FOREST HILLS DIARY: The Crisis of Low-Income Housing by Mario Cuomo

FOREST HILLS DIARY: The Crisis of Low-Income Housing

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Forest Hills is a part of New York City occupied largely by white working-class families whose most vocal spokesmen and/or pseudo-spokesmen didn't welcome the idea of a low-income public housing project in their midst. Cuomo, who identifies the sentiment as not racist but anti-welfare and anti-crime, served as the mayor's ""fact-finder"" in the storm's eye. Rumor and rhetoric created their own reality, as urban specialist Richard Sennett points out in his afterword; Cuomo had trouble scrounging up many advocates -- ""a 'black' voice"" -- for the project. Some people asked, ""Why don't they spend the money in the bombed-out areas [like Bedford-Stuyvesant or the South Bronx]?"" but court decisions commanded scatter-site housing. Whether or not by intention, the issue created a laboratory where we, and the discreet, engaging lawyer Cuomo, as well as higher powers, can study the chemistry of manipulating and dividing people to fight for less housing, which keeps them from uniting to improve everyone's standard of living. Cuomo himself finally calls it ""a battle over scraps.

Pub Date: June 12th, 1974
Publisher: Random House