A tale of two communities: Housing segregation on Long Island
A photo essay by Sabrina Lee
Long Island is among the most segregated suburbs in the United States. There are 291 communities on the Island, but most of its Black population lives in only 11 of them. This divide can be clearly seen when looking at Hempstead and Garden City — two villages in the Town of Hempstead that are next door to each other but vastly different.
As described in a 2105 article in The Atlantic magazine, “Hempstead, in parts, resembles an inner city — with bodegas, laundromats, low-rise apartment buildings. Garden City is a suburban idyll, with tree-lined streets, gourmet grocery stores, and large colonial-style homes.”
Hempstead Village’s population is about 85 percent non-white, and the median household income is $62,569; on the other hand, Garden City’s population is 10% non-white, and the median household income is $174,886. These disparities are owing to many factors, including mortgage redlining, school district boundaries, housing prices, and racial steering and blockbusting.
In 2019, Newsday published a three-year investigation that uncovered evidence of unequal treatment by real estate agents against people of color. One of the biggest consequences of housing segregation is educational segregation. Long Island schools are funded by local property taxes. Thus, an area like the Village of Hempstead, with lower property taxes, does not receive the same funding and quality of education that schools in Garden City do.
For my photo essay, I sought to document the disparities and differences along the border between Hempstead and Garden City. Though these borders seem invisible, they are apparent in how the buildings look and the faces on the street.