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Abandoned Rail Line Is Public Safety Hazard, Queens Senator Says

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | December 16, 2015 5:42pm
 State Sen. Joseph Addabbo said the abandoned rail line in Queens is
State Sen. Joseph Addabbo said the abandoned rail line in Queens is "a public health hazard" that needs to be fixed.
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Senator Addabbo's office

QUEENS — An abandoned rail line, which could become the borough's version of the High Line, has become "a public health hazard" that needs to be fixed, according to an official.

State Sen. Joe Addabbo, who represents Howard Beach, Ozone Park, Woodhaven and Glendale, said he is planning to reach out to several city agencies, including the Department of Citywide Administrative Services and the Mayor’s Office, to repair the derelict Rockaway Beach Rail Line that connected Forest Hills, Rego Park, Richmond Hill and Ozone Park, until it closed in 1962.

Addabbo's main concern is the structural integrity of the overpasses, "including some support beams that are riddled with gaping holes in the center," he said.

The rail line could be converted into a 3.5-mile linear park as part of the proposed QueensWay, which envisions bicycle and pedestrian paths as well as sports facilities and an adventure park.

That proposal faces opposition from several groups that want to reactivate the train service instead.

But the debate over its future use fails to address “the vulnerable and unsafe conditions" of the current defunct line, Addabbo said.

The rust-covered structure, located near the intersection of Yellowstone Boulevard and Alderton Street in Forest Hills, poses an immediate threat to drivers and pedestrians, he said.

“Regardless of what project, if any, might eventually come to fruition at this site, this unused rail and its stanchions still sit in this community right now in an extremely poor condition that could potentially cause serious harm to countless people,” Addabbo said in a statement.

“Before we can talk about turning this rail line into anything at all, it needs to be safe to the public." 

The Long Island Rail Road sold the Rockaway Beach Branch to the city in 1953, and, according to the MTA, "retained no property interest or maintenance obligation of any sort."

Andrea Crawford, a member of Friends of the QueensWay, said that while the “structure couldn’t carry trains, much of it is actually in good shape.”

“Can it carry modern equipment? No. But in terms of being sound to carry maintenance and people? Yes,” said Crawford, adding that "whatever needs to be structurally restored, will be" repaired once the project moves forward. 

It would cost about $120 million to build the QueensWay, according to a feasibility study, which was released last year. 

The Trust for Public Land has been raising funds for the project.