A Step Forward for the Jersey City Embankment

A rendering imagines how the abandoned Jersey City railway could be converted into public space. Image by Roman Pohorecki.
 

Community members in Jersey City are celebrating a step forward toward the preservation of an elevated freight way similar to the High Line. Last Friday, a Federal appeals court ruled that the city and several nonprofit groups do indeed have standing to pursue their contention that Conrail prematurely sold the property for development before obtaining required rail abandonment permission. Federal rail abandonment law provides historic and environmental protections for the public, as well as opportunities for the City to purchase the property at a reasonable price. The decision paves the way for converting the Embankment into public space.

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Not too far from the High Line, just across the Hudson River from lower Manhattan, lies a six-block elevated structure in New Jersey that once carried seven tracks of the Pennsylvania Railroad from the west toward the Hudson River. The Harsimus Stem Embankment is a half-mile-long raised freight way on 6th Street in Jersey City that has been taken over by nature since the trains stopped running.

The beautiful sandstone and granite structure is not one continuous piece but rather six segments that were once connected by bridges. Ramping up to a few feet less than the High Line, the Embankment contains an astounding amount of elevated open space--each segment measures 400 feet (or one city block) by 100 feet. These six segments are now populated by cherry trees, wildflowers, and native grasses.

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Friends of the High Line Co-Founder Robert Hammond made a visit in 2009 and was impressed by its raw power: "I was blown away immediately,” he said. “The Embankment holds an untouched beauty, and really reminded me of the feelings I had years ago in the early days of the High Line… It’s another amazing opportunity for a great linear public space.”

Recently city officials, Rails to Trails Conservancy, and the Embankment Preservation Coalition have struggled to strike a deal with the private developers who had purchased the Embankment from the railroad in 2005. A settlement is now in the works that would allow for the conversion of a much of the Embankment into public space.

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE EMBANKMENT

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Wall Street Journal – February 7, 2012
"High Line Hopes in Jersey City"

Jersey Journal – February 4, 2012
"Federal Appeals Court rules Jersey City has standing in Embankment Case"

Atlantic Cities – September 26, 2011
"Descendants of the High Line"

Rails to-Trails Conservancy – September 12, 2011
"High Hopes for the Harsimus Embankment: The Fight to Create an Elevated Rail-Trail in New Jersey"

The Embankment Web site

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