Fear is the highest fence.
July 14, 2014 12:25 PM   Subscribe

After years of debates, notoriously contentious public meetings, and the looming specter of a civil rights lawsuit, a federal mediation agreement between the Town of Hamden and the City of New Haven, Connecticut resulted in the removal of a 10-foot chain-link fence that separated New Haven's West Rock public housing projects from Hamden's Woodin Street neighborhood for nearly half a century. NYT's Benjamin Mueller reports: In Connecticut, Breaking a Barrier Between a Suburb and Public Housing.

Soon after the New Haven Housing Authority announced its intention (and legal right) to demolish the fence, Hamden Mayor Scott Jackson mailed a letter to Woodin Street residents. In it, Jackson details a handful of mitigative measures, including the construction of a new on-site Police Substation that will focus its efforts on the surrounding area, designed to assuage constituents' myriad objections and concerns.

Following the teardown, the New Haven Register published an op-ed supporting the fence's removal: Toppling New Haven-Hamden fence a good start; now time to tear down mistrust. New Haven Mayor Toni Harp also celebrated the decision in her statement for the New Haven Independent: "I know residents on both sides of this imaginary line believe in justice, fairness, equal access and equal opportunity. Elimination of this fence provides for all those ideals."

In less-publicized news, a fence that surrounded Anniston, Alabama's Cooper Homes projects for over a decade was also removed in May -- but it remains clear that not every city is willing to take similar measures. For example, the 8-foot wrought-iron fence built to enclose Washington, D.C.'s Potomac Gardens projects has remained in place since 1992.

(semi-related previously: The Ghetto Is Public Policy)
posted by divined by radio (9 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
a federal mediation agreement between the Town of Hamden and the City of New Haven, Connecticut resulted in the removal of a 10-foot chain-link fence

The NYTimes article make it sound like it was removed because it turned out it was built on the New Haven side of the town line, so they didn't actually need Hamden to agree to remove it.
posted by smackfu at 12:50 PM on July 14, 2014

A similar feature, and some more subtle means of segregation: The Arsenal of Exclusion from the excellent design podcast, 99% Invisible.
posted by BrashTech at 12:55 PM on July 14, 2014 [5 favorites]

They should just do what New Jersey does to keep the poors out of nearby cities: high property taxes!
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:17 PM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Made me think of this.
posted by absentian at 1:20 PM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

While I was looking for a picture of the Hall's Hill totem pole sculpture for this thread, I came across something I didn't know about: a "segregation wall" that was built between the white suburban area surrounding Hall's Hill and the Hill itself.
posted by tavella at 1:26 PM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

"In December 1962, Mayor Ivan Allen Jr. ordered barricades to be built across two Atlanta streets to discourage black citizens from purchasing homes in an adjacent all-white neighborhood. What seemed to him like a judicious compromise backfired, creating an embarrassment for the city as national media questioned its otherwise glowing reputation for racial harmony."

It lasted three months.

The "Peyton Road affair":
posted by intermod at 1:46 PM on July 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

The New Haven situation is a little more interesting because they originally put these projects in the very furthest corner of the city, away from everything else in New Haven. If you look at this city map, the section in question is labeled West Rock, at the very top. The low-income housing are the streets up at the North end there, and the fence is along the Northeast border of that section. The empty space that makes up most of the West Rock section is park land. So no existing residents in New Haven were next to the low-income housing, which was politically convenient. Just neighborhoods in the neighboring town of Hamden.
posted by smackfu at 2:35 PM on July 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

I had no idea that the story of Pawnee and Eagleton was based on fact.
posted by nushustu at 2:59 PM on July 14, 2014 [4 favorites]

One thing that's interesting, that may be somewhere in those links but I found out myself, is that the entire project seems to have been torn down and rebuilt. Originally it had these long, bunker-like buildings in a sort of fan arrangement, but now it has a more New Urbanism-inspired grouping of mroe home-like structures grouped in a more neighborhood-like manner.

As noted, much of the real problem stems from the deliberate isolation the project had from the beginning. Whether by design or oversight, the homes ended up far from transportation and jobs.

I don't view these fences as the problem themselves, but as manifestation of the real problem, the heady, sometimes deadly brew of racism and classism that allowed such fences, and metaphorial fences like redlining, to separate and destroy neighborhoods through deliberately written policies imagined as a solution.
posted by dhartung at 3:33 PM on July 14, 2014

« Older Animated Women   |   Dance of life and death Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments