Friday, January 6, 2012

Rails to Trails Support

Fantastic feature on the Rails to Trails Blog!

I am that brown & green girl from the under-served South Queens side of the tracks pictured below. Honored to have a photo credit and "Envisioning the Queens HighLine" blog/fb group mention too!

Since this article has posted we have started a committee called Friends of the QueensWay and the project is now calledThe QueensWay!

Support Builds for Elevated Greenway Through Queens, N.Y.

In the world of science, the arts - in fact all human endeavors where people are constantly trying to innovate or discover new, uncharted territory - it often happens that the achievement of one groundbreaking pioneer opens the gate for many to follow.
That's just as true in the world of rail-trail design. The successful development of the High Line on Manhattan's lower west side in the mid-2000s has lit a path for a number of greenway projects along out-of-service elevated rail trestles and embankments in American cities.
In Jersey City, N.J., a strong community movement is building support for a greenway and trail along the Harsimus Stem Embankment. In Chicago, plans for a similar community space and transportation corridor along a three-mile section of theBloomingdale Rail Line through the heart of the city is exciting residents, businesses, planners and officials.
And now, the success of the High Line has re-energized supporters ofa 3.5-mile greenway along the Rockaway Beach Branch of the Long Island Rail Road through Queens. It's an elevated section of track that has been out of use since the 1960s, and greenway proponents say the corridor, as it stands, does little more than contribute to the derelict appearance of some sections of the neighborhood. Those same unused tracks, though, could be revived as an elevated trail that enriches the community.
The Rockaway Beach Branch Greenway Committee (RBBGC) is well-organized and well-supported; Travis Terry, who was involved with the creation of the High Line, is one of the key members, and the group has the support of elected officials and community groups throughout the region. The Trust for Public Land has committed to producing a feasibility study, and Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's (RTC) Northeast Regional Office has been tapped for technical advice and support - a role we also played in the early stages of the High Line.
The greenway, which is being referred to variously as the Rockaway Beach Branch Greenway, the Queens Highline, the QueensWay or the QueensLine, would run about 3.5 miles from Rego Park to Ozone Park in central Queens, linking the neighborhood of Forest Park with the Shore Parkway path, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and Gateway National Recreation Area.
And though the buzz created by the unique success of the High Line was a catalyst for community action behind this greenway in Queens, the projects are very different. A Rockaway Beach Branch trail would be more than twice as long as the High Line and would be more park than footpath - featuring wide spaces for recreation and gathering.
According to the RBBC's Peter Beadle, the route of the greenway covers a broad spectrum of areas, with fairly affluent neighborhoods to the north, and historically underserved areas to the south.
"These areas have lacked the same access to social services, to green spaces," he says, describing the areas around the currently neglected railway corridor as "derelict, abandoned, decrepit, dangerous."
He says one of the main oppositions to the trail concept at the moment is the perception that it would somehow increase crime activity.
"The evidence shows that building community greenways and trails like this has the opposite effect," Beadle says. "We see increased property values, and better conditions for businesses along the line."
Beadle's insight is confirmed by a number of RTC case studies that detail how increasing foot and bike-traffic in previously under-used urban areas increases the safety of those areas, particularly as local communities begins to take"ownership" of the trail, trailside parks and spaces, which become popular neighborhood assets.
One significant hurdle greenway proponents won't have to scale is the great expense of acquiring the land, as the city of New York owns the corridor.
Beadle says the RBBC is in the process of formalizing as a nonprofit and gathering resources for a period of public outreach and support-building. Last week the group launched an online petition, which it hopes will urge the city of New York to commit to converting the disused line into a community greenway. After just a few days, the petition has more than 530 signatures.
To learn more about the Rockaway Beach Branch Greenway project, or to add your name to the petition, visit
Photos courtesy of Anandi A. Premlall/Envisioning the Queens Highline

Posted Tue, Dec 13 2011 1:00 PM by Jake Lynch