Residents of the affluent Bronx enclave of Riverdale have long dreamed about gaining easy access to their two-mile stretch of Hudson River shoreline.
No wonder, then, that they were thrilled by a recent proposal to connect that waterfront strip with the existing Hudson River Greenway. It was only when they looked at the fine print of that plan that some Riverdale residents said their dream had turned into a nightmare—into something that threatens the character of their leafy neighborhood while barely offering any additional river access.
As it stands, the Hudson River Greenway’s popular bicycle and pedestrian trail begins at Battery Park at the bottom of Manhattan and runs all the way up through Westchester County. Or at least it would if only a way could be found to close a three-mile-long gap along the waterfront in the Bronx and Yonkers, just to the north. To do that, the New York Metropolitan Transit Council, an organization of regional governments charged with studying transportation-related issues for New York City, Long Island and the lower Hudson Valley, is recommending an elaborate $75 million multistage plan.
The problem in Riverdale is that the tracks used by Metro-North and Amtrak run close to the water, making pedestrian access perilous.
The NYMTC’s plan, submitted to the community board in February, essentially dodged the problem. It calls for an interim path beginning just over the Henry Hudson Bridge and running north through local streets in Riverdale, affording users a visual but not a physical connection with the shore. Accommodating those cyclists and walkers would require some widening of roadways, installation of sidewalks where none exist and paving paths through Riverdale Park–steps that have many residents up in arms.
They note the area’s rich history, including the stately mansions built by generations of Manhattan moguls, as well as its historic churches and elite educational institutions, including the Riverdale Country School–the most expensive private school in New York City.
“What has been presented will change the visual character and bucolic nature of our neighborhood,” said Frank Anelante, chairman of the Riverdale-Spuyten Duyvil Coalition. “The reconstruction required would necessitate the taking of property from homeowners, obliterating front lawns and driveways.”
Gary Klingsberg, a resident of Palisade Avenue, a street along which a portion of the path would be built, said he recently walked the suggested route, from the Henry Hudson Bridge to Riverdale Park, and found the twists and turns of the terrain dangerous, with very little space to expand existing sidewalks without infringing on people’s property.