Momentum is building for what may become New York City’s next great public park — a bold green swath called the QueensWay — to run through the City’s most culturally diverse borough. A coalition of city, state, and community partners, including the Friends of the QueensWay, and The Trust for Public Land, is helping to transform an abandoned railway in Central Queens into a vibrant 3.5-mile, 47-acre linear park.
The line in question is the former LIRR Rockaway Beach Branch (RBB), first operated in the 1880s. Abandoned since 1962, the RBB used to run off the LIRR main line at Rego Park heading south via Ozone Park and across Jamaica Bay in the Rockaways. After a series of track fires in the 1940s and 1950s, the cost of maintaining the service for the LIRR became infeasible and service was discontinued on June 8, 1962. Since then, the 3.5 miles stretch of the LIRR Rockaway Beach Branch has been sitting desolate, with trees and brush slowly taking over the railbed.
In 2011, a group of residents living along the former LIRR Rockaway Beach Branch, teamed up to advocate for its conversion into a new park similar in concept to the High Line, but on a much larger scale. The Friends of the QueensWay (FQW) consists of thousands of individuals and organizations all of whom have the goal of converting the long-abandoned property into a public park that can be enjoyed by bikers, walkers, joggers, visitors, tourists, workers and residents in Queens and beyond. In the same year, FQW entered into a partnership with The Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit organization working to protect land while creating parks for healthy, livable communities. Since then, the two organizations have worked together to gather local input and support for the QueensWay.
WXY and dlandstudio were hired in 2013 to lead an interdisciplinary team to analyze the economic, social, environmental, engineering and transportation dynamics of the site and surrounding area. The team worked closely with local communities to solicit a broad range of input to inform the development of the vision for the QueensWay. Their plan aims to bring green space to “park deserts” in the borough, and to safely connect neighboring communities to 12 schools, 7 subway lines, commercial areas, and Forest Park. Once complete, the QueensWay would provide nearby residents with gardens, playgrounds, walkways, and bike paths, serving approximately 100,000 people who live within a 10-minute walk and 322,000 people who live within a mile.
Like the High Line in Manhattan, the Bloomingdale Trail in Chicago and the Rose F. Kennedy Greenway in Boston, their aim is to plan the reuse of this land in a way which not only creates an iconic park, but also sparks economic and cultural development, and improves the quality of life of the communities living adjacent to the line. The design process for the project’s first phase will begin this summer. To learn more, and to find out how you can get involved visit the The QueensWay.