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Make unused Rockaway LIRR into greenspace: Activist

Queens activists want to turn a long-neglected stretch of Long Island Rail Road track, some of which is overgrown with foliage, into a park similar to Manhattan's High Line. Photo by Joe Anuta
TimesLedger Newspapers

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 or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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The bigger Green Initiative would be to reopen the line and remove a lot of traffic off the already heavily congested Crossbay and Woodhaven Boulevards. With the opening of Resorts World and the increased traffic at JFK it makes perfect sense. The LIRR will be able to stop at Grand Central Station in 2016. What an entrance that would provide to Tourists traveling from and to JFK . It would increase property values along the route including the Rockaways. I agree with Betty Bratton that it should be reopened.
Nov. 14, 2011, 9:04 pm
Anandi A. Premlall from South Ozone Park says:
This for writing this article Joe and for shedding some light on this project. I wish it had more of a positive twist at the end, but I am grateful for the connections that came through it and the conversations and movement that have resurfaced.

I started the blog to gather fragmented information I was able to research online. This blog is an open discussion of and proposal to transform the abandoned LIRR tracks in South Queens into a public space that captures the gritty, earthy beauty of Queens and serves the community with a bike path and walking trails, native plants to attract local bees, edible trees and plants to provide sustenance, where children can play safely and elders have a place to gather, where artists and musician share their talents, where the community grows.

How You can help create the Queens High Line:

1. Tell us how would you improve on these ideas. What are your dreams for Queens and for this space?

2. Join the facebook group: and invite your friends in the community and those with skills to share.

3. Tweet about it (you can follow me at or check hashtag #QueensHighline for a number of tweets you can retweet)

4. Read, comment & subscribe to:

5. Become a fan of the Rockaway Beach Branch Greenway Committee 's page:

6. Ask all of your friends, family, colleagues, significant others to forgo a monetary gift for any and all occasions and instead contribute a thoughtful comment, idea or vision to this very worthy project ;).

7. Email:

8. Contact your local media about our efforts. We want more people to know and care about this.

All in all, we're re-creating the community life that has been dwindling over the years with busy households who have hardly any time to enjoy a meal together. This is especially poignant right now where the new graduates, unemployed and underemployed (aka the 99%) are searching for something more substantial in their lives.

I certainly miss the days when children played hopscotch, basketball, hide-and-seek and other games with each other in the streets, when the ice cream truck could be heard blocks away, and we lined up for what seemed like forever with sweaty dollars and hungry bellies awaiting swirly cones with rainbow sprinkles.

Shall we, once again, embrace the beauty of the slow life, where we stop to savor the sweet moments, among the blur of this fast-paced city?

Thank you all for sharing the vision, for using your voice for good and to create a cleanER, greenER, more sustainABLE Queens.

Let's make this happen,
Nov. 29, 2011, 11:45 pm
Keely Nelson from the North says:

Anandi's vision meets with grace where It Can.

What more can we Aspire to? Let's find out.
Nov. 29, 2011, 11:52 pm
Peter W. Beadle from Rego Park says:
It is wonderful how lucky we are to have this gem sitting in our backyards. The property is already owned by the City of New York, so though there will be a significant cost to its development, one of the bigger costs and hurdles - land acquisition - has already been resolved.

As for transportation issues, such a Greenway may be able to do more, at a lower cost than reinitiating a train line to help people with their daily commute. the Greenway crosses or comes within blocks of at least 5 subway lines on three different sets of tracks. No one spot along the Greenway is more than 1.5 miles from any one of those lines. And the grade of the Greenway is gentle enough that the ride would be easy even for inexperienced riders. Once the bikeshare program makes it to Queens this has the potential to become a significant commuting route for people in central and southern Queens.

Though more transportation options are needed, and Bus Rapid Transit may provide the answer along Cross Bay and Woodhaven Blvd.'s MTA's study of re-opening the rial line showed that not only would it be hugely expensive, but other train shcedules and limited platform space would actually make it difficult to run more than very limited train service to midtown. BRT would provide increased express bus service to the aforementioned subway lines that would then take commuters to lower and midtown Manhatten at a much reduced cost.

So it is possible to create a world-class Greenway that will have econimic, health and environmental benefits without limiting realistic options to improve public transit along that corridor.
Nov. 30, 2011, 10:57 pm
Philip McManus from Rockaway Park says:
Are you sick and tired of long, slow, dangerous, overcrowded and unreliable roadways, buses and trains?

How long does it take you to get to work or school?

Do you or your family pick a school or a job based on how long it takes you to get there?

Why don't we expand and increase access to more areas of Queens through faster transportation?

Why does it take 2 1/2 hours to cross Queens from Bayside to Rockaway?

The goal of the Queens Public Transit Committee is to constantly focus our attention on a major part of our lives, transportation.

Faster transportation will increase access to social and economic opportunities, jobs, education, shopping, investments, property values, safety and family and medical visits.

We want to educate, recruit and organize the people of Queens for faster transportation.

We're stuck in traffic because we haven't expanded our transit system.

We need to do more to reduce excessive overcrowding and travel times on our roadways, buses and trains.

A recent report stated our transportation systems are getting more crowded and taking longer. Longer travel times is insidious and weakens our economy.

We must address this crisis now or we will lose jobs, tax revenues and property values in many areas of Queens. The results will be disastrous. High unemployment and low income is another reason for crime.

To prevent crime and poverty we must teach and help people to make money.

You've heard the expression "Time is Money."

Faster transit saves time and money.
Money saved is money earned.
Increased income will help people improve their lives and their neighborhoods.

What would happen to our City if a small politically powerful group took away your roadway, buses and trains?

That's what happened to the Queens when they took away the Queens Rockaway Beach Line in 1950 and 1962.

That's what happened to Queens when they put a toll on Cross Bay Boulevard, the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge.

That's what happened to Queens when they stopped ferry service.

That's what happened to Queens when they refused to maintain our infrastructure.

That's what happened to Queens when they increase transfer times on buses and trains.

Our governments mismanagement, causes fear, poverty, unemployment, crime, disease, and terrible suffering.

Please support our efforts to improve the Quality of Life for Queens through faster transportation.

Thank you to Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, New York Daily News, Congressmen Meeks and Jeffries, State Senator Avella, Queens Community Boards 5, 10 and 14 for their support of faster transportation including the Queens RBL.

Please ask your family and friends and commuters to sign our petitions to support the Reactivation of the Queens Rockaway Beach Line, the New Queens Crosstown, eliminate the toll on the Queens Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge for everyone and expand the Queens Rockaway Ferry:


Philip McManus
Queens Public Transit Committee

Feb. 8, 2014, 3:38 pm

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