When the Kensington Expressway was built in the 1950s and ’60s, it displaced thousands of Buffalo residents, and drove scores of neighborhood shops out of business. The expressway cost what would today be well over $400 million, and continues to discourage long-term investments for affected neighborhoods. While Buffalo struggles for a solution, cities throughout New York State have embraced the idea of altering expressways to reclaim neighborhood spaces.
New York City’s Regional Plan Association has prepared a master plan for the city’s expressway system. Brooklyn’s Prospect Expressway is the centerpiece of a master plan including Brooklyn Queens Expressway, Cross Bronx, Van Cortlandt Park, and Sheridan Expressway, which are altogether subject to return up to 100 acres to city residents for neighborhood reinvestments. This acreage includes building new promenades over some expressways, while transforming others into at-grade, multi-modal boulevards. Each proposal ranges from $50 million to $100 million.
The ultimate goal is to promote new parks, housing and shops in neighborhoods that have been damaged by expressways. New York City’s land reclamation follows other plans around the state such as Rochester’s Inner Loop removal in 2015, and Niagara Falls’ 2017 rechristening of the Robert Moses Parkway to the Niagara Scenic Parkway. These plans, in turn are following successful examples in Dallas, Phoenix, San Francisco and other cities across the country.
The Kensington Expressway has been an impediment to the city’s job growth for the past 60 years. Today, our broken city has ample opportunities and evidence for redemption.
Stephanie Barber Geter