May 19, By Jason Cohen
The plan to transform a piece of the former LIRR Rockaway Beach Branch Line into a linear park, known as The QueensWay, took a significant step forward this week with its advocates releasing a preliminary design.
The Trust for Public Land and Friends of the QueensWay, an advocacy group, released a schematic design of the first half-mile of the proposed 3.5-mile park and trail on Wednesday.
The QueensWay, should it become a reality, involves renovating the abandoned rail line into an elevated pedestrian and bicycle pathway connecting Rego Park, Forest Hills, Richmond Hill, Glendale, Woodhaven and Ozone Park.
The project would provide public green space, recreation areas, opportunities for safe alternative commuting and community space.
Phase I, “the Metropolitan Hub,” which is next to Forest Hills and Glendale, could open by 2020, its advocates say. It would offer improved access to Forest Park, they say, running from Metropolitan Avenue south to Union Turnpike, where an existing path provides pedestrian and bike access to the park.
This section would also provide learning gardens and outdoor classrooms for more than 2,000 students in the three schools comprising the Metropolitan Education Campus.
“Today’s announcement is a tremendous step forward for the QueensWay, which would not have been possible without our partners in government and the community, who enthusiastically provided ideas for safe routes for biking and walking, outdoor classroom space and enhancements to baseball fields,” said Andy Stone, New York City director of The Trust for Public Land in a statement.
“The completion of a compelling design for the first phase will bring us that much closer to making the QueensWay a reality for hundreds of thousands of people who live within a 10-minute walk.”
Phase I schematic design was led by DLANDstudio Architecture + Landscape Architecture, and included input from local residents about desired uses involving community workshops and meetings, as well as a detailed site analysis and survey process.
Construction-ready working drawings will be produced over the next year, which will provide the community with additional details on new features of the proposed park.
Additionally, the project will be retaining a safety and security consultant to make recommendations for design and operations of the Queensway.
“Today, we are proud to announce that we have reached another significant milestone,” Travis Terry, member of the Friends of the QueensWay Steering Committee said.
So far, The Trust for Public Land and Friends of the QueensWay have raised more than $2 million in private funds and New York state grants to help the QueensWay project move forward – completing a plan, building a network of thousands of local supporters and volunteers, in addition to preparing the first stages of design.
The group has estimated that the project would cost about $120 million.
State Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, an advocate of the QueensWay, has allocated funding for the project.
“It was a pleasure to have been able to provide funding for this stage of the QueensWay project, and I’m pleased with the progress that has been made to realize this tremendous community amenity.”
The plan, however, does face obstacles.
The MTA is currently studying the rail line to see whether it should be put back in service.
Groups, such as the Queens Public Transit Committee, claim that by restoring the line commuting times for thousands of Queens residents would be reduced.