The closed portion of the long-abandoned Rockaway Beach train line got some TLC last week in effort to showcase a proposal to transform the abandoned tracks into a park called the QueensWay.
“The cleanup was done in conjunction with Parks,” Andrea Crawford of Friends of QueensWay, a group pushing to make the park a reality. “The rail that runs across Forest Park is loaded with debris and junk so we got in there and cleaned some of it up.”
Crawford said about two dozen residents showed up for the event.
The proposed park would mimic the High Line in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan that attracts thousands of people daily.
“We have this amazing opportunity to do something fabulous,” Crawford said.
But not everyone is in favor of turning the line into a park.
“It isn’t the park,” Woodhaven resident Neil Giannelli said. “Once the line gets past Park Lane South, it rises 10 to 17 feet above ground and is right up against the houses that line 98th Street. I walked over there myself and in the wintertime when the trees lose their leaves, you can look directly into the second floor window of these homes.”
Giannelli, who writes a blog called NoWay QueensWay and lives just under the train line, said he is worried about safety.
“I’m concerned about privacy, property value and safety,” he said. “If you want to have the bike path just have it end at Park Lane South and leave 98th Street alone.”
Another proposal that surfaced before the park idea would turn the right of way back into a fully functioning train line. Giannelli isn’t thrilled with that idea either but sees the sense in it.
“Ideally I’d like my area to be left alone but with the traffic pressure on Woodhaven Boulevard, it makes more sense to have a train,” he said.
Re-establishing train service on the Long Island Rail Road line was first proposed by Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Park), who says it would give Rockaway residents easier access to the rest of Queens and Manhattan.
Crawford countered that creating a train line would not benefit the community.
“Much of central Queens doesn’t have access to green space,” she said “This park would be 3.5 miles of clean hiking, biking, walking space. We feel that there have been multiple feasibility studies on building a train. It’d cost billions of dollars for a train that wouldn’t get much use. You would have to de-map parkland and do all of these things that are not going to serve the community where this greenway would. We’re excited by the project and by the enthusiasm from the community and elected officials.”
Gov. Cuomo has already given his approval to considering the park by giving funds to the Trust for Public Land, which is now reviewing proposals for a feasibility study that Crawford said she hopes would begin in 2014.
“We’ve gotten over 2,500 signatures from people who support the QueensWay,” she said. “We also plan on having another cleanup in the fall. Parks has been fantastic but they don’t have the manpower to clean up the area.”
Crawford also mentioned the possibility of a meet and greet so that residents can learn more about the QueensWay proposal. Anyone interested in future Friends of QueensWay events can visit their website Queensway.org.