When Racist Infrastructure Kept Negroes From Equal Access To New Yorks Best Beach
Category: News & PoliticsBy: john-russell • 4 weeks ago • 17 comments
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on Monday that his agency would use a portion of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill to address racial inequities in U.S. highway design. Why it...
In his remarks Buttigieg specifically referenced the bridges that would access Jones Beach in Long Island. He didnt mention Jones Beach by name but he did say a beach in New York.
Now, lets look at the description of this case in the book The Power Broker by the historian Robert Caro. The book is a biography of a man named Robert Moses who was an urban planner responsible for much , if not all, of the modern planning of the transportation layout of the New York City area in the first half of the 20th century.
Underlying Moses' strikingly strict policing for cleanliness in his parks was,
Frances Perkins realized with "shock," deep distaste for the public that was using
them. "He doesn't love the people," she was to say. "It used to shock me because
he was doing all these things for the welfare of the people. . . . He'd denounce
the common people terribly. To him they were lousy, dirty people, throwing
bottles all over Jones Beach. 'I'll get them! I'll teach them!'... He loves the public,
but not as people. The public is just the public. It's a great amorphous mass to
him; it needs to be bathed, it needs to be aired, it needs recreation, but not for
personal reasons—just to make it a better public."
Now he began taking measures to limit use of his parks. He had restricted the use of state parks by poor and lower-middle-class families in the first place, by limiting access to the
parks by rapid transit; he had vetoed the Long Island Rail Road's proposed
construction of a branch spur to Jones Beach for this reason.
Now he began to limit access by buses; he instructed Shapiro to build the bridges across his new parkways low—too low for buses to pass. Bus trips therefore had to be made on local roads, making the trips discouragingly long and arduous.
For Negroes, whom he considered inherently "dirty," there were further measures. Buses needed permits to enter state parks; buses chartered by Negro groups found it very difficult to obtain permits, particularly to Moses' beloved Jones Beach; most were shunted to parks many miles further out on Long Island. And even in these parks, buses carrying Negro groups were shunted to the furthest reaches of the parking areas.
And Negroes were discouraged from using "white" beach areas—the best beaches—by a system Shapiro calls "flagging"; the handful of Negro lifeguards (there were only a handful of Negro employees among the thousands employed by the Long Island State Park Commission) were all stationed at distant, least developed beaches.
Moses was convinced that Negroes did not like cold water; the temperature at the pool at Jones Beach was deliberately icy to keep Negroes out. When Negro civic groups from the hot New York City slums began to complain about this treatment, Roosevelt ordered an investigation and an aide confirmed that "Bob Moses is seeking to discourage large Negro parties from picnicking at Jones Beach, attempting to divert them to some other of the state parks."
Roosevelt gingerly raised the matter with Moses, who denied the charge violently—and the Governor never raised the matter again.
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