The Pennsylvannia Railroad Harsimus Stem Embankment Preservation Coalition is a nonprofit organization incorporated in the State of New Jersey. It works to protect the elevated stone embankment that was once the easternmost portion of the Pennsylvania Railroad freightway in Jersey City, and today is a monument to local, regional, national, and railway history and an architectural, aesthetic, environmental, and open-space asset.
The Coalition formed in 1998 as a working group that evolved from meetings of more than a hundred neighbors concerned about a proposal to demolish the Embankment and develop the site, which is located in Downtown Jersey City and forms the boundary of two National Historic Districts. The group spent months researching the historic, environmental, aesthetic, and cultural aspects of this structure. Findings led to a consensus that the Embankment is an important and irreplaceable historic, environmental, and transportation resource that must be preserved.
To preserve the historic Pennsylvania Railroad Harsimus Stem Embankment, develop its top as passive open space, and integrate the site into a network of local and regional pedestrian and biking trails, including the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway and the East Coast Greenway.
In its early years, the Coalition formulated a vision that continues to guide us:
The Embankment will be owned by a public entity, either City, County, or State, or a land or historic preservation trust.
The top of the Embankment will be passive open space, a serene oasis in the densely populated Downtown. Public access, with safeguards for habitat and the adjoining communities, will be provided.
The streetscape on the northern side of the Embankment will be improved with sidewalks, trees and other plants, historically appropriate lighting, and amenities for pedestrians—part of a promenade that will extend beyond the Embankment to the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway.
The Embankment and streetscape will be a linchpin in a network of walkable, bikeable greenways within the City of Jersey City, and beyond. From north to south along Jersey Avenue, a main boulevard, the Embankment will serve as a midpoint in a series of parks, including Hamilton Park, Van Vorst Park, and Liberty State Park. From east to west, the Embankment will join the Hudson Waterfront Walkway with the Hackensack Meadowlands, via the Bergen Arches. The Harsimus Branch and the Arches/Erie Cut have been identified as key segments of, and destinations on, the main East Coast Greenway route through Hudson County.
This vision evolved into Coalition support for Jersey City's efforts to secure the Harsimus Branch transportation corridor for the needs of its growing population, including for rail, trail, and open space. These three uses can coexist compatibly with historic preservation.
The Coalition is also currently advocating, through its Crossroads project, a trail system that links parks and open spaces throughout the City and region.