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Get the MTA to build us a bike trail on the Beacon Line


Click for an interactive maps version of this image: http://beaconline.org

Manhattan has the High Line.

Poughkeepsie has The Walkway Over the Hudson.

Make the Beacon Line a legal subsection of the T.O.D. zoning and rules.

Get the MTA to concede to a rail-with-trail scheme for the Beacon Line from the Klara Sauer Trail to Churchill Street. Rail-with-trail is the idea of a recreational trail running along a working but very rarely used rail line. The concept is not new or radical, it is a widely used concept in the USA with plenty of legal precedent and experience: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rails_with_trails

Notes and Issues:
  • Big return for very little investment. A little grading and signage, and you have a way to shunt tourists to East Main from the train station and Dia. Maybe get the MTA to pay for the grading and signage and the city responsible for ongoing maintenance?
  • With views of Wey-Gat (Wind Gate, the Hudson Highlands) and the magnificent falls in Madam Brett Park, this is a tourist destination in and of itself.
  • Use of Scenic Hudson's Klara Sauer Trail is mandatory for this scheme to succeed, but it is Scenic Hudson's goal to unite Dennings Point with Madam Brett Park. This is the way to do it.
  • Dia and Beacon Institute's participation is voluntary, but it's an obvious and excellent linkage for them to the wider city and tourists.
  • On weekend summer days, renting bikes at the train station and/ or Dia could be commercially viable.
  • Grading: since its a rail line, its already graded, only the little linkages need to be smoothed out. The potential link to Dia off Dennings Avenue runs along an old flat, straight rail bed.
  • Fill: past talk has concerned putting fill in between the existing rails. However, it might be superior, to avoid bikers being perched precariously on a narrow ridge, to actually run the trail to the side, filling in the small ditch. Specifically, to the left side of the tracks the entire way (facing Beacon bound) so the trail never actually crosses or touches the tracks.
  • Drainage: there are implications with using the ditch rather than perching the trail on the rails, but a cursory survey reveals nothing expensive or prohibitory.
  • Sight Lines: Maybe some warnings/ railing in a few spots with rapid drop offs to the Hudson River or MetroNorth tracks.
  • Signage: Directions and maps mostly, but the trail intersects no streets until Churchill Street, where the trail should probably end (for now, maybe go to Fishkill and Hopewell Junction/ the Dutchess Rail Trail someday)
  • Crosses no streets/ uses no rail bridges. However, you skirt the shoulder of two streets briefly:
    1. Tioranda/ South Avenue: You need lots of signage, road surface markings and maybe even permanent traffic cones. You have a heavy confluence of bikers, walkers, and cars intersecting in the sharp cornered, narrow, zero visibility gap under the railroad bridge on the way to/ from Madam Brett Park.
    2. Dennings Avenue: You are already past the Beacon Institute's security gate and don't have to worry about cars. If Dia is involved, the main concern is warning people from turning onto the MetroNorth tracks, which are immediately adjacent with no security barriers at the Beacon Institute's parking area.
  • The old dump site: is this a zoning challenge in terms of environmental regulations? The trail barely touches the land on that parcel, this may not be a problem at all.
  • Make Dennings Point/ Madam Brett bike friendly? This will require grading and sight lines so as to avoid fast bike/ slow hiker kerfuffles. Not necessary, but a nice touch.
  • Suggestion: call it the Pete Seeger Trail.
  • Install lighting or close it at dusk?

Please contact me with ideas to flesh the beaconline.org site out, or any other ideas to stump for the cause of the Beacon Line. I am currently looking for a graphic/ slogan for the advocacy effort.

Views: 204

Tags: Beacon Institute, Beacon Line, Bicycling, Dennings Point, Dia, East Main, Klara Sauer Trail, Madam Brett Park

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Comment by Ben Royce on May 13, 2010 at 11:16am
Charlie StH: I wouldn't recommend walking over the Beacon Line rail bridge that goes over MetroNorth's main Hudson Line tracks.

No such little metal walkway there, just raw wooden planks separated by 9 inch wide open intervals. Not necessarily dangerous (although you could twist an ankle or fall) so much as just plain scary. I've done it. It's not fun watching Amtrak thunder by at 70 miles an hour directly underneath your feet.

However, you're half right: over the South Avenue extension to Madam Brett Park, there is a metal walkway, with railing on one side even. So no need to weedwack there. And no other bridges/ road crossings to worry about (to East Main, plenty all the way to Fishkill, although they are all sleepy crossings until Route 9).

So, by bike or on foot, to bypass the dangerous Beacon Line bridge over the Hudson Line, you use the Dennings Avenue bridge over the Hudson Line. Then you can skirt the open space where the dump used to be. Finally, you're confronted with a 20 foot thick wall of weeds and brambles trying to get back onto the Beacon Line.

So that's where you weedwack. 2, 3 hours of work for one guy, clear up only that 20 feet of brush, and it would be completely walkable from the Beacon train station to East Main. Scenic too with views of the falls on Fishkill Creek at Madam Brett and Wind Gate/ the Hudson Highlands. Tourist friendly even (unmarked as it is, unfortunately): nature walk to East Main Shops from the train station.

As for being bikeable: then you also want to weedwack one other area: about fifteen feet of brush from the Beacon Line to where it is level with South Avenue. Then you bike the rest of the way on Tioronda to East Main, unless you like it bumpy on the tracks.
Comment by Ben Royce on May 12, 2010 at 1:17pm
tom:

i saw that, i tried to delete some of the double posts, i hope we weren't deleting different posts at the same time. the connection here is slow for me as well. AJAX sites like this ning.com beaconcitizen.com can get weird like that with high latency/ low bandwidth issues: your post disappears into a black hole, but its still being processed nonetheless

i'm not going to nitpick your rationale. i have problems with it, but i think what you are doing serves beacon. so it is not my intent to have a pointless debate society with you or anyone else. you are actually getting something done! so i'm not going to hold you back

power to you, literally: you guys are the vanguard of the next leadership of beacon. the current posse in charge better recognize that unless they can deliver on some of your demands, they will be compromised and people will look to you guys to run beacon instead

let me know if you need anything done in terms of furthering along the beacon line. i will in fact try to walk down to hudson beach glass tonight, but don't know if i can make it by 6:30

finally, did you see this?:

http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=201050...

"Valley Views: County executive dropped the ball on rail-trail negotiations"

this speaks to me of two things:

1. local politicians are vulnerable to criticism for not getting movement on rail-trail issues

2. the editorial underlines what you have written to me in the past: getting movement on rail trails runs at the speed of bureaucratic political molasses, and is very difficult to get movement at all. the absentee landlordism of csx and the mta are horrible in this regard. that's why i think the approach should be more like a community garden in 1980s new york city: just build a garden on the abandoned lots, who care about the bureaucracy. likewise, we should just build the damn trail. its not like the landlord knows or cares or would even notice, regardless of legality. property rights only make sense when someone is actually using the property, that's why the laws have exceptions for squatters. who knows, maybe a ghost will come in the middle of the night and weedwack a trail ;-)

3. perhaps the beacon line can be OVERTLY LINKED to any discussions about the csx link with the walkway over the hudson

i'm going to look into #3. i think a ghost might look into #2 ;-)
Comment by Tom Church on May 12, 2010 at 12:42pm
I am having all sorts of website problems today...posted this earlier but it must have been deleted somehow...

It's not that it's low on our list. It's that we're not there yet.

The city is trying to pass the TOD zoning this summer. The problem with this is that it is backwards. On extremely large developments such as this, it is considered good practice and is more common to solicit developers to present general layouts/plans first then negotiate and zone around a selected general plan. This allows the city to ensure that we get the development that is right for Beacon rather than one that is based on how much money the developer can squeeze out of a certain space.

The proposed TOD zoning law will give the developer a blank slate to do whatever he/she wants. This includes the right to build 6 story buildings on top of a 2 story parking garage over our entire waterfront on both sides of the tracks. The zoning also allows for over 120,000 square feet of commercial space with up to 60,000 being retail. That’s over 60 shops (the average main street shop is less than 1000 S.F.). There is no question that this will hurt business on Main Street. You also have to consider that this will probably raise your taxes...think about the sewer, water, traffic and school systems that will have to be built/improved to accommodate this much development. The majority of this comes from the City and thus the taxpayers.

We are not against the development down there; we actually think it will be a positive, if it is done correctly.

Like I said above...we're just not to the point of dealing with the specifics and negotiating terms of the development yet. We're still trying to get the process changed from one where the developer has free reign and the city has little to no binding or bargaining power to one where the city plays a much more involved roll in the development process. Once we get past this stage then we can start negating details and terms and working to try and get this path going. And trust me it is high on everyone’s mind including some of the city council members. We just have to get to that point.

On another front, I have been setting up meetings with various political types to see what kind of support we can get for a project like this. Getting that political support is the only way this will happen.

Tom
Comment by Tom Church on May 12, 2010 at 12:12pm
John, There is a public meeting scheduled for tonight at Hudson Beach Glass. There is an event listing on this site.

Tom
Comment by Ben Royce on May 12, 2010 at 11:30am
hey tom:

thanks, you are correct. i went off on the hothead deep end with my previous comment. if there were such a trail ever built (it would take only a few hours with a weedwacker), no one would "ehem" know who did it ;-)

its not like there's homeland security sitting out there. the thing is genuinely abandoned. which is the whole point of agitating for a trail on the beacon line in the first place: the thing is derelict, completely unused, and yet valuable, scenic transportation for beacon. and so the mta has no valid rationale to prevent its use for the betterment of beacon. the absentee landlord deserves no respect

and thanks for the bdb invite, but i actually think the tod is the best thing to happen to beacon in recent history short of dia. however, i appreciate what you guys are doing: wringing concessions out of them to serve main street. power to you, rock on, i appreciate and respect the effort

unfortunately, my crank issue is the beacon line, and since its not high on the bdb agenda, i'll slog on on my own. but if you want me to do something with/ for the bdb in regards to the beacon line in the future, i am glad to help in any way you deem necessary

i actually don't understand though why the beacon line would be so low on your list. since its mta involved, its a pretty direct pressure point. additionally, done right, its a tourist shunt straight to east main.if any east enders on bdb want to agitate for beacon line use, let me in, put me to work

i respectfully submit that the beacon line should really be a centerpiece of bdb. it touches all of bdb's concerns (transportation: especially bikes!) and it would be a major coup to get movement on that issue. it would help business on east main a lot

cheers
ben
Comment by john fasulo on May 12, 2010 at 10:43am
Tom:
I would be very interested in coming to one of your meetings..you can email me at ship1949@aol.com

John Fasulo
Comment by Tom Church on May 12, 2010 at 10:10am
Ben,

There are MANY more people involved with BDB. Just about every business on Main Street is somehow involved, at least on the sidelines. The Core of BDB is made up of very well respected and experienced planners, architects and other people with experience in large development projects. I would love to discuss the TOD with you...it will be a disaster for this city in so many ways and is an example of poor planning that is being dictated by the MTA and other vested parties. If you would like to contact us come to our meeting tonight or contact Mark through this site. If you have the chance feel free to stop into my shop and I'll explain why and what we are against. Please keep in mind that we are not against development...only against poorly planned development.

We are working to use the Beacon Line as a playing card but that is further down the line and as of now the Mayor refuses to even bring it up. Right now we are trying to make sure that we have some say in what is being developed. Currently it is all up to the MTA and a developer with little to no input from the city (at least no binding input).

I would seriously advise against what you are suggesting. Even if it is an unused rail, the fines and penalties are serious for trespassing on railroads (as I have mentioned, I have done a lot of work on the roailroads and have seen many people arrested). Railroads are regulated not only by the Authority or company that built them but also by the Federal Gov't. If you put up signs and identify yourself on them and someone gets hurt or arrested...guess who's getting sued and possibly arrested...you.

CSX does not own the corridor but may have a lease on the tracks. Metro North purchased the corridor in 1995 from a real estate holding company. This is recorded in the Dutchess County Clerks office. You can find an article about it here http://www.nytimes.com/1995/02/05/nyregion/metro-north-buys-a-line-...

Metro North does NOT own the Hudson or Harlem Line, they are also owned by a holding company (they also own Grand Central). Metro North has a 110 year lease on the tracks. CSX ownes the Hudson Line north of Poughkeepsie and they own the West of Hudson Line.

Any lease deal with CSX will have to be cleared before anything can happen but the real problem lies with the MTA.

I have had extensive conversations with John Pilner from the Putnam County Planners office about what MTA is doing to hamper any new trails along this line (it runs from Beacon to Danbury). I am also working on portions of the Putnam County Path project right now.

Tom
Comment by Ben Royce on May 8, 2010 at 1:32pm
john: you should visit http://beacondeservesbetter.org/

there's a whole bunch of people who agree with your assessment of the tod

personally, i think the tod can only help beacon, but i'm putting that issue aside, and differences in opinion about the tod with other folks aside, because there's a larger and more important fight: i think you and beacon deserves better should focus on how we can wring concessions from the mta

and to me, use of the beacon line is how we do that

do you know how to contact the folks at beacon deserves better? there's nothing on their website. its four guys as far as i can tell: james, doug, tom, and mark. from the meeting we had april 21 their passion for better treatment of beacon and better transport, bikewise, was on full display. but i don't know their last names or how to contact them

if anyone knows how i can contact these guys let me know, because i think hammering on the beacon line issue is how we wring concessions from the mta in order to serve the city of beacon, in terms of greenways and transportation

as for csx, that's a huge problem. but i'm not going to let some cold uncaring distant colossus stop us from using the beacon line, and neither should anyone else. the levers we pull are simple: we build it ourselves. you only need a weedwacker in three spots, 4-5 plywood signs nailed to trees, an afternoon's worth of work, and you have your trail. people can begin to use it

and if someone actually gets in trouble for building it (i think we should identify ourselves on the plywood signs), then all the better: free publicity. and then it lays bear the starkness of the issue: bettering beacon, and the uncaring absentee landlords of csx and mta who don't even use the tracks

all we need is a lien for rail-with-trail, and the issue is done, legally. but approval of the TOD is the only leverage the city has to get that

and that's what we need to lay stark in everyone's minds

by forcing the issue, and building the trail ourselves. its really easy. and a little healthy civil disobedience is what is needed here to clarify people's minds on the subject
Comment by john fasulo on May 8, 2010 at 8:32am
I may be wrong but the Beacon Line is owned by, CSX...The ideas put forth here; like putting fill between the tracks for easier use as a walkway are pie in the sky dreams... The ideas that are put forth that use the lien in its present configuration .. as a right of way for... something... have merit.
The TOD in its grandeous current plan will be a disaster for Baecon as a whole...With east end plans for the "roundhouse" and other older industrial buildings taking shape, combined with the TOD at the riverfront.. he MTA is clearly looking to make the area around the train station as the destination for their ridership, commuter and other weekenders... The TOD will squeeze the rest of Beacon's Main Street business.. With the East End development mainly aimed at attracting young professionals, the core of the city will suffer and decay. On the waterfront and in the general vicinity of the station, shops,restaurants, town homes, river attractions, all make the waterfront a destination in itself. If the TOD allows 8 story apts...what ever happened to view sheds and the Hudson River Greenway?
In the past ten or so years, there has been an influx of new residents that have moved ot Beacon from NYC...I think most of these new residents moved here to live in a relatively quiet river town, not one made over by the MTA's TOD dragon.
Comment by Ben Royce on May 7, 2010 at 1:11pm
I "cold emailed" Scenic Hudson, Dia, and the Beacon Institute. I got no response from Dia (so far), Beacon Institute replied in the positive, and Scenic Hudson gave me the VERY interesting (and pessimistic) response that:

they tried the same thing, once, and the whole plan was shot down by... drum roll please... CSX

CSX?!

I'm quite surprised that the fly in the ointment is CSX and not the MTA. However, I recently read in the Pok Journal that Chuck Schumer helped the Walkway over the Hudson proceed by strong arming CSX to allow a right of way on their property in Poughkeepsie that CSX refused to provide. So it's not an alien concept that CSX has some sort of power on the East side of the Hudson, perhaps some sort of ancient property or property right inheritance from the Gilded Age of the Railroads.

And the other realization is that perhaps the ONLY way this is going to proceed is if somehow the powers-that-be at the level of John Hall or Chuck Schumer are invoked. Why? Why is it so hard to invoke the obviously beneficial? Especially with the MTA trying to build the TOD and the city clearly looking for concessions from that?

I find it perplexing and confusing that it should be such a difficult and byzantine process to get the use of less than 2 mile's worth of UNUSED scenic rail line that is of such no brainer obvious benefit to Beacon, Scenic Hudson, the Beacon Institute, Dia, and especially East Main.

I'm getting to the point where I'm thinking of getting a weedwacker and some plywood signs, and, in no more than a day's time, create the damn trail myself.

Not that the powers that be would even notice or care, but even in the absurd world where we would be punished for this guerrilla civil planning, maybe the attendant publicity would finally get the numbskulls in positions of power to finally move on this obviously beneficial effort.

Anyone want to join me? It will take a day. Clear some brush and put a few signs on some trees. That's it: the trail would be open and all of this incredibly byzantine bullshit standing in the way of clear and obvious benefit to the city will be successfully routed around.

I'm only halfway serious, but the notion is growing on me. Anyone up for some civic disobedience?

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