East Yonkers : Residents’ Reactions
to the Desegregation Case
historical Accounts of adverse behavior
The city of Yonkers is not new to prejudicial attitudes. Lisa Belkin’s book Show Me a Hero notes that since its purchase from the Native American by founding father Andrien Van Donck, or Lord Jonge Herr, in 1646, Yonkers has grown as the United States has changed with the arrival and influence of different races. Originally a suburb of New York City, Yonkers grew as railroad lines extended north, and by 1912, the city had become the most significant industrial center in Westchester County with 129 factories. However, the two most important industries, the Otis Elevator Company and the Alexander Smith Carpet Mills, either hired minorities to work in the undesirable conditions or not at all. Discrimination for minorities not only developed in the work place but also in housing developments. As immigrants moved to this city and worked their way up the social ladder, they eventually moved east to live with other rich or middle-class white citizens while simultaneously escaping the poor, urban west part of town. Also with the completion of the Saw Mill River Parkway in 1926, which bisected the city between the east and west sides, the division between the white middle-class and poor minorities became more prominent. Even before 1964, the city had stopped erecting public housing, and in 1988, the southwest quadrant of Yonkers contained 97.7% of all the public housing and 80.7% of the city’s minority population. The only semi-success story for minorities in Yonkers belongs to the all-black suburb Runyon Heights, which is located in the northeast part of town. However, Runyon Heights only surfaced because the land’s excessively rocky ground prevented builders from constructing suitable houses for whites. And to add to the ignorance of the neighboring white middle-class, they had the final choice between a black neighborhood and a Jewish cemetery, which led to an unanimous decision that “it [was] better to live next to Negroes than dead Jews”. Yonkers citizens have always had the mindset of living with those who conform to White culture, making the distinction between those who have class and culture and those who could never attain them. Yonkers would have kept the status quo if it were not for Judge Sand.
 Lisa Belkin, Show Me a Hero: The Story of an Urban Tragedy - and of the Housing Revolution That Is Changing America's Neighborhoods . (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1999), 24-27.
 Ibid., 25.
 Ibid., 25.