As Threats Increase, Jewish New Yorkers Embrace “Their Right to Self-Defense”

(p. A17) It’s Sunday morning at Manhattan’s Westside Rifle & Pistol Range, where I’ve come for a safety class as part of my application for a license to carry a concealed firearm. I’m one of at least 10 Jewish men in the class, many wearing yarmulkes. Some wouldn’t have dreamed of setting foot in this place a year ago.

“I was born and raised a Jew, and I’ve lived in Brooklyn and Manhattan my whole life,” says Yoni Ben Ami, who declines to give his age or profession but looks to be around 30. “I’ve never been uncomfortable going around town being visibly Jewish until Oct. 7 [2023] and its aftermath.” Darren Leung, owner of the Westside range, says he’s seen an “exponential” increase in Jewish permit-seekers and members.

We’re thousands of miles from Gaza, but the FBI has warned that threats to American Jews are at an all-time high. Anti-Israel protesters regularly march through the streets, and some commit acts of intimidation and vandalism.

. . .

Minorities of all sorts have availed themselves of the Constitution’s guarantee of self-defense. The Pink Pistols, a gay gun-rights organization, was founded in 2000; the National African American Gun Association in 2015.

. . .

. . . Jewish New Yorkers have come to appreciate how fortunate they are to live in a country that protects their right to self-defense.

For the full commentary, see:

Max Raskin. “New York Jews Embrace Gun Rights.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023): A17.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date November 14, 2023, and has the same title as the print version.)

“Linguistic Diversity Is Precious” Because Languages Are “Natural Experiments” in “Ways of Seeing, Understanding, and Living”

(p. A13) Linguistic variety is “often seen as a problem, the curse of Babel,” but for a linguist, New York City is a riotous collection of living specimens—a “greenhouse, not a graveyard.”  . . .  Mr. Perlin, who has a doctorate in linguistics, helps run the Endangered Language Alliance, which works to document such minority tongues.  . . .

The heart of “Language City” is portraits of individual New York-based speakers. Mr. Perlin writes about their work as well as his, capturing the grind of immigrant life with empathy, balance and wit.  (. . .)  “If the country was rich we would never leave,” says Husniya, a Wakhi speaker from bleak post-Soviet Tajikistan. But she savors the city’s entrepreneurial energy: “New York opened my eyes. It shapes you to be a human being, not dividing based on religion, face, or race, or anything.”

. . .

Wonderfully rich, “Language City” is in part an introduction to the diverse ways different languages work. Seke and other “evidential” languages, for example, have different grammatical forms to indicate how the speaker knows what she’s asserting—whether from observation or inference, hearsay or hunch. Other languages syntactically “tag the speaker’s surprise at unexpected information” or have a special temporal marking “just for things happening today.”

. . .

Yet linguistic diversity is precious, Mr. Perlin stresses, and should be celebrated, not just tolerated.  . . .  . . ., languages “represent thousands of natural experiments” that encode wildly different “ways of seeing, understanding, and living.” Constructed by generations of collective effort, they are invisible cathedrals bigger and more democratic than any building.

For the full review see:

Timothy Farrington. “BOOKSHELF; The Words On the Street.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, Feb. 23, 2024): A13.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date February 22, 2024, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; ‘Language City’ Review: The Words on the Street.”)

The book under review is:

Perlin, Ross. Language City: The Fight to Preserve Endangered Mother Tongues in New York. Washington, D.C.: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2024.

Costly Sanctimonious Green New Skyscraper Already in Violation of Latest New York Environmental Regulations

(p. A13) One Vanderbilt, a commanding new skyscraper in the heart of Manhattan, seems to be reaching for the future. One of the world’s tallest buildings, it pierces the sky like an inverted icicle and fuses seamlessly with an expanding network of trains and other transport at its foundations.

It is also the rare skyscraper designed with climate change in mind.

. . .

But One Vanderbilt is also something else. It is already out of date.

Some of the building’s most important green features were the right answer to the climate problem in 2016, when design work was completed. “And then the answer changed,” Mr. Wilcox said.

Unlike many skyscrapers, One Vanderbilt generates much of its own electricity. This was a leap forward a decade or so ago — a way of producing power that saved money for landlords and was cleaner than the local grid.

However, One Vanderbilt’s turbines burn natural gas. And while natural gas is cleaner than oil or coal, it is falling from favor, particularly in New York City, which in recent years has adopted some of the most ambitious climate laws in the world, including a ban on fossil fuels in new buildings.

. . .

The truth is that most buildings in New York, big or small, old or new, are bad for the environment. Boilers and furnaces burning fuel in basements are the city’s single largest producer of carbon dioxide, emitting more than double the amount from millions of cars and trucks traveling its roads.

One Vanderbilt, according to its owner, is designed to be more energy-efficient than most new buildings. The structure features several design elements, some exorbitantly expensive, to minimize energy use, such as high ceilings to let in more natural light.

Yet because of the rapidly evolving energy-policy landscape, driven by increasing global concern over climate change, even the most ambitious attempts at sustainability often find themselves facing the possibility of retrofitting the moment the elevator doors open. One Vanderbilt is one such case.

. . .

Landlords such as SL Green say New York City’s new laws will force dramatic changes. Unlike energy codes of the past, one of the key laws, which restricts pollution, doesn’t merely apply to new construction: Existing buildings, no matter how small or how old, must gradually comply and retrofit as well, potentially at eye-watering cost.

For the full story, see:

Ben Ryder Howe. “Built to Be Green, Skyscraper Was Dated From the Beginning.” The New York Times (Thursday, February 16, 2023): A13.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Feb. 16, 2023, and has the title “New Skyscraper, Built to Be an Environmental Marvel, Is Already Dated.”)

Blacks Leaving New York City to Find Jobs, Housing, and Wealth

(p. A1) From 2010 to 2020, a decade during which the city’s population showed a surprising increase led by a surge in Asian and Hispanic residents, the number of Black residents decreased. The decline mirrored a national trend of younger Black professionals, middle-class families and retirees leaving cities in the Northeast and Midwest for the South.

The city’s Black population has declined by nearly 200,000 people in the past two decades, or about 9 percent. Now, about one in five residents are non-Hispanic Black, compared with one in four in 2000, according to the latest census data.

The decline is starkest among the youngest New Yorkers: The number of Black children and teenagers living in the city fell more than 19 percent from 2010 to (p. A22) 2020. And the decline is continuing, school enrollment data suggests. Schools have lost children in all demographic groups, but the loss of Black children has been much steeper as families have left and as the birthrate among Black women has decreased.

The factors propelling families . . . out of the city are myriad, including concerns about school quality, a desire to be closer to relatives and tight urban living conditions. But many of those interviewed for this article pointed to one main cause: the ever-increasing cost of raising a family in New York.

Black families drawn to opportunities in places where jobs and housing are more plentiful are finding new chances to spread out and build wealth.

For the full story, see:

Troy Closson and Nicole Hong. “A Black Exodus and Its Effect on New York City.” The New York Times (Wednesday, February 1, 2023): A1 & A22.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Feb. 3, 2023, and has the title “Why Black Families Are Leaving New York, and What It Means for the City.” Where there are minor differences in wording between the versions, the passages quoted above follow the online version.)

Airbnb Listings Are “Vanishing” from NYC Due to Government Regulations

(p. A1) Thousands of New York City Airbnb listings are vanishing from the market.

Hosts are removing listings in response to a city-mandated deadline, and Airbnb is blocking future dates for booking. Starting Sept. 5 [2023], city officials say they will enforce rules on short-term rentals more aggressively.

Hosts of short-term rentals need to register with the city to continue providing stays, and can only do so if they meet several requirements. These include not renting out an entire apartment or home, even if they own it. Hosts also must be present during their guests’ short-term stays.

Airbnb has called the rules, which took effect earlier this year, “a de facto ban on short-term rentals.”

New York and companies like Airbnb have long duked it out over short-term rental regulations. Hosts say this time feels different. Many are taking their properties off the market. Some are considering whether they can afford to live in their units without the extra income. Guests are finding fewer options for short-term rental stays after Sept. 5 [2023].

For the full story, see:

Allison Pohle. “Tough New Regulations Buffet Airbnb in NYC.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023): A1 & A12.

(Note: bracketed years added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date August 21, 2023, and has the title “Airbnb Hosts, Guests Scramble as New York Cracks Down.”)

Conservationists Criticize the Woke Who Raise Bees as a Virtue Signal

(p. 1) When the B&B Hotel in Ljubljana, Slovenia, decided to reinvent itself as an eco-friendly destination in 2015, it had to meet more than 150 criteria to earn a coveted Travelife certificate of sustainability. But then it went step further: It hired a beekeeper to install four honey bee hives on the roof.

. . .

The hives are managed by Gorazd Trusnovec, a 50-year-old with a graying goatee who is the founder and sole employee of an enterprise called Najemi Panj, which translates to “rent-a-hive.” For a yearly fee, he will install a honey bee colony on the roof of an office, or in a backyard, and ensure that its bees are healthy and productive. Customers get the honey and the pleasure of doing something that benefits bees and nourishes the environment.

That, at any rate, was Mr. Trusnovec’s original sales pitch. In recent years, he and other beekeepers, as well as a broad variety of leading conservationists, have come to a very different conclusion: The craze for honey bees now presents a genuine ecological challenge. Not just in Slovenia, but around the world.

“If you overcrowd any space with honey bees, there is a competition for natural resources, and since bees have the largest numbers, they push out other pollinators, which actually harms biodiversity,” he said, (p. 4) after a recent visit to the B&B bees. “I would say that the best thing you could do for honey bees right now is not take up beekeeping.”

. . .

Honey bees, it turns out, are a commercially managed animal — essentially livestock, like cows — and large beekeeping operations are remarkably adept at replacing colonies that die. In the United States, about one million hives are trucked each year to places like California, where honey bees pollinate almonds and other crops, Mr. Black said. It’s a major industry. Revenue from beekeeping will reach $624 billion this year in the United States alone, reports IBISWorld, a market research firm.

While techniques for nurturing hives have improved, honey bees remain vulnerable animals. As of a few years ago, nearly 30 percent of commercial honey bees still did not survive the winter months, says the Environmental Protection Agency. That’s a large number and one that puts a financial strain on commercial beekeepers.

“But that’s an agriculture story, not a conservation story,” Mr. Black said. “There are now more honey bees on the planet than there have ever been in human history.”

Figures from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations underscore the point. The number of beehives around the world has risen by nearly 26 percent in the last decade, to 102 million from 81 million.

. . .

Recently, the Museum of Modern Art posted an image of four hives on its Instagram account, along with text that read, “We recognize the essential part bees play in our ecosystem and that’s why we are proud to provide a home to all these bees here at the Museum.” In London, the sheer quantity of hives poses a threat to other species of bees, says a report issued in 2020 by the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew. The city’s financial district is now overrun with what Richard Glassborow, the chair of the London Beekeepers’ Association, calls “trophy bees.”

“We’ve had companies from outside London come with plans to put 20 hives a year on roofs,” he said, “and persuade businesses that this will tick some kind of corporate responsibility box.”

New York City has a similar problem, says Andrew Coté, president of the New York City Beekeepers Association. In February [2023], MoMA asked him to install the hives it recently showed off. He declined.

“The population is already overwhelming the finite floral resources,” he said. “We don’t need more honey bees here.”

. . .

With the number of hives rising, pressure is mounting on less charismatic insects, like moths, wasps and wild bees, which are essential to pollinating wild plants and many crops, and which academic studies have found are in decline. Apparently nobody wants 25,000 moths parked near the C-suites.

Today, hives are so ubiquitous in some places, especially urban areas, that the amount of honey each yields is dropping. Slovenia now produces less honey than it did 15 years ago, (p. 5) according to government figures, even though it has more than doubled the number of hives in the country. That’s because there is not enough nectar to go around, said Matjaz Levicar, a Slovenian beekeeping instructor, and honey bees are consuming it to survive rather than turning it into honey.

“It’s a tragedy,” he said. “In Slovenia, we need to feed honey bee colonies with sugar most of the year.”

For the full story, see:

David Segal and Ciril Jazbec. “Mind Your Own Bees, but Don’t Buy More.” The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sunday, August 20, 2023): 1 & 4-5.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Aug. 21, 2023, and has the title “The Beekeepers Who Don’t Want You to Buy More Bees.” The sentence about the $624 billion in U.S. revenue from beekeeping appears in the print, but not in the online, version of the article.)

Regulations Block Flexible Transformation of Manhattan Buildings

(p. A1) There is an aging office building on Water Street in Lower Manhattan where it would make all the sense in the world to create apartments. The 31-story building, once the headquarters of A.I.G., has windows all around and a shape suited to extra corner units. In a city with too little housing, it could hold 800 to 900 apartments. Right across the street, one office building not so different from this one has already been turned into housing, and another is on the way.

But 175 Water Street has a hitch: Offices in the financial district are spared some zoning rules that make conversion hard — so long as they were built before 1977. And this one was built six years too late, in 1983.

“There’s nothing about that building — its construction, its mechanicals, its structural engineering — that prevents it from being converted,” said Richard Coles, the managing partner of Vanbarton Group, which has developed both conversions across the street.

. . .

Healthy cities must build new things and rehabilitate old ones. But they also perform regular tricks of transmogrification, (p. A13) turning existing building blocks into something new. Factories become loft apartments. Industrial waterfronts become public parks. Warehouses become start-up offices and restaurant scenes.

The pandemic forced American cities to make such transformations, temporarily. They turned sidewalks into restaurants, parks into hospitals, streets into open spaces. Now on a lasting and larger scale, they will need to convert offices into apartments, hotels into affordable housing, curb parking into bike lanes, roadways into transit routes, office parks into real neighborhoods.

“If these last few years have taught us anything,” said Ingrid Gould Ellen, a professor of urban policy and planning at N.Y.U., “it’s the need for flexibility, the need to be open to surprise in the way we’re going to use space.”

But over decades, that flexibility has eroded.

For the full commentary, see:

Emily Badger. “When Offices Ought to Be Apartments.” The New York Times (Tuesday, July 4, 2023): A1 & A13.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary was updated July 4, 2023, and has the title “American Cities Have a Conversion Problem, and It’s Not Just Offices.” The online version says that the title of the print version was “How Cities Are Getting In Own Way.” The title of my national edition of the print version had the title “When Offices Ought to Be Apartments.”)

Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) Rallied with Poor Hispanic Entrepreneurs Who Were Shut Down by Government Regulators

(p. A21) Until last week, Corona Plaza in Queens was bustling: taqueros flipping fresh tortillas and vendors hawking Central American crafts over a soundtrack of cumbia and train traffic. There were produce stands, live bands and surging crowds, all in a public square that was named one of the 100 best places to eat in the city.

But last Thursday [Aug. 3, 2023] and Friday [Aug. 4, 2023], sanitation workers swept through the plaza, removing several stalls and threatening to penalize vendors who did not have a city permit to operate — nearly all of the more than 80 who regularly work there. In the days since, the grilled-meat stands and jugs of agua fresca have been replaced with protest signs.

It was the latest escalation in the city’s tense relationship with the plaza merchants — most of them immigrant women, many of them undocumented — who have helped revive one of the New York neighborhoods hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic.

. . .

The City Council passed a law in 2021 mandating the release of another 445 food vendor permits every year for a decade, but the rollout has been slow.

There are 10,195 food vendors on the waiting list, according to a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which manages the applications. The agency has issued just 104 of the new licenses so far, and only four of the recipients have completed all the steps needed to sell food legally.

Ms. Calle is one of the few vendors at the plaza who has a permit — but only because she rents it from a third party for $16,000 a year, a prohibited but widespread practice.

Even so, Ms. Calle decided to close her stall this week, in solidarity with her neighbors.

“I know how hard it is” for new vendors, she said in Spanish, recounting how she had been arrested four times in 23 years for various permitting violations.

While few merchants at the plaza own the hard-to-obtain permits, most of them, including Ms. Calle, pay taxes on sales, and hold a license that certifies they have taken a food safety course.

At the rally at the plaza on Wednesday [Aug. 2, 2023], the dispersed merchants were joined by elected officials including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Donovan Richards, the Queens borough president, . . .

. . .

Nearly 4,000 people, most of them locals, have signed a petition in support of the vendors.

The plaza, once an underused service road near 103rd Street and Roosevelt Avenue, was redesigned in 2012 as a public square.

When the pandemic hit the surrounding neighborhood of Corona — harder than almost anywhere else in the United States — the plaza became an economic and cultural hub for recovering workers, said Carina Kaufman-Gutierrez, the deputy director of the Street Vendor Project.

For the full story, see:

Stefanos Chen and Raúl Vilchis. “Their Food Is Hailed; They Want the Right to Sell It.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, August 6, 2023): A21.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed dates, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 5, 2023, and has the title “They Make Some of New York’s Best Food. They Want the Right to Sell It.” Where there are minor differences in wording between the print and online versions, the passages quoted above make use of the online wording.)

Average Wages in Boom Towns Would Rise “Astounding” $8,775 If Zoning Laws Eased

(p. A13) Though some might expect areas populated by conservatives to be the most exclusionary, it is areas where highly educated liberals live that engage in the worst forms of economically exclusionary housing policy. Researchers writing in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology in 2018 found that highly educated Americans have comparatively tolerant racial attitudes but hold “negative attitudes toward the less educated.” Americans with different levels of education all have biases, they wrote, but “the targets of prejudice are different.”

Exclusionary housing practices are a linchpin in the architecture of educational inequality in America. Because 73% of American school children attend neighborhood public schools, where you live typically determines the quality of schooling. Most people who are concerned about improving education naturally focus attention on what school boards and state education officials do, but it’s at least as important to focus on what the local and state officials running housing policy are up to.

For sixty years, researchers have found that the economic segregation of students. which is driven by housing policy, shapes educational opportunity even more powerfully than per pupil spending. In Montgomery County Maryland, for example, county officials pursued two strategies for raising the achievement of low-income students. In one program, starting in 2000, the school board spent $2,000 extra per pupil in high-poverty schools. In another, begun decades earlier, the county council enacted an “inclusionary zoning” law that to this day requires builders to set aside a portion of new developments for low-income families. Over time, as Heather Schwartz of RAND found in a 2010 study, what the housing authority did for students cut the math achievement gap between low-income and middle-class students in half, while the school board’s program had much less impact.

Zoning-induced housing costs also prevent workers from moving to places where they can make the highest wages, which is typically in coastal cities. Research shows that this barrier to mobility gravely damages American economic productivity, to say nothing of the aspirations of individuals and families. A 2018 study by Edward Glaeser and Joseph Gyourko, for example, found that “restrictive residential land-use regulation” had a price tag of “at least 2% of national output,” or about $400 billion. A 2019 study by Chang-Tai Hsieh and Enrico Moretti, found that if three high-productivity cities—New York, San Jose and San Francisco—relaxed restrictions on housing supply, more workers could move to them, and average wages nationally would rise an astounding $8,775.

When people do move to higher-wage regions, exclusionary zoning laws often force them to live in the far reaches of metropolitan areas. This means longer commutes, which are associated with higher blood pressure and divorce rates, and more miles on the road, which is bad for the environment.

For the full essay, see:

Richard D. Kahlenberg. “Only Zoning Reform Can Solve America’s Housing Crisis.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, June 24, 2023): A13.

(Note: the online version of the essay has the date June 22, 2023, and has the same title as the print version. The sentences in the penultimate paragraph quoted above (mentioning 2018 and 2019 papers) appear in the online, but not in the print, version of the essay.)

The essay quoted above is adapted from the book:

Kahlenberg, Richard D. Excluded: How Snob Zoning, Nimbyism, and Class Bias Build the Walls We Don’t. New York: PublicAffairs, 2023.

Fred Siegel Went from Liberal to Conservative During the New York Blackout of 1977 When Looters Burned Stores, Restaurants, and Civility

(p. B10) Fred Siegel, a passionate urban historian whose rejection of the liberal establishment’s response to crime, poverty and public civility transformed him from a spokesman for the Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern in 1972 to a voter for Donald J. Trump in 2020, died on Sunday at his home in Brooklyn.

. . .

His ideological evolution was evidenced in the titles of his books: “The Future Once Happened Here: New York, D.C., L.A., and the Fate of America’s Big Cities” (1997); “The Prince of the City: Giuliani, New York, and the Genius of American Life” (2005), which he wrote with Harry Siegel; and “The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class” (2014).

. . .

And, perhaps more in sorrow than in anger, he quoted former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York as saying that his fellow Democrats had “rewarded the articulation of moral purpose more than the achievement of practical good.”

. . .

. . . in 1991, Mr. Siegel argued: “Middle-class citizens, rightly or wrongly, have become convinced that modern liberal urban government is mostly about letting the poor misbehave at the expense of the middle class, and paying public employees very well to deliver services very poorly.”

. . .

Mr. Siegel’s metamorphosis — from a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, a fellow of the Progressive Policy Institute and a voter for the independent John Anderson in 1980 and the Democrat Walter F. Mondale in 1984 (each time voting against the Republican Ronald Reagan) — reached its apogee (depending on one’s political point of view) in 2020.

After a lifetime of sitting out presidential elections or mostly voting for losers, he cast his ballot for Mr. Trump.

He listed his reasons for doing so in 2020 in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, lauding Mr. Trump for “crushing ISIS, pulling us out of the Iran nuclear deal, moving our embassy to Jerusalem and making fools of those people who insist that the Palestinian issue is at the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict.” He also favored Mr. Trump, he said, for displaying an “ability to withstand a prolonged coup attempt by the Democrats and the media” and for championing “bourgeois values.”

In an online tribute this week, Brian C. Anderson, the editor of City Journal, wrote that Mr. Siegel had identified what he called a “riot ideology” that took hold of public officials in major cities, “making them reluctant to confront public disorder and crime for fear of violent opposition.”

. . .

The essayist Irving Kristol famously defined a neoconservative, a breed Mr. Kristol epitomized and popularized, as “a liberal who has been mugged by reality.” But Mr. Siegel’s conversion wasn’t the result of a single personal experience, his son said — even though a thief once grabbed a bag of $100 worth of kosher meat from him on the subway and several of the family’s cars were stolen.

If Mr. Siegel approached a philosophical epiphany, though, it was during the blackout of 1977, when looters raged through parts of Brooklyn, stripping stores of merchandise and setting them ablaze in a night of rioting.

Mr. Siegel, whose favorite restaurant, Jack’s Pastrami King, was among the places destroyed, reflected in 2017: “The city itself had been mugged, I realized. I’m still haunted by that moment from 40 years ago, when my political re-education began.”

For the full obituary, see:

Sam Roberts. “Fred Siegel, 78, Urban Historian And a Former Liberal, Is Dead.” The New York Times (Saturday, May 13, 2023): B10.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary was updated May 15, 2023, and has the title “Fred Siegel, Urban Historian and a Former Liberal, Is Dead at 78.”)

The most recent of Siegel’s books mentioned above is:

Siegel, Fred. The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class. New York: Encounter Books, 2014.

Tighter Zoning Laws Resulted in More Racial Segregation

(p. A22) Across the New York City suburbs, a thicket of local zoning laws thwarts the building of all but the most expensive single-family homes.

In some parts of Scarsdale, in Westchester County, new homes must be built on lots of at least two acres. In most parts of the village of Muttontown, on Long Island, new homes must be at least 2,000 square feet. The Town of Oyster Bay, also on Long Island, requires that some guest apartments, known as accessory dwelling units, be occupied only by family members or domestic servants.

These zoning laws are among the most restrictive in the country. They severely limit the state’s housing supply, making the entire region less affordable. And they are rooted in Jim Crow.

For much of the 20th century, towns surrounding New York City used a stomach-churning mix of racial covenants and restrictive zoning laws to shut out Black Americans and others considered undesirable from thriving suburbs. The federal government supported this system in myriad ways, including by denying government backing for mortgage loans in Black neighborhoods, a practice known as redlining, which hardened segregation and sharply restricted the ability of Black Americans to secure mortgages and buy homes. After World War II, the government greatly expanded its role in residential segregation by backing large suburban developments across the United States like Levittown, on Long Island, on the condition that they exclude Black buyers.

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 made racial discrimination in housing illegal. But communities were still allowed to enact and maintain zoning laws that had the same effect. By this time, prices had risen, and the generous postwar federal subsidies that made it possible for white Americans to buy suburban homes — but which had largely been denied to Black Americans — were no longer available. Even if a suburb might no longer be allowed to overtly ban Black families, limiting development to large and expensive homes could achieve a similar goal.

As a result, the tighter zoning laws became associated nationally with increased racial segregation, as well as a diminished housing supply.

For the full commentary, see:

Mara Gay. “To Cut New York Housing Costs, Ease Suburbs’ Zoning Laws.” The New York Times (Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023): A22.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date February 21, 2023, and has the title “The Era of Shutting Others Out of New York’s Suburbs Is Ending.”)