by Denis Slattery / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, link to original post
Runners and cyclists are butting heads over a plan to pave a 1.5-mile stretch of trail in Van Cortlandt Park. The NYC city’s plan to pave the Putnam Trail, a scraggly dirt path that runs through the center of the park, has been a source of controversy since the project was announced in 2011.
Even as the $2.4 million restoration awaits approval by the state Department of Conservation, the debate over the use of asphalt to pave the trail — and make it accessible to bikers as well as the handicapped — continues to rage. “There is such precious little green space in the city and we are trying our darnedest to prevent them from using asphalt,” said Will Sanchez, an avid runner and member of the Save the Putnam Trail campaign.
Opponents insist the trail, a former railroad line, is unsuitable for pavement because it runs through a wetland.Save the Putnam Trail members have argued that a thorough environmental assessment needs to be conducted, and they insist stone dust would be preferable to asphalt.
A city landscape architect countered that suggestion at a Community Board 8 Parks Committee meeting last week, saying that using stone dust would require more excavation and exact a heavier toll on the environment.
On the other side of the path, supporters of the pavement plan say that asphalt would open the trail to cyclists and the disabled, and link up to existing bike trails in Westchester County. “Paving the trail is not going to cause the level of environmental damage that opponents are claiming. It’s not going through areas where the railroad hasn’t already been,” argued Rich Conroy of Bike New York, a cycling-geared nonprofit.
“The path could have a lasting environmental impact if we see the trend of people commuting by bicycle continue to grow,” he said.