Wednesday, August 12, 2015

David Simon and Cory Booker on ‘Show Me a Hero’ and the Future of Cities - The New York Times

Yonkers Mayor Nick Wasicsko in 1988

David Simon and Cory Booker on ‘Show Me a Hero’ and the Future of Cities - The New York Times

by Michael Kimmelman

When the elevator door at the housing project opens onto two men seemingly dealing drugs, a young mother, loaded down with groceries, wordlessly opts to lead her small children lugging backpacks up the decrepit stairs. Across town, an all-white mob fumes before an all-white city council, which eggs it on. Later, a man spits on the mayor, who defies the angry crowd.
A new HBO mini-series, which kicks off Sunday, looks back on a notorious episode of racial discord that unfolded just north of New York City: Some three decades ago, Federal Judge Leonard B. Sand ordered the city of Yonkers to desegregate. Back then, Yonkers (population 188,000) was 85 percent white, with nearly all its black and Hispanic residents clustered in housing projects to the west. The court mandated 200 units of low-rise subsidized housing to blend into white neighborhoods to the east. Local officials, caving in to white constituents, nearly bankrupted the city by resisting the judge’s ruling. A 28-year-old former policeman, Nick Wasicsko, became mayor on a pledge to oppose integration.
Then Mr. Wasicsko took office. Mounting federal penalties cut local services and threatened more and more layoffs. The young mayor changed course and saw to it that the city obeyed the law. He was soon booted out, but, grudgingly, Yonkers began to integrate. “Show Me a Hero,” a six-episode series about the controversy, created by David Simon (“The Wire,” “Treme”) and based on a 1999 book by Lisa Belkin, a former reporter for The New York Times, stars Oscar Isaac as the ill-fated Wasicsko. Like so much of Mr. Simon’s work, the show puts a human face on all sides of the conflict.
Keep reading for the conversation between Sen. Cory Booker and producer David Simon.

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