The 3.5-mile stretch of land and old LIRR tracks that runs through Forest Hills, Glendale, Rego Park, Richmond Hill, Woodhaven and Ozone Park all the way to Rockaway, has been the subject of many debates.
So far two projects, the High Line-inspired linear park QueensWay and restoring rail service, are the frontrunners for reclaiming the abandoned space.
While the MTA is analyzing the transportation option, the city is currently trying to determine how much the QueensWay would cost taxpayers, de Blasio said at a town hall last week in Rego Park.
Together, the Trust for Public Land and Friends of the QueensWay have raised over $2 million in private funds and state grants for the project.
According to the two groups, the QueensWay would cost about $120 million to build, and would include pedestrian and bike paths, outdoor classrooms, learning gardens, fitness areas and more.
“I will come back, publicly to discuss the different options for cost and then we’ll decide,” the mayor said.
Though the reactivation of the rail lines, once used as the LIRR’s Rockaway Beach line, could shorten commute times between the Rockaways and central Queens, the overwhelming majority in the audience favored the QueensWay over the QueensRail, as it is known.
A resident from Ozone Park urged de Blasio and the Parks Department to support the QueensWay because it allowed neighborhoods like Ozone Park to have more green space.
“We’re closing in on a final decision,” de Blasio promised, saying a decision could come “as early as a few months from now.”
The mayor also stated that he would look into the situation between the MTA and Kew Gardens businesses on the Lefferts Boulevard bridge. After years of neglecting the maintenance of the properties, the business owners said they were told by the MTA in May that their businesses would be replaced by a high-rise building.
A few of the business owners and members of the Save Kew Gardens Coalition also attended the town hall.
Natalie Reid, owner of the Thyme Natural Market, shared her concerns with de Blasio, including that local business owners often pay for repairs to their deteriorating buildings that the MTA should take care of.
“We have a huge issue with the MTA,” she said Reid. “The MTA’s solution is to tear down the bridge and tear down all of the businesses.”
Since the MTA’s lease extends to 2020, the mayor said the MTA needed to fix the properties and his office would work on enforcing that.
“I don’t know all the facts about the bridge, but I do know tearing down the bridge would destroy your businesses and I don’t like that,” de Blasio added. “We want to work to see if there’s another way to keep these businesses in tact.”