QueensWay heavily criticized at public meeting
by Jennifer Khedaroo
Nov 22, 2016 | 6177 views | 0 0 comments | 219 219 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Susannah Drake of DLANDstudio, the landscape artist for the QueensWay, presents specifics of the proposal.
Susannah Drake of DLANDstudio, the landscape artist for the QueensWay, presents specifics of the proposal.
Residents voice concerns over the project.
Residents voice concerns over the project.
Supporters for the QueensWay project were met with criticism during a presentation on the project at last week’s Forest Hills Civic Association meeting.

At 3.5 miles long, the proposed park is more than twice as long as the High Line in Manhattan, which it is modeled after.

As currently proposed, the QueensWay is split into four park regions, which will feature areas such as playgrounds, fitness zones and biking paths.

There will also be two areas situated near residents’ homes that will have minimal programming, according to Susannah Drake of DLANDstudio, the landscape artist for the QueensWay.

The presentation was led by Travis Terry, a member of the Friends of the Queensway, a group of residents advocating for the transformation of the 47 acres of abandoned railway that cuts through neighborhoods like Rego Park, Forest Hills, Glendale, Woodhaven and Ozone Park.

On hand recording ideas from the meeting was Andy Stone, director of the New York City chapter of the Trust for Public Land, an organization that would help assist the Friends of the Queensway in the execution and management of the park.

Terry and Drake updated the community on the project’s progress as well as listened to numerous concerns and input from the community.

All of the property for the QueenWay is already owned by the city. The Forest Park portion falls under the Parks Department’s jurisdiction, while everything else is under the Department of Citywide Services. Terry pointed out that 322,000 people live within a mile of the area.

“What’s exciting about this project is the opportunity to work with all the different community facilities to help enhance what they have, including the Little League fields and schools,” Terry said.

Through Governor Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Council and private funding, Friends of the QueensWay have been able to secure money for a massive strategic plan. They’ve held workshops regarding designs in the past.

The group is currently working on a phase one design, which covers the area between Metropolitan Avenue and Union,

By the end of the presentation, Drake and Terry were met with boos from the audience, especially when Drake noted the cost to build phase one would be around $12 million. Terry added that the estimated cost for all 3.5 miles would be around $122 million.

Residents had concerns about parking, while others couldn’t believe the group hadn’t thought of design plans for further phases.

“Even though you are working on phase one, there has to be a general thought of what comes next,” one resident said. “No one is asking us what we think.”

Safety, graffiti, real estate prices and car break-ins were also issues that residents were concerned about.

There was a moment of uproar when Terry mistakenly stated that the park would increase property tax, rather than property value. He quickly fixed his mistake, but a member of the crowd shouted out “it’s the same thing.”

In the design plans, Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School (MELS) will have an outdoor classroom. When Terry and Drake added the excitement from students at MELS has motivated the Friends of the QueensWay, residents argued that rather than talking to the public school children the group should be speaking with residents.

“Let me tell you about the kids in school, because I used to teach them,” a resident said. “They’re all excited now, but they’ll be up here doing whatever, like they are doing now at the little triangle park off of Selfridge Street. Get real.”

Drake said there would be standard details relating to security, such as lighting, fencing, cameras and gated entrances. The proposed northern passage will have access points at Fleet Street, near Metropolitan Avenue and Yellowstone Boulevard.

A barrier and screenings will separate homes from the park. Residents were unhappy with the plans, arguing that intrusive lights and an increase in theft might occur.

“They won’t be able to get up there as easily they can right now,” Drake countered.

State Senator Joe Addabbo concluded that he currently does not support the QueensWay project, saying that he would “rather wait a little than go ahead and we all wake up one morning and say ‘What did we do?’”

“Long after this project is done, they might consider expansion or they might move on to the next one, but my people who live there will have to live with it on a daily basis, and that’s the concern I have,” Addabbo said.

As unpopular as the QueensWay presentation was among most residents, supporters of a counter proposal to revitalize rail service along the line were also met with a heated reception.

Those in the crowd argued the rail line would be beneficial to the Rockaways more than Forest Hills, and the process would be lengthy and expensive.

Some people in attendance did voice support for the project. Karen Imas, a homeowner on Juno Street, said that the QueensWay might revitalize small businesses in the area.

“I walk down Metropolitan Avenue and I see a lot of shuttered storefronts,” Imas said. “The movie theater is struggling, Danny Brown’s is closed and the Sizzler is a dump. I only see this getting worse.

“I have yet to see one elected official or one community group propose anything to help these businesses open,” she added.

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