In fight over QueensWay, homeowners take on national group
by Michael Shain
Nov 21, 2013 | 10274 views | 4 4 comments | 436 436 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Can a small group of homeowners derail an ambitious plan to turn an abandoned train line in the middle of the borough into a public bike path?

The battle over QueensWay - the name given the proposed park that would be built on top of a 3 1/2-mile stretch of track from Rego Park to Ozone Park - began for real last week.

On one side is the Trust for Public Land, a national advocacy group that has backed more than 50 rails-to-trails projects around the country.

The Friends of the QueensWay, a local group working the Trust to promote the idea of creating a long, narrow park for bikers and hikers from the rusty remains of the former Rockaway Beach rail line, began holding a series of workshops last week in neighborhoods around the project.

On the other side are the residents of a four-block stretch of 98th Street in Woodhaven, south of Forest Park, who are giving surprisingly literal meaning to the acronym "NIMBY" - Not in My Backyard.

The tracks of the old rail line - out of use since the 1960s - run right through the backyards along 98th Street. Homeowners who once worried only about security in front of their homes suddenly are confronted with the prospect of a parade of strangers behind them as well.

"When I say border, I mean that literally," one 98th Street resident, identified as Ivy H., wrote on the online "idea" board the Friends of Queensway set up last month. "Our property lines end where the so-called park begins. No street, no sidewalk, nothing separates us."

Of the 177 homes on 98th Street, 118 signed a petition earlier this year to stop the project, then organized a group called No Way QueensWay to fight the project.

Last winter, Governor Andrew Cuomo gave the Trust nearly $500,000 to research and write a feasibility study for the project that would be Queens' answer to Manhattan's popular High Line. The report is due in August or September, officials say.

"I think that petition should be in the feasibility study," says Neil Giannelli, an aide to State Senator Joe Addabbo and who also lives on 98th Street. "But I'll be surprised if it is."

Some 200 people showed up for the first workshop last week at Emmanuel Christ Church in Woodhaven, according to Marc Matsil, director of the Trust for Public Land's New York State office. The church is a few blocks from 98th Street.

The meetings were dubbed "workshops" rather than hearings because, as Giannelli put it, "the presumption was if you were there, you were for it."

A community affairs officer from the 102nd Precinct was stationed at the meeting "to shut us down" when the No Way QueensWay people tried to speak, Giannelli said. "They have $1.5 million and somehow we're the bullies."

Two more workshops - at the Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning High School in Forest Hills and Ozone Park Senior Center in Jamaica - were scheduled for this week.

So far, the debate over QueensWay has been as much about the motives and home addresses of those pushing for the project as it is about the potential value of the new-style park.

The Trust for Public Land is based in San Francisco and a longtime charity of choice for celebrities like Caroline Kennedy, who was honorary chair of the group's most recent fundraiser last September on Park Avenue, where "Law & Order" star Sam Waterston was the master of ceremonies. Names like that raise a lot of mistrust along 98th Street.

"Please, QueensWay planners," Ivy H. wrote on the project's comment board. "Tell me where you live so that I may cook up schemes for public access, events, sports, food trucks(!) - right in your backyards."

So far, No Way's David vs. Goliath story has not traveled well beyond 98th Street. In other neighborhoods that border the proposed park, especially to the north, QueensWay has a lot of fans.

The fact that the path runs through "your backyard does not give you a veto over valuable public land," replied one commenter from Rego Park, identified as PeterB4.

"I live in an apartment just a couple blocks from this space," he wrote. "I don't have the luxury of a backyard. So why are you denying me and my children a park and bikeway, a completely reasonable use for this land."

The No Way people talk about a possible compromise with the Trust: end Queensway at Forest Park and leave the southern half of the rail line as is.

But that would end the dream of the Queensway planners to create a route that would eventually connect central Queens to the Rockways and the parks there.

"They didn't like the idea," says Giannelli.

The loud fireworks are not expected to begin until late this year or early next, after the feasibility study, which is expected to include drawings, cost estimates and a security plan, is completed.

That is when the community boards must hold public hearings and give their recommendations. The new borough president, Melinda Katz, has so far has not taken a public position on QueensWay.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Philip McManus
February 27, 2014
Dear Friends,

We truly believe faster transportation for Queens is the key to our recovery, our unity and our renaissance.

We need to attract more people with more money to create more jobs, more income and reduce unemployment, crime and suffering.

Faster transportation with more access to social, economic, and environmental opportunities will unite the people of Queens and help them increase their income.

Fear of crime in some areas divides, separates and creates poverty.

We must unite and fight for faster transportation and prosperity.

We need your help to win the Queens Rockaway Beach Line.

Join our Drive By Rally for the Queens Rockaway Beach Line, the new Queens Crosstown. We are looking to increase our public exposure.

Sunday March 9, 2014

2:30 pm to 3:30 pm

Queens Boulevard

and Woodhaven Blvd.

2:30 pm

Metropolitan Avenue

and Woodhaven Blvd.

2:45 pm

Jamaica Avenue

and Woodhaven Blvd.

3:00 pm

Liberty Avenue

and Cross Bay Blvd.

3:15 pm

Please confirm your attendance. We need your help.

We will be carpooling.

We are looking at going to four Queens locations with posters for the Queens RBL.

Please try to make it. It's mostly a photo opportunity. Fast and furious.

Ask your closest family, friends, transit advocates to volunteer.

We need a driver for each vehicle to move immediately if necessary, no parking delays.

Less than 15 minutes at each location.

We have seven confirmed volunteers.

We are looking for two types of volunteers.

Volunteers who can go to all four locations with a carpool.

And volunteers who can come to one location only.

Tell them less than 15 minutes at each location.

My son will drive an eight passenger van.

Don't forget to confirm your attendance.

God Bless you.

Please ask your family and friends and commuters to sign our petitions to support the Reactivation of the Queens Rockaway Beach Line, the New Queens Crosstown, eliminate the toll on the Queens Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge for everyone and expand the Queens Rockaway Ferry:

Philip McManus

Queens Public Transit Committee


Resident of 98th St
December 17, 2013

When the mayor took office in 2002, the total outstanding debt of NYC was $55.2 billion. This year,( 2013) the Citizens Budget Commission estimates the total reached $110 billion. The increase: 100%! You can track the changes from 2002 to 2012 on the Citizens Budget Commission chart.

The Independent Budget Office estimates that interest expense will soar from $6.1 billion in the current fiscal year to $6.5 billion next year and $7 billion in 2016 (adjusted for various financial maneuvers). Needless to say, that is at a much greater rate than the increase in revenue.

The city has too many current issues going on. What guarantee does the residents of 98th St in Woodhaven have when there hasn't been an open forum so that your neighbors can express their concerns. Ms. Sonia E Lugo all I have to say is Neil C Giannelli "Lacks Leadership". If any resolution is going to take place it is going to take 'Quite A Long Time'!
Sonia Lugo
November 25, 2013
The residents of 98th Street in Woodhaven have not received any guaranty from The Friends of the Queensway of what security measures will be taken to protect us, protect our homes, and our quality of life. So far, we have not been able to have an open forum so that each family can bring up their concerns and ask questions about this project. We have the right to know. We have the right to have our questions answered. We will not give up on opposing this project. Big organizations or corporation will not shut us down.
December 16, 2013