A step closer to the QueensWay
by Michael Perlman
Jan 03, 2013 | 8163 views | 1 1 comments | 108 108 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Hop aboard the QueensWay!

Not to catch a train, since the trains were taken out of service on the LIRR Rockaway Beach Branch Line in 1962, but for the visualized first linear park and cultural greenway of its kind in Queens, stationed atop of an abandoned industrial relic with Forest Hills trestles bearing a stone inscription of “1908.”

Some 60 years since its abandonment, Queens is one step closer towards achieving a High Line of its own, but will not necessarily echo Manhattan’s elevated stretch overlooking the Hudson River.

On December 19, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a $467,000 Environmental Protection Fund grant by the State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to the Trust for Public Land (TPL). This would fund a feasibility study to determine the likelihood of converting a 3.5-mile stretch along the former LIRR line into an elevated public park.

As part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's PlaNYC 2030, all New Yorkers should live within a 10 minute walk of a park. The QueensWay would achieve that, serving around 250,000 residents living within a one-mile radius.

The QueensWay would bridge the Queens communities of Rego Park, Forest Hills, Woodhaven, Glendale, Richmond Hill, and Ozone Park to Forest Park, and also bridge Queens residents through recreation, the arts, and historic and environmental preservation.

A much-needed green space may feature a pedestrian and bike path that would offer a bird's eye view of neighborhoods, and enable access to nearby bike lanes en route to Rockaway Beach and Jamaica Bay‘s recreational spaces, as well as five subway lines, numerous commercial districts, and schools.

“Over the next year, we will conduct environmental and engineering analyses, as well as a community visioning that will determine costs to turn a blighted rail line into an uninterrupted bike and walking path,” said Marc Matsil, New York State director of TPL. “The project would help catalyze economic development and celebrate the immense cultural diversity of Queens."

Since 1972, the non-profit has preserved more than three million acres from the inner city to the wilderness, and helped generate over $34 billion in public funds for conservation.

“Over the past 15 years, we assisted in the acquisition, development, and construction for successful projects such as the 17-mile West Orange Trail, the 18-mile Santa Fe Rail Trail, and New Paltz’ 12-mile Wallkill Valley Rail Trail,” said Matsil.

TPL joined forces with Friends of The QueensWay, a group founded in late 2011 by neighborhood advocates, which launched an online petition generating 2,130 signatures in favor of the project.

“It will help connect neighborhoods to green space that do not have access, help the local economy by bringing more folks to established shopping areas such as Austin Street, and help develop new opportunities along the QueensWay,” said Andrea Crawford, chair of CB9 and a member of the QueensWay Steering Committee.

“The project would create an estimated 700 construction jobs and 800 to 1,000 permanent jobs,” added Matsil.

The QueensWay would also foster friendships among residents of Queens’ ethnically diverse neighborhoods.

“There are greater than 100 ethnic groups within a mile, and we want to celebrate our diversity through cultural programs,” said Matsil, adding that its artistic and cultural scene will be a blank canvas of sculptures and ethic foods.

The lack of maintenance for 60 years has led to graffiti and hazardous conditions, including rusty tracks and large weeds engulfing litter such as aerosol cans, plastic bags, and abandoned cars, but that would be cleaned up.

Some residents with homes along its path voiced worries about crime, but it is desolate areas that are often an invitation to crime. Communities along the QueensWay’s path would be safer, as Friends of The QueensWay ensured that the stretch would be well-lit, monitored, and operate during specific hours. And TPL's goal is green infrastructure, which would pose the benefit of reducing stormwater.

Despite the extensive benefits outlined in the QueensWay proposal, Ozone Park Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder has supported reactivating the rail line to increase transit options ins southern Queens. Crawford believes reactivating the rails are not feasible, but says Goldfeder's goals can be met by reopening shuttered LIRR stops and developing bus routes.

The creative reuse of Manhattan’s 1930s-era High Line is a similar success story. Since its abandonment in 1980, some only saw a rusty structure meriting demolition, but in 1999, Friends of the High Line formed and raised funding and partnered with the city. June of 2009 marked the first section’s opening.

The High Line spared a historic railway which once delivered goods to the Meatpacking District, reused tracks to cultivate native plants and wildflowers, and introduced food kiosks, sitting areas, and water features.

“Here lies the space and creativity to do amazing things that don't necessarily raise the rents or pull the same amount of tourists, but could enlighten and enrich the communities that are a part of it,” said designer Gil Lopez, an urban ecological advocate of the QueensWay. “The bike path component sets apart the QueensWay, as well as emphasizes the need for alternative forms of transportation locally.”

Lopez envisions more diverse uses that retain the natural woodland character to highly programmed areas with seating, covered areas, and possibly outdoor dining and entertainment.

“The gardens should be diverse, from community gardens with individual plots to borough/city-managed areas maintained by the Parks Department,” Lopez said. “Areas can also be managed by non-profits.”

Forest Hills resident Travis Terry and his firm Capalino+Company worked with the Friends of the High Line, and he is now a proud member of the Friends of The QueensWay Steering Committee.

“As studies have shown, rail-to-trail conversions have a positive economic impact on the neighborhoods where they exist,” Terry said. “According to the New York Times, the High Line is responsible for over $2 billion in private investment, the creation of thousands of jobs, and a flourishing local business sector.”

“We have been in communication with the Queens Chamber of Commerce, will engage community residents who wish to bring ideas to the table, and will work with the City of New York and private philanthropies,” added Matsil.

To play a role, join facebook.com/FriendsofTheQueensWay.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Philip McManus
December 19, 2013
Do you hate your stressful commute? Is it too long, overcrowded and unreliable?

Why does Queens have so much congestion and overcrowded roadways, buses and trains?

Why does it take longer to get around?

Why are commuters forced to take numerous unnecessary transfers to get from north, south, east and west in Queens?

Why don't we use all our roadways, bridges, tunnels and unused train tracks to reduce travel times?

We the people who organized the Queens Public Transit Committee want faster transportation for your destination, work, home, school, shopping, recreation, etc. If your destination is faster so will our destination be faster.

We know that safe, fast, reliable transportation will help create more social and economic opportunities and a better life for everyone.

It boggles my mind that we do not expand our transit system for ourselves and our children.

A growing economy is the best government program for our City.

The most important correlation to our economy is transportation and education.

We must be able to move freely, quickly and be free to learn and train for our future careers.

Our standard of living is in decline because we have a corrupt government and society that would rather lie to the people and not live by the Truth.

We need to grow and build community support for faster transportation, including the Queens Rockaway Beach Line.

The reactivation of the Queens Rockaway Beach Line (RBL) will expand the NYC transit system, increase social and economic opportunities for all, while increasing property values and tax revenues. It's good for Queens.

The RBL will decrease pollution, accidents, unemployment, crime and government dependence, reduce present and future overcrowding and unreliable buses, trains and roadways at a much, much greater level than the QueensWay plan.

The QueensWay plan will only benefit a few people and a small area of Queens. It's the small plan while the transportation plan is the big plan, the most inclusive plan.

Reusing the Queens RBL for transportation is the best plan. It will reunite north and south Queens, decrease travel times and increase investments for everyone especially the poor and middle class areas that are underserved, excluded and separated from the American dream.

The QueensWay plan and the No Way plan are exclusive and divide our borough. It also prevents development and investments in Queens.

The borough of Queens needs jobs

and businesses for all the people so we can grow and help each other.

The NIMBY plan is called the Do Nothing Plan because it does very little to support Queens and the city.

Please support our cause and our group. We need to educate and organize the people to promote faster transportation and significantly reduce travel times.

Please ask your family and friends and commuters to sign our petitions to support the Reactivation of the Queens Rockaway Beach Line, the New Queens Crosstown, eliminate the toll on the Queens Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge for everyone and expand the Queens Rockaway Ferry:





Philip McManus

Queens Public Transit Committee