Photo by Joe Anuta
By Joe Anuta

An anonymous group of architects is working on yet another plan to transform a stretch of abandoned train tracks in Queens into the borough’s version of The High Line, according to a South Ozone Park activist.

“There are a bunch of architects who have been working locally,” said Anandi Premlall, who has been publicly advocating for a park on the abandoned Rockaway Branch of the Long Island Rail Road, which cuts a rusty, overgrown swath through several neighborhoods in the borough.

Premlall, who would not name the architects but said she was meeting with them at the end of the month, was inspired by the Manhattan park, which is a greenspace built on another set of elevated subway tracks.

The premise for the Queens version would be the same, according to Premlall, since the old LIRR line has not been in use since the 1950s, when the railroad company sold the tracks to various city agencies.

The neglected strip begins in Rego Park, where Little League diamonds now occupy part of the old footprint. The track, a portion of which is owned by Department of Citywide Administrative Services, then runs south through Forest Park and along the border between Woodhaven and Richmond Hill. At the intersection with Atlantic Avenue, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s A train takes over and runs down to the Rockaways.

Premlall hopes the unused portion, at least from Forest Park to around Atlantic Avenue, could be made into a park.

“So far, people are supportive and they would love to see this happen,” she said.

Premlall proposed the idea for a competition hosted by the Institute for Urban Design, and two architects drew up plans of what the park could look like in response. In addition, the institute included the idea in a book depicting the possible future look of the city.

She also spoke about her vision at the Queens Museum of Art.

But this plan has been proposed before.

Several years ago another group came forward with plans to build a park on the elevated tracks and members of Community Board 9 also advocated for an elevated bike path along the tracks.

“There was an enormous opposition to it and it would cost an enormous amount of money,” said CB 6 District Manager Frank Gulluscio, whose district encompasses a portion of the tracks.

Part of the problem is that ripping all the track would cost millions of dollars, he said, and another is that part of the tracks are now privately owned.

“There’s just a lot to it,” he said. “It’s not just, ‘Oh, there’s empty land, let’s go ride bikes.’”

In addition, Betty Braton of CB 10, which covers areas like Howard Beach and Ozone Park, said that southern Queens, especially the Rockaways, wants to keep the tracks open in the hopes LIRR service would one day be revived.

“We have a stated position that we are in support of the revitalization of the Rockaway branch,” she said, recalling an earlier proposal that was brought before the board several years ago.

But Premlall is aware of the previous opposition and said that since the LIRR has no plans to reinstate the railroad, the community would benefit from a public greenspace.

“I’m just a concerned citizen who would love to see this happen in the community,” she said.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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