We have previously written how Urban Renewal brought under the Federal Housing Act of 1949 authorized cities to use the power of eminent domain to clear “blighted neighborhoods” for “higher use.” (See “Urban Renewal, An Assault on Black Neighborhoods, New York Law Journal, February 24, 2023.)
African Americans, who were 12% of the population in the US, were five times more likely to be displaced than they should have been given their numbers in the population. In city after city, highways that were built to appease white suburban commuters, and enabled through eminent domain and funds from the 1949 Housing Act and 1956 Interstate Highway Act, shoved through Black communities, effectively dividing them from White neighborhoods.
Bloomberg’s “City Lab” published an article written by David Zipper on July 12, 2023. I am grateful to Daniel Sciannemeo, MAI for sending me this interesting article. The article entitled, “Repairing the Roads that Built to Divide.” In his piece, Zipper relates that under the Biden administration, federal funds are being explicitly directed toward repairing the harm done under Robert Moses’ era with such programs as USDOT’s Reconnecting Communities focus on redesigning or removing urban highways routed through Black neighborhoods in the 1950s and 1960s.
David Zipper interviewed author Veronica O. Davis about her book, “Inclusive Transportation.” Ms. Davis stated, “Unfortunately, we inherited a transportation network that reflects decades of decision-making by our predecessors who ceded communities to motor vehicles. Communities where people could once walk, bike, and use public transit were divided, leveled, and reshaped to make way for the interstate highways and wide streets designed by our predecessors. Ideally, the transportation network would connect people to jobs, education, food, opportunities, and each other. But this has not actually been the case for decades. There is a lot to redo, and in some cases dismantle.”
Clearly, the highways and public spaces that shaped our cities were often intentionally built at the expense of Black, Latino and other minority Americans.