SCHUMER CALLS ON CSX TO PROVIDE TEMPORARY EASMENT FOR WALKWAY PROJECT; BREAKDOWN IN NEGOTIATIONS BETWEEN DUTCHESS COUNTY AND RAIL COMPANY THREATEN MARQUEE EVENT FOR QUADRICENTENNIAL CELEBRATION
CSX Owns Land on Eastern Side of Bridge, Access is Required to Provide Pedestrian Access and to Complete Construction
Dutchess County and CSX Have Failed to Negotiate Purchase of Land - Delay and Potential Court Actions Threaten Major Event Commemorating 400th Anniversary of Henry Hudson's Epic Journey
In Personal Call, Schumer Urges CSX CEO to Provide Temporary Ease
As New York State's Quadricentennial celebrations unfold, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today personally called CSX CEO Michael Ward urging him to designate a temporary easement of 1200 feet of land on the eastern side of the Walkway over the Hudson Bridge until a final land transaction is completed. The land is required to establish trails to the bridge for pedestrian access for the marquee event of the celebration that will commemorate the 400 th anniversary of Henry Hudson's journey.
Dutchess County originally planned to acquire the land through an eminent domain proceeding, but negotiations over the amount of land to be acquired and the county's ability to utilize an eminent domain proceeding threaten the October completion date for the Walkway. The inability to reach an accord could threaten the marquee event of the state's yearlong Quadricentennial Celebration that is set to take place in October.
"The Walkway dedication is gearing up to be the event of the year, but without access to the eastern side of the bridge, construction cannot be completed and pedestrian access would be severely limited," said Schumer. "While the county has been working to come to an agreement with CSX over the abandoned land, we have yet to see a resolution and time is of the essence. With each passing day, we risk the possibility that the event will be delayed or even cancelled. I urged CSX CEO Michael Ward to grant a temporary easement on the land, until a final sale agreement can be made, so that construction can be completed and tourists near and far have access to the bridge. It would be a travesty if this project isn't completed."
The Quadricentennial commemorates the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's voyage on the river that bears his name, and Samuel de Champlain's initial visit to the region and the lake named for him. It also acknowledges the 200th anniversary of Chancellor Robert R. Livingston and Robert Fulton's development of the first practical steamboat. Schumer who walked the bridge in 2008, secured $950,000 to help turn the old railroad bridge into the longest pedestrian walkway in the world.
In order to provide greater pedestrian access to the event, Dutchess County has been negotiating with CSX since 2008 to acquire and develop a portion of abandoned CSX railroad property in Poughkeepsie that would link pedestrians to the Walkway Bridge. The bridge would serve as the central link connecting both sides of the river. Hikers and bikers can follow the trail from New Paltz through Highland and over the bridge, connecting in Poughkeepsie to trails that can take them up to Columbia County, out to Connecticut or down to Putnam and Westchester counties.
Throughout the past year, CSX and Dutchess County officials have met to define the parameters of the land purchase but agreement has not been reached. The longer the dispute continues, the greater the risk that the event will be delayed or cancelled.
In an effort to help CSX and Dutchess County come to an agreement, Senator Schumer today called on the CSX CEO Michael Ward urging him to issue a temporary easement for eastern access to the Walkway until CSX and Dutchess can negotiate a final sale.
On the call, Schumer asked Ward to work with officials from the Walkway organization and Dutchess County to help facilitate eastern access to the Walkway so they can complete their work by the Quadricentennial Celebration in the fall.