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A bridge proposal to cross the New River in downtown Fort Lauderdale, Florida, would cut through a historic Black community and hamper its redevelopment if approved, city officials say.
First reported by NBC’s Deon J. Hampton, Florida’s Department of Transportation is studying four river crossing projects as part of an ambitious plan to alleviate traffic congestion and increase mobility across South Florida. The bridge would stand 80 feet above the water and cost more than $450 million.
However, officials and residents are concerned about the potential for a bridge that would tower over the historic Black community near Sistrunk Boulevard, just northwest of downtown, an area that officials are hoping to redevelop.
Sistrunk is Fort Lauderdale’s oldest Black community.
Interstate built through Greenwood
The issue of cities using eminent domain to build highways through Black communities to further segregate towns is nothing new.
In 1967, construction on Interstate 244 was completed with a bridge right through the heart of Greenwood, the home of historic Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma and where the Tulsa Race Massacre took place.
“It took the heart out of Greenwood,” Tulsa photographer Donald Thompson once told the Tulsa World. “If this highway had not been put here, I think there would’ve been a resurgence, but Greenwood didn’t have the opportunity to rebuild.”
In 2021, City officials began seeking community input on what to do with the I-244 bridge.
“As we talk about real atonement and true reparations, the community has to be involved in those discussions,” Council Chairwoman Vanessa Hall-Harper said.
For residents of Sistrunk in Florida, the fight to keep the historic Black community from being split in half by a bridge will be a long one. The Florida Department of Transportation says it’s getting feedback from the community. The report notes that the Broward County Commission has the final say on the projects and will vote this spring on the “local preferred option,” followed by hearings that will take place in the fall.