Officials Urge Action As Concern Grows About Essex-Hudson Greenway Project

Montclair, NJ – A once in a lifetime opportunity to create 135 acres of green space and a multi use trail for eight municipalities – Montclair, Glen Ridge, Bloomfield, Belleville, Newark, Kearny, Secaucus and Jersey City – may be in jeopardy. Officials are urging action on the Essex-Hudson Greenway project and expressing concern that the opportunity could be lost, if the state does not support the project in time.

Montclair Mayor Sean Spiller expressed concern Saturday about the project and the need to move it forward.

“Forward thinking investments in transportation infrastructure, green space preservation, and small business economic supports, have been pivotal in establishing Montclair as one of the premier cosmopolitan suburbs in New Jersey and in the nation. As we see discussions at the federal and state level for record investments in infrastructure and in redefining our infrastructure priorities, we cannot let this opportunity to slip by,” says Spiller. “I urge those at the county and state level to recommit to this project. As Mayor, I stand ready to work with residents, stakeholders, activists, and governing partners to make this project a reality.”

Last week, Montclair Councilor At Large Peter Yacobellis called on Gov. Phil Murphy to support the Essex-Hudson Greenway Project.

“Without quick action on your part, I believe Norfolk Southern will run down the clock of this current agreement, and then swiftly move to sell the line in pieces. Indeed, it is my understanding that there are already offers on the table,” Yacobellis wrote, urging Murphy to take action.

The project has also received support from other elected officials including New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver, United States Representative Mikie Sherrill, Essex County Commissioner Brendan Gill, Bloomfield Mayor Michael Venezia and Glen Ridge Mayor Stuart Patrick.

Make your voice heard to support the Essex-Hudson Greenway Project by sending a letter here.

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13 COMMENTS

  1. I’m not as bright as all the supporters, both in-State and out of State, but I am more knowledgable than many. So, 4 questions:

    1) What do you think the master transportation plan objectives are for the Secaucus Junction is? Guess if you must.
    2) Why an urban greenway where there are no residents?
    3) Do you ever wonder what the NJ Sports & Exhibition Authority thinks? Do your know what they do? Don’t ask them. That would be just too logical and intelligent. Actually, didn’t they approve that thing-a-magig theme park/mall/etc.?
    4) When you are on the phone with Governor Murphy, ask him where his team is on requesting that Superfund designation (& funds) for the Hackensack River?

    Then let’s talk. Keep $18MM/mile in the back of your mind while we works through the above.
    By NJ $ expenditures, this is not a one-in-a-lifetime event. We pretty much do a handful of these every single year. It’s what we do.

  2. PS: FWIW, the rendering above? The perspective is from the trail’s buffer stop or bumper. In the other words, the rendering shows the entire Montclair section of the trail as the OSI envisions it. That it. $18MM a mile’s worth. A amazing opportunity at gentrification lost. Just terrible.

    And then we will still have the conversation about why NJ is one of the most expensive States to live in. And you never connected any dots to Montclair’s role?

  3. While NJBWC/OSI & members of our Council are off in their own, pixie-dusted little world, we miss the forest for the trees.

    The grown-ups continue to develop the Meadowlands. Our own contaminated version of Singapore… with the minimal amount of NJ-DEP site remediation.

    I think the plans are gorgeous…apparently a few politicians agree with me. We’ll all get our packages and perishables faster. Maybe a connection with NJTPK? One can hope.

    https://www.hilcoredev.com/projects/hrp-hudson-logistics-park

    See that tiny, tiny tandem-rig driving down the old Boonton Line Row? Call the Governor! Call the Governor!

  4. It would take elements of how Jersey City protects it watered: monitoring, fencing and lighting. It would have to be 24/7/365 coverage. It has to be lit anyway because of the early morning/evening commuters. It would be pedestrian scale lighting. First responders would be mostly municipal because of repose times. County patrol coverage is a problem, particularly in Hudson County Major maintenance would hit the Counties budgets. Litter & beautification would be municipal. Insufficient security is a deal-breaker for Kearny. They remember how they were doubly-screwed in the ’90s. First, the 10,000 radium drums from Glen Ridge & Montclair were stored in Kearny until they started to rust. Second, they lost train service when the Montclair Connection was finished. Our housing prices up. Their housing prices down. They want a light rail to Secaucus Junction. It actually makes a lot of sense. I think they also want to know when “the partnership thing”, the one people keep mentioning, was consummated. They weren’t invited to the gatherings. Oh well.

    PS: that $90 is just a guesstimate of the basic construction costs. Ask them about the test borings. The engineering report.

  5. And one of those “complicated” things is a term you will hear more of – railbanking.
    A fantastic term. Not complicated. It is actually a simple concept.

    I’m looking forward to the discussion of SCO’s (another complication) and the environmental workarounds.

  6. My typing/proofing is worsening…and my spellchecker is constantly screwing with me.

    Watered s/b watershed.

    $90 s/b $90MM.

  7. Frank, So to recap: Construction cost can go from astronomical on upwards. Maintenance and security will be a drain on county and municipal budgets. Usage will most likely be limited. Well, that sounds like a NJ politician’s dream and a taxpayer’s nightmare. Full speed ahead!!!

  8. While the $155MM of encumbered RTF funding is due to be wiped from the books this month, the purchase agreement doesn’t lapse for another 6 months. How to use that time?

    Well, NJ’s Home Rule legalities and it’s land use law can be friendly instruments in our tool kit. Specifically, zone plans and master plans. And every bit of these remaining 6 months will be needed. This short time will be too much for some municipalities to overcome, but it only takes one of the middle land use authorities “partners” to change the game so to speak.

    Of course, it can only be a positive if real partnerships exist.

  9. flipside,

    It will not be cheap, but also I think the reality will be less than the vision. In fairness, it hinges on economic development revenues – which will not be quantified and how much development the various jurisdictions want.
    Developing a light rail line option on any segment is outside the funding scope. It will have to be part of the infrastructure master plan to distribute transit connection capacity out of Penn Station; and we are committed to the Secaucus Transfer strategy.

    It would help to breakdown the parts and review by the four defined buckets: environmental, recreational, transportation and commerce…from each town’s perspective. And the trail doesn’t have to be uniform in uses. E.g. transportation. The shared bike/pedestrian path could run from Montclair to the Passaic River. The Kearny/Secaucus segment could be light rail. Jersey City could opt for commerce and incorporate its segment into a Redevelopment Plan. The respective current terminuses are not critical.

    The stormwater SCO part is a concern for me. First, it is significant stand-alone problem arising from existing development – and this will create more contiguous development. Second, the SW solutions offered are conceptual and don’t address new development. Third, chunks of the RoW are built on historic fill. FYI, historic fill is fill that is not indigenous to the area. While the sides of the railbeds may be overgrown, the rail beds themselves are surprisingly free of vegetation after all these years. The few freight trains using segments of the lines stopped around 2009. Many renderings show retaining the existing tracks. A hint. Yes, we can cap, but the plan is to excavate for SCO’s and utilities. Unlike a home purchase where hidden oil tanks have to be removed before any sale, this purchase is “As Is”. So, environmentally, the upside is minimal and the liability is unknown. Recreational use will be mostly hyperlocal. Lastly, transportation. Speed is critical factor. By law, we will have to allow electric bikes. We can set a 18-24 mph limit on the equipment, but their behavior will be as commuters. Are we really going to mix these users with a family with stroller or a couple fo seniors engrossed in conversation as they get their walk in?

  10. What was edited out of the Montclair presentation were the 4 types of topographies. The RoW widths, excluding the chokepoints created by the bridges, range from 91’ wide to up to 180’ wide in some parcels. These typographies fall into 4 groupings. I describe them as The Gullies (e.g. Montclair), The Levees (e.g Bloomfield), The Flatlands and The Berms (e.g. the Meadowlands).

    Except for the Flatlands, the maximum available level ground to allocate oscillates between 31’ to 60’ wide. Overall, very workable space. However, the base design calls for a build-out of only a 16’ wide shared, impervious path. Any separation of users (e.g. a 2-way bike path) will require more impervious surfaces. Further, illumination requirements for a transportation use is typically greater than for a pedestrian use.

    Again, this was all stuff we were told 90 days ago it was too early to address and we could work all this out later. The immediate goal was to acquire the land for $65MM. As a famous Montclair resident said, “It sure gets late early around here”.