These paeans to life in the hood all seem to begin with the notion that the blacks and Hispanics who’ve lived in these places for the last couple of decades were akin to neighborhood founders. The writers seem oblivious to the fact that places including Ocean Hill, Brownsville and East NY were Italian, Irish and Jewish long before they were black and Hispanic.
What changed? There was a great surge of intellectual achievement. Particularly among the Jews of East NY who raced to City College and Brooklyn College during the 1930s and started an exodus that was accelerated by the appearance of blacks and Hispanics who filled the gap of the departing residents.
Alfred Kazin — a writer from East NY — published a book in 1951. “A Walker in the City.”
By some time in the 1970s, almost all the whites had left East NY. They were leaving the neighboring areas too. Too much violence. And the schools were over-run with kids who weren’t interested in learning much.
Now whites are coming back. The old ebb and flow. Maybe some of the high schools that were once notable for the intellectual achievements of their graduates will reclaim some of that ground. Could that happen? That kind of transformation will take a while.