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Study of QueensWay proposal to begin by September

Marc Matsil, the director of the New York State Trust for Public Lands, announced on Tuesday the design firms that will complete the feasibility study for the proposed QueensWay. Photo by Bianca Fortis
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Two New York design firms have been chosen to conduct a feasibility study for the QueensWay, a proposed project that would transform 3 1/2 miles of an abandoned railway into a linear park, the Trust for Public Land and Friends of the QueensWay announced Tuesday.

WXY Architecture and dlandstudio, both based in New York, were chosen to determine engineering cost estimates and to create a “community vision” for the park, according to Marc Matsil, the New York state director of the trust.

Twenty-nine proposals for the project were considered and they came from as far away as China, according to Andy Stone, director of the New York City program of the trust. The study is expected to begin by early September and will take about 10 months, he said.

The concept for the park was inspired by Manhattan’s High Line. It would reach from Rego Park to Ozone Park, crossing through Forest Park.

The trust, a land conservancy group, secured a $467,000 grant from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office in order to do the study.

Matsil said supporters of the project believe it could be the city’s most iconic and economically transformative project.

About 250,000 people reside within a mile of the park and could benefit from it, he said.

Andrea Crawford, a member of Community Board 9, said park space, especially in Queens, is being threatened.

“How exciting is it that we’re creating 55 new acres of linear park space when we’re being told there is no park space?” she said.

Crawford said access to Forest Park can be difficult, but the QueensWay would help solve that problem.

“Whether we’re taking our kids to school, eating in restaurants, simply talking to neighbors, the level of excitement in central and southern Queens for the QueensWay is off the charts,” she said.

She said the QueensWay would give parkgoers better access to the “retail and food offerings in the culturally rich neighborho­ods” through which the park would run.

She also referenced a New York Times op-ed, “A High Line in Queens: Just Imagine the Food,” which envisions small shops and stands along the walkway that could feature “cheese guava buns, dim sum dumplings, pani puri or yam fufu.”

More than 2,000 people have signed an online petition asking the city to create the greenway.

The railway was built as part of the old Rockaway Beach Branch of the Long Island Rail Road system. It was decommissioned in 1962 and has sat dormant ever since.

One group, primarily residents of the Rockaways, would rather see train service reactivated.

Train service would not only be a way to speed up travel times, but it could be a boost to economic development, according to the proponents of reactivating the line.

A 2001 Metropolitan Transportation Authority feasibility study, however, determined that running trains on the track would be cost prohibitive.

Another group of residents, who live immediately adjacent to the railway, oppose both projects.

One of those residents, Neil Giannelli, was present Tuesday.

“The devil is in the details,” he said after the announcement.

His primary concern is that safety and privacy would be compromised for the individuals who live immediately next to the railway if a park is created because some of their homes are so close to it.

In response to Crawford’s comments about food, he said he is concerned that food options within the park can suck away foot traffic from the mom-and-pop shops in the surrounding neighborhoods.

“It worries me that this could be the ignition point for gentrifica­tion,” he said. “Then all this wonderful diversity we have disappears.”

Reach reporter Bianca Fortis by email at bfortis@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Updated 1:53 am, August 23, 2013
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Reader feedback

Maddie from Forest Hills says:
Has anyone really thought this through? What will be the evening and late night situation? Will anyone use this park during the week? How about the winter months? The HighLine is privately funded. Where will the money be coming from to fund the daily operation of this park? Will the residents contribute? What about parking? Do the local residents realize that there will be visitors parking on "their" streets? Easy access to Manhattan is what makes a Queens neighborhood valuable and keeps it viable. Public transportation is an investment that residents will reap profit from and the entire population will benefit. It is our hope for the future.
Aug. 23, 2013, 9:46 am

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