July 14, 2022 By Michael Dorgan
Councilmember Robert Holden has called for an ambitious plan that would see a large section of the Long Island Expressway in Maspeth covered over with decking with a public park placed on top.
The project, if completed, would see a 1,600-foot stretch of the LIE running from 69th Lane to Hamilton Place in Maspeth covered, or capped, by 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 said the project would reduce noise pollution in the community created by the thousands of vehicles that use the expressway each day. Residents have long complained about the high noise levels emanating from the roadway.
The lawmaker said the decking would also help to physically reconnect the community – given that the highway slices through the heart of the neighborhood. The decking would essentially join together the areas on the north and south side of the expressway.
Holden penned a letter to U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand as well as Congresswoman Grace Meng on July 5, calling for them to allocate funding for the project.
The funds, Holden said, would be sourced from the Infrastructure Bill that was signed into law by President Joe Biden in November.
“For decades our community has dealt with noise and pollution issues related to the highway,” Holden wrote.
“Not only is Maspeth a residential area, but we also have an industrial zone that is home to dozens of warehouses. As a result, hundreds of trucks pass through this stretch of highway every day.”
“Through the process of capping… we can reunite the community and improve the health and quality of life for tens of thousands of Queens residents.”
The project, however, is in its infancy stages and has not yet been costed, nor have plans been drawn up.
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.
Holden wants Schumer, Gillibrand and Meng to tap into the estimated $110 billion from the Infrastructure Bill that is being allocated for public roads and bridges. He noted that the city could not afford to pay for such a large-scale project.
In November, Schumer backed plans for an evaluation of a similar project in the Bronx that would see a two-mile section of the Cross Bronx Expressway capped.
In Holden’s letter, the councilmember urged the lawmakers to commit to such a project in Maspeth.
“If you allocate federal funds for this project, our community will be supportive and thankful for the opportunity to reunite a neighborhood that has been divided for decades by a noisy, pollution-prone highway,” Holden wrote.