Those of you who missed this week’s showing of PBS’s “Blueprint America: Road to the Future” can now view it at PBS’s website. The episode compares different modes of urban planning in Portland and Denver before devoting about 10 minutes to NYCDOT’s push for more pedestrian spaces and better cycling infrastructure. (Skip down to Part 4 to view it.) There’s little here that local transportation policymakers don’t already know, but it is interesting to see how PBS frames the issues for a general, national audience.
Around 9 minutes into the NYC segment, the documentary looks at the movement to remove the 1.1-mile Sheridan Expressway in the South Bronx. It’s a good primer on the detrimental consequences of many of the urban highways pushed through neighborhoods decades ago. It also displays some of the creative advocacy being done by members of the South Bronx River Watershed Alliance, the coalition (which includes TSTC) advocating for a teardown. “Blueprint America” correspondent Miles O’Brien interviews Alexie Torres-Fleming of Youth Ministries of Peace and Justice and documents YMPJ “crucifying” environmental injustices like the Sheridan during a rendition of the Stations of the Cross.
However, the documentary doesn’t give viewers a full picture of where the Sheridan project currently stands. O’Brien notes that community groups have advocated for removal of the highway for 15 years, but doesn’t mention that the effort is closer than ever to success. NYSDOT is now studying two alternatives for the future of the Sheridan, and one of those is a teardown. As the study progresses, it’s becoming clearer that this is the right choice. “Blueprint” also characterizes the community’s alternative somewhat simply as one that removes the highway and creates open space. The plan would also create a new interchange that improves access to the Hunts Point industrial area and keeps trucks off residential streets — achieving the very goals that NYSDOT set out to reach when it began its study of the highway.
Still, it’s a good mention of an advocacy effort which many people have a stake in. As Torres-Fleming says, “if one man could rechannel the Bronx River,” which Robert Moses did to construct the Sheridan, “then a community could take that highway down.”