Hunts Point has undergone many transformations. Once home to elites looking to vacation post World War I and the burning of the South Bronx in the ’70s and ’80s — in which seven census districts in the Bronx reportedly lost more than 97% of their buildings — longtime residents have seen a community deal with mass exodus, disinvestment, and poor health and economic outcomes.
Residents in Hunts Point experience high rates of asthma and other illnesses that areas near heavily-traveled roadways bring. New infrastructure, plus federal investment into the redevelopment of the Hunts Point Market is expected to alleviate traffic constraints where more than 78,000 vehicles travel daily to the Hunts Point Peninsula, according to state DOT.
“It’s always been busy with cars. So to me, the construction doesn’t matter,” said Majora Ramirez, who has lived in the neighborhood for 22 years. “I think about a time when we were just the city’s waste site … These past few years people have been paying attention to improving life here for us, so I think it’s worth it.”
State officials are hopeful that the $1.7 billion Hunts Point Access Improvement Project, set to be completed in 2025 — which aims to improve access between the Hunts Point Peninsula and the Sheridan and Bruckner expressways — will not only increase access to the city’s largest food distribution site The Hunts Point Terminal, but also reduce worsening health outcomes.
Hunts Point could be very different, perhaps even a healthier place to live by the decade’s end, officials hope.
Gov. Kathy Hochul has touted the completion of the project’s first phase, a two-way ramp to Edgewater Road from Sheridan Boulevard and a ramp from eastbound on the Bruckner Expressway to Edgewater Road, as the first step toward decongesting a busy traffic area.
While community board members and DOT officials have fielded complaints for months by residents on issues with increased traffic and noise in the area due to ongoing construction, state officials say they are on-time to be finished with the project in two years.
Locally, the majority-Latino Hunts Point community could benefit from a bolstered supply chain and reduction in environmental harm that’s potentially a breath of fresh air for climate-vulnerable residents — who are dealing with the nation’s highest asthma rates and also health and economic blows from COVID-19 surpassing other NYC boroughs.
Child asthma emergency room visits in 2018 were 63% higher in Hunts Point than the rest of New York City, and the area ranked seventh in the city for adult asthma hospitalizations. An air quality map released by the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in 2021 also showed that ZIP codes adjacent to Hunts Point had a higher concentration of air pollutants than the rest of the Bronx.
Phase one of the access project replaced four bridges that carry Bruckner Expressway and Bruckner Boulevard over Amtrak/CSX rail lines.
A portion of phase two is already completed, a second ramp connecting Hunts Point Peninsula to Bruckner Expressway.
Included in the next phase of the project — state officials tab for a fall 2023 completion — is construction of new entrance and exit ramps that connect westbound Bruckner Expressway to Leggett Avenue and provides access to the Hunts Point Food Distribution Center.
The final phase of the project, a two-year effort, eliminates a bottleneck at the Bruckner Expressway and Sheridan Boulevard interchange by adding a third lane to the Bruckner in both directions.
Controversial when first introduced, Bronx lawmakers see the project as a multi-prong effort to not only reduce noise and congestion from vehicles, but also reduce worsening health and pollution rates and improve access to the market.
“The completion of Phase One of the Hunts Point Access Improvement Project is long-awaited good news for the South Bronx. This is an exciting update that proves when we come together and voice our concerns on safety, public health, and fair change, we get results,” said state Assemblymember Amanda Septimo, who district includes the Hunts Point area. “This is also a time that we, elected officials, can come together to see this project through its final phase with a time frame and process that is just for the local community, and the thousands of drivers that must pass through the Bruckner Expressway’s traffic and pollution to get to work, school, or essential services. Less truckers on local streets, more green spaces along the waterfront, and new access ways to the Hunts Point Produce Market is a good start for the improvement of the quality of life in the South Bronx.”
Further, the Penn Access project, which bring four Metro-North train stations to the east and South Bronx including Hunts Points by 2027, hopes to connect an underresourced community to the city’s major economic hubs.
Another benefit of the Hunts Point Access Improvement Project, that state and city officials hail, is the creation of 22,000 jobs.
Reach Robbie Sequeira at [email protected] or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes