The value of real estate, it is said, is that they’re not making any more of it. But opening more properties to development is exactly what’s behind Governor Cuomo’s proposal to replace the Bronx’s Sheridan Expressway with a tree lined boulevard (Sheridan Blvd Press Release ). Parks and access to the waterfront are admirable goals, to be sure, but with the Hunts Point area being one of the major distribution and manufacturing areas in the City, we need to make sure that the needs of the trucking industry are considered.
The projected $1.8 billion transformation plan will create direct access to the Bronx River Waterfront and Starlight Park in addition to creating bike lanes and pedestrian medians. Given this, retail space along the boulevard, and the access to mass transit this plan seems like a win-win for both the community and real estate developers. But what about access to the Hunt’s Point Market?
Hunt’s Point is an economic powerhouse contributing around $2 billion annually in economic activity. It is also, a logistical quagmire. Over 78,000 vehicles travel to the area daily, 13,000 of which are trucks. The residents are not fans of these trucks yet if trucks could not pass through, what would happen to the businesses that they service? They don’t want the trucks moving through local streets, a fair claim. And they blame emissions from trucks for the poor air quality in the area. That’s also a fair claim but it must be said that many Hunt’s Point fleets are at the forefront of using “green” vehicles. Cuomo’s plan to handle the truck traffic is where this entire initiative falls apart.
New ramps will be created including one that would “flyover from the new Sheridan Boulevard and a new eastbound exit from the Bruckner Expressway to Edgewater Road – which feeds directly into the market”. On its face, this is a decent idea. Here’s the catch though; The New York Times is reporting that the truck ramp part of the Sheridan Boulevard plan will occur at some point, in the unpaid for “Phase 2” of the project. How many times have we seen “Phase 2” become “Phase Never”? Unless this all happens at the same time more trucks will be on local roads than ever before. All the community complaints about trucks will be intensified and with increased bike and pedestrian traffic, more lives will be needlessly at risk.
If the State wants to create a boulevard in place of an expressway, this is an excellent opportunity to create real infrastructure that will benefit ALL stakeholders. Residents also complain about trucks parked overnight. Creating overnight truck parking will not only reduce this problem, but it will allow trucks to get an early start on Hunt’s Point, reducing congestion. Considering how much of this area is facilitated by out-of-state carriers, the Bruckner is a prime area to allow access to trucks with industry standard size and weight. Perhaps permitting larger trucks will encourage fewer trips into the area. This would lower congestion and emissions and such vehicles could be banned from the new boulevard to appease community concerns.
With so many development projects on the table in recent months, we must ask the question, why the disconnect between congestion causing development and funding the infrastructure needed to keep the City moving? The State budget just squeaked through Albany. It gives a projected $2 billion/year in tax breaks to developers of residential properties yet reduces the State’s contribution to the MTA. The resulting congestion affects us all.