Last Thursday, elected officials, Friends of the QueensWay, and the Trust for Public Land announced the commencement of the design process for Phase 1 of the QueensWay park project. After years of debate over what to do with the 60-year old abandoned Rockaway Long Island Railroad (LIRR), the coalition has been moving toward the goal of converting 3.5 miles of the railroad—which extends from Rego Park to Ozone Park—into a park similar to the High Line. DLANDstudio Architecture & Landscape Architecture will be leading the design.
This announcement, made in a press release, follows a great deal of progress made over the last year, including the raising of over $1 million in funding from public and private sources. Included in that funding is “a $444,000 grant from the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and Governor Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Council; $250,000 from Assembly Member Andrew Heves; $250,000 from Council Member Karen Koslowitz; and other private donations.” The estimated cost of the project is $122 million ($2.6 million per acre), according to the project’s website.
Robert Hammond, Executive Director of Friends of the High Line, expressed his enthusiasm for this milestone in the project in the press release: “Projects like the High Line take a long time to plan, and the first major funding step is always critical because it shows that the dream can be fully realized. We know that rails-to-trails projects unlock tremendous opportunities for their areas and cities, and we hope this funding will help pave the way for the QueensWay to become a reality.”
The first phase of the design process will focus on the central half-mile stretch from Metropolitan Avenue to Union Turnpike, known as the Metropolitan Hub. The development of this area will enhance pedestrian and bike access to Forest Park.
Susannah Drake of DLANDstudio Architecture & Landscape Architecture will lead the design of the proposed park. The firm has found success in previous projects dealing with sustainable design and community engagement. These include the Gowanus Canal Sponge Park™ and Under the Elevated: Reclaiming Public Space Below Transit Infrastructure. In an interview with AN, Drake discussed numerous studies, conducted with the non-profit organization Hester Street Collaborative and WXY architecture + urban design, that helped them gauge the community’s needs and wants. Those efforts included web platforms, community outreach meetings, and smaller scale meetings with community leaders, school principals, and other stakeholders.
Drake also noted that this project presents a unique opportunity to provide outdoor classrooms for school-aged children, particularly those of the adjacent Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School. The QueensWay, when completed, will provide a 3.5-mile, 47-acre park that is both family- and age-friendly, and will include: “a bike, jogging and walking path, upgrades for the facilities of local little leagues, schools, community and cultural amenities, and a significant improvement to the environment and quality of life of those living in Central and Southern Queens,” according to the press release. Additionally, the park will offer opportunities for economic growth and attract new visitors to Central Queens.
In the press release, Marc Matsil, New York Director of The Trust for Public Land, the organization overseeing the plans, stated, “This announcement adds to the growing support for this project, which will be a major benefit for people in Queens. Almost 100,000 people live within a 10-minute walk of the QueensWay and every one of them will benefit when it is built. It will also help to reduce automobile-pedestrian fatalities by getting kids out of traffic, while contributing to the local economy.”
Additionally, the QueensWay is being awarded a Merit Award for the QueensWay Plan at a joint-design awards gala hosted by AIA Queens and AIA Brooklyn this evening.