Western Queens will soon be more bike friendly


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com |

QNS BRIDGE PARK GRNWAYw

Residents will soon have a greener, healthier way to beat the traffic around western Queens.

The Department of Parks and Recreation is currently constructing the Queens East River and North Shore Greenway, a 10.6-mile, urban, multi-use trail intended to provide access to the borough’s shoreline and improve commuting options for people beyond motorized vehicles. The bike and pedestrian pathway will connect Long Island City, Hunters Point, Ravenswood and Astoria with Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst. It will also unite five parks on the East River shoreline – Astoria, Ralph DeMarco, Hallet’s, Queensbridge and Rainey parks.

“For us, it adds another location for people from anywhere in the borough to hop on a bicycle to this location and recreate in many neighborhood parks,” said Queens Borough Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski. “It makes a nice connection between your neighborhood and public parks. Street greenways and park greenways allow you to ride the city streets in a safe manner, but also to turn off into a public park and ride around the park as well.”

Lewandowski believes the western Queens neighborhoods have recently experienced a resurgence, and the greenway will only further enhance their renaissance.

Work is currently underway at Hallet’s Cove, Ralph DeMarco and Rainey parks, while the path at Queensbridge Park has already been completed. Construction is set to commence at Astoria Park by the middle of summer, and the greenway is expected to be completed late in the fall. When concluded, the project, which costs $3.46 million, will include new pavement, signage, benches and landscaped areas for pedestrians and cyclists to relax.

“It will be a nice, pleasant experience to recreate in the park, sit with your cycle, have a snack and enjoy the view of the Manhattan skyline, as well as all the watercrafts going up and down the East River,” Lewandowski said.

The trail will eventually connect to the bike path over the Pulaski Bridge, which links Brooklyn and Queens, and attach to another greenway which leads to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

The greenway is part of a multiyear effort to implement an inclusive, citywide network of cycling lanes. The Parks Department is also interested in creating a similar path along the Laurelton Parkway in southeast Queens, but Lewandowski says funding is still required.

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents portions of western Queens and is a cycling enthusiast, believes the pathway will make community residents more active and healthy, as well as bring business into the neighborhoods.

“I think this is a great initiative that will get people out of their homes and out onto the streets and into the parks,” Van Bramer said. “It will allow them to explore their own neighborhood and other neighborhoods in ways they hadn’t done so before. Walking and cycling are also both great ways to exercise. People can make a day of it and cycle or walk along the greenway, and there is going to be a time when folks are going to want to stop for lunch or water or a snack. This is what this is about – getting people to see the beautiful shoreline and to experience it in ways they haven’t before.”

The construction of the greenway comes at the same time the city has announced “Citi Bike,” the nation’s largest public bike share system set to launch in July of 2012. Citi has agreed to pay $41 million to be the title sponsor of the program, which will include 10,000 bikes and 600 docking stations.

According to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office, the bike share will be located in parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn. DOT spokesperson Nicholas Mosquera says the department is examining opportunities to expand the program into Queens.