Segments in this Video

Segregation is Not Natural (01:29)


Segregation is a result of conscious choices and policies. We see archival footage of riots and President JFK discussing segregation.

Yonkers, New York (02:19)

Yonkers has a population of 196,000. Deliberate government action creates the four areas of segregation in this city--including a fence dividing Homefield from Runyon Heights.

Racial Division on Yonkers Schools (01:38)

Winston Ross recalls growing up in Runyon Heights and facing discrimination in school. His letter to the Board of Education addresses racial isolation. The NAACP files civil rights charges against the Board of Education.

Segregated Housing in Yonkers, New York (03:24)

Mary Dorman recalls purchasing a home in East Yonkers; she did not think integration would happen in her neighborhood. Gene and Doris Capello recall the discrimination they faced when attempting to purchase a house in Yonkers.

Discrimination and Segregation in Education (02:45)

The city of Yonkers builds 7,000 low income apartments in one square mile area. The school system reflects racial divide. Where you live structures opportunity. Officials debate the location of low income housing.

"The Hole" (01:20)

Adrean Owens-Saunders recalls moving into low-income housing in Yonkers where there are 800 families with 1,400 children.

A History of Systematic Exclusion in Yonkers, New York (02:38)

The Yonkers NAACP asks to become co-plaintiffs in the federal segregation lawsuit; Michael Sussman is their attorney. Experts discuss the differences in housing positions between the Carter and Reagan administrations.

A Blind Eye in Yonkers (01:28)

Gene Capello and Mary Dorman recall not paying much attention to the federal segregation lawsuit in Yonkers. Adrean Owens-Saunders recalls not knowing about the segregation.

Yonkers, New York on Trial (03:12)

The trial begins in August, 1983. Ken Barnes states that this case proves that arguments for low-income housing are pretext for discrimination. Public policy choices exacerbate racial tension. Adrean Owens-Saunders recalls the danger in Yonkers.

Yonkers Refuses to Settle (03:32)

A break from the trial allows mitigation that lasts eight months. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development agrees to settle by building 200 units outside of downtown. Ken Barnes discusses Judge Sand's tour of East Yonkers.

US vs Yonkers Decision, 1985 (01:56)

A 600 page document outlines Judge Sand's decision; the city of Yonkers purposely segregated the minority community. The Board of Education agrees to a remedy; magnet schools are the main focus.

"Save Yonkers" (01:56)

The city of Yonkers refuses to agree to a housing settlement. Mary Dorman recalls fearing that low income housing will lower her property value. Henry Spallone and other officials want an appeal against Judge Sand's decision.

City of Yonkers Appeals the 1985 Ruling (03:49)

Appeals stop the housing decision enforcement through 1987. The opposition frames the issues around Judge Sand. Oscar Newman suggests clustering town houses. Nicholas Wasicsko becomes mayor of Yonkers.

Yonkers Ruling Upheld by the Appeals Court (04:01)

Nicholas Wasicsko tells the Yonkers' the city council that they cannot win the case. In 1988, the council agrees to consent, but citizens convince the council to fight the appeal. The council refuses to adopt an affordable housing ordinance.

City of Yonkers Held in Contempt (03:09)

The federal court orders fines against the city of Yonkers and individual council members. Gene Capello recalls a meeting with council member Peter Chema and Yonkers' citizens. Capello brings the focus of the conversation back to race.

Cost of Contempt (02:46)

Nicholas Wasicsko encourages an affirmative vote that will remove the city of Yonkers from contempt. He discusses the council's willingness to pay fines but not cut expenditures. Defiance of court orders stands in the way of progress.

Council Members Gather to Vote (02:42)

Gene Capello recalls attending the Yonkers' council meeting on September 9, 1988. Protesters outside the hall demand the council's continued contempt of court orders. Emotions are high and some citizens feel fear.

Council Members Vote on Contempt Issue in Yonkers (01:45)

City council member Nick Longo votes to comply with the federal court order. The vote passes with five affirmatives. Nicholas Wasicsko sees this as an opportunity for change.

"Phase One" of Yonker's De-Segregation (03:03)

In 1992, the first units of low income housing are finally finished. Adrean Owens-Saunders recalls moving into the townhouses. Mary Dorman becomes involved with public housing tenants. Angelo Martinelli changes his political position.

After Yonkers' Contempt (02:10)

Gene Capello continues his efforts of desegregation. Michael Sussman believes that segregation is a defining American issue. The private housing market in Yonkers continues to thrive. Public policies can benefit everybody.

Credits: Brick by Brick: A Civil Rights Story (02:11)

Credits: Brick by Brick: A Civil Rights Story

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Brick by Brick: A Civil Rights Story

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Yonkers in the 1980s was typical of many American cities in its pattern of housing and school segregation. Real estate agents steered African-Americans to all-black neighborhoods and brought whites to other, more exclusive districts. Spurred by the local NAACP, the Justice Department ordered the City of Yonkers to integrate—a charge the City Council refused to comply with, defiantly taking its case all the way to the Supreme Court. Narrating the passionate experiences of Yonkers residents on both sides of the issue, this program tracks United States v. City of Yonkers, the landmark Supreme Court decision that challenged and eventually dismantled segregation in the North. (53 minutes)

Length: 54 minutes

Item#: BVL49773

Copyright date: ©2008

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

“Takes us inside one of the most bitter, protracted, and precedent-setting struggles for equal housing since the civil rights movement.”  —Eva Paterson, Equal Justice Society             


“One comes away with a new awareness of the complex factors motivating racial segregation, and the extent to which governments and politicians are sometimes complicit.”  —Christopher Serkin, Brooklyn Law School   


“Shows the vicious opposition to federal court orders and the heroic, persistent advocacy of Yonkers residents and their lawyers.”  —Florence Wagman Roisman, Indiana University School of Law                 


“An engrossing window into a titanic constitutional struggle that consumed an otherwise typical urban community. It depicts the full sweep of the human condition: passion, courage, love, hatred, fear, betrayal, redemption, hope, bitterness, and struggle.”  —Peter H. Schuck, Yale Law School     


“Fascinating…particularly for those too young to remember Yonkers’ relatively recent role as the Birmingham of the North.”  The New York Times

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