Queensway Plan Released

After a year of meetings with residents of Queens, The Trust for Public Land and the Friends of the QueensWay, a grassroots community organization with over 3,000 supporters from Central and Southern Queens, today released the QueensWay Plan, a study which will be a blueprint for the QueensWay—New York City’s next great park.

The 3.5 mile long QueensWay will follow abandoned railroad tracks and will provide safe, easy access to Forest Park; new recreation opportunities for the 322,000 people living within a mile; a boost to local businesses, and a high-profile showcase for the most culturally diverse borough of New York City.

A variety of local elected officials and community leaders endorsed the proposal including: Congressman Joseph Crowley, Congresswoman Grace Meng, State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, State Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz, the Queens Chamber of Commerce, Association for a Better New York (ABNY), New York League of Conservation Voters, Citizens Committee of New York City, Transportation Alternatives, local businesses Worksman Bikes and Ben’s Best Deli, the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and other individuals, businesses and organizations (see full quote list below).

“This will be a wonderful park for Queens,” said Will Rogers, President of The Trust for Public Land. “It will provide a safe way for people to get to Forest Park without having to cross dangerous traffic, and the visitors of the QueensWay will help local businesses. It will also provide outdoor recreation for thousands of people who need that access. We look forward to making this park a reality.”

“At our schools, little leagues, religious institutions and local shops, the residents of Central Queens are buzzing with excitement over the QueensWay. This incredible project will finally put the long abandoned railway to use bringing our community more equitable access to family-friendly open space, improving our quality of life and delivering significant economic impact,” said Friends of the QueensWay. “Today’s announcement of the QueensWay Plan and the support of our local elected officials and so many respected community organizations is a huge step forward in making this project a reality and we are truly grateful to all of the stakeholders who helped this project get to this point.”

The QueensWay Plan, which is available at , was prepared by W X Y architecture + urban design and DLANDStudio Architecture & Landscape Architecture after a long series of workshops and community engagement meetings in Queens over the past year. The study was funded in part by the Governor’s Regional Economic Development Council and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. The study estimates that creating the park will cost $120 million. The route of the QueensWay would go through the neighborhoods of Rego Park, Forest Hills, Glendale, Richmond Hill, Woodhaven and Ozone Park.

With a mix of new recreational and cultural opportunities and natural trails, the QueensWay Plan establishes a concept design for the landscape and amenities that responds to community needs and goals. The Plan proposes playgrounds, exercise areas, a multi-use sports pavilion and local food concessions by key entry points for walkers and bicyclists, particularly where the QueensWay meets Forest Park and where it is elevated on a viaduct at the park’s southern end. Where the Plan passes more closely to backyards, the QueensWay is a landscaped path that emphasizes an experience of nature while protecting the privacy of the adjacent residential areas.

Congressman Joseph Crowley (D – Queens, the Bronx) said: “Parks and open spaces are vital to the health of our communities and any time we have an opportunity to create more access to them we should seize it. Not only does the QueensWay Plan present great health and environmental benefits but it also provides the potential to spur economic growth in the area. I applaud the Friends of the QueensWay and the Trust for Public Land for engaging local residents on this feasibility study and look forward to the ongoing work to create a unique park that all New Yorkers can enjoy.”

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens) said: “Investing in parkland is critical to the quality of life in Queens. The QueensWay project is an ambitious plan that has the potential to be the new gem of open space in the borough. The plan would provide sprawling public parkland and would be a treasured resource for local families, children and seniors, as well a boon for the environment and the Queens economy. I look forward to further progress resulting from the study in the weeks and months ahead. I applaud Friends of the QueensWay and the Trust for Public Land for their work in engaging community members each step of the way, and I know that they will continue to do so as the project moves forward.”

Senator Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Central Queens) said: “Parks are too often neglected and QueensWay would offer more access to open space and parkland. Parks provide an economic benefit to local business, retail establishments and restaurants and people of all ages would be able to enjoy the recreational opportunities which this new green space would provide.”

New York State Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi said: “Having grown up near the long-abandoned railway and recognizing the potential it has to be a meaningful and substantive community resource, it is great to finally see a realistic proposal to do just that. The QueensWay Plan will provide our communities with a tremendous opportunity for investment into our local economy by showcasing our distinct neighborhoods, traditions and communities, all interconnected through a single, transformative, safe, family-friendly park. I look forward to continuing to work with the Friends of the QueensWay, the community, and my colleagues in government to make this plan a reality.”

Council Member Karen Koslowitz, 29th District said: “For over 50 years this abandoned railway has deteriorated into a rusting, garbage strewn repository of urban blight. I applaud the QueensWay Plan for its vision of transforming this urban scar into a “green” destination. I look forward to working with community members and the Friends of Queensway in the development of parkland that will be enjoyed by Queens residents for generations to come.”

Among the expected benefits, according to the plan:

Economic Engine – Parks in cities have generated significant economic benefits to nearby neighborhoods. For example, in Manhattan, the High Line has provided an estimated $2.2 billion in new economic activity to the area. The QueensWay will be no different. With an estimated 1 million visitors per year, the park will be a boost to hundreds of nearby businesses, restaurants and cultural institutions, resulting in more time and money spent in the Queens community.

Safer Streets/Alternative Transportation – Queens has the highest rate of auto-related pedestrian deaths in New York and central Queens does not have a safe north-south passage. The QueensWay will complement Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative by providing a safe cycling and walking/running alternative to two of Queens’ major thoroughfares – Woodhaven and Queens Boulevards.

In addition to providing safe routes for pedestrians, the QueensWay will provide alternative ways for residents to travel. None of the six neighborhoods next to the QueensWay have bike routes. This project will immediately place Queens near the top of the list of longest off-road trails in New York City.

Recreation and Health – A new, lengthy recreational amenity will improve public health, create easy access to neighborhood parks and destinations, and provide shorter commute times to and from businesses and schools (estimated to save 15-20 minutes). Year-round, the QueensWay will connect residents to a variety of low-cost ways to exercise, including bike and walking paths, playgrounds, open fields for sporting activities and cross-country skiing in the winter. Better access to recreational facilities has been shown to be an effective tool in helping to fight obesity and chronic illness.

Park Equity – Although Queens’ population is growing, little has been added to the park system. In the southern third of the QueensWay, where more than 40,000 people live within a ½ mile of the tracks, there are only .21 acres of park per 1,000 people. This is less than one-tenth of the 2.5 acres per 1,000 people, which is the City’s own standard for what a neighborhood needs. The QueensWay will provide 47 acres of new and restored park and miles of bikes paths for the 322,000 residents living within one mile.

Education – The QueensWay can help children learn. Twelve schools are within a five-minute walk of the park, and two of those are directly adjacent to it. That will provide thousands of children safe access to an outdoor classroom and learning environment.

Cultural – Queens is the nation’s most culturally diverse urban community. The QueensWay is committed to celebrating the spirit, pride, art, and great cuisine of Queens’ neighborhoods. The QueensWay will partner with many well-known cultural institutions, and local businesses to provide residents and visitors access to, and knowledge of, the many destinations that makes Central Queens so great.

Ecology Selective removal of non-native invasive plants, pruning of existing mature trees and the addition of a broader range of new trees, shrubs and perennials will help enhance the biodiversity of the QueensWay. The 3.5-mile corridor can be a stopover for birds on the North Atlantic flyway as well as a site for Monarch and other butterfly habitats on their migration routes. In addition, green infrastructure elements will be incorporated into construction to help reduce local flooding.

The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Nearly ten million people live within a ten-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year.

The Friends of the QueensWay (FQW) is a grassroots community organization – consisting mainly of Central and Southern Queens residents – who are advocating for the conversion of the long-abandoned, 3.5 mile, 47 acre LIRR Rockaway Beach Branch into a family-friendly public park that can be enjoyed by bikers, walkers, joggers, visitors, tourists, workers and residents in Queens. It is FQW’s intention to plan the reuse of this property in a way that not only creates an iconic park but also sparks economic and cultural development, improves the quality of life and environment, and provides greater access to all that Central Queens has to offer including a direct, fast and safe link to Forest Park.