Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Community Connectors

Reconnecting small and mid-sized communities harmed by divisive infrastructure

Community Connectors:

Reconnecting small and mid-sized communities harmed by divisive infrastructure

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and grant program teams Smart Growth America, the New Urban Mobility Alliance, and America Walks have created the Community Connectors program to help advance locally driven projects that reconnect communities separated or harmed by transportation infrastructure. Fifteen teams from small to mid-sized cities have been selected to receive a capacity-building grant to advance these projects. Equitable Cities is working with Albany, New York; Buffalo, New York; Cleveland, Tennessee; Durham, NC; and, Orange and East Orange, New Jersey to repair the damage of divisive infrastructure. Below is a brief description of each community’s efforts:

  • Albany, NY: Interstate 787 construction in the City of Albany began in the 1960s and resulted in approximately nine miles of highway along the edge of the Hudson River. The Interstate is surrounded by underserved, overburdened, disadvantaged communities that have shouldered an inequitable and considerable portion of the harmful effects of I-787. This project advocates for the redesign of Interstate-787 in Albany, NY, to ensure community-led co-creation leads to healthy, inclusive, resilient, and safe development for residents.
  • Buffalo, NY: This project seeks to redress longstanding inequities and barriers to opportunity through reconstruction of Bailey Avenue, in addition to implementation of a Battery Electric Bus Rapid Transit (BEBRT) system and related land-use improvements. Through roundtable convenings and advocacy, this team seeks to center the experiences of residents who have been historically excluded from investment and dealt with barriers, such as concentrated poverty and structural racism.
  • Cleveland, TN: The1970s urban renewal removed many homes and businesses (especially Black-owned businesses) in Cleveland, TN and led to displacement, decline in economic stability, and deterioration of the physical environment. More recently, the abandonment of the large Whirlpool manufacturing site adjacent to the railroad impacted the neighborhood economy while creating a large brownfield site. This project plans to reshape major roadways and create opportunities for neighborhood revitalization in the East Inman Street low-income and minority neighborhoods, and restore the economic vibrancy and neighborhood pride that residents once enjoyed.
  • Durham, NC: This project targets two policy processes that historically and intentionally divided communities: ordinances and school transportation practices. The team is documenting how missing and limited public transit exacerbates challenges experienced in two predominantly Black communities in Durham, NC battling gentrification and displacement. The project seeks to formulate bi-directional community engagement strategies and explore approaches to shift community-government relationships from project-based to non-transactional collaboration.
  • Orange and East Orange, NJ: The construction of I-280 and Freeway Drive through East Orange and Orange in the 1960s continues to have significant quality-of-life impacts on residents more than 60 years later. The City of East Orange and the City of Orange Township are taking a comprehensive look at remedying the economic, environmental, and connectivity problems these roads cause and are developing a project scope to gain state buy-in.

Project Details

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