Debate over High Line-style park in Queens heats up, post-Sandy

The abandoned rail line in Queens
The abandoned rail line in Queens

The affects of Hurricane Sandy on Queens has galvanized the debate surrounding a 3.5-mile stretch of above-ground rail line connecting central Queens to the Rockaway peninsula, Crain’s reported. A community organization, known as the Friends of Queensway, for months has been fighting for a High Line-style park, which could revitalize the area with new restaurants and shops. But following the storm, the need for better infrastructure, particularly better transportation, has become apparent, and more voices are being raised in favor of restoring the old railroad line.

“We need better transportation,” Lew Simon, a Democratic district leader and chairman for the Rockaway Transit Coalition, said. “I will fight to the end for it.”

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If restored — at an estimated cost of approximately $500 million — the line could halve to commute time to Manhattan for residents of Howard Beach, Ozone Park and Rockaway and reconnect Rego Park to the Long Island Railroad’s main line.

However, advocates for the park argue that the line’s proximity to hundreds of residential homes makes restoring the line a danger and a value suppressant, while a park could increase area home values.

“The [right of way] runs next to hundreds, if not thousands of homes,” said Andrea Crawford, chair of the Friends of Queensway, a nonprofit group of community activists. “Residents don’t want the noise pollution or the potential danger of speeding trains.” [Crain’s] —Christopher Cameron