ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — Open Space Institute, along with the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition and September 11th National Memorial Trail Alliance, recently announced the critical support of federal, state and local elected leaders for the Essex–Hudson Greenway Project.
N.J. Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill of the 11th Congressional District, Essex County Commissioner Brendan Gill and Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop expressed strong support for the project while addressing the 12th annual New Jersey Bike & Walk Summit.
“This project is designed to help improve residents’ access to the outdoors and create new recreational and transportation opportunities. It will offer residents of our communities, including the one that I live in, easier access to nature and outdoor activities,” said Oliver, a resident of East Orange. “In addition to the transportation infrastructure, health and environmental improvements, the Essex–Hudson Greenway Project will also have a positive, lasting impact on local economies, while offering residents safe, alternative ways to get to their places of employment.”
For walkers, runners, cyclists, hikers and others, the proposed greenway would create nearly 9 miles of linear park, connecting Montclair, Glen Ridge, Bloomfield, Belleville, Newark, Kearny, Secaucus and Jersey City.
“This is more than just providing commuting alternatives or even about giving people greater access to nature. It’s about connecting people to their communities and other communities around them,” Oliver continued. “We need to continue to foster these new and emerging ideas to make them become a reality. We need more safe spaces, within our state, for pedestrians and bicyclists on the street and off-road, especially in our urban areas and communities of color, which have been historically overburdened with pollution and overdevelopment. One thing we have learned from this pandemic in New Jersey is that people need increased access to outdoor recreation for their physical and mental health.”
In July 2020, the Open Space Institute reached a preliminary purchase and sale agreement with Norfolk Southern Railway Company for property in Essex and Hudson counties for the purpose of the greenway. The purchase agreement has a sale deadline of January 2022.
“The Essex–Hudson Greenway is a project I am very supportive of, and I was ecstatic to hear the deal to purchase the land could be finalized by the end of the year. This space could be such a positive improvement, expanding opportunities for recreation and community to the eight towns it touches and the state as a whole. I am really hopeful about the future of this project,” said Sherrill, who pledged her commitment to doing what she can to make the project a reality, including looking into the possibility of federal funds to support the project.
“We know that for too long the same communities that have often been forced to rely on walking, biking and public transit on a daily basis, are often the same communities to receive the least amount of investment,” Sherrill continued. “The most bare essential infrastructure, like continuous sidewalks or bike lanes, are often missing from these communities. With enough advocacy and the right prioritization, we will get to a place where our communities will have the equitable and sustainable infrastructure they need.”
Residents of communities all along the proposed length of the linear park have been campaigning for more than a decade to create a greenway that would serve as a “shared-use path” for people walking, riding a bicycle, running or just relaxing along this corridor.
“We are working every day to make sure that our communities across our state are more bike and pedestrian friendly. We are ensuring that our roads are safe with respect to traffic and travel. We are promoting environmental responsibility,” Gill said. “We are addressing the concerns of communities that have traditionally been negatively impacted, from a health standpoint, due to their proximity to large infrastructure projects and a lack of access to safe, outdoor recreational areas for exercise and leisure time.”
“I’m excited about riding my bike to Montclair and having dinner there in the not-too-distant future. So, we are going to have to work together to make that a reality,” Fulop said. “We will be fully on board with whatever resources Jersey City needs to provide to make sure that Hudson County, as a whole, is there 100 percent.”