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 Land, Friends 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.