top of page

A Timeline of Key Moments that Contributed to Today’s Asthma Crisis

Scroll back in time to learn about past events and how their impact is still with us today.


Sheridan Expressway Transformed to Pedestrian-Friendly Boulevard

  • Previously, the expressway cut between the community and the Bronx River, causing health effects and keeping people away from the waterfront

  • Now, the boulevard connects Starlight Park with the Bronx River, with the goal of adding greenspace and restoring the river back to what it used to be

  • Project led by Governor Cuomo as part of a larger transformation initiative for the South Bronx


City Council passes Waste Equity Law

  • Prohibits the increase of waste burdens in communities that handle over 10% of the City’s waste

  • Reduces the amount of waste that private transfer stations can accept by up to 50% in North Brooklyn and 33% in the South Bronx and Southeast Queens

  • There are 9 waste transfer stations in the South Bronx, with permits to collectively handle twice their typical volume (12000 tons of waste daily)

Fresh Direct Moves Warehouse to South Bronx


Fresh Direct warehouse opens in 2018

  • Was in the works since 2012 when the city offered Fresh Direct $130 million taxpayer subsidy to move warehouse to South Bronx

  • South Bronx Unite (community organization fighting for environmental justice) and Mott Haven residents battled to stop the move from happening, filing a lawsuit in 2013 and battling in many other ways, but unfortunately FResh Direct was allowed to move forward with their plan

South Bronx Unite and Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health partnered to document/record changes in air pollutants and health impacts following Fresh Direct’s move

  • Observed increase in truck and vehicle flow, especially during the overnight hours, with an overall traffic increase between 10 and 40 percent

  • While the air pollution in most NYC neighborhoods is declining, Mott Haven has increasing levels partly due to Fresh Direct, on top of already having higher than average rates for air pollutants

Further Reading:

New York State unveils $1.8 billion plan to transform the South Bronx



  • Reduce Truck Traffic on Local Streets — Eliminate the bottleneck at the Bruckner-Sheridan Interchange to improve access to Hunts Point

  • Provide Cleaner Air and Less Noise — Provide efficient and direct access to the Hunts Point Peninsula, reducing commercial truck traffic on local residential streets

  • Improve Pedestrian Safety — A “boulevard” design, new crossing signals, improved lighting and wider medians will help keep pedestrians and cyclists safe

  • Reconnect Neighborhoods — Residents will be able to enjoy direct access to the Bronx River waterfront and Starlight Park

  • Create Jobs — An estimated 4,250 new jobs are expected to be created over the projects' multiple phases

City Council adopts Clean Carting Trucks Bill


  • NYC Environmental Justice Alliance provided advice for the Clean Carting Trucks Bill

  • Over 8000 heavy-duty diesel trucks (20% of all particulate matter generated by heavy trucks in NYC) collect millions of tons of commercial waste annually

  • City Council now ensures that all licensed waste haulers use only trucks that meet the U.S. EPA’s 2007 emissions standards for diesel trucks, or are fitted with the best available retrofit technology

Further Research Findings Published


  • Asthma-related emergency department visits for children under 15:

  • 42.1% in the Bronx vs 9% in Staten Island

  • The Bronx’s median income is $29000 vs Staten Island’s $63000 (largest income gap of 5 boroughs)

  • 45.1% of Bronx parents reported that they “felt that they had little control over their child’s asthma” and 41.7% “felt helpless in dealing with asthma.”


NYU Researches Bronx School Children Exposure to Air Pollutants

  • Worst effect on asthma was the 5-10% of total fine particle pollution that was caused by diesel exhaust

  • Asthma symptoms doubled on days when traffic pollution was highest

  • 1/5th of Bronx K-8th graders go to school within 500ft of a major highway


Research Project Studies Asthma in Children living in the South Bronx

  • Reports 15.5% of 4-5 year-old Bronx children were identified as having asthma, compared with 9.2% of New York City students overall

  • Asthma is number one reason for child hospitalization and school absences (in 2002)

New York Power Authority installs natural gas peak power plants


  • 2 locations in Port Morris (close to the waterfront which pollutes the water)

  • 2 turbines at the Hell Gate Plant

  • 2 turbines at the Harlem River Yard Plant

  • Peaker plants produce 20 times the amount of nitrogen oxide and double the carbon dioxide that other plants do to generate the same amount of electricity

The Bronx Is Burning (1970s and 1980s)


  • During the 1977 World Series, Sportscaster Howard Cosell looks out over the neighborhoods surrounding Yankee Stadium and purportedly says :The Bronx is Burning,: because he can see all the buildings set ablaze by landlords seeking insurance money

  • 80% of the South Bronx’s housing was lost to fires, many of them presumably set by landlords who could not pay property taxes on emptied buildings

  • 250000 people were displaced

  • The narrative from the media and politicians was that the destruction was the fault of the residents 

  • The fire response was intentionally inadequate, arriving after buildings fully burned and not caring for injured people

  • 12 fire companies in the South Bronx were closed from 1974-1976 because NYC was bankrupt. The blackouts of 1977 worsened many issues in the area


Robert Moses loses battle for Lower Manhattan Expressway (contrast to result in the Bronx)

  • Moses’ original proposal for Lower Manhattan Expressway announced in 1941 - leads to movement led by Jane Jacob against it

  • Jane Jacobs and the Joint Committee to Stop the Lower Manhattan Expressway win the fight against Moses to prevent the expressway - stark contrast to the Bronx where voices were not listened to

Cross Bronx Expressway completed


  • Direct link to air pollution crisis

  • 3000 apartments had windows facing the expressway

  • Expressway is not flat, so more fumes released from trucks and traffic

  • Direct correlation between increased air pollutants and asthma (hospitalizations, frequency of attacks, symptoms, lung function, etc)

  • Construction forced out 10,000 of East Tremont’s 60,000 residents (in addition to the 5000 pushed out during demolition)


Construction of the Cross Bronx Expressway starts

  • Those who are able to move away do, leaving only the lower income and majority minority communities to suffer the consequences of the construction


The City took over 159 buildings in East Tremont

  • Moses sent out scary letters to tenants to move out within 90 days but that timeline wasn’t even true

  • The heat and hot water was shut off

  • Building demolition started before all tenants moved out (top floors torn down when they were empty even though people still lived below)

NYC creates Slum Clearance Committee & US Congress passes Federal Housing Act


Slum Clearance Committee created:

  • To combat NYC slums by tearing them down and replacing them with theoretically more desirable housing structures

  • They decided that the best way to combat the growth of slums and to stimulate “urban renewal” was to entirely demolish existing slums, pushing the residents into other poor areas, and therefore actually creating more slums

  • Moses was on the board

Federal Housing Act passed:

  • Government was given the right to seize an individual’s private property not for its own use but for reassignment to another individual for his use and profit

Robert Moses proposes the Cross Bronx Expressway


  • He says he anticipates pushback from the community but it’s just because they don’t have the capacity/knowledge to understand the future success of his project

  • Advertised that it would make the Bronx more accessible and attractive to business

  • Supported by Bronx Borough President James Lyons and Bronx Board of Trade

  • Many Bronx residents didn’t take it seriously because the destruction and scale of the project was unheard of

  • New path would stand on 113 streets, avenues, and boulevards; sewers and water and utility mains numbering in the hundreds; one subway and three railroads, five elevated rapid transit lines, and seven other expressways or parkways

  • East Tremont community created and proposed a new plan that would have destroy fewer buildings and actually save the city money, but Robert Moses was set on his plan and refused to consider it

The Federal Housing Administration Implements Redlining


  • To induce lenders who have money to invest it in residential mortgages by insuring them against loss on such investments, with the full weight of the United States Treasury behind the contract

  • They used HOLC’s appraisal methods & maps (redlining) and therefore racial, ethnic, & income bias and discrimination was intertwined in the system (same thing happened with the Veterans Administration that was created in 1944)

    • Allowed personal and agency bias in favor of all-white subdivisions in the suburbs to affect the kinds of loans it guaranteed – or, equally important, refused to guarantee

    • Previously, prejudices were personal and individual, but now the FHA enshrined segregation in public policy


The Government Establishes the Home Owners Loan Corporation - creates 'Redlining', which prevents loans to many Bronx residents

  • Organization tasked with refinancing homes and granting low-interest loans to homeowners in the hopes of preventing Americans from losing their homes

  • Created the concept of “systematized appraisal methods” nationwide (dividing the country into specific areas and evaluating each area with an official questionnaire relating to the occupation, income, and ethnicity of the inhabitants and the age, type of construction, price range, sales demand, and general state of repair of the housing stock. This innovation had the consequence of creating “red-lining” practices, which would discourage investors from putting any money into the area and accelerate the neighborhood’s decline


Bronx was incorporated into the City of New York

  • Bronx, previously a part of Westchester County, was incorporated into the City of New York


Jonas Bronck Settles the Area

  • Jonas Bronck, traveling from Holland, settles in the area between today’s East and Bronx Rivers, present day Mott Haven. He “purchased” 500 acres of the land from the Lenape, and following this, the Lenape were displaced as first Dutch and then English settlers moved to the area


Indigenous Migrants Settle What Will Become the Bronx

  • The indigenous migrants settle what will become the Bronx, eventually calling themselves the Lenape, or Lenni Lenape. They settled in two subgroups, In small villages centered on the Aquahung, or today’s Bronx River, the Siwanoy on the eastern shore and the Weckquaesgeek in the west, engaging in fishing, farming and trading

bottom of page