Get your ‘Motor’ running: Northeast Queens celebrates historic parkway trail extension for bicyclists and hikers

Photo courtesy of Senator John Liu’s office

The state Legislature recently passed a long-awaited bill commissioning a study to extend the Long Island Motor Parkway Trail in northeast Queens.

On June 28, lawmakers, bike advocates and local residents celebrated the Motor Parkway Connection bill’s passage, which was carried by Assemblyman David Weprin in the Assembly and by state Senator John Liu in the Senate this past legislative session.

The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) will complete a feasibility study and report for the proposed expansion, which would extend the parkway east from Winchester Boulevard to Little Neck Parkway. The car-free path, which is used by bicyclists and parkgoers, currently runs from 210th Street to Winchester Boulevard.

“The Long Island Motor Parkway is Queens county’s hidden gem, a car-free verdant landmarked path that travels through the Queens neighborhoods of Fresh Meadows and Hollis Hills. It’s part of the Brooklyn Queens Greenway which is a system of trails that stretches from Coney Island to Bayside,” said Joby Jacob, co-founder of Motor Parkway East. “For the past five years, we’ve advocated to link these two trails and are very happy to see the bill passed. We also hope that filling this critical gap will allow the Brooklyn Queens Greenway to serve as a link to the Empire State Trail, which runs from Manhattan to Canada, as it will be able to finally include Long Island.”

In 1908, William Kissam Vanderbilt II built the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway as the first roadway designed solely for automobile use. Originally built as a racecourse, the roadway was eventually transformed into a major thoroughfare.

Today, NYC Parks maintains part of the parkway as part of the NYC Greenway program. The stretch, which runs through Cunningham Park, is used by cyclists and those traveling on foot.

“An expanded Motor Parkway Greenway is poised to become eastern Queens’ top-tier recreational amenity for residents seeking a healthy walk, run or bike ride through their community, and it will provide thousands of commuters an exceptionally safe and effective way to bike to west Queens, Manhattan or Long Island. After years of extensive outreach to the community, over 1,000 New Yorkers have signed our petition to expand the Motor Parkway Greenway, and each year 150 New Yorkers ride it during TransAlt’s annual Tour de Flushing,” said Juan Restrepo, Queens Organizer, Transportation Alternatives.

Several local bike organizations have been advocating for years to see the expansion come into fruition, both to preserve the trail as part of New York history and as an “untapped” park space for people to enjoy.

“After six years of advocacy, the residents of northeast Queens who have fought for this bill can celebrate a huge victory with its passage,” said Senator Liu. “This brings us one step closer to the cyclists’ Holy Grail of bike paths connecting Queens, Long Island and beyond, as the yet-unincorporated stretch of the Motor Parkway is the only thing standing in the way of connecting Coney Island to Queens Village to Old Bethpage. Thank you to Assembly member Weprin for championing the bill in the Assembly and thank you to Joby Jacob, Juan Restrepo, Laura Shepard and many others for their efforts to see this through.”

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