By the 1940s, the West Adams neighborhood of Los Angeles was turning into a thriving and racially integrated community.
Black residents were moving in, in part thanks to an early legal victory over restrictive covenants that limited homeownership to white families. One of the residents involved in the affair was Hattie McDaniel, the “Gone with the Wind” actor known for hosting parties at his West Adams home that drew stars like Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Clark Gable. and Lena Horne. Eventually, the neighborhood became known as Sugar Hill, a tribute to the Harlem neighborhood of the same name.
But in the 1950s, the people of Sugar Hill in Los Angeles began to hear the alarming news: City planners were thinking about building a freeway through the neighborhood. Local civil rights leaders pleaded with officials to choose another path, without success. Soon the Santa Monica Freeway – what would become the westernmost stretch of Interstate 10 – would destroy the old Sugar Hill.
Similar stories occurred hundreds of times across the country in the 1950s and 1960s. While the country’s new road network fueled the long economic boom that followed World War II, it did so at the expense of communities across the country. downtown. These neighborhoods were disproportionately black, and many never recovered. There was a saying at the time: “White men’s roads pass through black men’s homes”.
As my colleague Nadja Popovich writes:
White Americans have increasingly fled cities, following newly constructed roads to growing suburbs. But black residents have been largely prohibited from doing the same. Government policies denied them access to federally guaranteed mortgages, and private discrimination further reduced options.
Indeed, this has left many black residents living along the paths of the freeways.
Today there is a movement to reverse the damage, as described in this Multimedia Reporting Project from The Times – by Nadja, Josh Williams and Denise Lu -.
Rochester, NY, removes a downtown freeway built in the 1950s and attempts to rebuild a neighborhood. Syracuse, New York; Detroit; and New Haven, Connecticut, have pledged to replace stretches of freeway with pedestrian neighborhoods. Residents of Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Denver, New Orleans, New York, Oakland and Seattle are calling on city officials to do the same.
To support these efforts, President Biden’s infrastructure proposal includes $ 20 billion that would help reconnect neighborhoods divided by highways. His transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg, called the issue a top priority for the department.
The future of the country’s road network goes far beyond these neighborhoods. It will also affect public health and climate change. And the debate is taking place at a fascinating time: many mid-century highways are nearing the end of their life, and attitudes towards transportation are changing.
The automobile remains the dominant mode of travel for Americans, and that won’t change anytime soon. Public transit is not a realistic option in less populated places. But it’s realistic in cities, and more and more locals and town planners are starting to wonder if they want major highways to run through their neighborhoods.
A telling statistic comes from Michael Sivak of Sivak Applied Research: After decades of uninterrupted increases, the number of kilometers traveled each year by the average American peaked in 2004.
“Just ten years ago,” said Peter Norton, a University of Virginia historian, “every transportation problem was a problem to be solved with new roads.” This is no longer always the case.
On the same subject, Bloomberg Opinion’s Noah Smith written: “It’s hard to overstate the damage we’ve caused to our cities by putting giant highways right in the middle of neighborhoods. But San Francisco has shown that freeways can be done away with and relocated. We can fix what we broke.
THE LAST NEWS
Other great stories
Notice: Cyber Defense
After Colonial Pipeline, how can the United States prevent the next ransomware attack?
Centralize the defenses. The government should help protect the companies that control critical infrastructure, Sean Joyce, a former FBI official, told The Washington Post.
Improve “safety hygiene”. Simpler steps, like multi-factor authentication, can prevent many intrusions, says Justine Calma of The Verge.
Ban cryptocurrency, which has been a boon for extortionist hackers, says Lee Reiners in the Wall Street Journal. “Everything has to go,” writes Linette Lopez of Business Insider.
The ghost of exit 8: Rather than give up his land, a farmer in Vermont burned himself and his farm. His legend lives on.
Modern love: A life of motherly love in one cardboard box.
A Times classic: How the New Yawkers tawk.
Lives lived: Kay Tobin Lahusen and his longtime partner were at the forefront of the gay rights movement, helping to organize protests long before the Stonewall uprising. Lahusen died at the age of 91.
ARTS AND IDEAS
The NBA is coming home
The NBA playoffs have started and games will be a big part of Memorial Day weekend for many. Here are some highlights of the story:
The fans are back. Last year the playoffs were held in empty gyms in Walt Disney World. This year, vaccinated fans fill arenas and energize games. (And a few behave badly.) It’s a sign that the country is “shedding, even temporarily, the stark pain of the past year,” Kurt Streeter writes in The Times.
New York is back. New York and Atlanta are crazy basketball cities whose teams have struggled for most of the 21st century. Now the Knicks and Hawks – both with exciting young players – are tied at one game apiece in a first-round series. And the Knicks aren’t even the best team in New York: the star-studded Brooklyn Nets are.
Is LeBron back? The Los Angeles Lakers are the defending champions, but their stars – LeBron James and Anthony Davis – have been injured for much of this season. The team are the No. 7 seed (of eight) in the Western Conference – a position from which neither team has won a title.
Trust the process. The Philadelphia 76ers angered many fans by deliberately putting together a bad team for several seasons, which allowed them to recruit the best college players. The approach became known as the “process”, and now it is paying off. Led by Joel Embiid – a dominant center with a quick wit – the 76ers are the seed in the Eastern Conference.
The next stars. Far from the big coastal markets, young stars have thrived this season, and one or more could define these playoffs. They include Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns, Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets, Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies and Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to cook
Yesterday’s Spelling Bee pangram was painful. Here is today’s puzzle – or you can play it online.
Here are today’s Mini Crosswords, and a hint: Losing your hair (four letters).
If you want to play more, find all of our games here.
Thank you for spending part of your morning with The Times. Morning will be free for holidays on Monday. See you on Tuesday. – David