An argument for Rockaway Railway rebuild

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The Rockaway Beach Branch’s preservation as a potential rail corridor — and not as a park — is essential for the further development in Queens. The Friends of the Queensway published an editorial April 12 outlining their concerns with reactivation, which laid out a series of points that I think need to be addressed.

First, they argue that rebuilding the line would eliminate parkland and distract students. This is incorrect. If one looks at a map, one would see that the ballfields in question would not, in fact, be significantly disturbed by the rebuild of the Rockaway Beach Branch (RBB) unless a connection to the Lower Montauk Branch is built — something unlikely, seeing that the line is freight only.

As for classroom disturbance, there are many schools in the city that are located in close proximity to rail lines. The notion that the noise of a passing train will affect learning seems fishy, seeing that such situations are not only common in the city, but students in all schools have to deal with the general ambient noise of New York — the honking, shouting, construction and driving.

Next, they argue that reactivating the line will cause a loss in parkland. While this may be true, the source cited lawyers for the Trust for Public Land — are employed to prove that it is true, so a second opinion should be found before we lend credibility to this claim.

As for cost, simply running an old number through an inflation calculator doesn’t seem representative of current realities. Construction methods, site conditions and plans have changed since 1975, so to get a real estimate, the MTA would have to actually give a real estimate. And even if it does cost $3 billion, it will pay itself back, time and again, with reduced commute times and economic growth.

Then, they argue that this reactivation will make commuters’ lives more difficult. I agree that if the line is reactivated with LIRR service, such predictions may be true, but using either the M or R lines to serve future RBB stations would actually improve the transit situation, not only in the Rockaways, but also on Queens Boulevard.

Areas served by the RBB, or on the current A line to the Rockaways, would benefit from greatly increased service levels, expedient access to Midtown Manhattan, and generally more choice in service. And, sort of paradoxically, Queens Boulevard riders would benefit, too.

Currently, local trains on that line are constantly being delayed by the fact that they have to sit and discharge passengers at Forest Hills, causing virtual conga lines of local trains up and down the boulevard. Sending half of Queens Boulevard local service south would eliminate this problem by reducing the volume of trains terminating at 71st avenue. This, in turn, would allow the MTA to increase service on the Boulevard, shortening commute times and increasing capacity on the perpetually overcrowded route.

Finally, proponents of the Queensway promote the economic benefits of their project, touting it as a sort of High Line for Queens. If indeed they are counting on out-of-neighborhood users to buoy their park’s fortunes, I ask them: How will these people get there? There is no good transit service to or from the neighborhood; people won’t be able to get to the park.

Building a subway line would bring masses of people to the neighborhood, causing massive economic growth and bettering the lives of the thousands who live along it. So please, think ahead. Don’t let the transportational key to South Queens be wasted.

Uday Schultz


Updated 12:32 am, July 10, 2018
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Reader feedback

Jim says:
RockawAy -- I think there's a typo in the title

I agree otherwise
April 21, 2017, 10:02 am
Fredrick Wells from Southeast Queens says:
The argument for the Rockaway Railway Rebuild is NOT the Queens Blvd line. It is the laziness in trying to build new Subway lines in Queens to connect Manhattan and The Bronx along bringing people from The Rockaways to Astoria in just 50 minutes.
To tell you the truth, people in The Rockaways do not want to be fed into the highly congested Queens Blvd line, as a new line is needed to relieve pressure on the Queens Blvd and Flushing lines in Queens. Ironically the Queens Blvd corridor between Roosevelt Avenue and Grand Avenue is only serviced by the Q60 bus, which cannot carry the passenger loads that the Subway can carry, and if a new Subway line was built this way, you would see new free transfers at Woodhaven Blvd from the Rockaway Beach Rail Line to the Queens Blvd Line as well as at 33rd, 39th and 46th Street to the Flushing Line.
What needs to be done is have a line feed into Triboro RX as a line to The Bronx (probably terminating at Yankee Stadium), and a line via Junction Blvd, and College Point to The Bronx (terminating at Fordham Plaza), so that the most use of the rail line can be made with the (A) train South of Liberty Avenue and 3 new lines.
May 5, 2017, 8:39 pm
MDC from Woodhaven says:
I live directly adjacent to the Rockaway Beach Line, and I am all in favor of its rebuilding and reactivation! Don't let anyone tell you everyone in Queens is a NIMBY. I'd be very happy to have a new transit option.
Dec. 3, 2017, 3:59 pm
Steve from Howard Beach says:
I attended John Adams H.S. for four years. The A train is a block away. It never affected classroom studies in the least. I had a classmate who lived on Hawtree Street in Ozone Park. A train ran directly behind his house, and today I live in Howard Beach, directly under a busy flight path to JFK. In neither case did a train or plane have any effect on quality of life. After fifteen minutes one gets used to it. So all the naysayers, doubters and politicians like Karen Koslowitz can stop worrying and fearing. it won't shake, rattle and role one's home, furniture or dishes.
Dec. 3, 2017, 7:50 pm

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