Fixing a Stop Light Leads to Getting a Green Light for Community Action

The Red Hook (N.Y) Public Library proved it’s more than just a book-lender when it listened to residents’ frustrations and rallied the small town to protest a faulty traffic light, inspiring community members to address other problems together. 

The traffic light victory began with Red Hook Public Library Director Erica Freudenberger’s goal to change the perception of the library. Freudenberger said, at the time, many residents thought the library was a “musty old building that was best to be avoided.” With this in mind, the library director united staff members, politicians and local civic engagement specialists to make the library an agent of change.

With its blend of different backgrounds, the Red Hook team went door-to-door to ask residents what kind of ideal community they envisioned. Surprisingly, residents’ main concern was safety, especially with the town’s only traffic light. The light made drivers wait as long as seven minutes; frustrated, drivers would often avoid the light by cutting through residential streets. This endangered pedestrians, especially since the small town lacked sidewalks. 

The library encouraged residents to contact their state representatives and the Department of Transportation to voice their concerns.

“It empowered people to take action and also encouraged us on the government level to put it up on a higher priority to address,” said Brent Kovalchik, Village of Red Hook deputy mayor and a member of the Red Hook library’s community engagement team. “Now it’s fixed.”

Read a case study about Red Hook Public Library’s community engagement work.

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