BY ANTHONY GIUDICE AND ROBERT POZARYCKI
Commuters in Glendale and Middle Village deal with limited public transportation options. Most residents in both communities live a mile or farther away from the nearest subway station, and local bus lines through the area have a reputation for being slow and overcrowded.
City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley hopes to change this situation with a plan to introduce light rail service between Glendale and Long Island City on the Long Island Rail Road’s Montauk branch, which currently offers only freight service west of Jamaica. She hopes to pitch the idea to the Department of City Planning in the coming weeks.
In an exclusive interview with the Ridgewood Times on Monday at her district office, Crowley said a new diesel-powered light rail line would address the transportation needs in Glendale and surrounding communities. The light rail line could also encourage redevelopment of underutilized industrially zoned areas adjacent to the line for business or residential purposes.
“A light rail is inexpensive, it’s clean and it’s quiet,” Crowley said. “I think an ideal plan would be to start [at The Shops at Atlas Park] where you’re not necessarily in the backs of the people’s yard or you don’t have at-grade street level crossing.”
Up until March 1998, the Montauk branch offered passenger service between Long Island City and Jamaica and stations in Glendale, Ridgewood and Maspeth. Passenger service was discontinued at that time due to lack of ridership; a New York Times report noted that just two passengers arrived and departed daily at the Glendale station, located along Edsall Avenue and 73rd Street, near an entrance to All Faiths Cemetery.
Crowley doesn’t suggest rebuilding the former Glendale station, but rather creating a new stop at The Shops at Atlas Park, noting that the shopping center—where her district office is also located—could serve as an active park-and-ride option for local residents.
“If we were able to get a rail here, people could potentially use this spot as park-and-ride, or the community around us could take a bus to the train or walk to the train,” Crowley said. “It provides options for public transportation that would effectively get more cars off our streets.”
Local civic activists have long advocated for returning public transit to the Montauk branch; members of the Community Board 5 Transportation and Public Transit Committees recently called for rebuilding the former Fresh Pond station located at the corner of Fresh Pond Road and Metropolitan Avenue on the Ridgewood/Glendale border.
Crowley, however, suggested building a new station a short distance to the east of the Fresh Pond stop near the Metro Mall, which could connect riders to the M train at its Metropolitan Avenue terminus.
“There could potentially be inter-borough connections here,” Crowley explained. “If we were to have the first stop over by the Metro Mall, then you could transfer to the M train and get quickly into Brooklyn.”
She also pointed to an area near Flushing Avenue in Maspeth as another potential station site, noting that it’s close to the connecting LIRR Bushwick branch, another freight rail line that Crowley suggested could potentially also accommodate light rail service.
From Long Island City, riders could connect to the 7, E and M lines at stations located within walking distance of the Hunterspoint Avenue station where the Montauk line terminates.
Crowley noted, however, that these plans are in the infancy stages and there is currently no estimated cost or timetable for this project. In addition to meeting with the Department of City Planning, she would further research the idea in meeting with operators of light rail systems in New Jersey cities.
Regarding costs, Crowley suggested the expense would be minimal compared to large-scale MTA capital projects such as the 7 line extension in Manhattan. The MTA—which is requesting billions in funding for capital improvements—would need funds to build the light rail stations and purchase cars and equipment.
The LIRR currently leases the Montauk line west of Jamaica to New York and Atlantic Railway exclusively for its freight rail operations based out of Glendale’s Fresh Pond Railyard. When asked if this would pose a complication to her light rail plan, Crowley remarked that other cities allow light rail to operate on freight tracks, and that both functions could coexist here.
Community Board 5 District Manager Gary Giordano told the Ridgewood Times in a phone interview Wednesday that the idea has “merit,” but there could be opposition from residents living near the Montauk line.
“Those who might not be that pleased with it are the people who own homes in east Glendale,” he said. “That’s the difficult part, but we need to get ourselves out of our cars as often as possible and use public transportation. In that sense, it can be very good.”
The CB 5 Transportation and Public Transit Committees would likely review Crowley’s plan and may also hold a public hearing on the matter, Giordano said.