The debate rages over an abandoned railroad track that runs from Ozone Park to Rego Park.
By Michael V. Cusenza
The debate over what to do with a roughly four-mile stretch of abandoned rail track in the middle of Queens perhaps reached its apex recently when both sides of the argument faced off at a forum at the Queens Chamber of Commerce offices in Jackson Heights.
What’s it all about? QueensRail vs. the QueensWay: public transportation vs. park land in the World’s Borough.
Proponents of the QueensRail are devoted to the reactivation of the Rockaway Beach Rail Line either as part of the Long Island Rail Road or, more likely, the City subway system. The defunct spur was put into service in the late 19th Century under the control of the LIRR 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 Rockaway Peninsula. In the early 1960s, parts of the railroad service were condensed, sectioned off, and it eventually closed in 1962.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is currently conducting a comprehensive feasibility study of the reactivation of the RBRL. The findings of the examination, which includes an assessment of transportation options and issues identified with restoring the QueensRail, are scheduled to be presented to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie by June 30.
According to the QueensRail Coalition, two options exist for revitalization of the RBRL: The Railroad Option would have the LIRR resume operations between Penn Station and Aqueduct. At least two stations would be built at Rego Park and at Aqueduct. The latter would allow transfers to the A train and to the AirTrain (if it was extended from Howard Beach). If rail cars are developed with the ability to operate on both lines, a one-seat ride from Midtown to JFK would be created, the coalition has noted.
The Subway Option would divert the R or M subway line east of 63rd Drive (via an already built connection) to the northern section of the Rockaway line. The subway would converge with the A train north of the Aqueduct Station and continue into the Rockaways. At Rego Park, two stations would be built, one for the subway and one for the LIRR mainline to permit transfers between the two services. This would allow Rockaway riders a quick trip to Midtown or to eastern points in Long Island.
Friends of the QueensWay are leading the effort “to transform a blighted stretch of abandoned railway in Central Queens into a family-friendly linear park and cultural greenway.” The QueensWay project involves converting the long-abandoned RBRL into a 47-acre, $120 million public park, similar to the Highline in Chelsea, boasting trails and amenities.
Plans call for park to include a bike, jogging and walking path, upgrades for the facilities of local Little Leagues, schools, community and cultural comforts.
“The QueensWay represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve the quality-of-life of Queens residents and provide a helpful boost to many of the Borough’s incredible businesses,” Thomas Grech, executive director of Queens Chamber of Commerce, said last summer. “The Queens Chamber of Commerce has been a proud supporter of the QueensWay since its inception and we are thrilled to be part of a diverse coalition advocating for its success and calling on the City to make the project a reality.”
Where do you stand on this issue? What would you rather see – more public transportation options? Or a state-of-the-art park? Let The Forum know at firstname.lastname@example.org