A majority of Queens residents are reportedly in favor of the QueensWay – a proposal to turn 3.5 miles of abandoned rail line running through parts of the borough’s southern and central neighborhoods, according to a poll released this week.
Conducted by the independent research firm Whitman Insight Strategies, the poll surveyed 500 Queens residents of voting age. Of those 500, 76 were from the neighborhoods that the green space would run through – including Forest Hills, Woodhaven, Rego Park, Ozone Park, and Richmond Hill – and 396 were from other areas throughout the borough.
According to the poll, which was released Tuesday, 77 percent of the residents surveyed in the neighborhoods directly impacted support the proposal, while 76 percent of individuals in other areas of Queens said they back the plan that has landed criticism from those in the borough who instead hope the rail line will be reactivated.
“The research is clear that this is something the people of Queens want,” said Scott Kotchko, senior vice president at Whitman Insight Strategies. “Quality of life in the outer boroughs of New York City, especially in Queens, has always been a key issue. It is one of the many reasons why residents choose to live there. This poll shows that the QueensWay project directly addresses the public need for more open space.”
Often referred to as Queens’ High Line – the area in Manhattan that was transformed from an abandoned rail line to a public park – the QueensWay has garnered the support of a number of area civic leaders, including Community Board 9 executive committee members Andrea Crawford and Ivan Mrakovcic and Queens Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jack Friedman.
“The poll reveals overwhelming support for the QueensWay, as studies show that rails to trails projects, like the QueensWay, encourage private investment in the communities they serve, attract tourism dollars, provide a new customer base to support local businesses and create jobs,” Friedman said.
But not everyone is happy with the proposal – including a number of elected officials. Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Park) and U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Queens, Brooklyn) have long supported reactivating the Rockaway Beach Rail Line that once ran from the Rockaways to Rego Park but has fallen into disrepair after being abandoned for decades. Those in support of rejuvenating a railroad said it would bring much needed public transportation to parts of the borough poorly served by subways and buses – particularly in South Queens and Rockaway.
Recently, Goldfeder and other civic leaders, including Philip McManus, who recently founded the Queens Public Transit Committee to fight for, among other things, the reactivation of the Rockaway railroad, said they were heartened by the news that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority included rejuvenating the long dormant travel corridor in its plans for the future.
Several weeks ago, the MTA released its 20-year Capital Needs Assessment plan, which included the restoration of the Rockaway line.
A blueprint for the agency’s vision for upcoming infrastructure projects, the plan does not, however, include any funding for a project that would inevitably be costly – and a number of Queens residents have said they believe the price-tag leaves reactivating the rail line dead in the water.
Goldfeder, in a previous statement, called the MTA’s report a “huge step forward” and said he will “continue to work closely with my colleagues, Gov. Cuomo and the MTA until the Rockaway Beach Rail Line becomes a reality.
“The MTA has heard our calls for smart investment in existing right of ways to improve transit infrastructure, create jobs, while helping each family in Queens and across the city in their daily commutes.”
McManus has argued that such a reactivation is crucial to the financial well-being of the borough because it opens up possibilities for people to quickly travel throughout Queens – something not easily accomplished with public transportation in the borough now.
“The Rockaway Beach Line will unite Queens socially and economically and reduce commuter travel times and pollution,” McManus said in a previous interview.
By Anna Gustafson