Friends and foes of paving put trail on trial


The city’s proposal to seal the abandoned Putnam Rail line with asphalt has positioned proponents of pavement against those seeking to preserve the dirt trail.

More than 80 people including bikers, runners, environmentalists and scientists with competing theories gathered Lehman College’s Lovinger Theatre Monday evening for what was likely the final public hearing on the Department of Parks and Recreation’s plan to create a 15-foot-wide trail along the now defunct Putnam Railway.

Though the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) organized the hearing to solicit feedback on Parks’ application for a permit allowing it to do construction near protected habitats, most speakers took the opportunity to voice their thoughts on Parks’ general plan for the path.

Because Putnam Trail falls within a 100-foot buffer of wetlands, the Parks Department sought a permit from the DEC permitting it to construct the 15-foot path from the southern end of the Park north to the Yonkers border. 

According to Jennifer Greenfeld, the deputy chief of forestry, horticulture and natural resources for the department, the path would consist of a three-foot earthen jogging path beside a 10-foot asphalt path and a two-foot buffer of planted vegetation. Ms. Greenfeld said Parks would use an extensive system to protect against erosion and other threats to the wetlands as well as replace 300 trees removed during construction with more than 400 saplings.

The testimony quickly disintegrated into name-calling between advocates of the Parks’ plan, who argue it is a comprise that accommodates everyone and will require less maintenance in the future, and those pushing for Parks to cover the railroad bed with stone-dust, who say it is better for the environment and allows the department to invest money in other projects. 

Within a few minutes, those from the stone-dust camp were accusing pro-pavers of seeking to destroy a bucolic environment to convenience commuters. Their opponents began suggesting the stone-dust supporters wanted to keep the trail rugged to limit the amount of visitors using the trail.

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