This Time the Charm: Will Long-Delayed Queens Greenway Finally Get Funding?
Funding for a decades-old plan to connect Flushing Meadows Park with Fort Totten with a pedestrian-and-bike-friendly Queens Greenway is languishing, even though a family-friendly pathway connecting the borough’s parks is more crucial than ever as the pandemic highlighted the need for public green spaces, locals said.
It’s the same cash snag that has held up the project for more than three decades.
“It would benefit so many people. The main issue has been funding,” said Joby Jacob, who has long advocated for the completion of the Eastern Queens Greenway.
The greenway, which would link Flushing Meadows Corona Park to Kissena Park, and the Motor Parkway to Alley Pond and Joe Michaels Mile via nine sub-projects along the route, has been in the works for more than 40 years. The city first unveiled detailed plans for the greenway in both 1977 and 1988, but neither went anywhere, said Jacob.
And Jacob fears history will repeat itself … again.
“There were very detailed plans and nothing ever came of it. My fear is we’ve gotten as far as this vision again and the question is will the city dedicate the funds to actually get it done this time? That’s the question,” he said.
Officials from the Parks Department and Department of Transportation updated residents on Feb. 8, revealing a new vision for the long-delayed path and a so-called conceptual study — but they also said that not a penny of its estimated $105-million price tag has yet to be allocated.
“This was only a conceptual study — none of the projects outlined in it are currently funded,” a Parks Department spokesperson told Streetsblog.
It’s about time the residents of eastern Queens get their fair share of investment in their public green spaces, Jacob said. The last — and only — major project he can think of was the recent repaving of the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway, which transformed what was formerly a historic road into a bike and pedestrian pathway.
“Obviously that’s a lot, but this is an area where we haven’t had investment besides that repaving — especially in fixing these gaps,” he said.
And just like old times, the city is seemingly already hedging on completing the full length of the greenway, by asking participants to vote on their favorite sub-projects, much to the chagrin of cycling advocates.
“Our least favorite part of [the Feb. 9] presentation was Parks officials asking attendees to vote on ‘favorite’ sub projects, to dampen expectations that the entire program will be funded and executed. $105 million to improve NYC’s neighborhoods is not a big ask,” Bike New York wrote on Twitter after the presentation.
Our least favorite part of last night’s presentation was @NYCParks Parks officials asking attendees to vote on “favorite” sub projects, to dampen expectations that the entire program will be funded & executed. $105 million to improve NYC’s neighborhoods is not a big ask pic.twitter.com/EUlp0rmTuS
— Bike New York (@bikenewyork) February 9, 2022
New Queens Council Member Sandra Ung, who represents portions of the greenway as part of her district encompassing Flushing and Fresh Meadows, told Streetsblog that she wants to finally see it become a reality, and is confident that she and other Queens pols will push to make it happen.
“Our community always used green spaces, but the pandemic made many families and individuals rediscover the beauty of our city’s parks,” said Ung, who added that she would use the greenway for her long runs instead of just doing loops around Kissena Park like she does now. “It’s vital that we continue to increase the accessibility of open spaces for all residents. I also think that our new class of Councilmembers will make this a priority.”
But Ung could not say how much money she would allocate from the millions that individual Council members control. And the city could not provide a timeline on the greenway beyond the next step of trying to “acquire funding” for the projects this coming spring.