News / Transportation

Hunts Point is split over future of Sheridan

The blue lines overlaid on an aerial photograph show the proposed new ramps from the Bruckner Expressway to the Oak Point railyard. The state Department of Transportation created this composite, which demonstrates how trucks would reach the Hunts Point markets.


New truck route to the markets fuel argument

By Joseph Gallagher
josephtgallagher@gmail.com

The battle over the future of the Sheridan Expressway has grown increasingly heated as traffic engineers continue to refine their proposals for improving access to the Hunts Point markets.

Plans call for building a new interchange at Oak Point Avenue that would lead from the Bruckner Expressway to the Hunts Point Food Distribution Center. One version, designated by the state Department of Transportation, 1E, calls for tearing down the 1.3 mile long Sheridan, which runs between the Cross Bronx Expressway to the north and the Bruckner. The other, 2E, calls for retaining the Sheridan.

Residents, advocates and business leaders have been lining up behind one proposal or the other and rallying others to their position.

Joan Byron, Director of the Sustainability and Environmental Justice Initiative at the Pratt Center for Community Development, feels that most of the business leaders opposed to tearing down the Sheridan have their priorities in the wrong place.

“Some wholesalers in the market have relationships with suppliers,” Byron said during a press conference with The Hunts Point Express. “They have a tender concern for the convenience of the suppliers.”

Byron, one of the architects of the plan to demolish the Sheridan, which was first put forward in 1997, is worried about the money and sway opponents of decommissioning the Sheridan hold. They are able to gain access to political leaders through campaign contributions, she said, while people living in the community must rely only on the power of their votes to express their support for tearing the Sheridan down.

But the proprietors of the area’s food businesses say not only their livelihoods, but the safety of New Yorkers would be jeopardized if the Sheridan were torn down.

“For people who live in the neighborhood it’s a good thing,” said Vincent Pacifico, of Vista Food Exchange, a meat wholesaler, in a phone interview. “But it may not be good for businesses.”

While proponents of the tear-down believe that trucks entering the city via the George Washington Bridge should approach the Bruckner from the south using the Major Deegan Expressway, Pacifico and other opponents call that idea dangerous and time-consuming.

“I feel making thousands of trucks drive down the Major Deegan towards Manhattan and then double backing and making their commute longer, going towards the population mass, doesn’t make any sense at all,” Matthew D’Arrigo, co-president of the Hunts Point Terminal Produce Cooperative Association Inc., who also runs a produce distribution business there, said.

“Are we going to make these 80-foot vehicles drive longer in a higher traffic area and make a more dangerous turn?” he asked.

Julio Medina, a New Rochelle resident, has been driving a truck for Fancy Foods for the past nine years and uses the Sheridan Expressway at least once a day.

“The Sheridan should be kept open,” Medina said. “Using the other highways would mean more traffic, more idling and longer waits.”

Mark Solasz, of Master Purveyors, a large meat distributor in the market, agrees with Medina.

“We should be focusing on more arteries in and out of the markets, not less,” Solasz contends. “Removing the Sheridan would put a lot of stress on the other alternatives which would increase the amount of traffic and pollution.”

On the contrary, argues the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance, the coalition that includes Mothers on the Move, Nos Quedamos, Sustainable South Bronx, The Point Community Development Corporation and Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice.

To buttress their contention that the Sheridan is unnecessary, six members of the alliance posed for photographs standing in the middle of the expressway during rush hour, at 5:30 p.m. on July 15.

Kate Slevin, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a citywide organization that belongs to the alliance, believes that removing the Sheridan would actually relieve some traffic problems.

“The connection between the Cross Bronx and the Sheridan was rated one of the worst bottlenecks,” Slevin said. “If you remove the Sheridan then you remove that bottleneck and actually improve traffic flow.”

And Byron points out that while long-haul trucks enter the market from the north, most of the smaller trucks leaving the market are headed for Manhattan.

The idea of improving truck access to the markets provides common ground for opponents and proponents of tearing down the Sheridan. Keeping trucks off the local streets is “what unites the residential and business communities,” says Josephine Infante, president and CEO of the Hunts Point Economic Development Corporation, who wants to see the highway remain.

“Alternative 2E is a significant improvement over the current condition,” Infante wrote in the May issue of The Express. “This alternative is a win-win for the residential and business communities of Hunts Point and the Bronx.”

The Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance plan calls for building housing, stores and parks on the acreage now occupied by the highway. Byron says the resulting redevelopment would be “spectacular.”

Preserving the highway, she said, is “selfishness.” It’s “pure, personal convenience. They can’t imagine what they haven’t experienced.”

Pacifico can see the reasoning behind both sides, but in the end is against the teardown proposal.

“Everything makes sense in our own niche,” Pacifico said. “We have to look at the big picture. I don’t think closing the Sheridan is necessarily the right decision.”

A version of this article appeared in the August edition of the Hunts Point Express.

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4 Comments

  1. urbanresidue says:

    It is unfortunate that we are seeing such misleading propaganda as the staged photo op on the Sheridan. It only confuses thoughtful discussion of a complex issue. I can’t say exactly how (or when) they actually took those photos.

    Traffic was obviously low at the moment they took the photos. But to portray that as peak traffic on the Sheridan is intentionally misleading. For a view of actual traffic conditions on the Sheridan, please refer here:
    http://www.urbanresidue.com/Sheridan/Sheridan_traffic.mov

    If advocates of this scheme believe they have compelling evidence to support their cause, they should make the case with real facts. It does little to empower a community when advocates misrepresent legitimate concerns about the impacts to traffic and the potential for more congestion in surrounding neighborhoods.

  2. While I appreciate your stance, I have to disagree and would say that it is the video in your link that is a misrepresentation. Sure, there are cars moving slowly on the Sheridan in you video, but why? The section you filmed is at the END of the highway, as cars are forced to either wait at a red light to get to 174th, or to merge onto the notoriously slow Cross Bronx Expressway.

    You can read here if you would like to know how and when the picture was taken:

    http://sheridanswap.blogspot.com/2009/07/alliance-stands-on-sheridan-expressway.html

    5:30pm on a weekday, the middle of rush hour, seems like it would be peak traffic.

    As an advocate of “this scheme” myself, I believe we do in fact have compelling evidence. The real facts you ask for are right on the website that is linked in this Hunts Point Express article, the same one where you found the photo. That website is quite extensive in fact and has plenty of information for you to peruse, whether or not you eventually choose to support our analysis or not.

    This struggle has been going on for over 10 years, and if we the advocates of tear-down and rebuild option were factless propoganda-pushing lunatics as you seem to portray us, I doubt we would have gotten this far; to having our community-created alternative as one of the final two that New York State is considering.

  3. I’m sorry, the link in this Express article is actually only to a blog, and not to the Alliance’s website that has all the facts and compelling evidence I was referring to. My mistake, for that you can visit http://www.southbronxvision.org.

  4. urbanresidue says:

    Dear AL,

    Let’s be clear: the “rush hour” photo does not show what it claims. That makes it a misrepresentation. Let me explain why.

    By definition, a photo is not taken at “rush hour” when it clearly was not taken when traffic was at its busiest. There is clear evidence that there are busier times:
    http://www.urbanresidue.com/Sheridan/

    The evidence does not lie!

    You now object to the location where the photos were taken, but that was the place selected by your advocacy group. Look at both sets of pictures – you can clearly see from the 174th Street bridge that they were taken in EXACTLY the same location.

    Now, we can discuss the details of “rush hour” a little more. Of course, we have to take their word their pictures were actually taken at 5:30, but even if we did, that is barely the beginning of the evening peak period at this location. It is not even within the peak hour. If you don’t believe me, go stand out on the bridge for a few evenings and then come back and tell me when the Sheridan was at its busiest.

    Taking pictures at the beginning of rush hour is different than taking them later, as well, because the delays have not had an opportunity to build. So even if it was, in fact, the beginning of “rush hour,” and not earlier, it’s not really representative of the peak period performance.

    Let’s also consider how evening traffic builds at this location, since you were so concerned about the location selected. It was not an accident your advocates chose this spot, rather than, say, south of Westchester Avenue.

    Major traffic from the city doesn’t begin arriving until later; the first traffic to begin arriving is local traffic. Northbound traffic uses the on-ramp at Westchester Avenue to connect to the Cross-Bronx. The on-ramp is signal controlled…

    So they chose a location where they can wait until the red light holds the traffic, run to take a photo, and then run back off before the light controlling the major flow of traffic releases the next wave.

    You could also go to one of the avenues in Manhattan, wait for the traffic to keep moving uptown, take a photo standing in the middle of Sixth Avenue with no traffic, and then scuttle off before the light turned green. But we all know Sixth Avenue has traffic, don’t we!

    They didn’t explain this little trick, did they? They just said there wasn’t any traffic. How would you say that omission is not a misrepresentation?

    As for your point about traffic being “slow,” it is clearly backed up half way to the Bruckner. And that’s the whole point! The traffic is backing up HERE:
    Where there are no pedestrians trying to cross the street. Where there are no apartments breathing in the exhaust of idling traffic.
    Where nobody is listening to a lot of honking horns.

    If you take this queue storage away, where do you suppose the traffic will back up? How would that better for neighborhoods where people already suffer from poor air quality?

    My bottom line is that the communities in the South Bronx deserve a better discussion about these issues than a little trick photography taken before the traffic has started to build.

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