QueensWay, the hotly debated and potentially transformative linear park proposal replacing abandoned railroad tracks from Rego Park to Ozone Park in Queens, now has a design and planning team. WXY architecture + urban design and dlandstudio, both New York-based firms, were on the receiving end of a phone call from the Trust for Public Land (TPL) who organized the discreet RFP. The team was selected from a pool of 29 proposals.
On a rainy day in March, a privately invited group of architects and landscape architects were chauffeured (by bus) to a few sections of the abandoned line in Queens. Along the QueensWay route, TPL’s guests viewed the blighted railroad as it dips and soars from moment to moment, carving through a ravine in Forest Hills. WXY and dlandstudio saw opportunity.
Courtesy WXY and dlandstudio
The proposal calls for the connection of ecologies to be the guiding framework. “QueensWay with sensitive design can become a critical artery of green open space for a diverse, vibrant community, offering opportunities for recreation, education, community gathering, and ecological productivity to our great city," said dlandstudio's Susannah Drake in a statement. Claire Weisz, principal at WXY agreed, “This study is an important next step in making the vision of reclaiming the QueensWay as a green connector and cultural corridor a reality.”
What they did not see was the High Line. The skyrocketing real estate value surrounding Manhattan’s famed elevated park is not the anticipated outcome of a park in Queens. Nor is it the intention. Both Rego Park and Ozone Park (neither of which are parks) are sorely lacking open space, and it is TPL’s ambition that the QueensWay will bring needed green space and more. “Boosting the local economy, activating abandoned and unsafe property, and accommodating bicycles—all with the goal of improving quality of life and connecting diverse neighborhoods.”
TPL has partnered with many non-profit organizations and city agencies to get some monumental projects off of the ground in the past, including Atlanta’s Beltline, Railroad Park & Plaza in Santa Fe, Seattle’s Olympic Park, and most recently, Chicago’s 606 (formerly the Bloomingdale Trail). Much of the work spearheaded by TPL has been social spaces that revitalize abandoned transportation infrastructure or reactivate marginal urban environments. The trust’s primary focus is on creating city parks and raising money for local conservation.
QueensWay is no different. In partnership with the Friends of the QueensWay, a coalition of local residents supporting the conversion, TPL has generated significant enthusiasm for the proposed 3.5-mile linear park. Most notably, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo provided $500,000 in grant funding for TPL to devise a feasibility study. Additional fundraising has bolstered the campaign to nearly $1 million.
TPL awarded WXY and dlandstudio $400,000 to flush out their proposal. The firms will have eight-to-ten months to complete the scope of the work, which includes feasibility planning and design.