housing project of 200 units in the predominantly white eastern side of Yonkers.

There are 7,000 public-housing units in western Yonkers, and there is one project for the elderly on the eastern side.

Judge Sand said in his decision that ''H.U.D.'s 'failure to insist' '' on projects for the eastern part of Yonkers ''has no bearing on the city's liability.''

Trial Began in August 1983

The trial in the housing and school suit, which began Aug. 2, 1983, and ended Sept. 19, 1984, focused on the single issue of who was responsible for the segregation.

None of the defendants in the case disputed allegations that the schools and public housing were segregated, but in each instance the city and the school board denied that the pattern of segregation was a result of their actions.

The reaction to Judge Sand's decision was, for the most part, consistent. The plaintiffs lauded the findings and conclusions, and the defendants, who from the outset have denied the allegations, maintained their positions.


'Climate Is Better'

Mayor Angelo R. Martinelli, on vacation in St. Thomas, V.I., said in a telephone interview from his hotel that the ruling was ''what we had expected.''

''Those who didn't were living in a dream world,'' said Mr. Martinelli, who was re-elected this month to a sixth term as Mayor. ''The climate is better today for a settlement. I certainly want to be involved and get this thing behind us. I certainly believe the new City Council will be more amenable to a settlement. But that doesn't mean we will give away the store.''

In his decision, Judge Sand, a 57-year-old who was appointed to the Federal Court by President Jimmy Carter in 1978, noted that Mr. Martinelli and previous mayors had contributed to the racial millieu in the city by failing to reappoint members of the school board known for their commitment to desegregation. The judge also faulted the appointment and reappointment of people consistent with a commitment to neighborhood schools and the resultant segregation.

A Justice Department lawyer who argued the case, Josh Bogin, said everyone connected with the suit on the Government side was ''pleased, not only at the result, but also with the way in which the judge went about reaching the result.''

'I See Great Hope'

''I am also excited for the greater community in Yonkers, which I think stands to benefit greatly from this opinion,'' he added. ''I see great hope in this opinion in providing a vehicle for the community to heal any wounds that might exist and to vindicate the rights of the minority community to encourage new approaches to race relations.''

Herman Keith, former president of the Yonkers N.A.A.C.P. and now a Westchester County Legislator representing southwestern Yonkers, recalled that he became involved with the issue in 1975, when he sought meetings with the Board of Education to discuss segregation.

Mr. Keith expressed his happiness and relief with the decision, but said the parties faced an even ''larger and, perhaps more difficult, task'' to work out a remedy ''that will provide quality, integrated education for all kids in this city.''


Out-of-Court Efforts Failed

Yonkers, a financially beleaguered city, has spent nearly $10 million in legal fees on the case and may have to spend millions more in working on the problem.

Two out-of-court efforts to settle the case collapsed under political haggling and community pressure. In January and March 1984, tentative agreements among lawyers for the Justice Department, the N.A.A.C.P. and the Board of Education were rejected by the City Council.

In March, members of the Council said they would not be able to provide the $18 million needed to put the plan into effect. The Council has to finance any desegregation plan.

When the suit was filed, there were 23,000 students in the system, 40 percent of them members of minority groups. Current figures show enrollment has declined 2,000 - a development some leaders in the city attribute to concerns that the court might impose mandatory busing as a remedy.


In the suit, the Justice Department said that 60 percent of the minority-group students in elementary schools were concentrated in six schools and that more than 75 percent of the minority-group students in the middle schools were concentrated in three other schools. The four high schools were also said to be easily identifiable by race.

The School Superintendent, Dr. Joan M. Raymond, said she believed the system today was greatly improved from the one taken to court five years ago.

''I venture to say,'' she said, ''that this system, as it exists today, would never have been brought to court.''  (source: New York Times)

map of Yonkers (page B12); photo of Dr. Joan P. Raymond (NYT/Lary C. Morris) (page B12); photo of Judge Leonard B. Sand (NYT/Sara Krulwich)

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