Opinions divided in Queens over community use of 3.5 miles of closed rail tracks

Opinions divided in Queens over community use of 3.5 miles of closed rail tracks

Mayor Adams announced the first phase of the so-called “QueensWay”, which seeks to convert abandoned rails that pass through neighborhoods such as Forest Hills, Rego Park, Glendale and Woodhaven into a park, but neighbors and organizations demand that it be used to extend subway lines to those areas without transport

A few days ago, the mayor, Eric Adams, announced with much fanfare that the county of Queens will soon have a park similar to the famous Highline in Manhattan, which will be built on some 3.5 miles of old tracks on the Long Island Raild Road, in neighborhoods like Forest Hills, Rego Park, Glendale and Woodhaven.

The president officially presented the creation of the so-called QueensWay, a project with which the City will invest $35 million in its first phase for the design and construction of five acres with 0.7 miles of greenways.

The initiative, which has been promoted by neighborhood organizations since 2011, who denounce the disuse of those Long Island Raild Road (LIRR) tracks closed 60 years ago, was welcomed by those who dream of having more green areas in that area. part of the city, like Josue Mendoza, a resident of Rego Park.

“I am glad to hear that the City has finally listened to us and works will soon begin here to take advantage of a space that has often become a dirty area full of garbage or even land where people go to consume drugs,” said the Colombian.

Mayor Adams assured that the project will provide residents of that part of Queens, where an estimated 323,000 people live, new open spaces, better access to recreational services, outdoor education opportunities for students and a transportation corridor that connects with schools, companies and 10 bus lines.

“New York is a five-borough city, and every borough deserves high-quality park space. That is exactly what we are delivering with this $35 million investment in one of our vital neighborhoods in Queens,” said the local president, explaining that the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) will manage the construction of the “Met Hub” in collaboration with the Department of Parks and Recreation. “Phase one of the QueensWay will convert abandoned train tracks that have been used as a landfill into a linear park that will make this community safer, healthier, greener and more prosperous.”

Travis Terry, president of Friends of the QueensWay, called Mayor Adams’ announcement “an extraordinary and historic moment,” and said it will improve the quality of life for Queens.

“After decades of community advocacy, the work begins to transform these miles of greenway into a space that our communities can enjoy,” said the community leader. “When the QueensWay is complete, community organizations and schools will be improved; they will reconnect to neighborhoods; social and cultural programs will emerge; local businesses will get a much-needed boost; environmental conditions will improve air quality and reduce flooding; and kids, seniors, and residents will finally have a safe and beautiful place to bike, jog, or take a walk.”

Tom Grech, president and executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, stressed that the impact that the new park will have on his county will not only be at the environmental level, but he warned that it will be an economic boost for that part of the Big Apple. .

“This transformational project will create much-needed green space in the heart of our county, making Queens an even better place to live, work, raise a family and start a business. We thank Mayor Adams for funding this important project, which will benefit the local business community and residents alike,” Grech said.

The councilwoman from that part of Queens, Lynn Schulman, who in turn is president of the City Council’s Health Committee, applauded the Mayor’s decision to begin work to build a park on the abandoned rails, in which that legislative body will invest $2.5 million, and stressed that it is a great action to help save the planet.

“A linear park in Forest Hills, Queens is a big step toward meeting this challenge. For many of the 2.3 million people who live in Queens, access to public parks and open spaces is limited and, in many cases, difficult and dangerous to access on foot and by bicycle,” said the political leader. “The QueensWay will provide much-needed green space while serving as a major artery for the district, connecting six distinct neighborhoods and providing safe and easy alternative transportation to 12 schools, seven subway lines and one commuter line.”

But not everyone in the surrounding neighborhoods where the linear park will be built is so happy.

The bone of contention has to do with the issue of transportation, because the happiness on the faces of those who promoted for years that the 3.5 miles of rails be used to promote an ecological project, contrasts with those who asked that they be used to expand the subway lines; much of that area is transportation deserts, and in several areas train stations are as far as half an hour’s walk away.

This is how Fanny Lazara suffers daily, who lives on 69th Avenue in Rego Park, ten blocks from the nearest subway station and who declared herself upset with the announcement of the new park.

“I am an old woman. I’ve been living here for years and we’ve been begging for a train to be put there so we don’t have to suffer from lack of transportation. It seems to me the last straw that they don’t listen to us and they come out with the little joke that they will put plants and bushes instead of a meter,” said the Panamanian.

María Pilona, ​​who has lived in Rego park for several years, also did not welcome the initiative of a linear park, and she demanded that the City of New York reverse the plans and call community meetings.

“That space must be for one meter and they can also do park things there. Every day I have to walk 20 minutes or even more to get to the train station and I see that there are enough green areas around here already. In addition, these decisions were made without consulting the neighbors at all, “said the Guatemalan. “I hope that the Mayor reviews what he is doing and takes us into account, because it is time to improve transportation around here. The buses that are there are always late as well“.

Claudia Ortega, another resident of Forest Hills, the neighborhood next to Rego Park, denied for her part that the bus service does not work well, and said that although she understands that older adults prefer a train service, she assured that due to the high number of of children in that part of Queens, a linear park is a great idea.

“I think we have good bus routes, at least in these parts and there are few parks not only to take the children, but also to be there and breathe fresh air. I fully support the idea of ​​a park“, commented the mother of the family.

And it is that members of the community hoped that the City and the State would listen to their cry, which was formalized through the group QueensLink, which has been advocating for years for the abandoned rail area to return to its original use. The dream was that neighborhoods with public transportation options limited only to buses or public cars would have a subway, extending the M train from Queens Boulevard to Liberty Avenue, where it would merge with the A lines to Rockaway and promote green spaces along the way.

“QueensLink and its supporters are dismayed to learn of the secret agreement made to block transit equity for Queens residents by converting the former Rockaway Beach Branch rail line into a park,” that group said in a statement. “For years, QueensLink has required that this City-owned right-of-way be used for both transit and park space. Construction of the park, known as QueensWay, would block any future use of transit on this line and deprive residents of southern Queens of faster, less-traffic travel while reducing pollution and carbon emissions.”

Colombian Tulio Bonilla, 62, added to that feeling of frustration and asked the Mayor to reconsider his decision and create a plan that includes transportation and green areas.

“The City continues to be wrong in his decisions. Before starting to make a park there, they should have consulted all the neighbors and they would see that what we need is a meter”, said the resident of Forest Hills. “These park ideas are beautiful aesthetic things, but they do not meet our needs. And if there are already rails and infrastructure, why not design a metro that has ecological spaces? That was the law of things.”

The president of the county of Queens, Donovan Richards Jr., who supported the park plan, admitted that this area is behind in matters of public transport and stressed that although it is urgent to guarantee that communities have access to open spaces, it is also necessary to solve inequity in terms of mobility options.

“Queens has a demonstrated need for larger, more accessible open space, and the QueensWay is uniquely positioned to meet those needs,” the politician said. “The QueensWay will promote recreational and cultural opportunities while connecting communities and providing alternatives to the car. Queens communities experience many glaring inequalities.”

Danny Pearlstein, director of the Riders Alliance passenger advocacy organization, said that more than a subway, in Queens County the fastest way to improve public transportation is with better bus service.

“Mayor Adams should prioritize new and improved busways on important corridors like Northern Boulevard and Woodhaven Boulevard to speed bus service to and within areas of Queens like Forest Hills, Rego Park and Ozone Park,” the activist said. “In the meantime, Governor Hochul should provide funding to ensure that the MTA’s new Queens bus design incorporates very frequent bus service along major routes to reduce wait times and offer door-to-door transit trips. door faster.

Amid the differences, Mayor Adams did not rule out the possibility that the subway project could be built in the future, but without giving specific guidelines, he made it clear that for now his priority on the abandoned rails will be to promote the first phase of the park.

The MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) did not mention specific projects for the future use of those rails for a subway, but through its spokesman, Eugene Resnick, assured that “nothing in the City’s plan for the QueensWay will affect future MTA transportation initiatives.

The QueensWay in figures and data

  • 2011 began promoting the plan among residents of Queens
  • $35 million will cost the construction of the first phase of the QueensWay
  • $2.5 million dollars will be allocated by the City Council for phase one of the project
  • 323,000 people live within 1 mile of the QueensWay
  • 73,000 of them are children
  • The QueensWay will be similar to the famous Highline in Manhattan
  • It will be built along the closed Rockaway Beach tracks of the Long Island Rail Road
  • 1962 was the year the tracks were closed after several fires
  • Will connect Rego Park, Forest Hills, Glendale, Woodhaven, Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park
  • Construction will be done in three main segments (north, center and south)
Melissa Galbraith
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.