TRENTON, NJ (Nov. 30, 2023) – The Open Space Institute (OSI) today celebrated the announcement by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy that the Northern New Jersey Greenway, a nine-mile former rail line through parts of Hudson and Essex counties, is one step closer to becoming a New Jersey state park. Following an extensive, months-long public engagement process, the first phase of the multimillion-dollar project will be focused on a nearly two-mile span through Newark, Essex County, and Kearny, Hudson County.
“What was once seen as impossible is becoming a reality,” said Dene Lee, OSI’s Vice President of Land. “After decades of community efforts to create much needed greenspace in this densely populated region, it is tremendously gratifying to see the seeds of the Greenway starting to take shape in tangible ways. We congratulate Governor Murphy, the entire team at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and the legions of dedicated Greenway supporters who never gave up, who today are building something wonderful and transformative for the people of northern New Jersey.”
“Connecting communities in one of the most densely populated regions in the nation, the Greenway will serve as nothing short of a game-changer for cities across Essex and Hudson Counties,” said Governor Murphy. “Upon completion, this monumental project will increase recreation, transportation, and economic development opportunities for hundreds of thousands of New Jersey residents and visitors. Just as importantly, it will considerably expand access to green, open space – and its associated environmental and public health benefits – for environmental justice communities across North Jersey.”
“Today’s announcement to begin the Greenway’s construction in Newark and Kearny brings us one step closer to making this new state park a reality,” said NJ DEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette. “Converting this abandoned rail line into a thriving recreation and transportation corridor will bring people and communities together to enjoy the environment we share. Such a significant undertaking is only possible with the support and collaboration of the host communities, and we thank the residents and leaders of Newark and Kearny for their partnership.”
In November of 2021, after years of direct negotiation that led to a $65 million purchase agreement between OSI and Norfolk Southern Railway, the state of New Jersey agreed to acquire the 135-acre property to create the Greenway. OSI, as a member of the Essex-Hudson Greenway Coalition, also provided funding and extensive transactional guidance for the acquisition. OSI’s efforts to create the Greenway have been generously supported by the Thomas L. Kempner Jr. Foundation, with additional support from the Helen & William Mazer Foundation, Partners for Health Foundation, and individual donors.
As part of a phased development approach for the Greenway, the Newark-Kearny segment will directly serve the 350,000 residents of the two municipalities, and more in the surrounding area. The project is a catalyst for environmental improvements and economic development, expanding access to green, open space, increasing transportation and recreation opportunities, and improving stormwater management and air quality. The NJ DEP expects to break ground in early 2024, with the first segment anticipated to open to the public in late 2025.
The DEP plans to develop the Newark-Kearny segment through a series of connected experiences, focusing on a combination of active and passive recreation opportunities. This stretch has the potential for both scenic overlooks and community hubs that leverage existing vistas and space availability to create a one-of-a-kind amenity for both the surrounding community and visitors.
One of the overlooks would provide visitors with a glimpse into the natural environment of the Meadowlands and views of the Manhattan skyline. In Newark, DEP could develop an active urban community hub for recreation and games, a vibrant playground, and amenities to support playing all day.
The DEP and its consultants evaluated each segment based on a number of factors that included environmental, public access and economic development needs, as well as the capability to begin work quickly. The Newark and Kearny segments scored high in this evaluation. The next steps include preliminary design work, securing necessary state permits and continuing to gather public feedback.
“It has been my goal to see this innovative and inspired land-use project become a reality. Every phase should be celebrated so we do not lose sight of the long-term economic development, conservation, environmental justice, recreation, and transportation benefits the Greenway project holds for residents of Essex County,” said Senate Majority Leader M. Teresa Ruiz.
When completed, the Greenway will connect eight Essex and Hudson county communities – Jersey City, Secaucus, Kearny, Newark, Belleville, Bloomfield, Glen Ridge, and Montclair. It represents an opportunity to create a linear, multi-modal recreational and transit corridor enabling seamless walking, biking and transit opportunities between Montclair and Jersey City, while providing opportunities for community connection and regional environmental improvements.
Governor Phil Murphy announced the acquisition of the Greenway with OSI and partners in September 2022. Since then, the NJ DEP – along with its interagency partners at the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, NJ TRANSIT, and New Jersey Department of Transportation – has been working to bring this once-in-a-generation project to life. The initial development and construction of the Greenway will be funded through a combination of state and federal appropriations.