When the state Department of Transportation studied removing the lightly-used Sheridan Expressway, it considered two scenarios. One predicted conditions with the Sheridan kept as is. The other imagined closing the highway to traffic without making any other changes — simply fencing off the 1.25 mile structure.
Making a decision about the Sheridan’s future by comparing a traffic-carrying highway to an empty-but-still-standing highway was clearly inadequate, so with the help of a federal TIGER grant, New York City has launched a comprehensive and holistic study of the area. The new study includes not only an expanded transportation analysis looking at the area’s broader highway system, but also issues like access to the Bronx River, which is cut off from neighborhoods by the Sheridan, and the development of housing and jobs. That study is now well underway, and after some initial bumps, advocates for replacing the highway with new development are feeling encouraged.
So far, the city has already hosted an introductory meeting of the large working group set up to bring together stakeholders like elected officials, local activists and residents, businesses and city agencies. Walking tours of the neighborhood are being next Thursday and on August 20 (you can register by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org). The Department of City Planning has also set up a website to provide updates on the study and put information about the project in one location.
Ashwin Balakrishnan, the coordinator of the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance, acknowledged the broad scope of the study so far. “If you’re just looking at it from a transportation perspective, as the state DOT was, you’re not going to have any benchmarks or expertise for how it’s going to be benefited by other land uses,” he said. Including agencies like the Department of Parks and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which are both now part of the working group, provides “more expertise and more breadth,” he said.