Photo Courtesy of Laura Deckelman
Sen. Addabbo was among five candidates to participate in last Thursday’s forum organized by the Queens Public Transit Committee.
By Mike Scala
The Queens Public Transit Committee last Thursday evening hosted a candidates night in Rockaway Beach featuring incumbents and those vying for seats at the federal and state tables sharing their views on area transportation issues, including the Rockaway Beach Rail Line, Select Bus Service, and the Vision Zero initiative.
The forum was held at the Knights of Columbus Council 2672 on Beach 90th Street. State Sen. Joe Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach) and 15th Senatorial District challenger Michael Conigliaro participated, as did 23rd Assembly District candidates Stacey Pheffer Amato and Alan Zwirn, the GOP nominee. Michael O’Reilly, running on the Republican ticket to represent the 5th Congressional District, also presented his transit plans. Due to duties on the Hill in Washington, O’Reilly’s opponent, U.S. Rep. Greg Meeks (D-Jamaica), could not attend.
The reactivation of the Rockaway Beach Rail Line, or QueensRail, proved to be the most contentious issue of the evening. The QPTC has long advocated for restoration of the defunct, four-mile spur that once connected Rockaway and southern Queens with Rego Park, and provided area residents with expedient access to Midtown Manhattan and other parts of the city. Both Assembly hopefuls, as well as O’Reilly, pledged to support plans that called for reactivation.
The Senate contenders, however, were more measured in their responses.
Addabbo said that he frequently broached the issue with Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast, but indicated that he did not want to get his constituents’ hopes up until the MTA was fully behind the project. According to published reports, the agency’s study to determine the feasibility of various implementation options is just getting underway. Conigliaro also cited the upcoming study, adding that he would prefer a quiet train, busway or light rail.
When it came to the proposed QueensWay, the concept to turn the former rail line into a linear park, opposition was unanimous.
Conigliaro, who ran against Addabbo two years ago, said he supported other park projects, but not the QueensWay concept. Addabbo noted that opponents of the rail project are adamantly against the park idea as well, because the latter, they have reasoned, could attract more criminal activity to their neighborhoods.
Select Bus Service on Cross Bay and Woodhaven boulevards was another major issue, with each candidate expressing concerns about particular features, such as losing lane capacity, removing left turns and forcing bus riders into the median. None of the candidates endorsed the plan, which has also been opposed by the committee. Zwirn was especially critical of Mayor Bill de Blasio, whom he characterized as unwilling to work with the community on this and other matters.
The City’s Vision Zero initiative was widely criticized, in principle, by the candidates.
“They’re trying to get us out of our cars,” O’Reilly said.
Other forum topics included the Citywide Ferry, improving the A train, speed limits, red-light cameras, bike lanes, funding for transit infrastructure and the elimination of tolls.
Mike Scala is an attorney and the first vice president of the Queens Public Transit Committee