Parts of the west section of Forest Park began to close over the past week as the Parks Department began construction on a pedestrian and bike path connecting Glendale to the side adjacent to Woodhaven.
The nearly $4 million project will create a path that will slice through the section of park just east of the Forest Park Golf Course on the western half of the park from the intersection of Myrtle Avenue and Forest Park Drive to the Seuffert Bandshell Parking Lot.
The Glendale-facing entrance begins along a segment of Forest Park Drive that now functions as an off-ramp for the Jackie Robinson Parkway. The renovation will replace what is now a dirt path worn in the shoulder of the heavily trafficked street with a sidewalk-width road intended to be shared by cyclists and pedestrians.
The design for the path continues past that point along Forest Park Drive to cut south through the park until it connects back to the wooded area behind the bandshell parking lot. The southern section will build off of an unused concrete expanse in the park blocked off to car traffic with a two-pronged path consisting of a wide pedestrian route on one side and a two-way bike path on the other.
The entrance to that wide, dual-purpose path will contain plantings and a seating area and adult fitness equipment further down. The redesign will also provide security lighting along the section of Forest Park Drive.
Residents began to notice the project getting underway when they saw a gate go up around the Forest Park picnic area by the bandshell section of the park. Last Friday afternoon construction crews were on site demarcating the path and clearing debris from the path.
Though the picnic area could be blocked off for a year — the length of time Parks expects the construction to take — the project will also provide new picnic tables, grills and coal bins in the bandshell-adjacent section when it is finished.
The total price tag for the project is $3.93 million, consisting of $1.89 million of discretionary funds contributed by Councilman Bob Holden (D-Middle Village) and his predecessor, Elizabeth Crowley, $1.2 million from the Borough President’s Office and $841,000 from the mayor.
“I’m glad this project is moving forward. Our parks are very precious throughout the city, especially in this district. That’s why I’ve allocated more than $1.3 million to Forest Park for various projects,” Holden said in a statement.
While street safety advocates celebrated the addition of a bike path to improve connections and accessibility between Forest Park and Glendale, they spoke to the larger concern over how difficult it is to safely access other large portions of the park by bike or foot.
“This project should be a model to create bike-friendly entrances from all surrounding neighborhoods, including Woodhaven and Ozone Park,” said Juan Restrepo from Transportation Alternatives in a statement. “With the nearby Jackie Robinson Parkway and Woodhaven Boulevard, Forest Park remains inaccessible to the people the park should serve. NYC DOT must amplify the new bike path by creating a network of protected bike lanes to the park.”
The Glendale end of the project will connect to a concrete path that runs along Dry Harbor Playground to streets with shared lane indicators for cars and bikes that are scattered throughout the Central Queens neighborhood.
On the southern end of the path, however, the only protected bike paths are within Forest Park due east or west. Beyond the southern edge of the park in Woodhaven is one of the city’s largest gaps in bike infrastructure. There are five contiguous ZIP codes in South Queens, spanning several predominantly Hispanic and South Asian communities, that contain no bike lanes or shared indicators whatsoever.