As the past executive director of New Yorkers for Parks, nothing would make me happier than a public path along the Hudson River in the Bronx. However, having followed the back and forth about the competing plans for the past year and learning recently that Community Board (CB) 8 has created a special committee dedicated to this issue, I feel compelled to write to you as someone who lives right above the railroad tracks in Spuyten Duyvil to make sure you are operating with all the facts, because I don’t believe reality squares with the renderings put forth by proponents of the “Greenway Link” alternative to NYMTC’s proposal.
Supporters of the “Greenway Link” often refer to the unused track and excess land between the active tracks and the river at Riverdale Station, and their renderings show a generous swath of land that easily accommodates a bikeway and pedestrian path at a safe distance from the trains.
However, this is not the case south of that station. There is no unused track there: the westernmost track carries Amtrak trains to and from Penn Station. And the land to the west of that track is a narrow strip wide enough for a gravel path that MTA service trucks use, but not wide enough to allow for a safe buffer between trains and the biking/walking public that would use a waterfront path.
I have heard it posited that perhaps this strip could be widened by building on fill or cantilevering over the water, but anyone familiar with the history of Westway knows this is a fool’s errand.
Furthermore, even if the engineering obstacles could be overcome and the environmental impacts could be mitigated, the impracticality and prohibitive expense of linking the Bronx greenway to the Manhattan greenway via the existing or a new swing bridge is reason unto itself to reject this plan when a viable and much more affordable alternative exists. Again, even holding aside engineering and environmental challenges, the cost implications would ensure this project gets tabled once again for another generation.
What’s more, I’m not confident it’s even desirable to have a public path on a swing bridge in this location. As someone who often watches that bridge from my balcony, I can attest to the fact that it opens quite regularly to accommodate watercraft, especially in the summer months, when the greenway would be most heavily used.
There are many elements of the NYMTC plan under attack, and I’ve just focused on the segment where I feel the criticism is most unjustified, but what I would say about the overall plan — both its route and its phasing — is that it is well-thought out, it’s feasible, and it’s feasible in the here and now. It would be tragic to squander the opportunity to finally get this project started by continued infighting. If we as a community cannot rally around a plan that is both good and doable, we deserve the status quo that will result.
Palisades Avenue resident Holly Leicht sent this letter to Community Board 8’s Special Committee on the Greenway. Point of view is a column open to all.