The

Case for Integration

New York City is home to the largest and one of the most segregated public school systems in the United States. Sixty years after Brown v Board of Education New York City public school policies continue to reinforce racial and socioeconomic divisions.

The Case for Integration visualizes this segregation and its resulting impacts on school infrastructure. By spatializing a series of current and historical data, such as the percentage of kindergartners attending their zoned elementary school overlaid on top of elementary school seat utilization and the boundaries of New York City’s redlined neighborhoods, an emerging picture reveals that there is a great deal of student mobility. This mobility, with more than 40% of kindergartners finding a school outside of their zone, shows that segregated schools are not simply determined by an analysis of all current segregated neighborhoods but are influenced by what was historically enforced residential segregation. 

It is a complex picture that shows that policies of school choice results in emptier schools in the formerly red lined neighborhoods even as schools in both gentrified neighborhoods and immigrant neighborhoods, which are receiving children from other areas or as recent arrivals to New York, are bursting at the seams. This uneven distribution of students exacerbates the problems in areas of entrenched poverty and results in an “inefficient” school infrastructure of under- and over-capacity schools spread throughout the City. As schools become less utilized, pressure can grow to “rationalize” those buildings that are in areas where community infrastructure is the most needed. The layering of information not only highlights new forms of analysis but also may point toward new approaches to addressing these challenges.

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