Public-Private project will lead to greater, more equitable access to nature and recreational opportunities; alternative transportation; green community infrastructure; and economic activity.
New York, NY (November 12, 2021)—Following more than three years of direct negotiations and decades of local effort, the Open Space Institute (OSI) today announced that a deal has been struck with the state of New Jersey to create a nearly nine-mile Greenway in the highly populated, northern region of the state. The deal marks the single largest state-funded land protection project in New Jersey history.
Under the agreement, announced by Governor Phil Murphy, the state of New Jersey will purchase 135 acres of the former Boonton rail line from Norfolk Southern Railway for $65 million, a price negotiated by OSI as part of a formal purchase agreement announced in July 2020.
The rail line property being purchased by the state of New Jersey, spanning Jersey City, Secaucus, Kearny, Newark, Belleville, Bloomfield, Glen Ridge, and Montclair, will bring greater open space access to one of the most urban and populated regions in the nation at a time when the pandemic has reinforced both the merits and need for equitable access to parks and open space.
“Without question, this deal underscores all the merits of public-private partnerships and strategic land protection in one package. This Greenway project will make it easier for millions of people to enjoy the benefits of being outdoors, completely transform the way communities connect with nature and connect with each other, linking people to parks, waterways and their neighbors – all while creating alternative transportation options, improving water quality, and spurring economic activity,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s president and CEO. “This once-in-a-generation opportunity will soon become reality and OSI could not be prouder of the role we played to negotiate the deal, bring stakeholders together, and generate public and private support for the initiative.”
Since negotiating the purchase agreement with Norfolk Southern in January 2020, OSI has been leading the effort with New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition and the September 11th National Memorial Trail Alliance to build community enthusiasm for the project, conduct preliminary engineering and environmental assessments on the property, and advise on a public funding strategy to create the Greenway.
“OSI commends Governor Murphy, all the local leaders and elected officials who recognized the extraordinary potential of the Greenway, long time supports of the concept, and of course our coalition partners New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition and the September 11th National Memorial Trail Alliance who have been key partners and major advocates in growing support for the greenway,” said Elliman. “For generations to come, all involved with this remarkable effort will enthusiastically claim the Greenway as a legacy project. And they will be right.”
Under the plan announced today by Governor Murphy, the former rail line property will be purchased by the state of New Jersey, and the Department of Environmental Protection has been charged with the design and construction of the new Greenway.
None of the work to bring the Greenway to fruition would have possible without robust philanthropic support since the earliest stages of the deal. OSI assembled private funding to invest $3.9 million in the project to date. Major support for OSI’s efforts has been provided by the Thomas L. Kempner Jr. Foundation. Additional generous support came from the Helen & William Mazer Foundation, Partners for Health Foundation, and individual donors.
The Open Space Institute in New Jersey
Founded more than four decades ago, the Open Space Institute (OSI) has partnered in the protection of 2.3 million acres across eastern North America from Quebec to Florida. For nearly 20 years, OSI has worked to protect more than 21,000 acres of New Jersey farms, forests, and local parkland within the Highlands, the Pinelands, the Bayshore, and the heavily developed northeastern suburbs.
At the heart of OSI’s land protection work in New Jersey are drinking water protection and improved access to open space. Most prominently, OSI partnered with the Trust for Public Land in 1997 to acquire Sterling Forest. Just over the border in New York State, the property is an ecological linchpin of the Highlands, and its permanent protection provides safe drinking water for 25 percent of New Jersey residents. Through its Delaware River Water Initiative, OSI is improving water quality in the Delaware River Basin, water source for numerous New Jersey communities, including Trenton. Most recently, OSI forged a historic partnership between the state’s second largest city and Morris County to improve management and provide public access to Jersey City’s 1,200-acre Reservoir in Boonton and Parsippany.