BY JON CRONIN
Although there is much excitement over Mayor Bill de Blasio’s new $2.5 billion light rail project going from Sunset Park in Brooklyn to Astoria, some South Queens transportation advocates would love to see a little of that enthusiasm head their way.
Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Park) said his district would benefit much more from transit funding.
“The mayor’s $2.5 billion light rail proposal does little to end the transit deserts that plague our communities. Our families in Rockaway and across the city would be much better served if this money went towards reactivating the Rockaway Beach Rail Line. I continue to urge City Hall to support the line’s reactivation and complete our community’s transformation that the downtown revitalization plan is sure to spark,” he said.
Recently he wrote to state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) to request funding for an RBRL feasibility study and is confident such a study would prove reactivating the RBRL would cost significantly less than the light rail plan along the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront or any other transit expansion project in the city.
Goldfeder’s office noted that in 2000, the MTA estimated the cost of reconstruction at around $875 million and noted another study by NYU Wagner School in 2013 estimated the cost at closer to $500 million. They noted, “Regardless, both estimates are well below the $2.5 billion cost cited in the light rail plan.”
Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale) introduced her own plans at the beginning of last summer, which are in the preliminary stages, for a light rail that would connect the Shops at Atlas Park Mall in Glendale to Long Island City along a former LIRR line used for freight, which currently only operates during the night. The line would end at Vernon Boulevard and from there passengers could transfer to the 7, E or G lines or the East River Ferry.
Crowley noted that she was inspired by the Mayor’s plan and that her plan in comparison would be a “teeny tiny” fraction of the cost. She said the MTA freight line runs perpendicular to proposed light rail and could potentially connect with it at Hunter’s Point.
Community Board 5 Transportation Committee and their District Manager Gary Giordano have all made comments supporting both Crowley’s plan and Goldfeder’s reactivation of the railway plan this past fall.
Vinnie Arcuri, chairman of CB 5 said he was not disappointed de Blasio chose the riverfront for a light rail proposal instead of South Queens, “It’s expected of him,” Arcuri said. “He doesn’t know what going on in the city or south Queens. He has no concept of master planning or planning for the future,” Arcuri said of the waterfront light rail, “It’s basically a tourist attraction,” and is disappointed that the administration has not looked into the reactivation of the Rockaway line. “No one is looking at the necessity of commuter rail service in Queens County.”
De Blasio boasted in his State of the City address, “Now, we are seeing explosive growth on the waterfront in Brooklyn and Queens.”
He added, “The neighborhoods that run along the East River from northern Queens to Sunset Park are home to over 400,000 people, including over 40,000 NYCHA residents and major employment hubs like Downtown Brooklyn, the Navy Yard, and the Sunset Park industrial cluster.”
DeBlasio said he believed the light rail could generate over $25 billion for the city.
Reach Reporter Jon Cronin at (718) 357-7400 x125, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JonathanSCronin