The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) received $1 million dollars to install security cameras within public housing throughout Harlem in 2012, and they never did it. Due to this negligence, Olivia Brown, a 23-year-old college student and public housing resident was brutally shot and killed in the East Harlem housing project neighborhood. Her mother sued NYCHA for a wrongful-death lawsuit, where lawyers for NYCHA claimed she should have known the risks of living there.
Not only did they negate her death by claiming she should have known the risk factors associated with living in public housing, according to the latest court reports, city lawyers stated to her mom that she “doesn’t deserve a dime from the city.”
Because of finances and housing location, the city is trying to blame Olivia for her own murder. But what happened to all the money that was supposed to go toward improving security in the projects? The city knows the projects are dangerous, yet they turn a blind eye to NYCHA not providing adequate safety for residents.
The big question though is: What about the fact that the entire public housing situation was established based on community segregation control? The fact of the matter is, income based- government assistance housing was developed so not everyone would be able to live there. Eligibility is based on your income. Statistically speaking, black and Latino women earn less than their white counterparts and far less than men in general.
So is there a larger issue at hand? Are minorities and low-income families being singled out and purposely placed in these neighborhoods? Let’s take a trip through our history books, shall we?
Community segregation control dates all the way back to the National Housing Act of 1934. This act established the Federal Housing Administration and the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, which was the agency that created “residential security maps.” This allowed home buyers and real-estate agents to determine the safety of real-estate investments in certain areas. This led to something that was called redlining. Redlining is the practice of increasing costs for residents in a defined geographical area or denying essential services to keep minorities out of certain neighborhoods and forcing them to move into different geographic locations.
Redlining, primarily against black families, along with denying them loans, increasing prices on homes depending on race, and widespread employment discrimination, forces them into working low-wage jobs. Public-housing neighborhoods have been designed to fail from the get-go. They have been designed to keep certain groups impoverished and relying on other means to support their families. As a nation, we have created inner-city poverty. The racist laws of our great nation are responsible for the death of Olivia Brown. Since her death, a police watchtower has been installed and security has been heightened.
However, that doesn’t change the fact that had our country’s laws been more equal to all groups of people, Olivia may still be with us. So maybe her death wasn’t entirely the fault of a corrupt NYCHA system. But I don’t think Olivia’s family would be able to sue systemic racism, the real culprit, in a court of law.
Image: NY Daily News