The Sheridan Expressway is just the start
by Claire Nunez
If you go to Fordham (and if you are reading this as you most likely do), you should really know about our University’s link to gentrification. We have strong ties to it, believe me. Robert Moses, the famed city planner, displaced thousands of people with his creation of Lincoln Center and many highways. One of his more, uh, displacing works, the Sheridan Expressway in the Bronx, will soon be replaced. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced a $700 million replacement of this expressway.
Robert Moses was the king of gentrifying people out of their homes in order to create something that he thought would better New York City. Lincoln Center, yes our campus included, is the product of Robert Moses’ architectural work. Before Lincoln Center was what it is now, a “cultural hub,” it was a different kind of place for culture. This area was once the slums where immigrants and minorities lived and it was a place where different traditions mixed and blended. In the 50s, these people were forced from their homes and had to find new places to live because, guess what, Robert Moses was going to change this seemingly disgusting and awful place into a center for the arts.
Another important aspect of Robert Moses’ work, besides displacing people for “centers for the arts,” was forcing people out for highways– yay! The Sheridan Expressway runs parallel to the Bronx River. In case you don’t know, the Sheridan Expressway connects the Cross Bronx Expressway to the Bruckner Expressway. Google map it and get a better idea of what the roads actually look like.
So, you may be thinking: “what is so bad about this expressway?” Good question friend! Well for starters, the Sheridan Expressway cut neighborhoods from having easy contact with each other. Imagine being divided from walking or easily traveling to your best friend’s house. Since most people don’t have cars in New York City, crossing the Sheridan Expressway is not particularly easy. The Expressway also produces a heck of a lot of light, sound, and air pollution. In case you didn’t know it, the Bronx has some of the highest asthma rates in the nation; an estimated 20% of Bronx kids have respiratory problems. Health problems come from the massive amount of pollution produced by industry and traffic in the South Bronx, where most of the Sheridan Expressway runs through.
The roads designed by Robert Moses were intended to go through areas like the Bronx, and Lincoln Center were strategically placed because the communities they destroyed were not ones that were valued. Now decades later, Cuomo is trying to rectify these detrimental changes in the Bronx. Nothing can reverse the effects of moving people out. Cuomo’s proposal is to create a pedestrian path lined with trees around the Sheridan Expressway. It will add more vegetation and foliage to the area, and provide more green space in the area as a counter to pollution.
Some think that the revamping of the Sheridan Expressway is not really the best allocation of funds. The South Bronx has other problems according to many of its residents. Some believe the funding should be funneled into schools or into fighting poverty. There are also a lot of businesses along the Expressway, like car shops, repair garages, and industrial warehouses. Many are concerned that businesses will shut down and the neighborhood will again be changed for the worse. Residents are also concerned about their commutes being drastically altered. The Sheridan Expressway is an important route for people to travel from the more-northern Bronx downward. Traffic patterns will also be changed dramatically with the construction that will be happening.
You may be wondering, I am only here for a few years– why should I care? Well, for starters, gentrification is important to know about. No matter what your political views are, you should know about the consequences– good and bad– of gentrification and your part in the whole process.
As a student here, you should know Fordham had a hand in the facelift of the West End during the 50’s and of course the changes that constantly happen in the Bronx. We were promised a plot of land for a Manhattan campus.
If you look up the history of Fordham’s founding, our website of course says Robert Moses’ work was a renewal project, not gentrification. That would not be the best marketing technique to grab those prospective students. Lincoln Center sits on the land that was once the place where homes were; the Sheridan Expressway covers the remains of businesses and walkways. It is important for us to recognize that as students at an urban university, we are a part of the changes to the neighborhoods around us. As New York State seeks to rectify changes made in decades past, we need to recognize how our actions alter the Fordham community.