“Queensway” Study Underway While Rail Study Prospects Advance

No-way NIMBYs are of concern for pro-park Queensway advocates. Photo credit: Kathi Ko

NIMBYs are of concern for pro-park and pro-rail advocates. | Photo: Kathi Ko

Rail advocates make a splash at the Queensway public input meeting in Ozone Park. Photo Credit: Gregory Homatas.

Rail advocates make a splash at the Queensway public input meeting in Ozone Park. | Photo: Gregory Homatas

Shortly after this piece was published, we learned that New York Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder, along with faculty, students, and staff from the Queens College Urban Studies Department, will launch a community impact study to help assess the best use for the Rockaway Beach Line’s abandoned tracks.

Since MTR last visited the proposal to transform the abandoned LIRR Rockaway Beach Line (RBL) into a 3.5 mile elevated park (known as the Queensway), a feasibility study for the project has been launched with the support of state funding and private donations. The official project team includes the Trust for Public LandFriends of the Queensway, and design consultants WXY Architecture and DLand Studio, and community outreach specialists the Hester Street Collaborative.

Over the course of the past two weeks, three public meetings have been held in the neighborhoods where the right-of-way runs (Woodhaven, Forest Hills and Ozone Park). These meetings provided no shortage of evidence that the project continues to live up to its title as the city’s “most controversial potential park,” with tensions rising between Queensway park advocates and “no-way Queensway” opponents who would prefer to leave the right-of-way as-is.

Meanwhile, a third group has been organizing rallies, forums and petition drives to garner support behind not converting the railway, but reactivating it. These railway reactivation advocates have been working to educate the public about how reintroducing rail service to the Rockaway Beach Line would benefit transit-starved communities in southern Queens and the Rockaways.

Although those pushing for the Queensway have garnered the most visibility in recent months, backers of rail reactivation have been winning growing political support. This past summer, then-candidate for Public Advocate Cathy Guerriero and State Senator Tony Avella lined up behind rail advocates, including long-time supporters U.S. Representatives Hakeem Jeffries and Greg Meeks, Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder and Assemblymember Mike Miller, who believes a segment of the RBL right-of-way from Atlantic Avenue to Rockaway Boulevard “can eventually be used by the MTA as an express line connection into Manhattan.”

Opponents to rail reactivation say the project will be too expensive, too impractical, and too impossible, but the only way to know its technical aspects, costs and impact is to conduct a feasibility study — something Queensway park backers are already doing – and something Tri-State called for earlier in the study process. A study for rail may not be so far off: this past spring, Representatives Hakeem Jeffries and Greg Meeks endorsed a proposal calling for federal support for feasibility study for reactivation, and this fall, the MTA gave RBL reactivation a nod in their 20-year Capital Needs Assessment.

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6 comments to “Queensway” Study Underway While Rail Study Prospects Advance

  • Philip McManus

    We need help. We need you to get involved. Don’t be a spectator.

    We need to grow and build community support for the Queens Rockaway Beach Line, faster transportation.

    Thank you to everyone who came to the QueensWay meeting on Wednesday. We stood up and spoke up together for what is right.

    Thank you also to Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder and Queens College for organizing this affordable study.

    The reactivation of the Queens Rockaway Beach Line will expand the transit system, increase social and economic opportunities, increase property values and tax revenue.

    The RBL will increase transit options including faster travel times to work, home, school, shopping, recreation, dining, family visits, and doctor visits.

    The RBL will decrease pollution, accidents, unemployment, crime and government dependence, reduce present and future overcrowding and unreliable buses, trains and roadways at a much, much greater level than the QueensWay plan.

    The QueensWay plan sounds good but it will only benefit a few people and a small area of Queens. It’s the small plan while the transportation plan is the big plan, the most inclusive plan.

    Reusing the Queens RBL for transportation is the best plan. It will reunite north and south Queens and decrease travel times and increase investments for everyone especially the poor and middle class areas that are underserved, excluded and separated from the American dream.

    The QueensWay plan and the No Way plan are exclusive and divide our borough. It also prevents development and investments in Queens.

    We need jobs and businesses for all the people so we can grow and help each other.

    The NIMBYS plans do nothing or very little to support Queens and the City.

    Please consider reusing the Queens Rockaway Beach Line for transportation with beautification.

    Tell your family and friends and commuters to sign our petitions to support the Reactivation of the Queens Rockaway Beach Line, the New Queens Crosstown, eliminate the toll on the Queens Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge for everyone and expand the Queens Rockaway Ferry:

    http://www.rockawaybeachrail.com/
    •change.org/petitions/governor-andrew-m-cuomo-reactivate-the-lirr-rockaway-line-in-central-queens
    http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/Phillip-Goldfeder/story/45022/
    http://www.keeprockawayferry.com

    Philip McManus
    Queens Public Transit Committee
    718-474-0315

    718-679-5309

    rowing612@aol.com

    Facebook.com/RockawayBeachRailLine

    Twitter.com/RBL1910

    http://rockawaybranchline.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-queens-public-transit-committee-for.html?m=1

    http://www.QueensPublicTransit.com

  • The QueensWay proposal did not arise out of opposition to a train. For 50 years it has been the fact that neither MTA, the City of New York nor the State of New York have had any desire to rebuild a train line along this corridor. For 50 years, we the residents living along it have watched the space fill with garbage, abandoned vehicles, drugs, gang activity, etc. For 50 years it has posed a danger to our children and our homes.

    The QueensWay offers a solution to these issues and several others. Far from being the “small plan” suggested by Mr. McManus, the QueensWay provides much needed park space to an area of Queens that is actually poorly served by park land and green spaces. Each of the districts it runs through are in the bottom half of districts in the City for park space on a per capita basis. 250,000 people live within a 1-mile walk of this space, nearly twice the population of the Rockaways – which, incidentally is already served by rail transportation. It will also provide a bikeway that will supplement transportation in the area providing faster door-to-door travel between homes, schools, work, transportation and shopping. Most travel in New York City is over distances of less than 3 miles, a distance easily covered by bike, particularly when combined with other transportation methods. Further, the QueensWay provides easier access between neighborhoods and is expected to draw tourist dollars in to the neighborhoods along its length. These are all things that a train line with just a few stops, effectively flying over these neighborhoods will fail to accomplish.

    MTA has studied this corridor three times, twice in connection with possible AirTrain use, and it was determined each time that the project would be exceedingly expensive and lacked the ridership to support it (if done as a subway and tunnel is needed under Rego Park the cost will skyrocket). As a group, subway ridership on the A train in the Rockaways is some of the lowest in the entire system, not boding well for any future expanded rail service. Proponents of rebuilding a rail line – and to be clear there is nothing to “reactivate,” no rails, power or signal infrastructure or stations, it must all be built anew – insist that if the line is built, riders will appear, but offer no support for this assertion beyond their strongly held belief. Previous studies by the MTA did not support this position. Further, the idea that workers all commute to midtown is greatly outdated. Many more workers these days are commuting between boroughs or making the reverse commute out of the City. Replacing, or reducing A-train service to support a “Midtown Direct” just as likely will harm the commutes of many potential riders as it is to help others.

    Additionally, if the goal is to improve transportation in Southern Queens, then there are several other options that likely can be implemented more quickly at less cost and which serve more people, i.e.: permanent Fast Ferry service to the Rockaways, a true BRT-style SBS along Crossbay and Woodhaven Blvds and reopening one or more of the shuttered stations under Atlantic Avenue along the LIRR line (which when combined with future planes to connect downtown Brooklyn to downtown Manhattan would provide direct and faster access from Southern Queens to Manhattan). These options deserve our focus and attention instead of narrowly focusing on a train that the MTA and the State are not interested in building and whose benefits are questionable.

    And while welcomed, it should be noted that the Queens College study is not designed to actually evaluate the feasibility of building a rail line. It will not evaluate potential costs between design alternatives or other transportation options mentioned above; will not evaluate engineering issues; and, will not evaluate MTA’s ability to fund construction and operation of the line. It also is not designed to evaluate how much service could actually be provided, as track and platform space on whichever mainline it was connected to is already tightly scheduled (even with the opening of East Side Access, MTA has already signaled that the regained track capacity in to Penn Station would be used to increase service to Long Island communities that currently experience limited service).

    And all of these considerations are before you reach the fact that approximately 22 acres of the ROW have already been mapped as park land and would require alienation and replacement somewhere else in the City and ignores the land uses on and near the ROW that have developed over the past 50 years and are guaranteed to lead to massive political and likely legal battles.

    So we chose not to wait another 50 years, watching the line fill up with more garbage. We chose to act and to give our communities a practical amenity that goes well beyond a park and unites our neighborhoods. We hope you will recognize that the QueensWay can be a productive part of the transportation mix in central and southern Queens and will support expanding the several different transportation options, that in combination with the QueensWay would actually serve more people, over a greater area, than this single-minded focus on a train that will primarily benefit a relatively few midtown commuters.

    To learn more please visit:

    http://www.thequeensway.org
    http://www.thequeenswayplan.org/
    http://thequeenswayplan.mindmixer.com/

    and on Facebook at:

    https://www.facebook.com/TheQueensWay

  • R Troy

    When I first heard that the Port Authority was building the train to the plan – from Jamaica to JFK, I was shocked, since I knew there was a far better way to do it. Even today, a connection to JFK into the city – without the pain and expense of using LIRR would be really great for the city – and if the city could also improve mass transit for a good chunk of Queens in the process, it truly should. And yes, don’t just rebuild – do it so trains are safe and quiet, and that where ever possible and practical that the area looks a lot cleaner and nicer, and if possible, add some park and walking space.

  • [...] QueensWay Park Workshops Continue as Rail Proponents Announce Their Own Study (DNA, MTR) [...]

  • Brendan Read

    There are several problems with the QueensWay proposals and the arguments for it:

    1. Few other mass transit proposals in the Tri-State region offer the opportunity to significantly reduce travel times to a wide region as restoring the RBL for relatively low costs when compared with the billions of dollars being spent on new and expanded subway lines and underground rail links.

    An examination of the PRR/LIRR pre-1950 trestle fire schedules (which severed the line) showed trip times as low as 43 minutes from Far Rockaway (52 minutes all stops), and 20 minutes from Ozone Park to Penn Station (8th and 34th). In contrast, the A train takes approximately 70 minutes and over 40 minutes respectively.

    The RBL would also greatly shorten intra-Queens transit travel times, like from Howard Beach, Ozone Park, the Rockaways, and Woodhaven to the colleges, the new Citifield and the Queens Center malls, Flushing, LGA, and Long Island City. Few of these trips are possible for most people on bicycles.

    Equally importantly, the RBL can also support and sustain growth at JFK Airport by providing a faster, cleaner, option to taking existing overcrowded LIRR and NYCT trains; JFK’s outbound flying peak period coincides with the PM rush period. Benefits you won’t get with the trail-only QueensWay.

    The net result is that faster mass transit travel means more people diverted out of private vehicles, resulting in fewer emissions and accidents, while generating more sustainable (and job-creating) transit-oriented development, which also could especially help economically-beleaguered areas like the Rockaways. The economic, including environmental and healthcare, social, as well as transportation benefits of the RBL makes it a paying proposition.

    2. The travel arguments to support the QueensWay i.e. “most travel in New York City is over distances of less than 3 miles” are misleading. The distances between homes, businesses, employers, schools, and activities in central and southern Queens are much greater than in Manhattan or in much of Brooklyn, and the Bronx, and is more comparable to Staten Island. Queens also is home to many families. And as to the statement “particularly when combined with other transportation methods”, try that with kids, strollers, and bags.

    3. The RBL has never been abandoned. It is still, for legal purpose, a rail line. Anyone who has been given access to it does so in the full knowledge that it can be turned back into a rail line. Much like easements across properties.

    There’s a certain irony with the opposition of some in Queens to rail and subway lines in that had some Queens neighborhoods embraced, or not opposed the Montauk-Archer subway proposal, it would have opened the door to a connection with the RBL that would have also provided subway service to the Rockaways through the 63rd St. tunnel. In turn that development would have made less of a case of reopening the RBL section to Rego Park (known as the Glendale Cutoff) by Forest Hills.

    4. The bus and ferry alternatives that QueensWay advocates suggest just aren’t realistic. Unless you rip out and wholly dedicate two lanes to BRT, with stations, out of Cross Bay/Woodhaven Blvd. you are not going to achieve anywhere near the speed of the RBL. Even then you will not achieve the scale of transit-oriented development as you would have with rail. One key debilitating fact is that customers must, for most trips, require transfers to local (and overcrowded) subway trains.

    As to ferries they have high operating costs, are subject to weather and wave conditions, and they cannot serve inland points (i.e. midtown, Long Island City) without extensive transfers. Only the RBL can provide that access quickly.

    5. The argument minimizing the midtown commuting market i.e. “workers all commute to midtown is greatly outdated” is ludicrous. If it made sense then why is the MTA spending billions of dollars to extend the LIRR to Grand Central? And why are billions of dollars are also being spent to extend the No.7? Why has the city been looking at densifying the east Midtown area?

    Almost in the same breath the QueensWay advocates also say “these days are commuting between boroughs or making the reverse commute out of the City.” Hmm, let’s thinks this last point through for a moment. Wouldn’t providing a faster, more direct service via the RBL to either GCT or Penn Station make mass transit more viable for reverse commuting, through connections with Metro North or NJ Transit respectively (and Metro North to Penn when it extends its Hudson and New Have Lines)?

    6. The MTA has never really studied re-opening the RBL in a full, open, and proper manner and methodology, with public input and including alternatives analysis, like projects that seek FTA funding (like ESA, Second Avenue Subway, etc.) must undertake. The MTA’s “study” was attacked for those reasons.

    http://www.rockawave.com/news/2001-02-17/Front_Page/MTA_Derails_Rockaway_LIRR_Plan0217.html

    Significantly, according to the paper “The estimated time to midtown Manhattan would be 30 to 40 minutes, at least 50 percent faster than subways and buses.”

    Lastly, if restoring the RBL is expensive, and disruptive, try building a new subway or elevated line (e.g. under or along Woodhaven Blvd.) to provide a similar level of service. The costs would be easily be 3 to 4 times that for restoring the RBL.

    Therefore if the QueensWay is built the net effect would be to permanently condemn southern Queens with perennially poor service and little development prospects, while stunting the ability of JFK Airport to help New York compete in the increasingly competitive global economy.

  • Philip McManus

    Dear Brendan Read, Wow. Im glad you support the Queeens RBL.

    Wanted: Volunteers for faster transportation, more jobs and opportunities. We need more commuters to get involved. Don’t be a spectator.

    Please confirm your attendance.

    We are having a Petition/Membership drive and a survey to ask the people.
    Do you know and want the Queens RBL, or a park, or do nothing?

    Sunday, December 15, from 2:30 pm to 3:30 pm,
    On Hoffman Drive and Woodhaven Boulevard.
    Rain or shine.

    Please bring a clipboard, a friend, a poster, a camera and a positive attitude.

    We need to grow and build community support for faster transportation, the Queens Rockaway Beach Line.

    The reactivation of the Queens Rockaway Beach Line (RBL) will expand the NYC transit system, increase social and economic opportunities for city residents, while increasing property values and tax revenues. It’s good for Queens.

    The RBL will increase transit options including faster travel times to and from work, home, school, shopping, recreation, dining, family visits, and doctor visits.

    The RBL will decrease pollution, accidents, unemployment, crime and government dependence, reduce present and future overcrowding and unreliable buses, trains and roadways at a much, much greater level than the QueensWay plan.

    The QueensWay plan will only benefit a few people and a small area of Queens. It’s the small plan while the transportation plan is the big plan, the most inclusive plan.

    Reusing the Queens RBL for transportation is the best plan. It will reunite north and south Queens, decrease travel times and increase investments for everyone especially the poor and middle class areas that are underserved, excluded and separated from the American dream.

    The QueensWay plan and the No Way plan are exclusive and divide our borough. It also prevents development and investments in Queens.

    The borough of Queens needs jobs
    and businesses for all the people so we can grow and help each other.

    The NIMBY plan is called the Do Nothing Plan because it does very little to support Queens and the city.

    Please ask your family and friends and commuters to sign our petitions to support the Reactivation of the Queens Rockaway Beach Line, the New Queens Crosstown, eliminate the toll on the Queens Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge for everyone and expand the Queens Rockaway Ferry:

    http://www.rockawaybeachrail.com/

    •change.org/petitions/governor-andrew-m-cuomo-reactivate-the-lirr-rockaway-line-in-central-queens

    http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/Phillip-Goldfeder/story/45022/

    http://www.keeprockawayferry.com

    Philip McManus
    Queens Public Transit Committee
    718-474-0315

    718-679-5309

    rowing612@aol.com

    https://m.facebook.com/RockawayBeachRailLine?id=100952823448998&refsrc=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F&_rdr

    Twitter.com/RBL1910

    http://rockawaybranchline.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-queens-public-transit-committee-for.html?m=1

    http://www.QueensPublicTransit.com

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