NEW YORK – While President Joe Biden is ready to sign the $ 1 billion infrastructure package with projects for roads and other related measures, New York City leaders are calling for part of those funds to be used to close one of the city’s busiest highways.
Activists have long called for covering parts of the highway Cross Bronx Expressway, 6.5 miles and built in 1955, because according to them it has displaced black and Latino residents. In addition, they say it has destroyed developing businesses since its inception, as well as left communities with serious health impacts from toxic fumes. Democratic Rep. Ritchie Torres is among those who want to transform the sunken part of the highway into parks and green spaces.
“The Cross Bronx Freeway, built by Robert Moses, is literally and metaphorically a structure of racism, with diesel truck traffic polluting the air that black and brown children breathe every day,” Torres said.
Moses designed the highway in the 1920s and razed black, Jewish and Puerto Rican houses, built the highway right in the middle, and created the South Bronx, which has the highest asthma rate in the country.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg acknowledged Monday that racism is embedded in many infrastructures in the United States, including the Bronx.
“If an underpass was built in such a way that a bus that transported mainly black and Puerto Rican children to a beach … in New York it was designed too low to pass, that … obviously reflects the racism that went into those design choices.” Buttigieg said.
Buttigieg said that at least 40% of the infrastructure bill’s clean investments will go to benefit underserved communities. He added that once Biden signs the measure into law, his department will begin distributing the first of about $ 660 billion in federal money, with some projects just waiting for funding.
Other longer-term projects, such as plugging up the Cross Bronx and investing in new electric vehicle chargers and promoting safer streets for bicyclists and pedestrians, will take longer. In contrast to the 2009 stimulus, Buttigieg said, Biden’s infrastructure bill is “short-term, but it’s long-term.”
“This is many years ahead, from now on,” he said. “This is how we do it well for the next generation.”
A case study published by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in 2018 found that plugging the highway by adding parks would help save lives and money because green spaces promote long-term health benefits.
The researchers said the cost to cover the Cross Bronx it is approximately $ 760 million.