Get The Facts
Funding was for improvements only, not for asphalt paving.
Updated Nov. 2014
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.
None of this funding required the use of asphalt pavement to “improve the trail.”
Original federal funding (SAFETEA) discourages using funding in a way that harms parks. The Putnam Trail runs through Forever Wild preserves and state-protected wetlands.
This website does a “redo” of the Putnam Trail design: http://www.waterblogged.org/putnam-trail-re-do/.
Following a public hearing in Sept. 2013, DEC asked DPR to redesign the trail with a permeable surface. DPR claims it is planning on submitting something new, but it’s unclear they understand what DEC is asking for. Electeds Sen. Jeff Klein and Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz have written to DEC asking them to clarify their position. They also expressed support of an environmental review and watershed approach to a redesign, per BCEQ’s request.
DEC files show that from 2009, DEC gave DPR steady input on their design plans to account for wetlands. DPR was often late in responding and returned incomplete information. They never came up with a stormwater treatment plan and were in a rush to put in an asphalt bike lane. DEC has not granted a permit to DPR (and should not).
BCEQ, an environmental organization, passed a resolution in Sept. 2014, asking the city to undertake a 4-f environmental review and other important steps which were neglected the first time around. Local state electeds sent a letter in agreement.
DEC’s mission statement: “To conserve, improve and protect New York’s natural resources and environment and to prevent, abate and control water, land and air pollution, in order to enhance the health, safety and welfare of the people of the state and their overall economic and social well-being.”
DEC has responsibility for protecting the wetlands and the Forever Wild Preserves which run the length of the trail to the northern border.
The city is 72% asphalt, a major cause of heat-dome effect and climate change. The wetlands next to the Putnam Trail are YO-1 classed wetlands — the highest classification. Asphalt is not a Best Management Practice (BMP). The brook flows into a combined sewer that overwhelms a treatment plant downstream resulting in sewage getting dumped into the East River. Because the city has not fixed this situation, it is out of compliance with federal law. There is nothing in the parks department’s plans that addresses this issue or tries to fix it, and in fact, their current design would make things worse.
Van Cortlandt Park was never meant to be a planned park like Central Park. It was intended to preserve naturescapes to show part of the city’s history and to provide a superior form of relaxation for city residents through connection to nature. It is part of the city’s collection of parks, each offering something different for city dwellers. Despite that, it still has a complement of ballparks, playgrounds, etc. It has been called the city’s Lungs, for its ability to filter air and water pollution.
Its wetlands have been described as having biodiversity seldom seen in the Bronx. The entity making that assessment was DEC which is tasked with protecting them.
in April 2014 pushed community boards to approve the Masterplan for Van Cortlandt Park even before the comment period ended on May 2nd. In mid-May, Bronx CB8 endorsed the Masterplan, but with caveats. The caveats are that trail changes in the Masterplan should be permeable, flexible, nontoxic and performance-suitable for wetlands. Also the caveats say that projects must come back to the board for approval during the scoping phase.
Bronx CB8 rejected DPR’s paving plan last year, May 2013. No other community board around the park (CB7, CB12) has given their approval either.
Asphalt allows 100% of storm water to enter the Brook which is next to the Trail. Stone-dust has a 30% runoff rate, with the majority of rainwater getting absorbed. Compacted earth trails soak up 90% of rainwater. Permeable asphalt has a 50% runoff rate, with some of the “absorbed water” seeping back to the surface days later due to evaporation. This evaporative process brings asphalt toxins to the surface which leave a sticky film. The permeable asphalt gets clogged with debris over time so that the surface loses permeability. Rubber used in permeable asphalt, whether from recycled tires or virgin rubber, is toxic.
Changes to the trail are supposed to maximally preserve the environment according to local, state and federal law. Replacement is supposed to be a “replacement in kind” according to DEC requirements. See Local Law No. 31, 2009, pg. 58.
NYC Audubon writes a draft letter in June 2013. They say that the Putnam Trail provides a unique way for residents to connect with nature and their preference is to leave the trail alone. They point out that if paved, it will have a rippling effect throughout the park, such as off-road cyclists seeking off-road experiences elsewhere, and in possibly sensitive areas.
Removing the equivalent of 400 trees and countless plants does not lessen air pollution. Crowding replacement saplings in smaller space reduces their chances of survival. Statistics are that only 1 out of 5 of these new plantings survive. Read BCEQ’s low-impact development guide for a better way to do this.
Carbon-emitting vehicles will ride up and down the new asphalt path, and fewer large-sized trees and small plants will be available to convert carbon to fresh air.
Salt/sand cannot be used to clear snow from the trail because of the presence of the wetlands. Snowplowing is also a wasted expenditure: Westchester County does not clear its side, so it is a costly expense, and environmentally-speaking, banked snow melting shifts water levels in the marsh dramatically, stressing wildlife. No amount of snowplowing without salt will make the trail bike-usable or ADA-compliant.
The whole park has a high water table – asphalt put in will form cracks before long.
Cycling is available only a few months a year and most people do not have the physical stamina to commute from Westchester County to Manhattan 5 days a week and be able to function at work. Crushed-rock still provides access to bikes for that short 1.5 miles. It provides access to the 40 miles of paved path to the north and a connection south. In 2010, the regional transportation authority, NYMTC, proposed crushed-rock for the Hudson River Greenway because of its accessibility to bikes and wheelchairs.
In December 2010, the parks dept. told the City Planning Commission that the creosote ties were too old to leach toxins into the environment. Also, City Planning tacitly endorsed the Public Design Commission’s recommendation to preserve the railroad ties. The current design does not preserve the railroad ties and Parks continues to say in public that creosote ties must be removed because they leach contaminants into the environment:
“While the Commission recognizes that the application is for an amendment to the City Map and not for the review of a specific park design, the Commission is nevertheless pleased to note that the design recommendations were considered by the Department of Parks and Recreation, who responded in a Memorandum dated December 13, 2010, stating that due to the age of the railroad ties, they pose no threat to the environment or to the public and that the Public Design Commission requested that as many ties as possible be saved in order to preserve remaining elements of the rail line’s history.” – from a City Planning Commission memorandum dated Jan. 5, 2011, pg. 5.
The original rail track was 10-feet wide. Remaining ties belong to a side track used for maintenance about midway-Trail. The rail line was single track.
Pavers have emphasized funding recommends ADA compliance, but funding also recommends changes be friendly to the elderly, low-income and minority residents. DEC Permits require the same.
DEC permits require “replacement in kind.” Widening the trail to 15 ft and turning it into a bike speedway is not a “replacement in kind.” Natural surfaces ensure slower speeds so that others can enjoy the nature around the trail.
A stone-dust trail does not have to be as wide as DPR’s 15 ft design which requires drainage side paths. A stone-dust design could be 8 ft, but NYSDOT says they ask for at least 10 ft.
DPR and DEP say there’s a bluebelt plan for Tibbetts Brook. Asphalt next to the brook/pond/lake is a questionable Best Management Practice (BMP) for a bluebelt plan.
It’s a stretch to believe that replacing more than 300 trees with 2 acres of asphalt lessens air pollution. Vehicles using the trail will increase pollution. Wetlands and the wildlife preserve will further decline. Wetlands and forest filter pollution. VCP offers many things not available in Central Park.
Maintaining DPR’s asphalt/dirt design plan could cost as much as $20,000/year. If there is that kind of money for asphalt, there is money for stone-dust.
Limestone stone-dust trails are fully ADA-compliant, and can be kept so. They do not emit dust that clogs wetlands or causes breathing problems. Limestone aggregate rock is nonreactive with other materials and does not form clogs. A well-made trail uses varying sizes of stones that fuse together to form a sturdy and firm surface. There is no silica in limestone which can cause breathing problems. There is silica in regular soil. This has implications for erosion caused by water runoff from asphalt.
No Community Board has approved paving. The CB8 May 22 meeting rejected the resolution to approve the design. A letter from a committee head is insufficient approval. Agencies look for community board resolutions only. In fact, no community board surrounding the park has issued a resolution in support of this design, including CB7, CB8, CB12.
The parade ground stone-dust trail we believe is 2-4″ of crushed granite stone on top of a soil base, not limestone, with layers. Well-made crushed-stone trails are constructed in 3 to 4 layers. Granite is grainy on a particle level and does not adhere well with other granite particles.
An upstate engineer said that material for stone-dust paths is often chosen based on nearby quarries. A municipality must truck material in directly from the quarry. We believe the city should take the time to truck in limestone aggregate rock, not granite rock, for 1.5 miles of trail.
Freshwater wetlands are shrinking in the city, yet they serve an critical environmental function. Also, they’re an important educational tool for children and adults.
This federal funding never goes away. It would require a legislative act of Congress to remove it, something unlikely to happen. According to a recent report, of the $500,738 allocated for a site study, $449,951 has been spent. Of the $951,000 appropriated for the design, $854,904 has been spent. The city says $350,000 of the $960,000 allocated by the Bloomberg Administration has been spent, though we question these figures. The site survey would have had to be done no matter what is decided.
An Environmental Impact Assessment was never obtained. There’s no way of knowing how asphalt will affect the wildlife preserves, trees/underbrush, or global warming. A categorical exclusion allowed for rail-trails was used, even though the Putnam Trail runs through Forever Wild preserves and state-protected wetlands, which was not proper and did not fit the requirements of a Categorical Exclusion.
On May 22, a resolution to support paving did not pass a committee of CB8 Bronx. This means that no community board surrounding the park has approved the paving design, CB7, CB8, and CB12. Video of the CB8 hearing can be seen in three segments on the Web: 1. Pro-paving 2. Pro-saving 3. Discussion and resolution
This article shows how heat can harm turtle populations in the VCP wildlife preserve. Asphalt means more heat. Click here.
This engineer’s website (click here) analyzes 3 potential ADA-compliant designs for the Putnam Trail.
“This project is not a new trail being constructed for a specific use. It is a re-designing of an existing path through the portion of the park which is part of a state-protected nature preserve. Therefore the number one priority is to be environmentally sustainable. Accommodating park users should go hand in hand with sustainability, not at the cost of it.”
– Margarita Eremeyev
Maintenance of asphalt trails is not “free.” The average 10 ft. wide asphalt path costs $6500 to nearly $9000 per mile per year, according to the Rail to Trails Conservancy, which means to maintain an asphalt 1.5 mile trail, it would cost $9750 upwards. That doesn’t include the 3 ft compacted earth jogging path or the 2 ft buffer path.
The park has been deemed an IBA (Important Bird Area) by the Audubon Society. Birders far and wide come to practice their form of recreation/interest along the trail and nearby wetlands. We are not aware of any birdwatching or students studying nature on the South County Trail. As one community leader noted, it’s as if the surrounding environment was not part of the city’s thinking when they came up with their design.
“It took The (Daily) News just 35 minutes last week to find 16 cyclists breaking the 25-mph speed limit in (central) park.” (Para. 10-12, article)
The speed limit in Van Cortlandt Park: 15 mph
The speed limit in Central Park is also 15 mph but the conservancy won’t enforce the speed limit. Biking orgs sued the city in the 1990s to raise the speed limit in Central Park, and lost. They lost on appeal as well. The confusion is this: the city’s car speed is 25 mph and because the inner driveway is for cars, the Conservancy feels that that’s the speed limit. However, since the driveway is closed to cars on certain days and becomes a multi-user path, the 15 mph should be enforced. Both times it was contested in court, the cases were lost. The speed limit for bikes in Central Park should be 15 mph, the law for bikes in parks.
Because it’s paved does not ensure safety to the disabled community or people in wheelchairs. Achilles athlete injured by cyclist, August 2012, in Central Park. Click here
Because it is paved, does not mean it can be kept ADA-compliant – there’s sleet, ice, and snow in cold months – causing a slippery/dangerous surface. There’s wet leaves and trash. Snow-plowing doesn’t remove all ice/snow from asphalt and rock salt is a no-no in wildlife preserves.
“This trail is an abandoned rail trail but hardly abandoned! The local community is walking it, jogging it, birding it. Families, school classes, photographers, nature lovers, senior citizens, fishermen all use it.”
- Catherine O’Brien Young
Stone-dust trails are fully 100% ADA-compliant and are installed throughout the country because they’re considered “easy”and ada-compliant trails. Click here
Open space is not supposed to be designed for 5% of users, especially when alternatives don’t exclude that 5% of users.
Crotched Mountain trails are natural accessible trails. See video here.
Plans are afoot to commercialize the park. A document titled “Van Cortlandt Park Master Plan” (April 10, 2013) talks about bike rental kiosks placed throughout the park “coordinated with other amenities.” Click here
Parks does not have a NYSDEC permit. And their approval from PDC (Public Design Commission) expired as of June 6, 2013.
Parks got approval from the Public Design Commission by saying that asphalt was federally mandated and that community cyclists supported it. Neither of these claims is true.
Nine out of 10 community cyclists in the park when asked say they do not support paving.
Churning up tree roots during construction may slowly kill spared trees years later. Planting 400 trees does not guarantee any of them will survive or keep “invasives” out.
Wholesale removal of shrubs/grasses/weeds — native, non-native, and invasive — results in loss of habitat where animals breed and nest. Loss of ground cover that normally soaks up excess water leads to erosion and shifting water levels in the wetlands impacting wildlife.
A community board member was told that only 1 out of 5 newly-planted trees survives.
The Parks design includes 48 benches, right of way signs, and an ornamental trash bin (that will cost taxpayers $1,300).
Parks uses a known carcinogenic herbicide to kill invasive plants. The herbicide contaminates the environment and harms animals and plants, for generations. Parks plans to use this herbicide, called Roundup, to clear “invasive” plants along the trail. Read article here.
“Once you lose a natural area, you never get it back.”
– John Liu, candidate at mayoral forum
There are 30 known artifacts and a switching tower from the trail’s railroad past. One local historian described them as a portal through history. The park has a tradition of preserving its history. There is no known plan by Parks to preserve these elements. The State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) has told Parks if there is anything in the right of way, they should prepare a preservation plan. The community will have to fight to preserve these artifacts.
Parks filled out a Short Environmental Assessment Form in July 2012 claiming there would be no impact on the environment and that there was no controversy surrounding the design. However, the petition against widening/paving began seven months before this form was filled out. And in 2011, hundreds of letters were sent to officials and Parks, alluding to concern about environmental impacts.
NYC Parks since 2009 has told community groups that “asphalt was federally mandated.” Parks officials appeared in many community board meetings saying this, which is recorded in CB meeting notes listed below.
400 trees will be chopped down to make way for 1.5 miles of asphalt.
The administrator of the park is also president of the VCP Conservancy. There is no check on what the parks dept wants to do.
Paving the trail renders hundreds of mountain bikes invested in by residents problematic.
The trail is already bicycle greenway. It doesn’t have to be widened 15-plus ft and paved with asphalt to make it bicycle greenway. If it were widened less (8-10 ft) and covered with a permeable surface it would remain a multiple-user greenway.
Stone-dust trails are resistant to puddling, erosion, and tire-rutting. They’re permeable so they cause less root damage to surrounding trees and plants.
“In 1993 a mid-level appellate court in Manhattan upheld the 15 m.p.h. limit after it was challenged by bicyclists.” Article discussing park speed limits here.
Parks is claiming that stone-dust trails are more expensive than asphalt to maintain. In a study of 100 rail trails, the yearly costs are the same ($1500/mile/year). See the study here, pg. 6.
Parks is planning to snow-plow (which will not make an asphalt trail ADA-compliant in fall/winter/early spring), and use other heavy equipment costing thousands of dollars a year. A less wide stone-dust trail would cost less to maintain.
Asphalt will worsen nearby erosion, and cause water level issues in the wetlands.
Residents have proposed creating a Friends of the Putnam Nature Trail, to maintain a less wide more natural trail that’s accessible to everyone.
The city is committed to protecting green spaces, through its PlaNYC 2030 and Forever Wild Preserve programs.
Parks claims it doesn’t have funds to maintain a stone dust trail but it does have funds to maintain asphalt. Studies have shown stone-dust trails cost the same as asphalt trails to maintain, and they cost half as much as asphalt to build. The federal funding is enough to create a less wide world-class stone-dust trail that spares the environment more and fits in better with the park’s character.
The parks department’s own poll for Van Cortlandt Park shows 54% of people enjoy nature trails above other activities listed.
Click here for that poll. Scroll to bottom.
Cycling organizations say the trail is a major north-south route, without noting there is limited east-west access. A narrow stone-dust trail makes the trail accessible to bikes. A community leader has suggested reverting 2 lanes of the Deagan to park space. Why not create a bike lane? The Manhattan Greenway runs beside parkways and roads for most of its length.
A NYC Bike Map link here shows the Putnam Trail is already bike greenway.
See editorial in local community newspaper against paving: Here
The Putnam Trail runs 1.5 miles through two Forever Wild Preserves: 1) the brook/lake, and 2) northwest forest. This program is designed “to protect and preserve the most ecologically valuable lands within the five boroughs.” Here
Limestone stone-dust does not contain silica that causes breathing issues. Regular soil contains silica potentially causing breathing problems.
The cross-country trail is stone-dust, on hilly terrain, prone to erosion, and has lasted 16 years. It was refurbished in 1997 with $249,000 federal TA money. We don’t know how many miles were refurbished but this is in comparison to $2.4 million for the current PT plan.
Hurricane Sandy shows the importance of conserving city forests. Van Cortlandt Park has been called the “lungs of the city” for its ability to absorb carbon emissions and improve air quality.
The average lifespan of an asphalt trail before it needs to be repaved is 17 years. It needs to be resealed every 8 or so years. Despite being on hilly terrain prone to erosion, the cross country trail has lasted 16 years.
“The fight to defend the Putnam Trail is a fight for the right of working people to the most basic social necessity — access to nature.”
- Rita Freed
Stone-dust trails satisfy national AASHTO and MUTCD standards/requirements.
Well-built stone-dust trails have four layers. 1) a compacted subgrade, 2) geotextile fabric layer, 3) a compacted gravel base (6 inches thick), and 4) a compacted stone-dust surface (2 inches deep). This could amount to a foot or deeper. The city talks about putting down only 4″ of asphalt on the Trail, but actually asphalt and stone-dust trails are supposed to be excavated to similar depths. This requires closer look about what they’re talking about. On one hand their reports say they have to remove contaminated soil caused by coal-ash that was used for 100 years by the railroads (the creosote ties are too old to contaminate anything at this point). On the other they’re saying they’re going to put down 4″ of asphalt.
Asphalt trails allow bike speeds of 20 mph and above. The park’s speed limit is 15 mph.
With a more natural surface, there won’t be urban graffiti, or black ice in winter.
There won’t be glass shards in cracks or surrounding underbrush, harming wildlife and pets.
Cycling speed will be kept reasonable to ensure that everyone can enjoy a peaceful fragment of nature away from the city and suburbs.
Meeting notes posted online show NYCParks telling community boards that “funding mandates paving,” which is untrue: 1) Community Board 7 – Parks Committee Minutes 6/10/2009; 2) Community Board 8 - Parks Committee Minutes 5/26/2010; 3) Community Board 8 – Parks Committee Minutes 2/23/2011; 4) Community Board 8 – Parks Committee Minutes 2/22/2012.
The original SAFETEA funding from 2005 incorporates Section 4(f) of the Dept. of Transportation Act (DOT Act) of 1966, that protects natural resources and historical sites in public parks. Section 4(f) says that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and other DOT agencies cannot approve the use of land from publicly owned parks, recreational areas, wildlife and waterfowl refuges, or public and private historical sites unless the following conditions apply:
- There is no feasible and prudent alternative to the use of land.
- The action includes all possible planning to minimize harm to the property resulting from use.
Stone-dust is the “feasible and prudent” choice for the Putnam Trail.
An explanation of Section 4(f) is here
A subsequent amendment to SAFETEA in March, 2008, requires proof of “de minimis” impact to natural resources and historical sites. Shifting political currents have placed more responsibility with states.
Rep. Engel confirmed in 2011 that funding was for improvements. In para. 5 of this article, Engel’s office is reported as saying that funding was “for fixing up the trail.” Click here for article.
Rep. Engel’s office gave a similar response to SPT in 2012: “Congressman Eliot Engel got $500,000 to rebuild the Putnam Trail and make it even more available for the people of the City.“
Artifacts from a second historical rail line near the Putnam trail have been uncovered by a local historian.
Our proposal meshes with Bloomberg PlaNYC and Parks Dept.’s does not
1) Click here for PlaNYC parks section. Areas of agreement include:
2) Click here for the Climate Change section of PlaNYC, where a key statement says: “We are planting 1 million trees and creating a network of green corridors. Greening the city will reduce GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions, help combat urban heat island effect, and enhance storm water management.”
3) Click here for the Air Quality Section of PlaNYC where greening is mentioned as an important component of cleaner air.
SPT has questions for Community Board 8 Bronx:
1. Putnam Trail runs between Forever Wild Preserves, which includes the Lake and Tibbetts Brook. Will asphalt pavement affect fishing, wildlife, etc.? Will the community board ask for an independent Environmental Impact Assessment?
2. Asphalt allows for vehicle speeds of 20mph and higher. The park speed limit is 15 mph. What about bicycle speeds and personal safety issues?
3. A 3ft earthen path next to the asphalt road will become pitted, cracked, mud-bogged over time. How will that impact people on foot?
4. Van Cortlandt Park has been called the “lungs of NYC.” NYCParks’s plan from their own Design Report says they will be disturbing 3.8 acres of forest. Isn’t this a dramatic, permanent alteration of a park with a certain history and character, and that is not supported by the community?
VIP Supporters against paving
“The Putnam Trail is one of the open space glories of the New York Metropolitan region. We have spent many wonderful hours walking it in Manhattan, the Bronx, and Westchester. To deface and desecrate it with concrete would be an environmental disaster. The more natural a trail the better.”
–Cy A. Adler, President, Shorewalkers Inc.
“I have been to Van Cortlandt Park as a runner and spectator over many years and feel strongly that the Putnam Trail should not be paved over. It will not benefit the users of the Park and this money can be used in countless meaningful ways.”
–George Hirsch, Chairman of the Board, New York Road Runners, www.nyrr.org
“The Putnam Trail is a jewel. It’s a mindless, destructive and wasteful act to pave the Putnam Trail. To spend hundreds of thousands of dollars or more to pave over this treasured parkland seems to be the antithesis of what a Parks Dept. should be doing.”
–Eric Seiff, Chairman of the Board, Friends of Van Cortlandt Park
“As a cyclist I originally thought it would be a good idea to pave the trail and have gravel on the sides of the pavement for the runners, so all could have an equal share; however, with the understanding that trees would be cut down [widening of the trail] , that goes against my values as an environmentalist and a former teacher of environmental science. I am all for in favor for leaving it is as it is now in the wild. I don’t want to cut down any trees at all if it’s avoidable.”
–Denis Burns, Secretary of the USI Cycling Club; Past President and current Board member of Friends of Van Cortlandt Park
“The race walkers of the Greater New York strongly oppose any paving of the Putnam Trail and would like to see funds go towards more free programs in the park, therefore helping to improve the quality of life in the Bronx.”
–Lon Wilson, President, New York Walkers Club/ Parks Greeter, www.nywalkersclub.org
“Paving the trail greatly increases injuries–runners, walkers, and even dogs all thrive when they exercise on natural dirt surfaces. In any case, we desperately need to preserve our natural surroundings in an over-populated world.”
–Kathrine Switzer, notable author, television commentator, marathon runner
“I commend those who are working to preserve the Putnam Trail. Having run for over 55 years and run around the world I realized that only those communities that set aside trail space will have a lasting legacy for future generations. A community with trails is a richer community in health, fitness, beauty of nature and direct connection to our ancient roots.”
–Jeff Galloway, U.S. Olympian, www.RunInjuryFree.com
This NYCParks letter was received 9/15/2011:
Claims from the Parks Department:
1. NYC Parks says, “Van Cortlandt Park already contains three miles of historic cross country trail accessible year-round for runners and joggers of varying skills and ages, but only .5 miles of multi-user greenway…This was a significant factor in the decision to provide a running/jogging path alongside an ADA accessible paved path.”
Why this is wrong. Please click here to look at the NYC Bicycle Map. It shows 2.5 miles of multi-use greenway, not 0.5. There’s a one-mile greenway that runs east from 242nd St. to Van Cortlandt Park South. The Putnam Trail is 1.5 miles and classified as multi-use greenway. Together they total 2.5 miles, not 0.5. If you add in the parade grounds, that’s another 1.5 miles, for a total of 4 miles of mixed-use trails.
NYC PARKS Dept. says that cyclists are not allowed on the 1.3 mile Old Croton Aqueduct in VC Park. Westchester County currently allows cyclists on its entire 26 mile portion of the Old Croton Aqueduct! This being said, there is the potential to have an additional 2.8 miles of multi-use trails in VC Park for a total of 5.3 miles without spending more money or paving more trails. NYC Parks and cycling advocates must focus on integration and inclusion of these already existing trails. Right now NYC Parks is needlessly shutting out cyclists from a large portion of the Park.
NYC Parks Dept. statement indicates that one of the reasons for paving the Putnam Trail is to make it ADA accessible and therefore more open to the community. Stone Dust however meets ADA standards. The main factor in meeting standards is the steepness of the trail (trails must have less than a 5% grade to be ADA accessible). Because the Putnam Trail is flat, stone dust fully complies with ADA guidelines.
Update May 2012
In subsequent letters, Parks says that asphalt is necessary “to create a unified biking system in the region.” Again the Putnam Trail is already bike greenway and stone-dust accomplishes this goal of creating a “unified biking system.”
Original federal funding (SAFETEA) discourages using funds to make improvements that harm a city’s “inventory of natural resources” and historical/cultural legacies when other transportation assets (that move people through a region) already exist.
The standard for improvements is “satisfactory” movement of people.
The funding requires community input, presumably based on accurate information being given them.
2. NYC Parks says, “With the task of accommodating all users comes the obligation to design for safety and comfort. In this case, the result is a 3’ wide earthen path alongside a paved path, varying in width from 8’ to 10’.”
Parks is being very vague here. They do not mention that the 3ft wide earthen path will have a pitch to it and will not be perfectly flat. In reality this 3ft will not provide enough adequate space for people on foot and will deteriorate over time due to weather and lack of maintenance.
3. NYC Parks says, “The new 16ft wide trail will not require the destruction of ‘many’ trees. There are currently seven mature trees marked for removal as part of the trail’s development.”
This statement may be greatly distorted by examining NYC Parks definition of a “mature” tree. Those who have been on the Putnam Trail realize that this statement is greatly exaggerated. We encourage you to visit the Putnam trail so you can understand the amount of land needed to expand the trail from 8 ft to 15 ft, which amounts to 63,360sq ft or 1.5 acres, in order for Parks 15-foot path to be completed. We strongly feel that will involve destroying far more than 7 mature trees. Parks claims it will “replant” many “new” trees. We have heard the same unreasonable arguments from timber companies when they attempt to clear cut our national forests.
4. “The mandate for the funding requires [asphalt] paving and determines the width of the paving.”
The funding requires the Putnam Trail be improved; it does not specify the need for asphalt pavement. The Erie Canal Trail utilized the same funding and improved many of their trails with a stone dust surface. Trails with 8ft width have been built in NYC with the same funding. Click here.
Update May 2012
a. FOIL requests were sent to NYS DOT on 3/26 asking for documentation that NYS DOT mandated or required NYC Parks to use asphalt. On 4/3 and 4/11, NYS DOT responded there was no such document on file
b. We asked Rep. Eliot Engel in April 2012 if original funding mandated paving. His office responded (our bolding), “Congressman Eliot Engel got $500,000 to rebuild the Putnam Trail and make it even more available for the people of the City. The money was allocated from the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act. The renovation is funded by $1.45 million in federal transportation funds (including money from then Congressman Weiner) and $969,000 allocated by Mayor Bloomberg.”
5. “Maintenance costs for a stone dust trail are higher than for asphalt paved trail.”
Studies show that maintenance costs of stone dust trails are the same as for asphalt trails, if not marginally less. Also, by reducing the width of the trail from 15ft to 8ft future maintenance costs will be DRASTICALLY reduced and relieve the NYC taxpayer from the burden of endless excessive maintenance costs.
Discussion about stone-dust trails is here, provided by firm that produces them.
Also, the NYS Canal System says this about asphalt vs. stone-dust trails:
“In addition (stone-dust) is somewhat resistant to rutting, erosion, weed growth and puddling. On other sections of the Canalway Trail, stone dust has also proven to be more resistant to tree root damage than an asphalt surface.” (pg 27, Canal Masterplan)
Graffiti can develop in urban areas. The Grand Central Stones, the OCA Trail weir building, and patches of the Westchester trail are examples.
6. “Road bikes cannot use stone dust trails.”
All bikes, cyclists, runners, walkers, etc can use stone dust trails. This has been proved by many successful stone dust and dirt trails across the country. We’ve posted a video of our riding road bikes over a stone dust surface at 15mph (parks speed limit). The road bikes have the thinnest tires available in the market, and move with more than adequate ease. The video appears in Testimonials.
The NYS Canal system says this about their 10ft wide stone-dust paths:
“(The stone dust pathway) will be designed for a wide range of users including walkers, hikers, joggers, bikers, and parents pushing strollers, persons in wheelchairs, and other mobility-impaired users.”
The link to their masterplan is here: http://www.waterloony.com/pdfs/CanalMasterPlan.PDF
7. “This is an anti-cycling campaign and your group doesn’t want to see any cyclists on the Putnam Trail.”
Our group includes many cyclists which support our position. We WANT to see cyclists continue to use the Putnam Trail as they do now and hope that cycling numbers increase along the trail when it is resurfaced with stone dust. Our position though is that Parks has not presented any evidence to justify 16ft of trail is necessary to accommodate cyclists, walkers runners and other users. An 8ft trail width is more than enough space to accommodate all these users on a 1.5 mile trail. Heavily traveled bridges like the GW Bridge don’t even provide 16ft of width for bicycles and pedestrians! We wish to see cyclists allowed to use the Old Croton Aqueduct and the Parade Grounds in VC Park. Currently cyclists are shut out from using these trails. We are cycling advocates and believe in inclusion.
8. “No additional runoff is expected because of the asphalt paving.”
Asphalt, when compared to stone dust, retains less water, which is harmful to the environment. Flooding is less significant with stone dust because some runoff during a storm is absorbed into the ground. By reducing the trail width from 15ft to 8ft runoff will also be drastically reduced.
It is clear that NYC Parks has no true or defensible information to back up their poor decision to pave the Putnam Trail and widen it to 16ft. Please help us win this fight! Let your elected officials and NYC Parks know that you do NOT want to see the Putnam Trail paved.
The NYC Public Design Commission recommended a STONE DUST surface for the Putnam Trail in May 2010. The Van Cortlandt Park Administrator Margot Perron said that, “strong support for the paved (asphalt) surface by community bike riders was sufficient in judgment of DPR” to overturn the qualified recommendation of the NYC Public Design Commission. Is this really how decisions are made now? Who are these “community bike riders” who make the decisions for everyone regarding how $2.41 million in taxpayers funds are spent?
Please contact the NYC Public Design Commission and ask them to reopen the review of the Putnam Trail and revert back to their original recommendation of a stone dust surface which is what a majority of the community wants. Please ask the NYC Parks Dept. to produce evidence of all of these “community bike riders” who showed overwhelming support for asphalt paving. http://www.nyc.gov/html/mail/html/mailartcom.html
Parks is not telling the truth:
In an email to the New York City Design Commission asking why they didn’t pursue their recommended ‘rock dust’ after one person (Margot Perron) recommended against it.
Phase I of the construction of the Putnam Rail Trail received preliminary and final approval from the Design Commission on June 6, 2011. Consequently, the project will not be reviewed again by the Commission unless the Department of Parks & Recreation makes changes to the approved design, in which case it would submit those changes for review. With regard to using a permeable surface for the bikeway, the Department of Parks & Recreation clarified that the New York State Department of Transportation, which is administering the Federal Highway Administration grant that is largely funding the project, required the use of asphalt.
We replied again to clarify and ask for further response:
We are writing to you about your response to people who wrote to you asking for a review of the Putnam Trail Design. There is incorrect and misleading information in your response which we feel should be followed up with by the Mayor to rectify.
In your response you write, “administering the Federal Highway Administration grant that is largely funding the project”
There are $0 of any FHA grants funding the Putnam Trail Project. 1,450,000 is coming from Federal Earmarks. the other 960,000 is coming from Mayor Bloomberg via the NYC budget.
We also request to see proof of the correspondence where NYS DOT said specifically that the Putnam Trail HAD to be paved. We seriously doubt that NYS DOT said this to the Parks Dept. and they definitely wouldnt have put it into writing. NYS DOT has funded many stone dust trails and they do not require asphalt pavement.
Please provide us with the correspondence from NYS DOT where they state that the Putnam Trail must be paved with asphalt.
Thanks for working to clarify the points above and hope to hear back from you soon.
Reply from NYC Parks:
Subject: RE: City of New York – Correspondence #1-1-720093681 Message to Agency Head, ART – Other
Dear Ms. Corber;
As we have noted in previous correspondence on this subject, one of the greatest challenges for developing any park facility is satisfying the different needs and desires of the community. After a vigorous vetting progress, we have incorporated feedback based on community concerns.
Additionally, as noted in the below email chain, the Federal Highway Administration grant, administered by the New York State Department of Transportation, recommends the use of asphalt. In order to address the needs of the community, the Putnam trail will feature an earthen lane adjacent to the asphalt path.
Please rest assured that this project has gone through proper due diligence. We greatly value your suggestions regarding the Putnam Trail, however since we have addressed your questions in previous letters, this will be our last correspondence on the issue.
Thank you again for your advocacy and continued interest in Van Cortlandt Park’s Putnam Trail.
James M. Mituzas, RLA
NYS DOT NEVER said asphalt was required which is not what NYC Parks is claiming in numerous correspondence.
the Federal Highway Administration grant, administered by the New York State Department of Transportation, recommends the use of asphalt
This is a slight change in language after months of using “required” and “mandated” in correspondence. Still it is inaccurate. First, there is no FHA grant. And second, these agencies never recommend one type of trail surface be used over another type of trail surface.
We need to press for Parks to show the documentation from NYS DOT which states asphalt is required on the Putnam Trail. This is what NYC Parks claims happened yet this is proving to be completely false.
(Update May 2012)
SPT pressed for documentation a month after receiving James Mituzas’s above letter. We submitted FOIL requests on 3/26 to both NYS DOT and NYC Parks, asking for documentation that showed NYS DOT mandated or required paving of the Putnam Trail. NYS DOT responded on 4/3 and 4/11 that there was nothing in the files indicating they had required or mandated NYC Parks to pave the Putnam Trail with asphalt.
Federal Transportation Funds are used to make Stone Dust, Rock Dust transportation paths:
The funding on the trail below in NY and other projects is almost identical to our proposal for the Putnam Trail (stone dust, 8-10, 1.2 million and its federal transportation funds!)
NYC Park has blatantly lied to the people about the need to use asphalt and cut down trees.
Erie Canal Trail-many of the stone dust portions of this trail were funded by Federal Transportation Funds:http://www.canals.ny.gov/exvac/trail/index.html
Take a look at page 5: http://www.waterloony.com/pdfs/CanalMasterPlan.PDF
It outlines a 10ft wide limestone dust trail using Federal Funds which is exactly what we are asking for for the Putnam Trail.
The document has other good facts and figures too.
The D & R Canal Trail in New Jersey is a 35 mile long dirt surfaced trail and it has gotten millions of dollars in Federal Funds over the years.
Stone Dust is ADA Compliant
Interesting article from Massachusetts: http://www.masscentralrailtrail.org/aboutthemcrtcoalition/faqs.html
In the mid 1990s, MassHighway indicated that all bikeway projects receiving state or federal funds had to be paved to meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards for access. That directive has been relaxed and communities can now choose their surface. This is not ‘inventing the wheel’. Virtually all other states also have deemed that well-built soft surface trails are suitable and ADA-compliant for wheel chair access. In all likelihood, depending on community preferences, the Mass Central corridor will be a mix of gravel, compacted stone-dust and possibly even some porous pavement sections. Click here to go to MassHighway’s chapter about trail development and you’ll see that stone-dust is an allowed surface material. [caution this is a 3 meg file.]
Asphalt paving turns into a non-usable pathway when neglected.
The examples of asphalt pathways in and around Van Cortlandt Park show that NYC Parks should be putting funding into maintaining existing asphalt before they do more paving.
Parks leaves themselves vulnerable to legal issues by not maintaining these walkways. When asphalt is neglected it becomes a hazard for all users and expensive to repair and maintain.
Note that in the steps that connect the Old Croton Aqueduct to the Major Deegan Expressway are in dire need of repair. Funding should go to these important needs before paving a beautiful nature trail.
Paving the Putnam Trail will guarantee vandalism.
The Grand Central Weathering Stones currently sitting on the side of the Putnam Trail have already been littered with graffiti. The underpasses that cross over the Putnam Trail have also been vandalized by graffiti. Paving the Putnam Trail will surely invite this horrible urban plight instead of a peaceful natural park trail that would be best served being made in stone dust.