QUEENS — The design process for the first stretch of the proposed QueensWay has been completed, according to groups supporting the project, which released new renderings Wednesday showing what the green space would look like in Forest Hills and Glendale.
The proposed park seeks to transform 3.5 miles of the derelict Rockaway Beach Rail Line into Queens' version of the High Line, which would also include bike paths and cultural amenities.
The rail line, currently owned by various city agencies, including the Department of Citywide Administrative Services and Parks Department, opened in 1877, connecting Forest Hills, Rego Park, Richmond Hill and Ozone Park. It was closed in 1962 after its ridership declined.
Renderings: Courtesy of Friends of the QueensWay
The first half-mile of the park, a stretch along Metropolitan Avenue and Union Turnpike known as the Metropolitan Hub, next to Forest Hills and Glendale, “could be built and open to the public by 2020 as a city park,” according to the Friends of the QueensWay and The Trust for Public Land, which are overseeing the plan.
That phase, according to the groups, would improve access to Forest Park and provide learning gardens and outdoor classrooms for more than 2,000 students in the three nearby schools located within the Metropolitan Education Campus.
DLANDstudio Architecture + Landscape Architecture, which works on developing the design, with input from local residents, will also provide “construction-ready working drawings" over the next year, the groups said.
"The completion of a compelling design for the first phase will bring us that much closer to making the QueensWay a reality for hundreds of thousands of people who live within a 10-minute walk," Andy Stone, New York City Director of The Trust for Public Land said in a statement.
The groups also announced Wednesday that it is planning to hire a security consultant who would make recommendations on how to make the park safe for its users and adjacent homes and businesses alike, which has been a major concern among residents who live near the proposed park.
So far, supporters of the park have raised more than $2 million in private and public funding, including more than $900,000 from the NY State Regional Economic Development Council.
Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, who secured $250,000 for the first stage of the design project, said the QueensWay would "improve quality of life for so many Central Queens residents...[and] make great strides in helping to impact our local economy."
The group estimated in 2014 that the entire project would cost about $120 million.
At the same time, the MTA is working on an assessment seeking to determine whether the rail line could be reactivated, an alternative backed by groups like the Queens Public Transit Committee, which argue that restoring the train service would significantly shorten commuting time for thousands of Queens residents.