Rockaway Beach Line lands on state capital report

Rockaway Beach Line lands on state capital report

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli (l.) is standing with state Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder in his fight to restore an abandoned rail line in Rockaway.   Photo courtesy Assemblyman Goldfeder

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli (l.) is standing with state Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder in his fight to restore an abandoned rail line in Rockaway.
Photo courtesy Assemblyman Goldfeder

Advocates for the restoration and revival of the now vacant Rockaway Beach Rail Line saw their sentiments echoed on the state level this week.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli included the project on a capital needs report he released in conjunction with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, promoting it as an economic opportunity that should be taken advantage of.

In his report, DiNapoli said the MTA could utilize the abandoned branch as a means of boosting capacity and accessibility within a reasonable time frame.

“The MTA cites the former [Long Island Rail Road] Rockaway Beach Branch as an example of this approach,” the report said. “Restoring service on the Rockaway Beach Branch would be a less costly way to speed commutes between south Queens and Manhattan, improve travel within the borough and promote economic growth.”

State Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Park) has been a leader in the fight to reinstate the rail line, which once ran from Rockaway to Rego Park before being abandoned about 50 years ago. He said he was thrilled to see the state comptroller stand behind what so many transportation advocates in southern Queens have been already saying for so long.

“This report is a huge step forward and I will continue to work closely with State Comptroller DiNapoli, my colleagues and the MTA until the Rockaway Beach Rail Line becomes a reality,” Goldfeder said. “I applaud State Comptroller DiNapoli for his tireless efforts to assist our Queens families and improve transit services.”

The line was built around the turn of the century through the LIRR and allowed for 40-minute commutes from Rockaway to midtown Manhattan. Goldfeder has spent years fighting for the restoration of the line, which was once also known as the White Pot Junction Line.

“The MTA has to find a way to finance improvements without putting the financial burden on riders,” DiNapoli said. “This can be achieved only by working closely with the federal government, New York state and New York City to develop a long-term financing program and by using resources effectively and efficiently. Otherwise, needed repairs will be pushed even further into the future, and fares and tolls could rise even faster.”

Phil McManus, founder of the Queens Public Transit Committee, said the state comptroller’s support was welcome news for a transportation-starved southern Queens community.

“This is great news,” he said. “Our city, state and federal governments need to invest in transportation for all the people. Imagine the social, economic, recreational and environmental opportunities if we completely restored the Rockaway Beach Rail Line.”

Two years ago, Goldfeder called on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to immediately restore the line to ease commutes for southern Queens residents, and launched a petition months later that ultimately collected roughly 3,000 signatures to the cause. He also linked up with the Queens College office of community studies to conduct a feasibility study on the impacts that restoration would have, which was still in progress, he said.

“We are on the right track and I will continue to fight for full restoration to give our families the transportation we deserve,” he said. “In today’s difficult economy, complete restoration of the Rockaway Beach Rail Line would offer affordable, reliable transportation to those who desperately need it and prepare our city for future growth.”

By Phil Corso


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