The 606 Is Walkthrough-Ready But Still A Construction Site With Days To Go

By Rachel Cromidas in News on Jun 2, 2015 11:15PM

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(The Mayor walks the 606./ Photo: Rachel Cromidas)

The railroad line-turned public park that stretches across the West Side is paved, landscaped and primed to become the city's newest walking trail, as Mayor Rahm Emanuel demonstrated on a media tour Tuesday afternoon. But construction crews still have a mountain of tasks to complete between now and Saturday, when The 606, also known as the Bloomingdale Trail, will be unveiled to the public.

As Emanuel led a handful of reporters and city officials on a tour of the trail between Spaulding and Central Park avenues, crews were still at work landscaping the ground-level parks that lead up to the trail at several points along its 2.7 mile-route. Some parts of the trail were still waiting on crews to lay a blue, rubber-like walkway, bench frames still awaited the delivery of their wooden seats and the rectangular shells of dozens of light fixtures still lacked lights. The sun beat down on visitors to the elevated path, which is dotted with native plants and tree saplings but lacks substantial shade.

But the park will not only be ready to open come Saturday morning, officials said, it is poised to become the pride of the four West Side communities it cuts through.

The trail "used to divide neighborhoods, but now it brings different parts of the city together," Emanuel said. "People from around the country and around the world will be coming to see what The 606 has done."

Though he acknowledged that the trail is not completely landscaped and misses some finishing touches, it is operational.

"We made the bold decision to open the path all at one time," said Beth White, head of the Trust For Public Land, which helped fund and oversee the railroad's $95 million transformation. "People have been clamoring to get up here for ten years."

The yet-to-open trail has so far inspired dozens of think pieces and news features on its cost and timeline, its architecture, the challenges facing neighbors who live with the trail pressed up against their windows and its potential to accelerate the gentrifying forces already bearing down on the surrounding communities.

White told reporters that the trail will "add community value," for the nearby schools and 20,000-some children who live in households within a ten-minute walk to the parks. And in turn, the trail will bring tourists and business out to neighborhoods they might not otherwise visit. "These communities are so rich," she said. "There's manufacturing, housing, arts, restaurants. It's the city."

And you can forget about the High Line, the iconic New York City rails-to-trails project to which The 606 is so often compared. With several feet of soil stretch deep beneath the trail, it has the potential to become a vibrant elevated park after a few growing seasons.

"This is earth. There are oaks up here, ginkgos, there's a poplar grove," White said. "You're going to see a rich variety in our landscape."