Legislation to Enact the Greenway Link


 

RECLAIMING THE RIVER IN RIVERDALE

by Paul J. Elston, President, Friends of the Hudson River Greenway in the Bronx

Riverdale is protected as a Special Natural Area District under City law, which preserves it as a particularly green area.  Tragically, it has been separated from the Hudson River by the railroad tracks for over 150 years.  The only space accessible to the public is the tiny Riverdale Station Park, about 300 feet long and 20 feet wide.  The proposed GREENWAY LINK will change that dramatically providing two miles of waterfront access in the Bronx and another mile in Yonkers.

 

The Hudson River is the defining natural feature of the West Bronx.  Riverdale has a great plan to reconnect its residents with the Hudson River with the creation of the GREENWAY LINK – a walking/biking trail on the edge of the Hudson River connecting the Manhattan Hudson River Greenway with the Old Croton Aqueduct trail (a State Park and the designated Westchester Hudson River Greenway Trail). The GREENWAY LINK will put the River back into Riverdale.

 

The Hudson River GREENWAY LINK is part of an effort by New York State to create a continuous walking and biking trail along the Hudson River which extends from Albany to the southern tip of Manhattan.  In 1991 the State Legislature created the Greenway to preserve, enhance and develop the world renowned scenic, natural, historic, cultural and recreational resources of the Hudson River Valley.  The Greenway Act also calls for safe access to the River and a system of trails that will link the towns and cities, parks, natural areas, and historic sites along the River.  New York City has made great progress in creating a Hudson River Greenway along the entire edge of the Hudson in Manhattan, and Westchester has done the same in Yonkers.  A Greenway in the West Bronx will connect these Greenways and communities.

 

The effort to create the Greenway in the Bronx started over 30 years ago. In 1998 the Bronx Advisory Committee of the Hudson River Valley Greenway concluded a multi-year effort and called for further study of a waterfront trail.  In response to a request from the Friends of the Hudson River Greenway in the Bronx (FHRG) in 2004, Senator Schumer provided the funding to develop the plan for the Greenway Link through Federal Transportation legislation.  The planning effort began in 2009 under the direction of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC) in a partnership with the local community and community groups in the Bronx and Yonkers.


The NYMTC has completed that study and has concluded that a Greenway on the railroad right-of-way on the waterfront is feasible, but that it is institutionally and physically challenging. As you might expect, it is expensive when compared to other Westchester/Upstate Greenway improvements, but inexpensive when compared to the Manhattan Greenway. The proposed waterfront route has been endorsed by Community Board 8, The Bronx.

 

The next step for implementing the GREENWAY LINK plan is to develop an engineering plan for the waterfront route and to fund construction.  All of our elected officials have pledged to support this effort and they continue to be led by the great biking and Greenway enthusiasts, Senator Charles Schumer.  The Riverdale Press headline shouted: CHUCK SCHUMER VOWS FUNDING FOR GREENWAY in reporting on the press conference held by Schumer with other government officials at the JFK Marina on January 17, 2014.

 

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U.S. Senator Charles Schumer with other elected officials from Yonkers at the JFK Marina.

 

LEGISLATION TO ENACT THE HUDSON RIVER GREENWAY LINK

 

The local community created Riverdale RiverFest to demonstrate its interest in access to the Hudson River waterfront and its support for the Greenway Link plan. Riverdale RiverFest is supported by a long list of community organizations (See below for the list of endorsing organizations and individuals.) The fifth annual Riverdale RiverFest was celebrated on June 15, 2014 and our waterfront celebration was attended by thousands of people from the local community. For the first time, Bronx residents believe they will have an opportunity to connect with the Hudson River – the Preferred Alternative opens up three miles of new access to the Hudson River. It will also connect the wonderful Hudson River Greenway in Manhattan with the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail (a State Park) through The Bronx, Yonkers and further upstate to Croton on the Hudson.

 

Now that the Plan for the GREENWAY LINK has been released we are planning to support a process for the consideration of legislation that is designed to implement the plan. In 1998 the New York State Legislature and Governor Pataki enacted The Hudson River Greenway Act to implement the plan for the Manhattan Hudson River Greenway (59th Street to Battery Park City – about five miles of waterfront), and to put in place a process and organization to mature the plan, and to operate the resulting Greenway. The local elected State Senators and Assembly Members proposed and the State Legislature and Governor enacted the State legislation to designate the project area as “Park” and to establish the Hudson River Park Trust to continue the planning, construction and operation of the park. This legislation has proved to be a strong and necessary foundation for the effort to create the park. It has resulted in the investment of $700 million to create the park, and produced tremendous economic and social value for the local community and the wider New York City community.

 

We believe it is appropriate to consider similar State legislation to create a legislative foundation for HUDSON RIVER GREENWAY LINK.