Tuesday, November 05, 2019
"Decade of Fire": a documentary of the redlining and subsequent burning of the South Bronx in New York City in the 1970s.
“Decade of Fire” (2019), directed by Gretchen Hildebran and Vivian Vazquez, documents the history of the failure and gradual burning of the South Bronx in New York City, most of all in the 1970s.
A 60-minute abridgement of the 76 minute film aired Monday November 4 on PBS Independent Lens.
I can remember an Amtrak ride back from Boston that gave a complete tour of the burned out area back in 1975 (after seeing a baseball game in Fenway).
The film depicts a fire not far from Yankee Stadium during the 1977 World Series with the Dodgers.
The problem started in the 1930s with deliberate (anti-black and anti-Latino) redlining by banks, leading to a corrupt system where landlords had a perverse incentive to neglect buildings, often not having heat and running water.
Also, the buildings were poorly wired, and as residents bought more modern devices, they could not hold the load.
By the early 70s it became common to let buildings burn as part of insurance fraud. NYC endured its financial crisis in the 1970s, with the famous “Ford to City, Drop Dead” when I lived there (1974-1978).
Now there is a problem that gentrification and rehab is chasing poor people out.