BY JON CRONIN
In a letter to NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, the Friends of the Queensway cited negative impact on existing rail lines and costs in the billions as to why the MTA should never move ahead with the reactivation of the Rockaway Rail Line.
The Friends of the Queensway has a goal of transforming the long-abandoned 3.5-mile line into a High Line-like park, serving the neighborhoods of Forest Hills, Rego Park, Glendale, Woodhaven, Richmond Hill and Ozone Park.
With The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit, they are currently in the process of designing a first half-mile phase—which could be open by 2020—and collecting community input.
They believe rail advocates “have painted a simplistic picture of reactivation. Sixty years have elapsed since trains have run on these tracks and through these communities. The landscape and neighborhood have dramatically changed.”
The Friends also pointed out the three new schools comprising the Metropolitan Education Campus on Metropolitan Avenue in Forest Hills, and the Forest Hills and Ridgewood-Glendale little leagues.
The letter states, “Rail reactivation would likely cause full or partial closure of little league fields, and significant noise would distract Metropolitan Campus students and bother thousands of local residents. This issue could be exacerbated depending on where any new stations might be built, given that certain former station locations are being used for other developments that emerged after rail use was abandoned.”
The letter also cites a 1975 study of reactivation to JFK to be $469 million and estimates the cost to be $3 billion today.
It further states that during their “community consultation,” Rockaway residents voiced concern that the reactivation of the Rockaway Rail Line would end the A train, which is cheaper than the LIRR, and force them to pay an extra $200 a month.
Regarding the Long Island Rail Road, they also believe, “The logistics of accommodating its connection into the main line could cause slowing of trains running west into Manhattan during the morning rush hour.”
The Friends state that “commuting times from the Rockaways to midtown Manhattan would not necessarily be improved,” even if a subway ran along that line. They add that it would just crowd an overly taxed system.
In conclusion, they believe that the Rockaway Rail Line would negatively impact the AirTrain, as the rail line might be used as an alternative. They do think that the Department of Transportation’s Select Bus Service plan would work well in conjunction with the Queensway, and that combination would be “a far better option for our communities. It will be cheaper, substantially less destructive to our communities, and will improve transportation far more than would a train.”
In reaction to the letter, incoming Assemblywoman Stacy Pfeffer Amato stated, “Like my predecessor Phil Goldfeder, I am standing with families of southern Queens and Rockaway for transportation equity. I am positive the MTA’s feasibility study will prove that reactivation of the Rockaway Beach Rail Line will provide a much needed transportation option that will benefit commuters, reduce congestion and help spur economic development.”
Reach Editor Jon Cronin at 718-357-7400 x125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @JonathanSCronin