The Real Deal New York

Debate over High Line-style park in Queens heats up, post-Sandy

December 17, 2012 09:00AM

The affects of Hurricane Sandy on Queens has galvanized the debate surrounding a 3.5-mile stretch of above-ground rail line connecting central Queens to the Rockaway peninsula, Crain’s reported. A community organization, known as the Friends of Queensway, for months has been fighting for a High Line-style park, which could revitalize the area with new restaurants and shops. But following the storm, the need for better infrastructure, particularly better transportation, has become apparent, and more voices are being raised in favor of restoring the old railroad line.

“We need better transportation,” Lew Simon, a Democratic district leader and chairman for the Rockaway Transit Coalition, said. “I will fight to the end for it.”

If restored — at an estimated cost of approximately $500 million — the line could halve to commute time to Manhattan for residents of Howard Beach, Ozone Park and Rockaway and reconnect Rego Park to the Long Island Railroad’s main line.

However, advocates for the park argue that the line’s proximity to hundreds of residential homes makes restoring the line a danger and a value suppressant, while a park could increase area home values.

“The [right of way] runs next to hundreds, if not thousands of homes,” said Andrea Crawford, chair of the Friends of Queensway, a nonprofit group of community activists. “Residents don’t want the noise pollution or the potential danger of speeding trains.” [Crain’s] —Christopher Cameron 

  • Bring Back LIRR Service

    The “Friends of Queensway” argument of “… noise pollution or the potential danger of speeding trains” is as phony as a three-dollar bill, as those of us from Long Island who grew up and lived and still live along an LIRR line (at grade, not less, with crossing gates). The Rockaway Beach Branch has NO grade crossings. Also, the “speeding train complaint” and “our kids could be killed on the tracks” is a typical sign of today’s “Me Generation” parents who don’t feel that they are responsible for teaching their children just plain common sense. It is also a sign of their total selfishness regarding the people of the Rockaways and those living in the area of the line’s stations in Parkside – Metropolitan Ave., Brooklyn Manor, Woodhaven, and Ozone Park who would benefit enormously from a fast and easy commute to and from Manhattan, and JFK Airport. The MTA could construct commuter bridges in Forest Hills so people could cross the line by the Little League fields. Ornate sound-deadening walls, such as along expressways and other railroad lines throughout the country, could be built where the line is near backyards. Finally, the concrete ties and welded rail used on today’s lines would especially lower track sound levels. Also, of benefit to all communities, the existing LIRR Far Rockaway branch could be extended back to Mott Avenue and re-connected to its former viaduct to provide the efficient loop and point-to-point service between Manhattan and the Rockaways and JFK via the Rockaway Beach Branch and the Babylon Branch through Valley Stream. It should be remembered that the railroad has been there since 1880; the houses invaded the railroad’s back yard, not the other way around. And the financial benefits from businesses affect the entire state, not just New York City. It’s about time those fat-cat NIMBYers started thinking about the other 19.2 million affected financially and not just themselves. The line’s doing them no favors as it is, and a greenway in place of such a badly needed line is ridiculous.

  • Bring Back LIRR Service

    Here’s one idea to “evolve” service growth as an interim scheme: Reactivate the LIRR connection between Atlantic Avenue and the Rockaway Beach Branch at Ozone Park. Run LIRR service from Flatbush Ave. to JFK-Howard Beach, and, eventually, LIRR through service to Far Rockaway to Penn Station via Valley Stream, with the A train serving Rockaway Park. Downtown Brooklyn would definitely benefit from a direct and fast JFK connection, and passengers from the Manhattan Financial District would certainly benefit with an easy connection from two major subway lines at Atlantic Ave. to the LIRR fast train to JFK. It would certainly aid in making the AirTrain relevant.