Photo by Christina Santucci
By Kelsey Durham

Hundreds of petitioners have joined forces with a campaign calling for the Motor Parkway bike and pedestrian trail in Bellerose to be upgraded.

The campaign was started by Joby Jacob and Jana Suchtova, two Queens residents who say they use the historic path regularly but are unhappy with its abrupt end once it reaches Winchester Boulevard and Union Turnpike. Instead of continuing along the street, the Motor Parkway stops and those traveling on bike or foot must walk along the boulevard with no sidewalk or road shoulder to protect them from the cars.

The original parkway, built in the early 1900s, was a private road that stretched from Fresh Meadows out to Suffolk County. The city Parks Department maintains the 2.5-mile portion of the parkway in Alley Pond and Cunningham parks.

For bicyclists who ride eastbound on the section between Horace Harding and Winchester boulevards, the lack of road beyond Union Turnpike creates a safety issue, Jacob said.

As of the beginning of the month, more than 250 have signed an online petition agreeing with him.

“If you live in Glen Oaks or Floral Park, then the only way to get out here is to drive, but not everyone drives,” said Jacob, citing the lack of public transportation along the route. “It would be nice to take a leisurely walk without the possibility of being run over. It’s just not safe.”

The narrow grass section where the Motor Parkway now leads is sandwiched between Winchester Boulevard and the back fence of the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center. The proposal created by Jacob and Suchtova calls for a sidewalk to be built along the grass that could continue along the Cross Island Parkway, which would require the fence to be pushed back to create enough room.

Jacob said he is not necessarily asking for a pedestrian bridge to be built across Winchester Boulevard, but the idea could be revisited later if sufficient funds could be raised. For now, he said the only costs he anticipates being involved with the project are to move the Creedmoor building’s fence, put down the sidewalk and plant some shrubs.

“We don’t need anything fancy,” he said. “We just need access. What we’re presenting are just options and I don’t want to dictate it as long as it gets done.”

Jacob said he has been in contact with City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) and state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), because all the roads and properties that would be involved in any changes are owned by either the city or the state. Though no suggestions are set in stone, Avella said he was in favor of the idea and would support Jacob and Suchtova along the way.

“The idea is great. We just need to make sure there aren’t any structures in line that could present a problem” said Avella. “I think it’s doable and we’ll see where it goes.”

Jacob said he and Avella talked about setting up public hearings in the near future to give stakeholders a chance to voice their opinions before any decisions are made. He said he is also planning to do a group walk once the season changes to further show the public the beauty the Motor Parkway provides and how many people use it.

“I want to show people this great thing we have here in Queens,” he said. “There’s nothing else like it, I don’t think, in the area.”

Reach reporter Kelsey Durham at 718-260-4573 or by e-mail at kdurham@cnglocal.com.

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