Category Archives: Housing Discrimination

More on Poverty in Our City Centers

I sent an email to the editor of the local paper, The Post-Standard, telling them about the study by The Century Foundation entitled “Architecture of Segregation” which I had read on The Daily Beast website.

The study points out, the article in The Post-Standard states, that

“Syracuse has the highest rate of extreme poverty concentrated among blacks and Hispanics out of the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas, according to a new study of poverty in America.

The study is the latest to examine a decades-long trend in Syracuse, where the city has consistently ranked as having one of the highest poverty rates in the nation.

The analysis of census data by a Rutgers University professor shows that extreme poverty continues to spread unabated out of Syracuse’s core to the city’s Near South, Near Southwest and North Side.

In 2000, Syracuse had nine “extreme poverty” neighborhoods, defined as census tracts where more than 40 percent of residents live in poverty.

By 2010, Syracuse had 19 such neighborhoods, according to a 2011 study by the Brookings Institution.

Now the number of high-poverty tracts in Syracuse totals 30, according to Paul Jargowsky the Rutgers University-Camden professor who published the study with The Century Foundation.

“The general trend is that there is a spreading out of poverty,” Jargowsky said in an interview. “That is happening all over the place. But I didn’t know Syracuse was going to stand out the way it did.” “

You can read the entire article here:

The original article and The Post-Standard article both talk about the fact that when neighborhoods became diverse, white people moved further away and suburban sprawl got further and further from the city center. People in these increasingly distant suburbs wanted the convenience of public infrastructure like city water and being connected to the same sewage grid used by city dwellers (although the infrastructure was clearly much newer). These folks had good salaries and could pay enough taxes to make government responsive to their needs. As more and more tax dollars were spent further from the city center and as the city center emptied out infrastructure in the center of the city was neglected and deteriorated from age and use. When folks left behind in the center city tried to follow white people to the suburbs they found themselves locked out (or locked in). Partly this was because they were poorer than those who left for the suburbs, and partly it was due to actual exclusionary practices.

For these and similar reasons, The Century Foundation study under the direction of Paul Jargowsky (Rutgers) is pointing out this information so that we can find ways to change this paralysis in our center cities. Syracuse is not alone in this situation, although we may be No. 1, perhaps because we are not a rich city, but I believe that we also share in all of the other ways that white people have found to pretend that they are not racist. If you want to see what I mean register on so you can read the comments of my fellow Syracuse residents who appear to have been brainwashed by Fox News et al and who are Exhibit A in what passes for extreme right wing logic which says that the liberals and the victims are to blame and that this city poverty trap is the result of liberal programs that support the poor and allow them to survive without working. I apologize in advance for their ignorance and their inability to hold an original thought.

The problems with writing off this study as delineating a condition that is ‘someone else’s problem’, is that there are and will be repercussions if this situation continues. It is wrong and we need to tackle the beast and find a way to make America better. Here’s what one of our city officials had to say:

‘Paul Driscoll, Syracuse’s commissioner of neighborhood and business development, said city officials are disturbed by the study’s findings. But he said officials cannot explain why the city seems to be lagging the rest of the nation in reducing its poverty.

“We are all struggling to understand why Syracuse is getting hit worse than other cities,” Driscoll said in an interview. “We’re just looking to address what cities can do to address poverty. We’re finding we’re pretty limited in what we can do. We deal with the consequences at the local level, but a lot of these problems have to be dealt with at the state and federal level.” ‘

I hope this will not be our only response to the information in this study. We live in a city that is home to an important private university. We are a city full of architects (award-winning) and engineers. Certainly a committee could be formed to look for some creative ways to address this stubborn inequality in our community. If it was caused mainly by housing issues and unwillingness to live in mixed race communities then people who deal with housing issues might be exactly the people who can find a way out of this. Once some professional approaches have been discussed and designs produced, perhaps community people (those stuck in poverty) could be invited into the group to go over the plans and offer input. I hope this study does not just plop down with a big thud on our doorsteps and then disappear.

We have all been getting glimpses of what will happen if we do not tackle this now. I do not think that our stranded, poor, neighbors are about to accept much more of being overlooked and over-prosecuted and being deprived of opportunities to succeed. These issues falls into the category of “pay now or pay later” and if we wait until later the price will only get higher. Pretend you are so intimidated by poor minority people that you will do almost anything to defuse the situation. Perhaps that is the only way these folks will get their due.

The New York Times also had an article about this topic. Here’s the link:

Think, everyone, think!

By Nancy Brisson