January 25, 2013

Housing is ground zero of race debate

The convergence on Monday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the inauguration of Barack Obama was indeed significant. It is not only as a milestone but also as a look to the future and a need to address our civil rights agenda that gives the event more than symbolic meaning.

And what we take away is that as far as we have come, we still have much farther to go. It is not enough for us to say, “We have overcome,” to paraphrase Dr. King; we need to recognize that “We shall overcome” is very much in the future tense.

While we have a black president in the U.S., blacks in America fall behind in income, employment and education. In New York City, black teens fall victim to stop-and-frisk harassment.

Locally, Westchester County remains embroiled in a bitter dispute about race — a disagreement between the federal government and the county over how fair and affordable housing is defined and marketed. Representatives of the Anti-Discrimination Center in New York City, along with the federal department of Housing and Urban Development, say the county needs to take more proactive measures to bring greater diversity to Westchester, particularly those communities — like Pound Ridge, Lewisboro and North Salem — with statistically negligible numbers of minority residents.

The county pretty much agrees in the need for parity, but the devil is in the details. Decisions about marketing and fair housing strategies are currently locked in the courts. Issues of whether zoning will play a role in the solution, whether landlords will be required to accept federal vouchers from home applicants, and how homes are to be marketed are all issues currently under debate. Resolution will not only require greater cooperation between County Executive Rob Astorino and his counterparts at the Westchester County Board of Legislators, but among leaders and residents of our towns.

This is already proving somewhat of a jolt. With the best of intentions, local governments have aimed to make our communities more affordable to those who may be priced out: longtime residents incapable of meeting rising property taxes; senior citizens looking

for more affordable or convenient living; and those of moderate income, many of who serve the community as police officers or teachers.

This shift in the affordable housing paradigm is a jolt to many who have worked so hard to establish avenues for seniors and volunteers. At a recent town board meeting, Pound Ridge attorney Jim Sullivan went so far as to call it “an assault on home rule.”

How the county and towns debate, and resolve, the settlement with the federal government will be largely interpreted as a discussion about race and integration. Dr. King might be disheartened to know that 45 years after his death there is so much that remains in dispute. At the same time he may have recognized that America’s history is one that is never strictly black, or white.

A milestone

This week, Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney said of Martin Luther King, “As we pause and reflect on the life and sacrifices of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Inauguration Day, we pay tribute to Dr. King’s legacy of uniting Americans of all races, cultures, religions and backgrounds. With his strength of character and resolve in the face of adversity, Dr. King created a more unified and free America, where many more Americans now have the opportunity to achieve the American Dream.”

Mr. Maloney, of our 18th Congressional District, gained his seat by defeating Republican Nan Hayworth in the November election. Mr. Maloney, who is openly gay, was sworn in to office on Jan. 3, accompanied by his partner Randy Florke and their three children.

We don’t want to make too much of this — Mr. Maloney doesn’t — but his triumph in its own way represents a milestone, especially for those of us who remember the terror that gays and lesbians faced in decades past — fear of being outed, managing a life of deception and, at times, periods of suicidal despair.

Today, discrimination, taunting or bullying can accompany a sexual choice. Mr. Maloney is not alone in Congress — there are six other openly gay representatives — and Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin is the first openly gay U.S. senator.

In his inauguration speech on Monday, President Obama eloquently spoke of our “journey” as Americans. “For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts,” Mr. Obama said. “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”

What more valuable message can be communicated to the American people?

Read more local coverage of your hometown in this week’s issue of the The Record-Review. Newsstand copies are available at several locations listed above, or subscribe today for convenient home delivery.

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Pound Ridge/Scotts Corners

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  3. Sam Parker Country Market — 257 Westchester Avenue    

Bedford Village

  1. Bedford Rexall Pharmacy — Hunting Ridge Mall; 424 Old Post Road  

  2. Village Green Deli — Village Green; Routes 22 and 172    

  3. Bedford Shell — Routes 22 and 172 (at blinking light); 848 So. Bedford Road

  4. Village Service Center —193 Pound Ridge Road (at Long Ridge Road intersection)    

Bedford Hills

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  2. Bueti’s Deli – 526 Bedford Road (Route 117)


  1. NoKA Joe’s – 25 Katonah Avenue    

  2. Steger’s Paper Mill – 89 Katonah Avenue    

  3. Katonah Pharmacy – Katonah Shopping Center; 294 Katonah Avenue   

  4. Bagel Shoppe – Katonah Shopping Center; 280 Katonah Avenue    

  5. Katonah Sunoco – 105 Bedford Road

Mount Kisco

  1. Teamo/Mt. Kisco News – 239 Main Street    

Cross River

  1. Bagel Boys Café – Cross River Shopping Center; Routes 121 and 35    

  2. Cross River Shell Station – Route 35    

  3. Cameron’s Deli –  890 Route 35    

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