June 2013 Vote by Community Board Keeps Putnam Line in Discussion
The NYC Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) is designing a greenway along the old Putnam Rail line in the Bronx, which will ultimately link with segments of the old Putnam Rail Line in Westchester and Manhattan.
The Parks Committee of Bronx Community Board 8 held a final public hearing on the Putnam Line on June 22, 2013. The Committee voted 3-2 in favor of the design proposed by the DPR, but there were two abstentions, so voting rules dictated that the motion fail.
Putnam Line Going Forward in Three Phases
The DPR is working on three separate segments of the Putnam Rail Line:
The northern section of the trail runs through Van Cortlandt Park. Design for this section is nearing final approval, and construction has been fully funded.
The 0.7-mile section south of Van Cortlandt Park to West 230th Street is owned by CSX. The DPR will negotiate with CSX to purchase this section. Partial funding for the acquisition has been budgeted from funds allotted from the building of the Croton Filtration Plant and from an Environmental Protection Fund grant award by the State in 2008. Access ramps are proposed at West 230th Street, West 234th Street, and West 238th Street.
The section of the old rail below West 230th Street will be addressed at a future date.
Selection of Surface Materials
The community continues to debate the merits of pavement versus stone dust or a more natural surface for the bikeway. The Putnam line through Van Cortlandt Park is currently hard-packed dirt. The trail is used by community members for a variety of purposes including running, dog walking, birding, environmental education, strolling, photography and bicycling.
The DPR proposes an asphalt path for bicycles flanked on either side by unpaved pedestrian trails. The paved bicycle path will link to the paved Putnam Line greenway in Westchester. Some trail users are advocating for stone dust as a more desirable surface material for the entire width of the trail.
The board of directors of the Riverdale Nature Preservancy has decided not to take a formal position on the trail surface materials at this time. A number of members of the board share the views of the stone dust advocates. Others on the board are equally passionate about the accommodation the paving will provide for those using bikes and wheelchairs.
An unused portion of the Putnam Division of the New York Central Railroad runs through Van Cortlandt Park and southward along the west side of the Major Deegan Expressway. Referred to as the old Putnam Rail Line, this abandoned corridor provides an excellent opportunity for development as a recreational hiker-biker trail. The Putnam Rail Line in Westchester has already been developed as a paved greenway. The segment south of Van Cortlandt Park has the potential to connect to Manhattan trails
This trail would provide needed recreational facilities to Bronx neighborhoods that are presently underserved. It would intersect with local roads, providing access to communities and to on-road bike routes. It will also be a major segment of a much longer continuous trail stretching from Dutchess County to Manhattan, and it will connect with other trails and new recreational facilities in the Bronx.
Remapping to parkland – In 2010, the DPR sought approval from the City to map 2.5 miles of the Putnam Line, from the Westchester border through Van Cortlandt Park to West 230th Street, as parkland, for the development of a bicycle and pedestrian greenway. Remapping required DPR to follow the ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) process. The remapping was approved by the City Planning Commission on January 5, 2011.
(To learn more about ULURP, see the Department of City Planning website.)
Property ownership – In 2008, the NYC Dept. of Parks and Recreation (DPR) determined that the segment of the Putnam Line within Van Cortlandt Park is owned by New York City.
Community hearing on Broadway development – On February 22, 2005, Bronx Community Board 8 held a public informational meeting on the Broadway development proposals. The Preservancy wrote to the Community Board opposing development and stating the organization’s belief that any development along the Putnam Line should consider and facilitate future development of a recreational trail along the corridor.
Broadway development – In 2004, the New York City Economic Development Corporation requested proposals for development of a large parcel north of West 230th Street between Broadway and the Putnam Line. One of the proposals included acquisition of a portion of the Putnam Line. Development of this portion would cut off a large segment of the rail corridor from public access and destroy the possibility of creating a continuous recreational trail through the corridor.
Early community support – In its October 1998 Report, the Bronx Advisory Committee to the Hudson River Valley Greenway considered a trail along the portion of the Putnam Line from the Westchester border to just south of West 225th Street. The report supported “a multi-use path along the Putnam Rail…” and recommended “that NYC Department of Parks and Recreation initiate a full study in cooperation with NYC Department of Environmental Protection” (DEP). The DEP was considering restoring Tibbetts Brook, which now runs out of Van Cortlandt Lake into the Broadway sewer, back to a surface stream, as part of its effort to reduce combined sewer overflows.