Hochul vetoes bill to study expansion of eastern Queens greenway into Nassau

Governor Hochul vetoed a bill that could have started the process of expanding the Long Island Motor Parkway trail earlier in November.
Photo by Darren McGee/ Office of Governor Kathy Hochul

Earlier this month, Gov. Kathy Hochul vetoed a bill that would have authorized a transportation study to examine the plausibility of expanding the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway greenway from eastern Queens to Nassau County. 

Senate Bill S3011, sponsored by state Sen. John Liu, who represents eastern Queens from Bayside to Flushing, passed with unanimous support during a floor vote on June 1. But on Nov. 17, the governor vetoed it alongside other bills that proposed studies conducted by state agencies due to a lack of appropriated funding.  

The historic Vanderbilt Motor Parkway, also known as the Long Island Motor Parkway, runs between Cunningham Park in Flushing and Winchester Boulevard in Queens Village. The extension that elected officials and transportation advocates are hoping for would extend the existing Brooklyn-Queens greenway east from Winchester Boulevard to Little Neck Parkway in Queens, connecting it to a proposed trailhead in Nassau. 

The study would have been conducted in partnership with the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation along with the state’s Office of Mental Health. It sought to determine the estimated cost and duration of the project, its environmental impact and how it would affect local traffic patterns. 

The current path parallels Union Turnpike, which is known to be dangerous to both pedestrians and cyclists with a stretch near Creedmoor Psychiatric Center missing sidewalks. A trampled dirt path there shows that pedestrians are still utilizing it despite ‘no pedestrian’ signs in place.

Connecting parks and open spaces throughout Queens via greenway has been a longtime dream of our community and we believe the governor will work with us to make it happen, even if it won’t be right away,” Liu said. 

Renovation on Vanderbilt Motor Parkway was completed earlier this month. Photo courtesy of NYC Parks

The assessment also would have examined connecting Kings, Queens, Nassau and Suffolk counties to the Empire State Trail

The 750-mile trail was launched in 2017, to provide a cohesive recreational route for cyclists and walkers to enjoy the outdoors. Currently there are two main coordinators, one stretching from Albany to Buffalo and another from the Canadian border to the bottom tip of Manhattan. Existing trails in the four boroughs and on Long Island are not yet connected to the Empire State Trail. 

“Without appropriate funding, these unbudgeted costs would create significant staffing and other programmatic burdens on state agencies,” read Hochul’s Nov. 17 veto message, according to Streetsblog. “Additionally, because of the ongoing work of state agencies and authorities, a number of the proposals would result in duplication and unnecessary bureaucracy.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo also vetoed an almost identical version of the bill in 2019, also sponsored by Senator Liu, also citing a lack of appropriated funds. And the effort to expand the greenway goes back even further to 2014

Despite another setback to the extension, the parkway was recently revamped with smoother roads and an updated drainage system with funding from the mayor’s office and the city council. Elected and parks officials celebrated the completion of construction at an ribbon cutting ceremony on Nov. 6.

I’m confident we’ll get there, and will continue working with the Governor’s office to ensure a comprehensive study gets done so our community can finally make this dream a reality,” added Liu.