The winning projects of the biennial Friends of the QueensWay symposium on July 19 all made use of old and unused objects that can be found along the defunct Rockaway Beach line, but transformed them into ways to help turn the 3.5 stretch of railway into a public greenway.
Carrie Wilbert’s $5,000-winning project, The Queensway Steps, was brought to life in Paris, where she is studying. Ivan Mrakovcic of the Friends of the QueensWay group said members were extremely interested in staying involved with the future of the rail line and used that when looking at submissions.
“The projects showed different uses of the land, above and below, but the common denominator was that they all shared the love architecturally for that structure,” he said.
The symposium was born after word of the feasibility study got out to architectural and design schools, which are regularly looking to get students involved in competitions, Mrakovcic said. The New York Institute of Architecture has a program called Emerging New York Architects Committee, which rounded up design students and used the QueenWay as their symposium topic.
“I don’t think it’s unfair to look at the winner’s designs,” Mrakovcic said. “It’s a tool to get residents and elected officials to see this might be a very interesting project.”
The Friends of the QueensWay is in the midst of producing a feasibility study to help engage the public, and particularly, residents whose homes boarder the old rail line in plans to turn the area into a 47-acre park and greenway, Mrakovcic said. Preliminary design concepts were released in March, showing greenery separated by wide walkways for residents of Queens to explore.
“It’ll allow people to have the ability to walk, bike ride and bird watch,” Mrakovcic said. “There are just so many possibilities and it’ll make this part of Queens back on the map.”
Many ideas have since been proposed for the QueensWay, and some groups said they would even like to see the line reactivated to improve transportation to and from Far Rockaway. The Long Island Railroad stopped running it in the 1960s, eventually selling the line to the city in 1962.
Woodhaven residents whose homes border the rail line have insisted that they do not want its transformed right next to them. Since the line went out of use, litter and debris have collected across it, residents argued.
“We always made it clear that there are no bulldozers warming up a block away waiting for this plan to start,” Mrakovcic said. “Just that we wanted public input to see how they feel.”
Community workshops were expected to continue, and the feasibility study will be unveiled in September when its finished, but Mrakovcic stressed that nothing was set in stone.
“There’s no finite, finished design that will be presented as part of the feasibility study,” he said. “It’s more like positive opportunities and taking the fears into account and ways of designing something for all these solutions.”
By Ashley Helms