Freeze Frame
Freeze Frame
Group Project
Memory Maps
Beyond the Banks

The New Deal

 My freeze frame was focused on a small residential street not far from the church of St. Catherine of Siena.  While this street which was located between 5th and 7th Avenues off of St. Anne Street, seemed very quiet and older, a few streets over gentrification was in full swing, with new houses going up and chain stores a mere mile away. 

Our group pulled to the side of the street and opened the door of the van and the windows in order to better observe our surroundings.  We noticed an ice cream truck backing into a driveway, several children in uniforms were crossing the street ahead of us, all of them dressed in the white shirts and dark bottoms of the parochial school (courtesy of St. Catherine’s?)  or maybe just the prescribed uniforms now common in the charter and public schools of the area?

This was a quiet street, not many children were outside, and there was evidence everywhere of much time spent in the front yards.  From the swing sets and Tonka trucks abandoned in the grass, to the porch swings and chairs set out to enjoy evenings with family and friends, a sense of community could be read in these objects marking the landscape of this street.

A lone yellow dog walked himself down the street, occasionally stopping to sniff.  A few small children appeared, as if by magic, from behind a front door to watch him passing, then began playing Barbie’s behind the safety of a chain-link fence. 

A young woman walked down the sidewalk with two young children.  One of our group said hello. No one answered her, but the young woman stopped and took hold of the little girl’s hand and herded the little boy ahead of her and into a house just two doors down.  We suspected they were calling the police to report the strange ladies sitting inside a van on the side of their street, saying hello to young children. 

The children that were out playing with their Barbies disappeared again.  We have caused some suspicion here.  It’s understandable.  We were a group of four women who appeared white in a predominantly minority neighborhood.  What were we there for?  Who were we with?  Would we cause problems for them?  We waited for the police to come and ask us what we were doing.  They never did.

A man walked his lawn mower up the street, a garbage can holding his yard tools balanced on top.  Efficient.  He studiously ignored us as he went by. 

The legacy left by the Home Owner’s Loan Corporation, sanctioning the discrimination of housing by race, is still felt here.  The boundaries that were introduced in the 1930’s by the HOLC to establish property worth, were then upheld when the Federal Housing Administration adopted their property appraisal practices in order to provide the home loans that were a direct result of Roosevelt’s New Deal.  That is, the FHA designated minorities unworthy of the Federal money provided to establish home ownership during the depression.  As Linda Brunk explained in her article, “A Federal Legacy: Phoenix’s Cultural Geography”, this discrimination policy then ensured a bleak future for ethnic neighborhoods, especially those neighborhoods peopled by Hispanics and African-Americans.

Sitting there, watching this street on the other side of the world from where I live, it is as if the Home Owner’s Loan Association boundaries are still in place, and 1933 was just a moment ago, and I wonder. Has the “New Deal” that the gentrification of South Phoenix is providing for this depressed area really given anything more than was provided for during the depression, or has it just reinforced, once again, the legacy of the HOLC?


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