Panel Discussion: The Diversity of New York City’s Neighborhoods and Schools (Video)

News & Events | June 20th 2019

On May 28th, the NYU Furman Center hosted nearly 300 guests for By the Numbers: The Diversity of New York City's Neighborhoods and Schools, highlighting key findings from a new Furman Center analysis of racial differences in elementary school enrollment patterns and the relationship of school diversity to changing neighborhood demographics. The Chapter was released in conjunction with the Furman Center's annual State of New York City’s Housing and Neighborhoods in 2018 report. 

Furman Center Faculty Director, Ingrid Gould Ellen presented the Chapter’s key findings, highlighting that despite an increase in diversity in New York City’s neighborhoods, elementary schools have diversified much more modestly. The presentation was followed by a panel discussion exploring potential housing policy levers to help improve school diversity and strategies to promote meaningful diversity within schools and neighborhoods. 

Inside City Hall host Errol Louis moderated the panel discussion, which included:

  • Richard Kahlenberg, Director of K–12 Equity; Senior Fellow, Century Foundation 
  • Sandra Soto, Principal, PS705 Brooklyn Arts & Science Elementary School
  • Jennifer Sun, Co-Executive Director, Asian Americans for Equality
  • Maya Wiley, Henry Cohen Professor of Urban Policy and Management, New School; Co-chair, NYC School Diversity Advisory Group 

Throughout the discussion, panelists reflected on the importance of diverse schools and integration for promoting equal access to opportunity, social mobility, and good citizenry. 

Richard Kahlenberg noted that in addition to the academic benefits that students receive from attending integrated schools, they are as valuable as public schools, noting “We want institutions that will create upward social mobility and we want schools to be places where, regardless of background, will provide you with skills to be successful”. Kahlenberg also shared promising insights from successful inclusionary zoning efforts that helped diverse children in Maryland to access lower poverty schools and improve academic outcomes. 

Maya Wiley raised the challenge of putting values into practice, noting that although many residents express support for school diversity, they may make school and residential choices that continue to maintain segregation. She emphasized the importance of confronting that reality, as well as establishing concrete metrics for the City to work towards and measure progress.

When asked how housing can play a role in promoting greater school integration, Jennifer Sun described the importance of preserving and developing new affordable housing, especially in a gentrifying neighborhood, for increasing school integration. 

Sandra Soto provided her perspective as an elementary school Principal in Brooklyn, noting the challenges of balancing power dynamics in a school with increasing racial and economic diversity. She emphasized the need for accountability and metrics within the school setting to ensure that school diversity efforts are effectively implemented and that all children and families are effectively served.

READ THE REPORT: State of New York City’s Housing and Neighborhoods in 2018 (PDF) or The Diversity of New York City’s Neighborhoods and Schools (PDF)

ACCESS THE DATA: All information in the State of New York City’s Housing and Neighborhoods in 2018, plus expanded and historical data, is available for download on CoreData.nyc.

*Due to technical dificulties the audience Q&A is not included in the video

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