Environment / Transportation

Build Bruckner ramps, activists say

Activists hope pedestrians will have an easier time getting to the Bronx River past a reconfigured Sheridan Expressway.

Town hall meeting hears of  new effort to get trucks off streets

The Hunts Point activists who fought for years to tear down the Sheridan Expressway unveiled a new approach to the highway that calls for new ramps to link the Hunts Point markets to the Bruckner Expressway and for easier access to the area’s waterfront parks.

“The original vision was to remove the Sheridan Expressway,” said Dave Powell,

coordinator of the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance. “The modified version is to shrink it,” he told an audience of some 100 people at a town hall meeting at The Point on April 23.

“The Sheridan Expressway blocks Longwood, makes it difficult for pedestrians to cross streets and blocks Starlight Park,” said JP Viñals, a member of A.C.T.I.O.N., The Point’s organization of teen activists.

Truck traffic through Hunts Point is a major contributor to the area’s asthma epidemic, Powell added.

“Over 15,000 trucks go in and out of Hunts Point every day. Most are from food distribution,” said Powell. “They go through local streets and there is a lack of connection to any highway.”

Last May,  a city task force called for making a portion of the Sheridan narrower, creating new pedestrians crossings and building new on and off ramps between the Bruckner and the industrial section of Hunts Point.

The report crushed the long-cherished hope of the watershed alliance that the 1.25-mile Sheridan, which runs between East 177th Street and Hunts Point Avenue, would be torn down and replaced with housing, commerce and parks. As a result, said Powell, the watershed alliance has refocused its concern on the ramps and crosswalks.

Two years ago, the state scrapped its plan to build new on-off ramps that would move truck traffic off streets in the residential section of Hunts Point. The waterfront alliance has joined the businesses in the industrial zone to call for the reinstatement of the plan.

The city plan calls for new crosswalks at East 172nd, 173rdand 174th and Jennings streets, offering direct access to the Bronx River and Starlight Park.

If the city and state follow through on the proposal to shrink the Sheridan between East 173d Street and Westchester Avenue, it will free up land, providing an opportunity to create affordable housing and green space, together with the prospect of jobs, said Powell.

“Problems with the current highway situation limits economic opportunity and wastes land,” he said. “It engenders economic and neighborhood segregation. That’s why we want to better integrate it into the community.”

 

 

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