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Plans For QueensWay Park Unveiled; Opponents Want Rail Line Restoration

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A plan was unveiled on Tuesday to turn an abandoned railway in Queens into a linear, elevated park.

As WCBS 880's Peter Haskell reported, the overgrown 3.5-mile stretch of rail line that was once the Long Island Rail Road's Rockaway Beach Branch, hasn't been active for more than 50 years.

Plans For QueensWay Park Unveiled; Opponents Want Rail Line Restoration

Travis Terry, with Friends of the QueensWay, said he wants to see the space turned into a park.

"Convert it into something that our kids, our families, our seniors could use as open space," he said.

The proposed park would include bicycle, recreational and walking trails as well as an arts hub, ethnic food concessions, ballfields and rock climbing.

Architect Adam Lubinsky described the north end by the Forest Hills Little League field.

"In that area there's a great opportunity for habitat wetland, for playground space, for lawn space and a space to watch the baseball games," he told 1010 WINS' Juliet Papa.

The plan has drawn comparisons to the High Line park in Manhattan.

"The Queensway is like the High Line on steroids," said Adrian Benepe, with the Trust for Public Land. "It's more than twice as long and seven times the acreage."

Plans For QueensWay Park Unveiled; Opponents Want Rail Line Restoration

However, unlike the High Line, the QueensWay would rise and fall, dipping down and providing better access through Forest Park.

"Our vision is to connect the neighborhoods of central Queens, to bring everyone into Forest Park," Andrea Crawford with Friends of the QueensWay said.

As CBS 2's Jennifer McLogan reported, 322,000 residents have 12 schools are within walking distance from the area, skirting above three of the most dangerous streets in the borough: Woodhaven Boulevard, Union Turnpike and Jamaica Avenue.

Opponents to the plan, however, would rather see the rail line restored to service.

Activist Phil McManus, of the Queens Public Transit Committee, said what residents in the area really need is a train.

"There is no train that goes north-south in Queens," he said.

Assemblyman Philip Goldfeder released a statement urging the restoration of the Rockaway Beach Rail Line instead of the planned park.

"The QueensWay and Trust for Public Land have wasted taxpayer dollars on expensive, out-of-state consultants and one-sided studies that don't actually represent the interests or needs of Queens families. Elected officials and community leaders from every part of the borough and as far as Manhattan have expressed full support for the complete restoration of the Rockaway Beach Rail Line and increased transit options," the statement said.

Goldfeder added that a new study set to be released in the coming weeks by the Queens College Department of Urban Studies is expected to reflect "the true needs of Queens residents and small businesses."

"Our growing coalition, including the MTA, will continue the fight to expand transit in Queens while easing commutes, creating jobs, cleaning the environment and expanding our economic development," the statement concluded.

The proposed project is still years away, with $122 million to be raised. The QueensWay may be eligible for federal and state transportation funding.

As McLogan reported, the city is so far noncommittal. But proponents say it would address Mayor de Blasio's stated goals of fostering more fairness in park systems and reducing pedestrian fatalities.

Friends of the QueensWay say homeowners near the tracks would not have to worry about light pollution streaming through windows because low lighting would be installed at the footpath level.

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