Legislators Carrié Solages and Arnold Drucker Introduce Proposal to Establish a Database of Racially Restrictive Covenants within Property Deeds in Nassau County
(MINEOLA, N.Y.) - Nassau County Legislators Carrié Solages (D – Valley Stream) and Arnold W. Drucker (D – Plainview) have introduced legislation that would create a searchable database of racially restrictive covenants to educate the public as well as government entities regarding how structural racism shaped law, public policy, socioeconomic opportunities, and education within Nassau County.
Filed on Monday, July 13, 2020, the proposal would direct the Chair of the Nassau County Human Rights Commission, in consultation with the Executive Director of the Human Rights Commission, to issue a request for proposals (RFP) directed to educational institutions, nonprofit public policy advocacy organizations and nonprofit civil right organizations for the development of this database. Applicants will also be required to include an outline and/or detailed description for conducting a study to analyze and evaluate how covenants impacted demographic settlement patterns and the racial and ethnic composition of neighborhoods within Nassau County.
The proposal is an outgrowth of Newsday’s Peabody Award-winning three-year “Long Island Divided” housing discrimination investigation, which unveiled widespread discrimination against prospective Black, Hispanic and Asian American home buyers.
“Pursuing this research will further empower present-day policy makers to address and dismantle generations of systemic racism,” Legislator Solages said. “Furthermore, this endeavor presents an opportunity for young people to receive evidence-based historical research credit and for our real estate industry to work with Nassau County in making the American dream possible for anyone who seeks to achieve it. Through this initiative, we can gain a better understanding how Nassau County became one of the most segregated regions of the United States and position ourselves to make the necessary sociological and anthropological changes to achieve reforms.”
“Although these restrictive covenants have been held to be legally unenforceable by the courts in New York, it is important to continue to give a historical reference and perspective to the inherent racial divide and build upon Newsday’s series by documenting the indisputable facts which precipitated the abject segregation,” Legislator Drucker said. “The goal is to raise the consciousness by educating our residents and inspiring them to have the important conversations with their children, their families, their friends and their colleagues on how we got here and how we are now in a better position to confront racism here on Long Island. By doing so, we are empowering ourselves to promulgate new laws and policies that create more effective tools for dismantling and eradicating institutional and systemic racism here in Nassau County and across Long Island.”
The proposal has already gained the support of leading scholars at Adelphi University at Molloy College, who also expressed an interest in partnering with the County when the proposal comes to fruition. Tessa Hultz, CEO of the Long Island Board of Realtors; and leaders of the Levittown Coalition for Change, joined Legislators Solages and Drucker at Monday’s press conference.
“As an institution, we recognize the difficult historical legacy of racial segregation in housing and education and the impact of these inequities,” said Dr. Lisa Zakiya Newland, Professor and Chairperson of the Social Work Department at Molloy College. “The experience from our external programs, research activities from our faculty and students and the educational forums on racism contribute to the capacity at the College to address these complex issues. The call to support a resolution to establish a database of racially restrictive covenants within property deeds in Nassau County is timely and important to understanding this aspect of Long Island’s history. The College is supportive of engaging in this important research in order to expand the opportunity for learning by our students and public at large.”
“Clearly, collecting and disseminating research on the prevalence of racially restrictive language in deeds would educate the public about matters many know very little about, and that is important. But, the research findings would also assist those engaged in tackling the harmful manifestations of institutional structural racism that the late Manning Marable of Columbia University defined as resulting in the “grossly unequal outcomes between racial groups, with ‘whiteness’ defined at the social top and ‘blackness’ usually confined at the bottom of the social hierarchy,” Dr. Marsha J. Tyson Darling, Ph.D., Professor of History and Interdisciplinary Studies and Director of the Center for African, Black & Caribbean Studies at Adelphi University, said. “On Long Island, too often structural and institutional policies and practices have over time enabled some communities to access economic opportunities that create affluence, while racial segregation has intersected with economic segregation to marginalize Black and other minority communities away from accessing important economic opportunities.”