Supporters of both the Queensway park proposal and the QueensRail line reactivation faced off in front of a room full of concerned residents Tuesday. At stake was what will happen to a section of land once used as a railroad. NY1's Gene Apodaca filed the following report.
For decades, it’s been sitting idle; a 3 and a half mile stretch of land and old track that used to be the Rockaway Branch of the Long Island Railroad.
Considered one of the last significant rights of way left in Queens, its future now seems to be dividing the community.
"What do you say to us that are along that line that are going to be very impacted by the construction but also the noise and intensity of the train," asked one concerned resident.
Tuesday morning the Queens Chamber of Commerce hosted a Rail vs Park discussion pitting two very different proposals against each other.
On one side, a group hoping to revive the track and create a north-south rail line along the old footprint possibly connecting to existing subway lines. It's a project which is estimated to cost well over a billion dollars.
The other side, hoping to a make a park similar to the High Line in Manhattan, complete with walking trails and greenery. Estimated cost of that project is about $140 million.
At Tuesday's meeting, residents sounded off about both.
"Why can’t we acknowledge the beach is a magnet," asked another resident.
Supporters of the park say it’s needed to create better and safer walking areas, along with a place of commerce to attract people to dine, shop and spend money.
"We’re low on play spaces for our families for our seniors we have no safe place to bike, to run to walk," said Travis Terry with Friends of the Queensway, who support the plan for a park.
But, supporters of the rail say transportation needs should matter more, given the exploding population growth seen in the borough.
"I just think that good transportation is a necessity and parks are a luxury and we already enjoy a lot of parkland in Queens and New York City," said Rick Horan, President of the QueensRail Organization.
Even though QueensRail does have support, there is yet another hurdle. The MTA is currently studying whether or not the old rails can still be used at all.
Until then, the Queens Chamber of Commerce, which has supported rail projects in the past, is not ready to pick sides. Hoping for something we don’t see very often these days. A compromise.
"I do think there is a possibility of some sort of compromise and I want to hear from both of these parties of whether or not that’s in the cards," said Thomas Grech, Executive Director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce.