BY JON CRONIN
After years of advocacy, one of the Rockaway Rail Line’s most fearsome proponents, Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D – Rockaway Park) announced that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority agreed to conduct a feasibility study into reactivating the railway after the Assembly and Senate passed it in the state budget.
A representative from Goldfeder’s office said that this is a commitment from the MTA, who suspended service on the line in 1962 and ceded ownership to the city. There is no funding attached yet. Goldfeder’s office estimated it will be $1 to $5 million based on past feasibility studies the MTA has done.
“For tens of thousands of Queens families forced to endure some of the longest commutes in the city, this announcement by the MTA is real progress. A comprehensive study of the Queens Rail will give voice to our transit concerns and bring Queens one step closer to having the transportation infrastructure we need and deserve,” said Goldfeder. “I have no doubt that this study will prove once and for all that reactivation is the best and most cost-effective way to speed commute times for our families and boost our local economy.”
State Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) as always stated that he supports the project. He said he hopes it will be different than the three other studies that have been done in the past.
Addabbo said before the budget he spoke with Prendergast and asked him what he thought about the project itself. Addabbo reported that Prendergast said he can’t have any other projects leapfrogging over others, such as the Second Avenue Subway line.
“This is done by the MTA, which is a big difference,” he added, “This is a project they should embrace.” He then noted that his district cover the entire stretch of the Rockaway Line. He would have to listen to his constituency and balance all the project ideas. “All these things have been spoken for decades,” and “Financially, we could be discussing this for decades to come. Just being realistic.” He believes they will have to do more work to get the MTA to consider it.
State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D- Flushing) stated whose district covers a small portion of the line along Burns Street in Rego Park and Forest Hills said, “Additional information is always useful. At this point I do not support extending the Long Island Rail Road.” She noted that her constituents along Burns Street didn’t envision a train running through their backyard. She believes that area could be desirable for the purposes of recreation “but to me it doesn’t include having a railroad run through it. Bottom line is that I do not support expanding the LIRR through Rego Park and Forest Hills.”
Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) agreed with her statement, “There is currently a LIRR line running through my district, so I am aware of the disruption it causes. The Rockaway Beach Branch railroad bed is much closer to property lines and would be even more intrusive. That is why I am adamantly opposed to the reactivation of the rail line.”
MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast wrote in a letter to Carl Heastie, speaker of the Assembly, “The Metropolitan Transportation Authority recognizes that opportunities may exist along retired rights-of-way within the region and commits to an evaluation of the former Rockaway Beach rail corridor and the West Shore of Staten Island.”
The study will be finished by no later than June 30, 2017.
Language in the budget proposal text justified the appropriation on the grounds that “constructing new mass transit routes and services reduces vehicle traffic and alleviates congestion.”
Goldfeder gave joint testimony last November with U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Brooklyn/Manhattan), member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, before a City Council Transportation Committee hearing on transit deserts in New York.
He noted in a press release that, “In 2014, the Queens College Urban Studies Department conducted a student-led survey of communities adjacent to the abandoned right-of-way. The resulting report found that reactivation could generate half a million subway trips a day and that a majority of local business owners supported the plan. Around this time, a report by the NYU Rudin Center for Transportation ranked many communities in the Assemblyman’s district among the lowest city-wide for access to job opportunities via public transportation.”
Reach Reporter Jon Cronin at (718) 357-7400 x125, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JonathanSCronin