YONKERS – Standing at the abandoned old Putnam Railroad’s former Lowerre Station alongside advocates that worked tirelessly to transform it into the Yonkers Greenway Park, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer Friday announced his major new push to deliver over $5.4 million to the City of Yonkers through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) first-ever Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program to transform the long-abandoned Old Putnam Railroad into a first-of-its-kind greenway to reconnect Southwest Yonkers communities segregated by the Saw Mill River Parkway to the Bronx and parts of Westchester while breathing new life into historically redlined neighborhoods’ through revitalization of the South Broadway central business district.
Schumer explained that the new $1 billion infusion over five years for the Reconnecting Communities Program he championed in the Bipartisan Infrastructure & Jobs Law presents the perfect opportunity for Yonkers to finally break ground on its 15-year community-led vision to reconnect communities west of the Saw Mill River Parkway that were once linked by industrialization and the old Putnam Railroad. Schumer wrote to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg advocating for Yonkers’ selection, explaining that the project would transform the abandoned old Putnam Railroad spur to reconnect Southwest Yonkers to Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx through tree lined biking and walking paths, and revitalizing Southwest Yonkers’ main business corridor with a multimodal Complete Street, laying the foundation for a better future in Yonkers.
“As Yonkers saw an unprecedented industrial expansion in its Southwest neighborhoods, communities of immigrant workers formed along the Old Putnam Railroad, connected by its four stops running from Getty Square to Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. This all changed when the Saw Mill River Parkway divided the city, relegating low-income housing projects to the west side of the parkway, and more expensive, split-level homes to the east. Soon after, the Old Putnam Railroad ended service, not only separating Southwest Yonkers’ historically redlined communities, but also suddenly removing the jobs, education, and services in New York City and Westchester. Without proper maintenance, the old Put soon became a ghost railroad snaking through working-class communities as an abandoned, overgrown, network of separate, polluted dumping grounds,” said Senator Schumer. “Now, with this first-ever Reconnecting Communities program, we have an opportunity to right this wrong for future generations of residents living in Southwest Yonkers. That’s why today I am calling on U.S. DOT to fully fund the City of Yonkers proposal to reconnect its historically redlined communities west of the Saw Mill that once relied on this abandoned spur.”
Schumer explained that a lack of trees, green space, and parks has long plagued Southwest Yonkers, not only limiting recreation and connectivity, but creating wide stretches of concrete and pavement trapped heat without natural landscapes to absorb it, leading to urban heat islands. This is most noticeable along the derelict former Putnam Railroad, which had once served as a connecting artery for Yonkers to New York City from 1888-1943, but now serves as a barrier rife with abandoned lots. Schumer said the federal funding he is pushing for would be the final piece of the puzzle to fully fund the project and breathe new life to create the vibrant community connector Yonkers has long deserved.
The senator just helped create the first of its kind Reconnecting Communities Program in the Bipartisan Infrastructure & Jobs Law to help communities like Yonkers remove barriers like old highways and other transportation infrastructure that has limited the connectivity of the community. Schumer said that Yonkers is a prime candidate to be among the first recipients of this federal funding, and that their work can serve as a national example for reimagining new green accessible transportation. The $5.4 million that Schumer said he is pushing for represents approximately 40% of the estimated cost of the total project.
Specifically, the Yonkers Greenway will transform the derelict old railroad corridor into a 3.1-mile multi-use transportation and recreational trail. The project will run from the #1 subway in the Bronx to Yonkers MetroNorth Station and along multiple Westchester bus routes. Schumer said that this transformation of the derelict rail corridor and blighted lots along it will finally give residents the greater access to transportation Southwest Yonkers communities have long desired for daily needs.
Schumer said that the greenway project is also interwoven with a complete rehabilitation of business district along South Broadway corridor in Yonkers. This will be a comprehensive set of streetscape improvements on southwest Yonkers’ under-developed central business corridor, which will include new sidewalks, road paving, bus stops, lighting, trees and plantings resulting in a multi-modal Complete Street.