Do We Want Rye to Be Just a Wealthy Enclave or Open to All?
Dear Rye Record,
Two letters in recent issues of The Rye Record regarding federal laws that exist to create opportunities for moderate-income households to reside in wealthier enclaves seemed to put forth as facts what are in fact opinions. These are that 1) families who are not high earners have children who are incapable of meeting the educational standards of the Rye City School District, and 2) families who do not have high incomes somehow have not worked hard enough, and that is why they cannot afford to buy expensive homes in our lovely town. Both of these assumptions are troubling, because they are not supported by any statistical evidence.
What I fear, rather, is that these spurious arguments reveal a desire to turn Rye into an exclusionary enclave of the highly privileged. Perhaps the authors of the previous letters do not realize that only a short time ago restricted covenants existed in Rye that explicitly forbade selling property to Blacks and Jews. Perhaps the authors do not realize that back in the 1970s the few Black students who attended Osborn Elementary School were regularly harassed and taunted on the playground by their non-Black peers, while the principal at that time stood idly by and did nothing to prevent such behavior.
I can easily imagine the arguments of some of the Rye citizens of that era defending why it was important to keep the federal government out of housing and schooling. If they had triumphed in their opposition, what would Rye look like today? Would it be a better place to live in? Perhaps, for some, it would be.
As a young person I grew up in Stamford, on a street with Americans of mostly Irish and Italian descent. I vividly recall being told by my young Irish-American neighbor across the street that his parents had instructed him not to play with me because we were a bad influence on the street, because we were Jews. This was only one of many less-than-veiled ways to tell us we were not welcome in the neighborhood.
Rather than blaming the federal government or the individuals who would like to live in Rye but cannot afford to at present, our authors ought to work on how to help think of ways to reform our tax laws so that the cost of a top-notch education is not linked to local property values, a reality which only serves to reinforce the educational privileges of those who can afford to pay these hefty taxes. Perhaps we also ought to remember that the vast majority of Americans are not wealthy; they work very hard day in and day out and raise good children who ought to have a chance to live in beautiful surroundings, such as those we benefit from here in Rye.
As citizens of this great land do we really want to build a society where wealth becomes the only standard that determines the right of our children and our families to decent schools and pleasant environs? Is that what the American Revolution was fought for so long ago?
Enough Is Enough of Fed Force-Feeding Subsidized Housing
I wish to take the time to thank and congratulate Bob Zahm (whose letter regarding affordable housing was included in your August 23 issue) for having the courage and conviction to put in writing what I am sure many Rye residents feel. Like him, I am tired of being told that all I have worked for and achieved now has to be shared with those less fortunate.
I moved to Rye 35 years ago to give my family, especially my children, the benefit of a better life; now I am being told that I have to take care of the rest of the world as well.
My children are all grown, have moved away, and have families of their own. All my children went to excellent colleges thanks in large part to the education they received in the Rye school system. Now, the government is asking us to possibly dilute the education our children receive by opening our doors to those who may not be able to pay the taxes to keep up the standards of our educational system.
As I have said, my children and their families have moved away. I pay an incredible amount of school taxes for services I do not receive. I do not complain, I want the schools to keep achieving and striving to maintain their high standards. It is my way of protecting the property values that I have worked so hard to afford.
I for one want to say: enough is enough, stop telling me I must share and in so doing diminish what I have.
William I. Platt
Forcing Subsidized Housing on Communities Undermines Communities
Many Westchester communities are attractive because of their single-family homes with accompanying yards and the services available because of the taxes their residents pay. The communities are open to anyone who is able to afford them. This has nothing to do with racial bias, but everything to do with income/wealth.
What seems inappropriate to me, and inconsistent with both U.S. culture and the Constitution, is the Federal government forcing communities to subsidize the creation of local housing which will ultimately require on-going subsidies through higher property taxes of single-family homes, local businesses, etc.
We are essentially being told that the income taxes we pay to support federal housing programs just aren’t enough. We are now expected to also pay increased property taxes and potentially devalue our own property to achieve some level of accessibility that has nothing to do with personal achievement or effort and everything to do with social engineering.
Hopefully, the Westchester Board of Legislators will seriously consider rejecting future federal funds of the type which have led to the “affordable housing” consent decree. In the short term, such funds may have eased tax rates, but the long-term risks of accepting such funds are now clear – increased Federal control over our lives and property.