NYC bridges were built to prevent minorities from visiting its beaches

Long Island Overpass too low for public buses | credit Hopes&Fears

In the 1930’s New York City’s city planner Robert Moses deliberately built low bridges to prevent public transport buses used by the poor from visiting New York’s “pristine” beaches.

“…intentionally build the Long Island Parkway overpasses with clearances as low as 7’7”, ensuring that buses would never be able to go under them. (In contrast, the minimum vertical clearance for overhead structures on the Interstate Highway is 16 feet in rural areas and 14 feet in urban areas.) Poor people and people of color are much more reliant on public transportation to get around. The overpasses’ present-day effect on potential urban beachgoers has never been closely studied, but as recently as 2014, the New York State Department of Transportation recorded 64 bridge collisions on Long Island owing to the low overpasses.

Moses’s discriminatory activity wasn’t limited to Long Island. As Parks Commissioner of New York City, he imported his racist building methods to an area dense with people of color in need of relief from overcrowded neighborhoods. Almost all of Moses’s public works projects—among them Jacob Riis Park, Alley Pond, and Riverside Park, as well as 255 of the 256 playgrounds he built in the 1930s—were placed out of reach of the poor, and, as Caro points out, the one pool built anywhere near a black or Hispanic neighborhood was kept at a “deliberately icy” temperature, because “Moses was convinced that Negroes did not like cold water.” And as Schindler points out in her paper, Moses also went out of his way to clog Harlem with cars: He placed the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge’s exit ramp there, when the sensible location would have been the Upper East Side, as almost all traffic at that time came from below 100th street. As a consequence, wealthier neighborhoods remained untouched by traffic, while Harlem’s streets were overrun with bridge-bound vehicles.”

Source: Hopes&Fears


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