When the community started work to preserve the Harsimus Branch Embankment, study groups formed to look at various environmental aspects of the structure, and the importance of these to its future use. Through links from this page, the Embankment Preservation Coalition provides access to studies and plans that illuminate these environmental aspects of the Embankment.
Jersey City's Master Plan (2000) listed historic sites on the State Register of Historic Places, making them eligible for Municipal Landmarking. The Jersey City listing was not up to date, however, and did not include the Embankment (listed on the State Register in 1999 and determined eligible for the National Register in early 2000). Since then, City Planning and Master Plan elements have recognized the Embankment's historic significance:
- Reexamination Report (2005). Recommendations concerning the Embankment on p.4.
- Master Plan Historic Preservation Element Amendment (2005)
The Jersey City Municipal Council designated the Embankment a Municipal Landmark in 2003 and, after a legal challenge, again in 2006.
Open Space and Transportation
The Embankment and adjoining grade-level parcels provide more than five acres of open space in the midst of a densely built-out Downtown. The site has been recognized as a priority open space acquisition by Jersey City, Hudson County, and the New York/New Jersey Harbor Estuary Program. It is also a recommended segment of, and destination on, the East Coast Greenway and the Liberty-Water Gap Trail.
- Jersey City Master Plan Recreation Element (2007). Priority Open Space Acquisition, p. 137.
- Hudson County Open Space & Recreation Plan. Priority Open Space Acquisition, p. 170.
- NY/NJ Harbor Estuary Habitat Workgroup. (2006). Priority Acquisition.
- Jersey City Master Plan Circulation Element (2010). Cites the Embankment as important to mass transit and alternative transportation (trail) in multiple places (for example, section 2.4.2 [p. 25]). Each section of the document is searchable.
- East Coast Greenway Alliance New Jersey route information can be found here.
Flora and Fauna
Because the Embankment is elevated from street level, with no easy access, an in-depth study of plants and animals has not yet been done. A naturalist visited the eastern block, however, over four seasons in 2002-3 and recorded her observations. Residents with vantage points along the site have also made observations, and passersby in September can see that monarch butterflies use the site on their migratory path to wintering forests in Mexico. Read the naturalist's report on her first visit to the Embankment.
Residents have observed that the Embankment's massive stone and infill structure soaks up stormwater and slowly releases it into overburdened city sewers, mitigating combined sewer outflows (CSOs) into the Hudson.
A Preliminary Assessment contracted by the JCRA in 1998 found typical railroad contaminants in the Embankment. The soil may require remediation or some removal and replacement before reuse.
Other Environmental Threats
Spectra Energy proposed a gas pipeline that would intersect the Harsimus Branch near the Embankment. Despite efforts by the City of Jersey City and No Gas Pipeline to stop its route through the densely populated Downtown and near major infrastructure like the Holland Tunnel, the pipeline has been built.
Climate change threatens much of Downtown Jersey City with more frequent flooding as well as erosion of shorelines. If the elevated Embankment segments were reconnected with bridges and if the rest of the Harsimus Branch were elevated over existing stanchions to the Palisades, a needed emergency evacuation route would exist from the Downtown.