Joseph F. Loehr Court

10 Western Avenue, Yonkers

Loehr Court, undated photo. Source: Municipal Housing Authority for the City of Yonkers.

When Hurricane Ida struck in early September 2021, it dumped around 8 inches of rain on Yonkers in a 24-hour period. Among the hardest-hit areas of the city was Loehr Court, a public housing complex. Water unleashed by the climate-change-fueled storm flooded Loehr Courts’ basements, causing $2 million dollars’ worth of damage.

The flooding of Loehr Court is not attributable to chance: as is the case with much public housing in Yonkers, it manifests vulnerability produced over decades of residential segregation. In other words, it embodies environmental injustice. In addition, urban infrastructure poorly suited for an age of climate breakdown aggravated Loehr Court’s flooding.

Joseph F. Loehr Court, named for the city’s twice-elected mayor, sits near the border between the Ludlow Park and Park Hill neighborhoods. When the housing development was first proposed, homeowners in the area voiced strong opposition. The City of Yonkers, however, went ahead with construction. Opened in 1963 with 108 units, Loehr Court is made up of twenty two-story buildings reserved primarily for elderly residents.

Between 1940 and 1980, the City of Yonkers built 7,000 units of public housing, concentrating 97 percent of it in a one-square-mile area of Southwest Yonkers. The ghettoization of public housing in Southwest Yonkers, an area that held over 80 percent of the people of color in Yonkers in 1980, was not an accident. As documented by the Yonkers chapter of the NAACP, it was a result of a conscious strategy to keep public housing out of white, middle-class or affluent areas of the city. (Prodded by the NAACP, the U.S. Department of Justice sued the City of Yonkers for housing discrimination in 1980. After a long and bitter fight, it eventually resulted in the building of new public housing outside of Southwest Yonkers.) 

Loehr Court, like almost all the other public housing developments in Yonkers, is located in an area characterized by dense housing, lots of asphalt, and little green space. Such factors, along with the fact that Loehr Court is located within an “urban sink,” a low-lying part of the city that collects and drains rainwater from higher elevations, help explain two of the most pressing issues facing the public housing complex: flooding and heat islands.

Heat islands refer to an effect that occurs in places dominated by concrete with little tree cover, trapping heat and raising temperatures. For residents of Loehr Court, the summer months are often not only uncomfortable, but sometimes dangerous.

Since 2021, Groundwork Hudson Valley, an organization dedicated to improving distressed neighborhoods through environmental projects, has been working with the Municipal Housing Authority for the City of Yonkers (MHACY), to address these problems in Loehr Court and elsewhere in the city. Groundwork’s “Green Team” of youth employees have de-vined trees, planted new ones, and built garden beds in the underutilized space behind the apartments. To combat the risk of flooding, Groundwork has built green infrastructure around the complex.

Such efforts speak to a point made by Groundwork Hudson Valley’s executive director, Brigitte Griswold, regarding environmental injustice in Yonkers: “These things  didn’t happen by accident and they’re not going to be corrected by accident.”

This certainly rings true for Loehr Court, and for many other areas of Yonkers as well. 

Loehr Court, undated photo. Source: Groundwork Hudson Valley.

Getting there:

From the Ludlow (Metro North) train station, a 0.8-mile (22-minute) walk. Bee-Line bus routes from downtown Yonkers also pass nearby.

To learn more:

Lisa Belkin, Show Me a Hero: A Tale of Murder, Suicide, Race and Redemption, New York: Back Bay Books, 2015.

Xavier de Souza Briggs, Joe T. Darden, and Angela Aidala, “In The Wake of Desegregation: Early Impacts of Scattered-site Public Housing on Neighborhoods in Yonkers, New York, APA Journal, Vol. 65, No. 1, 1999: 27-49.

Marcia Marker Feld, “Planners Guilty on Two Counts: The City of Yonkers Case.” Journal of the American Planners Association, Vo. 52, No. 4, 1986: 387-388.

Marcia Marker Feld. “The Yonkers Case and its Implications for the Teaching and Practice of Planning.” Journal of Planning Education and Research, Vol. 8, No. 3, 1989: 169–175.

Edward E. Moore, “United States V. Yonkers Board of Education.” The Urban Lawyer, Vol. 24, No. 3, 1992: 597-601.

Various articles from

Norris Meigs, Geography and Italian, Class of 2023.

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