Mayor Adams unveils plans for High Line-like park in Queens; transit advocates prefer revived rail line

·3 min read

New details about the Queens version of Manhattan’s High Line Park emerged Friday when Mayor Adams announced that phase 1 of the project would cost $35 million and transform five acres of city-owned land in Forest Hills into a greenway.

The “Met Hub” phase of the project will be managed by the city’s Economic Development Corporation in partnership with the Parks Department and aims to convert derelict railroad tracks into a linear park in the same tradition as the High Line.

Eventually, the Adams administration plans to create a park that will span 47 acres through Rego Park, Glendale, Forest Park, Woodhaven, Ozone Park and Forest Hills.

Adams vowed Friday that the plan would transform the area from an “eyesore to an oasis.”

“This project, this community wanted for decades,” he said in Queens. “Phase 1 will convert abandoned railroad tracks, which have been used as a dumping ground or worse, into a five-acre linear park.”

The design portion of the project will begin immediately, though it is still unclear when construction on phase 1 would begin, according to a city official familiar with the plan.

Also unsettled is the possibility of reviving the rail link. If the MTA decides that’s something it plans to do, the city would then be forced to change gears during the design phase, the official noted.

While Adams claimed the defunct rail line — abandoned in 1962 — would be converted into an elevated park, Queens borough president Donovan Richards said he still wants the MTA to complete an environmental impact study to reactivate the transit line.

“This first phase doesn’t preclude you from being able to study the rail link,” said Richards. “The state should still certainly look into the EIS (environmental impact study).”

The abandoned line — called the Rockaway branch — runs 3.5 miles between Howard Beach and Rego Park through one of the city’s largest transit deserts. A preliminary report published by the MTA in 2019 estimated it would cost $8.1 billion to reactivate the line, a figure transit advocates said was inflated to sandbag the project.

The MTA has since committed to going back to the drawing board — and transit officials have committed to include the restored line in the agency’s next 20-year needs assessment, which will be published next year.

Andrew Lynch, head designer for the group QueensLink, which wants to restore the line, said Friday’s announcement is merely a speed bump for his group’s goal.

“How many times have you seen the city build something only to rip it up a few years later?” he said. “If Gov. Hochul wanted, she could order the MTA to do this.”

The city owns the land where the park would be constructed, but MTA officials have said the mayor’s plan does not prohibit the agency from reactivating the line.

Councilwoman Lynn Schulman has been pushing to repurpose the rail line into a park for years and described Friday’s announcement as the culmination of her efforts and those of her community.

“We are turning this historic blight into a true community amenity that will improve the quality of life for those living, working and visiting central Queens,” she said. “This is a historic moment.”