The debate over the future of the abandoned Rockaway Long Island Railroad (LIRR) line is heating up, and while a proposal to convert the viaduct into a version of the High Line called the QueensWay has gained early momentum with support from the likes of Governor Cuomo, it looks like an alternative proposal to restore the long-defunct rail line is picking up steam as well. According to the Queens Chronicle, a source revealed that Representatives Hakeem Jeffries and Greg Meeks will call for for federal transportation subsidies to return the line to rail service. For residents, the reactivation of the railroad could mean a significantly faster commute into Manhattan.
New York Governor Cuomo might have just tipped the scale in the heated dispute over a 3.5-mile stretch of abandoned railroad track in Queens with his donation of nearly a half-million dollars to the Trust for Public Land to conduct a feasibility study for a High Line-style linear park called the QueensWay. Slated to begin in January and February of next year, the study could take up to eight months to complete. But some Queens residents are pushing to restore train service on the elevated viaduct, and in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, a faster and more efficient connection between the Rockaways and Midtown Manhattan is winning the support of some local advocates and politicians. As Crain’s mentioned in a recent story, it would be no easy feat to rebuild the Long Island Railroad’s Rockaway branch, and could likely cost up to half-billion dollars.
Gone will be the miniature civic history lessons that punctuated ribbon-cutting speeches made by Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe. With yesterday’s announcement that the commissioner is moving on to the non-profit Trust for Public Land (TPL), the plaudits are pouring in. But as the Bloomberg Administration begins is slow-motion wind down, New Yorkers should be wary of comparisons to the “good” Robert Moses, builder of parks and playgrounds, despite the scale of public works undertaken under Bloomberg. But in terms of Parks, there is little doubt that Benepe’s tenure was historic in scope.
Now, one of the mayor’s signature initiatives—that a park be within a ten minute walk from every home—is about to go national. But will what flies in NYC fly in Louisville? “If I’ve learned one or two things in this job it’s that no one model will work for every situation,” he said in a telephone interview yesterday.
With just a year and a half left of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s tenure remaining, the first of his major appointees, New York City Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, is moving on. Under Benepe, the Parks Department was transformed on a scale that approached the early tenure of Robert Moses. Since his appointment in 2002, the commissioner oversaw the largest expansion of waterfront parks like Brooklyn Bridge Park, embraced public-private partnerships as seen on the High Line, and distributed more than $250 million in Croton Water Filtration funds to small pocket parks throughout the Bronx.
The Trust For Public Land today announced that it successfully wrapped up its down to the wire save of Hollywood’s Cahuenga Peak, the 138-acre swath of land behind the Hollywood Sign that had once been slated for development (one of many pleas included red letters over the sign reading “Save The Peak”). The final donor: none other than Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, who chipped in $900,000 to complete the $12.5 million needed to finalize the purchase. The Trust had missed its original April 14 deadline, but were granted an extension until April 30. Hefner, who had helped raise money back in the 70s to rebuild the sign, back when he was dating a whole other set of playmates, was joined by other LA stars, philanthropists, and companies. These included Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Aileen Getty, Norman Lear, CAA, LucasFilm, Walt Disney Company, CBS, NBC, Sony Pictures, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and many others. Really a historic Hollywood collaboration.
It all seems so hush-hush, which is surprising in Hollywood, but the Hollywood Sign has apparently been in trouble for some time. Chicago-based Fox River Financial Resources has been trying to sell large parcels on the hill just next to its “H” for luxury homes. The company bought the land from the estate of Howard Hughes in 2002. Luckily the Trust For Public Land has secured an option to buy the 138-acres on Cahuenga Peak for about $12 million, hoping to maintain views of and around the sign, and to preserve local recreation and habitats. The Trust has already raised about $6 million from sources like the Tiffany & Co Foundation and from Hollywood celebrities like Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Virginia Madsen, and Aisha Tyler. Now all that’s left is for the group to raise another $6 million more by April 14 to complete the deal. To donate, go here.