After more than a decade of legal wrangling with Conrail, the Surface Transportation Board, environmental groups, and a private property owner, Jersey City may finally be taking title to the Sixth Street Embankment, a key part of the East Coast Greenway.

On Wednesday, the City Council is expected to introduce an ordinance to approve the Sixth Street Embankment Redevelopment Plan.  If it passes muster, the plan would be up for public hearing — and adoption — next month.  

Does that mean that the 15-year, multi-million-dollar litigation involving the city, a private property owner, Conrail (successor to the former Harsimus branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad), and the federal Surface Transportation Board contesting title to the property is nearing an end?

It depends on whom you ask.

Stephen Gucciardo, president of the Embankment Preservation Coalition, whose organization is part of the lawsuit, said, “There’s a good chance we are there. The parties are pretty much in agreement except for some minor details.” 

The current plan “accomplishes the zoning” that will reportedly satisfy all concerned parties, he added.

Senior planner for Jersey City, Mallory Clark, agreed. At yesterday’s council caucus meeting she informed the assemblage, “We’re working toward a settlement.” 

Less bullish at last night’s meeting was Ward C Councilman Richard Boggiano, who has been privy to the same facts and fraught legal history as the other parties and was simply less optimistic on this question.

The plan seeks to preserve the elevated area surrounded by stone walls that is bounded by Marin Boulevard to the east, Sixth Street to the north, Fifth Street to the south, and the I-78 overpass to the west.

Stretching seven city blocks, the top of the embankment would contain an open space and trail system, including a continuous public walkway, a bikeway, and a mixed-use project along the block between Brunswick Street and Newark Avenue, part of which is privately owned. The individual block-long sections of the embankment would be linked by bridges and stairwells, providing access to pedestrians and cyclists.

At the eastern terminus of the rail line off Marin Boulevard, plans call for a 30-foot-wide extension of the greenway alongside one or two residential towers, a hotel, a restaurant, and shops. The building on Block 7 starting near Brunswick and ending at Newark Avenue would be a maximum of six stories or 75 feet tall. On Block 1, the building would be 45 stories and contain 400 apartments and 200 hotel rooms.

The redevelopment plan was approved by the city Planning Board on October 3 after two public meetings held in May and September 2022.

The embankment, built between 1902 and 1905, was in use both as a passenger and freight rail corridor, until the early 1990s and has since been designated a state and federal historic landmark as “one of the last intact historic reminders of the railroads’ influence on the economic and social development” of Jersey City and the ports of New York and New Jersey, according to the city Planning Department.

Now, City Hall says, the plan presents an opportunity to preserve the trees and shrubbery atop the embankment’s surface, which not only provide open space but reduce flooding. The project would connect to the Bergen Arches and the Hudson-Essex portion of the Greenway. It could also potentially integrate future light-rail trolley systems, city planners say.

Ron Leir has been a journalist since 1972. That includes a 37-year stint as a reporter, copy reader and assistant editor with The Jersey Journal, followed by a decade as a reporter with The Observer in...