Feb
14

Queens pols, QueensWay advocates square off over rail line

By

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo continues to promote Genting’s plans for Ozone Park as a potential “destination complex,” politicians and park advocates are squaring off over the unused Rockaway Breach Branch of the LIRR. On the one side are neighborhood activists who want to turn the rail ROW into a park, and on the other are Queens politicians who know that increased transit options — and not just a super-express A train — are keys to any convention center/casino complex’s success.

Recently, two Assembly representatives from Queens, Phil Goldfeder and Michael Miller, announced their support for a rehabilitation and reactivation of the Rockaway Breach Branch line. The two envision this routing as a faster way for people from Ozone Park and the Rockaways to reach Manhattan. With the convention center, Goldfeder said, “the commute for people here is only going to go from bad to worse. You can’t talk about a convention center without talking about transportation.”

Activists for the so-called QueensWay, a rails-to-trails project that would forever sacrifice the rail option for the Rockaway Beach ROW, had a different take, and it is probably the group’s most out-there statement yet. “The building of a new rail line in this economy and the destruction it would cause into adjacent neighborhoods including Forest Park is not feasible,” Andrea Crawford of Friends of QueensWay said. Reactivating an old rail line certainly is feasible, and it would not cause destruction of any neighborhoods. Ultimately, the stumbling blocks will not be quasi-NIMBYism from QueensWay supporters but Genting’s reluctance to spend too much money and a lack of any other funding source.



Categories : Asides, Queens

27 Responses to “Queens pols, QueensWay advocates square off over rail line”

  1. Christopher says:

    Is there that little room that this couldn’t be rails and trails? The purple line in DC will go be mixed this way and there other examples from France with street cars in park like settings. Feels like there is a middle solution somewhere.

    • Bolwerk says:

      Maybe, but what sane person is going to want to trek out to Queens to use the trail? It’s almost comical that they think a park like that would even get much use in that part of Queens, especially during the six months of the year where the weather kinda sucks for outdoorsy stuff.

      • TP says:

        But that’s the whole point! The people who live in the neighborhood would actually prefer it be barely used. “Trek out to Queens”? From where? They don’t really want you outsiders in their neighborhood anyway. It’s too crowded already! That’s what NIMBYism is all about.

      • Stu Sutcliffe says:

        I’m not saying there would be a lot, but the same people who might trek further out inot Queens to hike along the old Vanderbilt Motor Parkway between Cunningham and Alley Pond Parks.

    • jim says:

      South of Forest Park it widens to three tracks and south of Atlantic Ave to four (though south of Liberty Ave, the A train occupies two of them). The strong NIMBYism is around the narrow part.

      North of Forest Park, there are encroachments on the Right of Way, notably for some Little League ballfields. It wouldn’t surprise me if some of the NIMBYism is really defense of these encroachments.

  2. Marc Shepherd says:

    I suspect Genting’s preference for the “Train to the Plane” route is merely an opening bid. Once it becomes clear that this route is not realistic at any cost, the conversation about the Rockaway route will begin in earnest.

    The state can probably get more money out of Genting than they have offered to date: like any shrewd negotiator, their bottom-line is probably more generous than their current position. They won’t fund full re-activation, but they’ll fund a lot more than they’re saying. I am sure the state can come up with the rest of the money, if Cuomo really wants it and the major Queens pols fall in line.

  3. Chet says:

    It is amazing how fast supporters of an idea can go off the deep end. I refer of course, to the park supporters.

    Putting a train, on a rail line that already exists and used to carry people; giving everyone in the area a faster, more direct, much improved commute will “destroy a neighborhood?”

    There is only one word- moronic.

  4. Larry Littlefield says:

    “Ultimately, the stumbling blocks will not be quasi-NIMBYism from QueensWay supporters but Genting’s reluctance to spend too much money and a lack of any other funding source.”

    Ultimately, the problem is the cost of construction in NY. It should not cost that much money to repair the embankment and put down rails, a third rail, and some signals. But it does.

    I believe the flying junction at Whitepot Junction actually pre-exists, no? The bridges are there, although I am uncertain of their condition. You’d just need a station or two, and more could be added later if the NIMBYs permit. It might even be possible to use the existing Howard Beach station by having a platform replace one of the two center tracks.

    • John of the Bronx says:

      Larry, thanks for the idea of using the unused center track for LIRR platforms at Aqueduct and Howard Beach. Track F3 has been taken out of service until a point south of Howard Beach.

      This could save a great deal of money in bypassing the need the build a LIRR station underground or widening the current stations. The platforms may be too narrow for convention goers.

      Nevertheless, I’ll submit the idea to the Rockaway Regional Rail Subcommittee with full credit.

      • Larry Littlefield says:

        Is NYCT using three tracks? My understanding is the middle two tracks are unused. The line could be two track except for those stations.

        And it wouldn’t have to be LIRR. It could be a separate organization but run on the LIRR tracks to GCT and Penn without stopping.

        • Bolwerk says:

          I don’t see a lot of sense in this being anything but subway anyway. It finishes are rather useful missing link in the IND, if anything.

          • Larry Littlefield says:

            The cost of linking into the QB line would be huge, although there are existing bellmouths near 74th Street, and there is no capacity.

            There will be capacity on the LIRR tracks in 2018.

            • John of the Bronx says:

              Larry, the other track, F4, is active from a point south of Aqueduct. I don’t know what it’s used for if anything.

              Larry & Bolwerk, the subway option has been proposed by the Regional Rail Subcommittee. It would take the M or R train (probably the M) and run it to the Rockaways.

              The M has the capacity to be diverted but the sticking point is that it’s a local. Would Rockaway residents stay on it? If yes, it can be done. But if they want to transfer to the E or F at 74th St., that could create a problem.

              The Regional Rail Subcommittee is at the starting gate. We want to see which option has the most support among the residents and then, which is the most practical.

              • John-2 says:

                The logistics for a Rockaway Line connection to the IND only makes sense if it’s paired with the conversion of Woodhaven Blvd. to an express stop.

                Aside from being something needed for 30-plus years, it creates a a transfer point close to the split, so that riders have the option of taking the E or F for a longer distance. But more importantly moves the transfer point to and from the E/F away from Roosevelt Avenue, which really can’t handle any more transferring passengers with the connection to the 7 already in place.

                • John of the Bronx says:

                  There are entry and exit portals on both sides of the Woodhaven Blvd. station but would you know if there is a tunnel on both sides behind the Woodhaven Blvd. station?

                  As you noted, the idea of converting Wooodhaven Blvd. to an express stop has been around. The problem is that it’s costly-spending money on something that works, would create moderate services disruptions–at least and would definitely upset riders on the E and F who would be saddled with one more stop.

                  • John-2 says:

                    I’m sure they will complain, but I’m sure 50 years ago riders on the IRT Lexington Ave. express traveling to/from 86th Street and north and going to/from Grand Central and south were griping about how that damn new 59th Street station was slowing down their travel time.

                    AFAIK, there’s nothing behind the Woodhaven wall past the turnouts, so a new trackbed would have to be cut out and put into service before the current local tracks could be closed and then covered over by new platform to access the express tracks. And you’d have to also reposition the stairs and put in ADA elevators and (probably) escalators.

                    It’s not cheap, and the downside from a usage standpoint is an express stop would encourage more people right now who might just take the local all the way from Woodhaven to Manhattan to use the E or F, jamming those lines even more. But if you don’t build it, a lot of those people, including many currently using the A from Southeast Queens to get to midtown, would be trying to make the transfer at Roosevelt, and with the transfers coming from the 7 there as well, that platform just can’t handle any more people in the AM rush.

              • Bolwerk says:

                If the M can be diverted, it makes sense. Forest Hills to Lexington Avenue is about 20m by E Train and 25-26m by M Train. The transfer penalty could easily exceed those 5-6 minutes.

                Perhaps a PSA could encourage them to stay on, though it would sound kinda silly: “the odds of that transferring to the E will save you time are below .5,” or something!

  5. Michael says:

    The Rockaway Beach Branch is the only realistic means to getting a fast train to plane system at JFK. The economic benefit of rebuilding this line while also restoring rail service to communities along the line far outweigh those that the park might generate.

    Ideally, NYC need to take advantage of all of these right-of-ways and make a super express system that integrates service through to the subways through transfers. This could be similar to the Paris RER lines, were suburban trains serve as limited stop lines within the subway fare system.

    These lines could be served with rolling stock similar to the LIRR but with added doors and bench seating.

    Travel from the Rockaway’s to Manhattan is too long on the A line. The far Rockaway line should be reconverted back to a traditional rail line that provides express service over the LIRR system to Atlantic Ave, Penn and Grand Central. With this, A line should end at Howard Beach.

    I have also heard that with the opening of the east side access, the LIRR plans to move the current lines that serve atlantic terminal with a shuttle to Jamaica. If the atlantic line will no longer offer direct service outside of NYC, then the line should be converted to a standard metrocard fares, increased service, with fare gates and free transfers (in or out of system) to other subways at Atlantic Center, Jamaica Center and Broadway Junction/Atlantic Ave L.

    This might encourage long Island travelers to Downtown to consider using the Atlantic line, while providing brooklyn riders with faster connections to Jamaica in the subway system.

    Ultimately, the Atlantic Branch is operating well under its passenger capacity and the MTA should be looking for ways to encourage riders to use it rather than Penn Station whenever practical.

  6. John-2 says:

    Do a Google map search of the Rockaway Line’s ROW — Google still includes most of the original trackage, and the section they don’t basically runs along the western edge of Forest Park. Which is why the Queensway is silly compared to the High Line option, because the Manhattan project was an elevated walkway through an urban building landscape, with no parks nearby, versus a trail which, when it’s not on an embankment, would be a park trail … through a park. Redundancy at its finest.

    While restoration of the Rockaway Branch (and even a decision on if the line would by LIRR or part of the IND Queens Blvd. line) could take years, turning the land over to a Queensway project means it’s gone as a rail option forever. The current debate may not get a new rail line built right away, but at least it would keep the option open, as opposed to turning it over to a project that supporters would never give back to transit, no matter how much it might be needed in the future.

  7. Ramiro says:

    I have to way that this Queens Trail to me sounds super silly. While I am all for parks, this trail would run throu mostly get this, parks…and its not elevated for part of the route, so you would be staring at dirt enbankments when you get into Forest Park. Seems to me that this is more of a way to ensure that no rail ever gets rebuilt here and protecting a few peoples interests.

    • Jeff says:

      That’s essentially what it is IMO. People won’t want overgrown vegetation and broken rails in their backyards, and they don’t want the trains to come back either, so they come up with a ridiculous plan that would serve their interests.

  8. Al D says:

    Some form of transit way would be far more beneficial to society than a narrow park sliver, particularly in a borough already blessed with big, beautiful parks and a bird sanctuary that doubles as a park for many.

    Adding a few A super express trains that will be stuck behind a R32 C part of the time any way is not the answer to increased transit access.

  9. Larry Littlefield says:

    Bottom line, any reactivation of this line can’t be Port Authority or Long Island Railroad, because their unions would make it a ripoff.

    It can’t be subway, because the construction industry would make it unaffordable. It would cost $billions.

    The only thing I can think of it a new, contracted out service that runs on both the Airtrain line and the Long Island Railroad from JFK to Penn and GCT, charging when people enter and exit the vehicle off airport.

    The problem would be a vehicle that could both meet FRA standards and run on the Airtrain.

  10. Kai B says:

    Interesting thing to think about: Would casino visitors really use a more expensive LIRR option versus the subway – particularly when “the house won” and they’re out $500?

    For convention visitors, yes, the LIRR option would see use, but conventions only happen every so often.

  11. marvin says:

    Converting the Woodhaven Blvd station to an express stop could be of further benefit if an AirTrain type elevated structure was built over the LIE out to Springfield Blvd with stops at 108 Street, Main Street, Kissena/Queens College, Utopia or 188 Street and Springfield Blvd. This line could serve eastern Queens as a feeder to the Queens Blvd IND without putting more trains on it. Continuing the line to Connecting Railroad right of way just past the LIRR and then having the “new line” then go south/southwest along it into Brooklyn could provide large areas of the Brooklyn and Queens a one transfer ride to: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Jamaica and of course the Rockaways/Kennedy Airport via IND service using the re-activated Rockaway Branch.

    Between 108 Street and The Connecting Railroad it would be best for the “new rail line” to run on what is now the two left hand lanes of the east bound Long Island Expressway, with those lanes being elevated above for that strech. This would allow an easier transfer at the Woodhaven (converted to express) IND Station and allow it to more easily drop down into the Connecting Rail Road cut.

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  1. […] issued a call to turn the Rockaway Beach LIRR Branch into a park, and while some politicians have pushed back on the idea, Governor Cuomo’s office has put some monetary weight behind the Queensway […]

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