“Show Me a Hero” – IOTW Report

“Show Me a Hero”

I’ve talked often about my hometown being at the forefront and the epicenter of activists bringing lawsuits against towns, charging them with racism. In the case of Yonkers, the charge was that the political powers intentionally gerrymandered city districts to prevent minorities from gaining power, and/or “living on the right side of the railroad tracks.”

The story of my old hometown is so compelling that it will be a miniseries starting in August on HBO.

When Yonkers was sued, and lost, a 25 year-old councilman by the name of Nick Wasicsko, a democrat, ran on the platform of defying the court ruling. He defeated a longtime republican mayor, Angelo Martinelli.

Soon after taking office, Wasicsko did an about-face and agreed to build low-income housing throughout the city. The mayor was convinced by lawyers that he was fighting a losing battle and that fines levied against the city for non-compliance would bankrupt them into the stone age.

When Wasicsko flipped he was the target of death threats and the city was at the brink of a civil war.

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Jim Belushi as Mayor Angelo Martinelli

I watched the trailer linked above. Many of the settings are on location in Yonkers. The mini-series looks right, but I’m interested in seeing how the people are portrayed.

Was Yonkers racist? That was the charge.

The trailer hints at where the narrative is going to go. The black people were all beautiful diamonds in the rough until the evil white people shoved them into the ghettoes.

But that’s not what happened. All of the areas that were supposedly gerrymandered to keep minorities west of the parkway (that was the dividing line) were at one time all white. Southwest Yonkers was where all the jobs were, and Northeast Yonkers was the more bucolic part of the city. That gerrymandered line existed before there were minorities.

Yonkers was not any different than any other city where the areas nearest the public transit and nearest the social services attracted more and more minorities as the government spent more and more on welfare and social services. For decades whites and blacks lived together. I know, I lived there. But, over time the area, for whatever reason, became dirtier, dingier and more dangerous. The people who could afford to move left for the other side of town- black and white.

Were my parents racists? No more so than the black families who moved out.

I expect to see a miniseries where all da white people are tawkin’ like mooks and are gonna be crackin’ heads, and all the black people will talk like gentile scholars, a little raw, but will soon blossom once out from under the thumb of racists. It should be entertaining.

Oh, by the way. *Spoiler Alert*

Nick Wasicsko shoots himself in the head while sitting at his father’s gravesite in 1993. Whether the strain of what he went through as mayor was a contributing factor or not is debatable.

I knew Wasicsko, I worked with him for a summer at a county park. We weren’t “friends.” His girlfriend was my direct co-worker and he didn’t like that all too much.

He had a beautiful Trans Am that the girlfriend wanted to wash and wax for him as a surprise. I told her that to do it right she should compound the car first, and get the old wax off.

She thought the compound was supposed to make the car gleam. So when it wasn’t getting shiny she put some elbow grease into it and rubbed right through the paint to the metal.

This was another reason for him to not like me too much.


30 Comments on “Show Me a Hero”

  1. It’s a line by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
    Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy.

    This is what they are calling the show.

    I think it alludes to Wasicsko’s suicide.

  2. GFY knows all of my haunts.
    We haven’t compared too many notes, but people from Yonkers tend to know the city inside and out.

    I think it’ll be good for entertainment.
    But I think it’s going to portray the city as bigoted through and through and black people will be portrayed very sympathetically.

    Meanwhile, one of the locations, Mulford Gardens, couldn’t be used because it got so bad, so filled with drugs and crime and grime it had to be torn down.

    My grandmother lived there. I remember it before it turned rotten.
    What happened?
    Did my grandmother do something to make the blacks shoot up in the hallways?

    They lived in the VERY SAME PLACE AS HER. They shared the same vista, same station in life.

    It didn’t go from all white to all black overnight.
    There was a time when it was shared by all races.

    What happened?
    Why did it need to be torn down within 25 years?

    In the early 70s my friend moved into an affordable housing apartment complex in south Yonkers.
    It was brand new. It was integrated.

    Within a year they wanted to move out.

    People were urinating in the elevator.

    So who was doing the urinating?
    The white people or the black people?

    There was no urinating in elevators east of the parkway. Is it because bigots don’t urinate in the elevator?

  3. ‘The black people were all beautiful diamonds in the rough until the evil white people shoved them into the ghettoes’.

    As taught in 90% of our universities.

  4. I used to have a home in a particular place on a particular island in Greece. I can’t go back there. It’s sorta like what happened to Yonkers.
    They lurched left, went uber PC, let in illegals, etc.
    Yeah yeah, it’s lovely in vacation photos, but it’s really a fucking shithole now.

    There’s a part of a Lee Ann Womack song that says what I think about it:

    “Well it’s gettin’ late now baby
    And the wind is blowin’ cold
    If there’s nothin’ left for us to say
    Must be time for me to go”

    You can never go home again, but it’s sad when the place gets economically and morally burned to the ground so that no one wants to even attempt to anymore.

  5. Does anybody think that successful, law abiding black people want to live next to ghetto people any more than successful, law abiding people of any race do?

  6. I don’t have any experience with New York, but I can tell you about one Mexican barrio that used to be a damn nice place to live. There are bars on all the windows now, including the house I used to live in.

    And Bing Crosby is rolling over, vomiting dust in his grave …

    “Oh, I’m packing my grip

    And I’m leaving today,

    ‘Cause I’m taking a trip

    California way

    I’m gonna settle down and never more roam

    And make the San Fernando Valley my home.”


    Allow me to update that song for Bing:

    Oh, I’m packing my shit

    And I’m leaving today,

    ‘Cause I’m taking a trip

    to get the fuck away

    I’m gonna find a town and give you the bone

    And you can shove the San Fernando Valley up your illegal Mexican A-hole.

  7. I remember you talking about Van Nuys. We used to cruise that blvd when I was a teen. Before your time – I’m an old hell raiser. I left in 79 but had to go back in 81 because the wife hated Arkansas and took my kids back to the valley. Took me another year to convince her that the place was too dangerous for the kids to grow up there, then we all moved back to the Ozarks.

    I went back in 2003 or 2004 and what I saw just made me sick. I used to work in North Hollywood at Wayne Alignment; I know what you mean about the translator. lol

  8. Bad-Brad : Head down to the State Fair some weekend evening. I did that last night before the soccer match at Bonny Field. Let’s just say my skin, though California tan, stood out.

  9. Actually, Fur, I don’t have a clue where you lived or where you hung out in Yonkers. And, hate to disappoint you, but I don’t know the entire city. Moving here after my knees went kerflooey has ensured that I no longer go for long, meandering walks around town. Brooklyn was the place where I could never serve jury duty in Criminal Court because wherever the crime had taken place, I was familiar with it.

  10. “…bigots don’t urinate in the elevator”

    That’s a well-put observation, Fur. If want to make it a complete sentence though Should it be “We…” or “Us…” ?

    Will urinating in an elevator exonerate me from charges of bigotry? I suppose there’d have to be a witness to the act, though. There are very few elevators in Florida, anyway.

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