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.
©2017 Community News Group
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