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White Business After the Riots in

Reactions, Problems, Recommendations


Riva M. Poor

Planning Department, Action for Boston

Gommionity Development, Inc.

August 1968


Riva M. Poor


Cooperating Sponsors

Anti-Defamation League of the B'Nai B'Rith

Dorchester APAC

Jewish Community Council of Metropolitan Boston

Model City Neighborhood Board

Roxbury APAC


August, 1968


Riva M. Poor


Cooperating Sponsors

Anti-Defamation League of the B'Nai B'Rith

Dorchester APAC

Jewish Community Council of Metropolitan Boston

Model City Neighborhood Board

Roxbury APAC


August, 1968

Other Assistance

Dozens of volunteer graduate students assisted this project by interviewing
and by brain-storming. They were mostly from the Business Assistance
Program at the Harvard Business School, and were also from graduate schools
at MIT, including the Sloan School of Management. The volunteers included:

Jerry Brashear, Bob Waters, Stan Brown, Ray Kelly, Mike De Marco, Tom
Week, Dick Missner, Richard Hochman, Tom Glassberg, Nick Guthrie, Bill
Reilly, Brad Howe, Diana Dorr, Tom Steele, Ben Cone, Bob Murray, Barry
Carroll, Bob Kelley, Tom Gray, Micky Herbert, Chuck Homer, Chuck Wells,
Michael Sumner, Bill Kath, Vic Theiling, Jim Tonjun, Wilson Jaeggli, Bill
Moonan, Gene Miller, Jim Murray, Neil Kelter, Tom Duncan, Dan Goodman,
Dudley Williams, David Hoover, and Bert Shlensky,

Ann Goldman, a candidate for the degree of PH.D. in Statistics at Harvard,
advised; and also, several professors from Harvard and MIT volunteered


Riva M. Poor


The purpose of this research was to attempt to understand the
nature of the crisis in the Blue Hill Avenue shopping area, the site of
two riots; so that we could assist decision-makers and actors to help
the,_poeple of this area. Thus, the objectives were to develop informa-
tion and policy recommendations, and to communicate to people what is
needed for the area.

The parties involved in the functions of the shopping area are:
white businessmen, local consumers, black businessmen operating on the
strip, black leaders pressing for black ownership, property owners, and
the City of Boston in terms of its tax yield and its reputation.

In May and June, 1968, 81 white business owners (81 firms) were
interviewed out of a total population of 112. Twenty-eight of these are
closed businesses. Twenty-seven are planning-to-close, and 26 are not-
planning-to-close. Forty-eight of the 53 open owners want to sell their
businesses, but only 16 have taken active steps towards closure in any
form. Altogether, only 6 firms were sold, representing only 4 transfers
of ownership from whites to blacks.

It was important to know whether people closed because of
violence or because of business conditions. Both explanations had to
be rejected as too eimplistic. Instead, two sets of factors are
associated with closure: Sensitizing factors and Decisive factors .

The Sensitizing set seems to induce people to consider closure.
These (factors possessed by the closed and the planning-to-close groups)
are: worth of firm, below median (below $22,500); residence outside
the shopping area; receipt of threats; either youthfulness or old age;
ownership of the firm by one person, rather than several. But the
possession of two additional factors from the Decisive set seems to be
decisive in producing actual closures. These factors (which are held by


the closed group alone) are: severe damage (store burned or owner beaten);
downward trend of business before the riots; possession of outside income
(other businesses, other jobs, working wives, etc.); a.nd the use of
own funds, not family's funds, to start their own business. These items
indicate that the owners have to be both disturbed by events and also
capable of doing something about their reaction. The not-planning-to-
close group seems not to be disturbed; the planning-to-close group seems
to be disturbed, but unable to do anything about their reaction.

Characteristics shared by all the subjects are irrelevant to the
decisions made. Surprisingly, these non-factors include insurance, bank
loans, size of business, and status as owner or renter.

Among the policy recommendations is that of providing assistance
to facilitate transfers of businesses: a non-profit broker service, fair
appraisals, insurance, protection, financing, counselling, and communica-
tion of information about opportunities for help.

Justification for helping the people involved in this area is
provided by the large numbers among the parties; by the fact that at
least one recommended policy (assistance with transfers) seems agreeable
to all parties; and by the justice of providing "recompense" to parties
who bear as individuals the brunt of a situation for which the entire
society is responsible.

This has been an action-research project. The investigator has
attempted to incorporate the feedback of the sponsors, stage by stage,
in the research process; and also acted as a broker to bring resources
for black and white businessmen into the area. These relationships and
actions continue beyond this report.

August, 1968

Digitized by the Internet Archive

in 2010 with funding from

Boston Public Library



(1) Background •'■

(2) Purpose • -^

(3) Hypotheses ^

(4) Policy Questions 1

(5) Organization of Thesis 7

Chapter Two: METHOD ^

(1) Design "

(2) Controls ^

(3) Subjects 10

(4) Samples 1^

(5) Interviewers ■'■^

(6) Questionnaires ■'■2

(7) Procedures •• ^^

(8) Analysis 15

(9) Geographical Area Covered 15

Chapter Three: FINDINGS , 16

(1) Findings 1^

(2) Questions Not Fully Answered by the Study 31



(1) Introduction 35

(2) Factors and Non- factors in the Decisions 35

A. Non-factors 35

B. Factors 39

1. Sensitizing Factors 42

2. Exceptional Factor 47

3. Responsiveness Characteristic 48

4. Decisive Factors 52

C. Relative Strength of Individual
Factors in Their Effect on

Individual Cases 57

(3) Summary ^1

Table of Contents


(1) Summary o 68

A. Problem » 68

B. Method 68

C. Findings » 69

(2) Policy Recommendations o . . . 72

(3) Action-Research 7 3


A. Survey of Professional Business Brokers o.. 77

1. Findings from the Survey

2. Letter to the Brokers

3. List of Business Brokers from the Yellow Pages

4. Questionnaire for Brokers

B. Comparative List of Open and Closed Firms ., 101

(shows types of firms)

C. Formulae for Statistical Tests of Significance ... 103

D. Survey of White Business After the Riots 108

1. Letters to Businessmen

2. Questionnaire for Closed Businesses

3. Questionnaire for Open Businesses

Chapter One


This study is about the white businessmen in the Grove Hall area
of Roxbury, in Boston. Two riots took place in this area: one in June,
1967, and one in April, 1968, immediately following the assassination of
Rev, Martin Luther King, a nationally known and respected black leader
who had preached love and non-violence as the means to black equality
and satisfaction in the United States,

At the end of April, 1968, we of the Planning Department at ABCD
were wondering what, if anything, could be done to assist the people in
this area - blacks and whites both, Robert Coard, who was then the Head
of the Planning Department, and now the Executive Director-elect of the
Agency, requested that I do this study.

Our intention was to gather information on the nature of the
crisis in the business area for the purpose of assisting potential
decision-makers and actors, in both the public and the private sectors,
to help the people of this area.

This Chapter (1) provides a brief sketch of the background of
Grove Hall; (2) states the purpose for doing this study; (3) describes
the problem as it seemed before collecting and analyzing the data,
stating assumptions and questions in the form of hypotheses; (4) states
the policy questions; arid (5) describes the organization of the rest of
this report.


Description of Grove Hall . The area known as Grove Hall is a
commercial strip along Blue Hill Avenue, covering about 16 blocks. It

Problem Statement 2.

starts at Dudley Street to the north where there is a police station and
a church, and extends down to Seaver Street to the south, where Franklin
Park begins. The intersection of Blue Hill and Warren and Washington
Streets is Grove Hall proper, but the entire area is referred to either
as Grove Hall or as Blue Hill Avenue or "the strip".

The entire strip has been very run-down in appearance for several
years. While the surrounding area had originally been a middle-class
Irish residential area, about forty years ago a wave of Jewish immigrants
had settled in; and for many dozens of years, this had been a mostly-
Jewish area. The stores matched the clientele. There were many kosher
meat markets, tailors, bakeries, confectionaries, clothing stores, music
teachers, and so forth. A large Temple had been constructed quite near
to the Catholic Church. There were practically no liquor stores nor
taverns as there are now.

Three major changes have affected the area since those days. On
a national level, merchandising had long ago started to change from the
small-scale approach found on Blue Hill Avenue to large scale operations.
Locally, the residential area went through another major population
upheaval. About a dozen years ago, blacks started moving in from the
South; and the Jewish people started moving out to the suburbs. The net
result was not only a change in the particular people who lived there,
but also a net population decrease.

The area is now a predominantly black residential area with
relatively low population and with many run-down and vacant houses, and
vacant lots.

Since the transition, and particularly within the past five
years, rumors that the Boston Redevelopment Authority would announce
plans to redevelop (raze) the area have been an additional factor
affecting the area. The threat of urban renewal and the fact that taxes
had never been adjusted downwards to reflect the lowered profitability of
the commercial property combined to decrease upkeep in the area so that
it became extremely shabby.

Up until recently, the white businessmen numbered a few hundred;
because, even though many had moved away to follow their old clientele,
many had stayed and adjusted their ways and their wares to the new

Problem Statement

clientele, and at the same time, still received business from the
old-timers who came back to shop.

Since the riots, at least 38 white businessmen are known to
have left the area. Where there were about 40 vacancies two years
ago', there are now 80 vacancies. This is a rise from about 11% two
years ago, to almost 307o. But it is obvious that the process began
long before the riots.

Every other store appears to be boarded up - even many of the
open stores are operating behind boarded windows. All the white
merchants leave their stores early in the day while it is still light.

Such is Grove Hall, which is just about the geographic center
of Boston's black residential community - a very poor symbol of the
conditions to which many hopefuls moved up from the South,

Recent History in the Black Movement . A few words about recent
developments in the black movement for equality and satisfaction are in
order, because they too are part of the context in which the problem
developed. The pertinent recent development can be summed up in a few
sentences: blacks had come to press for an economic stake in their
community - their leaders had been voicing their need to own businesses,
especially in their own communities, and had been looking for ways to
develop business ownership, without much success. With the goal of
business ownership set, but results not forthcoming, there was a good
deal of resentment on the part of at least some blacks toward the white
merchants in their midst.


The purpose in undertaking this research was to gather
information that would tell us what needed to be done in a clear enough
fashion that decision-makers and actors could use the information to
assist the people of the area - both black and white.

A three-step development was envisioned for the project. First,
it would be necessary to understand the reactions of the businessmen.

* A Table showing the changes in numbers and per cents is in Chapter Three,
page 18, Demolitions reduced the number of business quarters available,
thereby giving a triple increase in per cent vacant, while the numbers
vacant doubled.

Problem Statement ^'

their reasons for reacting as they did, and their problems in
accomplishing whatever plans they might be making.

Then this information would be plugged into the basic framework
of public goals, as we understand them: namely, that it appeared to be a
juncture in time at which the interests of all the factions involved in
the crisis area would converge in business transfers. We would also be
checking on our assumptions as to the interests of the factions as we
went along; the factions being the white businessman, the blacks who
want to own businesses (or want other blacks to own businesses), and the
consumers in the area.

The third step would be to use the information and the goals
together as a basis for policy recommendations.


The assumptions, expectations, and questions were stated in the
form of hypotheses in order to facilitate more rigorous investigation.
The businessmen would be interviewed, and their answers used to prove
or to disprove the hypotheses.

The basic questions that we' had were ; how bad is the situation?
What needs to be done? and what can be done?

It seemed that the transfer of businesses from whites to blacks
would be paramount in everyone's minds, and also in the public interest.
It was important, however, to check on whether people wanted this,
whether transfers were happening, and also to find out what were the
problems in transferring, and what could be done to facilitate transfers.

The possibility that the area might become a "ghost town," if no
help were provided, seemed real. This would be undesirable for the
businessmen and property- owners and for the City's tax base. It would
also be undesirable for the consumers in the area; because transportation
out of the area is difficult (little public transportation and low

* I have prefaced the expectations that follow with "we expect,"
because these assumptions were not mine alone, but were in many cases
held by colleagues, the public, etc.

Problem Statement 5.

automobile ownership); and many people there are old or tied down with
children, and nearly housebound.

A ghost town atmosphere would also be bad for the black
businessmen in the area. (For example, although people speculated that
the reduced competition would improve business for the owners who
remained, talks with black owners as well as white ones point to the
opposite effect: people are not coming into the area to buy as they
used to, and business is getting very thin.)

Clearly, it would be in the interest of a great many people to
do something; it would be a public need which would justify intervention
and assistance from the public sector, at the least, and perhaps also
from the private sector.

The hypotheses that follow are the spin-offs or subsets of the
basic questions and assumptions above. The hypotheses are numbered so
that the results can easily be found by looking them up by number in
Chapter Three, on results.

(1) that relatively few white businesses are left in the area
since the riots;

(2) that many important consumer services are no longer
available to the neighborhood people;

(3) that little transfer of ownership has taken place;

(4) that white owners who closed are in serious difficulty and
are desirous of help;

(5) that white owners who stayed are frightened;

(6) that these still-open business owners are taking measures
to protect themselves;

(7) that the open-business owners would desire help;

(8) that most of these open owners want to leave;

(9) that most of these owners are taking active steps to leave;

(10) that the owners' businesses had been sufficiently good
that they have the resources to leave if they desire to
leave - resources to retire on or to start elsewhere with;

(11) that insurance - lack of insurance - is a big problem to the
businessmen, both to those who remain and to those who
want to sell or buy in;

(12) that owners who want to sell are running into problems
with potential buyers: (a) that buyers do not have enough
money to buy with; and (b) that sellers want cash for their
businesses, rather than being willing to hold a mortgage;

Problem Statement

(13) that most businessmen would be too bitter to consider
staying on to help a new owner in the event of a sale;

(14) that the white businessmen would be very bitter and angry
with blacks;

(15) (we did not consider the businessmen's reactions to the
police, but their reactions are recorded in the section on
results - with this number.)

(16) that many businesses are too complex for a new or
inexperienced person to take over and run successfully;

(17) that many businesses are too costly for blacks to take
over ;

(18) that businesses are not being offered at a "fair" price
(although we hoped that they were being offered at a fair
price) ;

(19) that the following factors are conducive to staying (that
is, encourage the businessmen to remain in the area):

(a) ownership of the business quarters;

(b) youth;

(c) long association with the neighborhood; and

(d) high profits;

(20) that the following factors are conducive to closing:

(a) fear;

(b) family pressure to close;

(c) advanced age;

(d) violence suffered;

(e) independence of location;

(f) loss of assets; and

(g) availability of other options;

(21) that the factors leading to closure are such that the more
factors a firm had, the more likely it would be to close;

(22) that the businessmen who had been doing poorly before the
riots are showing less initiative in dealing with their
problems now, and that those who had had growing businesses
are acting with more initiative;

(23) that business has improved for some since the riots, due to
reduced competition; but that those businesses relying on
walk- in trade or customers from other (white) areas would
be doing less business than before;

(24) & (25) that the general profile of the white businessmen would
include the following characteristics:

Problem Statement


(a) single proprietorships, rather than 2 or more owners;

(b) dependence on this business as sole source of income;

(c) located here for many years;

(d) Jewish;

(e) small business employing four people or fewer;

(f) work long hours;

(g) married, living with spouse, has children;

(h) had help from family in starting his business;

(i) came from a family with a business background;

(j) major obstacles when starting out were underf inancing
& lack of experience;

(k) started making money at an early age (under 12);

(1) went into business to meet a challenge;

(m) had other options, but preferred business; and

(n) does not want his children to be businessmen, because
he had a hard time.

(26) that some of the data collected about the white businessmen
would be useful for later studies of black businessmen; for
comparing amounts of insurance, family business background
and experience; credit availability; skills, and so forth.


(1) What would facilitate the transfer of white business to

(2) What policies would assist the situation in the Grove Hall

(3) What would justify public intervention into these "private"


Chapter One, Problem Statement, states the background of the
Grove Hall area, the purpose for doing the study, the hypotheses, and
the policy questions that are to be answered.

Chapter Two, Method, covers the following topics: Design,
Controls, Subjects, Samples, Interviewers, Questionnaires, Procedures,
and Analysis.

Problem Statement

Chapter Three, Findings, states which hypotheses were supported
or disproved by the study, and lists and discusses two questions that
were not answered in full by the study.

Chapter Four, Factors and Non- factors in the Decision to Close,
is the heart of the report in that it examines in detail the factors that
seem to have led to the decisions made, and the relationships among the
factors. It includes discussion of the findings in Chapters Three and
Four through comparison of the three groups: the closed, the planning-to-
close, and the not-planning-to-close.

Chapter Five summarizes the report and answers the policy questions
posed in Chapter One. It includes a list of actions that resulted from
this investigation and some discussion of action-research, as applied to
this project.

The Appendix contains the questionnaires for the open and closed
businesses; Findings from a survey of professional business brokers;
a Comparative list of types of businesses among the people interviewed;
miscellaneous letters of introduction used by the interviewers; and a
section giving a brief explanation of the use of statistical tests, and
giving formulae for those tests used in this analysis.

Chapter Two


This Chapter explains the following subjects: (1) Design,
(2) Controls, (3) Subjects, (4) Samples, (5) Interviewers,
(6) Questionnaire, (7) Procedures, and (8) Analysis.


Investigations of human reactions to major events cannot usually
obtain an experimental research design in which subjects are collected,
a major event occurs or is administered, and then the subjects react,
giving the experimenter the opportunity to determine whether the subjects
reacted according to his hypotheses.

The design of this research project was not experimental in the
sense described above, but instead, descriptive. The events (riots)
occurred to the subjects and the subjects reacted to the events before
the investigator came on the scene. Thus, the investigation worked
backwards from reactions to events, to the testing of possible reasons
for the reactions reported.

This is a limited approach, but it was the only one available,


Because of the reversed sequence of events in this type of
research design, no deliberate attempt was made to obtain a control
group unaffected by riots - from outside the riot area. Nonetheless, the
subjects often selected themselves into "control" groups. For example,
one hypothesis concerned the relationship between damage sustained and
closure: the closed firms turned out to be the ones with the serious

Method 10.

damage. Another hypothesis concerned the relationship between an upward
business trend and non-closure: again, the open group contained almost
all of the upward trend firms.

This is serendipity, rather than design.


The subjects were white business owners who were operating in
the Grove Hall area of Roxbury (the riot area of Boston) during the first
two weeks of May, 1968, or who had been operating businesses in that
area during the past two years.

Eighty-one subjects were interviewed. They classified themselves
into three groups of nearly equal size: the closed, the open-planning-to-
close, and the open-not-planning-to-close. Having questioned the open
group as to their plans, the ones who said they planned to close were
classified as such; the ones who did not plan to close or who were
undecided were classified as not-planning-to-close. (A figure showing
the numbers in each group is on the page following this one.)


The numbers of interviews conducted represent almost complete
coverage of the population, rather than just a small sample. The almost

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