“After nearly two years of working directly with Norfolk Southern, we are very proud to announce this agreement,” said Kim Elliman, president and CEO of the Open Space Institute. “This agreement represents a once in a generation opportunity to acquire property that can become a working green space for the people of these communities. We look forward to the active input of regional leaders and their constituents to create a unique community resource that will best serve the residents of Hudson and Essex Counties.”
The linear park, currently titled the Essex-Hudson Greenway Project, will span Jersey City, Secaucus, Kearny, Newark, Belleville, Bloomfield, Glen Ridge, and Montclair.
Spanning an average of 100 feet or more in width throughout its route, an Essex-Hudson Greenway has the potential to offer significant benefits, especially in light of the current health and fiscal crises. The Open Space Institute and its partners have already begun investing in planning, surveying, environmental assessments, and more. The project will support job growth in the community. This preliminary work is supporting a number of jobs to bring the planning and acquisition to fruition and will lead to hundreds more jobs in construction. The nature of the greenway project also offers the potential to support new and existing businesses throughout the length of the linear park, as well as community improvements such as internet access, stormwater solutions, and emergency response.
“This linear park has been a working project for our organization since 2014 and we offer our thanks to the many partners over the years who have all helped make this announcement and substantial step possible,” said Debra Kagan, Executive Director of the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition. “While this is only the first step of many, we are excited to continue working with the Open Space Institute, our supporters, and the communities to ensure that this project becomes a fully functional greenway for those along its route.”
“The Essex-Hudson Greenway is an important environmental and economic asset and is a true treasure,” said Thomas Baxter, President of the September 11th National Memorial Trail Alliance. “The project is a game changer for the region and a significant piece of the September 11th National Memorial Trail. We are very pleased to be partnering in this project that has both local and national significance.”
Norfolk Southern Railway Company, based in Atlanta, GA, recently initiated the process of filing for formal federal approval to sell the property. This process will facilitate the transformation of the property into the linear park and will involve continued cooperation between Norfolk Southern and the Open Space Institute. Residents of communities all along the property have been campaigning for a linear park that would serve as a “shared-use path” for people walking, riding a bicycle, running, rolling, or just relaxing. Groups including the Bloomfield Open Space Trust Fund, the Friends of the Ice & Iron Trail, and groups in North Newark, Jersey City, and Hoboken have long advocated for the greenway.
In addition to its economic benefits, the creation of a new Essex-Hudson Greenway offers a range of other environmental, transportation, and health benefits – especially as the public turns to local access to green space. The project offers potential to reduce traffic and storm water runoff in towns along the rail line, improve transportation options for residents, and allow for improved infrastructure connectivity for things like broadband and emergency response.