Gov. Phil Murphy announced the acquisition of a 9-mile stretch of former rail line Sept. 15, which will be converted into a new state park connecting eight communities across Essex and Hudson counties.
The effort to create a Greenway that will link Jersey City, Secaucus, Kearny, Newark, Belleville, Bloomfield, Glen Ridge and Montclair has been years in the making.
Murphy was joined in Newark for the announcement by a slew of lawmakers, leaders, advocates and stakeholders who say the communities will benefit from expanded access to green, open space, as well as increased transportation and recreation opportunities.
The $65 million purchase agreement for the project was extended in February. That investment marks New Jersey’s single largest conservation project ever and the largest transaction aimed at securing a non-motorized transportation corridor. As part of the recently passed budget, more than $20 million in federal American Rescue Plan dollars are being allocated to begin the remedial and structural work to transform the abandoned land into usable space. The entire line will be closed for an initial period of six to 12 months. From there, the area will open segment by segment as work is completed over the next few years.
“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 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.”
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn LaTourette said in this old, abandoned rail line, there is an opportunity to improve the quality of life, environment and economy of the region.
“The DEP is excited to continue the work of delivering a transformative Greenway that better connects our communities, provides innovative recreation and transit options, and contributes to the dynamic towns and cities all along its course,” said LaTourette.
A strategic master plan will be established to guide the development process of the Greenway. The NJDEP is spearheading the effort to hire a consultant to support the development of the master plan, along with leading an interagency working group and engagement with officials, community members and other stakeholders.
“For far too long our families have had to deal with the negative impact of an abandoned rail line. From illegal dumping to being an inviting space for negative activities, the rail line has tainted homeownership, backyards, new developments, new elementary schools and the first countywide park system in the country,” said Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz, D-29th District. “It is truly historic to see this project finally coming to fruition, which will bring an end to a decades long public nuisance.”
Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. said he is looking forward to creating this wonderful resource.
“The greenway has unlimited potential to enhance our quality of life, create new recreation opportunities and spur economic development,” said DiVincenzo, Jr.
“Growing up in Montclair, I valued the outdoors and developed the belief that all people benefit from having safe, recreational areas in close proximity,” said Essex County Commissioner Brendan Gill, a longtime advocate for the project. “The Essex-Hudson Greenway will connect people and connect communities. It will literally bring people together and allow residents from different communities to experience and understand that we are the same community.”
The Essex-Hudson Greenway Coalition – comprised of the Open Space Institute, 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 announcement.
“This acquisition by Gov. 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, president and CEO of the Open Space Institute, which secured the purchase agreement for the 135-acre former rail property and provided extensive transactional support for the acquisition. “OSI is proud to have played a role in bringing this transformative project to today’s announcement and looks forward to building on our public-private partnership and fulfilling the promise to create a word-class linear park that will greatly enhance local communities and be enjoyed for generations to come.”
“Today’s announcement of the acquisition of the land for the Greenway is a historic step on the path to transforming our region with equitable and safe active transportation options and much needed open space,” said said Debra Kagan, executive director, New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition.