This past weekend, Friends of the QueensWay and dozens of supporters of the QueensWay project helped celebrate Earth Day by organizing a community cleanup. We spent the day helping rid the QueensWay and Forest Park of debris and trash that pose environmental threats to the community, and joined thousands of other organizations and neighborhoods in an effort to draw awareness towards our collective responsibility to conserve and enhance the environment.
Across the country, linear parks and greenways are contributing to this effort by protecting local environments and ecological resources. In Central Queens we have the opportunity to build our very own linear park and cultural greenway – the QueensWay – that beyond its ability to boost the local economy, and improve quality of life and public health will make a significant environmental impact on our neighborhoods.
It’s a fact that a growing number of people are utilizing alternative methods of transportation, such as walking or biking to get to work, to school, and to access recreational facilities. This cultural shift provides a direct impact on improving air quality and pollution for its surrounding areas, but Central Queens been virtually devoid of safe north/south method of alternative transportation. The QueensWay can change that.
On average, there are 900,000 visitors to Forest Park per year, a whopping 70 percent of those visitors arrive by car. In addition, thousands of residents live, work and go to school within the community. The QueensWay, 3.5 miles of off-road bike and walk lanes, would provide residents with a safe method of alternative transportation to offices, schools, and other recreational points of interest such as Forest Park, which will significantly reduce the amount of car traffic, congestion and air pollution for surrounding neighborhoods.
The QueensWay will also help protect our environment through the incorporation of green infrastructure, to retain and absorb storm water, that would otherwise flood streets and basements, or run off into the city’s sewer systems contributing to sewer overflow and polluting waterways. The design of the QueensWay will integrate features, such as swales, rain gardens, and possibly a pond to accomplish these goals, and protect the community and the city’s water system.
Beyond direct environmental benefits for the community, the QueensWay is dedicated to educating future generations, and the environmental education benefits are endless. With 12 schools within a five-minute walk, and two of those schools directly adjacent to the QueensWay, thousands of children will benefit through access to an outdoor classroom, as well as greatly improved access to Forest Park. Students will be able to study ecology, urban farming, environmental science, natural habitats, and the list goes on and on. Educating our youth about the environment is critical for the future.
We urge the Central and Southern Queens communities to truly consider our environment and surroundings, and how we intend to protect and enhance them. One way is the QueensWay – it has the potential to bring significant environmental benefits to our community for years to come.
By Ivan Mrakovcic & Frank Lupo, Friends of the QueensWay Steering Committee Members