“That Dick Lee is still sore that Celantano beat him by three votes. Even though he’s Mayor now. He has no use for us Italians.”

This snippet of dialogue is from one of my characters in Coming Home, Matt DeMatteo. He voiced the opinion of many in the Wooster Square area of New Haven Mayor Richard C. Lee’s motivations for destroying their beloved neighborhood. Huge swatches of homes, mom and pop shops, sidewalks, parks and St. Patricks Church were sacrificed to build Interstate 91, the highway that connects New Haven to the north. 

In 1956, President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Federal Aid Highway Act, kicking off what the Federal Highway Administration calls The Greatest Decade: 1956-1966.   We take our interconnectedness for granted now, but these highways came with great cost: 41 billion dollars and countless neighborhoods destroyed and lives uprooted.

Perhaps Mayor Lee harbored some resentment for the Italian American community’s support for Mayor Celentano, but to me, the more likely reason for the highway was his desire to tap into the federal monies available to remake New Haven into a “Model City.”

So, let’s dip into the history of this initiative with my introduction to the secret “ring road,” the centerpiece of Lee’s redevelopment plan.

And as always, the video associated with this blog post is available on YouTube.

And a HOUSEKEEPING NOTE:  I will be traveling to visit my son this weekend for Mother’s Day.  So I will take a one week break from the blog and newsletter. Content will resume the week of May 22.



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