This park is located alongside the Sheridan Expressway. First conceived in 1941 by the New York City Planning Department, the Sheridan Expressway was built 17 years later to serve as the link between the Cross Bronx and Bruckner Expressways.
The Sheridan Expressway honors Arthur V. Sheridan (1888-1952), who was the Bronx Borough President James Lyon's engineer and was a loyal supporter of Arterial Coordinator Robert Moses (1888-1981). Sheridan served as president of both the New York Society of Professional Engineers (1928-1930) and the National Society of Professional Engineers (1937-1938). Less than two weeks before Sheridan's retirement as Borough Commissioner of Public Works on July 1, he died in a car accident on June 20, 1952 while going to pick up his 11 year-old son to drive back to their home in Lake Mohawk, New Jersey.
A native New Yorker, Sheridan attended the City University of New York and studied engineering at Columbia University. He served as the first president of the New York State Society of Professional Engineers. This society was founded to look after the professional rights of engineers and by 1929 had 1,100 active members. In 1930, Sheridan presented a code of ethics for engineers to the executive board of the group.
Sheridan was also a founding member (1934) and the second president of the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), which currently has 60,000 members and 500 chapters. Supplementing his career with written texts, Sheridan published Whither Engineering Education?, Three Centuries in the Bronx, and Traffic in the Bronx. Besides engineering, Sheridan lectured on history and philosophy, served as president of the Bronx Rotary Club, and was a member of both the American Legion and New York Athletic Club. During World War I, he served in the American Expeditionary Forces, and during World War II, as a consultant to the U.S. military.
Construction of the expressway began in 1958, and although the 1.2-mile strip was soon completed, it suffered the inadequacies of many other highways at the time in that its shoulders were too narrow and its acceleration/deceleration lanes too short. Four years and $9.5 million dollars later the highway was renovated and reopened. Robert Moses then designed a 4-mile, 60 million-dollar northern extension intended to connect the Sheridan Expressway with the New England Thruway.
This proposal met with great community opposition because of the excessive traffic and pollution it would bring to the Baychester and Pelham neighborhoods, in addition to disrupting the Bronx Zoo and New York Botanical Gardens. The project was slated for completion in 1972, and although Governor Nelson Rockefeller (1908-1979) initially supported the extension, nearly a decade of protests from civic and community leaders forced him to reconsider. In 1971 he reluctantly terminated the project, as well as many other projects designed to run highways through New York City.
In the late 1990s, anti-highway groups lobbied for the demolition of the Sheridan Expressway in favor of constructing a 28-acre riverfront park. These groups claim that because of the initial failure to extend the expressway, it has failed as a means of mass transit and has damaged the community through car exhaust and divided neighborhoods. Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer dismissed the demolition of the expressway, however, claiming that to do so would increase traffic and pollution in different residential areas. Instead, the city is financing a reconstruction of the expressway that is scheduled for completion in 2005.
Currently, Starlight Park is home to a pair of grass baseball fields, two asphalt fields, eight handball courts and five checker tables. City Council Member Lucy Cruz has allocated $492,000 for renovations. Starlight Park is also flanked by the forest of the Bronx River, an area well-frequented by children using the park.
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