On Feb. 28, the Coalition for QueensRail and Friends of the QueensWay met inside the Queens Chamber of Commerce Bulova Corporate Center Conference Room in Jackson Heights to debate the merits of their plans for the long-defunct Rockaway Beach Rail Line.
The RBRL is a roughly four-mile spur that was put into service in the late 19th Century under the control of the Long Island Rail Road and connected Rockaway and southern Queens with Rego Park, provided area residents with expedient access to other parts of the city, and 40-minute commutes to Midtown Manhattan from the Peninsula. In the early 1960s, parts of the railroad service were condensed, sectioned off, and eventually closed in 1962.
The Coalition is “devoted to reactivation of the QueensRail route – either as part of the LIRR or, more likely, the NYC subway system.”
Friends of the QueensWay are pushing to “transform a blighted stretch of abandoned railway in Central Queens into a family-friendly linear park and cultural greenway.”
Former Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, an ardent supporter of the QueensRail, has said, “Tens of thousands of Queens families are forced to endure some of the longest commutes in the city…reactivation is the best and most cost-effective way to speed commute times for our families and boost our local economy.”
Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills), an early funder of the QueensWay, said last summer, “The Queensway Plan will benefit our local economy, allow an additional green space in our urban landscape, and will literally link local communities together…”
Both sides, for years, have presented clear, cogent arguments for their respective projects. However, only one side, in our opinion, heralds the option that is absolutely critical to the future success of our beloved borough.
All aboard the QueensRail.
For decades, the southern section of Queens has been, for all intents and purposes, ignored when it comes to public transportation. Several communities have actually been dubbed “transportation deserts.”
Think about that. Deserts. This is 2017, right?
The fact that it can take some people who live and work in the same city more than an hour and a half to get to that job is nothing short of pathetic. It’s ludicrous. So if you can reactivate a public transit option that can quite literally change the lives of thousands of people – including the business owners in these transportation deserts – why wouldn’t you go for it?
We can also appreciate the benefits of a High Line-style, state-of-the-art park smack-dab in the center of the World’s Borough. This option, too, could mean a tremendous boost to individual neighborhood economies and, through an anticipated tourism boon, create a new, lucrative identity for Queens.
But we see this as need vs. want. And Queens desperately needs more transportation options.
If we can find the public-private partnership to develop 47-acre park, then we can find the right public-private partnership to help make the Rail a reality. It would mean so much to so many people.
We’re with the Coalition, especially when it calls the QueensRail a “critical investment in public transportation for this and future generations.”