Excerpted From: Jessica Mingrino, White Picket Fences & Suburban Gatekeeping: How Long Island's Land Use Laws Cement its Status as One of the Most Segregated Places in America, 95 Saint John's Law Review 1129 (2021) (163 Footnotes) (Full Document)


00NoPictureThe average wealth of Black families is one-seventh that of white families in the United States today. Homeownership--the primary avenue through which Americans accumulate personal and generational wealth--is the leading driver of the wealth disparity between white and Black American families, known as the “racial wealth gap.” The systematic and intentional exclusion of Black people from developing communities during the twentieth century largely excluded people of color from the housing boom and denied them the opportunity afforded to white people to multiply their assets. Contrary to widespread belief, however, legislation-backed oppression of Black Americans did not end in the twentieth century. Many current land use and housing policies unnecessarily drive up home prices and make it difficult for traditionally disadvantaged individuals like low-income Black Americans to move into traditionally white communities, prolonging segregation in the United States. As one of the most segregated areas in the United States, Long Island, New York serves as a perfect example of how land use regulation disparately impacts people of color, cements the Racial Wealth Gap, and drastically reduces opportunity for economic and community mobility.

This Note examines the enduring segregation of Long Island and proposes solutions to counteract the regulations that perpetuate it. Part I of this Note reviews the pervasive role racism has played in shaping Long Island's historical land use framework. Part II examines common land use regulations utilized on Long Island and their disparate impact on historically disadvantaged communities like Black Americans. Part III discusses barriers to the modification of these regulations. Finally, Part IV demands that New York State enact comprehensive legislation to catalyze desegregation and incentivize equitable community development on Long Island.

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Enacting a comprehensive legislation package to deregulate land use and zoning would not only help to integrate Long Island but would also provide a multitude of additional benefits for its residents. In leading Long Island towards racial equity, catalyzing community mobility, and incentivizing new construction, policymakers will greatly stimulate and expand the area's economy. Increased integration also leads to heightened academic success for students in public schools, ensuring the region's future competitive edge. Most importantly, however, deregulation of Long Island's regulatory zoning and land use scheme would be an unequivocal and necessary step toward dismantling the longstanding effects of racism and subsequent systems of oppression which have disadvantaged Black Americans for hundreds of years.

Senior Staff, St. John's Law Review, J.D. Candidate, 2022, St. John's University School of Law; B.S., 2019, Fordham University, Gabelli School of Business.