Study Proves Area Needs Rockaway Beach Rail Line: Advocates

Study Proves Area Needs Rockaway Beach Rail Line: Advocates

Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (at lectern) on Monday touted a Queens College study that he and other advocates said proves that the Rockaway Beach Rail Line is sorely needed in the southern section of the borough and the Rockaways. Photo by Michael V. Cusenza

Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (at lectern) on Monday touted a Queens College study that he and other advocates said proves that the Rockaway Beach Rail Line is sorely needed in the southern section of the borough and the Rockaways.
Photo by Michael V. Cusenza

The defunct Rockaway Beach Rail Line could generate a half a million subway rides per day, and many residents in the communities through which the line runs favor reactivation over transforming it into a park, according to the highly anticipated findings of a Queens College study that were released this week.

The student-led Department of Urban Studies analysis, “A Community Impact Study of Proposed Uses of the Rockaway Beach Branch Right of Way,” surveyed thousands of residents and researched available census data to gauge the transportation and park needs of Rego Park, Forest Hills, Glendale, Richmond Hill, Woodhaven and Ozone Park—the neighborhoods surrounding the abandoned line.The resulting report details existing transportation conditions and access to parkland in the surrounding communities, as well as provides residents’ opinions about the various uses for the right of way. In total, the study survey area encompasses a quarter of a million residents from all ethnic backgrounds and income levels.

While less than 500 of the nearly 6,000 surveys distributed to residents and business owners were returned, a majority of respondents favored reactivating the RBRL. According to the findings, “nearly half of all business owners who completed the study said using the rail line right of way for public transit would have a ‘significant positive’ impact on their business.” By comparison, less than a third believed that the proposed QueensWay park plan would have a similar impact.

“Restoring the rail line is the best option,” said Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Ozone Park) at an event on Monday unveiling the study’s findings. “The results of this study clearly show that reactivating the Rockaway Beach Rail Line is the most cost-effective way to decrease commute times, improve access to existing parkland and grow our small businesses in Queens.”

Reactivation would take years and anywhere from $700 to $900 million. U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Brooklyn and Manhattan), a member of the Congressional Subcommittee on Highways and Transit called it an “essential” project.

“If this region [wants this] we will find the money,” Nadler said.

In October, Friends of the QueensWay and the Trust for Public Land released the QueensWay Plan, a project that involves converting the RBRL into a 3.5-mile, $120 million public park boasting trails and amenities.

This week, the groups characterized the Queens College study as actually showing “no major statistical preference for rail.”

“Multiple studies by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Port Authority have shown that rail is not a viable option because of the extraordinary cost of building it, the significant increase in cost to commuters to use it, and the environmental and quality of life damage and disruption it would cause to the existing regional rail system,” said Friends of the QueensWay’s Travis Terry.

 

By Michael V. Cusenza

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