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Renewed hopes for a High Line-like greenway in Queens

Renewed hopes for a High Line-like greenway in Queens

New York Daily News 12/2/2011

BY Lisa L. Colangelo

Queens parks advocates are reviving a proposal to turn an abandoned stretch of the Long Island Rail Road into a greenway like the High Line in Manhattan. The 3.5-mile route extends from Rego Park to Ozone Park and include trestles such as the one seen here on Union Turnpike leading into Forest Park.

Queens parks advocates are reviving a proposal to turn an abandoned stretch of the Long Island Rail Road into a greenway like the High Line in Manhattan. The 3.5-mile route extends from Rego Park to Ozone Park and includes trestles such as the one seen here on Union Turnpike leading into Forest Park.

Encouraged by the success of the High Line in Manhattan, a group of Queens park advocates are rebooting a proposal to rehabilitate an abandoned rail line into a greenway.

The old Rockaway Beach Branch of the Long Island Rail Road, which went out of service almost 50 years ago, stretches from Rego Park to Ozone Park, cutting a swath through Forest Park.

“This is such an exciting idea,” said Andrea Crawford, the chairwoman of Community Board 9 who is helping organize supporters of the project. “It’s green, yet it has economic development opportunities. It would tie us in with other rail-to-trail projects happening all over the country.”

Crawford was part of a group of civic leaders who met with city agency representatives this week to discuss preliminary plans for a greenway along the route.

Remnants of the line are visible throughout the area. The tracks ran along trestles above Metropolitan Ave. and Union Turnpike. The path is mostly clogged with trees and overgrown vegetation, but it still includes some train tracks and signal equipment and towers.

The tracks, which lead into Forest Park just south of Union Turnpike and Woodhaven Blvd., are owned by the city.

Forest Hills resident Travis Terry became interested in the idea shortly after moving to the area five years ago.

“I noticed this whole elevated railroad and was curious why this had never been explored to become a great, new open space for the residents of the community,” said Terry, who had done some pro bono government relations work on the High Line.

But earlier efforts to transform the crumbling track line into a lush greenway were stalled when some residents in Forest Hills raised questions about security and the impact on private property.

The project, crafted by park advocates and bicycling enthusiasts, gained the support of Community Board 9.

But the members of Community Board 6 decided not to back it and overwhelmingly voted against supporting a feasibility study in 2007.

The new coalition of advocates said they are not deterred by previous problems.

“This is a unique and special opportunity,” said Terry. “It needs to be studied and there needs to be an effort to engage all sorts of community stakeholders.”

Frank Gulluscio, district manager of Community Board 6, said the board has not seen any recent plans for the greenway.

“The last time we saw anything was in 2007,” he said. “We’re willing to listen.”

Crawford said the project would benefit the surrounding neighborhoods and spark economic development. It could even help bring more attention to the Forest Park Carousel, a historic amusement that has been shuttered since 2008. The Parks Department has been unable to find an operator.

She said the group is currently doing research and forming a 501c3 nonprofit organization.

“This is so rich,” she said of the project. “There is a great sense of history here.”

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