ULURP process for Metro-North project will begin soon, city says

People wait for the train at the Botanical Garden Metro-North station in Bedford Park on Wednesday, May 17, 2023.
People wait for the train at the Botanical Garden Metro-North station in Bedford Park on Wednesday, May 17, 2023.
Photo Camille Botello

The land use review process for four new Metro-North stations coming to the Bronx will begin with an information session on Jan. 10, according to the city. 

The project, already years in the making, is about to take a major step toward becoming reality with the start of the rezoning process.

Casey Berkovitz, the press secretary for the Department of City Planning, told the Bronx Times that the Jan. 10 session is a precursor to the official city Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) — which he said is set to kick off within the next month, although he declined to provide a specific date. ULURP is the city’s formal public review of prospective land use and development applicants. 

During the ULURP process — which takes about seven months — community boards and the borough president weigh in on the project, then it goes to the level of the City Planning Commission and City Council. The input is considered in binding votes by those last two groups, which will ultimately give the project a vote of yes or no, with or without modifications. An outright “no” vote would mean the project is scrapped. 

The four new Metro-North stations are a larger part of the Penn Access project — a multi-billion dollar feat that aims to cut down commute times to and from midtown Manhattan’s Penn Station by upwards of 50 minutes, better connect the East and South Bronx with Westchester County and Connecticut, and develop the neighborhoods of Hunts Point, Parkchester/Van Nest, Morris Park and Co-Op City that are getting new train stations. 

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has been spearheading the Penn Access initiative for years, touting the project as a win for the Bronx — which many consider to be a transit desert. 

Schumer’s first major victory came in December 2021, when he announced he had brokered a deal of nearly $1 million combined between the MTA and Amtrak to get the project moving. Amtrak owns the stretch of tracks Metro-North is set to use for the Penn Access project, which are mostly along a 6-mile section of the Hell Gate Line.  

Officials broke ground on the first new station in Hunts Point just about a year later in December 2022, but the project stalled this past July under “a problematic circumstance” wherein the MTA accused Amtrak of not providing required resources to keep the initiative on schedule to be completed in March 2027. Those required resources, MTA representatives said this summer, included service outages needed for construction and “force account” staff, which are Amtrak workers who are supposed to help the MTA’s labor force. 

But even with the delay in July, officials continue to champion the project. 

Before Thanksgiving both Schumer and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand secured another $1.6 billion from the Federal Railroad Administration to build the four new Bronx stations and rehabilitate 19 miles of the Hell Gate Line. As part of that same deal in November, the senators also announced a separate $58 million award to replace the existing 115-year-old Pelham Bay Bridge track.

Berkovitz, with the Department of City Planning, told the Bronx Times on Thursday that the department will gather community input at all levels through the ULURP process for the next several months. 

In addition to the session on Jan. 10, residents can keep up with the Metro-North project by subscribing to the city’s mailing list here.

This story was updated at 5:40 p.m. on Jan. 4 to clarify the ULURP process.

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