Advocates blindsided by plan to move Greenway

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In the past year, the Hudson River Greenway initiative in Riverdale has made significant progress. 

Not only did state Sen. Jeff Klein allocate funding for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to conduct a study of how much it would cost to construct a greenway, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo even proposed a $200 million expenditure to build a 756-mile “Empire State Trail” from Manhattan to Albany.

Cuomo’s proposal even called specifically for the completion of the Hudson River Greenway project, extending the existing greenway in Manhattan into Riverdale.  

“When we heard that we were ready to pop a bottle of champagne, in fact I think we did,” Cliff Stanton, who has led greenway efforts in KRVC since 2014, said at a meeting of greenway advocates Monday night.

But those feelings of success and optimism were quickly stymied in a meeting a few weeks after Cuomo’s original speech when a representative from the governor’s office along with state parks commissioner Rose Harvey informed some KRVC members the plan for the Empire State Trail would not, in fact, include a greenway on the Hudson River. Instead, it would travel across the Broadway Bridge, connecting with the Putnam Trail in Van Cortlandt Park. 

“In terms of expense and in terms of lift and in terms of price, it is much easier than the Hudson River Greenway,” Stanton said, adding the plan is “a far cry from what we conceived.”

Stanton, though, told the 21 residents and advocates at the meeting “not to hang their heads,” but instead to redouble community efforts to fight for the greenway. 

“Now more than ever it is imperative that we muscle up and we let it be known that we are happy for the Empire State Trail, but Riverdale is still left holding the bag,” he said. “There is still a real demand for waterfront access.”

Stanton opened the rest of the meeting to comments from the supporters on how to continue gaining momentum in pushing forward with greenway plans, despite the governor’s Empire State plan. 

“My mantra is that the Hudson River Greenway as we conceive it is going to happen, not this nonsense down the hill,” he said. “There are a lot of people who are really invested in this project … I think it’s time we coordinate our efforts now more than ever.”

Bob Bender, the Community Board 8’s Parks and Recreation Committee chair, also encouraged greenway supporters to attend an April 6 special committee meeting in which MTA officials are expected to give an update on their study to determine the cost of the greenway. 

“Whatever comes out of this meeting, the MTA is not going to say that building this greenway is going to be a cakewalk,” he said. “We need the community to make it clear that we really want this greenway.” 

Bender also said the plan presented to members of KRVC by Harvey and the governor’s staff poorly was planned, and had not taken any community concerns into account. 

“Not only have they not consulted the community, they don’t even know what it is that they’re proposing,” he said. “We don’t have the clout to argue with the MTA.”

Karl Appuhn, a Riverdale resident and history professor at New York University, thinks MTA’s longtime reluctance to build the greenway is, to put it bluntly, insane.

“I understand the MTA’s argument is that they just don’t want to change anything but the argument is ludicrous,” he said. 

Appuhn added that as a result of changing weather patterns and the proximity of MTA train tracks to the river, the state authority would eventually have to construct some sort of embankment where a greenway would be, regardless of community efforts. 

“They’re going to have to build an embankment there sooner or later,” Appuhn said. “And sooner is better and cheaper.”  

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