Each week following Show Me a Hero, David Sims, Brentin Mock, and Lenika Cruz discuss the controversial efforts to build low-income housing in Yonkers in the ’80s, as depicted in HBO’s six-part miniseries.
Lenika Cruz: “How come the only people talking about this damn housing thing are white?” Pat, a Yonkers public-housing resident, asks her friend Norma, the nurse. “How come the only faces you see on television about this are white?” The two chat toward the end of Show Me a Hero’s fourth episode, after Norma’s home health aide bails on her after one day of working in the projects. The exchange reveals them to be of different minds: Norma, understandably wary of change, doesn’t know why Pat wants to march in East Yonkers near a new housing site in a neighborhood that doesn’t want her. Pat, gently chastising her, says she isn’t afraid and that their silence won’t make anything better.
Pat and Norma’s chat stood out for me in a series that has prioritized political maneuverings over the scattered storylines of the public housing residents, and this week’s episodes cover a lot of ground in both arenas. We begin with Mayor Nick Wasicsko trying to wrangle enough council votes to get Yonkers to comply with Judge Sand’s order and avoid bankruptcy. By the end of part four, the city is in compliance; a jobless Wasicsko is puttering around his house trying to fix loose electrical wires; the sleazy new anti-housing mayor Henry Spallone is kicking off an early reelection campaign; and some newly installed prefab townhomes have been vandalized with the words “No Nigger” and “KKK.” And to think the anti-housing folks were worried about criminals and people with no sense of respect moving into their neighborhood.