Brick by Brick Title

desegregation timeline

Pre-19701970-19801980-19851985-1990 1990-20002000-2006

Pre-1970

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1920-1940: The only African American neighborhood outside of Southwest Yonkers grows in an area isolated from neighboring areas. Runyon Heights neighborhood is founded on a large tract of land by a state senator who regularly brings busloads of blacks from Harlem for picnics at which parcels of land are auctioned off to them. Runyon Heights is bounded to the north by a white neighborhood called Homefield.

The original deeds for many Homefield properties contain restrictive covenants prohibiting the sale of such properties to minority owners, and as Runyon Heights develops, the Homefield Neighborhood Association purchases and maintains a 4-foot strip of land as a barrier between the streets of the two neighborhoods. All roads between the two communities have dead-ends at the barrier.

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1940-1980: 7,000 units of public housing are built in Yonkers, NY. 97% of public housing is built in a one square mile area of Southwest Yonkers. An informal City Council veto over unwanted projects in each Councilor's home district keeps all but senior citizen housing out of other areas of the city.

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Federal monies for Section 8 voucher funds that might be used by low-income tenants to help pay rent outside Southwest Yonkers are refused by the local City Council.

1980 - 1985

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Early 1980's: Efforts to settle the suit out of court fail continually as the Yonkers city council refuses to offer more than a promise not to discriminate in future housing placement. The desegregation issue becomes more politically explosive. City Councilors on the east side of town are elected on platforms of no settlement and of opposing NAACP demands.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, also a defendant in the case, settles out of court and agrees to finance the construction of 200 units of public housing outside of Southwest Yonkers.

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1981: As the case goes forward, the Yonkers NAACP joins the suit as a plaintiff / intervenor, citing the Reagan administration's reluctance to pursue desegregation cases and the difference in its standards of enforcement.

Reagan’s Justice Department drops all but a handful of the Carter administration’s desegregation cases. They continue with Yonkers case and a handful of others.

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1983: Trial of US v. Yonkers begins. In a lengthy proceeding, witnesses testify to discrimination against African American students in Yonkers schools. Other witnesses detail links in public hearings and Council meetings between the location of public housing in Yonkers and discussion of racial composition of tenants in the proposed housing.

1970 - 1980

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1974: Yonkers NAACP President Winston Ross brings racial segregation in public schools to the attention of the Board of Education. Ross notes the isolation of minority students in the Southwest of the city. Parents in Southwest Yonkers organize around improving schools in their neighborhoods. Concerns under this general issue include class size, teacher assignment of least qualified to minority schools, lack of facilities, differing approaches to discipline and academic v. vocational tracking.

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Mid-1970s: The Task Force on Quality Education is created in order to address racial imbalance in the school system. Contentious hearings are held across the city as the Task Force brings concerns over school segregation to light. The Task Force becomes a point of contention in the mayoral election. Newly elected Mayor Martinelli pledges to dismantle the Task Force, vowing to prevent busing or changes to neighborhood schools. Martinelli dissolves Task Force before group is able to issue their final report. Mayor Martinelli also replaces school board members who favor adjusting the neighborhood school policy with members hostile to Task Force goals.

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1978: Seeing no progress with respect to their concerns, Yonkers NAACP files charges of discrimination with state and national officials.

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1980: In the waning days of the Carter administration, the Justice Department files suit against the City of Yonkers, et al. The suit ties the decisions behind building and maintaining 7,000 units of public housing within one square mile to the segregation of Yonkers’ schools.

1985 - 1990

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1985: After a lengthy trial, Yonkers is found to have intentionally caused the segregation of its schools and public housing in the city. Federal District Judge Leonard Sand's ruling holds that institutional discrimination in housing is linked to school segregation. Sand writes a 600-page decision detailing the evidence against the City and the Board of Education. An excerpt: [t]he record clearly demonstrates that race has had a chronic and pervasive influence on decisions related to the location of subsidized housing in Yonkers.

Overwhelming evidence of private housing discrimination and discriminatory actions in the school system are cited in the decision as well. The City of Yonkers decides to appeal the courts ruling.

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1986: The Board of Education's remedy ends the city’s neighborhood school policy. The Board of Education devises a magnet school program to address the order to end school segregation. Innovative programs draw children to citywide schools focused on programs like computers, rapid learning, and Montessori techniques.

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A housing remedy is also discussed with the City Council. No resolution is in sight and negotiations continue into 1987. Judge Sand appoints a housing expert, Oscar Newman, to assist in locating potential housing sites, with or without the Council’s cooperation.

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September 1986: Schools open peacefully under magnet program. The State of New York is required to help desegregation costs for the magnet program.

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1987: Mayor Wasiscko and a new majority of City Council members are elected on a platform of appealing the discrimination case and resisting a housing remedy. Low-income housing is the focus of most resistance.

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1987: Yonkers loses its federal appeal in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals; the panel of three judges, including two conservative Reagan appointees, agrees unanimously to uphold Judge Sand's order. Satisfied that the city has lost the case, the Mayor Wasiscko reverses course and attempts to forge a coalition to comply with the remedy order.


1988: On a 5 to 2 vote, the City Council signs a consent decree with U.S. Dept of Justice and the Yonkers NAACP on a housing remedy. The Council agrees to provide 7 sites for 200 units of public housing, scattering townhouse units of low income housing across the East Side of Yonkers. They also agree to build 800 units of affordable housing with incentives to developers of all new market-rate housing constructed in the city to include affordable units. A huge outcry erupts from Eastside homeowners' groups, most focused against the low-income housing. Fears that high-rises will overwhelm East Yonkers abound.

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August 1988: On a procedural vote required for the new housing, the City Council balks, voting 4 to 3 to rescind its support for the binding consent decree, claiming Judge Sand has overstepped his authority. Judge Sand finds the dissenting Councilors and the City of Yonkers in contempt and begins fining the city. The resulting fines double each day that the Councilors remain in contempt. He orders personal fines and jail time for the Councilors who forced contempt. The fines are stayed as they appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

As resistance continues, the U.S. Supreme Court backs Sand. The Supreme Court refuses to modify the remedy order except that the personal fines and potential jail time for the Councilors are voided. Fines against the city are allowed to continue and double daily. A one million-dollar per day cap is implemented by the Supreme Court.

The City Council continues to vote against zoning changes for over a month and the fines are soon to reach one million dollars per day.

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September 1988: City libraries are closed as contempt fines drain City's budget. Garbage pickups are curtailed as well. City automobiles are left in lots without fuel. Contempt by the Council majority continues.


September 9, 1988: With 500 city employees about to be laid off, garbage collection suspended, libraries closed, and the city on the verge of bankruptcy, the City Council changes its vote. The housing plan is approved by a 5 to 2 vote amidst loud protests from organized opposition.


1989: New York State and Urban Development Corp of NY State added as defendants in US v. Yonkers.

1990 - 2000

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1988-1992: After numerous delays by the Yonkers City Council, 200 units of townhouse-style public housing are built on several sites throughout East Yonkers.

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January 1992: A small bomb is detonated on one site under construction; no one is injured and the damage is not significant enough to delay the site's opening.

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June 1992: The first occupants move into housing in East Yonkers under heavy security. No visible opposition materializes and life in townhouse developments becomes routine quickly.


1992-1997: City leaders oppose through delay the building or placement of affordable housing in East Yonkers (part 2 of remedy order). The Court's Office of Fair Housing Implementation is hamstrung by a lack of cooperation and the 800 units of affordable housing remain on the drawing board. City claims the Fair Housing Office is to blame.


1993: A settlement agreement is reached in a separate federal case filed on behalf of low-income minority renters that followed the factual findings of the US v. Yonkers court decision. Through this settlement, an additional 450 families (as of 2006) from Southwest Yonkers have used housing vouchers to move to non-racially concentrated neighborhoods throughout Westchester. This program, known as ESOP, has not met the kind of resistance the building of low-income housing in East Yonkers did. ESOP utilizes existing housing stock in the county.

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1997: Newly elected Mayor Spencer comes into office promising to work with the Court to put the housing situation right. Control of the affordable housing portion of the remedy order is given over to the city; the number of units required is lowered from 800 to 600 and the units are allowed to be purchased from existing housing as well as newly constructed. The city agrees to acquire or build 100 units per year until the affordable housing order is fulfilled.

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1997-2000: State of New York is found liable for its role in segregation of Yonkers schools and is required to pay 1/2 of Yonkers costs for desegregation efforts.

The State of New York appeals to end its responsibility to pay education costs in Yonkers. The State claims not to be responsible for eradicating "vestiges of segregation." Programs in Yonkers schools to boost reading and remedial education are affected.

Mayor Spencer and the Yonkers NAACP lock horns over housing and education issues. Spencer’s new School Superintendent begins his term supporting the Mayor on dispensing with a plan called EIP II to attack vestiges of segregation.

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1998: The State of New York enters into a consent decree to settle its liability under US v. Yonkers and agrees to fund costs related to affordable housing in Yonkers. The State will pay for many costs related to acquisition and construction of affordable and mixed-income housing in East Yonkers and for court monitor fees under this agreement. Funds to be paid are estimated at over $8.5 million.

2000 - 2006

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2000: State and Yonkers authorities negotiate to end the lawsuit against New York State on education. The Yonkers NAACP is cut out of discussions. Yonkers Superintendent of Schools Andre Hornsby breaks with Mayor Spencer and speaks out against letting New York State be exempted. Hornsby is fired over this and other issues.

State and Yonkers negotiations bear no fruit and Judge orders State contributions to education costs be paid.

After experimentation with local control of the affordable housing program Mayor Spencer refuses to accept race as criteria for allocating housing units. Court requires Yonkers to make affordable housing available to African-American and Hispanic families as originally intended under remedy order. Only roughly 175 units of affordable housing have been awarded under Yonkers' control so far.

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2001: Yonkers appeals the Court's affordable housing order. Yonkers claims race should not be a factor.

2nd Circuit Court of Appeals upholds Judge Sand on affordable housing availability to African-American and Hispanic residents.

The City of Yonkers announces it will appeal the Circuit Court decision to the U. S. Supreme Court. Mayor Spencer claims the City should get credit towards its target for all white families housed under their version of the affordable program. Yonkers has been given credit by the court with only 200 units total since the program began in 1997. Since 1997, Yonkers has never made available its own stated goal of 100 units per year to qualifying families.

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2006: Yonkers remains short of full compliance with the affordable housing program and is still negotiating with the plaintiffs. Parts of East Yonkers are, however, much more integrated than before the lawsuit, especially around the public housing built during the 1990's.

Yonkers schools, which are no longer under oversight, are continually underfunded and have over the years become far less competitive with the county's other systems. Many parents have pulled children out of the system as a result.