A proposal to convert a long neglected stretch of railroad track into a bicycle path and greenway is meeting fierce opposition from some Rego Park residents, who say the proposed route would threaten the quality of life for nearby homeowners.
The Rockaway Beach Branch right of way, which extends roughly four miles from Rego Park to Ozone Park, has been abandoned for more than four decades. In many spots, it serves as a haven for derelicts, vandals and graffiti taggers.
Now, a few South Queens residents hope to change that. At a Community Board 6 meeting last week, Jordan Sandke of the Rockaway Beach Branch Greenways Committee, proposed lobbying the city to build a greenway for pedestrians and bicyclists along the old tracks. The linear park would link several neighborhoods near Forest Park with other recreational spaces in Jamaica Bay, including the Shore Parkway path, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and Gateway National Recreation Area.
“Establishment of a greenway on it would turn an eyesore and a hazard in many places into a lush public park for people to use for exercise or commuting by foot or bike,” he said.
Sandke has asked the board to endorse a feasibility study for the project. But several members objected to the proposal last Wednesday. The path, which runs alongside numerous backyards, would undermine the quality of life in nearby areas, invite litterbugs and foster crime, opponents said.
Board member Barbara Stuchinski, who has written a letter discouraging the city Parks Department from undertaking a study, was one of the most vocal opponents. “This proposal represents so many things we don’t want in our community: a dumping ground for people who pass through, an access point for criminals to get into our homes,” she said. “It’s just bad news.”
Proponents of the project have proposed several safety measures, including increasing the presence of cops and park enforcement officers on the path; building new fences and other barriers in some areas, and installing security lighting.
But Stuchinski contended that there were not enough park enforcement officers to monitor the four mile stretch effectively and that new lighting would flood into residents’ bedrooms at night. Other opponents have suggested that the project’s cost would be too large. “I don’t know what they base that claim on,” Sandke contended. “It’s not like money is coming out of their pocket.”
Board Vice Chairwoman Elizabeth Anderson will chair a 10 member committee to consider Sandke’s proposal. The body will offer its recommendations at a Feb. 14 hearing.