Tell State DOT Hunts Point Doesn’t Need Another Highway Blocking Access to the Bronx River

The deadline for initial public comment on the state DOT's plan for a bulky new Bruckner Expressway ramp next to the waterfront ends Wednesday, October 18.

The state DOT plan calls for a highway ramp abutting the Bronx River and flying over part of Concrete Plant Park.
The state DOT plan calls for a highway ramp abutting the Bronx River and flying over part of Concrete Plant Park.

A critical deadline is approaching in the fight against an unwanted highway project in the South Bronx. The public has until Wednesday, October 18, to tell the New York State Department of Transportation to alter a plan for new Bruckner Expressway ramps that would cut Hunts Point off from the Bronx River.

The state DOT wants to build a ramp along Edgewater Road to provide direct access between the highway and the Hunts Point Market food distribution center. At $1.7 billion, it’s by far the costliest component of the state’s plan to turn the Sheridan Expressway into a surface street. (Reconfiguring the Sheridan as an at-grade “boulevard” is only projected to cost $97 million.)

The neighborhood advocates who campaigned for decades to remove the Sheridan rejected the idea of highway ramps on Edgewater years ago. In an online petition, the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance points out that the state DOT’s plan would go against their objectives to reduce exposure to truck traffic and provide safer waterfront access:

Ramps at Edgewater will create an additional barrier to the many waterfront amenities on the Bronx River and brings additional truck traffic and emissions to the Hunts Point residential community, setting back decades of efforts to improve a community overburdened with industrial pollution, traffic fatalities, few parks, and high rates of asthma and heart disease.

The Edgewater plan was first turned down by community groups back in 2003. Since then, a 2013 city study recommended a different option to improve truck access to the market: new Bruckner ramps touching down at Oak Point Avenue and Leggett Avenue, which would lead more truck traffic to stay on the highway and avoid local streets, without blocking off waterfront access.

The SBRWA endorsed the city proposal — which also included a more substantial reduction in the width of the Sheridan — as a fair deal after nearly two decades of advocacy and community planning to relieve the burden imposed by highway infrastructure and truck traffic on the neighborhood. So far, the Cuomo administration has appeared determined to ignore the result of that process as it moves ahead with a watered down version of the Sheridan removal.

The state DOT claims the Oak Point Avenue option would cost $2.6 billion, but that estimate assumes a full reconstruction and widening of a section of the Bruckner. The city study said the project could be completed without taking on the extra scope of work in the state DOT’s project documents.

October 18 marks the end of the initial public input period for the project’s environmental impact study. There will be a hearing and another comment period in the spring, once the EIS is completed, but space for public comment at two hearings over the summer was fairly limited, according to attendees.

You can sign the petition on the SBRWA’s website. Comments can also be submitted directly to state DOT at huntspoint@dot.ny.gov.

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