June 22, 2024

‘Take care of your own housekeeping’; community wants NYC to clean up long-dormant Staten Island property

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Remnants of a former North Shore commuter rail line that closed in the 1950s has again become a problem for Staten Island residents, the Advance/SILive.com has learned.

The Port Richmond North Shore Alliance, a civic organization focused on the neighborhood where the elevated tracks of the old North Shore Branch run through, sent an email Jan. 6 outlining challenges local residents have been having with the area’s upkeep

In the email, the civic organization said multiple trees have fallen from the old train line near Nicholas Avenue, and included video of a tree along the tracks crashing into a Riverside Lane resident’s backyard damaging property on Nov. 22.

The civic organization’s website includes further details about rodent problems, debris along the tracks that stretch into the areas, and their challenges dealing with the agency that controls the property, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC).

Mario Buonviaggio, vice president of the Port Richmond North Shore Alliance, said his organization wants EDC to clean up the area and shared details of a plan for how the agency can do it.

“What we’re hoping for is the New York [City] EDC and the city just to do general housekeeping, cleaning it up,” he said. “Just take care of your own housekeeping.”

Buonviaggio said the civic organization presented EDC with a plan that involved four local companies, a price tag of around $100,000, and an estimated timeline of nine days to complete.

By law, city-funded work needs to go through a contract negotiation process that involves a host of steps, and EDC has not taken action on the civic association’s proposal .

An EDC spokesperson said the organization is aware of the problems at the site and working to address it.

“NYCEDC is aware of the situation, and we are addressing critical maintenance issues around the accessible, outside parts of the railway,” the spokesperson said. “We are actively working with community partners to address the issues.”

The North Shore Branch, which at its peak ran from the St. George Ferry Terminal to Port Ivory, shuttered in 1953 along with the South Beach Branch of what was then called Staten Island Rapid Transit.

Advance coverage at the time styled the closures as a modernization push to roadways with buses set to meet the need of the estimated 1,200 commuters impacted when the lines shut down.

While remnants of the South Beach Branch were mostly removed from the Island, vestiges of the North Shore Branch still mark the old route, including areas of concern for the Port Richmond North Shore Alliance.

SIRT lines shutdown 1953

A front page Advance story from March 31, 1953 reported the closure of two Staten Island rail lines. (Advance file)Advance

For decades, community activists and elected officials have pushed for some sort of development to get underway along the tracks, particularly the elevated portion that crosses nine blocks in Port Richmond.

The Staten Island Economic Development Corporation (SIEDC), a separate entity from the city EDC, has pushed a Skyway initiative that would transform parts of the old North Shore Branch into a park similar to the High Line that runs through Manhattan’s West Side.

However, the city EDC, which controls the property, has long pushed a plan with the Department of City Planning and Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) that would see the old tracks repurposed into part of a bus rapid transit system.

The MTA released a draft environmental impact statement in October that outlined plans for the new bus rapid transit system, and has produced a rendering of what a stop along the route in Mariners Harbor would look like in an existing area of the track below the street.

Mariners Harbor bus rapid transit rendering

An artistic rendering shows what a possible Mariners Harbor station along a bus rapid transit route would look like. (Courtesy: MTA)MTA

A separate study looking at possible projects across the MTA’s portfolio set the estimated 2027 construction cost of the North Shore bus rapid transit system at $1.3 billion, and laid out plans to connect the project to a pair of other bus rapid transit projects, one of which would connect to Bayonne’s Light Rail system.

The MTA spokesperson said a final environmental statement would be released in the first quarter of 2024 for the North Shore bus rapid transit program.

Whether any of those project come to fruition, remains to be seen, but for Buonviaggio and other residents of the area, would just like to see the city property maintained in the meantime.

“Just first, take care of your own housekeeping,” he said.

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