In late 2011, a group of residents living along the former LIRR Rockaway Beach Branch, teamed up to advocate for the conversion of the LIRR Rockaway Beach Branch into a new, “Highline-style” park. 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 the rest of the world.
Since 1962, the 3.5 miles stretch of the LIRR Rockaway Beach Branch has been sitting desolate and been a blight on our communities. Like the Highline in Manhattan, the Bloomingdale Trail in Chicago and the Rose F. Kennedy Greenway in Boston, it is FQW intention to plan the reuse of this property in a way which not only creates an iconic park but also sparks economic and cultural development and improves the quality of life and environment of the communities living adjacent to the line.
The Friends of the QueensWay is an organization consisting of thousands of people, mainly living in Queens, working in tandem with The Trust for Public Land, the nation’s leading creator of parks. This effort is currently being coordinated by a Steering Committee. The individuals on the Steering Committee include:
Anandi A. Premlall
The Trust for Public Land
FQW is currently working in close partnership with The Trust for Public Land (www.tpl.org) which is the nation’s leading creator of sustainable parks.
The Trust for Public Land brings an enormous amount of subject matter expertise to the project including appropriate planning principles, creation of sustainable maintenance and operation model, and financing.
History of Abandoned Rail
The QueensWay project proposes to convert the former LIRR Rockaway Beach Branch (RBB) into a new, public park. 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.
Construction of the line started in 1877 with service being initiated in various forms in the 1880s. Its full configuration between White Pot Junction and the Rockaway’s was not fully completed until the 1910s and 1920s After a series of track fires in the 1940s and 1950s on the trestles near Jamaica Bay, the cost of maintaining the service for the LIRR become infeasible.
In 1955 & 1956, two major events occurred in the evolution of the RBB. First, the City of New York acquired the property and converted the southern section into subway track out to the Rockaways through Jamaica Bay where the A train currently runs today. Second, due to low ridership, the LIRR significantly reduced operations between Rego Park and Ozone Park. On June 8, 1962, service was forever discontinued on the line.
Since its closure in 1962, there have been many attempts to reactive the RBB via rail but, in each case, studies have concluded reactivation to be infeasible for a variety of reasons including high capital costs; resulting delays in main line trains to and from Long Island and Penn Station; increased commuter costs; environmental impacts; and detrimental effects to residents, businesses and schools that currently exist along the RBB.
Frequently Asked Questions
(1) How would this benefit the community?
As have been proven in many studies and other examples of successful linear parks like the High Line in Manhattan, the QueensWay would have multiple benefits to the residents, workers and visitors of New York. These include:
(a) New Parkland – At over 3.5 miles and at a width of roughly 25 feet, the QueensWay would create approximately 132,000 square feet of new, programmed park space for the residents and visitors to Queens.
(b) Economic Development – In many ways, the High Line in Manhattan, the Promenade Plantee in Paris and the Bloomingdale Trail in Chicago have generated extraordinary economic benefits to adjacent neighbors, local small businesses and municipalities. Studies, such as the one done recently by the Business Council of New York State, concluded that greenways attract tourists, encourage new trail-related business development and help revitalize business districts. They also enhance the quality of life, a critical factor in attracting and retaining business, inspire renewed civic pride and provide a fresh focus for community activities.
(c) Improved Environmental Conditions – The QueensWay is currently filled with litter and garbage. Conversion of this property into a park will clean-up that space and improve soil and wildlife conditions.
(d) Improved Quality of Life – Over and over, studies show that proximity to parks plays a significant role in the quality of life of residents. It will clean-up littered areas, improve safety and provide a new amenity for joggers, bikers, and those who just want to take a stroll through the great borough of Queens. It will provide new opportunities for physical activity to improve fitness and mental health.
(e) A Cultural Bridge for Communities – Critical to the success of the QueensWay is its role in bridging the diverse cultures in Queens, literally and figuratively. It is the stated goal of FQW to work with communities and the world-renowned cultural organizations and institutions in Queens to provide programming and to celebrate the rich cultural diversity. Imagine the possibility of being able to explore these communities in a 3.5 mile walk without ever having to cross the street.
(2) How long would the proposed QueensWay be?
The former LIRR Rockaway Beach Branch is 4.8 miles when extended to the Rockaways. However, 1.3 miles of the track from Atlantic Avenue to the Rockaways is used by the A train. It is FQW’s intention to ultimately convert the unused 3.5 miles into a new, community park.
(3) What modes of travel would it accommodate? Pedestrian? Cycling?
There have been many ideas about what travel the QueensWay can accommodate and, ultimately, it could include bike paths, jogging paths and a pedestrian walkway. Ultimately, this will be determined through community consultation and engagement during the planning process.
(4) What would be its hours of operations
It is premature at this time to make any conclusive statements about the daylight hours of operation. We expect this also to be determined in the feasibility study and through consultation with community stakeholders.
(5) What programs and events would take place on the QueensWay?
Again, it is a bit premature to say. However, as part of the planning and operations of the QueensWay, it is our intention to both create programs and events as well as partner with existing community and cultural organizations to highlight the diversity of the Borough of Queens.
(6) How secure and safe would the QueensWay be?
Currently, the QueensWay is full of litter and graffiti creating a nuisance on the affected communities. Studies have shown – such as in the case of the Highline in Manhattan – that Greenway conversion, however, actually improves safety and security. As part of the feasibility study, and through consultation with the community and safety experts, FQW and the Trust for Public Land will explore ways to maximize security along the QueensWay both when it is in operation and when it is closed.
(7) Would the QueensWay respect the privacy and security of adjacent properties?
Absolutely. In order for the QueensWay to be a success, it must improve – and not diminish – the quality of life for people living next to the line. Among the aspects that will be explored in the planning process include study of how to maintain privacy and security for these property owners and make sure that they have the right type of access to fully enjoy the QueensWay.
(8) How would it connect to Forest Park?
Approximately one-third of the QueensWay runs through a ravine on the Western portion of Forest Park. It is one of the QueensWay’s most magical experiences. Through the planning process, designers, in consultation with the City of New York and the community, will look at the appropriate ways to enter the park both from the North and the South.
(9) Who owns the QueensWay Property?
The former LIRR Rockaway Beach Branch, abandoned in 1962, is currently under the ownership of the City of New York.
(10) How would it connect with existing city bike paths?
The QueensWay would offer a more direct southward path through Forest Park versus the present proposed NYC bike path that circumvents Forest Park. It can also connect to bike paths currently being developed near Jamaica Bay.
(11) Once the QueensWay is built, how will it be maintained?
FQW feels strongly that in order for the QueensWay to be successful, it must be financially sustainable for the long-term. The Trust for Public Land is the nation’s leader in creating sustainable financial models for Parks. There subject matter expertise in this area is a major reason why FQW is confident that, ultimately, a successful park can be built and maintained for many generations. As part of the feasibility study, FQW and TPL will explore various models.
(12) What can I do to support the QueensWay?
A lot! Click here to find ways to express your support to government decision-makers, make a donation, sign-up for our newsletter or attend one of our events.
(13) How can I make a contribution to the Friends of the QueensWay?
Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss.
(15) Is corporate sponsorship available?
Yes, please email us at email@example.com to discuss.
(14) Is the site available for a tour right now?
Though the QueensWay is covered with trees and other natural growth, it is visible from many different standpoints around Queens. Please contact us if you would like to take a visit.
(15) I have historical/current photographs I’d like to share, where can I send them?
Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss.
See these resource links from the National Trails Training Partnership
Other useful links:
Economic Benefits of Trails Study (Adobe PDF)
Home Sales Near Two Trails (Adobe PDF)
Perception of Homes And Real Estate Values
Combating Bike Path Phobia
Rail-Trails and Safe Communities (Adobe PDF)
*Click here to download the free Adobe PDF Reader.