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Hochul Vetoes Bill To Expand Eastern Queens Greenway

The bill passed the legislature unanimously, but the governor vetoed it, saying that it mandated a study that was not funded in the budget. Whatevs.

10:30 PM EST on November 20, 2023

Photo: Kevin Duggan|

The Vanderbilt Parkway, still not providing safe passage for pedestrians and cyclists between Queens and Nassau.

Cyclists in eastern Queens got one less thing to be thankful for this year, as Gov. Hochul vetoed the latest effort to expand a greenway from Queens into Nassau.

Last Friday, Hochul nixed a bill that required the state Department of Parks and Recreation and the state Office of Mental Health to study expanding the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway, a greenway trail that runs parallel to Union Turnpike between Cunningham Park and Winchester Boulevard, into Nassau County.

The bill passed the state Senate and the Assembly unanimously this year, but Hochul vetoed it in a package of bills that she said mandated studies or task forces that were not paid for in this year's state budget.

"Without appropriate funding, these unbudgeted costs would create significant staffing and other programmatic burdens on state agencies," Hochul wrote in her Nov. 17 veto message. "Additionally, because of the ongoing work of state agencies and authorities, a number of the proposals would result in duplication and unnecessary bureaucracy."

The veto is the latest blow to expanding the greenway, a fight that dates back to 2014. After the bill passed unanimously in both houses, supporters figured they finally would see a win.

"It's disappointing New Yorkers could work for over a decade on an issue, could organize and get something to the governor's desk with unanimous support from both houses of the legislature and get a veto," said Joby Jacob, a Queens resident who has advocated for the extension since 2014.

Advocates say that expanding the path will provide safe route for cyclists and pedestrians that parallels treacherous and dangerous Union Turnpike. Expanding the trail eastward would also allow the Brooklyn-Queens Greenway to link up with planned sections of greenways in Nassau County, as a bevy of supportive elected officials and advocacy organizations pointed out last week before the governor struck the bill down with her pen.

The Vanderbilt Motor Parkway was privately built by William Kissam Vanderbilt II in 1908, but motorists abandoned the bucolic parkway once the Grand Central Parkway and Northern State Parkway opened. In 2002, the stretch between Cunningham Park and Winchester Boulevard became a bike and pedestrian path, but it has not expanded since then.

Any effort to expand the trail east to Nassau would not require eminent domain since the trail could run entirely through the Creedmor Psychiatric Center, the Queens Farm Museum, the Frank A. Padavan Educational Campus and the Queens Children's Psychiatric Center, all of which are on land controlled by the city or state.

On Union Turnpike near Creedmoor Psychiatric Center, the sidewalk ends but the dirt path shows pedestrians still walk along the road. Photo: Angus Grieve-Smith

The eastern edge of the trail would expand from Winchester Boulevard through Creedmor Psychiatric Center. Despite the road's dangers and a "No pedestrians" sign along the stretch of Union Turnpike near Creedmor, supporters have pointed out there are still people walking there, as shown by the trampled dirt between the turnpike and the hospital campus.

"It's ridiculous that there's a well tread path through the dirt, a desire line where the sidewalk is supposed to be, but people still need to get where they're going. And so, the fact that you have a state agency that is ostensibly dedicated to mental health that isn't looking into the physical health of the human bodies that are in front of their building is pretty weird," said Jacob.

Hochul is not the first governor to veto an effort to expand the greenway to Nassau. In 2019, then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed an earlier version of the bill, and made the similar point that the study lacked funding and suggested legislators put the extension study in the state budget.

In her veto message, Hochul said she was "directing state agencies that have ongoing efforts or future plans to address the issues described in these bills to continue their efforts and to review and incorporate the goals in the legislation to the extent practicable." Because of that message, legislators are hoping that the study will become a reality sooner rather than later.

"There’s no reason to believe the Motor Parkway study won’t see the light of day, even if it won’t be right away," said state Sen. John Liu, who sponsored the bill in the Senate. "I’m confident we’ll get there, and will continue working with the governor’s office to make it happen."

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