Community Organizing Leads Baltimore Mayor To Remove Road Barriers To Historic Black Neighborhood

Exterior of the Roland Water Tower. Photo by Adam via Flickr.

What’s happening?

Mayor Brandon Scott ordered the removal of barriers on the roadway at Roland Water Tower last Tuesday after residents complained that the obstructions blocked access to the historic Black neighborhood, Hoes Heights, Fern Shen reports for Baltimore Brew. 

Why were the road blockages significant?

The city originally closed the roads due to vehicle safety concerns in a new park built during the water tower’s renovation. But residents of the Hoes Heights neighborhood—a community founded by a formerly enslaved man and historically inhabited by domestic workers hired by wealthy Roland Park residents—protested to remove the blockages to their already difficult-to-access neighborhood. 

“It was good old-fashioned organizing,” said Betsey Heeney, a member of the Hoes Heights Action Committee. “We reached out to the people most impacted, who then reached out to others in the city to get across how important this is. Then, somehow, this message made its way to the mayor.”

Residents and activists clashed with the Department of General Services over the permanence of the barriers at a contentious public meeting in October. The Hoes Heights Action Committee hosted their own town hall meeting in November to educate Baltimoreans about the history of their once-segregated neighborhood and the roadway’s significance to residents in the area. 

Anything else I should know? 

Both tower roads are now open to vehicle traffic. Councilman James Torrence will spearhead a new neighborhood survey to design future plans for the area surrounding the water tower. The results of the survey will be announced at two town hall meetings with dates to-be-determined. 

You can read more here.

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