New Jersey to help acquire rail line for Essex-Hudson Greenway

The move comes after proponents warned the project would fall through without state help

  1 / 2 
The abandoned train tracks would be reimagined into open space where people could walk, relax, or ride their bikes. Photo via the Open Space Institute
  2 / 2 
A digital rendering of the proposed greenway stretching from Essex to Hudson County.
×
  1 / 2 
The abandoned train tracks would be reimagined into open space where people could walk, relax, or ride their bikes. Photo via the Open Space Institute
  2 / 2 
A digital rendering of the proposed greenway stretching from Essex to Hudson County.

New Jersey will help with the purchase of nearly nine miles of property stretching from Jersey City to Montclair, to establish the Essex-Hudson Greenway, Gov. Phil Murphy has announced.

“This project has been years in the making, and I am proud to be the Governor to advance this dream to being a reality,” said Murphy. “This new park will be a crown jewel of our state park system, providing much-needed recreational space to New Jerseyans and out-of-state visitors, while revitalizing and protecting environmentally-sensitive areas. Residents of our state’s two largest cities, and the suburbs beyond and in-between will benefit from access to a multi-use trail, and the natural beauty of the Meadowlands.”

The announcement follows years of advocacy for the acquisition and transformation of an abandoned rail alignment as a multi-modal transit and recreational trail corridor that crosses above both the Passaic and Hackensack Rivers and marks the creation of New Jersey’s first new state park since 2006.

The linear park will follow the right-of-way of the eastern portion of NJ TRANSIT’s former Boonton Line. Passenger service was discontinued on this portion of the line in 2002, with freight service ceasing in 2015.

A new linear park

Connecting the communities of Montclair, Glen Ridge, Bloomfield, Belleville, Newark, Kearny, Secaucus, and Jersey City, the Essex-Hudson Greenway will provide a new pedestrian route and protect the environment by providing residents with a new and convenient method to reach their destinations without the use of a car.

“The Greenway represents another critical element of our three-decade-long effort to increase open space, bike and pedestrian pathways, and public waterfront access in the region,” said Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise.

The new nine-mile park will pass through a diverse landscape of existing parks and wetlands, as well as urban, suburban, and industrial areas. The park will include walking paths, bike lanes, and other recreational uses, allowing visitors to take full advantage of a trail that exhibits the varied landscapes of the state.

Funding for the $65 million acquisition of the park will be provided through a collaborative effort by the Murphy Administration, including the support of the Department of Environmental Protection and NJ TRANSIT, the Legislature, and New Jersey’s congressional delegation, utilizing American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding. Over the past few years, NJ TRANSIT and the Open Space Institute have been engaged in negotiations with the Norfolk Southern Corporation for the purchase of this land, which will now be possible with the state’s support.

“This is the culmination of years of perseverance on the part of stakeholders and elected officials,” said Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti. “It’s difficult to express how excited I am to have played a role in preserving nine miles of open space that will provide access to the river, play an important role in addressing environmental issues, and preserve a transportation corridor between Jersey City and Montclair.”

More open space

“I’m thrilled that this abandoned rail line will become a new state park for the people of New Jersey to enjoy,” said Rep. Albio Sires. “I have long been an advocate for revitalizing old infrastructure and giving it new purpose as parks, trails, and eco-friendly travel routes.”

“The pandemic has proven the value of open space,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell. “Thanks to money passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden, the Greenway can be a stunning park for our North Jersey communities in one of the most densely populated areas in America. I am excited ARP funds are being used to improve, expand and contribute to public spaces.”

“This new park will create walking trails and biking trails to allow my constituents to enjoy nature throughout the 10th Congressional District,” said Rep. Donald Payne, Jr. “As a strong supporter of the environment, I am proud that this park will protect miles of wetlands in northern New Jersey.  It is a great project and I look forward to seeing it built.”

“The Essex-Hudson Greenway will not only create vital recreational opportunities for many of our communities, but also provide transportation alternatives that go beyond the car and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels,” said Sen. Bob Menendez. “Utilizing both state and federal funds, this project brings all levels of government together to improve the quality of life for area residents. This recreational space will connect suburban and urban communities and bring families of all backgrounds together, while reducing harmful emissions in the region.”

Project founders applaud

The Open Space Institute, the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition and the September 11th National Memorial Trail Alliance partnered in an effort to create the Essex-Hudson Greenway. The leadership of all three organizations, known collectively as the Essex-Hudson Greenway Coalition, applauded the state’s efforts after warning the project was in trouble earlier in the year.

“Without question, this deal underscores all the merits of public-private partnerships and strategic land protection in one package,” said Open Space Institute President and CEO Kim Elliman. “The 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.”

“This is the culmination of over a decade of advocacy and we thank our dedicated coalition partners, the community groups, local leaders, and thousands of grassroots supporters who persevered to get us to this great day,” said Debra Kagan, Executive Director of the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition. “[This] will truly be a transformational project that will enhance the quality-of-life for all our residents throughout the region.”

“In addition to its impact at the local level, this project has major national significance as a major New Jersey component of the recently designated 9/11 Memorial Trail,” said Thomas Baxter, President of the September 11th National Memorial Trail Alliance. “We extend our sincere thanks and appreciation to the Governor, representatives of the various state departments, and our own community and elected leaders who help us reach this pivotal point.”

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.