Theses Master's

Community Involvement and the Reuse of Rail Rights-Of-Way

Betheil, Philip

Given the scarcity of land in New York City, obtaining property for construction of parks, transit, schools or any other civic function is extremely costly, achieved either through expensive land acquisition or eminent domain. Abandoned rail rights-of-way (ROW) are one potential source of inexpensive land available to municipalities; because of their linear nature they are of particular significance for transportation reuse. This thesis examines how community involvement affects the reuse of rail rights-of-way in New York City through case studies of three rail rights-of-way: The Rockaway Beach Branch in Queens, Staten Island North Shore Line, and the Regional Plan Association’s proposed Triboro Rx alignment (in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx). It finds that while the context may vary, some generalizations can be made. Effective community involvement processes, coalition building, and political understanding are useful tools in presenting a right-of-way reuse proposal as necessary or fait accompli. However, community involvement is insufficient on its own as a tool for advancing grassroots proposals given the realpolitik nature of New York City infrastructure planning, especially for large-scale transit projects.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Sclar, Eliot
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
September 28, 2015