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Queens Chronicle

Chamber comes out for QueensWay

Chamber comes out for QueensWay

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Posted: Thursday, December 12, 2019 10:30 am

QueensWay, the “vertical park” for the long-abandoned Rockaway Beach Rail Line, won a powerful ally this week — the Queens Chamber of Commerce.

Word that the chamber, which represents more than 1,100 businesses in the borough, was throwing its weight behind the park proposal came last Thursday when the Gotham Gazette, an online local news site owned by the Citizens Union, posted an op-ed co-written by chamber President Tom Grech, Carter Strickland, New York State director of The Trust for Public Land, and Travis Terry, president of Friends of the QueensWay.

The article called on Mayor de Blasio to fund preliminary work on the park.

Backers of QueensWay have been battling proponents of a rival plan to return the line to active rail service, reconnecting Howard Beach, Ozone Park and Woodhaven with the Queens Boulevard subway or LIRR lines.

It was the first time the chamber had taken a position on the dueling visions for the 3.5-mile rail line.

“Now that the MTA has come up with a price tag of $9 billion, that makes it a nonstarter,” Grech told the Chronicle.

The chamber is traditionally a supporter of improved and expanded transportation services in Queens, Grech pointed ourt.

“We backed both BQX and the third rail on the LIRR,” he said, citing two major transit proposals in recent years. “But this is enormously expensive.”

The MTA released a much-delayed study last October estimating the cost of reopening the Rockaway Beach Rail Line would rival the most expensive project ever undertaken by the agency — $8.1 billion or more.

Transit advocates believe it is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to revive an unused rail right-of-way.

The park people see the old rail line as a chance for Queens to construct its own version of the High Line, Downtown Manhattan’s elevated vertical park, for the benefit of bicycle riders, joggers and walkers.

“This is the moment to acknowledge the extraordinary gift of an open, expansive linear greenway and reclaim the desolate space as a place for people,” said last week’s op-ed.

“It’s time for Mayor de Blasio to say ‘Yes’ to The QueensWay and include preliminary funding in the upcoming city capital plan. Further delay, while other boroughs see investments in greenways, is unjustified and unfair,” it said.

The QueensWay proposal has been around for nearly a decade. With the release of the MTA’s eye-watering cost estimates, the park’s backers see this year as an opportunity to get the idea off the drawing boards.

Rick Honan, who has headed the push to reopen the rail line, noted that the MTA estimates that 47,000 people a day would use it, if the line were built.

“I just don’t know how you defend that,” he said of the chamber’s endorsement of a park.

“Increasing the economic viability of the region doesn’t seem to be a real focus for them,” Horan said.

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1 comment:

  • ChroniVoice posted at 7:03 pm on Sat, Dec 14, 2019.

    ChroniVoice Posts: 0

    Under current mayor, this greenway would never be a safe place but a feeding ground for criminals like murderers in Morningside Park