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

a few days ago the alcalde, Eric Adamsannounced to much fanfare that Queens County will soon have a park similar to Manhattan’s famous Highline, which will be built on some 3.5 miles of old track along the Long Island Railroad, in neighborhoods like Forest Hills, Rego Park, Glendale y Woodhaven.

The mandatary officially presented the creation of the so-called QueensWaya project with which in its first phase the City will invest $35 million 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, which denounces the disuse of these Long Island Railroad Road (LIRR) tracks. closed 60 years agowas welcomed by those who dream of having more green areas in that part of the city, such as Josue Mendoza, neighbour of Rego Park.

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

The mayor adams He assured that the project will provide the residents of that part of Queens, where an estimated 323,000 people live, with 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 city of five boroughs, and each borough deserves high-quality park space. That is exactly what we are delivering with this investment of $35 million 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 Terrypresident of the organization Friends of the QueensWaydescribed Mayor Adams’ announcement as “a historic and extraordinary moment”, and assured that it will improve the quality of life for the inhabitants of Queens.

“After decades of community advocacy, the work is beginning to transform these miles of greenway into a space our communities can enjoy,” said the community leader. “When the QueensWay is complete, community organizations and schools will be improved; neighborhoods will be reconnected; 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 CEO of the Queens Chamber of CommerceHe stressed that the impact that the new park will have on his county will not only be environmental, but he warned that it will be an economic boost for that part of the Big Apple.

“This transformative 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 for that part of Queens, Lynn Schulmanwho in turn is president of the Health Committee of the Municipal Council, applauded the Mayor’s decision to begin work to build a park on the abandoned tracks, in which that legislative body will invest $2.5 millionand stressed that it is a great action to help save the planet.

“A linear park in Forest Hills, Queens is a big step in 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, it is 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 to 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 Apple of discord It 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 for expand subway lines; Much of that area is a transportation desert, and in several areas the train stations are as far as half an hour’s walk away.

This is how he suffers daily Fanny Lazarawho lives at 69 Rego Park Avenue, 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 the lack of transportation. I think it’s the last straw that they don’t listen to us and they come up with the little joke that they will put plants and bushes instead of a meter“said the Panamanian.

Maria Pilonawho has lived in Rego park for several years, also did not take kindly to the initiative of a linear park, and 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 and even more to get to the train station and I see that there are already enough green areas around here. In addition, these decisions were made without consulting our neighbors at all,” said the Guatemalan. “I hope 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 Ortegaanother resident of Forest Hills, the neighborhood adjacent to Rego Park, denied that the bus service does not work well, and said that although she understands that older adults would prefer a train service, she assured that due to the high number of children For that part of Queens, a linear park is a great idea.

“I think we have good bus routes, at least on these sides, and there are few parks not only to take the children, but also to be ourselves 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 from the QueensLink group, who has been advocating for years to return the abandoned rail area to its original use. The dream was for neighborhoods with public transportation options limited to buses or public cars, to 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 greenery along the way.

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

The Colombian Tulio Bonilla, 62 years old, 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 make mistakes in its 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 Forest Hills resident. “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 Queens Borough President himself, Donovan Richards Jr.who supported the park plan, admitted that the area is behind in public transportation issues and stressed that while it is urgent to ensure that communities have access to open spaces, inequity in terms of mobility options also needs to be resolved.

“Queens has a demonstrated need for larger and 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 inequities.”

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

“Mayor Adams should prioritize new and improved busways on major corridors like Northern Boulevard and Woodhaven Boulevard to expedite 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 Queens’ new bus design from the MTA add very frequent bus service along major routes to reduce wait times and provide faster door-to-door transit journeys.”

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

The QueensWay in figures and data

  • 2011 the plan began to be promoted among Queens residents
  • $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 tracks of the Rockaway Beach of the Long Island Rail Road
  • 1962 was the year the tracks were closed after several fires
  • Conectará a Rego Park, Forest Hills, Glendale, Woodhaven, Richmond Hill y South Ozone Park
  • The construction will be done in three main segments (north, center and south)

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