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Rebuilt Rockaway Rail Line Would Boost Forest Hills Shopping Area, Pol Says

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | December 13, 2012 4:26pm

QUEENS — A Queens pol is pushing to revitalize a long-abandoned Long Island Rail Road branch, arguing that the project would give a much needed economic boost to the entire borough, including the Forest Hills shopping area.

Assemblyman Philip Goldfeder, who represents the Rockaways and Howard Beach, areas that were damaged by Hurricane Sandy, said rebuilding the Rockaway Beach Branch of the LIRR, which has been abandoned for more than 50 years, would help revitalize the devastated areas.

Other neighborhoods would benefit, too, he said.

“It provides intraborough connectivity, which right now we don’t have,” Goldfeder said at a Community Board 6 meeting Wednesday night.

He said Southern Queens doesn’t have the sort of shopping areas that Forest Hills boasts and that the rail line would make the commute between the two areas much easier.

“But (now), if I want to support these local stores, I can’t get here,” he said.

Goldfeder called his proposal “a way to assure that this borough has growth opportunity for many years.”

He also said that the line, which runs through Ozone Park, Richmond Hill, Woodhaven, Forest Hills and Rego Park, would make the commute to Manhattan much easier for the residents of Southern Queens.

At the same time, it would allow people from Manhattan to get to Kennedy airport or the Aqueduct Casino faster.

His presentation got a lukewarm reception from community board members who said the area is already dealing with problems related to the Long Island Rail Road, which runs through Forest Hills.

“I can’t begin to tell you how many calls I get from people complaining about the railroad going very fast and blowing their horn,” said Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz, who attended the community board meeting.

Koslowitz also said that many people from Long Island come to Forest Hills to park their cars in order to take the train to Manhattan. That causes congestion and increases pollution and another rail road branch would make the situation even worse, she said.

Other board members said the project did not seem feasible.

“Who is going to pay for this?” said Barbara Stuchinski, who is also the president of the Forest Hills Civic Association. “It’s going to be an enormous financial burden.”

Another proposal for the old rail line plans to turn the line into the "QueensWay," which would be a park similar to the High Line in Manhattan.

Goldfeder, who came to the meeting wearing a sweatshirt with the letter H on it, symbolizing the H shuttle train, reactivated in the Rockaways after sections of the A and S lines in the area were too damaged to be reopened, admitted that the project would be challenging from logistical and financial points of view. 

But as an example of the idea's feasibility, he mentioned the ferry service, which started operating between the Rockaways and Manhattan about a week after Hurricane Sandy struck New York.

He said the ferry project seemed to be impossible for many years, but it was completed quickly when it was needed.