A recent evening at Pomonok
Poor Families Restricted from Pomonok Public Housing Until Fewer than 30% of the
Apartments are Occupied by Whites!
Flushing resident Nat Broizman contributed heavily to this report.
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Houses", a 35-building public housing development containing 2,071 apartments,
maintained by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA)
Houses" is located in Flushing, in Queens County, NY. It is bounded by 65th and
71st Avenues in Flushing
Family Preference does not have an adverse impact on minority public housing
applicants, BUT it would perpetuate the past segregation of
predominantly white housing projects (defined as housing projects 30% or more of whose
residents are white)!" See Judge Sweet's May
2, 2001 Opinion, below.
- A housing project is considered
"segregated" if as few as 30% of its residents are white.
- Working poor minority
families are not allowed a housing preference until fewer than 30% of the residents
- The underlying presumptions of Judge
Sweet's series of legal opinions appear to be: (1) that only white families are working
families; (2) if you bring working families into Pomonok you will change the racial
balance to favor white families; and (3) minority families are therefore apparently NOT
- On the face of it these are quite a
series of racist stereotypes and racist assumptions by Judge Sweet.
It started out simply enough. In 1995 the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA)
attempted to implement a sensible rule that would give preference for public housing
assistance to families who had jobs vs. families who had no jobs.
It was called simply the "Working Family Preference" policy.
"Working Family Preference" policy proposed by the New York City Housing
Authority (NYCHA) gives priority for public housing to families who are working (have
jobs) but who are not earning enough to pay regular market value for rent. Such
families are often, and accurately, referred to as the "working poor".
NYCHA implemented this policy in order to prevent an over-concentration of the poorest of
the poor in any given neighborhood and to make it possible to admit more "working
poor" families into NY public housing.
Police vehicles at Pomonok
(Photo by resident Nat Broizman)
The Legal Aid Society sued to stop the "Working Family Preference" on grounds
that it was somehow racially biased, and federal Court Judge Robert W. Sweet, Manhattan,
ruled that NYCHA could not enact the "Working Family Preference" at Pomonok
until white families occupy less than 30% of the apartments there!
Judge Sweet's decision denies public housing assistance to "working poor" white
families based solely on the color of their skin AND it also denies public housing
assistance to "working poor" NON-white familes as long as "too many
whites" live in the development.
Pomonok photo by Nat Broizman
Judge Sweet's weird and potentially racist decision was upheld 2-1 by a three judge panel
of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second District. The lone dissenting opinion
was from Appellate Judge John M. Walker who wrote: "The practical effect of
[this Appellate Court's] majority decision is to deny housing to people who deserve it
because of their hard work or other merits, solely on the basis of their race or ancestry,
to frustrate the worthwhile efforts of the NYCHA to reward and promote employment and
economic self-sufficiency in its tenants, and to deny the existing tenants the obvious
benefit of having working families in their neighborhood."
The Court decisions against the "Working Family Preference" disallowed this
sensible policy not only in Pomonok but also in 13 other NYCHA public housing projects
because they have a white population of more than 30%. Most of the other 322 public
housing projects in the city (which were, in fact, allowed to implement the "Working
Family Preference") have less than 30% white population. A prior Court decision
[see Legal History,
below] has arbitrarily defined the
NYCHA projects to be "illegally, racially segregated" if more than 30% of the
units are occupied by "white" families.
Ironically, most of the families on the waiting list for the "Working
Family Preference" are non-white, according to Adversity.Net's sources.
In 1992, the NYCHA was found guilty of "steering" white public housing
applicants to "white" housing complexes, and of "steering" black
public housing applicants to "black" housing complexes, and so on.
In 1992 the Courts found this practice illegal, and directed the NYCHA to discontinue
"racial steering" of applicants based on their skin color. Additionally,
the Court directed NYCHA to give preference for public housing to poorer families, and
prohibited the use of race in NYCHA's assignment of public housing.
Unfortunately, in 1992 the same Court -- as a remedy for the prior "racial
steering" -- defined "desegregation" within the NYCHA housing program as
"achieving a mix of public housing residents that was less than 30%
white". This prior court decision is the one upon which Judge Sweet and the
Appeals Court relied in their subsequent denial of the "Working Family
Same street scene at Pomonok
(Photo by resident Nat Broizman)
Sweet and His Rulings:
Robert W. SWEET
United States District Judge
United States District Court, Southern District of
Daniel Patrick Moynihan United States Courthouse
500 Pearl Street, Room 1920
New York, New York 10007-1312
Deputy (212) 805-0124
May 2, 2001 Opinion (Pauline
Davis, et al) PDF format
Aug. 8, 2001 Opinion (Pauline
Davis, et al) PDF format
Nat Broizman contributed to this report.
Mr. Broizman is passionate in
his concern for the quality of life in his neighborhood, and he has tirelessly campaigned
for racial fairness and equal treatment in the Pomonok Houses project.
Nat Broizman has written to HUD
Secretary Martinez: "If you believe that working families deserve a safe and
decent place to raise their children, you must help us [Flushing residents] solve this
problem. Working families applying for apartments at NYCHA, of which a majority are
minorities, will suffer terribly if Judge Sweet's decision [against the Working Family
Preference] is allowed to stand."
END Case 28: Pomonok Public Housing