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Fires consumed New York City’s South Bronx throughout the 1970s. One year alone saw more than 4,000 fires set to the area’s apartment buildings, leveling entire city blocks and displacing countless families.
The neighborhood had been ruled by discriminatory housing policies for decades, affecting the mostly black and Puerto Rican tenants who called the Bronx their home. While some of the fires were the result of property neglect by landlords, many residents suspected arson. A new film, “Decade of Fire,” asks who caused these fires and explores the economic conditions that caused the neighborhood to burn.
Vivian Vázquez Irizarry, who produced and co-directed the film, is herself a child of the South Bronx. She spent hours collecting interviews with survivors and examining city records and insurance claims by landlords. In the end, she uncovered the political and financial forces that set the Bronx ablaze, and in the film tells the story of how its residents banded together to save their homes. She spoke with Marketplace’s Amy Scott about her work.
Click the audio player above to hear the interview.
“Decade of Fire” is streaming now on PBS.org.
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