In the wake of the city’s refusal to consider removing the Sheridan Expressway, advocates from the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance gathered last night at a town hall meeting to revise their game plan. Although the long-term vision of removing the highway lives on, the discussion focused on other potential improvements along the Sheridan corridor.
“We started this campaign wanting a full removal of the Sheridan,” Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice Executive Director David Shuffler told the crowd of just under 100. “We’re at a different place now.”
“It’s off the table for now and the Alliance accepts that,” said Tri-State Transportation Campaign Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool told Streetsblog. “These sorts of grand visions often take decades.”
With or without a highway removal, many community goals can still be achieved, including improved pedestrian safety and redevelopment to support business incubation and affordable housing. The Alliance has long advocated for new ramps from the Bruckner Expressway to the Hunts Point Produce Market to reduce the impact of truck traffic on surrounding neighborhoods, but also wants to ensure that local residents get better access to new waterfront parks along the Bronx River.
All the Alliance members — Mothers on the Move, Nos Quedamos, The Point Community Development Corporation, Sustainable South Bronx, the Pratt Center for Community Development, YMPJ and TSTC — were at last night’s meeting. Overall it was a young audience, with lots of turnout from teenagers involved in local community groups. “I was a young person when I got involved in this work many years ago,” Shuffler told Streetsblog. “What’s really critical is an inter-generational conversation. We engage their parents, as well.”
Participants broke into six groups to discuss how the area around the Sheridan Expressway can be improved without removing the freeway entirely. They looked at five zones along the corridor before reporting back to the entire meeting.
In addition to identifying opportunities for affordable housing, business incubators, and recreational space, participants discussed new approaches to reconnecting the areas that have been divided by the Sheridan, such as decking over sections of the highway instead of a complete teardown.
The SBRWA belongs to the Community Working Group the city has engaged as it conducts the Sheridan Expressway study, funded by a federal TIGER II grant. But advocates, who started out with high hopes, have so far been dissatisfied with the city’s decision-making and communication. The highway removal they’ve called for was unexpectedly knocked out before the study had fully evaluated all the options.
“We’re not just trusting and believing,” said the Pratt Center’s Elena Conte, adding that SBRWA will continue to advocate for big changes as the city prepares to report next year on the Sheridan study findings.
“What the community wants is something that’s transformational,” Vanterpool said.