After years of waiting, CSX begins Putnam Line cleanup

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Bulldozers, jackhammers and cranes are officially in full effect underneath the Major Deegan Expressway on the Old Putnam Line as contractors work to clean up a hotly negotiated-for strip of land. 

A little more than three months after promising to clean up a mile-long stretch that used to be part of the Putnam Railroad, CSX Corp. — one of the nation’s largest freight rail companies — has started work clearing the site. 

The overgrown brush and trees — beset at various points by years worth of graffiti — covers the tracks of the Old Putnam Line, which has not been used commercially since the 1980s. 

The cause for the delay, according to a CSX representative, was getting permission from adjacent property owners to allow CSX access to the largely isolated parcel through their properties. 

The cleanup is part of a a nearly decades long negotiation process between CSX and the city’s parks department, which wants to convert the land into a greenway that would connect Van Cortlandt Park to the Broadway business district between West 238th and 230th streets.

Although talks had been stalled for years after the parks department balked at CSX’s $10 million asking price, negotiations reopened in March when the railroad promised it would clean up the land to at least make it less of an eyesore for passersby. 

Earlier this summer, CSX agreed to order an independent appraisal of the land, using the value determined there as a new starting point for negotiations between the railroad and the city. 

The parks department originally allocated $2 million for the land in 2010. 

The cleanup itself — or lack thereof — won’t affect the appraiser’s valuation, however. Appraisers typically take into account changes like massive cleanups, even if they haven’t been completed yet, officials said. 

If a deal to finally transfer the land is close, neither side is talking. 

However, there has been some unverified chatter that a purchase agreement has been reached. CSX, however, has declined to comment on the status of the negotiation. 

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