Making Cities Safe Through Racial and Class Cleansing


By Mark Naison

As I have been thinking about the growing prevalence of Broken Windows Policing, stop and frisk, and other law enforcement strategies that keep young people of color pinned in their neighborhoods, and in some parts of NYC, pinned in their housing projects, I cannot help look at some of the other things going on in New York neighborhoods where those young people are now conspicuously absent.

The places which come to mind  are Central Park, Fifth Avenue,  Times Square, Greenwich Village, the High Line and the Meat Packing District, Battery Park City, and the area around what was once the Twin Towers.  No where, in these places, which are now major centers of global tourism, will you see large groups of young people from outer borough working class neighborhoods unless they are coming-heavily chaperoned- on a school trip. The police presence in these areas, and in the subway stations which service them, is so large and intimidating that young people of color fear to enter these areas some of which were once havens for people from their communities. Another factor may also be at work- as poor people get pushed further and further to the periphery of the city, or out of it entirely, the travel time to these places is getting longer and longer.

We also need to look at the housing market in large portions of Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn. More and more of these areas have become the sites of luxury apartment towers where the majority of apartments will be kept as “pied a terres” or investments by extremely wealthy people from all over the globe.  Why have they chosen New York to make their investment in? Could some of it be that the city is so heavily policed that they feel safer here than in other great metropolises where the poor are kept less confined and ghettoized?

If you think about both of these developments, the emergence of New York as a prime center of global tourism and real estate investment, you can see why policing that performs the task of racial and class cleansing has been retained by the DeBlasio Administration even after denouncing its operation during the Bloomberg administration.

No one wants to kill the goose which lays the golden egg and brings dollars to the city, even if the price is keeping young people of color intimidated, ghettoized and pinned in their outer borough neighborhoods.

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