The Cross-Bronx Expressway really hurt (but not in the way you might think)

MLewyn's picture
West Farms- near Cross-Bronx Expressway

A few months ago, I finished reading Robert Caro's The Power Broker, a biography of highway/park-builder Robert Moses.  Caro asserts that Moses's Cross-Bronx Expressway ruined Bronx neighborhoods near East Tremont Avenue; many houses and apartments were destroyed to build the expressway, and the negative effects of all that deserted land blighted nearby blocks.  

Today, I visited a few blocks near East Tremont, and was slightly surprised by what I saw.  I would have expected that either (a) the neighborhood would have generally recovered from the expressway and from the other troubles the Bronx suffered in the 1960s and 1970s, or (b) the neighborhood would still be in terrible shape.  Neither description was precisely accurate.

The blocks closest to the East Tremont/West Farms subway stop had indeed recovered to some extent.  These blocks are definitely a low-income area dominated by "towers in a park" housing projects- but at least they comprise a populated low-income area, with places to shop and people who shop there creating "eyes on the street" (at least during the daytime when I was there).  So I felt moderately safe walking around those blocks.

By contrast, the blocks closest to the expressway are far more deserted; they appear to be dominated by vacant, fenced-in lots and street-deadening uses such as industrial/warehouse buildings that were closed on Sundays (and perhaps closed every day in some cases).  Since those blocks had no open businesses, they appeared much scarier. So after walking to the expressway, I came to my senses and walked back to the subway.

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