Despite several reservations Kearny’s mayor and residents, the State of New Jersey will purchase nearly nine miles of former railway — spanning two counties and eight municipalities — in one of the most highly populated regions of north Jersey.
Under a framework announced last week by Gov. Philip D. Murphy, the state will purchase the 135-acre property. The Essex-Hudson Greenway Coalition — comprised of the Open Space Institute, the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition and the September 11th National Memorial Trail Alliance — has been advocating for the project, which will create a green space solution that will provide walkers, runners, cyclists, hikers and others with a linear park and multi-use trail connecting Montclair, Glen Ridge, Bloomfield, Belleville, Newark, Kearny, Secaucus and Jersey City.
“Today’s announcement by the State of New Jersey completes the first major step in making this greenway a reality. We commend Gov. Murphy, all the local leaders and elected officials who recognized the extraordinary potential of the greenway and our coalition partners — New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition and the September 11th National Memorial Trail Alliance – who have been key partners in growing support for the Greenway,” Kim Elliman, president and CEO of the Open Space Institute, said.
The land purchase will cost the state $65 million.
In July 2020, the Open Space Institute (OSI) reached a preliminary purchase and sale agreement with Norfolk Southern Railway for the property in Essex and Hudson counties.
The proposed greenway will follow the right-of-way of the eastern portion of NJ Transit’s former Boonton Line. Passenger service was discontinued on this portion of the line in 2002. Following termination the commuter service, limited freight service continued until the last rail customer ceased operations in 2015. The greenway will span an average of 100 feet.
The governor, meanwhile, was in Bloomfield Friday, Nov. 12, to make the grand announcement. His words weren’t exactly music to the ears of Kearny Mayor Alberto G. Santos, though it appears most other communities are staunchly in favor of the trail.
“This project has been years in the making, and I am proud to be the Governor to advance this dream to being a reality,” Murphy, whose office gave Santos a little more than 24 hours’ notice of his Bloomfield press conference to announce the funding, said. “This new park will be a crown jewel of our state park system, providing much-needed recreational space to New Jerseyans and out-of-state visitors, while revitalizing and protecting environmentally sensitive areas.
“Residents of our state’s two largest cities, and the suburbs beyond and in-between will benefit from access to a multi-use trail, and the natural beauty of the Meadowlands. I am grateful for our partners across government including in the legislature, Essex and Hudson counties and our federal delegation for their efforts in support of this project.”
Speaking of the feds, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-9, is also quite in favor of the project.
“The pandemic has proven the value of open space,” Pascrell, who represent most of Kearny, said. “Thanks to money passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden, the greenway can be a stunning park for our North Jersey communities in one of the most densely populated areas in America. I am excited American Rescue Plan funds are being used to improve, expand and contribute to public spaces. Gov. Murphy’s commitment to open spaces will be life-changing for our state. I look forward to continued investments in our communities.”
What Murphy, Pascrell et al have not yet addressed, however, is whom, once the greenway is open to the public, will be responsible for keeping it and those who use it secure. Will individual municipalities be responsible? State police? County law enforcement?
It’s one of the biggest reasons why Santos has not offered support for the project.
“While the state has agreed to purchase the rail line, they have not presented a plan to address key elements such as environmental cleanup or reconstruction of the Passaic and Hackensack River bridges. More importantly for Kearny’s residents is how the state will provide maintenance and security along the line starting on day one of ownership. There are many, many details that need to be filled in. As the planning process unfolds, I hope the state will have a transparent and open dialogue with the town’s residents.”
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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.