Everything you need to know about the Park’s Department new Greenway Plan for Eastern Queens (including how to help)

On February 8th, 2022 the Parks Department released its design plan for the Eastern Queens Greenway rehabilitation, including cost estimates. We had been speaking to Michael Dockett of the Parks Department since September of 2019 about implementing this study and through his (and many other people’s) hard work we now have a solid plan. Now at the end of the design phase the focus will turn to funding.

The Parks Department did a great job breaking the project up into small chunks. The goal is to get the entire project funded at once, that’s the most efficient process and makes the biggest impact to the community. But if that’s not possible, different sections can be done in different years. Instead of dollar estimates, they used this metric:

$ – up to 5 million dollars
$$ – up to 10 million dollars
$$$ – up to 15 million dollars
$$$$ – up to 20 million dollars

Luckily there is already a request on the table for $200 million dollars to fund downstate greenways. This is the same amount that has previously gone to the Empire State trail so it makes sense to mirror it for the more dense communities in the south end of the state. Securing state funding for our greenways not only bring this project a step closer, but also paves the way for a full greenway network across all of New York. If that’s the state you want to live in, please contact your local State Senator and State Assembly Member now to ask them to sign on to this letter today (we’d love to win this for Valentines day).

The Parks Department’s plan for just the Eastern Queens Greenway is pricey, but there is a lot of amazing infrastructure that comes with it. Funding for greenways keeps money in our neighborhood and increases the value of our parkland for everyone. This is how the Parks Department plans to connect our communities (with our comments in green italics).

Project 1 – Loop around Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Meadows Lake
– Dedicated route around the west side of the lake, with improvements in the east side too
– new picnic area (with BBQ grills) and lake access
(Flushing meadows is an amazing park that is mainly cut off from the community by highways on all sides. Any improvement to pull people into and through the park is a huge step forward. We hope the planted buffer along the highway is a forest of tall trees to damper the noise, pollution, and unsightliness of the highway.)

Project 2 – Under Long Island Expressway / Van Wyck Expressway
– better link the north and south sections of the park (divided by the LIE)
– new water view areas
(The shoreline under the LIE isn’t the most picturesque spot, but hopefully with some improvements it’ll be better. We generally have very poor access to our waterways so it’s great to bring people closer to it. Hopefully this develops a great appreciate of it, and helps push for something better then combined sewer overflow).

(We hope this includes turning the old parking lots into and active sport area since every field in the park is booked during the summer.)

Project 3 – World Fair Promenades
– dedicated greenway route in center lane of 3 lane paths
(There is a lot of paving in the World’s Fairgrounds and it only makes sense to organize it a bit better to encourage a separation between cyclists from pedestrians. This plan doesn’t talk about making a connection to the west, which would be key in connecting our communities. What the Parks Department did not cover was how to keep cars off of these paths. Although cars banned from these paths, there still are a significant amount of aggressive drivers from the Tennis Center, food vendors, police, Parks, scofflaws, etc. Without a physical protection what to prevent them from invading this space and cutting off what will be a major commuting pathway?)

Project 4a ‐ around the Botanical Gardens
– on street, 2 way bike lane on Booth Memorial, 133rd Street, Elder Avenue, and Peck Avenue
– redesign of intersections at College Point Boulevard and Main Street
(The route around the Botanical Gardens is currently one of the biggest barriers on the entire greenway due to the lack of signage and very dangerous streets. The audience from the presentation rated this the most important segment to focus on. We agree that this needs to be prioritized, but we can’t understand why the Parks Department won’t use the College Point Bridge. Just two years ago, Justin Leiva (who was only 29) was killed by a driver while crossing this College Point Boulevard / Booth Memorial Avenue intersection. By removing the stairs on the eastern side and adding a ramp this becomes ADA compliant and a far safer route for everyone then trying to cross the highway-like College Point Boulevard. We’re not the only ones that feel this way, Evie Hantzopoulos the Botanical Garden Executive Director rightfully points out that we can do much better for our community.

Similarly it does not mention if the bike lane will be protected; if it isn’t it’s going to quickly becomes filled with parked cars.)

Project 4b – Kissena Corridor Park
– new entrance at Main Street and Peck Avenue
– new route between Main Street and Kissena Boulevard
(The new entrance here will be amazing. Kissena Corridor Park has never had a real east/west route. This greenway will connect different parts of the park together for the first time, giving everyone in the community access to the playgrounds and the beautiful new meditation garden that Kissena Corridor Park Conservancy spent a decade fighting for.)

Project 5a – Kissena Park (former rail line)
– move the greenway out of the swamp and up onto a new boardwalk on the raised path
– current (northern) pathway would also be restored
– redesign intersections at Kissena Boulevard and 164th street
– new seating area overlooking the swamp forest.
(Using the old Long Island Central line, more recently known as the bridal path until the nearby stables closed down, is absolutely the right choice here. It moves the path out of the swampland which currently makes it unusable after any rainstorm or through most of the winter. The idea of a boardwalk in the middle of Kissena Park sounds amazing.)

Project 5b – Swamp Forest
– restoring vegetation around the new trail and overlook
– increasing shade
(Is “swamp forest” great branding or terrible branding for this area? However you feel about the name, bring back a beautiful, functioning ecosystem will be a major win for the park. Imagine walking or cycling on a boardwalk through a beautiful, native forest in the middle of Queens. Very few projects bring this level of restoration so close to the community members traveling through it.)

Project 6 – Velodrome Connection
– spur of the greenway to get to the southern entrance of the velodrome
– new comfort station at the velodrome
– creates a the only route that would connect the north and south sides of the park
(The Velodrome is finally getting some respect. As the only remaining cycling racetrack of its type in New York State, and one of the few in the hemisphere, we really need to bring more people to this facility. Instead of pushing your bike up a woodchip hill and then hopping a fence, you’ll be able to ride right up to the entrance that includes new bathrooms. We have to believe this new life for our historic infrastructure is in part because of Nily Rozic’s efforts to fund the Velodrome repairs.)

Project 7 – Kissena Golf Course
– brings the greenway off of Underhill Avenue and into the park with a new path
– expands park entrance to the existing greenway
– new intersection at 164th Street
(The short stretch behind the Golf Course is another easy win. The land is vacant right now and provides a ton of space for improvements, something uncommon in NYC. Moving the path into the park separates it from the driving tests on this corner and we have to believe they will finally install the long requested stop light on 164th Street so you don’t have to take your life in your hands dodging speeding drivers.)

Project 8 – Peck Park (Kissena Corridor Park East)
– moving bike path off of Underhill Avenue and into the park
– new picnic and fitness stations
– new crossings at all intersections
(We do need to a major improvement to the current “bike lane” on Underhill so it makes sense to move it into the park. It’s concerning that the lanes are on the home plate side of the baseball fields. Since players are currently blocking the in-street bike lane with their cars we’d expect they’ll also block the in-park bike lane with their chairs. Also we have some real question on how the midblock crossing will work. The current 5 point stop-sign intersections are terrible, but adding a traffic light there would be safer then having cyclists/pedestrians race across a wide road with speeding traffic. The devil will be in the details.)

Project 9 – Motor Parkway to Alley Pond to Joe Michaels Mile
– bike boulevard south of Alley Pond Park
– widen a path through Alley Pond Park, north to south near the Springfield Playground
– north of 73rd Avenue keep the on street bike lane/sidewalk
‐ work with State DoT to expand the sidewalk at East Hampton Boulevard overpass (over LIE) for a raised bike path
– intersection redesign at Cloverdale Boulevard and Northern Boulevard
(A common complaint that we hear is people getting lost in Alley Pond. We really hope this route will help solve that issue. Outside of the park most of the route is already parking protected, but the proposed bike boulevard probably will not be, which is concerning to new riders even though there is very low traffic on those streets. Extending the sidewalk over the LIE is a great idea, though we’re concerned that the State DoT won’t be interested in that type of project, after hearing the highway widening work they’re planning under Oceania. The biggest win here are the improvements at Northern Boulevard, which has already been a major step forward, but still needs some work to truly serve the community.)

It was mentioned that “NYC DoT will explore new on street bike lane projects with CB11”. Over the past few months CB11 has requested NYC DoT install multiple protected bike lanes in this area and we’re waiting for construction to start. We’re hoping those bike lanes can be implemented very soon so they can protect cyclists while the Parks Department’s plan is constructed.

Here is a half hour video of the entire announcement (lightly edited for time) and the original slide deck.

There is a ton to love about this proposal, we’re incredibly excited about it. Our goal is to push politicians to get this funded and to continue to push Parks/DoT to make it better and better in the areas that aren’t safe yet. We hope you’ll join us and reach out to your local elected officials today, telling them you want the greenway funded (almost every elected official has a budget that could go into one of these projects). We could not have gotten here without the supported of our elected officials and the good people at Parks and DoT, and we’ll need all their help to get this built. Helps us remind them at every turn how important it is to get this done now.

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