A tale of two communities: Housing segregation on Long Island

A photo essay by Sabrina Lee

The exterior of a home on Union Place in Hempstead Village. // Photo by Sabrina Lee/Long Island Advocate

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.”

Outside of a corner home in Garden City. The median household income in Garden City is $174,886 — more than double the median household income in Hempstead. // Photo by Sabrina Lee/Long Island Advocate

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.

Two people crossed the street in Garden City on a recent Sunday. Seventh Street, in the village’s downtown, is lined with shops and restaurants. // Photo by Sabrina Lee/Long Island Advocate
Across the street from homes on Union Place in Hempstead Village, empty bottles and other trash are scattered on the ground. // Photo by Sabrina Lee/Long Island Advocate

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The Long Island Advocate is a multimedia news organization at Hofstra University’s Lawrence Herbert School of Communication where students gain valuable real-world experience producing news and features for online platforms. We have partnered with Garden City-based LIHerald.com.

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