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HUD Archives: News Releases

HUD No. 99-86
Further Information:For Release
In the Washington, DC area: 202/708-0685Saturday
Or contact your local HUD officeMay 15, 1999


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BOSTON Ė U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo today released a report that concludes the Boston Housing Authority has made significant progress since 1996 responding to racial and ethnic harassment in housing authority properties, but that troubling problems persist in some areas. The HUD report includes over 50 recommendations for improvements in BHA operations to address continuing problems.

"HUDís report shows that, under Mayor Meninoís leadership, the City of Boston and the Housing Authority have done a great deal to address problems of racial and ethnic harassment since 1996," Cuomo said. "But as the report points out, there is also still more to do to ensure all BHA residents live in a home free of bias."

"Racial and ethnic harassment is not just a Boston problem Ė itís a national problem," Cuomo added. "Todayís agreement can serve as a national model for reducing racial tensions and bias incidents in public housing."

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino pledged to carry out the HUD recommendations in an Improvement Plan over the next 12 months.

"My administration is fully committed to equal opportunity and to creating a safe, discrimination-free environment throughout the BHA," Mayor Menino said. "I am pleased that the report recognizes the progress made under Sandra Henriquezís leadership since 1996, and we will resolve the remaining problems with HUDís support."

The HUD report lists a number of actions taken by the BHA to strengthen its commitment to fair housing and civil rights since 1996, including:

  • Drafting and implementing a Civil Rights Protection Plan to safeguard the civil rights of public housing residents, and disciplining site managers who fail to follow provisions of the plan.
  • Adoption of a "zero tolerance" policy that requires tenants to be evicted for committing racial or ethnic harassment. BHA evicted offenders of racial violence and their families in four widely-publicized cases in January 1998.
  • Forming a partnership with the Boston Police Department to facilitate the reporting and investigation of bias crimes and incidents, and conducting administrative inquiries into acts of racial and ethnic harassment.
  • Providing training to help BHA employees combat hate crimes, and starting a mediation and civil rights training program for residents and employees.

In the Report, HUD also:

  • Announced funding for a Racial Reconciliation program through the Leadership Conference Education Fund and the Harvard Mediation Project to build on the steps already taken by the BHA.
  • Urged immediate settlement or resolution of outstanding civil rights litigation.
  • Called for the immediate termination or transfer by the BHA of personnel at the Old Colony and Charlestown public housing developments, where minority families have experienced the greatest problems with racial and ethnic harassment. "Despite the positive actions taken by the BHA since 1996 to address racial and ethnic harassment, problems remain," the report says. The report found that:
  • "While there has been a general decline in racial and ethnic harassment, these acts are still occurring at BHA developments . . . there was a threefold increase in hate crimes reported at the Charlestown development from 1997 to 1998." Racial and ethnic harassment reports were also unacceptably high at the Old Colony public housing development. HUDís review of BHAís 1998 Civil Rights Department files revealed that over 50% of the bias incidents reported to BHA occurred these two developments.

    Overall, HUDís review does not result in a systemic charge of racial and ethnic harassment for the period since 1996.

  • "At Charlestown and Old Colony, the management staff have not fully performed their duties and responsibilities as required under the Civil Rights Protection Plan."
  • Racial and ethnic harassment in public housing in Boston in 1998 and this year included reported incidents in which: 1)The car of someone visiting a black resident of Charlestown was smeared with dog feces, plus a swastika and the phrase "get outta here n****r" were written on the residentís mailbox. 2) A white resident of Old Colony threatened to attack a 4-year old Hispanic child with a pit bull dog and threatened the childís mother if she called the police again. 3) A white resident called a black school bus monitor on BHA property at the West Broadway public housing development a "f*****g n****r" and spit in the monitorís face. 4) Two black residents beat a white resident at Old Colony with fists and a bottle. 5) Two newspaper fires were started in a hallway near a Hispanic residentís door and "burn you sp*c" was written on the hallway wall at Old Colony. 6) A white child kicked a black child in the face and left two stuffed gorillas at the black familyís door at Old Colony with a note reading "black b*tch." It is important to note that each of these incidents is under investigation by the BHA according to the provisions of the 1996 Civil Rights Protection Plan and the BHA plans to take appropriate action.

    The Improvement Plan agreed to by Secretary Cuomo and Mayor Menino contains over 50 recommendations, including:

    • Reforming the BHA Civil Rights Department by requiring greater and swifter attention to be devoted to complaints of racial and ethnic harassment, and increasing educational efforts regarding civil rights for residents.
    • Improving policing and security at BHA developments, including increased police patrols, recruitment of more minority officers for BHA police, installation of video cameras at sites of repeated graffiti incidents, and other physical improvements for better security, such as improved lighting.
    • Increased civil rights training for BHA employees, linking performance incentives to effectiveness in combating racial and ethnic harassment, and additional personnel reforms.
    • Overhauling tenant transfer procedures to make it easier to move residents out of troubled situations.
    • More public participation in BHA management.

    HUD will monitor compliance with the recommendations, which are to be implemented by BHA over the next 12 months.

    Content Archived: January 20, 2009

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