Building Equity from Coast to Coast

Written by Scott Kratz, Senior Vice President, Building Bridges Across the River
Director, 11th Street Bridge Park

 

As we approach the 11th Street Bridge Park’s ground breaking later this year, it’s critical that local residents are employed to build this new civic space. Since 2017, we’ve been leading construction training programs at our Skyland Workforce Center and to date we’ve seen 150 east of the residents placed in construction jobs developing the skills needed to build the park. 

In 2021, we received a generous grant to continue these trainings here in Washington, D.C. and support similar work at four similar infrastructure re-use projects across the country. This three-year pilot includes: Trinity Park Conservancy in Dallas, TX; India Basin Park in San Francisco, CA; the Riverline in Buffalo, NY; and Grand Rivers Corridor in Grand Rapids, MI. Working in collaboration with the High Line Network, the Five-City Workforce Pilot aims to ensure these parks pro-actively benefit local residents in the surrounding communities.

We recently held our second 5 City Workforce convening in San Francisco where we met with our colleagues learning from each other and providing new tools and resources. On our first day, we toured India Basin Park which is currently under construction. Working in collaboration with San Francisco Recreation & Parks and the A. Philip Randolph Institute, the park has deeply engaged nearby residents shaping park programming and created their own Equitable Development Plan. This new waterfront park marks a historic moment for environmental justice and anti-displacement efforts on the West coast.  

The event kicked off with a conversation between me and General Manager of San Francisco Recreation and Parks Phil Ginsberg discussing how we can act intentionally to build community wealth and our unique roles in these public–private partnerships. We are so thrilled to see this team implement their equity strategies including workshops with youth, efforts to support healthy communities & ecology and workforce training efforts. We have much to learn from our colleagues!

 

Later that same afternoon, we heard from a panel discussion featuring local stakeholders and graduates of pre-construction workforce initiatives led by the A. Philip Randolph Institute. One of the more powerful speakers was Ms. Yoshida Pitts, a pre-construction training graduate who praised the extensive wrap around services that included a series of physical fitness classes preparing her to succeed on a construction site. She has since been hired by a local firm and remarked that this “isn’t just a job, but a career” thanks to the on-going support provided.

The next day featured a tour of the Presidio’s new Tunnel Tops that decked over an existing freeway to create a natural playspace, fire pit, great lawn and remarkable views of the Golden Gate bridge, Alcatraz and the downtown skyline. In the afternoon, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy shared their award-wining immersive programs building career pipelines for youth and teens. This was inspirational as we think about opportunities for D.C. youth as the Bridge Park gets ready to open in a few short years. 

Finally, the Urban Institute led a session on leveraging data to tell more compelling narratives about our work. Researcher Donovan Harvey delved into the process of building robust narratives with data, setting expectations about data sharing with partners and making sure we consider privacy considerations when collecting information. In the next several months, we’ll work with the Urban Institute researchers, our workforce training partners and the High Line Network to create a training tool kit to be shared with the larger field. Stay tuned!

Scott Kratz

Senior Vice President, Building Bridges Across the River

Director, 11th Street Bridge Park