Richard Wasserman
Community Uprooted: Eminent Domain in the U.S.
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Located less than two miles from downtown Boston in Roxbury/North Dorchester, the Dudley Street Neighborhood is a trilingual neighborhood of approximately 5,200 African-American, Latin American, Cape Verdean, and White families speaking English, Spanish and Cape Verdean Creole. It is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Boston with approximately 27% of its population falling below the federal poverty level.


The Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative was formed in 1984 when residents of the Dudley Street area came together to revive their neighborhood. Plagued by severe disinvestment, illegal dumping of all sorts, and with more than a third of its lots vacant due to arson, the Dudley Street residents over a period of several years got rid of the trash, stopped the dumping, gained control of the vacant properties, and undertook long-term planning based on the community’s own vision of an "urban village." Residents gained control by convincing Boston’s city government to take the unprecedented step of granting the community the power of eminent domain over much of the vacant land. The Dudley Street Neighborhood acquired valuable assets, established a community land trust, and set criteria for planning and development of the community. DSNI is the only community-based nonprofit in the country to be granted eminent domain authority over abandoned land. As of 2013 more than half of the 1,300 abandoned parcels had been permanently transformed into over 400 affordable homes, community centers, new schools, a community greenhouse, parks, playgrounds, gardens, an orchard and other public spaces.


Today the DSNI in addition to making affordable housing available, focuses on three other strategic areas: community economic development, leadership development, and opportunities for its young people. Dudley residents are proud of their neighborhood and are actively committed to their revitalization efforts.