When June Williamson, a professor of architecture at the City College of New York, asked her students for some creative problem solving last fall, one idea was for a network of protected bike lanes connecting 100 acres of Valley Stream parkland that would make the community safer for cyclists and reduce roadway traffic.
“The transit-adjacent locations within walking distance of the train station have a ton of opportunity that isn’t being utilized,” Williamson said.
The village was one of several locations on Long Island she selected for her students to study. Their task: designing structures that would preserve the necessary function of parking lots while enhancing those areas for other purposes. The result was a series of redeveloped spaces that addressed the village’s need for affordable housing and created sub-communities to draw younger populations back to Long Island to grow the local economy. The impetus for the project was not necessarily to be critical, the professor said, but to ask questions like, “what can we do now, and how can we plan for the future?”
Most notably in Valley Stream, under-utilizing Long Island Rail Road parking lots is especially inefficient since the train station is displaced from Rockaway Avenue, the central shopping district, Williamson said. “For the businesses that are in these downtowns to be able to have more turnover in the [parking] spaces and not have them locked up all day long … that would be the argument,” she said. “That notion of having an enhanced civic realm that actually has physical places for people to gather.”