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Racial Equity ∙ Environment ∙ Public Health ∙ Jobs

Investing in Communities Burdened by Historic Environmental Racism: Reimagining the Cross Bronx Expressway

The Cross Bronx Expressway is an egregious example of how urban planners, like Robert Moses, built highways without regard for existing communities of color and tore apart neighborhoods. The expressway cut the Bronx in half. Today, it carries nearly 200,000 vehicles emitting fumes into the air each day.  In the Bronx, asthma rates are twice or three times the city average, and the Bronx, with its largely Black and Latino population, had the highest death rates of COVID-19. The highway also devastated property values for surrounding homeowners and kept neighborhoods like Tremont from realizing their full potential.

We have an opportunity to undo this historic injury by “capping” the highway and building green spaces - bringing hope and change to a part of New York City that’s seen far too little public or private investment. Those parks will provide recreational opportunities for adjoining neighborhoods, reduce noise and pollution, improve public health and help spur economic development. And the improvements will actually pay for themselves in terms of increased property values, better health outcomes, and the like. These types of projects have already been successful in cities like Dallas, Seattle and Boston, and they can be successful here in New York City too.   

About the project

For the past few years, neighborhood and environmental advocates in the Bronx have been pushing the city to cap the Cross Bronx Expressway. These efforts owe credit to Nilka Martell, founder of #LovingtheBronx, which aims to increase green spaces in the borough. In 2017, a report by Columbia University’s School of Public Health evaluated the prospect of capping the submerged segments of the highway and building park space on top of the caps; capping already submerged sections is significantly cheaper than building caps over grade level highways. The caps would cover approximately 2.5 miles of the highway and cost roughly $750 million. 

The study found that the public health and economic benefits of the project far exceed the cost. Among other findings, the project would on average extend by two months the lives of the 220,000 New Yorkers that live close to the expressway. 

Funding and federal support

President Biden’s infrastructure package proposal includes $20 billion for urban renewal. This funding is explicitly intended to redress historic highway construction that negatively impacted communities of color, as outlined in the White House’s fact sheet

“The President’s plan includes $20 billion for a new program that will reconnect neighborhoods cut off by historic investments and ensure new projects increase opportunity, advance racial equity and environmental justice, and promote affordable access.”

Andrew Yang is joining Congressman Ritchie Torres and community leaders in support of this critical project. He is also calling on the Biden Administration and the leadership of the U.S. Congress to dedicate funding in the federal infrastructure package to the Cross Bronx Expressway. 

Yang has continued to highlight critical projects that will help move New York City forward, like clean energy storage, geothermal plants, safeguarding our drinking water infrastructure and building the next generation of parks and green space.


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