Keith Eddings, New York Journal News (White Plains), May 23, 2007
Louis Cappelli’s proposal to create what he says will be a new downtown beside the Metro-North station seems to have it all: three glistening office towers beside a five-star hotel and condominium building, a rebuilt train station splashed in sun, people movers hustling busy commuters between buildings, restaurants, shops and a Starbucks.
What the new White Plains downtown doesn’t appear to have much of: black people.
In four computer-generated renderings of the crowded train station lobby and the street between the station and the residential tower, no blacks can be identified with the naked eye. Using a magnifying glass, The Journal News identified four blacks among 87 people whose race could be determined with some certainty.
Federal Fair Housing laws prohibit the use of people depicted in marketing campaigns to indicate racial “exclusiveness” and require that models “reasonably represent” minorities in the area. The Station Square project renderings may be beyond the reach of the housing laws, which cover only concerted and prolonged marketing campaigns to attract tenants, federal officials said. Cappelli presented his renderings at City Hall as a first look at a concept that has no city approvals, though the renderings have been reproduced in newspaper stories and on the Internet.
“It’s intended to show the architectural rendering of the buildings—period, full stop, end of story,” [Bruce] Berg [vice president of Cappelli Enterprises] said.
Civil rights advocates said computer software isn’t the issue. Computer renderings of other projects recently proposed for Westchester—including the River Park Center project that Cappelli has proposed for Yonkers—show a mix of races.
“Mr. Cappelli is planning a multifaceted development, and the renderings should reflect the faces of those who will live, work and play there,” civil rights lawyer Michael Sussman said. “By portraying his target users in a racially exclusionary or singular manner, the developer, perhaps unconsciously, makes the full range of the region’s population less welcome.”
Nearly 17 percent of White Plains residents are African-American, according to the 2000 U.S. Census. Because blacks rely disproportionally on mass transit, Winston Ross, a former regional director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said making them so hard to find in renderings depicting a rebuilt White Plains train station is doubly curious.