Here are some ideas I have laid out, along with several others, in order to envision a new open space in Queens along the abandoned Rockaway Branch LIRR rail line. This post is a response to comments on the “Envisioning the Queens Highline” FaceBook page. More info can be found at the FB page for the Rockaway Beach Branch Greenway Committee
I see a vastly different open space here (in Queens) than compared to Manhattan’s Highline. Where the M. Highline was designed and created by one architect firm and one landscape architect firm with construction done in three phaes by a couple large contractors used in most Parks projects and then maintained by the Friend of the Highline, I see this Queens development as more of a community project with many more players and more than three phases involved.
I envision a continuous, two-way bike/rollerblade/skateboard lane that is as unbroken as possible (considering the burnt bridge and necessary pedestrian crossing points). This could be the first, and probably largest, phase of the project as it should all be done all at once. This may even be split into two phases itself. At first it may be an inexpensive gravel path for pedestrian use, this would get people up there, interested in the space and taking ownership and pride in it. Then could be used as the sub-base to a smooth surface multi-use trail latter on.
Other phases would be very different in size, scope, organization and programming. These smaller chunks would largely revolve around the specific people and neighborhoods adjacent to these sections of the development. They would be planned and implemented by community and non-profit groups, schools, churches, perhaps established businesses. Many groups and individuals would participate. Probably open/crowd sourced, community driven design along with volunteer, community building workdays (modern day barn raising stuff). Of course it would all have to be up to code and spec so there would be professionals involved with overseeing the design and installation process, maybe even one primary organizing group (that would be what we are trying to do here).
Likewise I see funding being done very differently here as well. Where M. Highline has one organization, (Friends of the Highline) that has coupled with NYC Parks & Rec., I envision many groups doing smaller scale fundraising for smaller sections of the Queens development. Also, offsetting costs via volunteer work and pro bono services. The M. Highline’s construction costs where footed by NYC Parks and Friends of the Highline are responsible for maintenance in perpetuity. I think some other arrangement could and should be set up in this case, especially since the Queens version will have an infrastructure element of providing alternative transportation in the form of bike lanes (which BTW will fall under the purview of DOT adding yet another government entity into the mix) Partial funding could come by way of locally established businesses through sponsorship of projects near their shops or maybe even a business improvement district (BID) could be created.
Finally, I see huge opportunity along the line to have stepped terraces leading up to the elevated park/trail where there are existing adjacent open spaces. This would be in interesting addition to the standard stairwells and elevator access points that are used at the M. Highline.
So that is my vision, I’m glad to share it and hope that some elements are useful as we move forward.