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Dennis Coleman 3


Dennis Coleman, third interview

Interviewee: Dennis Coleman (3rd Interview)
Interviewers: Dr. Mark Naison, Natasha Lightfoot, Harriet McFeeters
Interview took place on February 23, 2006
Summarized by Alice Stryker

Dennis Coleman moved into the Castle Hill Projects from Morrisania with his wife and children. He was very active in the community and was quickly elected as Vice President of the Tennant Association of Castle Hill. One of the first issues he dealt with was racial discrimination. He goes into detail about the racial tension that existed in the community prior to the construction of the Castle Hill Projects and after their completion. There were also issues facing where to send the children who lived in Castle Hill to school. However, no matter how much discrimination was occurring, people still wanted to live there.

Natasha Lightfoot describes the reputation of the Castle Hill Projects in the 1980’s and mentions “the Boot Building” which was notorious for drugs and crime. When Coleman moved out of the Castle Hill Projects, he moved across the street. He has experienced much of the violence that Natasha discussed and did feel endangered at many points. However, he thinks his children were not affected because of their enrollment in private schools. This knowledge of the private school system is what he claims inspired him to push so hard for reforms in the public schools.
The ethnic makeup of the Castle Hill Projects and the area today is predominantly African-American and Latino. As far as recent immigrants, he discusses a number of other groups that have settled in the Castle Hill Area.
Coleman believes that the New York City Public Schools are actually getting worse. He says that one of the main reasons behind this has to do with the involvement of the Board of Regents. He also sites the involvement of the media in this. Coleman then begins to discuss more recent developments in public housing, like the Woodstock Terraces. Even today there are still racial struggles regarding letting “people of color” into certain housing projects, like Parkchester.
He does see some rising political stars for African-Americans in the Bronx, but cites current political problems that will make their job harder. For example, he discusses how the African-Americans in Harlem have a tendency to “forget” about the African American community in the Bronx and blames this on a deal struck between the Black political leaders in Harlem and the Latino leaders in the Bronx. In the early 1960’s the two communities needed each other, but starting in the 70’s the two groups became immersed in a power struggle.
Coleman also talks about the new developments in housing and new constructions. He thinks that the recent developments in public housing in the Bronx will drastically change the community and the voting population. He also thinks that the future of the Bronx is heading down a bad path and that young people in the community need to mobilize to create positive change.

Key Words: Castle Hill Projects, Castle Hill, Co-op City, Co-Op board of Amalgamated Housing, Tennant Association of Castle Hill, New York City Housing Authority, St. Andrew’s in Castle Hill, St. Augustine Presbyterian, little league, P.S. 30, P.S. 125, racial discrimination, Tenant screening process, synagogue on Randall Ave, Irving Golin, Ira Robbins, Boot Building, drugs, New York City Public Schools, Board of Education, local 372, private taxi service, Board of Regents, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, NAACP, Wood Stock Terraces, Parkchester Housing Projects, Harlem, Herman Badeo, bilingual education programs, gangs, market housing, citizenship, political participation,


© 2009 Bronx African-American History Project at Fordham University

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