Martin Luther King Avenue near Manahan Village public housing was submerged under floodwaters from the impact of tropical storm Ida for 24 hours as Morristown tried to recover from the record flooding.
Many areas in and around Morristown green saw significant flooding thanks to Ida, but none more than the residents living near Headquarters Plaza. Since the 1960s, when Headquarters Plaza was constructed, residents of the area have seen record flooding and no attempt by the town to tame the overflow of the Whippany River.
Headquarter's Plaza is home to Morristown's Second Ward, the historical home to Morristown's African American Community. This area has seen the impact of gentrification and now flooding due to broken promises by the town of Morris.
In the late 1960s, when Headquarter's Plaza was being constructed, the town of Morris promised $12 million to the Second Ward area to tame flooding from the Whippany River. Fifty years later, nothing has been done to tame the overflow of the Whippany River and Morristown's Second Ward is beginning to see the impact in a big way. Climate change has brought storms and severe weather and along with it flooding to this residential area.
After Ida's impact, Pastor Sidney Williams Jr had enough and took to social media to call out the town's broken promise and demand a fix to over fifty years of broken promises.
"This area was considered an urban redevelopment zone, affordable housing was supposed to be built here in this community, in this census tract. But now what's happening is that the hard-fought fights of our ancestors, who fought for affordable housing, fought for floodwater mitigation, so they can raise their families here in this community–now, that's being erased and now market-rate housing is being built in this community," said Williams.
The town does not seem to be taking the issue of social and environmental justice to heart as Mayor Tim Dougherty voted in August of 2021 to approve the building of 15 units of mostly market-rate apartments on Martin Luther King Avenue.
"The disappointing part is, we've got a mayor who says he cares about all citizens of our community, and yet endorses market-rate housing to be built on Martin Luther King Avenue, with no conversation– no conversation– about what we're going to do about the flooding in this area," Williams said.
The mayor's office responded to the allegations of broken promises and flooding in Morristown's second ward stating Morristown's residents should be "grateful" that they "escaped the tragedies experienced elsewhere."
Pastor Williams was not feeling grateful, he stated "The fight's not over. We will keep fighting."
"Reach out to your planning board, reach out to your town council, let them know this floodwater issue is a problem, we want it fixed. And we want the original plan that was put in place for urban redevelopment, to make sure … the black and brown people of this community will have a place to live, in the community where they have raised their children," the pastor said.
Pastor Sidney Williams continues to fight to make Morristown live up to its promises.