In Our Backyard

New York Times | October 26, 1991

By Anna Quindlen

Whenever anyone comes up with a plan to house the homeless, the response is predictable: NIMBY! NIMBY! NIMBY! NIMBY! That’s short for Not In My Backyard. It’s become America’s ruling acronym.

And so when Mayor David Dinkins announced a plan to put smaller shelters for single adults throughout New York City, high-pitched cries of “NIMBY!” rang out from Staten Island to Queens. The speaker of the City Council even likened homeless people to a contagious disease. He backtracked from his ill-chosen words, but the sentiment behind them was epidemic among politicians and the people they represent. No one actually mentioned putting homeless people on a barge and letting them float out to sea, but that kind of feeling was in the air. Either that, or making them all go to Manhattan and then closing the borders…

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