Environment / Government

City nears final plan for Sheridan

Courtesy of the NYC Dept of City Planning

The city is considering several options for a redo of the area around the Sheridan Expressway, one of which calls for narrowing a section of the highway.

Early recommendations include ramps to industrial area

The city is weighing plans “to make transformative change” in the vicinity of the Sheridan Expressway, while maintaining the highway’s connections to the Cross Bronx and Bruckner expressways, a representative of the Department of City Planning told residents, business owners, elected officials and advocates gathered at Casita Maria in Longwood on March 7.

But residents and advocates remain unsure—and some are skeptical—about how extensive the facelift will be.

After two years of study and with three months left before city planners unveil a final plan, Tawkiyah Jordan of the planning department told the gathering that the State Deparment of Transportation would be asked to build new ramps to the Hunts Point Peninsula, “so that trucks are going exactly where they need to be,” instead of fouling local streets with diesel exhaust.

“This would keep them on highways all the way to the industrial area” freeing Westchester and Whitlock avenues from heavy truck traffic, Jordan said.

But in a June 12, 2012 announcement in the Federal Register, the state announced it can no longer fund construction of the proposed ramps, saying it would instead have to use remaining funds on repairs to the Bruckner.

The city presented four options, one of which makes no changes. All three of the other scenarios calls for ramps from the Bruckner to Hunts Point’s industrial area. Of the two options calling for significant modifications, one retains West Farms Road alongside the Sheridan, and another recommends merging the two. Ramps between the highways and the industrial area would allow for the closure of the Sheridan on-ramp at Hunts Point Avenue, one of the city’s most daunting pedestrian crossings, Jordan said.

One local business owner, Zenali Tirado, worried closing the Hunts Point on-ramps could impact drivers.

“Typically, that’s the way a lot of people get to the George Washington Bridge,” said Tirado, but added that as a Hunts Point native she sympathized with pedestrians who try to cross at that chaotic and congested intersection. Still, she said, “I don’t know another way to get to the George Washington Bridge,” other than via local streets.

But the city is not considering eliminating access to the highways, Jordan responded, pointing out that ramps would be built a few blocks west, perhaps at Leggett Avenue, and that the Hunts Point Avenue crossing is “the only intersection in the study area where you have pedestrian fatalities.”

Soundview resident Andre Rivera, 20, said any change to the Sheridan is likely to be an improvement, adding “they should break it up so you can cross over it to make it easier to get to Starlight Park.”

“Not only are you avoiding double-parked cars, but nine times out of ten there are semis trying to get on to the Sheridan,” that must be dodged, said Rivera.

City Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo insisted the city planners confirm that the suggestions they were presenting were preliminary, and that recommendations to the state are still a few months away.

“The anxiety I’m hearing from the community is that this is a done deal,” Arroyo cautioned. “The feedback that I’m getting from community advocates is that there’s a lot left to be done,” she added, and pointed out that disagreements remain between some residents, businesses and advocates.

“There are spots where the stakeholders may not agree,” she said.

“There is a lot of work to be done before it becomes a recommendation,” said Mike Marsico, Assistant Commissioner for modeling and data analysis for the city’s transportation department.

Some advocates were nervous that not all of the city agencies that will have a say in the recommendations to the state have announced their own intentions.

“It’s a great opportunity for the city to do something good for the Bronx,” said Kellie Terry-Sepulveda, executive director of The Point CDC. Increased access to the waterfront and heightened pedestrian safety are good, Terry-Sepulveda said, but added it was “disconcerting we don’t know what other departments are thinking.”

The city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, among others, will have to weigh in. A new development with over 1,300 apartments of affordable housing and 46,000 square feet of retail space is planned for West Farms along the Sheridan’s periphery.

Terry-Sepulveda and other advocates have urged the city to provide them with raw data from their air quality studies so they can see whether proposed traffic changes will bring down high local asthma rates.

Vincent Pellicchia, of the non-profit Tri-State Transportation Campaign, which has long advocated for the state to tear the Sheridan down and replace it with parks and housing, said he, too, is eager to see the city’s data.

“They’re so close to the finish line and we haven’t seen an analysis,” he said.

Still, his organization called the ideas, “a large step in the right direction for the South Bronx.”

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