MTA Report Suggests Reactivating Abandoned Rockaway Rail Line

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska on October 7, 2013 4:17pm 

 The Rockaway rail line was closed in 1962 and has since become home to little more than weeds, trash and graffiti.
The Rockaway rail line was closed in 1962 and has since become home to little more than weeds, trash and graffiti.
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DNAinfo/Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska

QUEENS — A new MTA report suggests reactivating the abandoned Rockaway Beach branch of the Long Island Rail Road, which some want to transform into the Queens' version of Manhattan's High Line.

The reference to the railway, which could help commuters traveling within the borough, consists of only one paragraph in the MTA’s 20-year 'Capital Needs Assessment,' which is almost 150-pages long.

“A possible option is the utilization of abandoned or underutilized Rights of Way such as the LIRR Bay Ridge Branch (linking southern and eastern Brooklyn with Central and northern Queens) or the abandoned Rockaway Beach Branch (linking Howard Beach and Ozone Park with Woodhaven) as transverse routes linking radial subway lines,” the document said.

Utilizing the old lines, the document also said, “could help reduce land acquisition and construction costs, and facilitate construction time in densely developed areas.”

That reference has led the supporters of reusing the 3.5-mile abandoned railway, connecting Forest Hills, Rego Park, Richmond Hill and Ozone Park, to press for a feasibility study to examine that option.

“The MTA has done their part by putting the plan on the table,” said Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder who represents Howard Beach and The Rockaways, and has been strongly advocating for the project. “Now, I have to go to Albany and fight for the funding — first for a feasibility study and then for the money to rebuild the line.”

The Rockaway rail line was closed in 1962 and has since become home to little more than weeds, trash and graffiti.

MTA spokesman, Kevin Ortiz, said the assessment is used “to highlight some potential things to look at over that time period … not what we are planning on doing.”

He also said that no funding has been allocated for the project.

But Goldfeder said that "every project has to start somewhere.” He also said that reactivating the rail line is the only way “to service the 2.4 million people in Queens.”

“Any other plan is short-sighted,” he noted. The project is also backed by groups like the Rockaway Transit Coalition and other elected officials including Rep. Gregory Meeks and state Senator Tony Avella.

Meanwhile, a feasibility study for the QueensWay is underway, after the Trust for Public Land received a $467,000 grant from the state’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the Regional Economic Development Council for the analysis.

Andrea Crowford, vice chairwoman of Queens Community Board 9 and a member of the Friends of the QueensWay, an advocacy group supporting the project, dismissed the idea of reactivating the line.

She said that a short paragraph on page 127 of the lengthy MTA document does not mean the project “is being considered.”

She also said that the reactivation of the rail link “would take decades and billions of dollars, presuming you could alienate the parkland and potentially engage in eminent domain.”

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