Fulop, Baraka & Gill: This dream of an Essex-Hudson Greenway is slipping away | Opinion

Posted Jul 15, 2021

The Essex-Hudson Greenway is a planned 100-foot-wide, nearly nine-mile-long open space trail connecting Jersey City to Montclair. It would pass through Montclair, Glen Ridge, Bloomfield, Belleville, Newark, Kearny, Secaucus and Jersey City.
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For decades, local leaders and members of the Northern New Jersey community have been championing the creation of a linear park greenway that would connect neighborhoods, expand greenspace, strengthen local businesses, offer new recreational space to underserved communities and provide much-needed transportation alternatives.

The Essex-Hudson Greenway – which upon completion will be a 100-foot-wide, nearly nine-mile-long open space trail connecting Jersey City to Montclair and passing through Montclair, Glen Ridge, Bloomfield, Belleville, Newark, Kearny, Secaucus and Jersey City — will provide all of the aforementioned benefits. In addition to connecting neighboring communities with business districts, parks and places of employment, the presence of the Greenway will add tangible value to the homes and the local economy in the communities along its path.

Elected officials and local leaders have stressed the importance of this project, saying it will enhance city life, support urban and suburban communities and build connections to nature and the outdoors. It will also strengthen business corridors and drive local economic development along the new linear park. Additionally, it has been established that property values of homes located near greenways often rise by 5% to 15%, which would provide another added benefit for both homeowners and the local tax base.

Furthermore, in accordance with President Biden’s emphasis on the need for infrastructure improvements across the country as we “Build Back Better,” the Essex-Hudson Greenway will serve as a model for future infrastructure initiatives nationwide by demonstrating the positive effects that large-scale environmentally friendly transportation projects can have on our community.

Today, we are closer than ever to realizing this goal but this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is fleeting. The Open Space Institute has secured a deal on the purchase price for the former Boonton Line, the land the Greenway would be built on. However, if prompt action is not taken by our leaders in government to secure the financing for the purchase and construction of the Greenway, the window to purchase the land will expire. Norfolk Southern Rail Line will then be free to sell off sections of the property for development, which will permanently end the dream of a continuous greenway for the people of Essex and Hudson counties.

Still, there is hope. Last week, Gov. Phil Murphy publicly expressed support for the project. This is welcome news indeed, and the governor’s influence is critical. The depth of this project is complex and demanding. These challenges notwithstanding, the payoff for the people of northern New Jersey will be extraordinary, and the opportunity for Governor Murphy — and the state of New Jersey — to lead in the creation of this legacy project will be far-reaching and historic.

Rebuilding our economy, improving access to the outdoors for all, promoting green solutions to address pollution and take on climate change, and providing safe, recreational areas to underserved communities that large infrastructure projects have traditionally victimized are all examples of significant, meaningful long-term benefits that enhance the legacies of our leaders in government.

The public has been very supportive of the Essex-Hudson Greenway. Local businesses, environmental leaders, civic groups, religious organizations, library associations, public health and park supporters, mayors and other elected officials who represent communities along the line have all rallied around the need to bring this project to fruition.

The support is there. The economic, recreational, and environmental benefits are real, and the time is now. We urge the Murphy administration to join us in making the dream of the Essex-Hudson Greenway a reality.

Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop is the mayor of Jersey City. Ras Baraka is the mayor of Newark. Brendan Gill is a commissioner at-large on the Essex County Board of County Commissioners.

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-07-16 02:54:53 -0700