QueensWay proposal debated in Woodhaven
by Ed Wendell
Oct 02, 2013 | 868 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Supporters and opponents of the QueensWay – a plan to transform the long-defunct Rockaway Branch Rail Line into a public greenway for walking, jogging and bicycling – squared off at a meet and greet on Monday at a restaurant on 101st Avenue.

For the uninitiated, in Woodhaven this line runs along 98th Street and behind the Forest Park Co-Ops.

The meet and greet was intended only for supporters and volunteers of the QueensWay, but opponents of the plan came out to have their say and for the first time, the two sides really got to speak to one another. Sometimes the discussions got loud and heated, but at the very least lines of communications were opened.

At the same time, however, people on both sides of the debate realize they will be squaring off again. People with the QueensWay told me that their volunteers were energized by the exchanges and were “digging in.” And residents and business owners who will be most impacted by the QueensWay vow to fight to protect their homes and their livelihoods.

Late last year, the WRBA held a public forum featuring two proposals – one for the QueensWay and one for the reactivation of a railroad – and eventually issued a statement saying that the organization has “decided not to support either of the proposals at this time.”

A few people have interpreted that to mean that the WRBA is against both plans, and that is not true - not supporting a plan and being against it are different).

However, for what it’s worth, I will share my feelings on the QueensWay proposal, keeping in mind that this is my opinion and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the WRBA.

For starters, I do appreciate the efforts that the supporters of the QueensWay proposal have put into this; I feel that their intentions are good. In fact, two of the people heavily involved in the proposal – Andrea Crawford and Ivan Mrakovcic – are good people who have volunteered many hours on behalf of Woodhaven through their work on Community Board 9.

That being said, I am very concerned about the impact the addition of this QueensWay could have on our community. For the past two months, we have been sending regular reports to the Department of Transportation on the lighting conditions along the jogging and walking areas in Forest Park. In the mornings, my wife and I have regularly witnessed people jogging with flashlights.

Speaking to people who use the park, this is not a new problem – lighting has been an issue in the park for a very long time. And although we have been making regular complaints, and although we have seen some minor improvements, yesterday morning when we drove up past Oak Ridge and along the golf course we observed that more than half the lights were still out (19 out of 34). That is a dangerous condition that invites trouble.

If you walk along Forest Park Drive past Victory Field (also known as the Brooklyn-Queens Greenway), you will find sidewalks and roads that are broken, badly damaged and in need of replacement. So, for starters, perhaps we should take better care of the greenway we do have before building a brand new one.

Not only am I concerned that the new one will not be maintained, I expect that the addition of a new public greenway will deplete the resources necessary to adequately maintain the parkland we already have.

I am also very concerned about general safety in the proposed greenway. A couple of years ago, when speaking about the high incidents of illegal sexual encounters along Park Lane South in Richmond Hill and right along the Brooklyn-Queens Greenway, Community Board 9 District Manager Mary Ann Carey acknowledged that it had been a problem for a least 20 years.

Twenty years! For over two decades there have been problems with drug use in the park, with illegal sexual encounters, and – as we are all very aware – recently there have been a number of sexual assaults and rapes.

Is it really a surprise that residents are less than enthusiastic about millions and millions of taxpayer dollars being used to create an easy conduit for that kind of behavior through the heart of Woodhaven?

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