The nearly 3.5-mile stretch of abandoned LIRR Rockaway Beach Line tracks, from the Rockaways to Forest Hills, has become a heated topic of discussion for community boards, civic groups and residents and business owners with adjacent property lines.
The Trust for Public Land and the Friends of the QueensWay chose New York firms WXY architecture + urban Design and dlandstudio from 29 proposals from around the world to draw up its initial proposal for a High Line-style park.
The park advocacy groups will present dozens of their conceptual images on March 24 at 7 p.m. at the Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School, located at 91-30 Metropolitan Ave., in Forest Hills, and at the High School for Construction Trades, Architecture and Engineering, located at 94-06 104th St. in Richmond Hill at 7 p.m. on March 26.
“From the beginning of this project, we have been in awe at the amount of enthusiastic support, and stimulating ideas thousands of residents have contributed,” said the Friends of the QueensWay and Trust for Public Land in a statement regarding the workshops last week. “As we embark on this next round of community meetings, we look forward to compiling additional input that will help bring us to the next phase of the project.”
The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, along with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Council, funded the study through a $467,000 grant, along with an additional $140,000 from the city's Department of Environmental Protection.
There has been opposition to the plan, however. Transit advocates hope to restore rail service from the Rockaways along the line, while some residents whose backyards would abut the QueensWay are content to leave the abandoned right of way dormant.
Marc Matsil, New York director for the Trust for Public Land, said that the current study is nearly 60 percent complete, and now they are looking into unique ways of reaching out to the business community.
“We are working with the Queens Chamber of Commerce so we can bring in some great local businesses,” Matsil said. “It could be designated for food carts by local business and we could publicize the great foods and cultural diversity that can be found here in Queens.”
Travis Terry, founder of the Friends of the QueensWay, first began advocating to convert the abandoned rail line three years ago, and now says a finished product could be just a few years away.
As the next phase of community outreach programming is on the way next week, Terry said he is anticipating even more support for a plan he thinks is just what the community needs.
“What you’ll see next week is a variety of ways in which QueensWay could work, and then we’ll take it to another level after that,” Terry said. “Everything is on the table. We’re trying to be as creative as possible as we really want to celebrate the culture of Queens by celebrating the borough.”