Saturday, July 18, 2015

Emily Badger and "the other side of the tracks": infrastructure and segregation

Emily Badger at Wonkblog has this article titled, "How railroads, highways and other man-made lines racially divide America’s cities". To say her analysis will cause angst and handwringing for some is an understatement. I reference Emily Badger frequently because many of her observations seem so applicable to Lake Worth, FL such as one-way streets, urban blight, housing, and neighborhood revival are some.

It's hard to ignore the major role our roads, highways, and train tracks have had on this City: I-95, the FEC tracks, Dixie Hwy., 6th Ave South, and 10th Ave South to name a few. Dixie Hwy. is being talked about a lot lately and so is 6th Ave. South in District 1 (which I write about later). Both roads resemble walls more than roads; they divide the City and limit access to and from. Some of the suggestions are slowing the speed of vehicles, narrowing lanes, eliminating lanes, and add a turning lane and bike lanes.

Here is an excerpt from Wonkblog about "the other side of the tracks" that will hopefully make some look at their surroundings with a more critical eye:
     Like many metaphors, "the other side of the tracks" was originally a literal epithet. Blacks were often historically restricted to neighborhoods separated from whites by railroads, turning the tracks into iron barriers of race and class.
     In many cities, these dividing lines persist to this day — a reflection of decades of discriminatory policies and racism, but also of the power of infrastructure itself to segregate.
     Look at racial maps of many American cities, and stark boundaries between neighboring black and white communities frequently denote an impassable railroad or highway, or a historically uncrossable avenue. Infrastructure has long played this role: reinforcing unspoken divides, walling off communities, containing their expansion, physically isolating them from schools or parks or neighbors nearby.
Note that tomorrow (7/19) there will be a Crime Walk in Lake Worth with PBSO. That part of the City, District 1, is separated into two very distinct neighborhoods by I-95. West of I-95 is mostly White and middle class. East of I-95 is a different story; that part of the City has many minority residents (Black, Haitian, and Hispanic) and was hit particularly hard by the Great Recession; many areas are still struggling to this day.

The truly sad part of this is the most vocal in District 1 are the ones west of I-95 who have the better infrastructure, less crime, easy access to John Prince Park, and an altogether better quality of life. But it's still not enough. They complain constantly and bitterly about their lack of services and one very public figure has even suggested her part of the City be re-annexed back into the county.

The Crime Walk tomorrow will be very well attended, I'm sure. It would be real nice to see some neighbors from "the other side of the tracks" attend also. The reality is a reduction in crime benefits everyone no matter which of the four City districts you happen to live or which neighborhood in a particular district for that matter.
The white line above the label "The City of Lake Worth" is I-95. The City is divided into 4 districts; District 1 is on the upper left in this map with I-95 bisecting it.