On Long Island, the Nassau County Legislature voted unanimously to waive administrative fees so that homeowners can remove racist language that may still exist on their property deeds. Some lawmakers say the measure only scratches the surface of a more complex history.
“The tenant agrees not to permit the premises to be used or occupied by any other persons than members of the Caucasian race.”
That’s how one lease read for a Levittown home in 1948.
Earlier this year, progressives in the Nassau County Legislature proposed a bill that would catalog what are called racially restrictive covenants — language that barred Blacks, Jews and Asians from buying property in certain neighborhoods.
These restrictions cemented what historians say is Long Island’s segregated geography. Lawmakers want to use this catalogue in order to quote “dismantle generations of systematic racism.”
Instead the Legislature voted to allow homeowners to have the language quietly removed from deeds without charge.
Levittown Republican John Ferretti said anyone who wants to research these deeds can go to the county clerk’s office.
“It is a public office, it’s completely open to the public. So any resident or non-resident for that matter can go into the county clerk's office and go through the land records there,” Ferretti said.
Plainview Democrat Arnold Drucker lamented that these racist deeds would not be archived. Doing so, he said, could educate future governments “about how structural racism shaped law [and] public policy” in Nassau County.