27th June 2017

Disused railroads in Jersey City

The historic downtown area of Jersey City contains several overgrown railroad embankments, physically similar to the Kenwood line in Chicago. The potential of one particular site – the Harsimus stem embankment – was identified by a local citizens’ group in 2010, who then lobbied the city council to procure the land and create a pubic park. The project is currently stalled due to lack of funding.

My immediate observation was that the sheer width of the structure, which is clearly over twice as wide as the High Line, would mean significantly higher development costs if a similarly polished scheme was sought. This width adds design potential: slower, resting spaces would be easy to establish alongside a faster thoroughfare – not to mention space for micro-projects targeting specific local user groups (e.g. allotments, children’s play areas, skateparks, outdoor fitness equipment, educational wildlife gardens, barbecue areas).

Most sections of the embankment are about 29m wide and 8m high. The connecting bridges no longer exist.

Some residents had clearly attempted to create flower beds alongside the retaining wall at some point in the past.

I also found that the lower end of the embankment is being used by squatters.

Jersey City's historic downtown was peppered with other disused railroads less suitable for conversion.