Day 387

Starrett City

January 20th, 2013

Officially called Spring Creek Towers since 2002, this massive (its population is upwards of 13,000) affordable housing development situated at the southern edge of East New York opened in 1974 as "an audacious work of social engineering" — a meticulously integrated community whose "planners carefully arranged families on each hallway, like chess pieces, to maintain the racial mix they considered most stable: 70 percent white to 30 percent black."

In the early days, unrented units reserved for white families remained empty even as the number of black families on the waiting list grew into the thousands. This ridiculous 1979 commercial for Starrett City, with its well-coiffed lead actor straight out of the country club (20 bucks says his wife's name was Muffy) and its very light smattering of on-screen minorities, must have been created specifically to attract more white tenants.

A lawsuit eventually forced Starrett to abandon its quota system in 1988. The racial percentages have shifted in the years since, but it's still a very diverse place: 53% black, 25% white, 18% Hispanic, 3% Asian, and 2% other, according to the 2010 census.

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