Today two nonprofits released schematic designs for the first phase of a High Line–like trail that its creators hope will connect a string of neighborhoods in Queens. The Trust for Public Land and Friends of the QueensWay commissioned DLANDstudio to design the first half-mile of the QueensWay, a linear park on an abandoned rail line. The preliminary renderings depict lush trails, stepped outdoor classrooms and learning gardens for 2,000 nearby students, as well as wide verdant entrances to facilitate existing bike and pedestrian connections. The park has been in the works since 2011, racking up support from electeds, a New York Times endorsement, and some far-out preliminary design visions. "Today’s announcement is a tremendous step forward for the QueensWay, which would not have been possible without our partners in government and the community," said Andy Stone, the New York City director of the Trust for Public Land, in a prepared statement. "[They] enthusiastically provided ideas for safe routes for biking and walking, outdoor classroom space, and enhancements to baseball fields. The completion of a compelling design for the first phase will bring us that much closer to making the QueensWay a reality for hundreds of thousands of people who live within a 10-minute walk." So far, the QueensWay team has raised more than $2 million in private funds and state grants to sustain the project, which runs along the former LIRR Rockaway Beach Branch line. Its first phase runs through Forest Hills and Glendale, two middle-class neighborhoods in the northern part of the borough. Phase I, which the groups are calling the "Metropolitan Hub," will run south from Metropolitan Avenue to Union Turnpike, expanding access to Forest Park. In all, the QueensWay could run for three-and-a-half miles, from Ozone Park north to Queens Boulevard near Forest Hills and Rego Park. DLANDstudio is preparing construction documents over the next year to move the project forward.
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Meet The Green Line: How Perkins Eastman would remake Broadway through Manhattan into a 40-block linear park
By now, the "Bilbao Effect" is metonymy for a culture-led revitalization of a postindustrial city driven by a single institution housed in a starchitect-designed complex. The wild success of Manhattan's High Line generates regional seismic effects—the Lowline, the QueensWay, and the Lowline: Bronx Edition all cite the high queen of linear parks as their inspiration. Upping the ante, Perkins Eastman unfurls the Green Line, a plan to convert one of New York's busiest streets into a park. The Green Line would overtake Broadway for 40 blocks, from Columbus Circle to Union Square, connecting Columbus Circle, Times Square, Herald Square, Madison Square, and Union Square with pedestrian and cyclists' paths. Except for emergency vehicles, automobiles would be banned from the Green Line. The proposal has precedent in Bloomberg-era "rightsizing" of Broadway. Traffic calming measures closed Times Square to cars, increased the number of pedestrian-only spaces, and installed bike lanes along Broadway, reducing vehicular traffic overall. In conversation with Dezeen, Perkins Eastman principal Jonathan Cohn noted that "green public space is at a premium in the city, and proximity to it is perhaps the best single indicator of value in real estate. [The] Green Line proposes a new green recreational space that is totally integrated with the form of the city." Value, moreover, isn't linked exclusively to price per square foot. Replacing two miles of asphalt with bioswales and permeable paving could help regulate stormwater flow for the city's overburdened stormwater management infrastructure. Right now, rain falling to the west of Broadway discharges, untreated, into the Hudson, while east of Broadway, stormwater gushes straight into the Hudson. What do you think: is the Green Line on Broadway feasible, or totally fantastical?
The QueensWay has had a bumpy rollout. In October, when the Trust for Public Land and the Friends of the QueensWay unveiled their plan to transform an abandoned railway in Queens into something like the High Line, they were immediately faced with skepticism and criticism from around the city. That pro-QueensWay plan came with plenty of eye candy courtesy of splashy conceptual renderings from dlandstudio and WXY. This all got people asking why millions of dollars should be spent turning the rails into a fancy park when the rails could be refurbished to provide a useful commuter rail line. But the park plan has had its champions, and the New York Times can now be counted among them. “Of the two tantalizing possibilities—rail or trail—trail now has the upper hand,” wrote the Times’ editorial board in a recent piece praising the plan. It claimed that building the QueensWay would transform “a humdrum stretch of residential-commercial-industrial-whatever with the sylvan graciousness that the High Line brought to the West Side of Manhattan, but on a far bigger scale.” The board explained that the "rail" plan could actually be the more complicated of the two options largely because the project would have to be added onto the MTA's “overflowing, underfunded to-do list.” Instead, wrote the board, build the QueensWay and address commuter needs with dedicated bus lanes.
The winners of the AIA New York's biennial design competition have been been announced. The Emerging New York Architects (ENYA) committee selected from 120 proposals submitted as a part of QueensWay Connection: Elevating the Public Realm, which was intended to drum up ideas that would contribute to the proposed re-purposing of an elevated railway in Queens. Entrants were tasked with designing a vertical gateway for the elevated viaduct portion of the 3.5 mile–long track currently under consideration for the High Line treatment. A jury consisting of Claire Weisz of WXY Architecture + Urban Design, Matthew Johnson of Diller Scofidio + Renfro and project manager of the High Line, and Margaret Newman from the New York Department of Transportation among others convened on January 18th to anoint Carrie Wibert the winner and recipient of the $5000 ENYA prize. Nikolay Martynov's Queens Bilboard finished second, followed by Song Deng's Make It! Grow It! Jessica Shomekaer won the Student Prize while Queens local Hyontek Yoon received honorable mention for Upside Down Bridge. These proposals, along with others submitted to the competition will go on display July 17th in an exhibition at the Center for Architecture that will be supplemented by a series of discussion panels. The exhibit should come on the heels of the completion of the ongoing feasibility study undertaken by WXY and dlandstudio Landscape Architecture & Architecture. The project is not without its detractors, with some locals clamoring for the re-activation of the track for rail transportation as a means of alleviating congestion in the borough. Advocates of the Queensway question the feasibility of such a move and also claim that the park would link communities, improve quality of life, and enable safer bike and foot traffic.
The debate over the future of the abandoned Rockaway Long Island Railroad (LIRR) line is heating up, and while a proposal to convert the viaduct into a version of the High Line called the QueensWay has gained early momentum with support from the likes of Governor Cuomo, it looks like an alternative proposal to restore the long-defunct rail line is picking up steam as well. According to the Queens Chronicle, a source revealed that Representatives Hakeem Jeffries and Greg Meeks will call for for federal transportation subsidies to return the line to rail service. For residents, the reactivation of the railroad could mean a significantly faster commute into Manhattan. Restoring the 4.2-mile Rockaway Beach Line, abandoned in 1962 and running from Rego Beach to the Rockaways, would cut commute times between Penn Station at the peninsula on the edge of New York City in half—from 80 minutes on a subway to 40 minutes. New signals, tracks, and a third electrified rail would need to be installed as well as major repair or replacement of spans along the route. An estimate by the Rockaway Subcommittee of the Regional Rail Working Group put the project cost at $400 million. Recently though, the QueensWay plan to transform the railway into 3.5-miles of a High Line-esque parkland, has been garnering a fair amount of attention. In the New York Times opinion page last week, Eleanor Randolph endorsed the linear park plan saying that it "offers far more promise than a forest that only thickens while people nearby yearn for places to walk, ride, snack and play." In December, Governor Cuomo donated nearly half-million dollars to the Trust for Public Land to conduct a feasibility study for the Queensway conversion, which got underway on Thursday. But then, there are a number of residents who would like to see the rail line left alone. Neil Giannelli, a Woodhaven resident whose house borders the tracks, founded the group "NoWay QueensWay" which is trying to derail both plans and leave the route as is. According to the group, a survey of 230 residents along a portion of the route resulted in 98 percent preferring no change.
New York Governor Cuomo might have just tipped the scale in the heated dispute over a 3.5-mile stretch of abandoned railroad track in Queens with his donation of nearly a half-million dollars to the Trust for Public Land to conduct a feasibility study for a High Line-style linear park called the QueensWay. Slated to begin in January and February of next year, the study could take up to eight months to complete. But some Queens residents are pushing to restore train service on the elevated viaduct, and in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, a faster and more efficient connection between the Rockaways and Midtown Manhattan is winning the support of some local advocates and politicians. As Crain’s mentioned in a recent story, it would be no easy feat to rebuild the Long Island Railroad’s Rockaway branch, and could likely cost up to half-billion dollars.
Two competing plans for an abandoned rail line in Queens, New York—a linear park and a commuter rail line—have neighborhood groups scratching their heads. Advocates for the proposed High Line-esque park called the QueensWay are slowly making some headway, but are still facing an uphill battle against a few community groups. The organization, Friends of the QueensWay, is pushing to transform the defunct LIRR Rockaway Beach Branch into 3.5 miles of new parkland that would stretch from Rego Park and Forest Hills down to Ozone Park. The Regional Rail Working Group, however, has another vision for those tracks, proposing a commuter train service to the Rockaways. [Above, a video traces the route of the proposed QueensWay park.] The Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association announced in October on their website that they would not support either plan. Their list of grievances included concerns about high costs potentially imposed on residents in addition to privacy and parking issues. Andrea Crawford, a member of Friends of the QueensWay, said that in spite of some opposition, several community groups have expressed their support of the park proposal. Community Board 9 officially endorsed the QueensWay, and Crawford said the response from Community Board 6 is positive, “What we are doing now is to keep explaining what the project is and try to raise money for a feasibility study.” The QueensWay has only just started to make a dent in their fundraising efforts for the feasibility study, which will be used to assess structural and environmental conditions, prepare a master plan, and find funding. So far, the group has raised about $6,000 out of their $50,000 goal on an online crowd-sourcing website.