NEWARK, NJ (September 15, 2022) – Marking a major milestone in a decades-long effort to create a multi-use greenway spanning Essex and Hudson Counties, the Open Space Institute (OSI) joined with New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy today to celebrate the acquisition of nine miles of former rail property in northern New Jersey.
The newly protected property will be used to create a new linear park located in the nation’s most densely populated and diverse region. The $65 million state investment is the single largest conservation investment in New Jersey history.
“This acquisition by Governor Murphy and the state of New Jersey brings us one step closer to creating much-needed green space to the most densely populated and diverse region in the entire nation,” said Kim Elliman, OSI president and CEO. “OSI is proud to have played a critical role in making this acquisition a reality and looks forward to building on our public-private partnership and fulfilling the promise to create a world-class park that will greatly enhance local communities and be enjoyed for generations to come.”
“To the entire team at the Open Space Institute, thank you for your dogged work on this and so many other projects,” said Governor Murphy.
“For far too long, many of New Jersey’s most diverse communities have not enjoyed equitable access to our state’s open spaces and their accompanying health benefits,” said Governor Murphy. “While connecting these communities to our natural environment and economic opportunity, the Greenway will also bolster resilience in one of the state’s most densely populated regions. Its acquisition testifies to my Administration’s dedicated work and the shared vision of the partners who are making this new destination a reality.”
Murphy also acknowledged the critical role OSI played in advancing the acquisition by the state, “To the entire team at the Open Space Institute, thank you for your dogged work on this and so many other projects,” said Governor Murphy. “You are ensuring, as much as any other organization, a healthy and sustainable future,” said Murphy.
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 a new greenway. OSI 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.
The Essex-Hudson Greenway Coalition, comprising OSI, the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition, and the September 11 National Memorial Trail Alliance, which coordinated and advocated for the project over the last four years, celebrated the acquisition that moves the project closer to becoming a reality.
The project has the potential to transform the way communities connect with nature and connect with each other – linking people to parks, to waterways and to their neighbors. The newly acquired state land spans the densely populated areas of Montclair, Glen Ridge, Bloomfield, Belleville, Newark, Kearny, Secaucus, and Jersey City. Measuring close to 100 feet wide in areas, the park will offer residents ample space for off-road transportation and recreational biking and walking. The greenway has the potential to support new and existing businesses, create enhanced access to a healthy, thriving green space for historically underserved communities, and provide the communities along the property with important natural flooding buffers.
Twenty million dollars in federal American Rescue Plan funds has been included in New Jersey’s budget to remediate and begin structural work necessary to transform the abandoned rail line into a usable transportation corridor and recreational space. The entire line will remain closed to the public for approximately six to 12 months, after which time the line will be opened to the public segment by segment as work on individual sections is completed over the next several years.
The sequence of the development and opening of the greenway, as well as the design for amenities, transportation options, and connections to local community resources, will be informed by a strategic master plan for the greenway. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, a major partner in the project, will procure a consultant to support the development of the master plan, in addition to leading an interagency working group and cultivating engagement with local elected officials, community members, and other interested parties.