The Triboro Corridor, extending from Brooklyn to Queens to the Bronx, is over 24 miles in length with 2.6 million current residents. By 2040, the Regional Plan Association (RPA) anticipates that its population will increase by 400,000 people. This often-overlooked territory, the outer boroughs, must play an important role in the future of the region, particularly given the increasing unaffordability and finite space of Manhattan and New York City’s core.
In envisioning the future of the Triboro Corridor, certain questions must be answered: who will benefit from the improved connectivity, the enhanced livability of neighborhoods, and the catalytic development opportunities? Can we make sure that value creation remains local? Can we transform the area to become even more important as an emancipation and empowerment engine, while keeping its existing and diverse communities intact? We think the answer is yes, but a new commitment to city making must be affirmed.
Rotating the map produces an unexpected and non- Manhattan-centric view of the corridor and brings into focus the outer boroughs and their importance for the City.
In the past 20 years, New York City’s prosperity has unequally benefited populations nearest to Manhattan. Seemingly, new infrastructure and innovations in mobility have followed-- or perhaps even facilitated-- this trend, like the High Line, CitiBike, and the Second Avenue Subway extension.
Through the repurposing of existing underutilized freight and intercity train lines, the Triboro Line will connect the outer boroughs and provide new passenger train service. The Triboro Line will provide redundancy and resiliency in the city’s transit network, as first envisioned in the RPA’s 1929 First Regional Plan. Where the region’s subway and train service now radiates from Manhattan, the Triboro Line will create a circumferential connection and new spatial relationships between amenities, people, and jobs.
As proposed, the Triboro is the dual-purposing of existing freight and intercity train lines to connect Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx via the Triboro Line, linking the outer boroughs with a new passenger train service. Where the region’s subway and train service now radiates from Manhattan, the Triboro Line will create a circumferential connection and new spatial relationships between diverse communities, people, and jobs.
Acknowledging the dynamics of city making, the corridor plan must be sensitive to the risk of gentrification and other implications of development along transit lines. It must move beyond traditional transit oriented development (TOD) modes that focus predominantly on densification around stations. In this sense, the plan should focus not only on the station nodes, but also the in-between spaces where community life takes place.
A proposed plan should provide a “kit of parts” that embraces aggregated organic growth in order to maximize social benefit, civic empowerment and optimize health impacts. Most importantly, such a strategy can be implemented incrementally. The implementation of different strategies relates to different policy and financing mechanisms, and operates through three primary approaches for city making.
Logically, the existing identity of the Triboro Corridor is highly fragmented. The rail line transects almost every imaginable condition. The existing track is raised, sunken, decked, and numerous roads and trains bridge over it or tunnel underneath it. The line presents an exquisite corpse of New York City’s physical urban fabric, offering rich opportunities for design innovation. Nonetheless, the corridor is recognizable through infrastructure like Othmar Ammann’s Triborough Bridge, overhead electrical structures, and a lush tree canopy.
The corridor is not only physically distinct but is also home to many different resident populations. The line intersects several diverse communities with varying social and economic demographics. Each community has different appetites for development, physical capacities, cultural needs and desires. Rather than unifying the identity of the line and the corridor, we propose intensifying its differences and building on its unique local identities using three main components to guide development:
Create a low carbon corridor that uses the right-of-way and other adjoining green space including demapped streets for a signature linear park that paves the way for a “bicycle superhighway” for commuters and recreational users, and enhances open space to mitigate negative health and climate change impacts.
Establish processes for the next economies by creating new relationships and proximities between the workforce and workplaces, particularly for economic sectors which are not necessarily centered in Manhattan, such as education, health care, logistics, manufacturing, and food, and by investing in workforce development for the circular economy.
Optimizing catalytic projects by introducing new programs for equitable development that facilitate intermodal links and generate positive impacts along the corridor.
Measuring and communicating local and regional benefits becomes central to success. Metrics indicate measured outcomes and projected targets along the corridor and citywide. By 2040, it is projected that 39% of New York City’s population will reside along the corridor, there will be a 26% increase in jobs, and a concerted effort in pushing standards beyond the 20% requirement for affordable housing units. Overall, a plan must enable more and smarter growth that also promotes affordability, increase quality access to jobs and services, promote greener energy efficient neighborhoods and healthier lifestyles, all while reducing climate change impacts.