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City backs split plan for Sheridan Expressway

Bronx Times

Call it a happy medium.

The city has backed a study that would keep the Sheridan Expressway open while pleasing park activists who wanted it closed for good.

But the big winner could be an upcoming housing complex set to start building later this year.

In its multi-agency overhaul review, funded through a $1.5 million federal grant, the city outlined recommendations that would turn a portion of the 1.25-mile stretch into a streetscape loaded with crosswalks, traffic lights, and better access to parks tucked along the Bronx River.

The rest of the roadway, the elevated end would see a four-way ramp to the Hunts Point Food Distribution Center, steering truck traffic off local residential streets.

It had taken years for the city to make up its mind on the future of the Sheridan Expressway, which links drivers to the Bruckner or west-bound Cross Bronx Expressway.

Happy to see compromise

But the proposals were welcoming news for The Southern Bronx River Watershed. The nonprofit has spent years lobbying for the spur to close, but was happy to see a compromise.

“Our neighborhoods have long endured some of the highest asthma rates in the country,” said Kellie Terry-Sepulveda of SBRWA, a member group of The Point CDC. “The status quo is completely unacceptable.”

The Modify-Combined Plan would also allow direct access to the recently renovated Starlight Park and neighboring Concrete Plant Park, often confusing to local residents.

“It’s not clear how to get there,” said Joe Linton, Greenway Director of the Bronx River Alliance, which also applauded the project.

Future developments impacted

In giving its seal of approval, the city is a step closer to turning the relatively threadbare West Farms area at the northern end of the expressway into a thriving neighborhood.

Implementing the proposals could coincide with a mega housing complex being built by Signature Urban Properties in West Farms, after a rezoning tweak allowed for the 1300-unit project.

“The Sheridan currently is a large barrier to access to the Bronx River Greenway,” said Gifford Miller, principal developer and former City Council Speaker. “So certainly creating pedestrian permeability is a positive.”

Other rezoning changes could be in the works, under the plan, near the Whitlock Ave. No. 6 train station, Southern Boulevard along the elevated 2/5 train and East Tremont Ave. near the West Farms 2/5 train.

State key to development

But it will take the state to fully greenlight the $117 million plan since it owns the highway.

State Transportation officials would have to conduct an environmental impact study, following several other agencies giving approval or disapproval, with the state Legislature finally voting the plan.

Assemblyman Marco Crespo, representing the area, sees the plan as a top priority for the borough.

“Setting aside funds for this purpose in the current year would guarantee momentum at a critical moment,” said Crespo. He called on the state Department of Transportation “to work with its colleagues in the City to do so.”

But it could also take funds from the city to make this dream into a reality, a point Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo stressed to next year’s new mayoral administration, saying “The State and our next mayor need to invest capital funding to execute the proposed plan.”

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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