Governor Andrew Cuomo announced in a press conference at Casita Maria on Sunday that the state will make a $1.8-billion investment to revitalize infrastructure in Hunts Point, including reimagining the area now taken up by the Sheridan and Bruckner expressways.
“My administration is dedicated to the tough issues,” Cuomo said. “This is larger than anything we’ve taken on in decades.” He also called the Sheridan a “mistake” by Robert Moses, the planner who conceived of the expressway, which opened to traffic in 1963.
Cuomo referenced his own past as the Bronx campaign manager for his father’s mayoral race in 1977, and how much untapped potential he saw in the South Bronx at the time. “We are now tapping that potential,” he said.
The first phase of the plan aims to turn the Sheridan expressway into “Sheridan Boulevard,” something activists in the community have been seeking for a decade. The plan includes green space, pedestrian crossings and the slowing of traffic, allowing residents to access Starlight Park more easily and gain better access to the Bronx River.
Other phases include rebuilding parts of the Bruckner Expressway for better access to the markets and to keep trucks off residential streets. The chronic asthma rates in the borough were referenced often by the borough president, Ruben Diaz Jr., and the senator and assemblyman who were also present. The plan, dubbed “Direct Access,” would build ramps directly off the Bruckner, and, advocates hope, would as a result reduce the highest rates of asthma in the city, as well as the prostitution that infamously plagues the neighbourhood.
In a press release, the board of directors at the Hunts Point Produce Market thanked the governor for the plan, which also includes $20 million in upgrades for the market.
Local community activists were also pleased with the blueprint for change.
“We were very pleased to see direct access,” said Angela Tovar, director of community development at The Point, a member group of the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance. Tovar said The Point will remain “committed stakeholders” to the process.
The governor has proposed putting $700 million into the budget for fiscal year 2018, to be voted on by the state legislature this spring. “I’m hopeful the money will end up in the final budget,” said Vincent Pellecchia from the Tri-State Transportation campaign.
Overall, the mood towards the plan is positive, and the politicians representing Hunts Point in Albany say they are committed to it.
“My daughters will grow up in a Bronx that has the infrastructure it deserves,” said Assemblyman Marcos Crespo.