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It is easy to imagine the rusty railroad through the forest, field or suburban subdivision being replaced with a new amenity for the pleasure of people, and families out for a walk or bike ride on a new park trail. The rail-to-trails movement was built of such dreams and has changed the landscape of suburban and rural America with thousands of miles of new local greenways.

Neighborhood Open Space Coalition has helped bring that vision to the urban landscape with its pioneering and nationally recognized work on the Brooklyn Queens Greenway and the Metropolitan Greenways System inventory, which with minor modifications became the City's Greenways Plan.

Many cities have now seen construction of new greenway trails, sometimes along abandoned rails and sometimes along waterfronts. In New York City, the developing Hudson River Park is essentially an urban greenway, squeezed tightly between the river and a wide roadway along the river. From the day that the interim trail was opened in lower Manhattan, it has been crowded with walkers, skaters, cyclists and now scooters

The word greenway generally refers to a trail in a green space. In an urban context, along a "fully built" right of way, it is a new way of thinking about the city. The urban greenway is the space between the walls of the city, turned into people places. New Yorkers wish to be assured, as they look from behind the walls, out of their windows and doors, that the public realm is in order and hospitable. They seek softer, greener, quieter streets, access to parks for physical activity, safer walking routes to school, and pride in the place that they are. The greenways will provide all of those things in a city that gets negative press as a hard-edged, too cold place to be.

The greenways also guide cyclists to destinations that are away from their normal turf, turn chores into excursions, and even make commuting a pleasurable pursuit. The greenways are incentives for economic development, designed to call out the unique features of each community that they pass through, so that a casual passerby does not miss them.

(View Urban Greenways presentation)

Urban Outdoors
March 2008
(.pdf) (word)


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