Park Slope, New York. A town within a city, where Brooklyn locals and yuppies from around the world congregate over lattes and ten dollar cupcakes.
The neighborhood is home many families and young professionals who want to take advantage of the highly-rated public school system, the limitless bars and cafes, and the green spaces like Prospect Park.
This year Park Slope was ranked the #1 part of New York City to live in by New York Magazine. The area’s growing popularity has caused property value to skyrocket, and the young families moving in are wealthier and wealthier.
That is why it might come as a surprise that the area is a hub for slavery.
Slavery and human trafficking affect the rich and the poor. In many cases, poverty breeds traffickers who want to make a living and see a demand they can meet. But just as white slave-owners in the U.S. South were very rich, today’s young and wealthy also sometimes give in to the temptation of taking people in as their own property.
The situation often looks like this: a young couple with a baby moves in to Park Slope for the schools, the parks, and the nightlife. They both work, and they are terrified of their new friends knowing that they moved in to the neighborhood long before they could afford it. They are stretched beyond their means.
When it becomes obvious that they will have to hire a nanny to allow them both to keep working, they start asking around and are soon shocked by the cost. Most of the families in the area who hire nannies and maids pay them pretty well and even let them have room and board depending on their situation. Some families might try to get away with not providing health insurance, or paying low wages under the table, but this family can’t even afford that.
So they do what is becoming increasingly common in Park Slope and beyond. They find an immigrant, often illegal, and convince her to come and work for them as a nanny – not difficult to do when promising a large salary, room and board, and a chance for the immigrant to bring her family up to the United States eventually.
But when she arrives at the home to work, the couple takes her property and any identification or papers she might have, and tells her that if she tries to leave they will turn her into the authorities, without her papers if she once had them.
They might pay her, they might not. They do give room and board. She cooks, cleans and takes care of the baby. And she becomes their slave, unable to leave, terrified of punishment, hoping one day they will show mercy and allow her to see her own family again.
The problem has become commonplace in other parts of New York City and now in other urban areas as well, including with couples where one spouse does not work or has ample money to spend on a proper nanny/maid situation.
Park Slope is a beautiful neighborhood, and if residents want to keep it that way, they will need to start using open eyes, refreshing their college holas and adioses, and getting to know the many women in their area who speak Spanish and look scared. They are our modern-day Mary Poppins’s.
What do you think of hiring nannies and maids?
What could this young couple in the example do differently?