QUEENS — Two Queens congressmen said they are backing a plan to restore an abandoned Queens rail line, instead of turning the tracks into a High Line-style public park called the QueensWay — and want to to use Hurricane Sandy funds to make it happen.
The move by Reps. Gregory Meeks and Hakeem Jeffries, who represent Brooklyn as well as parts of Howard Beach and Ozone Park, could be a setback to the QueensWay project, which has been gaining supporters during the past several months and received a $467,000 grant for a feasibility study from the state last year.
The derelict Rockaway Beach Rail Line, which closed in 1962, used to connect Forest Hills, Rego Park, Richmond Hill and Ozone Park, but it has since become home to mostly trush and graffiti.
The elected officials argue that restoring the line would revitalize local economy and offer faster commute options to the area devastated by Hurricane Sandy.
“Restoring the rail line would speed up the pace of recovery for residents and local businesses and create hundreds of jobs while laying the foundation for a transportation network that accommodates our future growth,” said Meeks, who represents Far Rockaway and Jamaica, at a press conference held on Sunday in Ozone Park.
Meeks, along with Jeffries and Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder, who represents the Rockaways and Howard Beach, sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood asking him to allocate a portion of Hurricane Sandy federal disaster recovery aid in New York towards restoration of the line.
“Nearly five months after Sandy, many small businesses and homeowners are still suffering from the extensive damage caused by the storm,” the elected officials wrote in their letter. “The creation of an enhanced and sustainable transportation infrastructures is not only necessary in the post-Sandy environment, but crucial for our families as a robust evacuation route in the event of a future disaster.”
New York State could receive $50 billion in federal disaster aid through the Sandy relief bill.
The elected officals also argued that the restoration of the rail line would provide intra-borough connectivity and faster commute to Manhattan instead of the A train.
“Although Superstorm Sandy destroyed our coastlines and paralyzed our communities, we have an opportunity to rebuild the City in a smart and sustainable way that proactively addresses our future needs,” said Rep. Jeffries. “Residents of Southern Brooklyn and Queens currently face the longest commute averages in the City because of the lack of reliable transportation.”
It took about 40 minutes to get from Southern Queens to Penn Station when the line was operating, elected officials said.
Goldfeder, who has been a staunch supporter of the project, gathered nearly 3,000 signatures for a petition in support of revitalizing the line.
“It became evident after Sandy that we need to increase public transit options and improve our infrastructure for our neighborhoods in Southern Queens and Rockaway,” he said.