It's been a proposal for almost a decade, but it seems like the QueensWay project, a plan to convert a deserted 3.5-mile stretch of railroad tracks from Rego Park to Ozone Park into a High Line-like network of green spaces and paths, is now one step closer to becoming reality.
This past Friday, mayor Eric Adams announced that the city will offer $35 million to complete the first phase of the project, which, according to estimates, will cost as much as $150 million in total.
"QueensWay improves quality of life, it improves the air quality," the politician said during an official announcement. "It promotes both physical and mental well-being, and it gives more visibility to businesses on the route, so this is an economic stimulus as well."
The national nonprofit Trust for Public Land and the Friends of the QueensWay group came up with the plan over the past 10 years, hoping to eventually be responsible for a 47-acre park and seven miles of greenway built on the Rockaway Beach Branch Line of the Long Island Rail Road, a piece of land that has been completely vacant and not in use for the past 50 years.
According to the official plan overview, a completed QueensWay would eventually boast six zones, each one featuring areas for specific activities like children’s play sections, exercise equipment, food concessions, outdoor nature classrooms, cultural experiences, space for farmers’ markets, batting cages, biking paths and more.
Although turning the long-defunct railroad into a public space reminiscent of Manhattan's very successful High Line project is certainly an exciting concept, not everyone seems to be on board.
In fact, proponents of a second project dubbed QueensLink have been drawing attention alongside fans of QueensWay.
The QueensLink proposal calls for a reactivation of the abandoned railway as an actual transit tool, specifically extending the M train from Rego Park to the Rockaways but also using some of the space as a park.
The two proposals have caused some drama between supporters.
"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 branch rail into a park," the QueensLink campaign wrote in an official statement following mayor Adams' QueensWay announcement. "For years, QueensLink has 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."
For what it's worth, MTA spokesperson Eugene Resnick said to the New York Post that "nothing in the city's plan for QueensWay will impact any future MTA transportation initiatives."
Whether either plan is going to turn into reality is yet to be seen, but one thing is clear: the mayor has made his priorities clear.