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High Line in the Bronx Still a Possibility for Abandoned Railway

By Eddie Small | November 3, 2015 4:45pm
 Diaz hopes to meet with CSX to discuss a rail line in the South Bronx with a hotly contested future.
Diaz hopes to meet with CSX to discuss a rail line in the South Bronx with a hotly contested future.
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DNAinfo/Eddie Small

SOUTH BRONX — Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. plans to meet with rail company CSX to discuss the future of an abandoned rail line in the borough that officials believe could transform into a new park or part of a proposed transit link between the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens.

A portion of the line, which runs from roughly E. 163rd Street and Melrose Avenue to the waterfront by E. 141st Street, used to be a homeless encampment where drug dealing and usage were common, but it has since been cleaned up, according to Diaz's office.

In a letter Diaz wrote to Mayor Bill de Blasio in late September after the cleanup, he recommended building housing along the rail and turning it into a "Lowline" park, comparable to the High Line in Chelsea.

"Such a project would connect Mott Haven with Melrose with new open space and would be a model for the future reuse of the many miles of essentially abandoned railway that is spread across the five boroughs," he wrote.

But this is not the only idea that has been promoted regarding the future of the rail.

The Regional Plan Association sees the area as a potential part of its proposed Triboro Line, a rail expansion that would connect The Bronx with Queens and Brooklyn.

"If you are to build a park there, you are likely to preclude the extension of some kind of transit service cross-Bronx on that route to the Yankee Stadium area," said Richard Barone, director of transportation programs at the RPA.

However, Barone stressed that the RPA was not categorically against turning the abandoned rail into a park.

"By no means are we opposed to the park," he said. "We just believe that everything should be given a fair shake, and they should be looking at all the potential uses of that line, and then we should come to a rational conclusion."

"If the best way to go is a park, that’s the way it goes," he added.

A spokesman for Diaz said his office would be "willing to discuss" using the rail as a transit line to link The Bronx with Brooklyn and Queens, but developing the Lowline park is still their priority.

CSX did not respond to a request for comment.

In his letter to de Blasio, Diaz wrote that students at Hunter and City College had already conducted studies based on turning the rail into parkland.

Cesar Yoc, one of the students who wrote a report on the rail, said he still believed it would be a better fit for pedestrians than for mass transit.

"I think it’s a good idea that they’re thinking of a subway, but I don’t think that’s a good spot for that," he said. "It’s not that long of a road. It’s better for pedestrian usage."