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‘Tenants have no choice’: Racism in urban planning fuels high rate of Black fire deaths

The deadly fires in the Bronx, New York and Philadelphia follow a historical pattern that sees Black people dying in accidents at alarming rates.

As leaders shift blame from electric space heaters to overcrowded housing in the wake of deadly fires in both the Bronx, New York and Philadelphia, experts say the true culprit is poor residential conditions and the racism rife in the nation’s urban planning and infrastructure decisions.

Within days of each other, the fire in a Bronx building killed at least 17 people, including several Gambian immigrants, and another in a Philadelphia row house killed a dozen. But the fatal nature of these fires follows a historical pattern in which negligent policymaking and infrastructural decisions can kill Black people at disproportionate rates.

“We’re looking at how land use and zoning policies are used. Because of housing segregation, those policies have been used against communities of color,” said Juanita Lewis, an organizer with the New York social justice group Community Voices Heard. “We’re still operating under the context of housing segregation and having to prove who is worthy of protection and living in decent housing. The fire was started by a space heater because there was inadequate heat. The situation in the Bronx is extremely sad, unfortunate and disheartening, but it’s not uncommon.”

The legacy of early zoning laws across the country that promoted segregation exists today in housing instability that forces Black people into neglected rental units rife with maintenance issues that place them at higher risk for everything from fire deaths to lead poisoning. Black people are more likely than people of other races to die in accidents like fires. Though Black people make up about 13 percent of the U.S. population, they represent 25 percent of individuals killed in residential fires across the country, according to the New York State Department of Health. “Racism influences almost every way to die by accident in America, and it has for a long, long time,” said Jessie Singer, a journalist and author of “There Are No Accidents.” “I looked as far back as 1900, and Black people die by accident at a higher rate than white people, all accidents total. Accidents are supposed to be unpredictable, unpreventable events. If that were true, accidental deaths would be randomly distributed across the U.S., but it’s not.”

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by Anonymousreply 60January 14, 2022 3:20 AM

Why it gotta be black?

Do poor whites and Hispanics not suffer?

by Anonymousreply 1January 13, 2022 2:47 PM

There was a vicious fire a week or two ago, in a fancy building on Park Avenue and 67th. There was another in the East 70s where a couple of people died. Both expensive doorman buildings filled with white people.

These things happen every winter.

by Anonymousreply 2January 13, 2022 2:52 PM

If you don't want to have an overcrowded apartment, stop spitting out crotch fruit every year, especially if you can't afford the kids you already have.

In 2011, there were six people on the lease of the apartment in Philly. In 2021, there were 14 people, meaning the 3 adult females had 8 additional kids between them in the intervening decade.

by Anonymousreply 3January 13, 2022 2:54 PM

This whole world is a nightmare and everyone has their own blame-shifting narrative to sell, market and brand. There will always be an enemy because people only think in terms of absolutes (us vs. them, good vs. evil, etc.), when nobody ever tries to just admit that they need to do more.

by Anonymousreply 4January 13, 2022 2:55 PM

R3 It's because people set rules and then fail to enforce them. Dialogue time is over. Everyone always says the same things that ultimately don't get anything done: that it's time for this conversation to be had, and that this is an important dialogue to have. When will people stop having conversations and actually start doing things to make the world not descend further into chaos?

by Anonymousreply 5January 13, 2022 3:04 PM

I thought the tenants in the apartment in the Bronx left the door open and the smoke got out and killed the others ? What's racist about that ?

by Anonymousreply 6January 13, 2022 3:09 PM

I agree about not having kids every five minutes. These people are crammed into overcrowded apartments because nobody uses birth control.

by Anonymousreply 7January 13, 2022 3:11 PM

The Philadelphia fire turned out to be started by a child playing with a lighter by the Christmas tree

by Anonymousreply 8January 13, 2022 3:40 PM

R5 - nyc housing code specifies self closing doors on all units in multiple dwellings. The doors in this building had been malfunctioning for a long time. There were numerous complaints by the tenants over the years as well as inspection violations - the landlords never properly fixed them. The apartment door failed to close and there was also a fire-door on a 15th floor stairwell that wasn’t properly closed as well — that created the chimney like condition that rapidly spread the smoke from what would have been a relatively minor fire through out the building and killed 19 people.

The neglect of the landlords and the bad follow up by the city are exactly what the article is discussing. Perhaps if the issue were framed in terms of class rather than race you would see it. Or perhaps not if you believe people are poor solely because of their life choices and actions.

by Anonymousreply 9January 13, 2022 3:55 PM

One of these fires was started by a two year old playing with a cigarette lighter who lit a Christmas tree on fire while no one was watching him.

by Anonymousreply 10January 13, 2022 3:57 PM

Apartments with all these different generations just pushes the cycle of being on some sort of assisted living.....There needs to be some sort of policy that doesn't reward for having more children...I assume you get more money for each child you have......I understand the lack of affordable housing but lets face it...Most folk don't want those kinda units in their building...When i live in SF one of our neighbors was in a unit that was subsidized by the city......We payed over 4500 a month ......He sold drugs and smoked so much weed it would seep into our place....He also drove a fairly nice car

by Anonymousreply 11January 13, 2022 4:06 PM

Nobody wants to live around Section 8 people, of any race.

by Anonymousreply 12January 13, 2022 4:17 PM

There's definitely a class component at work here. The fire doors weren't fixed because some pencil pusher made the conscious or unconscious decision that poor people don't matter. It's just like Grenfell Tower and all of the blatantly ignored safety issues. The people on this thread victim-blaming and saying poor people deserve their misery because they dared to reproduced need to go back to 1985.

by Anonymousreply 13January 13, 2022 4:21 PM

[quote]There needs to be some sort of policy that doesn't reward for having more children

Living in one apartment with 13 other people isn't a "reward."

We don't know who was living in the Philadelphia apartment (despite someone saying it was mostly kids from those animalistic Negroes who won't stop breeding like rabbits) but we do know there were 14 people on the lease. No one lives like that because they want to, because it's a reward, because it's an easy way of life. You live like that when you have no other way to live.

I don't understand people like you at all.

by Anonymousreply 14January 13, 2022 4:27 PM

R14 there are sufficient methods of birth control and abortion. Anybody with 8 kids should be sterilized.

by Anonymousreply 15January 13, 2022 4:31 PM

"We payed over 4500 a month."

And who "paid" for your college education, R11? You sure didn't get your money's worth!

by Anonymousreply 16January 13, 2022 4:36 PM

r15 my dad grew up with nine siblings and he has engineering patents. What have you ever contributed to society? I hate people like you.

by Anonymousreply 17January 13, 2022 4:39 PM

Did anyone happen to notice that the name of the article's author is "Char Williams"? Per the article, she's a very hot writer for 'NBC BLK' nowadays, very much in demand. In fact, NBC execs burned up the telephone lines discussing her scorching exposure of racial disparities in deaths due to fire. (She doesn't report on deaths due to guns being fired, though.)

On the downside, I hear that Char is not a very good cook.

by Anonymousreply 18January 13, 2022 4:58 PM

Poor white people, and Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans ALSO are at risk.

I've become so exhausted by everything bad in the U.S. somehow being designed to harm black people, or being biased only against black people, or impacting only black people. Enough of this shit already. They're barely a minority. Society and white people are not the cause of every adverse situation. When will the African American community begin holding itself accountable for what ails it?

by Anonymousreply 19January 13, 2022 5:11 PM

We only care about black people in this country, R1. That is, until the Republicans take over and destroy all of the SJW initiatives.

by Anonymousreply 20January 13, 2022 5:12 PM

Maybe because it often disproportionately affects black people. But that aside if whites and Hispanics are equally affected then why the hell aren't they making an issue of it?

by Anonymousreply 21January 13, 2022 5:19 PM

The media has definitely gone overboard - as has social media - with pushing the Only Black People are Martyrs narrative. This is going to backfire badly in the next election. Like their beloved Black Women Will Save Our Democracy! narrative. Black women are only 7% of the population. Jews are also 7% of the population so maybe it's Jews saving our democracy.

by Anonymousreply 22January 13, 2022 5:19 PM

[quote]Jews are also 7% of the population so maybe it's Jews saving our democracy.

What population? I thought it was closer to 2% of the US population

by Anonymousreply 23January 13, 2022 5:20 PM

That 2 year old playing with a lighter sounds racist as fuck.

by Anonymousreply 24January 13, 2022 5:26 PM

Glad you posted here, OP, but I knew the horrifying shitstorm these comments would be.

by Anonymousreply 25January 13, 2022 5:26 PM

If those building were full of poor Hispanics, would anybody care or is it a story because the victims were black? Or is it a problem for all poor people regardless of race? Also the victims in the Bronx were recent immigrants from AFrica. They were not long time sufferers of American systemic racism. Maybe French colonialism but not American racism. They left a majority black country to come to the supposedly totally racist U.S. of A. for a better life.

by Anonymousreply 26January 13, 2022 5:26 PM

Interesting the media is refusing to print the fact that the Bronx building had no heat, and the landlord is on Mayor McCheesey's transition team.

by Anonymousreply 27January 13, 2022 5:28 PM

I've never read the buildings had no heat. This was a huge building and I[m sure the hundreds of survivors would have immediately said there was no heat. The problem appears to be doors that didn't close properly not issues with the heat.

by Anonymousreply 28January 13, 2022 5:30 PM

For anyone actually interested, here's a good article:

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by Anonymousreply 29January 13, 2022 5:32 PM

They're blaming urban planning and infrastructure for a reason. These are harder to "just fix" so people who actually are to blame are shifting the blame that way. How can you fix the geometry of a neighborhood that has existed for more than 100 years? How would that prevent Black people from dying in fires? This is actually a class problem, but the upper classes obfuscate this by making it about "institutional racism" which is as difficult to find a solution as it is to define and understand. The rich need to be taxed to solve these issues.

by Anonymousreply 30January 13, 2022 5:34 PM

[quote] This is actually a class problem, but the upper classes obfuscate this by making it about "institutional racism"

Except racism and poverty/class are inextricably bound together in many cases in this country.

Yes, white people can be impoverished and never leave it (hello, Appalachia!) but many black people have been pushed time and again to move to less safe areas. We never rounded up groups of people in Kentucky so we could have their land and put them all into a project. There IS a difference.

This is what Pete was talking about last year. So many cities, especially east of the Mississippi, have major highways that, as a "bonus," went through poor black neighborhoods. Milwaukee, Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Rochester, Buffalo, the list goes on. That was not an accident. Black people owned those homes in some cases, and were paid a pittance for them to move into projects that were never going to have the resources to be sustainable.

by Anonymousreply 31January 13, 2022 5:41 PM

R31, yes Pete is such a beacon of racial justice. He proved that time and again in South Bend when he fired the black police chief and sided with the racist cops.

by Anonymousreply 32January 13, 2022 5:42 PM

R32 He made a bad choice there, for sure.

However, this is about zoning and planning. Keep up.

by Anonymousreply 33January 13, 2022 5:59 PM

I think cutting taxes also plays a part in this. It seems with each financial downturn, the public agrees to cut government budgets. When things get better, the budgets aren't restored. So people demand safer buildings, protection of endangered children, good schools, but no money is provided for inspections and salaries.

by Anonymousreply 34January 13, 2022 6:08 PM

Blowhards in the Philadelphia Inquirer, WHYY and other local news outlets want so badly to blame city officials/the Philadelphia housing authority but they can't because the PHA didn't do anything wrong. It seems fairly obvious that the tenants disabled the smoke detectors so they could cook or more likely smoke (hence the 5-year old finding a lighter to play with as a toy), as they were functional during the previous inspection. Even if they had been operational I don't think that would have changed the outcome; the tree probably burnt up instantly and spread flames everywhere. And Philly rowhouses don't have fire escapes, it's just not a thing here. The questions that nobody seems to want to ask are the most pertinent: How was a 5-year old left alone with that many people living in the apartment? And who leaves lighters around with small children?

by Anonymousreply 35January 13, 2022 6:23 PM

[quote]No one lives like that because they want to, because it's a reward, because it's an easy way of life. You live like that when you have no other way to live.

You know what those people CAN do to better themselves? Stop having so many fucking children! They are in complete control of that.

by Anonymousreply 36January 13, 2022 7:05 PM

I have zero sympathy for any idiot who reproduces like a rabbit and thinks we owe them generous housing for their multitude of brats.

by Anonymousreply 37January 13, 2022 7:17 PM

[Quote] We never rounded up groups of people in Kentucky so we could have their land and put them all into a project.

Oh really, R31??

by Anonymousreply 38January 13, 2022 7:40 PM

Plenty of poor and disadvantaged Whites, Asians, Hispanics, etc., live in dangerous housing. They tried pulling this shit in the UK after the Grenfell towerblock fire. The fucking fire was started in the kitchen by an illegal immigrant who literally packed his bags and fucked off without saying a word. He didn't even call the emergency services. The fireman, paramedics, nurses, doctors, police that tried to help the residents were predominantly White, but that didn't stop the media spouting their usual "they died because racism and White people are evil" fuckwittery.

by Anonymousreply 39January 13, 2022 7:51 PM

[quote]I have zero sympathy for any idiot who reproduces like a rabbit and thinks we owe them generous housing for their multitude of brats.

You could have just put the period after "sympathy." It would have saved you space and not changed your meaning.

by Anonymousreply 40January 13, 2022 7:54 PM

r40 the meaning would have been very different. Fuck these people who don't use birth control and shit out litters of kids.

by Anonymousreply 41January 13, 2022 8:06 PM

If you are poor why the fuck are you staying in NYC where decent housing is notoriously expensive and hard to find? There's a whole damned near empty country you can go live in where housing is much easier and cheaper? What's with the lack of imagination here?

I live here in NYC because of my career choice, but if that weren't the case I'd quickly consider better options. It's not rocket science, poor people's housing isn't as good or safe as well off people's housing, that's economics, not racism!

by Anonymousreply 42January 13, 2022 8:12 PM

[quote]Like their beloved Black Women Will Save Our Democracy! narrative.

Don't you mean TRANS WOMEN OF COLOR?

by Anonymousreply 43January 13, 2022 8:15 PM

To the hall monitor at R33 this thread is about race as the heading makes clear so the comment at R32 is not out of line

by Anonymousreply 44January 13, 2022 8:22 PM

r13 often consciously. . . "affordable" housing projects (tenements) have lower standards. Worse yet when you get many public facilities for the disabled, mental health and homeless. They can be allowed to operate in a condition that would in any other case lead to the property being condemned without significant upgrades.

Mismanagement is also another area of concern. And I would be inclined to mention that, although, many of these options are public...they're frequently more financed through foreign investments.. which also receive additional perks and allowances. It's a longterm investment - property sitting - even if it takes decades or centuries to turn a profit. The consumer level equivalent is buying foreclosed properties.

Where the 'racist' aspects here is treating people like animals, devoid of responsibility - it's runs afoul of social programs, those which minimize self reliance and stability, creating a class of people dependent and restricted by the system - people that require extensive psychiatric and medical care, addicts, career criminals, and the lack of available placements, so they're quarantined in the hood to keep them off the prettier streets. For the rest that live in the area, they become bound to the various income traps with no adequate programs to transition out of poverty over the longterm.

Of course, it doesn't hold to a single race... we see the problem everywhere among every demographic.

One taboo area is outlining the historical differences between past & present migrants (in particular, as related to these specifics, model minorities of Africa) and those that experience on-going multi-generational poverty.

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by Anonymousreply 45January 13, 2022 8:34 PM
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by Anonymousreply 46January 13, 2022 8:35 PM

Re: the Philly fire, lighters are hard for children to operate and they're specifically made that way. Did the kid have a zippo?

And upthread regarding the Grenfell fire, where does say that the tenant just fucked off and didn't report it to emergency services? I've never heard that.

by Anonymousreply 47January 13, 2022 8:48 PM

Just an FYI to all the bleeding heats here: the neighborhood where the Philly row house fire occurred is called Fairmont and it is hardly a slumm or ghetto. It's integrated economically as well as racially. It is easily walkable to Center City and public transportation, as well as museums, parks and shopping. One could say the tenants of this public housing building were fortunate to live in such a neighborhood, that is if they weren't so hell bent on breeding and multiplying. Did any of the adults living here ever have a job?

by Anonymousreply 48January 13, 2022 8:49 PM

R4, wow! That resonated

by Anonymousreply 49January 13, 2022 9:35 PM

[quote] ‘Tenants have no choice’

Yes, OP, and Beggars Can't Be Choosers.

by Anonymousreply 50January 13, 2022 9:43 PM

Could they not have some type of metered heating in place in public housing? Say, a base temperature is set and included in rent, anything over and above that temp the tenant has to pay for? Is that impossible?

by Anonymousreply 51January 13, 2022 9:46 PM

R19 Black people are a minority when it comes to wealth inequality. 30 years ago I learned black people were 12% of the US population and controlled half of 1% of the wealth. Today, they are like 14 or 15% of the population and control.... 1/2 of 1% of the wealth.

Black owned small businesses were far more likely to go under in the pandemic. They had no cushion. See above sentence for why they don't have aunts, uncles, parents to lean on when times get tough. They don't get inheritances like a large percentage of whites (who are due to inherit a few trillion in real estate over the next decade or so as white baby boomers die off). And the government did step up with loans but it was big established companies that ended up getting most of those, not the mom and pops that needed it for rent or supplies.

Also you can see the racism and ignorance on this thread that contributes to this situation. Most made assumptions that these apartments were filled with poor couples who bred like rabbits and had tons of kids. (If society was interested, we'd offer free IUD's to poor women and save money but Republicans stop that because they think its abortion--it REALLY works). But apparently a lot of these situations were single apartments with multiple extended family members or other people splitting rent.

And for the buildings themselves--these landlords are slumlords. Most landlords are slumlords. They put as little effort and money as possible into the building, jack the prices up as high as the law and market will allow, and are happy to pay fines if they get caught for anything while they stack their credit to buy more shitty buildings.

by Anonymousreply 52January 13, 2022 10:00 PM

Carelessness and racism are not the same. The new NYC Mayor, who is black, explained in detail what happened and how it happened. Open door with a space heater accident/malfunction occurred. The fire alarms in the building needed maintenance, new batteries, whatever.

by Anonymousreply 53January 13, 2022 10:03 PM

I know of a housing block in my city for poor people and funded by taxpayers.

All units in this building are inspected every six months for fire hazards.

by Anonymousreply 54January 13, 2022 10:20 PM

[quote] (If society was interested, we'd offer free IUD's to poor women and save money but Republicans stop that because they think its abortion--it REALLY works).

Birth control is available for free at Planned Parenthood and other clinics. These people choose not to use it. Stop blaming the Evil White Devils for every goddamn problem, when this one is self-inflicted.

by Anonymousreply 55January 13, 2022 11:12 PM

What kind of fire prevention classes/lessons are offered to new immigrants? Someone from the developing world may not automatically know about how dangerous a space heater can be if used improperly.

by Anonymousreply 56January 13, 2022 11:49 PM

What kind of English language classes are offered to new immigrants?

by Anonymousreply 57January 13, 2022 11:56 PM

The concept of racial zoning is interesting to me. Many are unaware how the legacy of redlining and driving highways through neighborhoods prevent generational inequality.

by Anonymousreply 58January 14, 2022 12:05 AM

r56 r57 It depends on where they are coming from and where they are going. Many or at least their children if no one else has been instructured in English, while others might be given a rush primer or take adult courses, or given resources and tools to access online instruction. There are many variables, however, most have a familiarity with English through various sources, such as military, missionaries, or education. As to technology, this is another reason for the clash between Africans and african Americans - many Americans are ignorant about the rest of the world, heck, many are ignorant about their own nation, and tend to believe such immigrants are stepping straight out of a National Geographic from the 1950s... but of course, there are exceptions as well. Frankly, there are too many variables to discuss. If lacking and they lived in a transitional housing or camp, they were likely educated in this regard. But often there is very little hand holding involved. Anymore refugees are dumped into established neighborhoods and often fail to assimilate or integrate with the expectation of the community to make up for the deficit, which has been called out for decades among refugees pre 90s to those post 90s. But differing demographics, timelines, differing set of problems and politics.

I was hoping to find some older videos I had on debates between various groups but it seems many are now hidden. And it is mostly Americans diaspora's opinion against the other with ados wankery.

but a newer one I'm going to skip off an watch:

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by Anonymousreply 59January 14, 2022 12:25 AM

This article had me pretty irate yesterday.

I use space heaters during the winter. I also use fans during the hot months.

I have HVAC, but also live in the Midwest with temperature extremes. I am also conscious about the bills involved for gas and electricity.

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by Anonymousreply 60January 14, 2022 3:20 AM
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