Repeal Robert Moses

Highways are a racist legacy. It is time to tear them down. And for once, let communities decide what gets built in their place.

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Photo by Paul Sableman

Can a Highway Be Racist?

We most often think of a highway as a route for people in cars to travel between A and B. But a highway also acts as a barrier. Run a highway between two neighborhoods and suddenly, permeable space becomes a wall. In cities across America, highways act as physical segregators. This is not a coincidence. Rather, segregation was an explicit goal as highway construction ramped up across the U.S. in the 1930s and 40s.

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Paul Sancya / AP

The Racist Legacy of New York City Highways

Highways like these, which serve segregation as much as transportation, can be spotted across New York City. The historic working class neighborhood of Red Hook, Brooklyn, for example, is home to the largest public housing complex in New York City, and is divided from wealthy Cobble Hill and Brooklyn Heights by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Moving between these neighborhoods requires finding the single pedestrian overpass, or crossing a fast eight-lane street on one of very few crosswalks under the highway. This is the legacy of Robert Moses.

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Long Island Highway, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

How We Repeal Robert Moses

These so-called “white roads through Black bedrooms” were not built at the bequest of Black communities. As Caro noted, in New York, “Robert Moses bent the democratic processes and the city to his will.” Rather, these projects steamrolled through communities at a time when people of color had little political power.

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Triborough Bridge, Berenice Abbot
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Transportation Alternatives is your advocate for bicycling, walking and public transit in New York City. We stand up for #VisionZero & #BikeNYC.

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