QueensWay study to convert rail line to park is underway
by Andrew Shilling
Aug 28, 2013 | 696 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Residents throughout Queens have two distinct visions for the future of the abandoned Rockaway Beach Rail Line that runs through the center of the borough.

While the Trust for Public Land and the Friends of the QueensWay selected two firms to create and propose a design for parkland on the 3.5-mile stretch rail last week, other groups who support the train’s revitalization rallied in the Rockaways for a transit option.

“There are over 2.3 million local residents in Queens who would greatly benefit from a complete restoration of the Rockaway Beach Rail Line,” said Assemblyman Philip Goldfeder in response to a state-funded study to convert the rail line into a High Line-style park.

“I am confident that any objective study regarding the best use for the abandoned rail line will conclude that a transportation option is the only real choice,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Trust for Public Land and the Friends of the QueensWay chose New York firms WXY architecture + urban Design and dlandstudio from 29 proposals from around the world to convert the line into a green space.

“The QueensWay is going to be New York’s next great park,” said Marc Matsil, director for the Trust for Public Land. “Our mission is to protect land for people, and this is a perfect fit with that goal.”

The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, along with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Council, will fund the study through a $467,000 grant, along with an additional $140,000 from the city Department of Environmental Protection.

The study will include inviting residents to a series of workshops to discuss the best possible way to transform the space.

Susannah Drake, the principal for dlandstudio, said both teams are inspired to have the opportunity to rethink the space with possibilities for recreation, education, community gatherings and ecological productivity.

“Connected ecologies, be they natural, social or cultural, are critical in the urban environment,” Drake said. “Where Central Park is the heart and lungs of Manhattan, QueensWay, with sensitive design, can become a critical artery of green open space for a diverse, vibrant community.”

The Queens Public Transit Committee for the Revitalization of the Rockaway Beach Rail Line held a rally over the weekend near the Far Rockaway subway station in opposition.

They argue that any attempt at replicating Manhattan’s High Line would be a lost opportunity at creating additional public transportation.

“(The park option would) literally stop growth in Queens and also as a transit option, and will further divide Queens,” the group commented in a public statement.

Service was cut from the line, currently owned by the city, in 1962.

Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, expressed his support for the QueensWay plan.

“We are proud supporters of this effort and believe, when completed, the QueensWay will provide a much-needed boost to the Queens economy and its diverse local businesses,” Friedman said.

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