“Manhattan is one of the most diverse places in the world. When you walk down its streets, you see people of all races and national origins and hear people speaking hundreds of languages. But the reality is that when most people go home at night in New York City, they go home to segregated neighborhoods. New York City is the third most segregated city for blacks in the US and the second most segregated city for Asian Americans and Latinos.” - Fred Freiberg, executive director and co-founder of the Fair Housing Justice Center

This segregation is not by accident. It is the result of unconstitutional policies pursued in the twentieth century by government officials. As Richard Rothstein writes in The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, “We have created a caste system in this country, with African Americans kept exploited and geographically separate by racially explicit government policies. Although most of these policies are now off the books, they have never been remedied and their effects endure.”

According to the NYC Health, “Since the 1600s—when NYC was established by colonization—racist policies and practices have shaped where New Yorkers live and go to school, what jobs they have and what their neighborhoods look like. Over time, these policies and practices have built on each other to create deep inequity.”

One of the best examples of discriminatory government policy is redlining. Throughout the 1930s, neighborhoods in over 239 American cities were rated on their "creditworthiness and risk.” Neighborhoods that were considered optimal or good for investment were outlined in green and blue. Neighborhoods seen to be in decline were coded yellow. Neighborhoods that were home to "foreign-born people” "low-class whites,” and “negroes” were seen as “hazardous” and outlined in red on a map. Residents were denied home loans and redlined communities were denied investments.


Over 50 years since the Fair Housing Act banned redlining, the “hazardous” warnings appear to be literally true. Decades of denying resources have led to vast disparities in wealth, health, housing, education, and in exposure to pollution, violence, and experiences with the criminal justice system across different neighborhoods in New York City. Living in certain zip codes expands opportunity while living in others diminishes it.


"Segregated by Design” challenges us to confront the ongoing legacy of segregation across different zip codes in New York City and lifts up the work of those working to end it and remedy its consequences.


It was created by students from New York City High Schools who took part in the 2019 UNIS Human Rights Project and builds on the work of 2017 and 2018 participants who studied disparities in health, housing, and the criminal justice system.


The project is the culmination of training in human rights, advocacy, photography, oral history and three intensive weeks traveling throughout the city to meet with academics, community organizers and activists working to end segregation in housing, healthcare, the criminal justice system, and education.


We believe that human rights should not be determined by a person’s zip code and that no one should be segregated from resources and opportunities. We also believe that photos and stories are powerful tools for social justice. Through this project, we hope to raise awareness of the harms caused by the city’s persistent segregation and advocate for policies that will advance opportunities for all.


The project was inspired by Richard Rothstein's "The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America" and made possible thanks to a generous grant from Learning for Justice (formerly Teaching Tolerance).


  • AIRnyc

  • Catholic Migration Services

  • Community Action for Safe Apartments (CASA)

  • Designing the WE

  • Fair Housing Justice Center

  • Grameen VidaSana

  • NAICA Community Center 

  • The New York Healing Justice Program at the American Friends Service Committee

  • NYC Youth Leadership Council

  • Right to Counsel NYC Coalition

  • Teens Take Charge

  • Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP)

  • Queensbridge 696 Cure Violence 

  • WE ACT for Environmental Justice

  • Youth First Initiative



  • Abby MacPhail | UNIS | Program Organizer and Editor

  • Oriana Ullman | UNIS | Program Coordinator and Editor

  • Jamahl Richardson | Age of Imagery | Photography Instructor

  • Leora Kahn | PROOF | Curator

  • Willhemina Wahlin | PROOF & Charles Sturt University | Graphic Designer



  • Karinel Aponte /2019 

  • Charlotte Ariyan /2019

  • Jacob Blau/2019

  • Sam Blau /2017 & 2019

  • Julio Carvalho /2019 

  • Antoine Casado /2019

  • Won-Jae Chang /2019

  • Naomi Douma /2019

  • Claire Farhi /2019

  • Elijah Fontalvo /2019

  • Joelvi Garcia /2019

  • Aki Gaythwaite /2018 & 2019

  • Annika Heegaard /2018

  • Amane Miura /2019

  • Prachi Roy /2019

  • Isabella Serrano /2017, 2018 & 2019

  • Kristian Suh/2019

  • Arielle Thomas /2019

  • Xavier Watkins /2019

  • Zoe Knable /2017 & 2018 

  • Noella Kalasa/2018 

  • Elizabeth Roytberg /2018

  • Nathalie Chieveley-Williams /2018

  • Aris Woodyear /2018

  • Rabiatou Ba /2018

  • Eloise Chambadal /2017 & 2018

  • Aishatou Coulibaly /2017 & 2018

  • Fanta Barry /2018

  • Bre'yah Cherry-Ambekisye /2018

  • Tim Lin /2017 & 2018

  • Asha' Ravenel /2018

  • Aminata Samassi /2018

  • Derrick Amoateng /2018

  • Signe Rawet /2018

  • Jasmine Sanicola /2018

  • Serena Aimen /2017

  • Syeria Alvarado /2017

  • Karen Diaz /2017

  • Amani Dobson /2017

  • Skylar Fernandez /2017

  • Graana Khan /2017

  • Kadija Kone /2017

  • Lydia Leiber/ 2017

  • Elisabeth Letsou / 2017

  • Diana Montero / 2017