This is the real story behind David Simon's new HBO miniseries

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HBO will premiere a new miniseries from "The Wire" creator David Simon this August, the network announced on Wednesday, starring Oscar Isaac, Catherine Keener, Winona Ryder, and Alfred Molina.


"Show Me A Hero," which has reportedly been in the works for more than a decade, focuses on a familiar topic for Simon: social justice. The series will detail a brutal 1980s fight over housing desegregation in Yonkers, N.Y., in which the city's white residents and many of its key players in City Hall battled a federal order.

The series is based on a book of the same name by Lisa Belkin, a former New York Times reporter who covered the issue for the paper.

The book offers a glimpse into the federal case and some of the players on which the series will revolve. The Justice Department, joined by the NAACP, charged in a suit against the city that its schools could not desegregate because its neighborhoods were still segregated.

The resulting trial spanned more than 90 days, featuring testimony from 84 witnesses and 140 depositions. A federal judge ruled that Yonkers was segregated and said it was the fault of politicians, ordering the city to build low-income housing in Yonkers' largely white east side.

A few years later, a U.S. circuit court upheld that judge's order. And a new, 28-year-old mayor who had campaigned on the opposite side said the city would comply.

ABC's Peter Jennings looked at the fight over desegregation in Yonkers in 1986. This footage was archived on YouTube:

The book's first chapter detailed the order and the judge who handed it down — Judge Leonard B. Sand:

Yonkers looked the way it did, he ruled, because its politicians, acting on behalf of its very vocal east side voters, wanted it that way. He said so in a 657-page decision, the longest one he had ever written; it weighed three pounds, and contained 166 footnotes, five maps, and five appendices, and when the requisite duplicate copies were filed with the court in November 1985, they were too heavy to be lifted, and had to be wheeled from room to room in a shopping cart.

Most of that heft was a chronicle of what Sand saw as a forty-year pattern: housing sites were proposed for the white east side; outraged residents responded by packing the City Council meetings—500, 700, sometimes 1,000 people at a time; council members ordered a search for other possible sites; the housing was eventually placed on the mostly minority, southwest side.

He didn't even see it as a close call. There was, he wrote, in the understated but unflinching tone of the judiciary, no "basis for doubt that City officials were aware that the course they were pursuing was one of segregation…. It is, to say the least, highly unlikely that a pattern of subsidized housing which so perfectly preserved the overwhelmingly white character of East Yonkers came about for reasons unrelated to race." That said, he ordered Yonkers to redraw the map, to refigure the jigsaw, to rework its view of itself, and to move some of its poor, minority residents from the poor, minority side of town, into public housing, to be built just for them, on the white, middle-class side of town.


Brett LoGiurato is the senior national political correspondent at Fusion, where he covers all things 2016. He'll give you everything you need to know about politics, with a healthy side of puns.