The passage of the bill is a step closer to linking two trails into a miles-long bike and pedestrian path extending from Queens to Long Island.
The bill would allow the state’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and Office of Mental Health to study the environmental impact of extending the Long Island Motor Parkway trail in addition to its total cost and duration.
Cyclists and bike advocate Joby Jacob has been at the forefront of linking the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway path in Queens to the Long Island trail.
“On June 9, 1938, the city’s Board of Estimate accepted the property of the Long Island Motor Parkway, extending from Horace Harding Boulevard, what is today’s Long Island Expressway, a distance of six miles to the county line between Queens and Nassau counties for park purposes,” Jacob said. “Unfortunately today, of those original six miles of park, we only have three miles left.”
In 2012, Nassau County put forth a plan to create a Motor Parkway trail of its own in its territory.
“We knew if we didn’t do anything, we’d be faced with a problem because New York State would have two Motor Parkway trails separated by a 2.5-mile gap,” Jacob said.
“There’s no way to connect this trail to the rest of Long Island and all of the bike paths that are out there,” added Senator John Liu. “This study would get us much closer to making that day a reality.”
The communities in Eastern Queens, Nassau County and Suffolk County have supported Jacob for years, with it being one of the most raised issues for local elected officials, according to Assemblyman David Weprin.
Now that the legislation has been passed, the bill has been sent to the governor.
In 2017, Cuomo proposed the The Empire State Trail, a multi-use trail that would run from Manhattan to Lake Champlain and also from Buffalo to Albany.
Jacob suggested that filling the trail gap between Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island could also link to the Empire State Trail.
“We’re not taking anything for granted,” Weprin said. “All of those people who have called, written letters and emailed the legislators, please do the same to the governor.”
The current pathway, which ends in at Alley Pond Park in Queens Village, is heavily used by residents. But the group says more people will be able to use the path and explore new neighborhoods once everything is connected.
The Queens Motor Parkway trail is also part of the Brooklyn-Queens Greenway which stretches from Coney Island to Bayside and the Nassau trail is set to run from Lakeville Road to Bethpage.
“Linking the two Motor Parkway trails would create a 57-mile long trail connecting Brooklyn, Queens, Nassau and Suffolk counties,” Jacob said.
Jacob led a group of cyclists, including the Queens organizer of Transportation Alternatives, Juan Restrepo, through the different parts of the Motor Parkway in Eastern Queens and Long Island. The current journey isn’t safe but Restrepo can see that the potential is there.
“There is so much potential in expanding the Motor Parkway and giving people a family-friendly greenway bike path that will allow communities to live a healthy life and commute from place to place,” Restrepo said.
Howard Kroplick, president of the Long Island Motor Parkway Preservation Society and town historian in North Hempstead, has been studying the Motor Parkway for the last 14 years.
While the Motor Parkway was the country’s first parkway made for automobiles, Kroplick added that when it closed in 1938, Robert Moses made the first two miles a bike path. By connecting the remaining path, he argued that the path would do more than just serving as recreational use; it would also preserve a piece of American history.
For Laura Shepard, a representative for Bike NYC, the bill is especially sentimental. She spent her youth learning to ride a bike on the Motor Parkway and commuted from her home to her soccer games or to her grandmother’s home using the path.
“A bike network is only as good as its weakest link and if we have sections where people are afraid to ride, we’re not serving everyone,” Shepard said. “As we’re looking at the implementation of congestion pricing, we need to make every alternative safe. We can’t have this gap.”