Why we should demolish the Sheridan Expressway
By Melanie Bin Jung
Since the 1990s, the New York State Department of Transportation has been trying to find a way to create better access to the Hunts Point Peninsula. It has studied a variety of plans for new interchanges from the Bruckner and Sheridan Expressways to the neighborhood’s industrial zone.
In response, the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance came together to create a plan that would reduce truck traffic on local streets and create a better quality of life for the South Bronx, all while providing easy and direct access to the peninsula. This plan calls for removing the Sheridan. It is currently one of two being studied by the transportation department.
Called the New Community on the Sheridan Plan, the plan was the result of several community visioning sessions held by the watershed to learn what residents wanted to see in their community. The plan calls for taking down the Sheridan Expressway and creating 1,200 units of green affordable housing, parks and commercial space in its place. The new development would create 700 permanent jobs. Taking down the Sheridan would be made possible by the construction of new ramps from the Bruckner Expressway to Hunts Point.
In 2008, the transportation department revealed it was studying two alternatives for the project. One takes down the Sheridan, and the other keeps the Sheridan. Both alternatives call for a new interchange at Oak Point freight yard, which would allow all East- or Westbound traffic to leave and enter Hunts Point directly from the Bruckner Expressway, just as the Community Plan envisioned.
With the new Oak Point ramps, trucks from the George Washington Bridge would be able to take the Major Deegan to the Bruckner and then exit into Hunts Point. Trucks from the Triboro Bridge would also be able to use the Bruckner and exit into Hunts Point. Both alternatives create direct access into Hunts Point from the Bruckner, not the Sheridan. Why keep a “highway to nowhere” when you can build affordable housing, open space and businesses in its place, while creating new jobs?
Taking down the Sheridan Expressway would help reconnect Bronx communities with one another and with the Bronx River. Residents of Longwood and West Farms would be able to walk safely to Starlight Park and the Bronx River Greenway. At Westchester Avenue, where the Sheridan’s on- and off-ramps now endanger pedestrians and motorists alike, a new commercial and community hub could connect the Whitlock Avenue station on the 6 line to the entrance to the new Concrete Plant Park.
The State Department of Transportation is currently evaluating the alternatives, and the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance is fighting for the alternative the state calls “1E,” which eliminates the Sheridan to be chosen. Doing so would take trucks off local streets, provide direct access to Hunts Point, and create a new community on the Bronx River. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a new community to be built in the South Bronx, and it cannot be missed.
To learn more about the project, visit http://southbronxvision.org
Melanie Bin Jung is the Coordinator for the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance.
A version of this article appeared in the April edition of the Hunts Point Express.
Why we should retain the Sheridan Expressway
By Josephine Infante
The Sheridan Expressway is not a “highway to nowhere”, it is a vital connection between the Cross Bronx and Bruckner Expressways, increasingly crucial to the Southeast Bronx transportation system. It serves as a pivotal anchor to the Hunts Point and the Port Morris Industrial Parks.
Now, long overdue improvements will position Hunts Point and Port Morris in an efficient distribution system that keeps truck traffic away from the residential areas.
During the last 20 years the Bronx has experienced a monumental housing renaissance, as well as an economic development surge in the South Bronx. With the food distribution industry at its core, this surge has created a steadily increasing number of jobs for Bronx residents. More than 20,000 workers are estimated to be employed by the Hunts Point food industry.
In 2006, when the Hunts Point Works Employment Center was serving as a pilot program for the permanent NYC Workforce 1 office, more than 83% of placed job seekers were Bronx residents. A majority of jobs were entry level, offering opportunities to segments of a population that sometimes lacked the educational credentials to successfully compete in other areas. In the current economic context, we all know how significant this reservoir of jobs is.
Is the answer to this progress removing the Sheridan Expressway, which relieves traffic to the Tremont/Morris Park residential communities and will improve direct access to the Hunts Point Industrial Zone?
Road improvements are critical to maintain the flow of traffic. Removing the Sheridan Expressway will congest streets from Webster Avenue to Hunts Point and cause an overflow of truck traffic on residential streets. This issue is a regional issue that affects many communities in the Bronx , as well as the economy of New York City.
The Hunts Point Produce Market receives 95% of its food deliveries from the Southeast (Florida, South Carolina, etc.), the West (California, Texas, etc.) and Port Elizabeth, New Jersey, all by way of the George Washington Bridge.
Several years ago some groups suggested that the Major Deegan Expressway instead of the Sheridan become the main route to the market. After crossing the George Washington Bridge, trucks would have to make the near-impossible turn across lanes– also known as the “merge of death”–to the ramp from the Cross Bronx Expressway onto the southbound Major Deegan Expressway. Post 9/11-restrictions make access to the Deegan more cumbersome still.
Consequently, a majority of in-bound trucks coming from the GW Bridge will continue using the Cross Bronx Expressway to reach Hunts Point; if the Sheridan were removed, these trucks would use the Webster Avenue exit and then local streets to reach their destination. This would increase pollution and congestion locally.
Keeping trucks off local streets is what unites the residential and business communities. The Food Distribution Markets, the industrial park businesses, the Hunts Point Economic Development Corporation and the members of the Chamber of Commerce all support Alternative 2E, which retains the Sheridan Expressway while creating a new ramp at the Oak Point rail yard, to allow trucks to access the Hunts Point industrial area directly without ever encroaching on local streets.
Alternative 2E is a significant improvement over the current condition, allowing trucks coming from the south, east or north to have direct access into and out of the Hunts Point industrial park without driving on local streets. This alternative is a win-win for the residential and business communities of Hunts Point and the Bronx.
Josephine Infante is the President and CEO of the Hunts Point Economic Development Corporation.
A version of this article appeared in the May edition of the Hunts Point Express.