The Open Space Institute and Local Partners Announce Purchase Agreement with Norfolk Southern to Create Northern New Jersey Greenway

July 31, 2020 |

Potential for linear park project includes healthier communities, local job creation, improved transportation options, environmental benefits

Northern New Jersey – July 31, 2020 – Open Space Institute today announced it has reached a preliminary purchase and sale agreement with Norfolk Southern Railway Company for property in Essex and Hudson Counties in Northern New Jersey. The agreement sets the stage for the creation of a nearly nine-mile transformational linear park that will provide new recreation opportunities for walkers, bikers, birders, and other nature lovers, while improving transportation options for area residents.

A long-held vision of all the communities along the route, the agreement marks an important initial step in the creation of the linear park. However, many steps lie ahead, including securing federal approval, environmental and engineering reviews, and financing. Looking ahead, community engagement and outreach will be key as the project progresses.

The New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition and the September 11th National Memorial Trail Alliance are key partners and major advocates in growing support for the greenway. Further, the Open Space Institute’s efforts to create the Essex-Hudson Greenway is being generously supported by the Thomas L. Kempner Jr. Foundation.

“After nearly two years of working directly with Norfolk Southern, we are very proud to announce this agreement,” said Kim Elliman, president and CEO of the Open Space Institute. “This agreement represents a once in a generation opportunity to acquire property that can become a working green space for the people of these communities. We look forward to the active input of regional leaders and their constituents to create a unique community resource that will best serve the residents of Hudson and Essex Counties.”

The linear park, currently titled the Essex-Hudson Greenway Project, will span Jersey City, Secaucus, Kearny, Newark, Belleville, Bloomfield, Glen Ridge, and Montclair.

Spanning an average of 100 feet or more in width throughout its route, an Essex-Hudson Greenway has the potential to offer significant benefits, especially in light of the current health and fiscal crises. The Open Space Institute and its partners have already begun investing in planning, surveying, environmental assessments, and more. The project will support job growth in the community. This preliminary work is supporting a number of jobs to bring the planning and acquisition to fruition and will lead to hundreds more jobs in construction. The nature of the greenway project also offers the potential to support new and existing businesses throughout the length of the linear park, as well as community improvements such as internet access, stormwater solutions, and emergency response.

“This linear park has been a working project for our organization since 2014 and we offer our thanks to the many partners over the years who have all helped make this announcement and substantial step possible,” said Debra Kagan, Executive Director of the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition. “While this is only the first step of many, we are excited to continue working with the Open Space Institute, our supporters, and the communities to ensure that this project becomes a fully functional greenway for those along its route.”

“The Essex-Hudson Greenway is an important environmental and economic asset and is a true treasure,” said Thomas Baxter, President of the September 11th National Memorial Trail Alliance. “The project is a game changer for the region and a significant piece of the September 11th National Memorial Trail. We are very pleased to be partnering in this project that has both local and national significance.”

Norfolk Southern Railway Company, based in Atlanta, GA, recently initiated the process of filing for formal federal approval to sell the property. This process will facilitate the transformation of the property into the linear park and will involve continued cooperation between Norfolk Southern and the Open Space Institute. Residents of communities all along the property have been campaigning for a linear park that would serve as a “shared-use path” for people walking, riding a bicycle, running, rolling, or just relaxing. Groups including the Bloomfield Open Space Trust Fund, the Friends of the Ice & Iron Trail, and groups in North Newark, Jersey City, and Hoboken have long advocated for the greenway.

In addition to its economic benefits, the creation of a new Essex-Hudson Greenway offers a range of other environmental, transportation, and health benefits – especially as the public turns to local access to green space. The project offers potential to reduce traffic and storm water runoff in towns along the rail line, improve transportation options for residents, and allow for improved infrastructure connectivity for things like broadband and emergency response.

About Open Space Institute

Founded more than four decades ago, the Open Space Institute (OSI) has partnered in the protection of 2.3 million acres across eastern North America from Quebec to Florida. Over the past 16 years, OSI has worked to protect more than 21,000 acres of New Jersey farms, forests, and local parkland within the Highlands, the Pinelands, the Bayshore, and the heavily developed northeastern suburbs. In addition to the Essex Hudson Greenway, OSI’s current projects include efforts to help protect land and improve water quality in the Delaware River Basin and provide public access to the 1,200-acre Jersey City Reservoir in Boonton and Parsippany.

About New Jersey Bike and Walk Coalition

The New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition (NJBWC) is the only statewide advocacy organization for bicyclists and pedestrians and provides a collective voice for everyone who believes that a more rideable and walkable New Jersey means a more livable, equitable, and sustainable New Jersey. NJBWC officially adopted the Essex Hudson Greenway Project in 2014 and has been a leader in building the advocacy campaign to make it a reality.

About the September 11th National Memorial Trail Alliance

The September 11th National Memorial Trail is a 1,300-mile system of trails and roadways that links the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York, the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial in Arlington, Virginia, and the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The route serves as a symbol of national resiliency and character and as a tribute to the fallen heroes who perished on September 11, 2001, and the many heroes who have committed themselves to the response for their country.