An effort is underway to turn a stretch of land along New York Avenue NE into a biking and walking trail, connecting Ivy City to NoMa and beyond.

Map of the potential New York Avenue trail route. Image from Google Maps with edits by the author.

The western end of the trail will be at 4th Street NE in what many know as Union Market— the Office of Planning and Douglas Development, one of the district’s biggest developers, actually call it by its original name, the Florida Avenue Market. This area used to be the rail yards for the wholesale market, and there’s an unused tunnel under New York Avenue that DDOT could repurpose for a trail.

The south side of the tunnel leads to a large plot of city-owned land, which could eventually be a park that the thousands of new residents coming to the neighborhood could enjoy while at the market.

"The New York Avenue Trail has been in our plans for several years,” said DDOT bicycle program coordinator Jim Sebastian. “With new activity and community support in the corridor, we can start a more concerted planning effort that will end with better neighborhood connections for walking and bicycling.”

DC’s 2005 DC Bike Master Plan designated New York Avenue NE as the site of a future off road multi-use trail. A feasibility study, conducted by the Rails to Trails Coalition and commissioned by Douglas, will look at the corridor from Union Market to the Arboretum.

A trail through the area would provide access to new development in Ivy City and help connect several Ward 5 neighborhoods to the NoMa Metro.

"We couldn’t be more excited about the potential of linking the Florida Avenue Market all the way to the Arboretum,” said Paul Millstein, a vice president and head of construction at Douglas. “We think it’s key to the pedestrian-friendliness of the entire sector as this industrial area transitions to a livable community.”

Hecht’s development, from the north.  Image from Douglas Development.

The trail will help make it easier to travel to and from Ivy City

Wedged between New York Avenue NE and West Virginia Avenue NE, Ivy City has long been one of DC’s poorest neighborhoods. Some have even called it a “dumping ground” for undesirable industrial and parking uses

But change is underway, as the DC Department of Housing and Community Development is working with several non-profits to build dozens of new houses and Douglas Development is constructing 400 apartments with several hundred thousand square feet of retail in the historic Hecht’s warehouse. Douglas also owns other nearby buildings and land.

Tunnel under New York Avenue.  Photo by the author.

Trail users will skip the steep New York Avenue bridge and have access to downtown

The tunnel gives the trail a way to avoid the steep New York Avenue bridge over the railroad tracks. In Ivy City, the tunnel connects to a path that descends back to the trail and track level at Fairview Street.

Trail users will be able to connect to downtown and elsewhere through the M Street NE cycletrack, which leads to the Metropolitan Branch Trail and may eventually link with the M Street NW cycletrack across town.

Unused railroad right of way along New York Avenue near Brentwood Parkway NE. Photo by the author.

Safety will need to be a priority for the trail to serve its purpose

The nearby Metropolitan Branch Trail has had issues with safety and maintenance, and without many parks or retail locations along the way, the trail from Ivy City to NoMA will run through areas that are even more devoid of activity. Excellent lighting, connections to area businesses and the main road, retail kiosks, and pocket parks, then, will be a must.

MOM’s Organic Market just opened its first DC store at 1501 New York Avenue NE.  For now, the safest and easiest way to get there is by driving, which is inviting because MOM’s sits at the base of a five-story parking garage. But hopefully, sometime in the not-too-distant future, it will also be safe for MOM’s patrons and other Ivy City and Ward 5 residents to bike or run there along this new trail.

Tony Goodman is an ANC Commissioner for 6C06 in Near Northeast/NoMA and member of the DC Pedestrian Advisory Council. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, he is a Construction Project Manager with a Masters degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Michigan and has lived in Washington, DC since 2002.