An inter-agency report released on June 25 has put forth sweeping recommendations that could remake a portion of the South Bronx. Titled “The Sheridan Expressway-Hunts Point Land Use and Transportation Study,” the report advocates redesigning the 1.2-mile-long Sheridan Expressway to allow direct vehicle access to the Hunts Point peninsula—home to the region’s busiest food-distribution hub—and to reconfigure the northern half of the highway as a surface-level boulevard with pedestrian crossings to a newly revitalized greenway and park space along the Bronx River.
The New York City Department of Transportation, Department of City Planning (DCP), Housing Preservation and Development, Economic Development Corporation, and Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability collaborated on the report. The recommendations go beyond transportation infrastructure and include rezoning to provide opportunities for growth near transit access, encourage mixed-use development, and develop a comprehensive design framework for construction along the waterfront. “We were really thinking of this project well beyond just the scope of a transportation study,” said Carol Samol, Bronx borough director at DCP. “We were interested in a holistic approach to studying the neighborhood."
The Sheridan has long been the subject of debate. Community efforts to remove the highway began in 1997 following an expansion proposal. The New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) quashed the effort in 2010 when it discontinued an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) on the removal. However, the process began anew the same year with an injection of $1.5 million in federal TIGER funding to study the Sheridan’s future.
Joan Byron, Director of Policy at the Pratt Center for Community Development has long been an advocate of removing the highway. She praised the city’s report as a major achievement. “It’s a really good step for the vision the community has for what should happen in the Sheridan corridor,” said Byron. “Narrowing the roadway, providing at-grade crosswalks to access the waterfront—that’s huge. It’s turning Moses-era concepts of planning on its head.”
Now the New York State Department of Transportation must consider the city’s recommendations and assemble a new EIS. Byron noted that extensive research and traffic modeling conducted by the city could help form the basis for the study. “We hope this lifts a little of the resource burden off the state,” she said. “The pushback is going to be getting them to do anything at all.” Beyond challenges convincing the state to pursue the study’s recommendations, the task of overseeing the project locally will fall to the next mayoral administration, whose priorities remain unknown. Still, Bryon remains optimistic. “All of the agencies are on the same page after reaching a consensus,” she said. “The city is now speaking with one voice.”