For nearly six decades, the old Rockaway Beach Branch of the Long Island Rail Road sat abandoned and fell into disrepair along a 3.5-mile stretch of central and southern Queens. On Friday afternoon, Sept. 16, Mayor Eric Adams came to Forest Hills to announce a $35 million investment for the design and construction of the Metropolitan Hub, phase one of a new multiphase greenway and park called QueensWay that will transform the city-owned corridor in Forest Hills into a five-acre park.
Once completed, QueensWay will include a 47-acre park and seven miles of greenway that will connect the neighborhoods of Rego Park, Forest Hills, Glendale, Woodhaven and Ozone Park.
“New York is a five-borough city, and every borough deserves high-quality park space. That’s exactly what we are delivering with this $35 million investment in one of our vital neighborhoods in Queens,” Adams said. “QueensWay phase one will convert abandoned railroad tracks that have been used as a dumping ground into a linear park that will make this community safer, healthier, greener and more prosperous.”
All five boroughs deserve access to high quality park space. Today, I’m proud to announce a $35 million dollar investment to deliver Phase One of the QueensWay — a project the community has been fighting for for decades. Join us now in Queens. https://t.co/KXNCfBsZdF
— Mayor Eric Adams (@NYCMayor) September 16, 2022
The city’s Economic Development Corporation will manage the construction of the Met Hub in collaboration with NYC Parks.
“Queens has demonstrated a need for more extensive and accessible open space, and the QueensWay is uniquely poised to fulfill those needs,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said. “The QueensWay will promote recreational and cultural opportunities while also connecting communities and facilitating alternatives to the car.”
The funding includes $2.5 million from the City Council, and Forest Hills Councilwoman Lynn Schulman noted that QueensWay would provide much-needed green space while acting as a main artery of the borough, connecting six distinct neighborhoods and providing safe and easy alternative transportation to 12 schools, seven subway lines and one commuter line.
“We are facing a once-in-a-civilization public health challenge to save our planet from destruction within, and today’s investment by Mayor Adams in a linear park in Forest Hills is a big step in meeting this challenge,” Schulman said. “For many of the 2.3 million people who live in Queens, access to public parks and open space is limited, and in many cases, it is hard and dangerous to access by foot and bike.”
The proposal was conceived by the Trust for Public Land (TPL) and Friends of the QueensWay.
“The QueensWay will not only increase parks space and safe, active transportation options in the places that need it most and for over 300,000 people who live within a mile, but also make our whole city more equitable, resilient and livable for millions of other residents and visitors,” TPL New York State Director Carter Strickland said. “By finalizing the Met Hub design so that it is shovel-ready, the city will be able to break ground to create a community benefit in just a few years, and TPL could not be more excited.”
Friends of the QueensWay president Travis Terry called the investment a historic and remarkable moment for those living, working and visiting central Queens after decades of grassroots advocacy.
“When the QueensWay is completed, community organizations and schools will be enhanced; neighborhoods will be reconnected; social and cultural programs will emerge; local businesses will get a much-needed boost; environmental conditions will improve air quality and reduce flooding; and children, seniors and residents will finally have a safe place to bike, jog or take a stroll,” Terry said.
The future of the QueensLink proposal, which would reuse existing rail assets to improve mass transit, is unclear. Last month, QueensLink executive director Rick Horan sent a letter urging the mayor and Governor Kathy Hochul to conduct an Environmental Impact Study on the plan in order to provide greater detail on QueensLink’s potential economic and environmental impact.
Seventeen elected officials signed on to Horan’s letter and during the press conference, the borough president called on the governor to initiate the study.
“QueensLink and its supporters are dismayed to hear about the backroom deal made to block transit equity for residents of Queens by converting the former Rockaway Beach rail line into a park,” the group said in a statement prior the announcement. “For years, QueensLink called for this city-owned right-of-way to be used for BOTH transit and park space. Building the park, known as the QueensWay, would block any future use of transit on this line and deprive residents of southern Queens of a faster commute, less traffic while reducing pollution and carbon emissions. We are scratching our heads.”