A proposal to remove a hated highway is caught in a maelstrom of politicking. But Amy Stelly is standing her ground.
Amy Stelly is a planner by profession. But her beef with the Claiborne Expressway—the roughly two-mile elevated highway that cuts through the historic neighborhood of Tremé, in New Orleans, essentially splitting its heart—isn’t theoretical, it’s personal. Stelly lives in her childhood home, a sprawling century-old house, just 450 feet from the hulking overpass. She has no living memory of the highway’s construction in the late 1960s. She was about eight years old when Claiborne Avenue, the oak tree–lined Main Street of the predominantly African-American community, was permanently shrouded in concrete and steel. In the years following the highway’s construction, scores of Black-owned shops, corner stores, restaurants, and clubs closed. “I can only think that I was traumatized, because there are people my age who have vivid memories of the trees,” she says. “I hated the highway growing up, and always wanted to change it.”