Why Won’t State Leaders Tackle Connecticut’s Housing Segregation?

Merly
Larry Merly, city attorney during the Bucci mayoral years, protested housing segregation.

When Larry Merly served as city attorney under Mayor Tom Bucci 1985-89 he was well ahead of his time.

He’d assert that large-acre discriminatory zoning in the suburbs forced the heavy concentration of public housing, tax-exempt property and social institutions into the city.

The way to preserve the suburban lifestyle, he argued, is to wall up all the social issues in cities.

Merly is hardly a liberal lion. When city attorney he was a classic Ronald Reagan Democrat. He argued it was disquieting for white folks from the ‘burbs, many posturing one thing but doing another, to address housing segregation. Instead they quietly enacted zoning regulations under the guise of quality of life that barred poorer interests, impacting mostly black and brown faces.

A roaring social schism, bubbling for years, uncorked a wave of protests across the country, when the knee of a white cop took the life of a black man pleading to breathe.

These are emotional times that can lead to emotional decisions. Merly, however, jawboned his beliefs when few talked about it. Open up the borders for fairness and dignity of others unfairly shoe-horned with limited choices. The cost for all urban residents he said was breathtaking, adding the words “affordable housing” terrified suburban bigots embracing housing segregation. Merly said if the governor and state legislature won’t do anything about it maybe a court should decide.

All these years later, Connecticut Mirror reporter Jacqueline Rabe Thomas splits open the issue in this report: Connecticut has an opportunity to tackle housing segregation. It appears to be taking a pass.

On a recent Sunday, protesters marched through the center of Weston, a small, wealthy town in southwest Connecticut. They chanted “no justice, no peace” and raised handwritten signs that read “Black Lives Matter” and “Silence is Violence.”

Somewhere in the crowd, Brian Murray hoisted his own message.

“Fact check: Weston, CT. No Black teachers. No Black police officers. No Black board members. No Black town of Weston government office members.”

Murray, one of the town’s few Black residents, viewed the June 7 protest through a different lens than his white neighbors.

“It was a photo opportunity. That’s all,” said Murray, a limo driver and father of five who moved his family to the town eight years ago.

Eight days after that protest, at which elected officials urged the overwhelmingly white crowd to fight racism, Weston officials turned their attention to housing. With a unanimous vote, they adopted the town’s strategic plan, which recommends keeping most development to single-family homes on lots of at least two acres, a requirement that has resulted in a typical sale price of $660,000–and a lack of diversity. Just 1.4% of residents are Black. Local officials rejected a suggestion to convert a vacant property into affordable housing for seniors. Instead, they carved out a small area of land surrounding the town green for potential development.

“Fundamentally, this is who we have been for a long time,” said Ken Edgar, the chairman of Weston’s Planning and Zoning Commission, referring to the town’s large homes. “We are trying to move the ball, but there would have to be demonstrated interest before I think we move the ball further and build diverse housing on small lots.”

Full story here.

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14 comments

  1. Totally agree with Larry Merly’s observations from the Bucci days. Those Reagan Dems were far better than today’s Dems!

    Amazed at all the marches/demonstrations in Greenwich, Westport, Weston, Fairfield, etc. Bunch of hypocrites.

    As Weston’s Brian Murray was quoted in your posting regarding their march, “No Black teachers. No Black police officers. No Black board members. No Black town of Weston government office members.” Weston pols sanctimoniously lecturing the crowd to fight racism and eight days later voted for maintaining zoning that dooms diversity.

    I get it. Many moved out of Bridgeport and other cities for whatever reason; privacy, lower crime, better schools lower taxes, etc. The last thing they want is having what they moved away from, move next door.

    Frankly it’s not all racism but equally due to economics. They’d be perfectly happy living next to a Black or Latino family in their own $660K house next door. They just don’t want to be near the poor and the attending issues.

    Unfortunately CT segregation will never change failing an epic court victory. Suburban legislators will never let it happen. Much less trouble to have a march/demonstration, showcase how they’re down with the cause and then let it fade away.

    The cities are in pretty lousy shape for decades, all led by Democrats with overwhelmingly Democrat voters.. The CT State House is all run by Democrats that perpetuate this economic apartheid that continues punishing cities. Yet Bridgeport and the other cities all continue to vote overwhelmingly for Democrats.

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  2. This is a great topic that merits more conversation and debate. The truth is that Zoning Regulations have long been the tools for segragation and creating social inequities. This practice dates back to red lining and banks using Holc maps to make funding decisions for loans.

    If elected to State Representative of the 130th Distirct, I will absolutely take on the issue and create partnerships to advance legislation. I will also look to address affordable housing from a a different lens beyond just development, we need to explore the cost of living in Connecticut and why were are paying more for basic goods, services, and utiltiies.

    Come out and Vote in the August 11th primary

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  3. The genteel racism that keeps Fairfield County as “Fairfield County” — where there is the place that dare not be spoken, and the rest of “Fairfield County” — will never allow anything resembling true integration and social equality to prevail within its borders, and within which the socioeconomic status quo will continue to be deliberately maintained… The BLM-social justice sympathy of the elite zip codes of Fairfield County is maintainable only through social and geographic distancing… This has been true since the days of the Underground Railroad and will continue to be true until cataclysmic political change occurs in the US. And even then, it won’t be something that will be necessarily become a permanent fixture…

    If we look at history and look at how long the same ethnic, racial, and religious conflicts have been persisting around the world, we have to realize that racist-elitist segregation in Fairfield County/Connecticut and the rest of the US will only be tempered by a forever, labor-intensive fight and the slow social evolution of our country/culture that such a struggle plays into…

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  4. People live where they do because they want to, mostly. They feel comfortable living among people like themselves whether it’s ethnic, religious, economic or whatever. All these “theories” about whatever are bullshit. Why have not local governments taken advantage of the 2008 housing crisis and purchase all the foreclosed “zombies” homes and turn them into affordable housing? Why aren’t you asking THAT question? Where is the outcry? That’s something that would have been easily done. Instead, politicians and bleeding heart liberals just want to continue the talking points and therefore keep the people affected on there side. Tell them what they want to hear but never have an intention of actually helping them.
    They are all full of shit as are many political junkies. Politics is not government. The failure of this generation is just that. Lots of talk and no action.
    Cheers!!!!!

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  5. This is the dumbest shit I have ever read in my life! Only a true fool would believe this garbage!
    “People live where they do because they want to, mostly. They feel comfortable living among people like themselves whether it’s ethnic, religious, economic or whatever.”

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    1. Yes and I guess you’re just too stupid to read beyond the first line and figure the rest of it out. But you don’t have an answer for the rest of it do you,so who’s the fool? Why don’t you ask GANIM Deblasio, Rahm , and any of the rest of the leaders of the major cities in the country? Ask them why they haven’t invested for the people that they supposedly represent. They are all full of shit just like you. You can keep up your dialogue just the same as those mayors keep up their dialogue. It has gotten you and the people you say you’re concerned about very far hasn’t it?
      You and those that think and complain like you are all sad individuals that will NEVER accomplish anything for the very same people that you say You are most concerned about. If not for those people who are successful and have donated plenty towards good causes I dare say that the people you say you’re concerned about would have even less. You have a voice and a social platform and you still always just go back to the same old rhetoric just like the politicians do. We people of moderate means want to see change and help in addition to the wealthy, but we are not willing to turn our back on capitalism. So stop asking for the moon because this country will never except socialism and that’s what you’re talking about having. Only a fool would think otherwise.

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  6. Donald Day – Of course people live where they want to and of course most people including myself want to live near people they’re comfortable with. I don’t want to live in a poor neighborhood surrounded by poorly-maintained, slumlord-owned multi-families. And I want my kids to get a good education as well.

    But by waiting to have kids until educated, married and working, we were able to live in great Bridgeport neighborhoods and send our kids to parochial schools where we very pleased with the results. Otherwise we would have been like so many others and moved.

    Sure racism exists and my life was easier by being white, from a stable 2-parent family and receiving an education. But most of the white suburban friends & family I know are more concerned with having people that are economically similar as neighbors because they have the same goals, aspirations and expectations.

    But moving to a better environment is made all the more difficult when the surrounding communities have built the equivalent of Trump’s Border Wall through their zoning…And making that move financially is going to be far more difficult without a decent education and job.

    Yet Bridgeport and CT urban voters continue to vote for the same Democratic mayors, State Reps, State Senators and Board of Ed that created the policies that have driven this decline.

    .Bridgeport citizens need to take personal responsibility for their own actions and not continue re-electing the same people that brought us to this point.

    How’s that saying go, Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

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    1. Well said Dennis. I’m sure you’re also familiar with that other old adage that says: ‘you can’t argue with a fool’.
      Cheers!!!

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  7. Denis, what planet do you and Rich live on? People don’t want to live in an oppressed neighborhood, they live there because they don’t have the resources to move to a better neighborhood. No one wants to move to a poor neighborhood surrounded by poorly-maintained, slumlord-owned multi-families. Really, you can’t be that naive or unaware to think I wanted to stay on the East End because others Black’s live there or that I wanted to send my children to public schools in Bridgeport. Our hopes and dreams for our children are no different than yours. My Black and white suburban friends want the same things as your white suburban friends and do you think that’s a coincidence?

    I know you don’t want to hear this, but RACISM plays an integral part in keeping the foot of white America on the throats of Black Americans and when you think you’ve had a enough of a headstart on Black America, it’s been over 400 years, then by all means rid yourself of the SIN OF RACISM! We can’t do it for you, you have to do it yourself! You and Rich can offer all solutions in the world, but until you Rid WHITE AMERICA of its RACISTS tendencies then you’re merely pissing in the wind. Black folks don’t want or need your solutions for Black America, we just want White America to treat us like you do your White suburban friends, Nothing More, Nothing Less and when that happens all the ills of America will disappear.

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    1. They don’t any blacks, if they understood the holy hell that Baseball Hall A Famer Jackie Robinson had to through to buy a home where he wanted I’m Connecticut. Robinson lived with famed singer Carly Simon’s family, Richard Simon co-founder of the publishing house Simon & Schuster who are Jewish, for a year until they were able to move to new home in Stamford. It was Simon who helped Jackie Robinson but that didn’t stop the racist acts against Robinson and his family.

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  8. Donald Day
    I wonder if you intentionally do not see the point I am trying to convey. Not arguing at all that racism exists and has been a huge hurdle for Black America to overcome. Totally agree that it must be addressed but Bridgeport specifically and other cities are also at fault..

    Do you disagree that:
    1. CT suburbs don’t want to deal with city problems and are perfectly comfortable having cities carry the load. No doubt there are those that are racist living in the suburbs but vast majority are there for a better life for their family. Exclusionary zoning was set up to make sure that the problems of the city did not migrate to their community. Beating you to the punch, these zoning codes were set up so the poor and minority would face tough odds.
    2. .Whether Bridgeport of Southport, far more likely to be self-sufficient if educated, working and marrying before having children. Statistics overwhelmingly bear this out although today’s community leaders rarely stress.
    3. If Bridgeport housing, education, public safety, quality of life isn’t what it should be, changes in CT State House, BOE and City Hall must happen….But it doesn’t. Same dopes are continually elected or appointed and the electorate obviously does not hold them accountable…Year in, year out, it’s Democrats.

    Bridgeport voters won’t make changes with representatives that have developed and managed programs resulting in this steady decline, ..We get what we vote for.

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  9. Denis, I fully understand what you’re saying and totally agree with all your assertions about the suburbs. Unlike you, I attribute it ALL to racism! Exclusionary discrimination against Black’s most often occurs in rental markets and sales markets. One can safely say this this is still going on and as you alluded to, “Exclusionary zoning was set up to make sure that the problems of the city did not migrate to their community, so the poor and minority would face tough odds. As you can see, both are fueled by Racism.

    Racism is the gift that Black people never wanted, never asked for and seemly can’t get away from. It fuels everything and aspect of our lives, without exception. Racism is the 800lb gorilla in every conversation, in every room in this America and the reluctance of the suburbs to welcome people of the inner city, in my humble opinion is that Racism plays a bigger part than anything else. Not in My Neighborhood!

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