January 18, 2023
After Years of Stalemate, Adams Administration Reaches Agreement to Purchase Critical Bronx Property Needed to Complete One of New York City’s Most Ambitious Green Infrastructure Projects to Date
Project Will Create Additional Capacity in Bronx Sewer System, Improve Health of Harlem River, and Provide Residents with New Green Space
NEW YORK – New York City Mayor Eric Adams today announced that the city has hit a key milestone in the project to uncover Tibbetts Brook and extend the Putnam Greenway in the Bronx. Following years of a stalemate, an agreement has been reached with railroad freight company CSX Transportation to purchase a piece of property critical to the project for $11.2 million. By obtaining this final component, the city will be able to move forward with rerouting the brook above ground, an engineering feat known as ‘daylighting,’ and will complete one of New York City’s most ambitious green infrastructure projects to date.
Removing Tibbetts Brook from the sewer system will create much-needed additional capacity in the borough’s drainage network and is expected to reduce combined sewer overflows by 228 million gallons annually, which will improve the health of the Harlem River. This green infrastructure project will also create new parkland for New Yorkers to enjoy within the former CSX rail line property and extend the existing Putnam Greenway, which goes through Van Cortlandt Park and connects northward to the 750-mile Empire State Trail.
“Today’s announcement brings us one step closer to completing one of New York City’s most ambitious green infrastructure project to date,” said Mayor Adams. “After years of trying, I’m proud that this administration was able to reach this milestone and can proceed with rerouting Tibbetts Brook above ground. Not only will this create more green spaces to enjoy, but it will remove millions of gallons of water from our sewer system, lessening potential flooding on rainy days.”
“With the help and support from Senator Schumer, our partner agencies, and countless committed electeds and advocates, the city will improve water quality for nearby rivers, reduce flooding, all while providing additional parkland and greenway connections,” said Deputy Mayor of Operations Meera Joshi. “This type of action highlights the importance of redeveloping unused industrial space creatively for the purpose of greening our city, and directly benefitting those communities in the Bronx as well as those adjacent to the Harlem River”
“Rerouting this long-buried waterway above ground will reduce pollution going into the Harlem River, lessen flooding, connect greenways, and create even more recreational space for the Bronx,” said Chief Climate Officer and DEP Commissioner Rohit T. Aggarwala. “Thanks to the persistent efforts of the Adams administration and our elected, community, and environmental partners, we are on our way to acquiring this critical piece of land from CSX Transportation and moving forward with the plan to restore Tibbetts Brook. This is one of our most ambitious green infrastructure projects to date, complementing the many other innovative initiatives we are already utilizing - including the recently expanded Cloudburst Program, Bluebelts, rain gardens and green roofs - to tackle climate change.”
“This project has been years in the making, and we are so proud that this administration has negotiated the vital CSX agreement to move forward with daylighting Tibbetts Brook – a win for environmental justice, and a big upgrade for the Bronx,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue. “In addition to adding nearly four acres of brand new greenspace and improving water quality in the Harlem River, this project will add an extension to our Putnam Greenway, connected to the larger Empire State Greenway, increasing recreational opportunities for all New Yorkers to enjoy.”
Tibbetts Brook was dammed in the 18th century to form a mill pond in Van Cortlandt Park and by 1912 it was completely buried underground and directed into the city’s sewer system. The daylighting project will return it closer to its natural open-air path, which winds through the Kingsbridge neighborhood and empties into the Harlem River.
Once completed, the daylighting project will remove roughly 4 to 5 million gallons of water from the sewer system each day, more on rainy days. The project could lessen flooding in some areas of the Tibbetts Brook watershed, and reduce treatment costs and greenhouse gas emissions by diverting brook water away from the Wards Island Wastewater Resource Recovery Facility.
There has already been significant community engagement on the project, and it is now in the final stages of the design process. Construction is expected to begin in 2025.
Acquisition by the city of the rail property is subject to approval by the federal Surface Transportation Board for use of the former rail line as a trail. The overall daylighting and greenway project budget is $133 million. The project is part of an agreement between New York City and New York State to further improve the ecological health of city waterbodies.
“For years I’ve been pushing CSX to sell the abandoned Putnam Right-Of-Way to the City to extend a walking and biking greenway to the people of the Bronx and beyond. This parcel has been the missing piece of the puzzle to connect the emerging and popular Manhattan and Hudson River Greenways — and will inject a vibrant green lifeline into the Bronx,” said U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer. “City Hall and the Bronx-community have long been working on a plan to build a beautiful greenway that will connect the Bronx to a massive network of other Greenways, parks, and bike paths, as well as improve the borough’s drainage capacity. The negotiations are no longer stalled and the project is back on track with an agreement for the city to purchase this critical piece of property thanks to the persistent work of Mayor Adams.”
“As New York continues to address the challenges of climate change, the Tibbetts Brook daylighting project will provide much-needed weather resiliency and green space for the Bronx,” said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “I applaud Mayor Adams’ work to get this deal done and I will continue to advocate for these types of critical infrastructure projects that create green spaces for New Yorkers, as well as protect and preserve our neighborhoods from extreme flooding events. I urge the Surface Transportation Board to swiftly approve this critical acquisition.”
“I am pleased the Adams Administration has reached an agreement to advance the critical green infrastructure plan at Tibbetts Brook, opening additional capacity in the Bronx sewerage system and improving the health of the Harlem River.”said Congressman Adriano Espaillat (NY-13) “These projects further New York's nation leading climate agenda, while creating green jobs and economic development throughout our City. We discussed this important project during my Environmental Justice tour last June, and I look forward to continuing to partner with Mayor Adams to achieve climate justice and an economic future that uplifts all.”
“The daylighting of Tibbetts Brook has been a longtime priority of mine and our community. The benefits for this project are numerous,” said New York State Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz. “It would reduce combined sewage overflow into the Harlem River by more than 300 million gallons per year, resulting in immediately cleaner waterways and improved recreational opportunities along the river. It would mitigate flooding in surrounding communities of Kingsbridge and Van Cortlandt Village, such as that which shut down the Major Deegan Expressway in 2021. It would create new greenspace for Bronxites to use and enjoy for years to come, transforming space which is currently nothing more than urban blight and a receptacle for dumped garbage. It would increase capacity for carbon capture in the Bronx and would alleviate noise and air pollution from the adjacent highway."
“The uncovering of Tibbetts Brook and the extension of the Putnam Greenway in the Bronx is a game-changing initiative that will not only benefit the environment but also greatly improve the overall well-being of the residents in the area,” said New York State Assemblymember Yudelka Tapia. “The greenway will provide a much-needed respite for local residents, serving as a place for exercise, relaxation, and community building. The restoration of Tibbetts Brook will also have a positive impact on the ecosystem, promoting biodiversity and improving the water quality of the area. We are incredibly grateful to Mayor Eric Adams and his administration for their tireless efforts in making this project a reality.”
“The Daylighting of Tibbetts Brook is a monumental investment in the Bronx,” said New York City Council Member Eric Dinowitz. “An environmental project of this scale has never been taken on by the city until now, and the impact of this critical achievement cannot be overstated. The purchase of the CSX property puts us on a path to accomplishing a massive feat —converting our aging, environmentally unfriendly infrastructure to modern day, green infrastructure, the kind that is backed up by science to reduce the impacts of climate change, not to mention the immediate benefits such as a reduction in flooding. I give my deepest thanks to my local partners, the Bronx Council on Environmental Quality, Bronx Community Board 8 and the Van Cortlandt Park Alliance for their tireless work on this project, and to the Adams administration for making the environment and the Bronx a top priority.”