Is Economic And Racial Integration Of Neighborhoods A Good Thing Or Not?

The answer to the question, of course, is that economic and racial integration of neighborhoods is a good thing, except when it is not.  To the New York progressive, some economic and racial integrations are good -- so good, in fact, that if not happening naturally they must be forced by government coercion.  On the other hand, other economic and racial integrations are bad -- so bad, in fact, that even though happening naturally they must be stopped by government coercion.  

But, you ask, how can we tell which instances of economic and racial integration are the good ones, and which are the bad ones?  To get that answer, you'll just have to get inside the progressive groupthink.  As far as I can tell, the progressives have not attempted to articulate an intelligible set of criteria for distinguishing the "good" integrations from the "bad" ones.  If you are part of the "in crowd," you just inherently know.  Looking on this phenomenon from the outside as a member of the "out crowd," all I can say is, I can't discern that there is anything more to the progressive criteria for distinguishing the "good" from the "bad" integrations than pure tribalism:  A particular integration is "good" if "our tribe" wants it to happen, and "bad" if "our tribe" does not want it to happen.  One could be forgiven for concluding that economic and racial integration is not really the goal at all, but rather is just a pretext for "our tribe" to try to get what it wants through government coercion.

And so I return to the bizarre story of the ongoing economic and racial integrations of two locations near to me -- one being Westchester County, the suburban jurisdiction located immediately to the North of New York City; and the other being the Lower East Side of Manhattan.  I last reported on these two stories on June 6.  Obviously, in one of these jurisdictions (Westchester), further economic and racial integration is good, and therefore must be forced by government; while in the other (the Lower East Side), further economic and racial integration is bad, and must be stopped by the government.  There have been new developments in both in the past week.

You may recognize Westchester as a county with racial demographics remarkably close to those of the nation as a whole.  According to 2010 Census data here, Westchester's population was 13.3% black and 21.8% Hispanic or Latino.  Most of its cities also show substantial racial balance (e.g., New Rochelle -- 18.1% black, 27.8% Hispanic or Latino; White Plains -- 13.2% black, 29.6% Hispanic or Latino).  Only two towns in the whole county had a population over 90% white, and both of them barely cleared that threshold (Lewisboro at 90.4% and Pound Ridge at 90.1%).  Nevertheless the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development joined a 2006 lawsuit against the County to force further integration through the construction of low-income and "affordable" housing; and in 2009 the County entered into a consent decree agreeing to build some 750 units of same, and also agreeing to have a "monitor" to oversee its efforts to improve integration.  The construction of the "affordable housing" has not proceeded at a pace acceptable to HUD, which has returned to court multiple times since 2009 to force Westchester to heel.

One of the requirements of the 2009 consent decree was that Westchester produce an "analysis of impediments" to the construction of affordable housing in the County.  The County has produced several such documents, but HUD has "rejected" them.  In the latest development, HUD and its "monitor" took Westchester back before federal judge Denise Cote to get it slapped down.  According to the New York Times yesterday:

In her ruling from the bench, the judge, Denise L. Cote, called the county’s analyses a “failed process” and gave Westchester officials 30 days to select a consultant for the study. The federal monitor in the case, James E. Johnson, may accept the county’s choice or pick his own consultant. In either case, the consultant will then have four months to prepare an analysis and recommend any zoning changes.   

So take that, Westchester!  Obviously, everybody knows that further integration in your precincts is good, and indeed required.  If you won't accomplish it at the pace we demand, then a court will order you to do it!

But then there's the story of the Lower East Side.  The Lower East Side has historically been a low-income neighborhood, but more recently has seen fairly rapid gentrification.  The gentrification, with its resulting economic and racial integration, has not required any government coercion to accomplish.  On the Lower East Side, the local Community Board 3 met last week to select a new Chairperson (the prior Chairperson being term-limited).  The Villager reports on the story here in its July 7 edition.   According to the article, although the board did "manage" to select a new Chairperson, the meeting was "marred" by protests -- protests seeking to stop the influx into the neighborhood of new luxury buildings and their high-income residents.  Obviously, this must be the "bad" kind of economic and racial integration.

At a contentious public session at the meeting’s start, activists with the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side staged a vocal protest against the handling by C.B. 3 of a community-based Chinatown rezoning initiative. . . .  The plan would create a new special zoning district in Chinatown and the Lower East Side with increased height restrictions and protections to fend off sky-high luxury towers and fancy hotels. . . .   David Michael . . . charged up and down the aisles hurling abuse at C.B. 3 members and holding up a sign over [Board Chairperson] Li’s head that read, “Sell Out.”  Other demonstrators paraded up and down the aisle of the auditorium shouting, “They’re not listening to us and turning over the neighborhood to developers who are treating us like cockroaches!”

Of course, the politicians at the meeting fell all over themselves pledging to do everything in their power to keep the "developers" out -- and thereby stymie the further economic and racial integration of the neighborhood.  It's obvious to everyone that this instance of economic and racial integration is "bad" -- isn't it?  You just have to have a scorecard to tell the good integrations from the bad ones.