Charles Schumer trying to tar Samuel Alito as a racist because of membership in some club? Don’t make me laugh. The fact is that Charles Schumer came to power as a New York State Assemblyman in 1974 by virtue of an overtly racist scheme that he created and sold to a naive neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. He convinced them that he would use his power to rid their area of black people. And who is my source for this serious accusation? Me.
Yes, me. I was there.
“My sin I recall today…” It has been my decision, a very conflicted one to be sure, not to publish this information these past many years. My silence was motivated by my loyalty to my former neighbors, who went along with this nefarious stratagem. In the end, the plan did not come to fruition, either because Schumer tried unsuccessfully, or because the whole thing was a con on his part to gull gullible voters. A skilled researcher might do well to check the Assembly archives to see if he actually laid the groundwork for the plan.
Here is the background. The Flatbush section of Brooklyn includes a subsection known as Midwood. This stretches from E. 1st Street on the west to E. 35th Street on the east, from a southernmost point at Ave. U to Ave. H on the north. This entire segment is populated by whites, mostly Italians and Jews, with a recent influx of Slavic immigrants. Right smack dab in the middle of this box is a series of apartment houses on Avenue K, from E. 12th to E. 15th Street, whose tenants are almost 100% black.
There existed (and to an extent still exists) a fear, perhaps a paranoia, that this cluster of black people in the heart of the neighborhood was rendering it “unsafe.” Although I do not recall any publicized cases of robberies or other crimes occurring around those buildings, there was a strong perception that this represented a pocket of criminality in the midst of this otherwise mild-mannered urban conclave. It always struck me as a silly bit of mythology; I used to play basketball in the public parks with the fellows who lived there and did not find them particularly threatening.
Then the word went out that there was a plan to evict all the blacks. A local political kingmaker set up a round of meetings with community groups to introduce them to a recent Harvard grad, Charles Schumer, who had fashioned a solution to this nagging problem. Although I was only 16 years old at the time, I was entering Brooklyn College and had long been a confirmed political junkie. Being that young, I was more or less invisible to the adults who were engaged in these momentous matters, so I was able to slip into one of these sessions unhampered.
What Schumer explained to these audiences was as follows. If they elected him to the State Assembly, he would put forth a bill that would create a set of provisions, ostensibly to “help” the underprivileged urban blacks. It would identify those apartment buildings on Ave. K as being in a state of some dilapidation, requiring an extensive facelift and revamping of the apartments. I don’t recollect with certainty if ownership would be assumed by the State itself or one of those “community rehabilitation organizations” that served as the instrument of choice for soaking up large sums of government money for the stated purpose of redeveloping slums.
The residents would then all be relocated into government or government-subsidized housing in other areas while the apartments were being renovated. At the end of the process, the individual apartments would be redefined as co-ops or condominiums to be sold to private owners. Although on paper the current tenants would be given priority for the right to purchase the newly upgraded condos, we could be sure that — ha, ha, ha — the blacks would not be able to raise the cash required, which would be not inconsiderable.
The presumption was that by then they would have grown comfortable in their new surroundings and they would not feel victimized by the process. The refurbished apartments would be purchased by white people and, shazzam, the neighborhood sore spot would be fixed. I am ashamed to say that the people bought into this mean-spirited and racist proposition. On top of its other faults the idea was also chimerical, with no real chance of working in the political reality of our time.
In the end, construction was done on those buildings through some sort of government project, but all the black people remained. Naturally no one could complain, because their original intent was not something that could be publicized. So there it is, the inside scoop on how Charles Schumer, the patron saint of anti-racism, rose to power in a Brooklyn neighborhood.
I was there, friends; this is not hearsay. And now you know… the rest of the story.
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