Environmental groups seek to clear path for Tibbetts Brook daylighting project

Bronx Council for Environmental Quality representatives are finding MTA easement a very giant, very thick mess


Members of the Bronx Council for Environmental Quality and the Harlem River Working Group are learning about the politics of what it will take to get the Tibbetts Brook daylighting/Putnam greenway extension completed.

Just last week a group of about 20 people, many of whom are part of the two organizations, took a tour of the Metro-North right of way on one of the hottest days of the summer. The Sept. 7 tour began at West 230th Street at the Major Deegan Expressway and ended up at the West 225th Street overpass after passing through Bailey Avenue.

The reason for the walk was to identify the property’s use and alternative potential to create an important connection to the Harlem River Greenway and extend the Empire State Trail. As far as the greenway extension, not getting the easement will literally block the extension.

“Part of the reason for the walk was to show that we could get out to where the mall is off the Major Deegan,” said Karen Argenti, a board member of the council who was joined by council members Chauncy Young and Robert Fanuzzi.. “What we discovered is you wind up on Broadway.

“That crosswalk on Broadway. If you want to get to Bailey Avenue, you have to cross there and come back. It’s very dangerous.”

Then they discovered yet another problem.

“They (Metro-North) are putting garbage bins there now,” Argemto said. “Jodie Colon (formerly of the New York Botanical Garden) told us what they were doing with a transfer station.”

From what the group of walkers could ascertain, Metro-North is planning to use the right of way for a transfer station.

“It’s Metro-North’s garbage that comes from the metro area,” Argenti said. “Some of it comes from Long Island. It’s Long Island garbage. It’s not Bronx garbage.”

What Jodie and Young noticed two days before the Sept. 7 tour was that land that is supposed to be used to unite the renovated Tibbetts Brook property was quite overgrown and showed no evidence of being used by Metro-North.

“They wanted to leave a cleaned-up area for the elected officials to see when they visit the site and not an abandoned property,” said Young, who took the Sept. 5 photos that showed the overgrowth. “In both photos (before and after Sept. 5), you can see the abandoned rail car with plant life in and around it.”

MTA representatives could not be reached for comment.

The Tibbetts Brook project is due to break ground in Winter 2025 if all approvals and easements are granted.

Besides the Metro-North easement, all that stands in the way for the daylighting/greenway expansion are approvals by the MTA to issue a uniform land use review procedure, or ULURP, and the STB’s approval of the interim trail use. The ULURP is necessary because engineers working on the daylighting would need access to water pipes on the Bronx North Yard owned by the MTA.

According to the project’s timeline, the ULURP certification is expected by September and the STB’s decision by August 2024. The STB has already approved the abandonment request by CSX, which has been effective since May 31, as posted in the Federal Register.

The state quasi-public authority may force a lengthy public review process before giving up access to its right-of-way south of West 225th Street.

The daylighting cannot proceed without an easement for a six-foot conduit passing below Metro-North’s operational tracks, said assistant commissioner of environmental protection Pinar Balci in the April 24 virtual meeting of the Tibbetts Advisory Group.

The Bronx environmental council is preparing for a meeting with the MTA to discuss a possible solution for a compromise on granting the easement so the trail can be extended, Argenti wrote in an email before the tour.

Bronx Council for Environmental Quality, Tibbetts Brook, daylighting, Putnam greenway, Metro-North, MTA, transfer station, Major Deegan Expressway, CSX