Fordham’s Center for Community Engaged Learning has been awarded a $25,000 grant from the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) to help Bronx residents decide how best to fix the Cross Bronx Expressway.
The highway, which was constructed in the 1950s and ’60s, has long been blamed for a host of poor health outcomes in the Bronx. In December 2022, New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced the creation of a study to reimagine the highway, including options such as rerouting it through a tunnel or building parks atop the sunken sections.
That study is being funded by a $2 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant created by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by Congress in 2021.
Giving Voice to Community Members
The Center for Community Engaged Learning was one of 10 community partners chosen to assist the DOT in gathering input from residents who live near the expressway. The center will use the funds to organize listening sessions and collaborate with other community groups, including Gambian Youth Organization, Casa Yurumein, and Bronx Health Link. The groups will work together to organize events and canvas the neighborhoods surrounding the highway.
Aiming to Reunite Neighborhoods
Julie Gafney, director of the Center for Community Engaged Learning, said she hopes the efforts will help reunify neighborhoods that were destroyed when homes of approximately 40,000 residents were demolished to make room for the highway.
“One of the big issues with the Cross Bronx Expressway and other major roadways in the Bronx is it cut people off from access to services, to fresh fruits and vegetables, to public transportation,” she said.
“So we want to make sure that whatever solution we’re looking at is going to unite communities, provide resources to them, and doesn’t inadvertently replicate some of these errors from the past.”
Opportunities for Students
The Cross Bronx Expressway has been a major focus of the center’s recent efforts in the Bronx. Last month, 350 students who participated in Fordham’s annual Urban Plunge toured sections of the highway to learn about its impact. Gafney said members of the Fordham community are continuing to enroll in these “walkshops.” She envisions multiple opportunities for students to get involved in areas such as design, visual arts, architecture, and smart city planning.
“I would love to see as many members of the Fordham community working as possible with us to facilitate those conversations,” she said.
“We’ll be doing everything from canvassing and door-knocking to holding small conversations over coffee with groups of neighbors to hear about how the Cross Bronx is currently affecting them and their communities and what they would like to see. The best ideas, I’m sure, are going to come from the folks who are most impacted by the issue.”