July 18, 2022 By Michael Dorgan
An ambitious plan proposed by councilmember Robert Holden that would see a section of the Long Island Expressway in Maspeth decked over is quickly gathering support among Queens legislators.
U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, Congresswoman Grace Meng, State Senator Joseph Addabbo and Assemblyman Brian Barnwell have now voiced their support for exploring the proposal.
The plan for the LIE in Maspeth, which is in its infancy stages, would see a 1,600-foot stretch of the highway from 69th Lane to Hamilton Place covered, or capped, with a decking-like structure. A park area would then be created on top of the structure along with parking spaces. The roadway below would remain unchanged.
Holden, who called for the new plans earlier this month, says the project would drastically reduce noise pollution in the community and would also help to physically reconnect the neighborhood – given that the highway slices through the heart of the neighborhood.
He has now garnered the support of the four Queens lawmakers.
On Thursday Meng penned a letter to Mayor Adams requesting the city apply for a grant from the Infrastructure Bill that would then be used to study the feasibility of the plan — as well as similar projects throughout the city. The letter was co-signed by Addabbo, Barnwell and Holden. Schumer has also indicated his support for the proposal.
“Maspeth residents have long faced significant air and noise pollution from the barrage of cars and trucks,” the letter reads.
“Additionally, the expressway has few pedestrian crossings, making it especially difficult for seniors and children to access their community in its entirety.”
“I encourage the city to explore ways in which this community could be reconnected.”
The letter states that the city could tap into funds of up to $2 million to carry out the evaluations.
“I believe securing this funding would be a crucial step forward in finally reconnecting Maspeth.”
The Long Island Expressway was built in the 1950s at a time when many of America’s highways were being constructed. While the projects connected many parts of the country, critics argue that the roads also physically separated communities such as Maspeth.
Thursday’s letter comes after Holden initially pitched the idea in a July 5 letter to Schumer, Meng and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. In the letter, he appealed to the lawmakers to tap into the estimated $110 billion from the Infrastructure Bill that is being allocated for public roads and bridges. The bill was signed into law by President Joe Biden in November.
He noted that the city could not afford to pay for such a large-scale project in Maspeth.
Meng, in a statement to the Queens Post Thursday, said she supported the plan for the LIE in Maspeth but said the city must act to get the project off the ground.
“While I proudly passed the bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, it is now up to the city to apply for available funding,” Meng said.
“I hope Councilman Holden can work with the city to apply for the federal funding that I have already voted for and secured.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Schumer said the lawmaker is happy to work with community leaders to advance the project.
The Queens Post reached out to Gillibrand’s office for a response to Holden’s initial letter but did not receive a response before publication.