TRS Documentary: New York City

new york ghetto

The New York Ghetto Story

The largest city in the United States and one of the most famous cities in the world, the New York ghetto and urban communities of African Americans, West Indians, and Latino’s, has had a major influence on today’s society.

Before Harlem became the mecca and mainstay for New York City’s African-American community, the city’s black population was originally freedmen and slaves that grew into communities of small pockets in multiple boroughs like Little Africa of Lower Manhattan or Sandy Ground of Staten Island.

By the beginning of the 20th Century, blacks began to migrate from the south which would further expand the African-American population of the Harlem neighborhood.

By the 1930s and 1940s, the black community stretched into other parts of the city, like the South Bronx, Brooklyn’s Bed Sty, or South Jamaica Queens, due to white flight, overcrowding in Harlem, urban renewal, and new housing and transit construction.

Decades later, New York City’s black community became established in all of the five boroughs, like the North Bronx, south of Jamaica Avenue in Queens, a multitude of Brooklyn neighborhoods east of Flatbush Avenue, or north of interstate 278 in Staten Island, especially as many West Indians began to relocate to New York during the 1970s and 1980s.


Historically the Latino community has been in New York for generations with most originally living different sections of Manhattan and Brooklyn, but with an influx of Puerto Ricans moving into the city, the large Latino community of East Harlem, followed by the South Bronx, became established.

Eventually, the Latino population became located in neighborhoods like Washington Heights, Bushwick, Jackson Heights, and Corona by the 1960s and 1970s, with the help of people from the Dominican Republic, together with Latino’s from other Caribbean and Central American countries.

Many of New York’s urban communities were once the home to a variety of European ethnicities, like Jews and Italians, but after World War 2 many began to leave their communities, leaving them to be replaced by Latino and Black families.

This was primarily due to the process of redlining and blockbusting, as banks and real estate companies influenced people on where they could move and live at or who should they sell their homes to.

Soon after, most of the New York ghetto began to decline, as they became heavily impoverished, infested with drugs and crime, and neglected or ignored by the city and its absentee landlords.

As the city began to strictly enforce its laws, which included stop and frisk or the extreme and harsh punishment for being caught with drugs and weapons, there became less street activity in the city’s urban communities.

Currently, many of New York communities like Harlem and the South Bronx, which is located near the luxurious community of the Upper East Side and countless of Manhattan attractions, or Brooklyn neighborhoods that are near its Downtown district, are becoming gentrified with the original residents slowly being relocated.

Check out more on the communities and boroughs of New York City