Tag Archives: Rockaway Beach LIRR Line

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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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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Toxic chemicals worry Ozone Park residents


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen

The cleanup of polluted soil in Ozone Park has some residents worried toxic chemicals have spread throughout the neighborhood.

End Zone Industries will begin a long-awaited project to remove just a few inches of tainted soil from under eight storage bays under the abandoned Rockaway Beach LIRR line. The bays are between 101st and 103rd Avenues, from north to south, and 99th to 100th Streets, east to west.

Company representatives briefed Community Board 9 about the project at its April 9 meeting – with some board members upset about the project.

David Austin, project manager for AECOM, a consulting firm for End Zone, said major construction will take about three to four months. The “dirty dirt,” Austin said, would be securely removed from the garage bays in bags and transferred to a landfill on sealed trucks. There will also be air monitors running about 12 hours a day, should any contaminants make it into the air.

But board member Etienne David Adorno said he was worried that the monitors would only alert officials, not do anything to prevent or clean up.

“So if there’s a contaminant released into the air, then all it tells us is ‘Hey, a contaminant was just released into the air,’” he said. “So it doesn’t really do us any good once it’s in the air.”

A system of pipes would also be installed to take spoiled air out of the soil, through a filtration system and back into the ground, Austin said.

But concerns over a spread chemical, Trichloroethylene (TCE), business disruption and other concerns had board members skeptical about the project. TCE is an organic chemical that’s been used in cleaning solvents, paint thinner and pepper spray, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Dr. Vincent Evangelista, whose podiatry office is nearby the cleanup, expressed concern over the TCE-tainted brown water about 30 feet under the surface. Evangelista asked Austin and End Zone representatives if the contaminated soil, deemed by End Zone to be non-hazardous, immediately stopped outside of the allotted bays.

Austin acknowledged the soil could have spread to other parts of the neighborhood, but most of it has not been tested.
“There’s always unknowns when you dig underground and into dirt,” he said.

Testers only examined the soil under the eight bays, as required by the state’s Department of Environment Conservation (DEC).

It’s a matter the board would have to take up with the DEC to get the rest of the neighborhood tested, Austin said.

 

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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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