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OPINION: The Eastern Queens Greenway Needs Your Support

The Vanderbilt Motor Parkway, formerly a road but now a bike and foot path, as it crosses under the Grand Central Parkway. Activists are seeking to connect all parks in Eastern Queens with similar greenways. Photo: EdisonKoo.com

The New York City departments of Parks and Recreation and Transportation are moving forward on a project that could transform walking and biking in our city, improving the lives of countless residents.

John Kelly
John Kelly
John Kelly

The agencies are holding online community workshops on Nov. 16 and 19 on improvements to connect the greenway across Eastern Queens and build a protected bike-lane network to bring neighbors to the parkland. 

That’s especially important for residents of Eastern Queens, who have not had safe walking and biking routes connecting several historic parks, including Flushing Meadows, the Queens Botanical Garden, Kissena Corridor Park, Peck Park, Cunningham Park, the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway, Alley Pond Park, and Joe Michaels Mile. But it’s also important for all New Yorkers, who stand to benefit from having greater access to parkland and a well-established green belt around our city.

Eastern Queens Greenway, a group that works for a continuous, family-safe greenway linking the great parks of Eastern Queens, is hoping to stoke a big turnout for the workshops to build support for the greenway and a network of bike lanes linking to it.

Our group gathers every month to map out progress for a greenway that will help kids get to school and fix intersections that isolate those with limited mobility. We've collected more than 1,150 signatures in support of the greenway, gathering support from the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce and the Kissena Corridor Park Conservancy, as well as city-wide organizations such as Transportation Alternatives.

We've allied with politicians, including Assembly Members Nily Rozic and Ed Braunstein; Council Members Peter Koo, Barry Grodenchik, and Paul Vallone; and Senators Toby Stavisky and John Liu. Queens Parks Commissioner Michael Dockett last year secured $1 million for community outreach and engineering designs for route upgrades. We even called Mayor de Blasio on The Brian Lehrer Show to push the issue!

Our regular and semi-regular events draw attendees from around the city:

    • A Kissena Way Walking Tour highlights the history of that section of the greenway,
    • The Tour De Flushing, a now-annual bike ride that has introduced hundreds of cyclists to the best trails (and showed them how to avoid the worst problems),
    • And a Queens Social Ride meets every Sunday at 9 a.m. under the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows to explore different neighborhoods. 
A map of sites along the greenway.
A map of sites along the greenway.
A map of sites along the greenway.

We've worked with Hunter College’s Urban Planning program on a professional study for a bike-lane network for this car-centric neighborhood and with recent graduates of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture Planning & Preservation to design a map of the greenway’s treasures.

We've convinced Community Board 11 Queens to request (and the DOT to build) 3.2 miles of protected bike lanes along Alley Pond Park and on Northern Boulevard, which have been used heavily during the pandemic. Even now, CB11’s sub-committee on cycling is recommending more protected bike lanes. One of our Eastern Queens Greenway members got a bill through the New York State Senate and Assembly that would study linking the greenway to the Long Island border. (Unfortunately, the bill was vetoed by Gov. Cuomo.)

We need supporters to attend the meetings next week and demand that the city prioritize a family-safe greenway and a network of protected bike lanes to connect to it. We need supporters to talk about why they want to use the greenway to travel through parkland and to advocate for protected bike lanes to connect schools to the greenways so that kids can spend some time in nature. We must demand that the upgrades are ADA compliant so that everyone can have access to their parks.

A part of the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway, which activists are seeking to make part of the Eastern Queens Greenway. Photo: EdisonKoo.com
A part of the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway, which no longer serves cars, but delights pedestrians and cyclists. Photo: EdisonKoo.com
A part of the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway. Photo: EdisonKoo.com

If we have a strong voice and a bold message, the Parks Department and the DOT should work together to create a comprehensive plan, which they will share next year. By the end of 2021, we should have engineer designs and a shovel-ready project. Next week is the first step in what could be one of the biggest projects in the area for many decades. 

Please lend your perspective next week; check out our primer for more ideas, and help us change the face of our city.

John Kelly fights for safe streets as part of Eastern Queens Greenway. The city’s Destination Greenways workshops will be held on Monday Nov. 16 and Thursday, Nov. 19, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Attendance is free but advance registration is required.

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