Land Use

New York Times Revisits "Negroes Filling Up 99th Street" (And Features Reason.tv's Recent Documentary)

|

The New York Times has a story today about the historic black enclave on Manhattan's Upper West Side that was destroyed by the government in the 1950s, and my recent Reason.tv documentary on the topic, The Tragedy of Urban Renewal:

From about 1905 until the 1950s, West 98th and 99th Streets constituted a vibrant, predominantly African-American community that was something of a miniature Harlem, with its own Renaissance.

Philip A. Payton Jr., a real estate entrepreneur who wanted to end housing segregation, owned or managed most of the buildings on those blocks. The singer Billie Holiday lived there for a time, as did Arthur A. Schomburg, the historian and writer whose collection of art, manuscripts and photographs became the foundation for the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Other residents included the author Rosa Guy and the actor Robert Earl Jones, the father of James Earl Jones. The actress Butterfly McQueen lived there for a time, and later in Park West Village.

"You could not imagine the talented people who lived in the old neighborhood," said Jim Torain, 69, who for the past decade has organized the reunions of what he calls the Old Community; the words were written in green frosting on the cake.

Title I of the Housing Act of 1949 set in motion the obliteration of the neighborhood. Robert Moses, in his position as chairman of the New York City Slum Clearance Committee, condemned the area, largely on the basis of median household income. It was razed piecemeal through the 1950s, and much of it sat as rubble until the early 1960s when the Park West Village apartments were built for middle-income residents.

The last time the Times wrote an article about the 99th and 98th Street community was 1905 in a piece headlined Negroes Filling up 99th Street:

A constant stream of furniture trucks loaded with the household efects of a new colony of colored people who are invading the choice locality is pouring into the street…Meanwhile some rich colored men had held a meeting and decided that there was no reason why the people of their race who could afford it should not live in the aristocratic sections of the city…

Philip Payton and his investors are the unnamed "rich colored men" in the article. Payton probably wanted to end residential segregation for moral and principled reasons. But he had other motives, too. His company prospectus states: "The very prejudice which has heretofore worked against us can be turned and used to our profit."

Payton understood that in a free economy, the larger your customer base the more money you can make. As economist Thomas Sowell puts it in Basic Economics, "when a landlord refuses to rent an apartment to people from the 'wrong' group, that can mean leaving the apartment vacant longer. Clearly this means a loss of rent—if this is a free market."

For more, check out the Reason.tv video on Payton and the West 99th and 98th Street community:

Advertisement

NEXT: Rick Perry Campaign Releases Terrifying Romneycare Ad

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. C’mon, statists… defend this.

    1. Oh, and if White Indian shows up again, he needs to be reminded that his ancestors also owned black slaves.

      1. Then complain about the trolls.
        OK, go.

  2. “…condemned the area, largely on the basis of median household income.”
    _
    obviously teh [FREEZE] markets objectively decided to pay blacks less.

  3. Can someone explain to me how the democrats convinced most blacks that they were on their side? The racist bastards have screwed over the black community at nearly every opportunity “for their own good.”

    1. It was necessary to destroy the community to save it. Surely you see the logic involved.

    2. Can someone explain to me how the democrats convinced most blacks that they were on their side?

      Cause the dixicrats changed sides…loudly…and the republicans let’em in.

  4. Robert Moses, in his position as chairman of the New York City Slum Clearance Committee

    Read his biography in A Child’s Guide to Progressive Thought and Deed.

    ——–

    Meanwhile some rich colored men had held a meeting and decided that there was no reason why the people of their race who could afford it should not live in the aristocratic sections of the city…

    A horse terrorist of a different color, hey?

  5. My only complaint: The New York Times has a story today….

    Why do you bother with the power-worshipping lewinsky press?

    Leave that to the National Review wannabes.

  6. As economist Thomas Sowell puts it in Basic Economics, “when a landlord refuses to rent an apartment to people from the ‘wrong’ group, that can mean leaving the apartment vacant longer. Clearly this means a loss of rent?if this is a free market.

    Not necessarily…or at least, no greater loss of rent than a reduction in the livability and property values of the area that can result from renting to the “wrong” group.

    If you rent to a group of (whatever) out of the goodness of your integration-minded little heart, and they do what they usually do (which is live like animals and destroy your property), then not only do you lose whatever gain you made (by renting right away to the first renters that came along) by paying for repairs, but your tenants’ nuisance, crime, and filth might lower the property values of the area, resulting in you getting lower rents for the property in the future.

    When it comes to property rental, a larger customer base isn’t necessarily desirable. Some of the grand old Park Avenue highrises obviously have a very narrow customer base…but look at the rents they are able to charge precisely because of their exclusivity, and the exclusivity of other units in the neighborhood.

    1. Given any particular $ figure in market rent, white people are just as likely as any other race to destroy your property.

      Property destruction is largely a function of renting to poor young families, and not a function of renting to any particular race.

  7. Wait, was that man at the 3:28 mark in the video smoking? That neighborhood should have been cleared if for nothing else than the public health aspect.

  8. Eminent domain abuse is horrible.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.