Christopher Halajian Looks at How WPA Projects Have Helped Southold

It was in 1932 that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt pledged that he would develop a “New deal” for the people of America. After the elections, he set to work at lifting the country out of the Great Depression, something he remained committed to during his presidency.

Indeed, in 1935, he launched the “Second New Deal”, which included further financial regulations and reforms public work projects, and other programs. One element of this was the WPA (Works Progress Administration), which has improved towns from Mattiiuck to East Hampton. Here, Christopher Halajian delves into how WPA projects have helped the town of Southold in particular.

Christopher Halajian on WPA Projects in Southold

On a Monday in October 1936, Southold was granted money from the WPA in order to restore and replant the highways with new trees. Additionally, it was promised that the Long Island State Park commission would technically supervise the work done along this route. This was all reported on in the Long Island Traveler, a popular newspaper at the time.

Between 1935 and 1936, candidates in Southold gratefully accepted the WPA money and around $1.2 million was spent in total. They placed a particular focus on the estate in Hither Hills, Wildwood, Heckscher, and the Sunken Meadow, while at the same time improving the recreational facilities available to residents at Orient Point State Park. The vast majority of roads used in Southold today exist thanks to the money from the WPA projects.

One of the things that made the WPA projects so special, besides the tremendous positive impact they had, was how they were managed. The WPA focused on providing those with the least amount of skills with employment, helping them develop their knowledge and experience. Many had turned to drink as a result of the Great Depression and had come into contact with the police on numerous occasions. These were the people that would normally be unemployable, but they were given a second chance. Additionally, the WPA placed a focus on education and health, seeing those elements as the building blocks of society. Their money allowed for the construction of some 4,000 new educational buildings as well as 130 new hospitals. Furthermore, they placed an emphasis on infrastructure, something that President Donald Trump is equally attempting to do. Their grants enabled the construction of some 150 new airfields, 29,000 new bridges, and around 280,000 miles of roads were either repaired or paved. And, to ensure the country would also be environmentally sustainable, they planted some 24 million trees. It is also the work of the WPA that allowed artists such as Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock to continue their work, something that has also benefited society as a whole.

According to Christopher Halajian, it was the grants from the WPA that enabled Southold to climb out of the Great Depression and become the wonderful town that it is today. He hopes that many, like him, spare a thought at the wonderful work that was done next time they drive in the town. Without the WPA, none of that would be there.