SCHUMER, GILLIBRAND, HIGGINS ANNOUNCE SIGNIFICANT $55 MILLION FEDERAL GRANT TO HELP REUNITE COMMUNITIES DIVIDED BY KENSINGTON EXPRESSWAY; BUFFALO WILL BE AMONG THE FIRST IN THE NATION TO TAP THE BIPARTISAN INFRASTRUCTURE & JOBS LAW’S HISTORIC RECONNECTING COMMUNITIES PROGRAM
Kensington Expressway Construction In The 1960s Demolished 600+ Residential Properties, Destroyed the Tree-lined Humboldt Parkway, And Created A Barrier That Divided and Harmed East Buffalo
Bipartisan Infrastructure & Jobs Law Created First-Of-Its-Kind “Reconnecting Communities Program” To Address The Legacy Of Highway Construction Fracturing Neighborhoods – Now Buffalo Will Be Among The First In The Nation To Tap This Funding
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and U.S. Congressman Brian Higgins today announced that the transformation of Buffalo’s Kensington Expressway has been awarded $55 million through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act’s Reconnecting Communities Program. The representatives explained that this makes Buffalo among the first in the nation to tap this historic program to bolster communities, like Buffalo’s East Side, which was fractured by highways that were built through neighborhoods.
“Buffalo will be among the first in the nation to tap the Bipartisan Infrastructure and Jobs Law’s historic Reconnecting Communities Program to jumpstart the effort to reconnect Buffalo neighborhoods torn apart by the Kensington Expressway. This significant $55 million investment will lay the foundation for a more equitable future for Buffalo’s East Side, helping transform this divisive relic of the past into a site that will bridge divides and spur new economic opportunity,” said Senator Schumer. “The transformation of the divisive Kensington Expressway will be a game changer for Buffalo, which thanks to the local hire provisions we fought to secure in the Bipartisan Infrastructure law, will also help bring new good-paying construction jobs for residents building the future of the community. Our infrastructure should connect, not divide our communities, and that is why I fought so hard to create and fund the Reconnecting Communities program and personally called Transportation Secretary Buttigieg to secure this major federal funding to help right this 50-year old wrong, and help reunite Buffalo’s East Side and adjacent neighborhoods that were wrongly divided by the Kensington Expressway.”
“I fought for years to pass the Reconnecting Communities provisions of my Build Local, Hire Local Act, and today, I’m thrilled to be announcing that Buffalo will receive federal funding from the Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This $55 million will help Buffalo reverse decades of disinvestment and exclusionary federal policies, revitalize the area surrounding the Kensington Expressway, and connect workers to good-paying jobs. I stood with local leaders and advocates every step of the way to make this happen and I’m committed to seeing this project through and getting Buffalo the federal resources it needs to thrive.”
Congressman Brian Higgins said, “It is said that the urban landscape has the power to hurt or to heal. This $55 million in federal funding recognizes the harm forced on a neighborhood, city and Olmsted-designed parkway when the Kensington Expressway tore a community apart decades ago and provides the resources to support healing. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law makes this opportunity possible. We look forward to righting this historic wrong and we commend the Restoring Our Community Coalition whose long and hard-fought effort led us to this point.”
“The Kensington Expressway has divided neighborhoods in my hometown of Buffalo for many generations, and with this award, we can advance our work to right past wrongs” Governor Kathy Hochul said. “I want to thank our great congressional delegation, including Majority Leader Schumer, Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Higgins, for their advocacy to secure these funds to complement our state support for this transformational project to reconnect the East Buffalo community and create new opportunities.”
City of Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown said, “By delivering $55 million to Buffalo for major infrastructure improvements, United States Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer continues to prove that he is one of Western New York’s greatest champions. This investment will improve the quality of life in our growing city. I look forward to collaborating further with my partners in Federal and State government to see the completion of this project.”
"I am extremely grateful for the support of my Congressional colleagues: Majority Leader Schumer, Senator Gillibrand, and Congressman Higgins, who successfully advocated for the Restore Our Community Coalition project. Securing $55 milllion to advance Covering the Kensington Expressway is a huge victory for the City of Buffalo," stated Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes.
“Today, the Restore Our Community Coalition in Buffalo, NY is delighted regarding the special designation of 55 million dollars by Senator Schumer for costs associated with covering the Humboldt Parkway,” said Stephanie Barber Geter, Chair of ROCC. “A huge thanks to him and the team for supporting our vision to undo this long standing social injustice.”
“When I was appointed Chair of the State Senate Transportation Committee, reimagining the Kensington Expressway became our top priority because I’ve seen its impact on the community, I've heard from residents what was taken from them when the Expressway was constructed,” said NYS Senator Tim Kennedy. “Last year we succeeded in including this $1 billion transformational project in New York State’s $32.8 billion capital plan, ensuring that we will reconnect a community that has been separated for far too long. This federal grant will help to alleviate the cost of this necessary and historic undertaking, and I want to thank Senators Schumer and Gillibrand and Congressman Higgins for their tireless efforts to secure it.”
Kensington Expressway began construction in
the 1950’s on what is now known as Route 33 along the path of Humboldt Parkway,
replacing what had been a grand, tree-lined boulevard designed by Frederick Law
Olmstead and Calvert Vaux with a below-grade highway that divided and stifled
economic growth for the Martin Luther King and Hamlin Park neighborhoods on
Schumer personally called Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to advocate for funding for the Kensington Expressway project. This also builds on other major federal investments the representatives secured to help better reconnect Buffalo’s East Side like the $25 million Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grant to finally fix the roadway between Goodell St. and the Kensington Avenue delivered last year. Higgins also sent a letter to the Transportation Secretary advocating for Buffalo to be selected writing, “Rejoining these communities is essential to addressing the misguided policies of the past and building a more equal Buffalo.” Senator Gillibrand personally toured the Kensington Expressway with Senior Advisor and Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu in October, making the case to the White House why reconnecting East Buffalo was so important. She additionally stood with Landrieu, Congressman Higgins and Mayor Byron Brown to announce the RAISE dollars connecting Goodell Street and Kensington Ave.
The Kensington Expressway project is sponsored by the state with Governor Hochul, committing $1.054 Billion in funding as needed, and a scoping report was recently completed in December 2022. The report calls for a 6-lane tunnel extending from under Dodge Street to Sydney Street. Above ground, Humboldt Parkway would be redesigned not just for cars but for pedestrians and bicyclists with traffic-calming measures, crosswalks, bicycle lanes, and pedestrian and bicycle signals. It would also include a tree-lined walkable linear park in the median with Victorian gardens, sidewalks, and benches, connecting it with the adjacent Martin Luther King Jr. Park. The $55 million Reconnecting Communities grant will go towards funding this vision. In addition, the Bipartisan Infrastructure law included an estimated $11.5 billion over five years to New York in formula Federal-Aid Highway dollars, including $5.9 billion for the National Highway Performance program, $2.89 billion for the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program, and $1 billion for the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program which all can help supplement the ongoing Kensington transformation project.
The Reconnecting Communities Program was created by Senators Schumer and Gillibrand and Rep. Higgins in the Bipartisan Infrastructure & Jobs Law to help communities, like Buffalo, remove barriers like old highways and other transportation infrastructure that has limited the connectivity of the community. This is the first year of the $1 billion dollar program, making Buffalo one of the first communities to receive funding for this historic initiative. The bipartisan infrastructure law also includes provisions the lawmakers advocated for to bolster local hire programs that would allow state and local governments to use targeted hiring to connect local workers and businesses – especially in disadvantaged and underrepresented communities – to new opportunities on federally-funded transportation infrastructure projects, including those supported by the Reconnecting Communities Program like the Kensington Expressway project. The local hire provisions will ensure additional steps are taken to provide high-quality job and business opportunities to residents of communities negatively impacted by past infrastructure investments.
Schumer and Gillibrand led the introduction of the Reconnecting Communities Act in 2021, and Congressman Higgins cosponsored the bill in the House. Local hire and federal resources to rebuild local communities were also central provisions of the Economic Justice Act, legislation that Schumer and Gillibrand introduced in 2020 to invest more than $435 billion to address systemic racism and underinvestment in communities of color. Additionally, Senator Gillibrand introduced in 2021 the Build Local, Hire Local Act, legislation that makes bold reforms to federal infrastructure programs, creates good-paying jobs, and works to right the wrongs of decades of disinvestment and exclusionary federal policies that have cut off communities of color and marginalized populations from opportunity in urban and rural areas alike.