Two Tracks and the Cross Bronx Expressway

Throughout the 1960’s people across the nation people were raising their voices against the injustices they felt were happening in their world. The Bronx was no exception as people mobilized under the standard of many causes. Towards the end of the sixties the architecture begins to change, literally. Chang describes the construction of the Cross Bronx Expressway, Robert Moses’ enormous road that would allow residents of New Jersey to quickly traverse the Bronx and go into the suburbs of Queens. The project led to the mass exodus and displacement of Bronx dwellers. As the people and jobs left the neighborhoods began to deteriorate as apartments remained empty and unkempt and then were destroyed by fire in order to collect insurance and have some profitability and with this came the demise of the social movement of the previous generation. The Bronx had been converted into rubble and as Chang puts it: “The gangs were a vanguard of the rubble… They had no reason to sing to sweet harmonies. They were the children of Moses’s grand experiment and the fires had already begun.”

As the Bronx began to re-segregate there was a resurgence in youth gangs in the Bronx as turfs were divided violence ensued both among themselves and against other people and authorities. They were the terror of the streets but they also became a respected source of power in the community. In the early seventies with this enormous social following some gangs, like the Ghetto Brothers, took it upon themselves to look beyond the beef and violence to the possibility of peace and change in their neighborhoods. In a momentous, yet somewhat insincere, occasion the gangs met after the death of Black Benjie ┬ámade peace very publicly and later privately. It was made clear to them that they were not each other’s enemy anymore.