Main streets and disaster: A study of regional collective efficacy


Main Streets are civic/commercial centers of neighborhoods. They are also nodes in regional networks of streets, which together create a net of connection referred to here as the ‘tangle.’ This tangle serves as a physical substrate for community interconnection and its expression as collective efficacy. We examine two regions hit by disaster. We postulate that the unevenness of the Main Street nodes undermines collective efficacy and impedes recovery. This work has implications for planning for climate change and other future stressors.


It is worth reflecting on how we arrived at our interest in Main Streets as support for our claim of their importance. In a 2002–2005 study, we used the ecological concept of ‘transect’ to study the dynamics of displacement in Essex County NJ. A transect cuts through an ecosystem, allowing for sampling the processes and populations that are thought to be present throughout the larger area. Our transects were Bloomfield Avenue and Springfield Avenue, two main roads radiating from downtown Newark to its surrounding suburbs. We examined the phenomenon of displacement that started with urban renewal in the 1950s and continued with highway construction, neighborhood disinvestment and HOPE VI, a federal program that demolished and replaced older public housing projects, often housing fewer people after-the-fact (Fullilove and Wallace 2011). We found that those policies fanned the black population, which had been largely confined to Newark, outward toward the first-ring suburbs, while pushing the affluent white population out of those communities into second-ring suburbs, leaving the center of Newark hollowed-out and disinvested.

Author Comments

cynthia golembeski 2, MPH
cynthia golembeski 2, MPH
Rutgers University
JD/PhD student
Newark, New Jersey | United States
It is an honor to work with such dedicated and incisive authors who are committed to equity in both theory and practice. cynthia golembeski 2, MPH


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