The debate over what to build along the right of way of the former Rockaway Beach LIRR line goes back almost as long as the line has been vacant. But in recent years, with the proposal to turn the 5-mile long route into a High Line-like park, and another proposal to reactivate the rail, it seems there is momentum now to do something.
We appreciate the QueensWay supporters’ desire to bring more greenspace to Queens. We definitely agree that greenspace is important, and in parts of our borough, lacking. But what the borough lacks even more is adequate transportation. Last week on this very page, we called for bold and ambitious solutions to our transportation problems, including expansion of transit services in the borough. The Rockaway line should be at the top of that agenda.
Whether it is a reactivation of LIRR service, a subway, light rail, or dedicated busway – an idea first suggested in 2011 by our own Editor in Chief Domenick Rafter – transportation should be our first priority when discussing what to build here.
As the line runs parallel to busy Woodhaven Boulevard, anything built there would help alleviate the congestion along that thoroughfare, which regularly leads to long delays and makes South Queens and the Rockaways a less desirable place to live for a commuter.
Also, the right of way bisects the proposed Long Island City-Jamaica light rail that has been championed by Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley and supported by Borough President Melinda Katz. A connection between the two would allow for much quicker intraborough travel.
Further, we are concerned about the maintenance and support of a QueensWay park. The Manhattan High Line can be maintained by a steady stream of funding from wealthy advocates who live in Chelsea and TriBeCa. Queens has fewer champions with deep pockets and this is exclusively a middle class and working class area. We fear QueensWay would get forgotten, just as our other parks have been forgotten.
We think transit is the way to go here.We urge our elected officials and civic leaders to come together to figure out what mode of transit is best for the community and for the residents living near the line. We must take into concern their safety as well as the impact of noise; but then vigorously fight for the money to fund it. This could be the start of a new renaissance of outerborough transit. Let’s make it happen.