CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Residents in the Northside neighborhood of Hillcrest are fed up and have now requested the support of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Many of them feel their community is being neglected by the city and residents were pushed out due to the construction of the Harbor Bridge and other industrial businesses.
“This is home and I intend to be here," Henry Williams Jr said. "I’m not going anywhere.”
Williams Jr. has lived in Hillcrest for more than six decades. His father, Dr. Williams, was a well-known physician before passing away in 1986.
Williams Jr. is also the president of the Hillcrest Resident Association and said he's passionate about keeping the legacy of the historically Black neighborhood alive.
"I'm still here in my community because it has so much to offer," he said. "It's important for me to build up that which had been torn down. I live in the home that my father built. I'm going to stand firm upon helping the neighborhood, but it's important that we have the city and the other organizations backing us."
Eight years ago, an administrative complaint was filed under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It ensures that no one will be denied or discriminated against within any project funded by the federal government.
The complaint drew attention to the disproportionate impact of the design of the Harbor Bridge and the long-standing construction that residents believe is causing their neighborhood to lose its foundational history.
"From 2006, they tried to put a wastewater treatment plant in the middle of the neighborhood, Lamont Taylor, Chairman for the Citizen Alliance for Fairness and Progress said. "So within that, we had to file a Title VI complaint on that. Then, the Harbor Bridge construction happened in 2015. We brought up more concerns that the city has continued to ignore. So we believe they've been systematically attacking our neighborhood for years. They even paid residents to leave so they could construct the Harbor Bridge. They trying to drive us out."
Back in December 2015, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) entered into an agreement to settle the Title VI complaint filed.
Within that agreement, it was recognized that the two agencies would put forward improvements to T.C. Ayers and H.J. Williams Memorial parks and the Booker T. Washington Elementary School site.
However, residents said no progress has been made.
As residents become even more frustrated, members of the Community Advisory Board and Hillcrest Resident Association collaborated with Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, earlier this month.
Through the request of the community, Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid filed a request with U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg's office, to ensure the future of their historic Black neighborhood.
Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid is urging the United States DOT to investigate TxDOT's failure to comply with the 2015 agreement, oversee the enforcement in the upkeep of the community and fine the other entities that are not maintaining their portion of the eight-year agreement.
"The Hillcrest neighborhood is a historic victim of Texas-sponsored discrimination," Lamont Taylor, stated in a press release."No one has been calling them out on the carpet and no one has been holding them accountable."
KRIS 6 News reached out to TxDOT for a response regarding the allegations and this was their response:
"Actions to implement the improvements outlined in the FEIS/ROD and the Voluntary Resolution Agreement are ongoing," Rickey Dailey, TxDOT Public Information Officer, "Pursuant to the Four-Party Agreement, these improvements must be completed by the time the bridge project is completed and open to the public, and TxDOT fully intends to meet this deadline. TxDOT continues to work closely with and oversee the actions of the City to achieve the mitigation commitments for the parks and school site.”
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