The plan to build a High Line-like park along the former Rockaway Beach Long Island Rail Road line moved forward Tuesday as The Trust for Public Land — an urban parks advocacy group which received $467,000 from the state to study the feasibility of the project — kicked off the study by announcing the two firms that will lead the project.
WXY Architecture + Urban Design and Dlandstudio were the two firms chosen to lead the study that will put together a conceptual design for the project and hold workshops and meetings for area residents to add in their views.
The plan is for a park similar to Manhattan’s High Line for the 3.5-mile route between Rego Park and Ozone Park, where the line merges with the A train subway.
“We’re really thrilled that we can kick off what we consider one of the city’s most iconic and economically-transformative projects: The QueensWay Cultural Greenway,” said Marc Matsil, New York State director for The Trust for Public Land, at a press conference in Forest Hills on Tuesday announcing the study. “The goal of the feasibility study is to come up with engineers’ cost estimates.”
Adam Lubinsky, a principal at WXY, called the QueensWay plan a “once in a lifetime” project.
“This will be an amazing amenity for Queens,” he said. “There’s so much embedded here that we need to bring out in our work. It’s really an opportunity to connect all the neighborhoods in Queens through one linear route in the borough.”
Andrew Crawford, vice chairwoman of Community Board 9, which includes the neighborhoods of Richmond Hill, Woodhaven and part of Ozone Park, and a member of the pro-QueensWay advocacy group, Friends of QueensWay, said the project would connect a number of diverse Queens neighborhoods, many of which are in need of more parkland.
“It would give people access to all the wonderful things Queens has to offer,” Crawford said.
Travis Terry, of Friends of the QueensWay, and a Forest Hills resident, said he hopes the project will promote Queens’ diversity.
“We’re really hoping that as audiences come onto the QueensWay and it becomes an interest for tourists that they’ll learn about this great cultural activity that’s here and visit it,” he said.
The last train ran along the line in June 1962 and the route south of Liberty Avenue in Ozone Park is occupied by the A train, but the rest of the vacant right-of-way includes an elevated structure in Ozone Park and Woodhaven, which in the latter neighborhood abuts residents’ backyards. It then runs along a ravine through Forest Park before rising to an embankment from Union Turnpike until it meets the LIRR Main Line in Rego Park. The route includes elevated overpasses over Yellowstone Boulevard, Metropolitan Avenue, Union Turnpike, Park Lane South, Jamaica Avenue and Atlantic Avenue.
Andrew Stone, New York City director for The Trust for Public Land, said the two firms were chosen among 29 applicants that answered the request for proposals that was issued earlier this year.
The study should take about 10 months, Stone added, after which supporters hope to come up with designs and a cost and lobby for approval of the project. The entire right-of-way is owned by the city.
The right-of-way is also being eyed for reactivation of the railroad. Supporters of that plan, including Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Park), say transportation is a priority.
“There are over 2.3 million local residents in Queens who would greatly benefit from a complete restoration of the Rockaway Beach Rail Line,” he said in a statement Tuesday. “I am confident that any objective study regarding the best use for the abandoned rail line will conclude that a transportation option is the only real choice. The current lack of public transit options in Queens is strangling our businesses and hurting our families and I will continue to work with my colleagues and the governor to completely restore the abandoned rail line.”
Others, like Neil Giannelli, a resident of 98th Street in Woodhaven, whose house is adjacent to the line, said the route should be left alone.
“People would be able to look right into my bathroom window and my daughter’s bedroom,” said Giannelli, who attended the press conference “to hear what they had to say.”