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City finalizes Sheridan plan

Implementing recommendations is now up to the state

NYC Dept. of Planning

The city is recommending that the state consider building four ramps between Oak Point Avenue and the Hunts Point food distribution markets, to ease traffic.

The city agencies that have collaborated on a plan to revitalize the area around the Sheridan Expressway announced their final recommendations to the state at a public meeting at the Cinema School in Soundview on June 24.

Officials from the city’s departments of planning, transportation, economic development and housing and preservation, along with a representative from the mayor’s office, mostly echoed a plan they had presented in May. It calls on the state to narrow the Sheridan, create crossings and added space for pedestrians, increase access to the Bronx River, and make way for 1,200 units of low- and- middle-income housing.

In addition, the officials announced they will recommend the state construct four ramps between the highway and the Hunts Point food distribution markets, as advocates have been urging, rather than two. At the May meeting, the planners had said they would recommend just two ramps to link the roadway with the markets. Alarmed advocates and residents responded that a minimum of four lanes would be needed to keep trucks off local streets.

Tawkiyah Jordan of the planning department said the key role the city has aimed to play over the past several years has been one of consensus-building between businesses and residents over ways to ease local traffic and keep pedestrians safe, while allowing businesses and their trucking fleets to prosper. “We feel like we’ve gotten there,” she said.

But some residents remain skeptical the state will act, now that it has the city’s plan. Longwood resident Carl Van Putten, 80, told the officials he doubted the elaborate plans for change would see the light of day.

“For the last eight years I’ve been attending these meetings to fight for my community,” he said, adding “it takes five years off everybody’s life” who attempts to cross Bruckner Blvd. at Hunts Point Avenue. “When will I see the beginning of this construction?”

Linda Bailey of the city’s transportation department said her agency is “in negotiations with the state about the next steps.”

Asked whether Mayor Bloomberg’s outgoing administration will address the urgency of the project before it transitions out of office later this year, the mayor’s senior policy advisor Nnenna Lynch said “Absolutely. Our intention is to carry this forward.”

Zenali Tirado, a Hunts Point native who owns property and a business on Hunts Point Avenue, is worried the recommended changes will make traffic worse and cause her to drive longer on the Bruckner Expressway for her turnoff. She now lives north of the area.

“I’m not a fan of what Robert Moses did,” she said, “but I’m afraid we’re going to go back to ‘oh my god, we’re stuck in traffic.”

Kellie Terry-Sepulveda, executive director of The Point CDC, a member of the umbrella group the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance, was hopeful that the state begins implementing the city’s recommendations very soon.

Calling the recommendations a “positive first step,” she said she hoped the plan “doesn’t sit on a shelf looking pretty.”

Vincent Pellecchia of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign agreed the state should act soon “after the city invested all this time and the federal government invested all this money” into planning improvements to the area.

Elena Conte of the Pratt Center for Community Development said she is eager for the state to commission a new environmental review for the area around the Sheridan before the end of the year, adding the continuous pressure applied by grass roots organizations and residents have helped to shape the city’s final proposal, but must continue.

“This is the result of advocacy by the community and the Alliance,” she said, pointing out that planners’ inclusion of the proposed closing of on-ramps at Westchester and Hunts Point avenues is the result of fed-up pedestrians speaking out.

The “Bruckner curve,” where the expressway bends with the Bronx River, was another change Conte said public pressure helped push the city to recommend. Advocates hope reengineering that stretch would make the entrance to Concrete Plant Park easier and less dangerous to access.

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