QueensWay incites controversy

Travis Terry explains how the QueensWay will benefit the community. Photo by Bianca Fortis
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The friction mounting between two groups over a proposal to transform a piece of old railway line into a public park came to a head on Tuesday over a disagreement about who had actually been invited to a meeting to discuss the park plans.

The proposed park, known as the QueensWay, would turn 3 1/2 miles of the abandoned Rockaway Beach Branch of the Long Island Rail Road into a linear greenway, inspired by Manhattan’s High Line.

It would extend from Rego Park to Ozone Park, crossing through Forest Park.

More than 2,000 people have signed a petition asking the city to create the park, but one group of Queens residents, many of whom live in the Rockaways, would prefer to see train service reactivated.

And the last faction, a group of Woodhaven residents, is opposed to both plans.

The park protesters from Woodhaven, some wielding “No QueensWay” signs, packed the meeting at El Viejo Yayo, at 97-12 101st Ave. in Ozone Park, Tuesday night.

Neil Giannelli, a 98th Street resident who has been vocally opposed to the QueensWay, said he had been invited to the meeting and expected a “meet and greet.” He told a few neighbors about the meeting and word spread, he said.

Andrea Crawford, the second vice chairwoman of Community Board 9, said the meeting was supposed to be for QueensWay supporters and volunteers only.

“Obviously our meeting got crashed,” she said.

Supporters of reviving the rail line were not present.

Travis Terry, who founded Friends of the QueensWay, told the 75 or so people in the audience that the meeting was an opportunity to learn about the park proposal and the group.

“This can improve the quality of life in the neighborho­od,” he said. “This can lead to improved security and new economic development opportunit­ies.”

But the community members opposed to the park concept believe it could jeopardize their safety and privacy and lower their property values.

Terry and other QueensWay supporters tried to lead a discussion about park plans and address the concerns of the community, but they were met with an angry backlash.

Some protesters, including Giannelli, interrupted the speakers.

“They want me to be polite,” Giannelli later said. “But I’m afraid that if I’m polite, they’re going to run me over.”

Joe Guzman, a 98th Street homeowner since 1985, said he feared for the future of Woodhaven residents as well as businesses along the abandoned railway line who he believes may be displaced by the park.

“You keep saying you have heart,” Guzman told QueensWay leaders. “But you can’t have more heart than the people whose property is on the front lines.”

In August, the Trust for Public Lands announced it had chosen two city design firms to conduct a feasibility study of the project. The funds for the city were provided through a $467,000 grant from the governor’s office.

Mimi Taft, a member of the QueensWay Steering Committee, told the crowd the point of the feasibility study is to determine whether constructing the QueensWay is even viable.

Tempers in the two groups escalated until Taft finally shouted at Giannelli, who was standing up, to “Shut up — shut up and sit down.”

Crawford said there will be future meetings held for community members who want to weigh in on their concerns, probably between October and December.

“When this is built, they’ll see the neighborhood is safer, more secure and their property values will have gone up,” she said.

Reach reporter Bianca Fortis by email at or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Updated 6:45 pm, October 3, 2013
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Reader feedback

Kenneth Kowald from I Sit and Look Out says:
Since we are no longer residents of Park Lane South (aft- er living there for more than 3 decades), Elaine and I do not have a "dog in this fight," but I think I have a few thoughts about it. I believe "public" meetings should be open to the public. I believe that people have a right to express their opinions in any manner they wish.
But, in this age of excessive ad hominen comments, I also believe more than ever in Augustine of Hippo's comments about civil discourse. He was right in the 5th Century and his comments are germane today. Ben Franklin, certainly, was a model of engaging in civil discourse, even in great times of trouble.
Surely in the most diverse county in the country we should be able to do better than some of the clowns we pay for to be our "representatives" on Capitol Hill.
Better luck next time to all of you.
Kenneth Kowald
Oct. 3, 2013, 1:30 pm
Sarah Velez from Woodhaven says:
What kind of group or organization would hold a meet and greet to then ask the community to leave? Don't believe these groups with the charming names, like "The Friends of Queensway". After seeing the way every concerned neighbor was treated with no respect last Tuesday and was not allowed to express themselves, I cannot believe they are anybody's friends. What kind of person ask another one to "Shut up and seat down". This isn't grammar school.
Oct. 3, 2013, 7:58 pm
Judy Close from Woodhaven says:
Members of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association voted on this issue last winter among others, and voted "no" on not having either the QueensWay or the LIRR spur reactivated behind their homes and cooperative apartments and nearby condos. The Forest Park Co-ops alone with the rail line running directly behind on 98th Street, has 9 buildings, with 1,500 residents. They are mostly against either proposal. People who live in the huge Crescent Co-ops on Union Tpke are opposed, because they'll lose precious parking spots from their already inadequate parking lot. People who live in the condos on 101st, off Park Lane South (former pipe factory), don't want the QueensWay, because it goes right next to that building, destroying their sense of privacy and security overnight. We all feel we're being invaded by outside forces who care nothing for our quality of life. This QueensWay will only provide an unnecessary (since it sits in Forest Park where we live) and extra place in the huge 500 acres park for sexual perverts, burglars, vagrants, drug addicts, alcoholics, car thieves, to hide out and hang out. And our neighborhood is already at maximum congestion with people, traffic, park visitors and users, maximum noise overnight, maximum trash levels. NO WAY QUEENSWAY. NO WAY RAILWAY. Outsiders, go away. You're not wanted to make decisions for Queens homeowners and property owners.
Oct. 7, 2013, 10:52 am
Philip McManus from Rockaway Park says:
Alert Danger Alert
Commuters beware!

Overcrowding is Dangerous!

Expand the Transit System before someone gets killed!

We need more trains, buses, and new train routes.

Do you know about the unused Queens Rockaway Beach Line?

The unused Queens RBL is only one to six blocks east, travels north/south and parallel to Woodhaven Boulevard, from Penn Station through Central Queens to South Queens.

The Queens RBL took less than 40 minutes to get to Penn Station.

The QueensWay park plan is trying to prevent us from "overdevelopment," faster transportation, jobs and prosperity by destroying the Queens RBL.

We love parks but not on a transit corridor.

Please tell your family and friends to attend this extremely important meeting.

We will meet Wednesday, Nov. 20 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Ozone Park Senior Center at St. Mary Gate of Heaven Church, 103-02 101 Ave. in Ozone Park.

Come early and bring a poster and a whistle. Make sure you get into the hall. Tell them you want the Queens RBL reopened for transportation.

Please confirm your attendance with the Queens Public Transit Committee.



Also tell your family and friends 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
Nov. 17, 2013, 9:07 am
Anonymous from Queens says:
Dec. 17, 2013, 5:27 am
Philip McManus from Rockaway Park says:
Do you hate your stressful commute? Is it too long, overcrowded and unreliable?

Why does Queens have so much congestion and overcrowded roadways, buses and trains?

Why does it take longer to get around?

Why are commuters forced to take numerous unnecessary transfers to get from north, south, east and west in Queens?

Why don't we use all our roadways, bridges, tunnels and unused train tracks to reduce travel times?

We the people who organized the Queens Public Transit Committee want faster transportation for your destination, work, home, school, shopping, recreation, etc. If your destination is faster so will our destination be faster.

We know that safe, fast, reliable transportation will help create more social and economic opportunities and a better life for everyone.

It boggles my mind that we do not expand our transit system for ourselves and our children.

A growing economy is the best government program for our City.

The most important correlation to our economy is transportation and education.

We must be able to move freely, quickly and be free to learn and train for our future careers.

Our standard of living is in decline because we have a corrupt government and society that would rather lie to the people and not live by the Truth.

We need to grow and build community support for faster transportation, including the Queens Rockaway Beach Line.

The reactivation of the Queens Rockaway Beach Line (RBL) will expand the NYC transit system, increase social and economic opportunities for all, while increasing property values and tax revenues. It's good for Queens.

The RBL will decrease pollution, accidents, unemployment, crime and government dependence, reduce present and future overcrowding and unreliable buses, trains and roadways at a much, much greater level than the QueensWay plan.

The QueensWay plan will only benefit a few people and a small area of Queens. It's the small plan while the transportation plan is the big plan, the most inclusive plan.

Reusing the Queens RBL for transportation is the best plan. It will reunite north and south Queens, decrease travel times and increase investments for everyone especially the poor and middle class areas that are underserved, excluded and separated from the American dream.

The QueensWay plan and the No Way plan are exclusive and divide our borough. It also prevents development and investments in Queens.

The borough of Queens needs jobs
and businesses for all the people so we can grow and help each other.

The NIMBY plan is called the Do Nothing Plan because it does very little to support Queens and the city.

Please support our cause and our group. We need to educate and organize the people to promote faster transportation and significantly reduce travel times.

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

Dec. 19, 2013, 12:38 pm

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