Mayor Nick Wasicsko took office in 1987 during Yonkers' worst crisis. When federal courts ordered public housing be built in the white, middle class side of town, it divided the city in a bitter battle fueled by fear, racism, murder and politics.
By Lucia Tallchief:
It's 1987. The city of Yonkers, NY (pop. 200,000) has been sued by the NAACP because it has no (zero) public housing. This is because Yonkers' elected officials are obedient to the majority of voters who fear that public housing will attract swarms of Black and Latino Sec. 8 tenants who will "leech" off Yonkers' property-tax-payers. The federal courts have already decided in favor of the NAACP. But after 7 years, Yonkers has failed to submit a Housing Plan to demonstrate compliance with the ruling that Yonkers build 200 units of public housing. In fact, it has filed an appeal. While awaiting the decision on the Appeal, the Mayor is up for reelection. Several of the City Council members run the newest (and at 27 years old, the youngest) Council member against the popular six-term incumbent Mayor Angelo Martinelli (played by Jim Belushi). Nick Wasicsko launches his mayoral campaign during the heated City Council meetings -- protests -- which are attended by over-flow crowds. Despite being heavily policed, the crowds are so unruly they have to suspend the council meetings. In this political climate, Wasicsko runs his campaign, benefitting greatly from the political fall-out. Meanwhile, the Judge-ordered housing consultant for the City has the brilliant idea of building scattered site housing -- to lessen the housing's impact on any one single neighborhood (i.e., election district).