An open letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio:
I am writing to you as a citizen, a lifelong resident of the Rockaway Peninsula and president of the Queens Public Transit Committee, whose goal is to improve transportation options throughout the borough.
First, let me welcome you as the mayor of our city. In your campaign you promised positive change to help our city, including, in particular, improving the livelihoods, neighborhoods and opportunities of New York’s “90 percenters.” I was encouraged that you expressed a commitment to focus on the needs of the often neglected outerboroughs.
It is to help you achieve this goal that I am asking you to support an open, detailed and fair study of the Rockaway Beach Line. The line’s right of way, owned by the city, has remained largely intact since deactivation. State Assemblyman Philip Goldfeder (D-Ozone Park), state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), and U.S. Reps. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) have all called for reactivating the line. In addition, Community Boards 5 and 14 have endorsed reactivation of the line by lopsided margins.
And here is the reason: The Rockaways and south Queens have been neglected for decades. Our communities have been struggling in terms of economic opportunity, access to jobs and in attracting local development, businesses and employment. One of the key reasons is poor transportation. It takes longer to travel from the Rockaway Peninsula to Midtown Manhattan than it does from Long Island, Westchester County and parts of New Jersey.
Travel between north and south Queens is a nightmare. People must travel either through Manhattan or take several buses to reach destinations in their own borough. South Queens has developed such a reputation for poor access that its location was a prime impediment to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Genting convention proposal. If people cannot get to their destinations quickly and easily, why should they invest here?
Unfortunately, there has been for decades a small, influential group that has blocked the restoration of the Rockaway Beach Line. Many in this group live near and enjoy both Long Island Rail Road and subway access to Midtown Manhattan. Is it fair for a small group of people to block the ability of Rockaway and south Queens residents to obtain more access to jobs and education and to develop their communities?
For some reason, the news media has focused solely on restoring the LIRR. There are, however, several subway options that would benefit more people from all walks of life. A new subway line could originate from Far Rockaway and Rockaway Park and run along the A line to a point north of the Aqueduct-Conduit Avenue subway station. There is sufficient capacity and no alterations to the A line would be needed.
The new subway line could then proceed on the abandoned Rockaway Beach Line to Rego Park-63rd Drive. There, a station could be built that would be only four minutes away from the IND 63rd Drive station and the Rego Park malls. There is enough space for a joint LIRR-subway station.
In addition, two limited bus lines could be created. One could head north to Citi Field, the new mall, Fort Totten and LaGuardia Airport, forming a complete north-south Queens link. A second could run along the Long Island Expressway, past Queens College to the busy commercial Main Street-Flushing district. With one fare and one transfer, people could easily travel within Queens, encouraging the growth of small businesses and job creation.
That is why this study is needed. It would look at all options: subway, LIRR and alternatives and adjuncts like Woodhaven Select Bus Service and ferries. It would be similar to the detailed studies for East Side Access and the Second Avenue Subway, which included extensive public participation.
In conclusion, the opportunity is there to provide jobs and enable local development and access to jobs while at the same time reducing excessive travel times, traffic congestion and pollution. We ask you to endorse this study and urge Cuomo to do the same.
We welcome the opportunity to meet with you in person to discuss these issues, hear your concerns and go forward with a consensus that will bring Queens together and enable everyone to share in what our city has to offer.
Queens Public Transit Committee