Staten Island could be getting its own train track park styled after Manhattan’s High-Line Park if the city does not turn it into a busway first!
The North Shore Branch was a Staten Island Railway route that operated along Staten Island’s North Shore, from St. George to Port Ivory, continuing into New Jersey through the Arthur Kill Vertical Lift Bridge to Cranford Junction. The service on the line began on February 23rd, 1886 and ran until March 31st, 1953 when passenger service ended. By 1989, the freight service ended as well. The railway remains abandoned since.
After 50 years of just sitting in the community unused, the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation (SIEDC) announced a design competition to transform the tracks into a park, just like the High Line in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, through Chelsea. The Vice President of SIEDC, Steve Grillo, hopes to take this opportunity to convert this eyesore and transform it into a beautiful park.
The High Line was built on the same concept. The High Line was originally opened as an elevated railway in 1934. Its purpose was to provide safety by separating trains and street traffic. By the 1950s, the rail lines started to witness a decrease in traffic, the same time when the United States invested more money in the interstate highway system. The High Line was shut down in the 1980s, and remained closed until “Friends of the High Line” a non-profit organization advocated the location to be opened as a public space.
The North Shore Branch elevated tracks, which run above Richmond Terrace, Heberton Avenue, to Nicholas Avenue, is also being considered by city officials who want to propose the spot as the North Shore Bus Rapid Transit line. Councilwoman Debi Rose took to Facebook to write about the plans, stating that rapid transit is a necessity while a park is only an amenity.
The MTA has committed $5 million dollars to study and design rapid transit along this abandoned railway. The MTA would pave over the entire former rail line to build a dedicated busway that would link the St. George Ferry Terminal to the West Shore Plaza. This route can help some Staten Islander’s cut their commutes in half.
The $5 million dollars was included in the 2015 budget to fund the design and environmental research work for the estimated $371 million dollar system to be built. However, the SIEDC estimates that converting the tracks into a park would only cost $30 million.
Despite the transformation being cheaper if it was turned into a park, it can also follow in the footsteps of The High Line and allow the community it is in benefit from the park. The High Line has benefitted the Meatpacking District by bringing in more commercial real estate around the park. The High Line attracts millions of visitors to explore the historical destination, creating a hyperdrive to the neighborhood.
The owner of the land, who is also a spokesman for the New York City Economic Development Corporation, was working with the MTA on their study. He believes that adding the bus rapid transit system of the track will address the transportation concerns in that area. Yet, his mind is not fully settled, continue to state that he is open to hearing ideas on SIEDC’s activate public property transformation.
Grillo is unsure that area would make a good location for transit and wants to have plans ready to go just in case the MTA concludes the study and announces they are not using that site. That is why the SIEDC began a design competition that will award $10,000 at its annual Business Conference on April 27th to the plan selected, based on a public vote. Deadline for designers is on April 7th.