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'Wild Line' Nature Sanctuary Proposed for Old Railroad Tracks in LIC

 A rendering of the Wild Line, which would include
A rendering of the Wild Line, which would include "bug hotels" (left) and flower-shaped structures to house birds and bats.
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BanG Studio

LONG ISLAND CITY — A proposal would turn a stretch of old elevated railroad tracks in Queens into a nature preserve with plants, flowers and public art — including a section that would be closed off to people where birds, bats, raccoons and even feral cats could roam.

The so-called "Wild Line" is the brainchild of Long Island City architecture firm BanG Studio and rooftop farm Brooklyn Grange, who submitted the plan earlier this year to the MTA for the Montauk Cutoff, a portion of unused rail line between Skillman Avenue and the Dutch Kills tributary.

The MTA issued a "Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI)" for the site last year, with the idea that it could lease out the land to a business or community group for some other use until it needs it again in the future. The deadline for those proposals was in February.

Other proposals for the site so far include a "Ranch on Rails," which would bring gardens, greenhouses, a grape vineyard to the site, as well as build a hub for artists and worker cooperatives.

The Wild Line would convert the 1/3-mile long stretch of tracks into a nature sanctuary filled with native plants, grasses and perennial flowers, with structures designed to attract pollinating insects, birds and other wild life, according to the proposal.

"Ours was really about a kind of vision of a sort of natural area, a kind of wild area," said Henry Grosman, who runs BanG Studio with business partner Babak Bryan. The pair shared their plan this week with Curbed New York, which first reported on the proposal.

"This is a place where we can bring some kind of nature back into the city and provide people access to it in a controlled way," Grosman said.

They've designed flower-shaped composting bins where people can drop off food scraps, as well as bug "hotels" made of wooden panels with holes that pollinating insects can crawl into. The design would also include structures for birds and bats built atop flower sculptures, the plan shows.

"Artificial nature that actually supports a real, viable nature," Bryan explained.

These would be featured throughout the project area, which would be the most publicly-accessible on its northern end and get progressively more "wild" as it moves further south.

Wild Line

Smiling Hogshead Ranch, an urban farm located at the very northern end of the site near Skillman Avenue and Davis Court, which would be left as is, according to the proposal.

The rail lines adjacent to the ranch would feature an art installation called "Firefly Field" — a series of aluminum posts with glowing lights at the top that blink on and off, "giving the visitor the sensation of being in the midst of a field of fireflies."

Moving south to the center of the project, between 49th and 50th avenues, there would be a pedestrian plaza and a path that visitors can walk on, according to the proposal.

The "Wild Line" would culminate with a nature preserve on its southern end around 51st and Borden avenues that would closed off to the public, "allowing the nature to run wild," and serving as a refuge for birds, bats, raccoons and other animals, including feral cats.

The space could be potentially made accessible to school groups or environmental researchers, Grosman and Bryan said.

Overall, the project would restore a slice of wilderness to an area that's lost most of it to development, the proposal says.

"It will be a sanctuary for urban dwellers across the city," the plan reads.

The MTA has said it will review the proposals it gets for the Montauk Cutoff and potentially use them to craft a more formal Request for Proposals for the site. A spokesman did not immediately respond Thursday to a request for an update on that process.