Tag Archives: queensway

QueensWay gets big lift with $443,750 state grant for park design


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Renderings courtesy of thequeensway.org

The campaign to turn an abandoned railroad line into a new park running through Queens got a huge lift with a $443,750 grant from the state that was announced on Friday.

The project, called QueensWay, will be able to use the funding from the New York City Regional Economic Development Council toward the design of the first phase of the proposed park, officials said on Friday.

“This vital grant brings us one step closer to making the QueensWay a reality,” said Rep. Joe Crowley. “I thank Gov. Cuomo and the New York City Regional Economic Development Council for their steadfast commitment to building a unique park in our borough that will not only provide great health and environmental benefits to the surrounding communities but also the potential to spur significant economic growth in the area.”

Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi said the governor’s economic council targets funding to projects that will have an impact on the local economy. “The QueensWay is one of those projects and I’m glad to support the great effort of The Trust for Public Land and Friends of the QueensWay to bring this transformative project to our community,” he said.

Funding, which goes jointly to the Friends of Queensway and The Trust for Public Land, will be used to design the park’s “Northern Gateway” section, beginning in Rego Park, near Forest Hills.

“This site, at the north end of the QueensWay, is an ideal way to begin to connect the residents to a portion of this 47-acre corridor,” read a statement announcing the grant. “The section will retain and feature a large number of mature trees and will include a nature-themed adventure playground, large bioretention basins and other green infrastructure that can absorb large quantities of stormwater, and access paths to adjacent streets.”

QueensWay calls for converting the 3.5-mile-long former rail corridor into a “linear park and cultural greenway.”

While the project enjoys the support of many elected officials, it also faces opposition from other city and state lawmakers who want the MTA to return rail service that they say is desperately needed to link southern Queens with Manhattan.

I am deeply disappointed with the Regional Economic Development Council’s recent decision to grant funding for a park proposal on Rockaway Beach Rail Line right-of-way. Our tax dollars are being wasted on overpriced out-of-borough consultants that shove their one-sided studies and expensive designs down our throats. The Council has once again ignored the needs of real Queens families who struggle with our lack of transit options,” said Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder. “It’s clear that reactivating the Rockaway Beach Rail Line is the best and most cost-effective way to expand transit in Queens while easing commutes, creating jobs, cleaning the environment and expanding our economic development. I will continue to fight until this becomes a reality and our families in Queens have the transportation options they need and deserve.”

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MTA improvement plan may benefit restoration of Rockaway Beach Rail Line


| slicata@queenscourier.com

File photo

South Queens has one of the longest commute times to Midtown Manhattan out of any area in the five boroughs. But changes may soon be made as part of a new study released by the Metropolitan Transit Authority that could undermine a proposal to turn an unused Queens rail line into a park.

In the study, the MTA Transportation Reinvention Commission proposes to “aggressively expand the capacity of the existing [MTA] system.”

The newly released MTA study was welcome news to Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, who has been advocating for improvements to the already existing infrastructure where the Rockaway Beach Rail Line once was.

“Support for reactivation of the rail line continues to grow and this new report drafted by leading transit experts is a huge step in the right direction,” said Goldfeder. “The Commission recognizes that reactivating unused rights-of-way such as the Rockaway Beach Rail Line is the best and most cost-effective way to improve access to transit for hundreds of thousands of Queens families.”

The report finds that the economic success of New York is dependent on a world class transportation system and that the MTA must continue to make improvements to it if it wants to keep this economic growth.

“New York will never have a world-class transit system unless the MTA reinvents itself and the public invests in it. A robust transportation network is essential to the region, but its past achievements do not make future success inevitable,” said Ray LaHood, co-chair of the Transportation Reinvention Commission and former U.S. Secretary of Transportation. “Our work shows that the MTA can meet the array of challenges it faces, but doing so will require careful stewardship, creative thinking and heightened investment to ensure it can continue to be the engine that drives New York.”

The MTA study comes as a group has been advocating for a project called QueensWay, inspired by Manhattan’s High Line, which would convert the long-dormant rail line into a public park stretching across a wide swath of Queens.

The report released seven key strategies for improving transportation throughout the city. It states that the MTA must make investments designed to serve existing and emerging population and employment centers that are not well served by the existing system while also “pursuing new flexible service alternatives and operating modes.”

This expansion is already taking place in south Queens with plans being discussed for Select Bus Service on Woodhaven Boulevard.

The reactivation of the Rockaway Beach Rail Line could result in 500,000 daily trips and would cost the MTA around $700 million, according to a recent Queens College study.
Goldfeder believes this is a significant step forward in his fight to bring rail service along the line back to south Queens.

“I’m pleased that the Commission recognizes what our communities have known for a long time — that using this right-of-way is our best option for cutting commute times, growing our small businesses, and building a stronger, more resilient transit network,” concluded Goldfeder.

“Residents overwhelmingly support the reactivation of the rail line and I will continue to work with the MTA and my colleagues to make that dream a reality.”

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Rockaway train line would serve half a million riders a day, says study


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

Throwing a wrench into plans for the QueensWay park, a new study claims the restoration of the Rockaway Beach Rail Line would generate nearly half a million rides a day.

“The rail line would connect north and south Queens like no other [form of transportation],” Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder said at a press conference in Queens College Monday.

“The results of this study clearly show that reactivating the Rockaway Beach Rail Line is the best, most cost-efficient way to decrease commute times, improve access to existing parkland and grow our small businesses in Queens.”

The study, “A community impact study of proposed uses of the Rockaway Beach Branch right of way,” surveyed thousands of residents and assessed transportation and park needs in the surrounding communities of the rail line.

If reactivated, the study says, the rail line will ease congestion and commute times, and connect north and south Queens in a way that is currently not available with existing subway lines.

The project was student-led under the watch of Dr. Scott Larson, director of the office of community studies at Queens College.

“We did not come to the conclusion of what the best use for the land would be. That wasn’t the point of it,” Larson said. “We did it to add to the debate and provide objective information.”

A summary of the study reads: “The Rockaway Beach Branch line presents a unique opportunity as a potential transportation improvement. The effect would be faster travel between southern Queens, including the Rockaways, and northern/western Queens, Midtown Manhattan and points north.”

It goes on to mention that while ridership in south Queens is low compared to other parts of the city, commute times are long and the restoration of the line could lead to positive savings in travel times for the riders.

The rail line has been out of commission since the 1960s. If the rail line was seen as the most viable option for the land, it would cost about $700 million to fully restore it.

Currently, there is a debate on whether the land should be used to restore the transit line, make access to the QueensWay, or use the land for both transportation and park features.

The QueensWay would cost about $120 million to fully build out. Advocates for the QueensWay say the land would better be used as parkland rather than for transportation.

“The QueensWay would be free to everyone,” said Mark Matsil, a representative from the Trust for Public Land. “We have support from many elected officials. The QueensWay is economically feasible.”

Matsil said they are in the process of raising funds for the design phase of the QueensWay.

But Goldfeder believes that more and improved transit in Queens is a top priority for the borough, and not using this existing infrastructure would be a waste.

“Complete restoration of the rail line will increase transit options for every resident in Queens and NYC, create quality jobs, boost our economic development, ease commutes and congestion and clean our environment by taking thousands of cars off the road,” said Goldfeder. “I urge the MTA to include restoration of the Rockaway Beach Rail Line in their next capital plan.”

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Plans released for possible QueensWay


| slicata@queenscourier.com

Renderings courtesy of thequeensway.org

It’s the Queens way.

A 3.5-mile stretch of recreational, walking and biking trails is planned for central and southern Queens as part of a multi-million dollar proposal that has coined the name, QueensWay.

“This will be a wonderful park for Queens,” said Will Rogers, president of The Trust for Public Land.

The QueensWay plans, proposed by W X Y architecture + urban design, will add a mix of new recreational and cultural opportunities and nature trails for the borough, said the Friends of the QueensWay.

The path, if built, will cross through the neighborhoods of Rego Park, Forest Hills, Glendale, Richmond Hill, Woodhaven and Ozone Park, affecting over 322,000 people living within a mile of it.

In the plans, there are proposed areas for ecology and education, where planners are hoping to build an outdoor classroom for children to be able to learn the biodiversity in Queens.

Also, there will be two sets of trails for bicyclist and pedestrians to ensure the safety of everyone who uses the QueensWay.

Furthermore, there are plans for basketball courts, a skate park, habitat wetlands, arts-related programs and a gateway entrance from the QueensWay to Forest Park.

“Parks are too often neglected and QueensWay would offer more access to open space and parkland,” said state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky. “Parks provide an economic benefit to local business, retail establishments and restaurants and people of all ages would be able to enjoy the recreational opportunities which this new green space would provide.”

The estimated cost for the QueensWay is $120 million and, if started, will take three to five years to build.

Although it has the backing of many elected officials and community leaders, some feel the narrow stretch of former rail line could be put to better use.

Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder is a staunch advocate for the restoration of the Rockaway Beach rail line, which once ran on the property being looked at for the QueensWay. He has formed a coalition to fight to get it back.

“The QueensWay and Trust for Public Land have wasted taxpayer dollars on expensive, out-of-state consultants and one-sided studies that don’t actually represent the interests or needs of Queens’ families,” Goldfeder said. “Our growing coalition, including the MTA, will continue the fight to expand transit in Queens while easing commutes, creating jobs, cleaning the environment and expanding our economic development.”

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New architecture exhibit shows possibilities for QueensWay


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Image courtesy of Carrie Wilbert

A new exhibition is opening Thursday that features winners of a QueensWay design competition.

The Center for Architecture will be hosting the exhibit, “QueensWay Connection: Elevating the Public Realm,” and the competition, which occurred earlier this year, was held by The Emerging New York Architects committee of the American Institute of Architecture.

In the competition, contestants were asked to come up with theoretical designs for what the 3.5-mile stretch from Rego Park to Ozone Park could be used for. The four winning designs and an honorable mention of the biennial competition will now go on to be displayed in Manhattan, where the Center of Architecture is located.

The QueensWay, an abandoned rail line, has been a point of much debate and controversy, with advocates arguing that it should be turned into a high line-style park.

Since the LIRR Rockaway Beach Line was abandoned in the 1960s, little has been changed to the elevated train. But over the last few years, The Trust for Public Land and Friends of the Queensway are currently studying the area.

New York Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, along with the Queens College Urban Studies Department, launched a community impact study to help assess the best use for the line.

The competition received 120 entries form 28 countries. They were judged, according to the EMergin New York Architects, “based on the design’s ability to provide an effective and welcoming transition between the street and future greenway.”

But the assumption that the line will be a “future greenway” is a premature  at this point.


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Preliminary design concepts released ahead of QueensWay community workshops


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Images courtesy of Friends of the QueensWay and Trust for Public Land

The Friends of the QueensWay and Trust for Public Land just released preliminary design concepts that will be presented as part of upcoming community workshops involving the proposed high line-style green space.

The two released renderings are an example of the variety of initial QueensWay design concepts that will be shown at the workshops, which will take place on Monday, March 24 at the Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School (MELS) in Forest Hills, and Wednesday, March 26 at the High School for Construction Trades, Engineering and Architecture in Richmond Hill.

A feasibility and planning study for the project is in the very early stages of the design process, and the upcoming workshops will try and compile more input on the preliminary design concepts as well as additional ones.

They will also cover other issues, including open space in areas of the borough that are currently underserved; a new neighborhood park that enhances and links to Forest Park; and ideas on how to support adjacent play spaces for children, such as little league fields.

QueensWay advocates would like to transform a 3.5-mile portion of the abandoned Rockaway Rail Line into an elevated pedestrian and bicycle pathway, which would run from Ozone Park to Rego Park. The idea has sparked controversy among the surrounding community. Transportation advocates want a revitalization of the railroad line, while others want nothing at all.

 

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QueensWay Connection design competition recognizes Queens architect


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy AIA New York Chapter

Architects are jumping on the QueensWay bandwagon, creating designs for the proposed high line.

The Emerging New York Architects (ENYA) committee of the AIA New York Chapter centered its 2014 Biennial Design Ideas competition on the QueensWay, a project intended to convert a 3.5-mile elevated stretch of abandoned railway through the borough into public parkland.

The competition, “QueensWay Connection,” attracted 120 design submissions from 28 different countries. Entrants were required to design an entrance from the street up to the QueensWay, as well as submit additional designs to compliment the surrounding community.

The Friends of the QueensWay, an advocacy group for the park, said the competition brought in “incredible” ideas. Though they remain just ideas and do not pose as actual design proposals.

“It’s incredible to see inspiration drawn from around the world in conceptualizing innovative ideas that showcase the QueensWay’s potential to revitalize neighborhoods and improve the quality of life,” the group said in a statement.

Five winners were chosen, including Hyuntek Yoon of Long Island City, for his “Upside Down Bridge” concept.

Also in Yoon’s design is “The Plaza,” a space which “can be used as a versatile public space, meant to mingle diverse cultures and people from the neighborhood.” His design also includes the “Kitchen Garden,” an indoor space to be used for various classes and programs.

The QueensWay design, which would run from Ozone Park to Rego Park, has sparked controversy amongst the surrounding community. Transportation advocates want a revitalization of the Rockaway railroad line, while others want nothing at all.

An exhibition of the competition winners’ work will be unveiled at an opening party on July 17 at the Center for Architecture.

 

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Transit committee finds new support for restarting Rockaway Beach Line


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Jeff Liao

One by one, members of the Queens Public Transit Committee (QPTC), an organization focused on improving transportation in the borough, thanked Community Board 5 (CB5) last week.

The board voted to support the idea of restarting the defunct Rockaway Beach Line last month, in part to help ease traffic congestion issues on major thoroughfares, such as Woodhaven Boulevard.

The news was significant for QPTC, because the 3.5-mile trail could also be transformed into a park.

“Getting more people like CB5 is tremendous because they realize overcrowding is becoming a major problem,” said Phil McManus, chair of the QPTC.

In November of last year, Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder, who has voiced support for a new train, announced that Queens College will be doing a study of both the train and park ideas.

The Friends of the QueensWay (FQW), a group made up of residents that live near the trail who are pushing to transform the former rail line into a public green space, has argued against restarting the line.

“After over five decades of abandonment and multiple studies concluding that rail reactivation is not feasible, the time has come to utilize the over 50 acres of land that make up the QueensWay,” according to a statement from FQW. “As evidence shows, rebuilding this abandoned land will dramatically improve the quality of life, create jobs and safer streets, and highlight the incredible history and cultural diversity of central and southern Queens.”

FQW also said that the new park will have a much needed bike path, which could be used for transportation.

Not everyone has taken a side though. Members of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) would like to see formal proposals, instead of making a decision on speculation.

“We want to make sure a lot of concerns are answered. Can’t say that we are for or against,” said Martin Colberg, president of the WRBA.

McManus said the QPTC isn’t opposed to doing both ideas in some capacity, but a FQW representative said that isn’t a possibility.

“I just don’t see that as being realistic,” said Travis Terry, a member of FQW Steering Committee. “I wouldn’t even like to consider that option until there is some proof.”

 

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Woodhaven QueensWay forum brings in new ideas


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

File Photo

New ideas are flowing in for the abandoned Rockaway Beach rail line.

The Woodhaven Residents Block Assocation (WRBA) hosted what attendees are calling the truest, open public forum held thus far regarding the QueensWay and Rockaway Beach line.

Advocates for the proposed 3.5-mile QueensWay park along the abandoned rail line addressed those with reservations about the project and vice versa on Monday in Woodhaven.

Ed Wendell, WRBA president, brought a new idea to the table. He said the Brooklyn-Queens Greenway that currently runs through Forest Park has been “a problem for 20 years,” and QueensWay officials should use this space as their “lab experiment.”

“Why don’t we focus on cleaning up the existing greenway,” he said. “Show us what you can do, and the community will be much more receptive.”

Alexander Blenkinsopp, a WRBA member, called this idea “brilliant,” and offered an additional option for “each community to decide what they want done with their stretch of the tracks.”

The old rail line runs up 98th Street from the Rockaways to Manhattan.

“If the people of Forest Hills really want the QueensWay, let them have it in their neighborhood,” he said. “And if it’s so wonderful, the residents of Woodhaven will see how great it is in Forest Hills and will eventually welcome it into their community as well.”

Wendell echoed many people when he said one main concern to address before moving forward with building a new park is security in existing greenspaces such as Forest Park.

“We see women jogging in the morning using flashlights,” Wendell said. “How terrifying is that? That they have to do this.”

He said that park officials as well as cops in the 102nd Precinct should be given proper resources to patrol the park before more acres are added via the QueensWay, which would connect to Forest Park.

A feasibility study to determine the possibility of creating the new park is currently underway, and QueensWay supporters noted it is “just a study” and “there really is no plan yet.”

However, residents doubt a QueensWay study would show the QueensWay is not feasible.

“Any proposals that come back are going to have to take into account a lot of people’s concerns,” Wendell said. “There are a whole lot of emotions and feelings on it.”

 

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Queens College to study options for abandoned Rockaway Beach line


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Maggie Hayes

Transportation advocates have had resurrection on the mind for the abandoned Rockaway Beach line (RBL), and are now getting local support to see if their vision can become a reality.

Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder announced on Monday that Queens College will undertake a study to assess the proposed options for the tracks.

Along with a rail line revival, plans exist to convert the 3.5-mile long space to a public park, the QueensWay.

“The whole idea is to expose all possible options,” said Dr. Leonard Rodberg, chair of the Department of Urban Studies, which will conduct the study.

Starting next spring, graduate and undergraduate students will be able to take research courses geared towards the RBL, studying the community impact of each plan. They will consider census data, existing transportation patterns and more.

During the summer of 2014, roughly a dozen students will be hired as research assistants to do field work, going out in the community and surveying both the area and residents. Completion is projected for the end of the summer.

“Our goal here is to do what’s in the best interest of Queens,” Goldfeder said. “We’ve got to look at all options.”

Rail line advocates are hoping for a compromise, and several members of the Queens Public Transit Committee would like to find “some common ground.”

“When you look at the QueensWay, it’s a great idea,” said Phil McManus, committee chair. “I’m not anti-park, I just think we need the train first.”

McManus said that bringing back the 40-minute commute between the Rockaways and midtown, paired with a park could be the best bet.

“If you exclusively do a park without a train, I’m afraid that we’d lose the train forever,” he said.

“We’re willing to work with whatever possible. I want transportation for this line, and beautification.”

For the upcoming study, Goldfeder plans to provide a capital grant of $50,000 to $100,000 to help with infrastructure needs. The college’s department will also set aside money from their budget.

“We need to utilize the tools that we’ve got, much like the rail line,” Goldfeder said. “Hopefully this can lead to the next step.”

 

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Op-ed: Proposals for QueensWay project


| oped@queenscourier.com

ASSEMBLYMEMBER MIKE MILLER

I want to take a moment to address the QueensWay project, a proposed public greenway that will transform the Long Island Rail Road Rockaway Beach Branch, which was abandoned over 50 years ago. Specifically, the former railroad extends 3.5 miles from Rego Park and Forest Hills down to Ozone Park. This proposed project is one of great concern to many residents in certain areas of the rail line due to its potential negative impact on the local residents.

Certain sections of the proposed QueensWay, specifically the area of the rail line that runs parallel to 98th Street in Woodhaven, will be adjacent to the backyards of nearly 200 homeowners. Although I have been informed by the Friends of QueensWay that they plan to build the QueensWay completely gated around the entrances and make it inaccessible at night, local residents should not be the ones burdened with the cost of building a more secure fence around their backyards to ensure the privacy and safety of their home.

To find additional evidence of the resident’s safety concern, you do not have to look any further than several incidents that have occurred in and around the vicinity of Forest Park in recent years. I echo the sentiments of residents by asking how can we expect the local precincts to carry the additional responsibility of patrolling and responding to incidents on the proposed QueensWay when our precincts are already being spread too thin within our district as it is? Many of the residents on 98th Street are okay with the rail line being underutilized and prefer it stay that way. I also agree that the rail line from Park Lane South down to Atlantic Avenue be left untouched as to not interfere with the quality of life of the local residents.

Further, as per the suggestion of the MTA in its 20-year plan, the rail line from Atlantic Avenue to Rockaway Boulevard should be left as is and eventually be used as a connection for an express line connection into Manhattan.

After carefully balancing the potential positive impact of the QueensWay versus the potential negative impact on certain local residents, I recommend that:

1) The QueensWay be built only on the part of the rail line that stretches from Rego Park to Park Lane South

2) The rail line from Park Lane South to Atlantic Avenue be left untouched as to not interfere with the quality of life of local residents; and

3) The rail line from Atlantic Avenue to Rockaway Boulevard also be left untouched, so it can eventually be used by the MTA as an express line connection into Manhattan

In regards to maintenance of the QueensWay, it must be said that this proposed project should not at all be compared to The High Line public greenway in Manhattan. I remain unconvinced that The QueensWay when built from Rego Park to Park Lane South could achieve anywhere close to the level of corporate membership, sponsorship, and support the High Line in Manhattan has based solely on the lack of surrounding businesses in the area and the lower level of tourism that attracts the private funding necessary to maintain a public greenway. Without a consistent level of support and sponsorship from local businesses in addition to private funding, I fear that the QueensWay will eventually become an eyesore for local residents when funding for maintenance becomes an issue.

Additionally, I am interested to know whether Queens-based companies and local businesses will be the ones who are given the contracts to build out this proposed project. I believe that if the QueensWay is going to be built for the benefit of Queens residents and if it will positively impact Queens’ local businesses, then why are there currently no Queens-based companies being sought for the contracts even in the early stages of this project? I can only see a positive impact on the economy of Queens if our own borough’s businesses benefit from building the QueensWay.

Michael G. Miller represents the 38th Assembly District, which includes the neighborhoods of Woodhaven, Ridgewood, Richmond Hill, Ozone Park and Glendale. He was elected in September of 2009 in the Special Election called by Governor David Paterson.

 

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Board derails QueensWay funding


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association

Community Board 9 has taken QueensWay funding out of its budget.

At its November meeting, the board voted 30-13 and concluded that its capital budget should not prioritize the proposal, which would convert a 3.5-mile former Rockaway Beach LIRR line into a public greenway.

Late last year, Governor Andrew Cuomo awarded $467,000 to study the project’s potential, and an additional $600,000 was raised through private donations.

The nonprofit Trust for Public Land has put together a team that will conduct the study.

“If the feasibility of a project can’t be figured out when it already has nearly a half million dollars to figure it out, then there’s a problem,” said Alexander Blenkinsopp, CB 9 and Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) member.

The QueensWay, if built, would connect Rego Park, Forest Hills, Richmond Hill and Ozone Park to Forest Park, provide pedestrian and bike paths, as well as public green space and serve as an art and culture forum.

Marc Matsil, the New York State Director for Trust for Public Land, said CB 9 was right to have taken the QueensWay out of its priorities because “the funds were raised.”

The proposal, however, has met a varying amount of both opposition and support.

Many area residents believe instead of a new park, the rail line should be reactivated to provide more public transportation. Others say the safety of current parks, such as nearby Forest Park, should be assured before a new greenspace is created.

The WRBA decided not to support either the QueensWay or a train reactivation because there were “some important questions that couldn’t be answered adequately,” Blenkinsopp said, mentioning safety.

CB 9 has not yet replaced QueensWay with any other item on its budget priorities.

“We know there will be critics,” Matsil said. “Our goal is to work with everyone.”

Matsil said, however, there is an “immense amount of enthusiasm in the community” for the potential new park and that though the safety concerns are “fairly clear,” he is confident residents feel there is a “need for a project like QueensWay.”

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST 

Tuesday: Overcast with a chance of rain, then thunderstorms and rain showers in the afternoon. High of 88. Winds from the NW at 5 to 10 mph shifting to the West in the afternoon. Chance of rain 20%. Tuesday night: Overcast with thunderstorms and rain showers in the evening, then partly cloudy with rain showers. Low of 73F. Winds less than 5 mph. Chance of rain 40%.

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Rockaway Beach line restoration gets federal support


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Terence Cullen

Proposed revival of the Rockaway Beach LIRR Line has gotten some federal backing.

Congressmembers Hakeem Jeffries and Gregory Meeks are all-aboard for restoring the 50-year-defunct line in a new form, which would effectively link Rego Park to Ozone Park via mass transit.

Together with Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder, they have sent a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, asking for federal money from Sandy for restoring the line.

“What this rail line would do, if completely restored, would intersect on five or six different points, giving people options,” said Goldfeder, who’s pushed rail restoration since coming into office a year-and-a-half ago.

“If you try and drive on Woodhaven Boulevard or Cross Bay Boulevard in the morning or afternoon, our streets are jammed.”

Meeks, who began representing the Rockaways in January, said this was needed now more than ever as the peninsula and its residents try to rebuild.

Jeffries, representing Ozone Park and Howard Beach, said south Queens commuters have one of the longest trips to Manhattan, and LIRR service would reduce the hour-plus commute to Midtown. It is, he noted, one of the longest commutes within NYC, “perhaps rivaled only by some in the southern part of Staten Island.”

Because neighborhoods such as Woodhaven have expanded closer to the tracks since train service ended in June 1962, many are concerned about a rail line right next to their home. But officials say they’ve explored new ways of silent transportation, such as a monorail, to reduce noise.

Trains could stop at the Howard Beach-JFK A train station in Coleman Square if the line is revived.

Commuters going to Rockaway would transfer to the A train, which is expected to be up and running later this summer.

A rail line, however, is not the only plan on the table for the three-mile strip.

The Queensway, a nature walk, has been the counterpart proposal to the plan and would be similar to the Highline in Manhattan. Andrea Crawford, a founding member of “Friends of Queensway,” said she didn’t believe the LIRR would be a practical way of transit – suggesting instead implementing rapid bus transit or improving A train service.

Members of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association are for better north-south transportation in Queens and reducing traffic on Woodhaven Boulevard, said communications director Alex Blenkinsopp. Because the rail line would run so close to homes, however, they are against this type of development.

WRBA hosted a town hall meeting on the LIRR line and the Queensway last September, but ultimately decided to urge the city to clean up the abandoned, overgrown strip of land.

“They’re not even trying to convince Woodhaven at this point,” Blenkinsopp said. “They seem to have decided that they need to railroad us, rather than attempting to address our concerns.”

 

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Queensway closer to reality


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

File photo

Because of a state-secured grant, the much debated Queensway project is one step closer to getting off the ground.

The Trust for Park Land has received $467,000 from Governor Andrew Cuomo to study the feasibility of a three-and-a-half mile greenway on what once was the Rockaway Beach LIRR line.

This study would look at the plethora of things that go into converting the abandoned rail line into parkland, including engineering requirements, the environmental impact of the project and community feedback. Because more homes have been built around the tracks since service stopped in 1963, any use of the land would require studies to see how it will affect residents.

Friends of the Queensway, an advocacy group for the nature space, say it’s the first step in making the five-year-old dream come true.

“This is tremendous,” said Friends of the Queensway member Andrea Crawford. “This is what we’ve been waiting for.”

The walkway, expected to be double the size of Manhattan’s High Line, would celebrate the culture and diversity of Queens, Crawford said. If approved, it would run through neighborhoods such as Forest Hills, Woodhaven and Richmond Hill.

“There’s a hundred and something languages spoken within a mile of the Queensway,” she said. “So that’s what makes this so exciting. It really represents Queens.”

Others, however, have different ideas on what the land could be used for, particularly transportation for south and central Queens. A new Rockaway LIRR line would connect south Queens to the rest of the borough via mass transit, ease traffic problems and streamline a significantly long commute to Manhattan.

Either project would potentially run right through the middle of Forest Park as well.

Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder, who has pushed for a new Rockaway Beach LIRR, thinks this new study should include a look at new transportation options as well. Goldfeder said he is working with rail advocates to ensure transportation is included in the study.

“I am opposed to any plan, or any study, that would exclude the opportunity and possibility of transportation via rail line,” he said. “I’m working with transportation and rail advocates that will work with the Trust for Public Land and do a rail feasibility study at the same time.”

Some just want the strip of land to be cleaned up and maintained.

The Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) has not taken a position on either side, but instead thinks the city should address the years of neglect. Either project would misuse state funds and be disruptive to residents living around the area — effectively ruining the character of the neighborhood, said WRBA President Ed Wendell.

“We heard from our residents; they’re dead-set against either plan,” Wendell said.