Rockaways rail line must reopen and not become another highline

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There has been much discussion regarding a proposal to convert abandoned areas of the old Rockaway Beach rail line into a “highline” park space. While I am an advocate for increased park space in Queens, I believe southern Queens and the Rockaways would be better served if this forgotten track once again fulfilled its original purpose as a railroad.

Transportation options for southern Queens and Rockaways residents are limited. Restoration of the abandoned rail line as an efficient transportation alternative to the A line would be welcome news to residents who suffer with commutes of more than an hour to midtown Manhattan. I commend Community Board 14 and the Rockaway Transit Coalition, led by Lew Simon, for their advocacy over the years.

The Rockaway Line, also known as the White Pot Junction Line, was created around the turn of the 20th century and was owned and operated by the Long Island Rail Road. It provided residents with safe, affordable and expedient access to other parts of the city and 40-minute commutes to midtown Manhattan.

In the early 1960s, parts of the railroad service were condensed, sectioned off and eventually closed. In the following years, the property was vandalized and encroached upon and has become a source of embarrassment for the families that reside in the area.

Despite our limited transportation options, in recent years, southern Queens and the Rockaways have seen a large population and construction boom. The opening of the Resorts World Casino at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Ozone Park, the renaissance of the Rockaway Peninsula as a tourist haven and the growing population all show that the restoration of this rail line is needed now more than ever.

I am opposed to the “Queensway” proposal if it would in any way preclude the eventual restoration of a rail link that would serve southern Queens and the Rockaways and urge residents to join me in opposition.

Those same communities that are pushing this proposal are privileged with commutes of 30 minutes or less to midtown Manhattan and there is no reason why the residents of the 23rd state Assembly District should not have this same opportunity.

Phillip Goldfeder

State Assemblyman

(D-Howard Beach)

Posted 1:35 am, January 26, 2012
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Reader feedback

Gil Lopez from Upper West Side says:
Thank you for your contribution to this conversation Assemblyman Goldfeder. I agree that re-introducing rail service would be a wonderful use of this underutilized land. But the fact is this idea is not in the works and neither LIRR nor MTA are even thinking about doing this any time soon. This is why I am an advocate for the QueensWay. As I understand, the plan does not preclude any future rail development. It could in the near future, and on a reasonable budget, transform an otherwise derelict stretch of land into something the currently embarrassed residents could be proud of and get use and recreation out of.
Jan. 29, 2012, 12:05 am
Eph from Williams College says:
However, by turning into the defunct railroad into a linear park akin to that of the High Line, you eliminate any chance of reactivating a property that has more value than a park. I'm sure today's denizens of the High Line would be outraged that their beloved park should be reconfigured for a subway line. As this author has pointed out, the Rockaways are now becoming a tourist destination and casinos are being built next to the Aqueduct property, making the line extremely vital for future reconstruction as a subway line.
Jan. 29, 2012, 12:17 am
Frustratedin from OzonePark says:
In response to Gil Lopez . My family has lived in the same house in Ozone Park house prior to the closing of the old LIRR Rocakaway Line. I advocate reopening the line line as it will a provide a fast service from South Queens , JFK and the Rockaways to the City. Driving on Crossbay and Woodhaven boulevard is totally frustrating being its the only north - south from boulevard from JFK. Opening the line is the greenest initiative for Queens and NYC. This area is not Manhattan and you cannot duplicate the High line here. Trust me nobody will be rushing to build hotels and Condominiums along any so called " Queen-way". All that we ask if is giving back what we once had, fast rail service to Manhattan.
Jan. 29, 2012, 11 pm
Peter Beadle from Rego Park says:
I consider myself a transit advocate,and though I am an active supporter of The QueensWay, I certainly maintain an open mind about rail service, however, restoring active rail service to this corridor would be an immensely expensive project and sits well down on MTA's list of significant expansion projects. There seems to be a sense that restoring rail service would be relatively simple; after all the rail bed is built, the tracks are up there, with a few repairs an active line would be back in business. This could not be further from the truth. The rail bed, which is very narrow and very very close to homes in several places is severely eroded along the northern half of the line. Virtually all of the track has been dislodged form its ties and none of it is useable as the rails have warped and rusted considerably. None of the power infrastructure remains. This is not a matter of reactivating as much as it is a matter of rebuilding. The project would be massive and as Gil mentions, it is not anywhere near being contemplated. The idea that more decades should pass, more garbage should pile up, in the hopes that one day, some how, funding and public support will develop such that the project becomes viable is a very poor alternative to what we could do with that land now.

The proposed QueensWay would be much more than a park or a recreational trail, it would actively connect numerous neighborhoods, schools, shopping districts, bus lines and subways with a bikeway that would be safe and easy to use even by inexperienced riders. There is an over emphasis on commuting to Manhattan in this discussion. That traffic actually represents a minority of people needing to travel along this corridor. The QueensWay would very much be an important part of the transit infrastructure in that part of Queens. Indeed it would provide better and faster door-to-door transportation for the majority of trips by New Yorkers living along its length which are less than 3 miles in length - including better connections to destinations like local schools and shopping than a train could provide. One NYC Bike Share reaches Queens, the potential and value of this bikeway will increase even further. Also numerous studies show that bikeways such as The QueensWay improve quality of life, health, local economics and property values. The list of benefits are impressive but are being ignored.

And though Eph has a point to the extent that once the QueensWay is built it may be more difficult to rebuild the rail line, the comment suggests that by not building The QueensWay the line would remain static and no other development would occur on it while we waited for that day some 10, 20, 30 years from now when a decision is made to rebuild the line. Already contracts and leases have been granted by the City (which owns the line, not MTA) to building parking lots and other facilities along the line. Some sections have been turned over to DOE's School Construction Authority and other departments. If not developed into a greenway, the line will slowly be eroded by other construction projects that will make it even harder to rebuild the railine. So it is really a false choice to suggest that building the QueensWay will preclude future rail development. The opposite is actually true. The only way to preserve the corridor as a corridor that could be converted to rail use someday is to build the QueensWay now.
Feb. 1, 2012, 11:14 am
RB from Flushing says:
Doesn't anybody remember a few years ago when the Port Authority wanted to put that rail shuttle down the Van Wyck everybody said "don't do that, just restore the LIRR Rockaway line"well the Port, MTA,City and every other agency came up with every excuse why they could not restore the line. Those same excuses are probably the same ones they would use now. That was the best chance to have the line revived. I think it should be brought back to some sought of mass transit line. But the reality is it's not going to happen. The line has not been in use for over 50 years and there is no mention by any "agencies"ever for the return of the Rockaway line. So it's time to move on rail enthusiasts, history buffs and sentimental people it's never going to happen.The MTA claim that they can't pay for the current projects their involved with now East Side Access, Fulton St. transit center, 7 line extension, 2nd ave.line etc. I think this is a great and realistic idea go for it. At least it will clean up the track area and preserve the route.
Feb. 4, 2012, 2:27 pm
The original idea going back to the thirties was for the line to become part of the IND system under construction at the time. The LIRR was amenable given it's precarious finances which led to the eventual shutdown years later. However today running the line as part of the IND would simply place more traffic on a line that is running way over capacity and defeat the purpose of providing quick service to Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn. While it's probably not economically feasible to run it as a LIRR commuter line, it could be run more effectively as a line in a separate MTA service which could run on the RR tracks as the superexpress service that's been talked about for years. A rate thats a little more than the express bus rate with a monthy ticket plan.

The cost of rehabbing the line is certainly nowhere near building a line from scratch. The biggest cost is in acquiring and grading the damn ROW. Laying track and rebuilding the power lines is not that expensive. Not only do you have the communities but the development a t Aqueduct simply tips the scale in faveor of rebulding and changes priorities. The Staet and Genting will be more more forthcoming in getting financing for this project.
Feb. 18, 2012, 4:56 pm
Carina from South OP says:
Peter from Rego Park has the best comment thus far. How much money would it take to rebuild the line a billion or more? That billions of dollars can be spent on maintaining faster bus service in this area of Queens. Plus the Racino is not a tourist destination, but only a residential destination as people who come to NYC don't go to Southern Queens for tourism spots. Plus the the Greenway has it's own limits because when you get closer to Jamaica Avenue to tree growth is too large of a job to do. It would be a better alternative for a Queens bikeshare to give people in this area an open space that is open to all. NYC Parks give tickets to adults without children, so where can anyone sit to enjoy life other than their porch stoop.
Feb. 28, 2012, 2:56 pm
Ani C. from Ozone Park says:
Something needs to be done... it's an eyesore we've endured for too long.
May 16, 2013, 2:02 pm
Robert Jama from Out-of-towner says:
Build the rail-link today.
Feb. 13, 2015, 2:40 pm

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