Rashida Tlaib, elected officials call for $10M in Delray community benefits

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News
U.S. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib speaks  on Saturday, March 16, 2019.

Detroit — Elected officials are standing beside southwest Detroit residents calling for $10 million in additional community benefits for those impacted by the building of the Gordie Howe International Bridge.

Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib stood beside State Senator Stephanie Chang, Detroit Councilwoman Raquel Castañeda-López and southwest Detroit residents Saturday calling upon the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority to deliver on a list they've created of protections for the remaining Delray community.

The proposal calls for funds to aid public health protections, repair homes, youth programs, improve air quality and relief from daily truck impacts.

Detroit City Councilwoman Raquel Castañeda-López speaks at a press conference on Saturday, March 16, 2019 urging support for critical programs to address the well-being of this vulnerable Delray community.

"We have an opportunity right there to get this right," Tlaib said to the group of residents at Delray's Neighborhood House. "We can do large development right by the people who live near and with it... There are $10-million dollars in additional community benefits still needed that residents in this community fought hard over years to secure... We can do this project and protect the community at the same time."

The elected officials are calling for $2.5 million in home repairs for those who stayed in the community, ineligible for the city's swap deal. The money would go towards repairing roofs, furnaces and doors for income-based residents who reside near the bridge.

► Leaving Detroit's Delray: A family swaps homes forbetter life

They are requesting $3 million to improve the quality of life including air filtration systems in homes and adding solar light poles. They would also like to replace 4,000 trees removed by the project. 

Heavily focused on air quality for children and seniors, the group proposed $2 million for programs in the Delray's recreation program and community center as well as $2.5 million to provide air filtration at 16 schools and eight head-start facilities in southwest.

The WDBA was not immediately available for comment Saturday evening.

Castañeda-López, who was born and raised in the community said heavy truck traffic, pollution, and poor air quality have been accepted as the status quo for residents in southwest.

"Residents already experience more negative health impacts like higher rates of asthma, upper respiratory problems and high blood pressure," she said. "We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to protect and enhance residents' quality of life... and we must."

Thomasenia Weston has lived in southwest Detroit across Interstate 75 for 20 years. She said her children used to be able to play outside, but now, she has to keep her grandchildren inside.

Delray resident Thomasenia Weston speaks at a press conference on Saturday, March 16, 2019 urging support for critical programs.

"It's very toxic and dangerous for children," she said. "I hope this bridge won't bring more trucks down our residential homes. We need protection to make sure our lives don't get worse."

Weston says she suffers from severe asthma from the air pollution in the area and her two grandchildren that she cares for constantly get sick.

"These trucks rolling down our streets have cracked walls and foundations of our homes and causes sewer problems in our basement," said Weston, who received a grant to repair her home in 2015. "By 2016, the cracks were back. Many of us can't afford to make additional home repairs. I can't even open my windows without the noise blaring and the dust is unbearable."

Khloe Johnson holds a sign.

Chang said she and others are speaking up before the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority makes decisions on its community benefit plans in the coming weeks.

"This is a critical time as they collect input from our community and will be making important decisions," Chang said. "We hope to build on strong collaboration with the city and WDBA. These stories from residents speaking out today strongly reinforce the need for WDBA to invest in additional community benefits for their quality of life."

Candida Leon, who has lived in her Delray home for 23 years has a family of seven who are unable and don't want to move.

"I see my children getting sick and since living here, I've developed COPD," said Leon, 54. "We have to give our children a better quality of life. Of course, I own my home and we always think of moving, but it's expensive and we love this diverse and close-knit community."

Delray supporters wore t-shirts in unity.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_