Proposed $450M bridge threatens historic Black community in Florida 

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said a bridge would "crush" redevelopment of the Sistrunk community and is not desired by residents.

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If approved, a proposed $450 million bridge would cut through a historic Black community in Florida and possibly undermine its redevelopment. The two-mile long bridge is one of several plans under consideration by the Florida Department of Transportation. However, the potential for harm to the historic Sistrunk community has residents worried. 

According to the Fort Lauderdale Community Redevelopment Agency, Sistrunk is Fort Lauderdale’s oldest Black community, one comprised of working families, mom-and-pop small businesses, historic churches and landmarks. The neighborhood is in the midst of ongoing redevelopment.

“We are trying to tear away those divisions and artificial barriers that have kept us apart for so many decades,” says Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis. (Photo: Susan Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP file)

A NBC News report says the city’s mayor, Dean Trantalis, has indicated that a bridge crossing the New River in downtown Fort Lauderdale in order to alleviate traffic congestion is not desired by residents or current and future business owners. 

“If you build a bridge, you are furthering that separation between communities, and we don’t want that,” he said. “We are trying to tear away those divisions and artificial barriers that have kept us apart for so many decades.”

The plan is reminiscent of the eminent domain policies that for years destroyed Black communities across the nation in the name of progress. In Detroit, for example, a highway cut through the historic Hastings Street district in the 1960s. Funds from President Joe Biden’s new infrastructure bill are expected to remove the highway starting this year, according to CBS Detroit. 

In Florida, the community named after Dr. James Franklin Sistrunk, the founder of the county’s first Black hospital, has become a hub for culture and art in Fort Lauderdale. Sistrunk is now a bustling enclave, where events and parades are hosted. 

“You’re going to crush this redevelopment, something that’s been planned for years,” Trantalis said. “No developer wants to have a train bridge next to their building. It would crush the life out of these developments.”

The Florida Department of Transportation says it is 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. 

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