Group envisions a high line for Queens
by Heather Senison
Jan 04, 2012 | 1554 views | 1 1 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print

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Residents in Southern Queens are putting together a vision to transform the abandoned Rockaway Beach line railroad tracks into the borough's own version of the High Line - to be called The QueensWay.

Currently, the path is filled with litter, overgrown trees, thorns and crumbling wooden railroad tracks, and is home to a growing homeless population, said one of the project's coordinators Anandi Premlall.

"It would be great to transform this place that’s just been wasted here for almost 50 years," Premlall said.

The group wants to transform the tracks into a 3.5-mile park complete with walking and biking trails, native plants, play areas for children and meeting places for visitors.

"I think there’s a misconception that Queens is just one big park, or Queens is just so green," said Premlall, who's lived in Queens since she was five and currently lives near Rockaway Boulevard.

Although Queens has a few big parks, most of them are wooded or asphalt, she said.

"We want some love for Queens," she said.

The Rockaway Beach Branch Greenway Committee started the project years ago, but were denied approval by the city.

Premlall liked the idea, so she submitted a proposal to the Institute for Urban Design's By the City / For the City call for ideas in Spring 2011, Premlall said.

After other supporters came forward, a steering committee was formed in December.

So far Friends of the QueensWay, comprised of local civic leaders and architects, gained support from more than 1,300 community members who signed their petition, in addition to the Trust for Public Land.

The group is putting together a design with the help of the Institute for Urban Design, and will soon call for public input.

"We really want to show that we do have the community support and show that there is a strong need for this space," she said.

In addition to its overgrowth, the tracks are littered with electronic waste.

"I’m surprised that they were able to lug these heavy T.V.'s up there," Premlall said.

Due to the tracks' desolation, small businesses are hesitant to purchase space in the area, which deters shoppers and makes the area home mostly to warehouses and car repair shops.

"I never felt safe just even walking in that area," Premlall said.

However, the tracks' proximity to the Resorts World Casino, John F. Kennedy Airport and the Rockaway Beach Boardwalk make it an ideal place to attract tourists if it's cleaned up, she said.

"We will definitely bring a lot more traffic in the area," Premall said. "I would like to see more small businesses in the area."

Michael Perlman, chairman of the Rego-Forest Preservation Council and board member of several other civic organizations, said The QueensWay would also provide a beautiful view of Rego Park, Forest Hills, Woodhaven, Richmond Hill and Ozone Park.

"People should be creative visionaries," Perlman said, "and imagine how they can take their family and friends on a polished industrial relic bonding our Central and Southern Queens communities."

Visitors could enjoy "walking or bicycling through a 3.5-mile park and trail with trees and some native vegetation and edible gardens, while reuniting with old friends or establishing new friends from Queens' diverse communities," he added.

Friends of The QueensWay hope to get 2,000 signatures on their petition, which they will then bring to local community boards to push through the city's approval process.

The group plans to have a volunteer cleanup in the spring, and welcomes any other support the community can provide, Premlall said.

For more information on the project, visit Facebook.com/friendsofthequeensway or www.Queenshighline.blogspot.com.

Photos compliments of Anandi Premlall.

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Anandi A. Premlall
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January 05, 2012
Thanks for your great article Heather!

To clarify, I submitted a proposal to turn an abandoned railroad into a "Queens High Line" to The Institute for Urban Design's By the City / For the City call for ideas in Spring 2011 (which received a lot of support, votes and social media presence) and Jennifer Cromie submitted a beautiful rendering for the space last summer as documented in my blog: http://queenshighline.blogspot.com/2011/10/by-city-for-city.html and copied here:

#284 Wouldn’t it be great if...The old, abandoned LIRR running from Forest Park to Rockaway Beach was turned into a simpler version of the HighLine with native plants, an edible garden, along with a bike and pedestrian path?

Where: 99th Street from Forest Park to Howard Beach (actually the unused part only goes to the intersection of Rockaway Boulevard & Liberty Avenue).

So that people could...enjoy more safer green spaces, reduce traffic across Queens, garden and spend time with the community through public programs. We could definitely use a park in this neighborhood!

Because I want the city to be...more bike and pedestrian friendly and safer over all. The area under these tracked are filled with makeshift garages, the surrounding area doesn't look very safe or welcoming for anyone walking or jogging. This area is highly underutilized and could make the neighborhood more beautiful.

http://www.urbandesignweek.org/by-the-city/reports/view/284

Please be advised that The QueensWay has not released any information regarding a vision for the space nor any proposals at this time.