New York City officials announced that the city has hit a key milestone for an ambitious green infrastructure project.
The project would uncover Tibbetts Brook and extend the Putnam Greenway in the Brox. Following years of a stalemate, the city reached an agreement 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 the green infrastructure project.
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.
“Today’s announcement brings us one step closer to completing one of New York City’s most ambitious green infrastructure project to date,” says New York City Mayor Eric 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.”
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.
“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,” says Rohit T. Aggarwala, Chief Climate Officer and Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner “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.”
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.