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The Greenway Update

The most exciting current environmental project in New Jersey is The Greenway and Jacoba Coes of our Environmental Committee has been attending most of these early meetings., The Greenway is an approximately nine-mile, 100-foot-wide former rail line spanning Essex and Hudson Counties through eight municipalities ― Montclair, Glen Ridge, Bloomfield, Belleville, Newark, Kearny, Secaucus, and Jersey City. The NJ Department of Environmental Protection is undertaking the conversion of this blighted corridor into a thriving park with recreation and transportation amenities. As Jacoba explains below these images from The Greenway's website, the first couple of years will be taken up by the remediation of these rusty old train tracks before the exciting work of creating a nine-mile park where none existed before can begin.


We are privileged to be part of this giant project in its early stages, and grateful to Jacoba for her fascinating descriptions of how such a project is created.



From Jacoba Coes

The meeting on the 14th March was informative. It was focused on updating people in the areas that will be part of the first sections being constructed.

 

I touched base with the consultants. Volunteer involvement will not start until 2025, as all the work currently is remediation, clean up, soil preparation etc. Our organization's interest and my contact information is noted and on file!

 

The room was set up with displays relating to the 4 identified needs ― relax, gather, play and connect.  Each display provided opportunities to leave input via commenting on a post-it note or ranking the importance of various features. The displays include comments from participants and are continuously updated.  I've attached pictures for you below of three of the displays (click on each for full-size version). 

 

The meeting was kicked off by Susannah Ross , Director/Landscape Architect, Agency Landscape + Planning.  She introduced Allen Penniman, an Urban Planner with them and then turned the meeting over to state/local officials.

 

State Senator Ruiz and Newark Councilman Ramos spoke about the importance of the Greenway, that creating this space as a park will improve the safety of the space, their work in driving the project funding and the importance of community engagement.  Shawn LaTourette, DEP commissioner provided additional color and discussed state police presence, and improved safety as well. 

 

Senator Ruiz said she is currently advocating for the Greenway to include Light Rail between Montclair to Jersey City providing access to the high quality open space and bringing people together.  She said there is space for this connection in addition to all the other amenities but that if it comes to pass it would be a final phase.  The audience greated that news enthusiastically.

 

Susannah Ross then laid out the remainder of the agenda 

  • Overview of the project area scope

  • Opportunity for the local community to ask questions of the consultants and officials

  • Request that residents make their opinions and ideas known so that they could be taken into account.


Allen Penniman took us through the following points about the work being conducted before the meeting broke up into the survey portion. 

  • What was collected and considered in design

  • Survey workshops conducted in 2023

  • On line survey in 2023 which by the way continues to collect data

  • Discussions with municipal and local business leaders

  • Complete sampling of all 9 miles of Greenway

  • Determination of which sections will be built based upon greatest ease and providing the highest impact to their communities ― this lead to Newark and Kearny sections. Newark also provides the potential to link with Branch Brook Park.

  • Sections constitute 1.9 miles

  • Design considerations include leaning into the history of the area, alluding to  the rail line history and industrial use such as ice shipment in the design.

  • Items that were brought up as particularly important to the Newark area

  • Community Gardening

  • Water play and outdoor gym equipment

  • Connection between communities without using a car

  • Some concept sketches were displayed and included 

  • scenic overlooks by Branch Brook Park

  • community hubs for gathering ― perhaps a small venue for performances


Hope this information is helpful to you.  Personally I am continuously inspired by the work that is being done, the inclusivity, and the vision for the Greenway's impact. I was surprised to see one of my comments show up, but happy to see that accessibility is front and center for others as well. 

 

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Jacoba Coes




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3 Comments


Thanks Jacoba for keeping us up to date on this wonderful project!

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This is tremendously exciting to read about — we've long been hoping this project would get off the ground, and now that seems imminent! Thank you, Jacoba, for helping move things along! Sign me up for 2025 volunteering on this!

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Good work, Jacoba. Thanks for keeping GCM informed about this wonderful project.

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