Get the Facts

Funding was for improvements, asphalt paving was not required.

The City got a $500,000 Federal Earmark secured in 2005 by Congressman Eliot Engel and a $950,000 Federal Earmark secured by Congressman Anthony Weiner “to improve” the Putnam

Mayor Bloomberg committed $960,000 of city funds “to improve” the trail.

    The total cost of this project will be at least $2,410,000.  Hundreds of trees will be removed (6-inch caliper) and 5-7 mature trees as well as thousands of plants that are part of a living community.

Funding did not require the use of asphalt pavement. Federal highway funding allows for flexibility.  See Shared Use Paths at this FHWA site.
https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/bicycle_pedestrian/resources/design_nonmotor/shared/index2.cfm

The original SAFETEA bill language describes funding this way:  “Design and construct a bicycle and pedestrian walkway along the decommissioned Putnam Rail Line.”  And elsewhere, when mentioning the $500,000 allocation, the bill reads, “Redesign and reconstruction of the Putnam Rail-Trail, Bronx.”

Original federal funding (SAFETEA) discourages using funding that harms natural areas, through the 4(f) clause. The Putnam Trail runs through Forever Wild Preserves and state-protected wetlands.  Click here for graphic.

“Greenway” definition:  water resource protection and pollution abatement, riparian habitat enhancement and biodiversity, flood hazard reduction, recreation, environmental education, noise attenuation, microclimate enhancement (for both cooling and pollution abatement), and the reduction of bank erosion and downstream sedimentation.  (Geographer Rutherford Platt)

Congressman Eliot Engel’s office in 2012 said funding was for improvements: “Congressman Eliot Engel got $500,000 to rebuild the Putnam Trail and make it even more available for the people of the City.”

Local Law 31 signed in 2009, including by Mayor De Blasio, says wetlands in the city are to be preserved above all other land uses since  80-90% of all wetlands have vanished due to development through the years.

The first public hearing was held in May 2013 before a CB8 committee followed by rejection of the pavement plan.

The Masterplan for VCP was voted on by community boards in spring 2014. The masterplan voted on did not mention paving the Putnam Trail.  However the masterplan posted to the parks department’s website for the park several months later does mention paving — as if the CBs voted in agreement.

Community Board 8 approved the Masterplan in spring 2014 with this caveat:  “Trails in the park are to be flexible, permeable, nontoxic, and suitable for wetlands.”

In Jan. 2016, the CB8 reversed themselves when they voted for paving of the trail, despite many people at the hearing speaking up against the paving, and despite the prior history of public hearings.

Some on CB8 claimed that paving was “grandfathered” in and that CB8’s 2014 codicil that says trails should stay permeable, nontoxic and suitable for wetlands in the Masterplan did not apply to the Putnam Trail. This refers to the 197a adopted by CB8 in 2003 that called for paving the trail. However, the 197a was passed (2003) before wider public knowledge about the paving plan; before public hearings; and before environmental issues were taken into consideration.

In Aug. 2017, Parks submitted an application to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), followed by a public comment period which ended on Sep. 19, 2017. The application showed materials not provided before: the Parks Department used an EAS for “natural materials” with no mention of asphalt paving.  They also gave themselves a negative declaration for changes that would use “natural materials.”  In other words: no EAS or EIS has been done for asphalt pavement. The EAS was done for natural materials only.

DOTs own specs say that asphalt allows for speeds of 20 mph.  The park’s speed limit is 5-10 mph.  Little has been done to address bike speeds through a rare nature area.

The claim that there are “more than 32 miles of nature trails in Van Cortlandt Park” is overstated. Below is the Park Rangers map for the Superhike which is 8 miles long.

The claim that there are “more than 32 miles of nature trails in Van Cortlandt Park” is overstated. Below is the Park Rangers map for the Superhike which is 8 miles long.

Ranger said this Super Hike is 8 miles