Union Turnpike, running 10 miles through the midsection of Queens and across the border to Nassau County, is one of the borough’s most unsafe places to walk or bike. Now, a group of eastern Queens residents is looking to extend an existing walking and biking path through state- and city-owned property parallel to the multi-lane road.
Last year, Tri-State Transportation Campaign ranked Union Turnpike as the third-most dangerous road in Queens [PDF]. A particularly treacherous location is near the Cross Island Parkway, where sidewalks disappear and highway ramps take over. Earlier this month, a man was killed while walking in this area. He’s not alone: Pedestrians were killed at this location in 2000 and 2009, according to data compiled by CrashStat.org.
A group of advocates is finding a solution in the Long Island Motor Parkway, built by William Kissam Vanderbilt II in the early 20th century but abandoned just a few decades later as the parallel Grand Central and Northern State parkways opened. In 2002, Vanderbilt’s route was added to the state and national registers of historic places, and a section from Winchester Boulevard to Cunningham Park opened as a bike and pedestrian path.
Across the border, Nassau County hired consultants to prepare a vision plan for converting its section of the route into a shared-use path, but progress since the report was released in 2010 has been slow.
Joby Jacob, a professor who lives in Hollis Hills, has long dreamt of extending the existing Queens pathway east to the Nassau border. Now, he and fellow advocates in eastern Queens have launched an effort, named Motor Parkway East, to make the idea a reality.