JUNE 12, 1959
NEW YORK—It is interesting to come in contact with people who on a local basis, are really trying to meet the problems of integration in our Northern communities. One such group is the Tri-Community Council of Laurelton, Springfield Gardens and Rosedale—a three-neighborhood area in the southeastern section of Queens County, New York. This group is sponsoring a broad community program, one portion of which is devoted to neighborhood relations.
The Tri-Community Council includes some 50 community organizations, such as the PTA, home owners' associations, churches and synagogues, veterans groups, fraternal orders, and service organizations. Its Neighborhood Relations Committee, which came to visit me, is an interracial group that has made its primary task an effort to keep the community stable and to permit continuation of integrated areas instead of allowing them to become segregated ghetto communities.
This project has had to meet the usual difficulties. Real estate people are rarely helpful when there is a question of integration, so the committee has tried to encourage the real estate brokers to show homes impartially to white and colored people alike and to encourage white people not to leave any particular area because a colored family moves in.
This committee also has come up against the usual tactics that come about through an understanding between real estate groups and banks which sometimes make it very difficult for those who wish to live in an integrated area to get loans. It has had some success in urging the banks to make loans without regard to color in the integrated communities.
The committee also is trying to give white residents the courage to stay where they are and to develop friendly and positive attitudes toward their new colored neighbors. It publishes a monthly newsletter and it holds neighborhood rallies and block meetings. These have brought much success in creating good feeling and in dispersing the fears of what "may" happen, which is the cause so often of flight from a neighborhood by the white property owners when a house is occupied by a colored family.
The committee is on the alert to see that the zoning regulations and city services are maintained to the fullest degree. Also, the Department of Borough Planning and Community Coordination of the New York City Youth Board has been providing the project with the fulltime services of a professinnally trained social worker in community organization.
When communities lose their stability and almost overnight people move and uproot themselves because of racial fears, it is usually found that juvenile delinquency rises in the area. And that was one reason why these citizens of these Long Island communities decided to establish their project—for their own benefit and that of the young people in the neighborhoods.
Since the communities are integrated, the school is naturally also integrated. These people have programmed an annual community dinner, and there is much activity for pleasure as well as for meeting the problems that occur in cooperative existence.
A fact sheet is published for the residents, which does much to keep down rumors that may be circulated. This fact sheet airs these rumors and possible problems, and the mere publishing of them helps to solve them. I wish very much that such a pattern of community organization would grow and spread throughout many of our other areas.