Runners, cyclists, weekend warriors and others craving a greenway for the Bronx can celebrate an important step in what’s been a drawn-out battle to make the trail come true — it’s feasible. At least according to the final report from a comprehensive Metro-North study.
Now, the outdoors-inclined just need to come up with a million dollars or so to fund the next step: an engineering study.
The last time Community Board 8 member Bob Bender’s special greenway committee met was almost a year ago, ahead of Metro-North’s final report last March. Since then, Bender put together a group that pored over the formidable document, met with the transit group, and sought answers to a number of lingering questions.
“At that point, they said they didn’t want to come back for another public meeting,” Bender said.
“I would prefer they did.”
But the main takeaway, Bender said, is the study demonstrated that building the greenway is possible.
“Metro-North signed off on this,” he said. “It can be done.”
The report details various safety and emergency access concerns, as well as trail user access, sea level rise, storm surge, and flooding considerations. It also looks at a number of regulatory programs and permits that would apply to such a project.
It also delves into various access points of the roughly three-mile trail, including at Spuyten Duyvil station, another at West 254th Street, and a third at the Ludlow station.
“It would be nice to have more than those three access points,” Bender said. Other possibilities include West 261st Street, where the College of Mount Saint Vincent is, as well as at Palisade Avenue by the Hebrew Home at Riverdale. And there’s another possible access point at West 231st Street, too.
Building the trail on piers would be way more expensive — around $58,000 for every 20 feet, according to Metro-North. That’s compared to building on land for $8,000, or on riprap — loose stone used for breakwater — at $12,000.
The trail also could be built next to the river with a safety wall separating river lovers from the Metro-North and Amtrak trains.
Construction, Bender said, would have to take place from barges, which also is more expensive than land-based work. If built in the water, on piers, the greenway would have to be elevated 12 feet above sea level to mitigate the risk of storm surge — a concern heightened following 2012’s Hurricane Sandy.
What’s still in question, however, is where the money will come from.
“Oh, the money,” Bender said. “There’s not a nickel that we have toward this greenway.”
Yet, he’s not discouraged. “Just get the greenway built,” Bender added.
A major question affecting cost is whether existing overhead power feeders could be buried, Bender said, but ultimately, that’s something Metro-North would have to decide.
“Metro-North said they’d look into burying the power lines,” Bender said. “They’ve indicated it can be done.”
The hard cost for the whole thing, Bender said, hovers somewhere between $75 million and $90 million, plus soft costs, ramping the total up to around $100 million.
Cliff Stanton — who stepped down from his role as greenway director at the Kingsbridge Riverdale Van Cortlandt Development Corp., in September — had another idea. He believes building a path from Spuyten Duyvil to the Riverdale station park could be done at a fraction of the cost.
“This gets done in pieces, in a digestible way,” Stanton said.
Yet, in the grand scheme, Bender said, $100 million isn’t so outrageous.
“In Manhattan, nobody blinks an eye” when mountains of cash are poured into ambitious schemes like the city’s $100 million commitment toward the East River greenway section between East 53rd and East 61st streets that Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last year.
The next step is coming up with cash — most probably government-sourced — for the engineering study, Bender said, which could cost $1 million, or even double that.
Also needed is an entity that can solicit funds for the greenway — which shouldn’t be a brand new entity, but instead something more familiar.
“If the state parks department were willing to take this on, that would be a great solution,” Bender said. “State parks would be the management, the operating authority.”
The city’s parks department already has said they don’t want anything to do with it, according to Bender, because they’d get stuck with maintenance and lack sufficient funds.
Yet, not everyone’s as enthusiastic as Bender and other greenway proponents.
“I think this plan is completely unattractive and appalling,” said Gary Klingsberg, who’s lived on Palisade Avenue nearly four decades. “It would completely obscure the view of every rider on the Metro-North and Amtrak lines. The whole thing is being promulgated on a falsehood by the railroad.”
Klingsberg is pushing for an alternative plan using the existing shorefront roadway, which runs from West 254th all the way to the Spuyten Duyvil triangle and swing bridge.
But Bender said he’s not raring for a new battle with the railroad giant.
“I would love to be in a position where we could tell Metro-North what to do,” Bender said.
“But we’re not. We can’t tell Metro-North, ‘Listen, guys, we don’t buy your logic. We want to build this on the maintenance road.’ We’re not going to be able to do that.”
Yael Levy, founder of RiverFestBX, just wants the project to move forward.
“I’m feeling a little impatient,” Levy said. “It’s time. But what can the rest of us do?”
Find a million dollars, Bender said. “We’ve got to talk to all the elected officials, at the city, state and federal levels. We’re on parallel tracks — figure out who the operating authority will be, and come up with the money at the same time.”
In principle, at least, local elected officials — including Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz — back the greenway plan, Bender said.
“They’re on our side,” he said. “The question now is how do we translate that into $1 million?”