A 3.5 mile stretch of the old Rockaway Beach Branch railroad right-of-way currently lies abandoned in Central and Southern Queens. Over the past 60 years, since rail service ended, it has become a dumping ground for garbage, abandoned cars and other debris, and is one of the largest tracts of unused land in an area populated by hundreds of thousands.
An incredible opportunity exists to transform this abandoned, unsightly and in many places hazardous space into a beautiful 3.5 mile public park and bikeway extending south from Rego Park to Ozone Park. A multi-use path would provide a recreational and commuter corridor through Rego Park, Forest Hills, Woodhaven, Richmond Hill and Ozone Park. It would link these communities with Forest Park and the Brooklyn-Queens Greenway and to nearby bike lanes leading to the recreational spaces of Rockaway Beach and Jamaica Bay, including the Shore Parkway path, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and Gateway National Recreation Area. It would also connect at least five subway lines and numerous commercial districts, shops and schools and the Aqueduct Racetrack, Casino and future Convention Center. Greenspace, sports facilities and community gardens could be created for family recreation and for use by the several schools along the route. A safe bicycle route parallel to Woodhaven and Crossbay Blvd.'s would exist so that people could ride to school, go shopping, visit friends, reach public transportation or simply enjoy a sunny day. All of this in a safe, car-free setting that would help New York City meet its VisionZero goal of reducing pedestrian and bicyclists fatalities onour streets to zero over the next 10 years.
The City and MTA have repeatedly indicated that they do not intend to reactivate this rail line anytime in the near future and in some places ball fields and parking lots have been built over the rails. Moreover the cost of reactivating the line would be massive as there remains no useable infrastructure - even the railbed, which has suffered from significant erosion would need to be reconstructed and widened. This, combined with strong opposition from those who now live along the line make it very unlikely that a railroad will ever be reactivated. Rather than leave this land to continue to degrade and fill with trash for another 60 years, action should be taken now to preserve this gem bringing greenspace to more Queens families, and improving recreation, the economy and the quality of life of those living along it.
Friends of The QueensWay is a group of New York City residents who propose to establish a greenway, consisting of a bicycle and pedestrian path, on the abandoned Long Island Railroad Rockaway Beach Branch right-of-way.
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