Why Black homeownership thrives in this special pocket of New York City

In a nation with a history of racist housing policies, this community became an enduring exception—and a point of pride.

Black families began moving to the St. Albans area in Queens, New York, in the 1930s, despite restrictions that were designed to keep them from buying homes there. In 1948 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racial restrictions couldn’t be enforced.

Growing up in the 1950s and ’60s, Olney Marie Ryland enjoyed visiting her aunt’s house in Addisleigh Park, the most exclusive section of St. Albans, Queens. The neighborhood was only a mile from her family’s home, but it exposed her to an entirely new world of high society, culture, and the arts.

“I used to think, That is where the rich people live,” says Ryland, now 71.

Ryland’s aunt lived in a wide-line Cape Cod with a before-its-time open-concept design, customized by her architect husband. Ryland’s mother also had a friend who lived in the community, across the street from William “Count” Basie, the legendary jazz pianist and composer. Sometimes Ryland was invited to swim in Basie’s pool.

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