High Line-esque linear park to come to Queens

Opposition says QueensWay is not the way

By Jessica Meditz

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Eric Adams paid a visit to Forest Hills for the announcement.

After over a decade of advocacy, the QueensWay is slated to make its way into Queens.

The city plans to spend $35 million to begin phase one of construction for a linear park along 3.5 miles of abandoned railroad tracks that run through Central and Southern Queens, Mayor Eric Adams announced last Friday.

Adams and other elected officials gathered on Trotting Course Lane in Forest Hills, just where the Metropolitan Hub, a portion of the QueensWay will be situated, to make the announcement.

QueensWay will be built along the former Rockaway Beach Branch line, which has not been utilized in more than 60 years. Once completed, the project will connect the neighborhoods of Rego Park, Forest Hills, Glendale, Woodhaven and Ozone Park, and provide a 47-acre park and seven miles of greenway.

“Phase one will convert abandoned railroad tracks which have been used as a dumping ground into a five-acre linear park and provide a safe way for residents to walk, jog or to enjoy the open space. We’ve learned during COVID-19 how important it is to have good quality open space, and it can’t be just in one part of the city…This park is going to be the center of the lives in this community,” Adams said.

Along with benefitting physical and mental health, Adams cited air quality improvement, increased visibility for small businesses, creativity and better accessibility to public transportation as upsides to the park’s development.

He added that linear parks have proven to be successful, as seen by the Highline on the west side of Manhattan.

“We can have High Line and High Times in the outer boroughs as well, and that is why we’re bringing [QueensWay] to this amazing community here in Queens,” Adams said.

“Because of the density of our city, linear parks penetrate deep into neighborhoods, and don’t just focus on one particular area, allowing us to go further in open space. It allows eyesores like what’s behind us to go from an eyesore to an oasis.”

Councilwoman Lynn Schulman, who represents the neighborhoods of Forest Hills, Rego Park, Kew Gardens and Richmond Hill in District 29, has been a key force in getting QueensWay off the ground — advocating for the project since her days at Community Board 6.

“I can’t believe that we’re here today…We are facing a once in a civilization public health challenge to save our planet from destruction within, and today’s investment by Mayor Adams in a linear park right here in Forest Hills, Queens is a huge step and meeting this challenge,” Schulman said.

“It was 10 years ago that two friends and constituents…brought me their dream of creating a linear park where our kids could play, seniors could exercise and get fresh air and bicyclists could have safe bike paths. There were many obstacles to overcome, but I was determined when I took office in January that I would bring this extraordinary vision to fruition,” she continued. “The QueensWay will now become a reality.”

Approximately 322,000 people live within a mile radius of the QueensWay.

The proposed project would connect residents to 10 bus lines and four subway stations.

In addition, there are 12 schools within a five-minute walk of the QueensWay and two Little League field complexes directly adjoining it.

A map of the proposed QueensWay.

Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar expressed her support for the plan, as she represents District 38’s neighborhoods of Glendale, Ozone Park, Richmond Hill, Ridgewood, and Woodhaven.

“This is a great day for my district. It’s a great day for South Queens,” she said. “QueensWay will draw 1 million visitors every year. It will generate $2.2 million in new revenue…also, all the major thoroughfares in my district will be connected to QueensWay. That includes Rockaway Boulevard, 101st Avenue, Jamaica Avenue and Atlantic Avenue. This is extremely exciting for my district.”

The announcement was met with some criticism and slight heckling from advocates of the QueensLink, a proposed 3.5-mile long transit and park corridor in the same space, which would connect northern and southern Queens.

The plan calls for both transit and park space in the community, and puts forth the argument that building only the park would “block any future use of transit on the line and deprive Southern Queens residents of a faster commute and less traffic while reducing pollution and carbon emissions.”

“We can have both, but if they design the park first without knowing where the train’s going to be, they might have to tear up the park to put in the train later. It makes no sense,” Miriam Bensman, senior adviser at QueensLink, said.

“They’re talking about transit, but they’re not doing anything about it. So the key is, if you really do care about public transit, and it’s not just a campaign slogan, then you need to take it seriously and study the integration of a Transit Link, which would be a subway and a park,” Rick Horan, executive director of QueensLink, said.

“Our goal is to try to see if there’s enough value in this project to get it there. But the only way we can do that is to study it,” he continued. “So we’ve been promoting an Environmental Impact Statement for QueensLink, which includes rail entry.”

QueensLink penned a letter to both Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul last month in support of an EIS for the project.

Fifteen local elected officials signed off on the letter, including Rajkumar, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards and Assemblyman David Weprin — who were all present at Friday’s announcement.

Rajkumar told The Queens Ledger that she is still in support of the QueensLink, and that both plans are needed for residents of Queens.

“Together, these plans both create green space and meet our transit needs. Constructing the QueensWay while also reactivating the rail line to create the QueensLink is perfectly feasible,” she said.

“Rail service combined with greenway, known as ‘rails-with-trails,’ is incredibly common: there are 343 rails-with-trails in the United States alone, with a combined length of almost 1,000 miles,” she continued. “In fact, building the QueensLink along the QueensWay would be very similar to plans to add rail service to Atlanta’s BeltLine elevated park. I continue to support an Environmental Impact Statement on the QueensLink, which would fill our transit desert with a vital north-south Subway corridor.”

Southeast Queens receives street upgrades, affordable housing opportunities

Evan Triantafilidis

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Mayor Eric Adams and Council Speaker Adrienne Adams announced the completion of two quality of life projects in Southeast Queens, directly benefiting neighborhoods they both grew up around.

A $49.3 million water infrastructure project has brought six miles of new sewers and water mains to Rochdale, and an affordable housing project has launched to create 16 new, rehabilitated homes for ownership.

Despite the downfall of hail and frozen rain, Speaker Adams rejoiced, knowing far too long about the conditions of her community.

“This is a sunny day for us,” Speaker Adams said.

“Whether you live in South Jamaica, South Ozone Park or South Richmond Hill, residents for generations have often felt forgotten, overlooked and marginalized when it comes to investments from the city that can address long standing issues. Despite the best efforts from so many of our representatives, Southeast Queens, like too many other corners of our city, endured systematic disinvestment and neglect. We felt resigned to this fate as outer boroughs left behind to deal with disparity and inequity on our own for decades,” she said.

The street improvements and flood-alleviating measures include over one mile of new storm sewers, with an additional 2,265 feet of existing storm sewers being replaced. A total of 55 new catch basins were installed and 53 old ones were replaced.

The installation of three new underground chambers and the replacement of an old one increases the holding capacity of the local sewers. During construction, 9,235 feet of sanitary sewers were replaced, and 595 feet of new sewers were installed. Over three miles of water mains were replaced to improve water infrastructure reliability.

Mayor Adams called it a “powerful moment” for the Southeast Queens community.

“New catch basins, new curbs, new sidewalks, better roads,” Mayor Adams listed. “This is a total transformation.”

The Mayor said that broken promises from previous administrations led to broken drains and further flood damage to communities in Southeast Queens.

“Whenever there is rainfall, even a drizzle, this community traditionally would just cross their fingers and hope that they would not see a flood or have their property destroyed,” he said.
“We’re improving the quality of life and making this community more resilient in our fight against climate change.”

The Mayor also kicked off “Habitat Net Zero”, an affordable home ownership project that will create 16 “Green Homes” from 13 dilapidated homes previously owned by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA).

Along with Habitat for Humanity New York City and Westchester County, and through the city’s Department of Housing Preservation (HPD), the homes will be equipped with rooftop solar panels and heat-pump technology for heating and cooling, with the aim to keep homes at or near net-zero energy use.

To ensure long-term affordability, the land will be transferred to the Interboro Community Land Trust (CLT). HPD will enter a 40-year regulatory agreement with Interboro CLT, and the CLT will enter into 99-year, renewable ground leases with each homeowner.

In addition to funding from HPD’s Open Door program, funding for the project will be financed by the New York State Affordable Housing Corporation and with Reso A funds provided by Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Speaker Adams and former Councilmember I. Daneek Miller. The Local Initiatives Support Corporation and Nonprofit Finance Fund are providing construction financing, and an Article XI tax exemption will help keep ongoing housing costs affordable.

“This is going to be affordable for generations to come,” Mayor Adams said.

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