Niagara Gazette — John Norquist knows a thing or two about controversial road removal projects.
As the mayor of Milwaukee in the late 1980s, he was involved in an effort to remove the Park East Freeway, a 1-mile remnant of a larger plan to develop a system of highways around downtown Milwaukee.
Today, Norquist is still fighting what he believes to be the good fight when it comes to urban planning. As the president and CEO of the Congress for the New Urbanism, he helps advocate for walkable neighborhoods, greater emphasis on public transportation systems and city designs that promote compact, vibrant centers where housing, work places and civic facilities are easily accessed by pedestrians.
Following a tour of the city with Mayor Paul Dyster last summer, Norquist concluded Niagara Falls, like Milwaukee, could use less freeway next to its most vital resource: its waterfront.
“You absolutely don’t need a thru-highway there,” said Norquist during a recent telephone interview with the Gazette. “It was just one of the many, many mistakes that Robert Moses made.”
New urbanism is an urban design movement which advocates for a return to more traditional neighborhoods — the kind where walking, bicycling and public transit are prized above the use of automobiles and freeways.
Norquist and other CNU members have spent nearly 20 years advocating for greater emphasis on the design scheme in urban planning projects around the country. Last year, the CNU added the Robert Moses Parkway to its revised 2012 list of “Freeways Without Futures,” an annual assessment of places the group believes would benefit from retrofitting, removing and repurposing freeways to better serve cities and their residents.
Of the Robert Moses, the CNU concluded that the 18-mile-long road stretching along the Niagara Gorge rim stands as a “barrier between Niagara Falls and its tremendous natural asset.” The group also determined that the parkway stands in the way of two elements often used by parkway removal advocates to make their case — increased ecotourism and restored parkland.