Group envisions a High Line for Queens
by Heather Senison
Jan 05, 2012 | 404 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
All photos courtesy of Anandi Premlall
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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.

Recently, the Institute for Urban Design called for ideas for its Urban Design Week, Premlall said, so The QueensWay's seven-person steering committee submitted a fresh proposal.

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 queenshighline.blogspot.com.

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