Tag Archives: Rockaway Beach line

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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QueensWay study moving forward


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association

Over three miles of abandoned railway could become the much-debated, yet eagerly anticipated, QueensWay Park for the borough.

The nonprofit Trust for Public Land introduced a design team on Tuesday, August 20 set to study the 3.5-mile greenway that was once the Rockaway Beach LIRR line, running from Rego Park to Ozone Park.

If approved and the project moves forward, the QueensWay would be double the size of Manhattan’s High Line, The Courier reported in December.

The year-long study, starting after Labor Day, will be conducted by WXY architecture + urban design and dlandstudio and will look at a variety of ways to convert the abandoned rail line into parkland, including engineering requirements, environmental impact and community feedback.

“The QueensWay is going to be New York’s next great park,” said Marc Matsil, New York state director of the Trust for Public Land. “Our mission is to protect land for people, and this is a perfect fit with that goal.”

The walkway will connect multiple communities and provide green space for 250,000 people in the borough, said Trust for Public Land officials. Art, sculptures and food from around the world will also be included.

Jack Friedman, Queens Chamber of Commerce executive director, said this initiative will provide a “much-needed boost” to the borough’s economy and local businesses.

The study will be funded by a $467,000 grant from Governor Andrew Cuomo as well as $140,000 from the Department of Environmental Protection and private donors.
However, not everybody is on board with the study, or the QueensWay itself.

Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder said he believes local residents would greatly benefit from “a complete restoration of the Rockaway Beach Line.”

“I am confident that any objective study regarding the best use for the abandoned rail line will conclude that a transportation option is the only real choice,” he said. “The current lack of public transit options in Queens is strangling our businesses and hurting our families.”

 

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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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