A riveting policy chronicle and cautionary tale that illustrates the urgency of rethinking our public housing policy. A federal judge orders the city of Yonkers, NY, to desegregate by moving hundreds of its poor minority residents into public housing on the middle-class (read white) side of town. The white folks are not pleased. Like a journalist covering a war zone, New York Times reporter Belkin (First, Do No Harm, 1993) vividly follows the battle as Yonkers residents split angrily on this emotional issue. She also assesses the battle's toll on various people. Rising political star Nick Wasicsko, after becoming the country's youngest mayor at age 28 and a finalist for a Profile in Courage Award for his actions during the legal battle, ultimately kills himself, feeling he's a political has-been. Billie Rowan, mother of three, loses her piece of the American dream after her lover, a former prison inmate, settles into her new house while on probation, eventually causing her eviction and despair. Doreen James, single mother, seeks solace in crack after her husband's untimely death, months into her pregnancy—until winning the housing lottery gives her a boost and a leadership position among the tenants. Older white housewife Mary Dorman vehemently opposes the ruling at first, working hard on the campaign to overturn it. But after it passes and she becomes a liaison at the housing unit to help the tenants get acclimated to their new lives, Dorman has an epiphany: Despite their different skin color and background, "those people" share the same concerns as herself and her white, middle-class neighbors. While that sounds trite, the subject matter is anything but. For Belkin makes concrete the human consequences of an issue too often left to policy wonks. A deeply illuminating look into the problems and possibilities of public housing.
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