Battle for Bed-Stuy: The Long War on Poverty in New York by Michael Woodsworth

By Michael Woodsworth

Part a century after the release of the warfare on Poverty, its complicated origins stay imprecise. conflict for Bed-Stuy reinterprets President Lyndon Johnson’s much-debated campaign from the viewpoint of its foot squaddies in ny urban, exhibiting how Nineteen Sixties antipoverty courses have been rooted in a wealthy neighborhood culture of grassroots activism and coverage experiments.

Bedford-Stuyvesant, a Brooklyn local housing 400,000 in most cases black, usually terrible citizens, used to be usually categorised “America’s greatest ghetto.” yet in its stylish brownstones lived a coterie of home-owning pros who campaigned to stem sickness and unify the neighborhood. appearing as agents among politicians and the road, Bed-Stuy’s black center classification labored with urban officers within the Fifties and Nineteen Sixties to craft leading edge responses to adolescence crime, actual decay, and capital flight. those partnerships laid the basis for the federal neighborhood motion application, the debatable centerpiece of the battle on Poverty. Later, Bed-Stuy activists teamed with Senator Robert Kennedy to create America’s first neighborhood improvement company, which pursued housing renewal and enterprise investment.

Bed-Stuy’s antipoverty projects introduced wish amid darkish days, bolstered the social safeguard internet, and democratized city politics by means of fostering citizen participation in govt. additionally they empowered ladies like Elsie Richardson and Shirley Chisholm, who translated their event as neighborhood organizers into management positions. but, as Michael Woodsworth finds, those new kinds of black political strength, although exercised within the identify of negative humans, usually did extra to learn middle-class householders. Bed-Stuy this day, formed via gentrification and displacement, displays the paradoxical legacies of midcentury reform.

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Finally, it was in 1955 that Blackboard Jungle, a tale of New York City juvenile delinquents, hit theaters; meanwhile, Steven Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein, and Arthur Laurents began collaborating on West Side Story. Teen gangs, objects both of fear and of romance, had permeated the culture. 34 “An Affront to Our Principles” If one man gave voice to the national obsession with juvenile delinquency, it was New York Mayor Robert F. , who served from 1954 to 1965. Despite the Youth Board’s efforts, Wagner often warned that his city could explode in an orgy of racially motivated youth violence, and he continually lobbied federal officials for antigang funds.

The thirty-five members included priests, policemen, shopkeepers, teachers, and parents. At first, their mandate was to supervise Laughlin’s street work and raise funds for the Brewery Rats’ clubhouse. After two years, Laughlin bowed out, his mission accomplished, and the neighborhood council began working directly with representatives of the Brewery Boys. The council also drummed up community support for a campaign to clean up streets, whose deterioration they blamed in part for teen violence.

But Tompkins Park was not only a battleground for bat-wielding teens; it also loomed as a symbolic battleground for the reformers struggling to reassert a sense of order, community cohesion, and sovereignty over public space. 14 22 A Suitcase Full of Knives To lead the Tompkins Park project, BCSP turned to Leo Laughlin, a streetwise social worker in his late twenties. Laughlin came on as a “detached worker,” meaning he would operate outside the traditional structures of settlement houses and social-work agencies.

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