Mayor Eric Adams announced Friday that the Big Apple will spend $35 million to help convert unused train tracks in Queens into a park — a plan critics say could prevent restoring transit service to the area.
The funds will pay for the design and construction of the first phase of the estimated $150 million QueensWay project, which boosters say will transform a deserted 3.5-mile stretch of railroad into a network of green spaces and bike and pedestrian paths spanning from Rego Park to Ozone Park.
“Queens Way improves quality of life, it improves the air quality,” said Adams at a photo opportunity announcing the funding. “It promotes both physical and mental well-being, and it gives more visibility to businesses on the route, so this is an economic stimulus as well.”
Hizzoner’s remarks did not mention that the plan was one of two being considered by City Hall.
The other proposal called for the reuse of old local tracks originally built as part of the Long Island Rail Road’s Rockaway Beach Branch.
Transit advocates and several local Queens politicians have long dreamed of electrifying and reusing the tracks to bring subway service to the transit-starved local neighborhoods and expand the number of trains serving JFK Airport and the Rockaways.
“This is a big mistake,” state Sen. Jessica Ramos (D-Queens) said of the city’s current plan. “There’s no reason why we have to choose between public transit and green space.
“Honestly, I don’t think the city should be making any of these decisions without a comprehensive public review,” she added.
Ramos was among the dozen-plus Queens politicians who signed a letter demanding the MTA formally study the second plan — known as QueensLink.
It would use the tracks to extend the M train from the Queens Boulevard subway to Liberty Avenue, where it would merge with Rockaway-bound A trains running along the Fulton Street subway line.
The parts of the right-of-way not used by the subway extension would be converted into parks, though it would create less green space than Adams’ favored QueensWay plan.
Adams left the event before the other elected officials finished speaking, making it impossible for reporters to ask him questions.
Deputy Mayor Meera Joshi, who remained at the presser after Adams left, told reporters when quizzed about the apparent lack of a subway option that the city would redo its design work and potentially change course during construction if the MTA moves ahead with the subway expansion.
MTA spokesman Eugene Resnick later told The Post in an e-mail, “Nothing in the City’s plan for QueensWay will impact any future MTA transportation initiatives.”
Another prominent Queens politician, Borough President Donovan Richards, used his speech at the announcement to specifically call on the MTA to launch the subway study just minutes after Adams announced millions of dollars to back a design with no such provisions.
“We know that much of Queens remains a transit desert as well, with no subway access and limited and often poor bus service,” he said. “We need to do both when it comes to making sure that we can enhance our public transportation and also ensuring that our communities have access to open space.”
An engineering analysis funded by two councilmen’s offices and conducted by supporters of the subway extension pegged the price for the project at $3.4 billion to $3.7 billion. A previous MTA estimate put the cost at a whopping $8 billion.