A broad coalition of elected officials, business owners and advocates gathered on Tuesday in the shadow of the Bruckner Expressway to call on Governor Andrew Cuomo, the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) and Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio to move the Sheridan Expressway project forward. The coalition included Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, representatives from Hunts Point businesses Baldor, Jetro and Down East Seafood, plus The Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance and Tri-State.
Despite the snow and cold temperatures, the group came together in anticipation of the release of a final Sheridan Expressway-Hunts Point Study report from the outgoing Bloomberg administration. The report, The Sheridan Expressway Study: Reconnecting the Neighborhoods Around the Sheridan Expressway and Improving Access to Hunts Point, released last Tuesday, includes a long list of recommended improvements for the entire community, including:
- conversion of the at-grade Sheridan Expressway into a boulevard that includes three new crossing across the roadway that provide new access to the waterfront and
- construction of ramps that provide a direct connection from the elevated Bruckner Expressway directly into the Hunts Point peninsula.
The group, seeing these recommendations as an opportunity for positive change — but concerned they might languish on a shelf after the current administration moves out — called on their elected leaders and NYSDOT to pick up where the New York City DOT is leaving off. With the study now complete, the next step is for NYSDOT to perform an environmental review of the direct access ramp construction. Through that process, an Environmental Impact Statement would be completed and then, construction of the direct connection ramps could begin.
A transformation of the area, as is proposed by the City’s recommendations, would further key State and City goals. The proposed ramps would improve access to businesses in Hunts Point and advance Governor Cuomo’s statewide focus on economic development. Funds for an environmental analysis of the ramps by NYSDOT must be added to the agency’s short term project list. Additionally, the narrative of this effort falls within Mayor-elect de Blasio’s “tale of two-cities,” where the needs of under-served communities are ignored or neglected. The redesign of the Sheridan Expressway to improve access to valuable community resources must be advanced by the new administration.
The South Bronx is plagued with high asthma rates that have been linked to truck exhaust, and on top of that, the area has the smallest ratio of parks to people in all of New York City. By providing direct access to Hunts Point, trucks would no longer need to use local streets. That’s a benefit for the community not just for local air quality, but also because trucks have posed a danger to pedestrians and cyclists in the neighborhood. Failure to act on these recommendations would be another injustice for a community impacted with a disproportionate share of environmental, health, safety and economic burdens. The highly competitive federal grant that paid for this study provided a rare opportunity towards transformation that must not be squandered because of political inaction.