The plan to create a High Line-style linear park over a 3.5-mile stretch of abandoned railroad track in Queens is moving forward with the help of a $467,000 grant from Governor Andrew Cuomo. The funding for this project, known as the QueensWay, will go to a study conducted by The Trust for Public Land, to examine the feasibility of turning this defunct rail line into a green space for the community.
“We really put together a good proposal, and think the project has potential in terms of its economic development of the ‘rails to trails’ and health and environmental components. When you put together that package, it makes a lot of sense to make an investment in the study,” said Travis Terry, a volunteer member of the steering committee of Friends of the QueensWay. Friends is a nonprofit group composed of local residents.
The feasibility study, slated to begin this month or next, will take up to eight months to complete. Over this period, the Trust for Public Land said, it will assess the structural and environmental conditions, conceive a master plan, and map out costs. The Trust also will engage in a dialogue with the local community and cultural institutions to incorporate their feedback into the design.
The plan may prompt opposition, however. Some Queens residents are pushing to restore train service on the elevated viaduct that runs from Rego Park and Forest Hills to Ozone Park. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the idea of a faster, more efficient connection between the Rockaways and Midtown Manhattan is winning support from a few local advocates and politicians. The Regional Rail Working Group has proposed a commuter train service to the Rockaways that could cost nearly a half-billion dollars.
Not all community groups have taken sides. The Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association announced in October on its website that its members would not support either plan. Their list of grievances includes concerns about high costs potentially imposed on residents, in addition to privacy and parking issues.
Marc Matsil, director of The Trust for Public Land in New York State, said he was confident that the QueensWay would provide a variety of new features and activities that will benefit the community.
“Bottom line, central Queens is remarkably congested,” Matsil said. “Nearly 250,000 residents live within one mile of the proposed QueensWay project. The area’s largest park, Forest Park, is quite difficult to access by bike or foot. The 3.5 mile walking and bike path would connect several communities to the park, provide greater access to local businesses, and help to reduce the carbon footprint by promoting nonmotorized transit.”