South Bronx residents, leaders call for capping Cross-Bronx Expressway

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Rep. Ritchie Torres joined South Bronx community leaders to call for capping the Cross-Bronx Expressway.

"We are here to mitigate the harmful effects of the Cross-Bronx Expressway," Schumer, a Democrat, said at a press conference held on a sidewalk near the highway. 

Exhaust fumes from the heavily traveled roadway increased asthma rates in surrounding neighborhoods over the half-century since Robert Moses's plan for the highway disrupted and dislocated communities of color.

"The Cross-Bronx Expressway built by Robert Moses is both literally and metaphorically a structure of racism," Democrat Torres said. "It has left in its wake decades of greenhouse gas emission and environmental degradation."

Now local leaders are out to fix that by requesting a grant under the newly passed bipartisan infrastructure bill that sets up a $7.5 billion fund for rectifying inequities of past highway projects.

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South Bronx resident Nilka Martell knows those inequities too well.

"When I was pregnant with my youngest child, we lived on the Cross-Bronx Expressway and out of my three children he was the only one born with asthma," she said.

Martell is the founder and director of Loving the Bronx, which has led the push to cap the Cross-Bronx with green spaces that will connect her bisected neighborhood and create a healthier environment.

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While the grant would provide funds for a study and detailed plans for the project, students at Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School have already put together some prototypes.

"It shows that we have a voice," 11th grader Juan Grullon said. "We gain an agency in our community." 

And their leaders are listening.

"For our dreams to become a reality is just amazing for the community as a whole," 11th grader Jasmine Peña said.

This is just the start of what will be a years-long process. But Schumer said he was confident the South Bronx community will get the grant soon after President Joe Biden signs the infrastructure bill into law in the coming days.

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