BY JON CRONIN
Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Park) pitched his ideas on the reactivation of the Rockaway Rail Line in a chat on South Queens Transportation issues with the Woodhaven Residents Block Association last Thursday.
“It has been a long time coming that this meeting is taking place,” said Goldfeder.
He started off by noting, “When I was kid in the Rockaways transportation was the number one issue.”
The topic is the same today, but he pointed out, “there is only so much you can improve the current infrastructure.”
That is where the reactivation comes in. Goldfeder has stated many times that the LIRR line was shut down in 1962 because of how little it was used. In those 54 years the population has grown exponentially and his argument is that although the railway is overgrown, they still have the right of way and further noted that the High Line Park in Manhattan is not only a beautiful park, but also preserves the right of way in case railway is needed once again.
Goldfeder stated that he is realistic about the project. He knows that if it happens it will take well over five years – but he is thinking down the line about his children’s generation and the generation after that.
He noted that in January 2012 shortly after he took office, he was asked to write an article in the Daily News about transportation. “I wrote about the reactivation of the Rockaway Rail Line,” he said, then added, “Everyone laughed at me.”
Six days later, he noted, Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a State of the State Address announcing that the biggest convention center in the state would be built at aqueduct, “Suddenly Phil’s, not so crazy anymore,” Goldfeder said.
Now five years later, he has gotten the MTA to conduct a feasibility study that will be finished by the end of June 2017.
Alex Blenkinsopp, director of communications for the WRBA, stated that they have not supported this idea in the past and have recently asked the MTA to study that right of way as a bus lane.
Vance Barbour, WRBA member, said, “to a hammer everything is a nail,” illustrating that the MTA, a transit company, should not be in charge of judging whether or not this is a good plan for that right of way.
Neil Gianelli, a Woodhaven resident, whose home abuts the Rockaway Rail Line, pointed out that the right of way is owned by the City and believes some of that land is now considered part of his property.
Goldfeder acknowledged that Gianelli is correct. They are unsure of who owns what parts of the right of way. He said there are some unused parts of Forest Park they will have to take back.
“I just want to keep the conversation going,” he said.