Make unused Rockaway LIRR into greenspace: Activist

Queens activists want to turn a long-neglected stretch of Long Island Rail Road track, some of which is overgrown with foliage, into a park similar to Manhattan's High Line. Photo by Joe Anuta
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An anonymous group of architects is working on yet another plan to transform a stretch of abandoned train tracks in Queens into the borough’s version of The High Line, according to a South Ozone Park activist.

“There are a bunch of architects who have been working locally,” said Anandi Premlall, who has been publicly advocating for a park on the abandoned Rockaway Branch of the Long Island Rail Road, which cuts a rusty, overgrown swath through several neighborhoods in the borough.

Premlall, who would not name the architects but said she was meeting with them at the end of the month, was inspired by the Manhattan park, which is a greenspace built on another set of elevated subway tracks.

The premise for the Queens version would be the same, according to Premlall, since the old LIRR line has not been in use since the 1950s, when the railroad company sold the tracks to various city agencies.

The neglected strip begins in Rego Park, where Little League diamonds now occupy part of the old footprint. The track, a portion of which is owned by Department of Citywide Administrative Services, then runs south through Forest Park and along the border between Woodhaven and Richmond Hill. At the intersection with Atlantic Avenue, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s A train takes over and runs down to the Rockaways.

Premlall hopes the unused portion, at least from Forest Park to around Atlantic Avenue, could be made into a park.

“So far, people are supportive and they would love to see this happen,” she said.

Premlall proposed the idea for a competition hosted by the Institute for Urban Design, and two architects drew up plans of what the park could look like in response. In addition, the institute included the idea in a book depicting the possible future look of the city.

She also spoke about her vision at the Queens Museum of Art.

But this plan has been proposed before.

Several years ago another group came forward with plans to build a park on the elevated tracks and members of Community Board 9 also advocated for an elevated bike path along the tracks.

“There was an enormous opposition to it and it would cost an enormous amount of money,” said CB 6 District Manager Frank Gulluscio, whose district encompasses a portion of the tracks.

Part of the problem is that ripping all the track would cost millions of dollars, he said, and another is that part of the tracks are now privately owned.

“There’s just a lot to it,” he said. “It’s not just, ‘Oh, there’s empty land, let’s go ride bikes.’”

In addition, Betty Braton of CB 10, which covers areas like Howard Beach and Ozone Park, said that southern Queens, especially the Rockaways, wants to keep the tracks open in the hopes LIRR service would one day be revived.

“We have a stated position that we are in support of the revitalization of the Rockaway branch,” she said, recalling an earlier proposal that was brought before the board several years ago.

But Premlall is aware of the previous opposition and said that since the LIRR has no plans to reinstate the railroad, the community would benefit from a public greenspace.

“I’m just a concerned citizen who would love to see this happen in the community,” she said.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Posted 12:00 am, November 11, 2011
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Reader feedback

The bigger Green Initiative would be to reopen the line and remove a lot of traffic off the already heavily congested Crossbay and Woodhaven Boulevards. With the opening of Resorts World and the increased traffic at JFK it makes perfect sense. The LIRR will be able to stop at Grand Central Station in 2016. What an entrance that would provide to Tourists traveling from and to JFK . It would increase property values along the route including the Rockaways. I agree with Betty Bratton that it should be reopened.
Nov. 14, 2011, 9:04 pm
Philip McManus from Rockaway Park says:
Are you sick and tired of long, slow, dangerous, overcrowded and unreliable roadways, buses and trains?

How long does it take you to get to work or school?

Do you or your family pick a school or a job based on how long it takes you to get there?

Why don't we expand and increase access to more areas of Queens through faster transportation?

Why does it take 2 1/2 hours to cross Queens from Bayside to Rockaway?

The goal of the Queens Public Transit Committee is to constantly focus our attention on a major part of our lives, transportation.

Faster transportation will increase access to social and economic opportunities, jobs, education, shopping, investments, property values, safety and family and medical visits.

We want to educate, recruit and organize the people of Queens for faster transportation.

We're stuck in traffic because we haven't expanded our transit system.

We need to do more to reduce excessive overcrowding and travel times on our roadways, buses and trains.

A recent report stated our transportation systems are getting more crowded and taking longer. Longer travel times is insidious and weakens our economy.

We must address this crisis now or we will lose jobs, tax revenues and property values in many areas of Queens. The results will be disastrous. High unemployment and low income is another reason for crime.

To prevent crime and poverty we must teach and help people to make money.

You've heard the expression "Time is Money."

Faster transit saves time and money.
Money saved is money earned.
Increased income will help people improve their lives and their neighborhoods.

What would happen to our City if a small politically powerful group took away your roadway, buses and trains?

That's what happened to the Queens when they took away the Queens Rockaway Beach Line in 1950 and 1962.

That's what happened to Queens when they put a toll on Cross Bay Boulevard, the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge.

That's what happened to Queens when they stopped ferry service.

That's what happened to Queens when they refused to maintain our infrastructure.

That's what happened to Queens when they increase transfer times on buses and trains.

Our governments mismanagement, causes fear, poverty, unemployment, crime, disease, and terrible suffering.

Please support our efforts to improve the Quality of Life for Queens through faster transportation.

Thank you to Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, New York Daily News, Congressmen Meeks and Jeffries, State Senator Avella, Queens Community Boards 5, 10 and 14 for their support of faster transportation including the Queens RBL.

Please ask your family and friends and commuters to sign our petitions to support the Reactivation of the Queens Rockaway Beach Line, the New Queens Crosstown, eliminate the toll on the Queens Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge for everyone and expand the Queens Rockaway Ferry:


Philip McManus
Queens Public Transit Committee

Feb. 8, 2014, 3:38 pm

Comments closed.


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