This summer, the San Francisco-based Trust for Public Land will issue its plan for turning the abandoned Rockaway branch of the Long Island Rail Road into a 3.5-mile-long “QueensWay” bike and pedestrian trail.
But the study won’t answer several basic questions.
In 2003, a study done for the city of Portland, Ore. by a Reed College professor found that property values declined for homes adjacent to any kind of greenway. In fact, bike trails caused the largest decline in property values. Any other kind of development, including a cemetery, was preferable to a bike path.
The homeowners and residents along 98th Street in Woodhaven have been assured by The Trust for Public Land and the Friends of the QueensWay that any fears about the same thing happening here are groundless. Property values will rise, they say. There are dozens of studies that prove it. The Trust for Public Land has $1.5 million, and 18 months later it still hasn’t been able to produce one of these alleged studies.
Where is the money for this project? And wouldn’t it be better spent elsewhere?
Forest Park was designed and laid out by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1896. It is one of four Olmsted parks in New York City. But unlike Central Park, Prospect Park and Riverside Park, Forest Park doesn’t have a conservancy or wealthy patron raising funds for its upkeep.
As a result, the sidewalks in Forest Park are cracked and the stairways are crumbling, the lights are broken and the roadway is potholed. Five or 10 years from now, would the QueensWay be in any better shape than today’s Forest Park? Why add another 55 acres to the already stretched budget of Parks & Recreation?
And who wants a bicycle and pedestrian path winding through their backyard?
The feasibility study will devote a good deal of space to the question of security. Security cameras don’t prevent crime; they photograph it. We’re not worried about bad guys climbing over or through a fence. We worry about bad guys “casing the joint” on Saturday and Sunday, then walking down the street and up our driveways Monday to Friday from 9 to 5.
There are 177 houses on 98th Street between Park Lane South and Atlantic Avenue. All were canvassed over a period of two weekends. Volunteers knocked on every door three or four times. Signatures were collected from 118 residences. That’s two-thirds of the homes.
Each resident was given three choices: the bike path, a light railway or no development. Of the 230 who signed a petition, 226 people (98.3 percent) chose “no development.”
When The Trust for Public Land conducted its telephone poll, no one along 98th Street was contacted. Even so, only 75 percent of the respondents approved of turning 3.5 miles of “blight and pollution” into a park everyone can enjoy.
And so, the last question that has to be answered is this: Why should we trust them to build and properly maintain this bike path through our backyards? It shouldn’t be hard to find better uses for the money.
Neil C. Giannelli is a civic activist who lives on 98th Street in Woodhaven.