Discrimination Charges Aired Monday Night

by Laurel | April 26th, 2010

April 26, 1953

Negro Organization Says Condemned Liberty Park Project Only One Available.

Charges of discrimination in the selection of tenants for the public housing developments here, which were leveled this week by officers of the Monarch Civic and Social Club, will be discussed when the Holyoke Housing Authority meets Monday night.

The club, a Negro organization, circulated a petition and forwarded a complaint signed by 76 persons to the authority. Among the signers were Rev. William T. Green, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, a Negro congregation, and Rev. James F. Madison, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, who also served as minister for St. Luke’s Negro Mission in this city.

Emphasizing that “no Negro has ever lived in any projects in Holyoke except Liberty Park, which has been condemned,” the petitioners urged a revision of policy and pleaded with the authority to help “so something about the deplorable housing of Negroes in this city.”

Liberty park is a 44-unit federally controlled project in Ward I, expected to pass into municipal hands by July. The development, a series of wooden framed buildings in barrack type, was constructed during the critical war years and the opinion has been frequently expressed that the site is an “eye sore” and the units should be razed.

Spokesmen for the authority denied emphatically that racial discrimination of units at the Lyman Terrace, Beaudoin Village, Memorial Village and Jackson Parkway developments. The petition however, was to have been investigated and findings considered at the meeting.

An authority official stated, “There is no discrimination according to law. Selection of applicants is made on the basis of need. Veterans are given preference, and other considerations involve income of the applicant, order of registrations and allied factors.”

From The Springfield Union.

[Note: The Liberty Park housing was located on Winter and Appleton streets. According to a December 1943 article, the intent was for “several hundred” units to be built, but due to the war effort and lack of manpower, 44 units only had been competed of which only 4 were occupied at the time this article was written in 1943. The newspaper focus was, however, not on the building of new residential units, but rather the fact the 40 unoccupied units had running water in unheated apartments in December a formula for disaster. It was “believed that the full water flow was allowed to be turned on in the entire group of dwelling units since the property was completed, in spite of the lack of heat in any of the buildings except the four occupied units.” Being wintertime, pipes froze and then burst in at least six units and police had difficulty finding someone to shut off the water. Apparently the ice outside the buildings was more than an inch thick.

Ultimately, a huge mess, and these places had no basements — not a great beginning. So it is rather interesting that the Liberty Park units were pretty much condemned a mere ten years later when the charge of discrimination was aired.

Does anyone even remember the Liberty Park housing? I know I don’t.]

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