A park — instead of rail — inches forward in Queens


A schematic shows the Rockaway Beach Branch service from 1955 until it was shuttered in 1960. (Courtesy of

The battle over an abandoned rail line in Queens is starting to heat up. Pointing to the success of the High Line, some community activists in Queens have 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 plans.

Last week, Cuomo’s office gave the Trust for Public Land nearly half a million dollars to explore the Queensway idea. “That is the first step toward making the Queensway a reality,” said Christopher Kay, a member of the group, said to The Wall Street Journal. Lauro Kusisto has more:

Locals have advocated for the idea for years and received a boost about a year ago when the Trust for Public Land, which has successfully undertaken similar projects in Chicago, Seattle and Atlanta, agreed to lead the effort in conjunction with a local group, Friends of the Queensway. Mr. Benepe joined the Trust in September as a director of city park development. But even if the elevated tracks turn out to be free from environmental or structural issues, huge challenges would remain as nonprofit backers work to clean and revitalize a site that has suffered from a half-century of neglect…

The city has added vast swaths of parkland even as land prices have soared—including the High Line, Hudson River Park and Brooklyn Bridge Park—but some have faced funding challenges and called on private support. It remains an open question if the cash-strapped city can afford to shoulder the burden of building Queensway. “We are adding a lot of parkland to the city and we’re seeing a decline in the maintenance budget,” said Holly Leicht, executive director of New Yorkers for Parks. “How do you ensure that we have the maintenance dollars in place?”

Garnering private funding is also likely to be much more difficult for a park that runs through immigrant-heavy and industrialized neighborhoods. One possibility raised by the Trust: incorporating ethnic eateries along the Queensway, with food revenues helping to offset maintenance costs. Another idea—likely to be more controversial—would have Major League Soccer help fund the Queensway. The sports league is negotiating with the city to build a soccer stadium inside Flushing Meadows Corona Park, and such a project would trigger a legal obligation to replace the parkland under the stadium with equivalent land.

There are a lot of “what if’s” involved with the project as it currently stands. It’ll cost a lot of money to realize this dream, and as the Queensway wouldn’t exactly be in the heart of a tourist destination as the High Line is, there’s no guarantee it will be a similar success. The funding could come from a soccer stadium project fraught with its own issues, and the idea of incorporating restaurants seems a bit far-fetched.

The other “what if” involves rail, and in that regard, The Journal and the Trust for Public Land has been utterly silent. During this latest round of publicity, the Queensway opponents who would rather reactivate the Rockaway Beach Branch have not gotten much ink, but they’re out there. In the aftermath of Sandy, we’ve seen why the rail line, which runs from Rego Park through Ozone Park, would be incredibly useful and utilized. But turning it into a greenway would forever preclude rail.

No matter the final project, the price tag will be significant. A 3.5-mile park through the neighborhood and the upkeep required to keep it going won’t come cheap, and readying the abandoned right-of-way for rail would be even more expensive. But the discussion has to involve both options. In a city screaming out for an expansion of the transit network, we cannot casually turn rail into a park without an eye toward the future.

Categories : Queens

190 Responses to “A park — instead of rail — inches forward in Queens”

  1. I finally got a chance to ask George Haikalis why he said that a trail wouldn’t preclude restoring rail service. He clarified that the right-of-way is wide enough for a rail-with-trail, even if the bridges are not.

    George told me he assumed that the trail would descend to street level at every crossing, or that lightweight aluminum bridges could be built for the trail, alongside the existing rail bridges.

    • Nyland8 says:

      “George told me he assumed that the trail would descend to street level at every crossing … ”

      I’ve skated the North County Trailway in Westchester from Pleasantville up to the Putnam County border many times, and I can tell you that descending to street level at every crossing is a terrible idea. It creates many dangerous crossings, forces communities to install traffic lights or stop signs and, just in general, makes the journey of utilizing the rail trail far less enjoyable.

      Rail bridges across streets tend to be quite robust and long lived, especially if they no longer have any heavy traffic going across them. Once a rail trail bridge is scraped, painted and paved over, they tend to be relatively maintenance free for decades. And if you narrow the ROW by ramping it up and down at every crossing, the expense of slope retention, and rebuilding it for reclamation as rail bed, goes up quite a bit.

      Besides, we’re already talking about a rail trail that goes through an area where it would find limited or questionable use by pedestrians. If they have to share it with regular train traffic, then it is all but doomed to very limited use – a few diehard cyclists at the most. It will never garner the community involvement or stunning landscaping that the High Line has to offer – so it will never be an attraction to anyone who isn’t living adjacent to it.

  2. Alex C says:

    I’m going to go out on a limb and say the people demanding this (rather useless) trail (that won’t excite tourists because it’s in an already park-heavy part of Queens) all drive to work in SUVs and think yucky poor people might wind up in their neighborhood if a railway line returns. I would love to be proven wrong.

    • Moya says:

      My gut tells me neither project will take off. People near Rego Park will not want a rail line and people near the other end wont settle for one or the other. The area will most likely either be poached further for homes or kept as a dense thicket of trees for the next 30 years.

      • Justin Samuels says:

        You are probably right, which is why they should at least have an express bus parallel the Q53. Well, it really boils down to money, though. If proponents of this are somehow able to convince politicians with federal connections of the wisdom of reactivating the Rockaway LIRR, its possible. The only way I can see that if if they allow table gambling in NY, and that build up the area around the casino a lot more. Otherwise its not work it, Hurricane Sandy undid Rockaway’s Gentrification.

        • Bolwerk says:

          A bus would be more expensive to operate and more disruptive to the community than the train could be. Not to mention the sheer absurdity of paying more so users can suffer longer trips just so NIMBYs don’t have to live on the same planet with something they don’t want.

          While the line could go from Queens Blvd to the Rockaways, the Rockaways wouldn’t be the main benefactor.

        • ajedrez says:

          They already have one. The QM15 runs 6 days a week up to Lindenwood, and the QM16/17 run to the Rockaways during rush hour.

          The QM15 performs decently (cost-wise & ridership-wise) on weekdays, but not on Saturdays.

          • Justin Samuels says:

            The Q113, Q35, and the Q53 all serve the Rockaways as well. Its just that you need some of these buses to be express!

      • 3ddie says:

        I live in Rego Park and I would love to have this train, it would give me a lot more options to travel and it would raise my property value.
        I wish we had some transit oriented leadership, Cuomo is not it, first he scrapped the Tappan Zee, then builds a Casino with no transit in Queens and now this? I hope he changes his mind.

    • Someone says:

      I would love for there to be a JFK express line or something. The only problem is with the NIMBYs who don’t want a new rail line.

  3. Frank B says:

    If Brooklyn is the borough of Churches, Queens is the borough of Parks. The last thing we need is more parks… THE FIRST THING WE NEED IS MORE BLOODY SUBWAY LINES!!!

  4. Henry says:

    I actually don’t see what’s the problem with a Rockaway Beach trail. It’s not exactly the quickest route to anywhere, and if you’d want to connect it to Manhattan, you’d either have to dig a new subway line (not happening) or hook it up to the LIRR, which isn’t exactly empty during rush hours. Arguably, any spare capacity from ESA is best used for Port Washington, Jamaica, and Metro-North trains. You’d also be able to provide one of the few continuous, straight ROWs for a bike lane in Queens.

    If you were going to build a line that just ended in Rego Park, the Q53 isn’t that far away (and is probably going to be more frequent and cheaper than any Rockaway Beach service).

    Queens does need more subway lines, but it’s not like Rego Park and the Rockaways don’t have any subway service at all.

    • Justin Samuels says:

      Well, the abandoned portion of the Rockaway Beach LIRR could also be connected to the Queens Boulevard line. Either that or reconnection to the LIRR would provide a direct train connection to the rest of Queens and Midtown.

      More than likely, though it won’t happen. The Q53 years ago, when it was privately owned was fine. It went from Woodside to Queens Mall, and after there it went non stop to the Rockaways. Now it stops in all the neighborhoods in between, making it ridiculously slow. The MTA could at least create an express buss service along this route.

      • Henry says:

        My issue with Rockaway Beach restoration is that there’s no room on the tracks for more trains, and no money for more subway tunnels, so reactivating the line would mean worse commutes for other communities.

        I see the Q53 as a unique opportunity for full fledged BRT. Woodhaven, Cross Bay and Queens Blvds are all wide enough for dedicated lanes with physical infrastructure, and for a mere fraction of the cost of Rockaway Park you could have a BRT from the Rockaways to QBP. If one wanted to be especially fanciful, you could probably have Q53 BRT running from Columbus Circle to QBP and the Rockaways.

        Looking at a map, it doesn’t look like the Q53 stops particularly often anyways, and at least it didn’t win a Schleppie or a Pokey award.

        • Bolwerk says:

          There is no reason such a line couldn’t be a feeder that doesn’t use a track connection to Queens Blvd. The only major downside to that right now is 63rd, which I think is the closest stop for a passenger connection, is a local stop.

          Actually, though, that’s the way to get started.

          • Alex C says:

            Extend the M down the Rockaway line and have the G extended to Forest Hills to take its place at that terminal.

            • Bolwerk says:

              How does that do anything without cutting or short stopping lots of M and G Trains? For what will start as a lightly used service, there is nothing wrong with letting people transfer. They’ll be thankful they aren’t stuck on a bus.

              • Alex C says:

                Well then send the G there. Its headways are big enough to where it can handle the service.

                • Bolwerk says:

                  Via Queens Blvd? Supposedly, there isn’t any room to send the G past LIC.

                  • Alex C says:

                    By the time this would be done, CBTC would be installed on the QB line anyways. Regardless, it’s the terminal (and fumigation) at Forest Hills that hurts capacity. The M, R and G could probably share the line even with the old signal system since the G would not terminate but simply turn off the line at 63rd. These three lines don’t run that often.

                    • Justin Samuels says:

                      As the G does not serve Manhattan, the MTA does not care to run it beyond Queens Boulevard.

                      If you wanted people to use a Rockaway Beach connection to Queens Boulevard, you wouldn’t want them to have to take the train and then transfer to another train. You’d want to give them an one side seat to Manhattan, or else the project would completely have no support. That’s either reconnecting it to the LIRR, or if they connected it to the Queens Boulevard Line, extend either the M or the R to the Rockaways. It doesn’t matter that the M would make a 6 shape or that the R is a long local. It would give Rockaway residents DIRECT connection to Midtown.

                      I think on these forums people try to extend trains back to their glory days, “I was a little kid and liked trains back when the G ran down Queens Blvd). But the MTA doesn’t operate on nostalgia. Most people from Queens who take the subways work in Manhattan, and that’s where the traffic goes. G trains on Queens Blvd are wasted capacity, which is needed to take people into Manhattan.

                    • Bolwerk says:

                      Justin: there is nothing wrong with a well-designed transfer. It’s certainly preferable to a limited/express/Select™ bus. If you have no problem with the latter, you can’t possibly seriously object to the former.

                    • Someone says:

                      The CBTC won’t be installed on the QB line until at least 2015 at the earliest. The contract hasn’t even been awarded yet. The M has 23 trains and the R has 29. You have to note that a delayed M or R train can affect all of the following trains: A, B, C, D, E, F, J/Z, N, or Q. There really isn’t any wiggle room here.

                    • Justin Samuels says:

                      I used to live in Far Rockaway, and I certainly would object to the G train being extended to the Rockaways, because I’d prefer direct train service to Midtown!

                      And as Someone noted, delays on the Queens Boulevard locals can impact the A, B, C, D, E, F, N, and Q trains. Totally not worth it. If they ever connect the Rockaway Beach LIRR to the QB line, it will be the M or the R extended to the Rockaways.

                      As for the bus, since it would take years to refurbish the Rockaway Beach LIRR and connect it to the QB line, I simply said better bus service is more viable (particularly since it could take decades if action is ever even taken on restoring this ROW, and that’s if its ever restored)

                    • Bolwerk says:

                      Why make the good the enemy of the perfect? Improved bus service is well and good, but it doesn’t help get people to Manhattan more than even a stubway.

                      (Well, all that said, an arrangement more like the M stub isn’t unlikely, if a flying pig did deliver this.)

          • Someone says:

            The MTA can either rebuild the whole junction, or build switches, if they wanted express service.

            On another note, they should build a 76 St crosstown line splitting from the Queens Blvd local tracks at Steinway Street.

      • Someone says:

        The Q53 is not an express bus like the QM15 or QM16. It is a limited-stop bus which means that it makes stops every 8 to 10 blocks, on average.

    • Frank B says:

      When the IND Queens Boulevard Line was built, bell-mouths were built after 63rd Drive to go to the Rockaways; in fact, from what I can tell from the 1929 Second System plan, the plan was already to recapture the LIRR Rockaway Beach Branch, and NOT to build a new line under the parallel Woodhaven Boulevard, which I always considered odd for IND Planners to do, considering they pissed away so much money on the IND Fulton Street Line when the LIRR was a few blocks south, and the BMT Fulton Street Elevated was already more than sufficient.

      The Rockaway Line takeover was always planned; look at the 1939 plan; this is exactly what’s on the table now. There’s a faint glimmer of hope it may happen.

      Sigh… If we could back in time and warn the planners, “You only have so much money; it isn’t unlimited. Really make it count. Those giant mezzanines and pedestrian walkways? Maybe cut back on a few of those, particularly in the Outerboroughs. Maybe leave a few els up, at least further uptown? Build the 8th Avenue line at 10th? Buy the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad, and integrate it into the IRT? Move the 6th Avenue Line to 2nd, get started on that right away? Take over the LIRR Whitestone Branch? DON’T rip down the BMT Myrtle Avenue Line in Brooklyn or IRT Third Avenue Line in the Bronx?

      Sigh… The mistakes that were made… Every inch of this city would have trains…If only we could turn back the clock…

      • Nyland8 says:

        Indeed … especially regarding giving up elevated trains. It would almost require an act of Congress to reclaim a demolished elevated ROW.

        By now we could have been rebuilding existing ones with segmental cantilevered pre-stressed, post-tensioned concrete channel construction – not unlike what they recently did on a section of the SEPTA system – and everyone would be raving about how much better looking, and how much quieter they would become.

        And all of that would cost a fraction of tunneling.

        In fact, that’s what should be done in Astoria, because it would only need to extend a couple of blocks in a residential area to be able to eventually access LaGuardia.

        • Nathanael says:

          “It would almost require an act of Congress to reclaim a demolished elevated ROW.”

          And this, folks, is why Vancouver, BC was able to make so much progress so quickly: the people there weren’t allergic to elevated lines.

      • Henry says:

        My issue is not that there’s no place to logically put a new train line. You can’t link up the E or the F because then Jamaica would lose service and a lot of people would be angry. Extending the R wouldn’t make sense because it’s already a slow all-local line, and extending the M would create some weird-looking sideways “6”. There’s no room for a new subway line on Queens Blvd. The other plans you mention would’ve made room for it with the Queens super-express and a new set of East River tunnels, but since the MTA can’t even get the LIRR to expand to a third track on its own ROW, it’s doubtful that a Rockaway extension in this day and age is doable, even with the money.

        I don’t know about you, but if I could warn the planners and the politicians I’d say “Beware Robert Moses.”

        • Someone says:

          “There’s no room for a new subway line on Queens Blvd.”

          The trains on that line are running far below peak capacity, except for the E.

        • BoerumBum says:

          Regarding extending the M, who owns the ROW after the Middle Village terminus? It appears to extend up through Astoria and into the Bronx… I’m guessing it’s a mix of freight line & abandoned rail.

          • Someone says:

            Either the LIRR or the CSX. I haven’t checked up on it in a while but it’s one of the two.

          • Bolwerk says:

            I’m always a little skeptical of Wikipedos, but looks like a mix of CSX and Amtrak.

            However, the M doesn’t neatly share the ROW, though this is the ROW for Triborough. The M would pretty neatly work for the Rockaway Line, at least if what Alex C says is true.

            • Alex C says:

              The M would be best I guess. As was posted by others before, the G really is better off connecting Queens and Brooklyn. If they didn’t bother with fumigation for passengers at Forest Hills you could squeeze the G, M and R in the local line between QP and 63rd. At peak service, the G is 7 tph, the M is 9 tph, and the R is 9 tph. That’s a total of 25 tph on a local line. The E and F manage 30 tph smoothly enough on a higher speed express run. I’d be willing to bet money that even with the simplicity of reactivating the ROW, eminent domain and NIMBY court battles would result in Rockaway branch reactivation for service no sooner than after CBTC activation on the IND Queens Boulevard even if the plan would come into action on January 2.

              • Someone says:

                But then they could only squeeze 7 tph onto the Rockaway ROW. That’s a total of 32 tph.

                • Bolwerk says:

                  They could short stop some for transfer to other Queens Blvd lines, I would guess.

                  I don’t get the obsession with needing through service anyway – it’d be nice, and maybe should be accommodated for later addition, but it’s necessary and even has some potential drawbacks.

                  • Alex C says:

                    See, this is the main reason I thought of extending the G out there. It doesn’t run particularly often and would handle the passenger loads, while in service as a connector line.

                    • Bolwerk says:


                      I don’t object to that, but is it needed either? At least some of the benefit of this is shuttling people to other lines (A/C/J) where they’ll have to transfer anyway. The important thing just seems to be making it work at all, not making a one-seat ride.

                • Alex C says:

                  Why would it be 32 tph? In my scenario, the M goes to the Rockaway branch, so it’s still 25 tph on QB and 9tph on the Rockaway portion of the M. The A and M would still fit all the way to Broad Channel before they possibly split if you want the M to go that far and not just Howard Beach.

                  • Someone says:

                    My mistake, I thought you were talking about a completely new line.

                    By the way, couldn’t you extend the G or the R to the Rockaways instead? I’m not sure those riding on the M would want to ride around in a circle.

                    • Henry says:

                      If you had the G, M, and R all on one line, the ripple effect from delays would be a nightmare.

                      The M would make a really weird shape, but it already effectively looks like a fishing hook, and a Rockaway extension would make it look like a spiral.

                      The R is basically the longest local line in the system, and there are faster ways to get between its terminals (requiring transferring, of course, but local in Brooklyn, Queens, AND Manhattan is a bit much for anyone in a rush to handle)

                      It’s dubious whether you could justify an additional 8-car line every 10 minutes going to the Rockaways, so I would just extend the Rockaway Shuttle through the Rockaway Beach line and terminate it at a new set of platforms underneath either Woodhaven or Rego Park (Woodhaven’s a more frequented station, and is also a minor bus hub with all the routes converging on Queens Center)

                    • Alex C says:

                      Henry, the ripple effect would not be there. As I said before, any Rockaway connection would be finished and ready for service no sooner than after CBTC is available on the QB line. Second, as we already cleared up, 25 tph on a local line is doable even with the old signal system. The *only* thing that could (and QB local riders can testify) is the fumigation (not literal) for passengers at Forest Hills before M and R trains go to relay east of the station. Get rid of that practice for trains that will not be going into storage and you solve the problem even with the old signal system.

          • Henry says:

            That would be the Triboro RX ROW, so at some point in time it will hopefully connect the Bronx with Queens and Brooklyn.

      • Alon Levy says:

        Everything you said, plus “Queens Boulevard is incredibly wide, and has a well-functioning IRT el, so you should build your own QB line elevated,” and “Queens already has a shortage of tunnels to Manhattan, so maybe you should build a four-track 50th Street Tunnel to connect to the IRT and BMT instead of your very own two-track 53rd Street Tunnel.”

      • Justin Samuels says:

        The only reason why Hylan’s IND happened is because the 6th Avenue Line brought people from the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn to Rockefeller Center. So the Rockefellers like it . They didn’t particularly care for the Second Avenue line.

        The IND was built to compete with the private companies, and not expand service. That’s why Hylan originally proposed it. It is a shame that they didn’t build the Rockaway LIRR connection to Queens Boulevard then, and it is a shame a 4 track second avenue subway wasn’t built. Now we may never see major expansions of the transit system here again.

        • Someone says:

          We don’t need any more major expansions. Maybe the only thing we need is another expansion of the Flushing line to Nassau, and a couple of BMT/IND lines to eastern Queens. Otherwise, it’s pretty much built out.

          • Henry says:

            The SBS routes that have been or are going to be rolled out would make logical sense as subway routes.

            The A could be extended along the route of the Bx12 SBS, providing crosstown Bronx service.

            The Nostrand Ave SBS has something on the order of 40k+ riders a day, and has been included in every plan for subway extensions.

            34th Street does need a crosstown, but a subway would be complicated by the LIRR tunnels.

            125th St and LaGuardia have been slated for subway lines in the past, and M60 SBS follows the same route.

            The Bx41 parallels the Third Av El.

            The Q43 SBS (included in ) is a logical extension of the F down Hillside Ave.

            SBS may be an extremely watered-down form of BRT, but at least it puts lines on the map.

            • Justin Samuels says:

              I would agree with most of those extensions, except 34th Street. You have crosstown service in the form of the S, and the 7 train. Plus both the E and F go from the West Side to the Side on 53rd and 50th Streets, and the M and F go from 6th Avenue to the East side on 53rd and 63rd Streets. Plus on 14th Street the L does Crosstown service.

              On entire borough, the Bronx, has no crosstown service, as Bronx trains all simply are designed to take people into Manhattan. The F train is within 3 miles of the Nassau border, and the A train comes pretty close at Far Rockaway.

              The triborough RX train that would take people from Brooklyn through Queens to the Bronx would be an excellent idea using existing ROWs.

              The East Side never got its Second Avenue Subway to replace the Second and Third Avenue Els that were torn down in the 40s and 50s.

            • Someone says:

              All of the BRT lines, except the first one, make sense. When was the A ever planned to go across the Bronx?

              • Henry says:

                Just because it’s never been planned doesn’t mean it’s not a valid area to expand service.
                The Bx12 ranks pretty high when it comes to bus ridership, so it’s not like we’d be expanding through wide, empty farmland (which is what most of the subways were built through)

              • Bolwerk says:

                Doesn’t appear it was ever planned (warning/full disclosure: immediate source is wikipedia), but it may not be precluded either.

            • Bolwerk says:

              If it’s intra-Manhattan crosstown service, light rail would do the trick better than subways for Manhattan crosstown service in nearly every way. The only reason to have crosstown service by subway is to feed people from other boroughs into the subway.

              • Ron says:


                You are correct that service along the Kissena Corridor, which was operated by the Central Railroad of Long Island, lasted only from 1872-1879. However, a spur of the line from Creedmor Hopital to points east brought coal to the facility until the late 1960’s. The portion of the railroad from Floral Park to Garden City is still in existence today. The point is that rail service has never been replaced to those communities in eastern Queens (73rd Ave., Union Tpke., etc.) My idea would be to construct a train along the LIE(elevated or submerged) which would then head south on the Clearview Expressway before heading heading east on the Grand Central Parkway and terminating in the Glen Oaks neighborhood around LIJ Hospital (That’s my pipe dream to be discussed another day)

                As far as the Rockaway Beach Rail Line is concerned, I still believe that some type of eminent domain payout offer should be made to folks who live along the ROW, whether they want to move out or remain, whether work is specifically done on their property or not. I admit that I’m not proficient in the legal ramifications of this action. However, if someone screams that he won’t allow a train in his backyard, ask him, “Mr. Jones, if you were compensated with $300,000 (an arbitrary figure at this point), and you could remain in your home, would you drop your opposition to reactivation of the rail line?” Some people would hold out for as much money as possible. Some people would tell us to take our money and to stick it where the sun don’t shine, no matter what we offered them. Nevertheless, I don’t think that this has been attempted as far as the Rockaway Beach Line is concerned. We need to do something drastic or we’re going to lose the ROW forever. Even with all the payouts, I believe that it would still be much cheaper than submerging the line below the ROW.

                • Bolwerk says:

                  Dude, fuck that. They already live next to a rail ROW. They bought their houses knowing that. A modern refurbishment of the line doesn’t cause them an ounce of harm. Not even noise – railroads can be designed to be so quiet you almost literally can’t hear them even from the platform. The whiners don’t deserve a penny, and should not be capitulated to under any circumstances.

                  And, I don’t know how to be more clear here: there is no legal use for eminent domain here. Eminent domain is about taking private property for public use. That is no operative here.

                  • Someone says:

                    Dude, that’s called a maglev. The cost would be prohibitively expensive.

                    • Bolwerk says:

                      No. Conventional rail probably can be nearly as quiet as a maglev, but it doesn’t need to be anywhere near that quiet to be quieter than ambient traffic noise.

                      Regardless, you won’t hear something like this going by from across the street, at least not anymore than you’d hear ambient traffic noise.

                • Henry says:

                  Again, the reason why this line is considered a reasonable candidate for reactivation is because it’s extremely cheap. The line only really needs work that the MTA has lots of experience doing – removing trees, fixing up viaducts, track and signal work, and rehabbing platforms. Buyouts on every lot facing the line would pretty much wipe out this competitive cost advantage and at that point you might as well dig up Woodhaven and call it a day, because Woodhaven’s almost 200 feet wide and traffic disruptions could be minimal. Frankly, there are more worthy projects than digging up Woodhaven.

                  Noise can be solved using noise barriers. They don’t cost that much to install, they can be prettified and they’re already in use in many areas around the world. I’m actually surprised that the MTA hasn’t placed some along the LIRR Main Line through Forest Hills and Kew Gardens.

                  • Bolwerk says:

                    In countries with modern, well kept railroads, the lack of noise is a literal danger. You quite probably won’t hear trams in German cities coming if there is a normal level of ambient street noise. And that can be bad, because they often run on the street.

                    • Someone says:

                      In other countries, trains with rubber tires are used. Those trains make much less noise than conventional steel-wheeled trains.

                    • Bolwerk says:

                      You can get noise levels down on conventional rail so low that the motor will be louder than the wheels.

  5. Corey Best says:

    I don’t even know where to begin , it seems NY state/NYC city seems to have a love affair with trails and buses instead of Rail and Muti-Modal approaches… It disgusts me….but then again its NY the backwards transit state its not like its NJ or CT were we plan for the future…

    • Bolwerk says:

      You do? Not to overplay it as wild success, but NYC is at least getting somewhere around 10 miles of new urban heavy rail rail transit and “commuter rail” over the next few years. That’s sure not happening in New Jersey or Connecticut.

      As for reflexive bus advocacy, I agree. A phantasmagorical collection of faulty assumptions goes into bus (especially BRT) advocacy – and perhaps not a little schadenfreude at inflicting misery on the few at the cost of the many.

  6. Nyland8 says:

    “But turning it into a greenway would forever preclude rail.”

    Well … no. It wouldn’t. The only thing it would do is forever preserve the ROW – because as a greenway, nobody would build or encroach on it.

    Of course, as a park that was actually used as a successful greenway, it would make it much more difficult to ever reacquire for rail purposes … but at least it would still remain intact. That’s the great thing about rail trails. They are the only non-railroad use that actually preserves the ROW.

    • Henry says:

      If the ROW was wide enough for a greenway/light-rail combo (like the Atlanta Beltline) it’d certainly be doable, with short shared sections over the bridges on the ROW.

    • Nathanael says:

      There is a legal issue with rail-trails.

      If they are done through the Surface Transportation Board’s “railbanking” process, then they really do preserve the ROW; it can be converted back at any time.

      If they are done through another process, they make it *harder* to put the rail back, because they turn the ROW into *parkland*, which is subject to the so-called “4(f)” restrictions on converting it into anything else. (Honestly, the 4(f) restrictions need to be weakened.)

  7. LLQBTT says:

    There are 2 things about Queens today: It has a bounty of park land and a dearth of rail transit. So since this idea makes no sense at all and sounds like it is not part of any larger development strategy, of any sort, it’ll probably happen.

  8. Bolwerk says:

    So, Cuomo’s mea culpa about climate change and transportation apparently lasted all of six weeks after the hurricane. Now he’s back to trying to rob future generations of opportunities for sustainable transportation.

    Sadly, like Pataki, he could be around for a while.

    • Alex C says:

      He’s easily the most right-wing DINO in years. Unfortunately, thanks to Sandy and him pushing through marriage equality (I give him credit for that, but that’s the *only* positive thing he’s done), he might run and win in 2016 for the presidency. That would essentially guarantee the crazy Ryan plan gets through like a knife through hot butter and transit funding gets gutted in favor of more highways.

      His turning down the lockbox is as blatant an “F U” to the MTA and the people that rely on its services as anything.

      • Bolwerk says:

        I think the “DINO” designation lets Dems off the hook too easily. Cuomo is probably to the left of most Dems on civil liberties and not strangely out of place on transportation/transit. More to the point, the designation of Democrat is indicative of a politician who will say and do – even think – anything to win an election. And, in most cases, s/he would still suck at winning.

        • Alex C says:

          Cuomo pushed for marriage equality and marijuana legalisation because he’s foremost, like Barrack Obama, a politician. He knows that on a state level in NYC those things will pass easily and will give him political capital and name recognition to then go behind the voters backs and be a right-winger on tax, transportation, and energy issues. I wish he was an authentic man who stood for something, but he stands for one thing: Cuomo 2016.

          • Nyland8 says:

            OR … “Cuomo pushed for marriage equality and marijuana legalization because” he believes in those things, or believes that those issues serve the best interests of his constituency – which is what we would hope any politician would do.

            If the purpose of entering public political life is to get things done, then of what use is any politician who is NOT looking to get reelected?

            • Bolwerk says:

              Ask Mario Monti. Or Silvio Berlosconi. :-p

            • Alex C says:

              Politics is, in this day and age, a job. It’s not about job. You campaign, corporate donors finance you, and then you spend your term in office paying them back. It’s simple as that. In Cuomo’s case, gay marriage was an easy thing to pass as this is New York. The same holds for marijuana legalization next year. It gave him capital to otherwise pay back his donors (his competition was a lunatic) in the form of lower taxes (paid for by cuts to education, because those peasants can go sod off) and opening up fracking regulations. As the MTA is an easy scapegoat, he can also continue the Pataki tradition of raiding its budget to pay for other things. Then in 2016 he can say how he got things done in NYC and repeat the process as President. The worst thing about the Republicans going into the asylum is that they keep driving the conversation further and further to the right (thanks CNN, CBS, et al.) and the Democrats can then do things that a few years ago would have been called insanely right wing.

              • Nathanael says:

                Cuomo will *never* be forgiven if he allows fracking to destroy upstate, no matter what else he does. I don’t think he understands how primal that issue is. Safety of the water supply is not something people compromise on. Nobody gives a flying *** about gay rights or marijuana legalization when their WATER IS FLAMMABLE.

                If Cuomo allows fracking upstate and it causes *any* of the damage seen in PA or OH, he will be dead upstate and any politician who allies themselves with him will also be dead upstate. It would be astoundingly misguided.

                • Justin Samuels says:

                  NYC’s drinking water comes from watersheds upstate, so if fracking caused big damage to the watersupply, he’d be dead here as well.

                  With that said, has mass fracking occured anywhere in NY? I don’t think its really gotten approval from the state, so I think its currently no.

                  • Nathanael says:

                    Cuomo has specifically excluded the NYC and Syracuse watersheds from his proposed fracking, so that it would only hurt the rest of us who rely on wells, river water, and lake water.

                    That’s not cool, but it does mean that NYC folks wouldn’t protest.

                    • Nyland8 says:

                      Too late. We already protest – repeatedly and vociferously. In fact, I was just protesting down in Chelsea a couple of weeks ago, right where the new gas main was being pushed across the Hudson.

                      We gathered on the River just west of Gansevoort, and marched up and across 14th to Union Square.

                      You see, the problems with fracking are manifold. It doesn’t just pollute ground water. It destroys the environment in many ways – including releasing trapped Radon gas from the shale substrate. The fracking pipeline, which in this case is coming to provide fracked natural gas from Pennsylvania to NYC, can still contain Radon gas, which cannot be removed from it – nor can it be detected in real time by anything other than a Geiger Counter.

                      Once the source starts supplying fracked gas through that pipeline to the city, people will be inviting Radon radiation right into their kitchens – and never know it.

                      Fracking has to stop – and not just because of the DEP’s watershed. It’s a toxic process in every conceivable way, and people should not be duped into complacency when Cuomo “protects” the watersheds that feed the city. There’s much more at stake than just that – and all New Yorkers should oppose it and contact their elected representatives to ensure that not a single well is drilled upstate, nor any piped into our city.

                      There is no such thing as a clean fossil fuel. Every single one of them carries with it some toxic byproduct, either in extraction, refinement, transportation or use.

                  • Nathanael says:

                    And yes, fracking has not yet gotten state approval. The corrupt director of the Natural Resources division of the DEC (if I remember the position correctly) has been pushing fracking continuously despite very vehement opposition.

                    At the moment, upstate localities are doing everything we can to slow it down and stop it — and we have some court rulings on our side which means that localities can prohibit surface drilling activity if they do so quickly — but the fracking process keeps moving forward, despite a fatally flawed and dishonest EIS.

                    Presumably we’ll be able to get some additional delay when environmental groups sue over the dishonest EIS, but with the DEC continuously pushing fracking, it remains a difficult fight.

          • Bolwerk says:

            I think I concur with Nyland. Cuomo probably is passionate about gay rights in a society where being against gay rights is seen as the mark of a troglodyte (and rightly so). He’s also a passionate believer in cars as the only transportation mode worthy of further investment – which is also easy, because public opinion flies in the face of measurable, quantifiable reality on such questions.

        • Nyland8 says:

          ” … the designation of Democrat is indicative of a politician who will say and do – even think – anything to win an election. And, in most cases, s/he would still suck at winning.”

          Sounds like you’re referring to Willard Romney – a man who would say anything, do anything, eat anything, spend anything – including 10’s of millions of his own fortune – even think anything – and reverse himself on almost any position he ever held – to win an election. But people who are actually willing to do that tend not to win.

          • Bolwerk says:

            Nah. Romney was actively sociopathic, willing to say whatever he felt was most advantageous to himself at the time. Underneath was a concrete agenda that put deliberately harming people for his and his cronies’ gain, maybe even for their pleasure, front and center.

            As a party, Democrats are wishywashy to the point of not having a coherent ideology. At worst, they sniff what way the political winds are blowing and try to act on that so they can stay in power, but in the process they seem to sincerely believe they’re doing the right thing. At best, they negotiate away their core values. Hence, the clearly intelligent and worldly Obama “evolving” on gay marriage while Cuomo never had to.

            • Alex C says:

              To be fair, Prince Cuomo has the mostly sane NY state to deal with, where NYC makes up a huge chunk of the voting population. Obama has to deal with fundamentalist extremists in Kansas and the like.

              • Bolwerk says:

                That’s why I said Cuomo never had to. But, say what you will about him, Barack Obama is educated, intelligent, and from a big city with a significant gay population. He doesn’t seem to have a doctrinaire religious background. His views on gender and abortion seem pretty “modern.”

                Therefore, I have a very tough time buying his personal views significantly changed on gay marriage in the course of his presidency; what changed was his public position. Even allowing that they did change, do you suppose it’s something he publicly “evolved” on? At some point between 2004 and 2008, a lot of people of pretty normal intelligence changed their minds, and more between 2008 and 2012. That probably was because something clicked, oh, duh, this really doesn’t affect me in any way.

                • Alex C says:

                  I like Obama, I never said a bad thing of him. I just pointed out that he can’t come out and support common sense things because he still has to try and appeal to the lunatics in this country. The “evolved” thing was trying to make sure he didn’t upset anybody who was still against marriage equality. It’s pretty obvious he’s been in favor of it the whole time. I do wish he’d stop rolling over on every issue for the Republicans though.

                  • Nathanael says:

                    I don’t think trying to appeal to the lunatics is a useful tactic. As you said, “I do wish he’d stop rolling over on every issue for the Republicans though.” I think that’s just bad tactics.

                    I’m very much a believer in the “find a parade and get ahead of it” school of political tactics. Andrew Cuomo seems to be relatively good at this in a few areas (same-sex marriage) but oddly not in others (no fracking please!)

                • Someone says:

                  How did this discussion on an abandoned rail line in Rego Park become a discussion about gay marriage? (I support the latter, but I don’t think that this is the place to talk about it.)

                  • Alex C says:

                    I only brought it up to make the point that Cuomo builds political capital. He makes himself look good on social issue, while remaining right-wing on transit, taxes, education.

  9. Ron says:

    Restoring the Rockaway Beach Line, whether it’s light rail, a subway, or the LIRR, would provide a much faster commute not only for the Rockaways, but for all the neighborhoods along the line; Broad Channel, Howard Beach, Ozone Park, Woodhaven, and dare I say it, Rego Park. Yes, people who live near Yellowstone Blvd. and Woodhaven Blvd. do not have access to a rail line with a direct route to Manhattan within walking distance.

    Reactivation of the Rockaway Beach Line would result in higher property values for the residents of several communities. oh, and did I mention that the RBL provides the only direct route to Aqueduct from Midtown?

    As far as placating owners along the ROW is concerned, I strongly support erecting sound barriers, enclosing the RBL in a tunnel-like structure, or completely submerging it, at least through Forest Park and points north.

    Supporters of the rail line have also offered to compromise with the Greenway advocates on several occasions. The offer stands. We are very much open to incorporating a bike trail into our plans to restore train service. Have they extended us the same courtesy? No!

    Would reactivating train service cost a lot of money? Yes, it certainly would. However, whose fault is that? A straight forward restoration of the Rockaway Beach Line would be a fraction of the cost of building the Second Ave. Subway or East Side Access. No, I’m not by any means saying that those projects aren’t worthy, necessary projects. They very much have been needed for decades. I’m making a point about money. NIMBY’s have been blocking restoration of train service for years. In order to appease those along the line who would be affected, as I said, I support noise mitigation measures, up to and including, completely submerging the line and adding a bike trail above. These factors add a significant cost to the project. However, being that residents who would benefit from the train’s return have been screwed over for decades primarily due to NIMBY, (much more than money) this project must be a priority.

    Over the years in Queens, train service has been eliminated and never replaced on the Kissena Corridor, the Whitestone Branch, the stops on the Montauk Line and the Woodhaven Blvd. stop on the Atlantic Avenue Line. I didn’t even get started on the termination of trolley service. Let’s not allow the Rockaway Beach Line to just fade into history.

    End the rail carnage and defeat NIMBY. The Rockaway Beach Rail Line must be reactivated!

    • Justin Samuels says:

      How to get the feds to fund this, particularly when the House is controlled by Republicans. Basically, nothing is possible without the money.

      • Bolwerk says:

        Republikans still dole out money for local projects, arguably more generously than Democrats – well, not to Democratic districts, but they still recognize the need for quid pro quo.

        Also, the cost of turning an abandoned ROW into a functioning railroad is probably a rounding error on things like the SAS, or at least could be.

        • Justin Samuels says:

          Okay. The only hope I think Rockaway Beach LIRR activation has is if interested related to the casinos (one is already in Ozone Park) and other real estate interests in that are lobby for it.

          It would take more than transit activists to counter the nimbys. With the Rockawys ravaged residentially by Sandy, perhaps if there are plans on turning that into summer resorts (because hotels and casinos could afford to pay the really high insurance rates for this area in the future, rates that will drive out a lot of homeowners, renters, and busineses) you might be able to see action on the Rockaway Beach LIRR.

          • Bolwerk says:

            Not even sure it matters now. If he’s giving money away to the park activists, it sounds like Cuomo is actively trying to prevent reactivation. Without the city council and Bloomberg fighting for it, it’s probably doomed. The modern crop of transit activists is mostly hamfisted BRT fantasists who can’t even get guaranteed accommodations on the new TZB.

            • Justin Samuels says:

              Which is why I said the least they could do is have more express bus service to the Rockaways, if they are going to make the Rockaway Beach LIRR into a park……..

              • Bolwerk says:

                Well, yeah, except that’s most probably more expensive. The frustrating thing about this line is it’s really cheap. 😐

                • Justin Samuels says:

                  I don’t think its cheap at all. First you’d have to do an engineering study, so see how badly decayed the infastructure is. Then you’d have to rebuild the line, basically.

                  With express buss service, all you’d have to do is having the rolling stock and the employees, and the buses can go express from North Queens to South Queens. And you don’t have to have lots of federal funding to this, or deal with nimby’s or possibly use eminent domain.

                  • Bolwerk says:

                    How bad is it? Probably not bad. Keep it in perspective. It’s the type of thing the Germans get running for the low millions$ per mile. It’d be more as heavy rail, but not insanely more.

                    Bus service can require several times the employees and the rolling stock is more expensive over time. Meanwhile, if you use federal funding, you want lots of it. They only fund capital projects, not operations – so capital expenditure to reduce operational cost is ideal, if federal funding is viable. (While NIMBYs will be NIMBYs, there shouldn’t be an eminent domain issue here.)

                    • Henry says:

                      The Germans also manage to keep costs in line.
                      Keep in mind, the MTA would probably be in charge of such a reactivation, and this the agency that’s repairing a single station for more than the cost of fixing the third of the NJT fleet that was parked in the Meadowlands.

                      Granted, South Ferry was a pretty poorly built subway station, the price tag is probably going to head downwards, and the Feds will pay the brunt of the costs, but it’s ridiculous after a while.

                    • Bolwerk says:

                      The costs were the point, Henry.

                      I’ve never heard a particularly good reason for South Ferry’s costs. Even if it’s about protecting other less flood-prone infrastructure, it almost sounds like it would make more sense to just rip the entire complex out and start a fresh cut and cover complex. It means no 1 and no R service for a good year or two, but I can’t see it costing $600M.

                      I dunno? Maybe I’m just shooting out of my ass and it’s impossible (because of the Lex infrastructure?). The upside to that is it can make accommodations for SAS that currently can’t be made, like a cross platform transfer to the R or something.

                    • Justin Samuels says:

                      If NY could keep costs in line, who knows perhaps the city and the state could pay for something like the Rockaway Beach LIRR reactivation, without federal help. As it is, massively expensive infrastructure projects and grandiose plans simply ensure nothing gets done. 23 Billion for a full length Second Avenue Subway? What would the return on this investment be?

                      In fact, if costs were much lower, it might be easier for the MTA to simply sell bonds. But that would require investors getting a return on their investment, and the MTA debt load is already high.

                    • Bolwerk says:

                      It’s not unheard of for government agencies elsewhere to eschew federal aid to keep costs down. I suspect the New York political class mostly just wants the most aid to dole out the most patronage, and if it increases the costs of the local contribution all the better for them.

                      I can see an argument that SAS is economically “worth it” at $20B+, but SAS is quite possibly has potential to be a more important service than any in the hemisphere other than the Lex. SAS would simply be more convenient if it were built cut and cover, like the Lex. It’s impossible to deny traveling several stories to/from underground is a wildly useless “feature.”

                      The more important point is, we can’t build for the other four boroughs at that price.

                    • Ron says:

                      A truly great article about why the Rockaway Beach Rail Line must be reactivated!

                  • Nathanael says:

                    The Rockaway Beach LIRR line would be relatively cheap, due to a lack of heavy construction. There’s no civil engineering to speak of.

                    It’s not actually that expensive to lay rail.

                    The station platforms cost a bundle, but are good value for money. The bridges over the line are already in good condition (because they have to be); I’m not sure about the bridges under the line, but bridges from that period are usually very heavily built and require only minor rehabilitation.

                    • Henry says:

                      At most you’d probably have to make platforms and add elevators to meet the ADA requirement, which isn’t a necessarily difficult or expensive thing in and of itself.

                      Granted, this would be built by the same agency that said making a new Elmhurst LIRR station ADA compliant by including an elevator would cost $100M more. However, there’s hope to believe that the MTA can build elevators for less than 1/6th of the South Ferry reconstruction cost.

                    • Someone says:

                      Who says that elevators are required for ADA accessibility? We can do the same thing with ramps for a much lower price, plus the fare control can be on the ramps.

                    • Henry says:

                      By ADA requirements, ramps must have a slope of 1:12, and can’t exceed 30 feet for a single run. I’m going to assume that the ROW is 15 feet above street level (this would accommodate most trucks under underpasses. This means that the ramp must be 180 feet long, but will consist of 6 ramps and turns.
                      The ROW is more or less a sort of enbankment, so accommodating a ramp of this size would require a lot of regrading work that might actually be more expensive than a simple elevator installation.

                    • Someone says:

                      It’s only 13 feet. But ignoring the minor details, there is lots of space to place a ramp along South Railroad Avenue, assuming that the sidewalk can be widened by 5 feet or so.

    • Someone says:

      I’m sorry, but when was a real railroad ever on Kissena Corridor? I wouldn’t call a service that lasted a few years a railroad.

  10. Michael K says:

    The middle class has been leaving the NY-NJ area for some time now in search of affordable, reasonable places to live. At 30 years old, married with a child, nightlife and culture aren’t very important.

    The husband and wife will turn to brooklyn, queens, bergen, nassau or westchester. If they work in midtown, they will never have a commute under an hour, with walking and waiting times included. Practically, this means if they finish work at, 6 pm, they will never be home before 7, ever.

    Suddenly the option of moving to the sunbelt cities, where property rights are worthless against the planners at TxDOT, ADOT and so forth building highways and adding lanes to keep the commute times reasonable.

    It takes way too long to get anywhere here, even LIRR trains slow to crawl for 20 minutes out of 45 minutes on trips from NYP to the Babylon Line. commuters know that if the train wasn’t travelling at 5 mph through queens, they would get to work in 25 minutes.

    We need to get our commute times down, and do whatever it takes. If it requires NJT, MNRR and LIRR to throw their tantrums aside and work to gether and build better infrastructure, so be it.

    The governor has shown us that he can get an unnecessary bridge fast tracked and built under budget to connect the hudson valley for reasons that I think have to do with him wanting to drive faster from Albany to Westchester.

    Cuomo needs to grab travel times by the horns and relentlessly increase train speeds and throughput (better signals, switches and track)

    I await the formation of the tri-state DOT that runs all forms of transportation, from planes to car to trains to streetcars to buses to bikes to peds.

    • Julio says:

      You are kidding right? I am a New Yorker but have lived in various metropolitan areas throughout the USA and to say that the commute isn’t insanely long for people in say Washington DC , many of whom commute from west Virginia because they can find affordable housing compared to DC or Northern Virginia ! I could go into the travails of the folks I work with from LA and what their commute is like and so on and so on.

      • Bolwerk says:

        Hmm, pretty sure New York has some of the longest average commute times in the USA. The West Virginia panhandle to DC may be shorter than the Poconos to NYC – time-wise, by train, Port Jervis to Hoboken is more than that and you aren’t even in NYC yet.

        But, so-called “extreme commuting” isn’t unheard of in most major metro areas.

        • Henry says:

          Either way, commutes from Rego Park aren’t the worst in the city. Everyone east of Jamaica and Flushing who can’t afford LIRR fares is subjected to an hour+ ride from Manhattan, at the very least.

          • Bolwerk says:

            Not sure what the worst subway commute in the city is, but barring extreme examples that the subway wasn’t strictly designed for (e.g., north Bronx to Rockaways) the J from Jamaica to Manhattan might be up there.

            • Someone says:

              The Bronx has places where there’s absolutely no bus service, let alone subway service.

              It’s not like Rego Park doesn’t have subway service at all. Parts of the neighborhood are served pretty well by the M, R and J/Z lines.

              • Bolwerk says:

                I don’t know about bus coverage, but subway coverage in The Bronx is considerably better than Queens. But I was thinking, the 1 is a pretty awful service too.

                • Someone says:

                  “Subway coverage in The Bronx is considerably better than Queens.”

                  Taking the subway across the Bronx is next to impossible without having to take a convoluted route. The IRT pretty much monopolizes Bronx subway service.

                  • Bolwerk says:

                    Crossing The Bronx easterly/westerly is certainly no harder than crossing central Queens northerly/southerly. And I don’t see a major problem with the IRT’s monopolization.

                    Though, if you want to be strict about it, even Manhattan doesn’t have especially mature crosstown service. It just happens to be better than every other borough’s.

                  • Henry says:

                    At least the Bronx has six different subway lines, each extending deep into the borough.

                    Queens has only three subway lines extending into it for a significant distance (Astoria, Flushing, Queens Blvd) and those only go extend into the middle of the borough.

                    Note: The Jamaica and Fulton lines only have short portions in Queens and mostly serve Brooklyn, and they wind through Downtown Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan before reaching Midtown – this is reflected in the ridership of their Queens stations.

                    • Ron says:

                      What about submerging the Rockaway Beach Line below the right-of-way and placing a bike trail above? Is that idea feasible? Would that appease the NIMBYs? Can anyone provide a ballpark figure on the cost?

                    • Nyland8 says:

                      It would be much cheaper to elevate a rail above the ROW and leave a usable Rail Trail beneath it, than it would be to tunnel. It would also offer an opportunity to build a clean and quite elevated train to serve as an example to the rest of the NIMBY’s in waiting throughout the boroughs.

                    • Ron says:

                      “It will serve as an example to NIMBY’s in waiting throughout the boroughs.” LOL, Nyland8. I love it! I also had the idea of placing a cover around the RBL so as not to disturb residents. However, I really like your idea. That’s it. Raise the Rockaway Beach Line above the right-of-way and place the bike trail underneath, If the train is above the height of their homes, it will not rumble through their backyards. They won’t see the train when they look out their windows or play outside.

                    • Ron says:

                      What about submerging the Rockaway Beach Line below the righ-of-way? Is that idea feasible? Would that appease the NIMBYs? Can anyone estimate a ballpark figure on the cost?

                    • Bolwerk says:

                      Unless there is some place where grade separation is needed, there is no reason for an el or an open cut. It’s a lot of wasted labor to placate morons who will stop complaining as soon as they see how well it works.

                    • Henry says:

                      Reactivation is only cost-effective because the route’s already grade separated and there’s no need to purchase additional ROW.

                      You could probably do an Atlanta Beltline-type project where light rail and bikeway run alongside, with shard sections on the bridges, but I don’t know if anyone would take this as an acceptable halfway compromise.

                    • Bolwerk says:

                      I think light rail is fine, but I don’t know how well the bike way would work with it in the mix.

                      To be honest, it seems like a rather silly place to put a park period.

                    • Alon Levy says:

                      As soon as the ROW requires elevation or trenching, the alignment becomes useless. If you need to tunnel or elevate, going along Woodhaven is no more expensive than along the Rockaway Beach ROW, and Woodhaven is better-developed and connects better to the other subway lines.

                    • Nyand8 says:

                      I’m inclined to disagree, Alon. Building an elevated over an existing rail berm is fractionally cheaper than other options – by a lot.

                      The preliminary borings, and the installation of mini piles for the bent or cantilever construction can all proceed along the existing railway, right off a flatbed railcar. Likewise the pouring of footings.

                      Then the transportation of everything – falsework, precast segments, heavy equipment, even the work crews – EVERYTHING – can move along the existing rail bed as the work proceeds. No trucks on the local roads to slow the EIS, no lawsuits and engineering costs protecting people’s property – and the speed of such construction would be staggering compared to most other methods.

                      Locals would see/hear drilling for less than a week in their backyards. Then months would pass before they would see construction go by. If they took a two-week vacation, there could suddenly be an elevated train in their view when they returned – and a year later they might notice the sound of a passing train in the distance – but only in life’s quietest moments.

                      Most important, a tiny fraction of the NIMBY mobilization against it – and the endless complaints about construction obstructions, lost business and lost sleep that usually accompany rail construction. And the gift – the big payback for the sacrifice of some sunlight early or late in the day – is that they’d get their nice rail trail greenway under it.

                      There’s really no comparison. Short of simply running a train on what already exists, building an elevated atop the ROW would cost a tiny fraction of running any line of comparable length anywhere else within the city – and that’s a cost not only in money, but time and other resources.

                      If the advantages were properly explained to the people in the neighborhoods it goes through, they might even demand it, rather than oppose it.

                  • Nyland8 says:

                    A proper beltway – not unlike most of the Tri-Boro Rx plan – would serve the purpose of East/West cross-town connections in the Bronx, North-South cross-spoke connections in Queens, and the same for southern Brooklyn.

                    Then riders wouldn’t have to go into or near Manhattan, just to go back out another spur to get cross-town.

                    • Bolwerk says:

                      True dat, but Triborough RX seems to do little for Bronx crosstown service. It does deal with the isolation from Queens/Brooklyn, which is definitely the other major shortcoming of The Bronx’s subway network.

                    • Henry says:

                      Triboro RX south of Jackson Heights is a great idea that should get funding as soon as possible.

                      Triboro RX north of it isn’t so great, for various reasons (the rail ROW is cut off from surrounding neighborhoods by the BQE in Queens, doesn’t really provide “crosstown” service across the Bronx)

                      You could probably have Triboro RX turn west at Randalls to create a 125th St crosstown, and it wouldn’t be that much more inconvenient for riders. Given that there’s no money (or politicians pushing for money) to fund even an initial segment of the plan, though, the Triboro RX may very well be a pipe dream.

                • Justin Samuels says:

                  The Bronx lines all take you to Manhattan. Going crosstown in the Bronx requires bus service, or that you drive.

      • Michael K says:

        I would lump all northeastern cities in with NYC- the problem is not exclusive to us here.

        LA is a city with the exact same problem, but in reverse: Nowhere to live with a reasonable commute and affordable standard of living, due to all transportation avenues running at capacity (Highways, in their case..I would compare the 405 to the Lex.)

        In the eyes of a regional planner here, I think most people want a reasonable amount of personal space, outdoor space (patio, porch, terrace, balcony, rooftop garden, backyard) and a reasonable commute to work in a perceptively safe area with good schools.

        Spending an hour to travel 11 miles to work is simply not acceptable (Midwood to Midtown in this case on the Q train.) In another city that has many middle class jobs, one could travel 11 miles in 10 minutes on a freeway (or at most 30 minutes in traffic.

        The express bus from Teaneck, NJ travels 14 miles in 25 minutes to the Port Authority Bus Terminal when there is light traffic. It even gets to the Lincoln Tunnel approach in 20 minutes during the AM Peak rush hour, but gets stuck for 35 minutes (traveling 2000 feet) in a wall of buses trying to enter the terminal, which is incredibly over capacity.

        That is our problem at hand.

        Capacity maxed out.

    • Matthias says:

      …building highways and adding lanes to keep the commute times reasonable.

      This just leads to more congestion in the long term. Compact cities with speedy transit are the only way to keep commute times reasonable.

      • Michael K says:

        That is true, but NYC is hardly compact! it stretches eastwards to almost Ronkonkoma, north to Poughkeepsie, west to Dover and south to Trenton.

        The “commutershed” is enormous and is filled with many municipalities that have medium and higher density housing, all over Nassau, Brooklyn, Queens, Bergen, Husdon, Essex, Passaic, Middlesex, Bronx, Westchester, ect.

        Newer Sunbelt cities are hot places filled with pollution and are awful places to walk around, but…they are mostly low density, and have highly dispersed employment at anti-urban office parks. The model of city planning they have chosen isnt so crazy, when one imagines what a 6 block walk is like in 100 degree heat, and in the case of Houston, extremely humid to boot.

        Put another way, without cars, the sunbelt cities simply would not exist…In the minds of the local planners there, the car is the only reasonable way to get around and try to accommodate it as much as possible, at the expense of all other modes.

        That is a load of BS, but the citizens down there love it and vote for a socialized transportation system, and if the city there tries to retrofit the area to accommodate a street grid/walking/transit, people will be rightfully upset, because a transit-friendly grid makes driving more difficult and increases travel times.

        If you dont believe me, try driving 1/2 mile to the Shoprite on McDonald Ave in Brooklyn(20-25 minutes) compared to 4 miles to the Shoprite on Route 4 In Paramus, NJ (5 Minutes.)

        Living in transit heavy areas tends to have a high correlation with living in an area that is over capacity and getting around is long, cumbersome and a pain in the a$$.


        • Alex C says:

          These transit areas are heavy on transit because of our dense population, not for fun and giggles. If we tried the “let’s all drive” lifestyle here, it would be a catastrophe.

          • Michael K says:

            1. Transit came first, density second (streetcar suburb?.) We built trackage to nowhere, people moved into towns along the tracks later.

            2. What was the point of saying what you did? We all know that and experienced it the few days after Sandy.

            However, no one has been advocating “lets all drive”, to the contrary this has been about how transit has been detached from DOTs, and that DOTs essentially get a free pass to build whatever they want with questionable financing like the New Tappan Zee Bridge and that our transportation network is hopelessly over capacity and needs a massive increase built asap. ESA and SAS are small steps, but much more needs to be done.

            • Alex C says:

              In order for transit to get those same DOT freedoms, people need to start thinking of transit as important. Most politicians still think of it as a welfare program for the poors. Until that changes, there will be no progress.

              • Michael K says:

                Having the DOT include all modes and doing away with authorities would be more effective and simplified, I am inclined to think.

                I think the only time an authority is called for are instances with multiple jurisdictions competing or different legislative frameworks, i.e. PANYNJ.

                • Henry says:

                  NYC’s DOT doesn’t contain a lot of things other major cities’ DOTs have. For one thing, the enforcement of traffic laws, parking, and the like, are under the jurisdiction of the NYPD.

                  Coincidentally, you see a lot of placard abuse, illegal parking of police cars, and less vigilant enforcement of laws when it comes to things like speeding, blocking the bike lane, and crash investigations.

                  NYC DOT right now is very progressive, but that only goes so far when the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing (or refuses to go along with it).

                  • Michael K says:

                    Since most of these are state needs, (since NYC cannot seem to annex its outlying areas like other cities seem to do on a routine basis) I would expect they would all be under the realm of State DOT, not NYCDOT.

                    • Justin Samuels says:

                      The original NYC was Manhattan, so NYC did annex its outer lying areas, in 1898, or so.

                      Nassau was a part of Queens, then, for awhile they were unincorporated Queens county land, till they voted to separate from Queens.

                      NJ is another state, NYC cannot annex what’s over the Hudson, and Nassau voted on this long ago.

                      As for Westchester, nah, they don’t want to be a part of NYC either.

                      Los Angeles hasn’t been able to annex areas around it in recent years. In fact, West Hollywood broke away, and recently San Fernando did. In NY, Staten Island voted to separate at one point, but this didn’t go through the state assembly.

                    • Henry says:

                      NYCDOT has a more stringent set of traffic laws on the books than the state has in place (no right turn on red, speed limits, etc.), and the city has the power to enforce these laws because of home rule.

                      NYC is actually geographically a very big city – it’s certainly bigger than Chicago and SF proper, and contains just under half of the state’s population.

                      Annexing suburbs into the city proper is a mixed blessing, anyways – look at Toronto, which had its huge transit plan shelved by a mayor hailing from its suburbs. (The mayor’s gone, but the plan’s basically dead in the water.)

              • Nathanael says:

                Alex C: “Most politicians still think of it as a welfare program for the poors. Until that changes, there will be no progress.”

                Bluntly, elect younger politicians. D.P. Lubic discusses the generational issue. You want politicians under the age of 40, and then you’ll get progress.

                • Bolwerk says:

                  It’s coming. The problem is the boomers still have an iron grip on politics, and I don’t see that going away in the next decade. But hell, there is already a crop of retarded “conservative” politicians under 45. Paul Ryan is as sick a fuck as they come.

                  It’s heartening to know that the future of American conservatism is at least Barack Obama. 😐

                • Alex C says:

                  Younger doesn’t always means less stupid on transit. Go out into the suburbs and you’ll see plenty of spoiled suburbanite imbeciles who think cars are cool and public transit is totally for poor people and losers. Thanks to the psychotic writings of Ayn Rand, we also have a pretty large generation of “self-sufficient” (Read: parents bought them everything) sociopaths like Paul Ryan, as Bolwerk mentioned, who are so far to the right they’re driving off the eight-lane highway and crashing into the insane asylum. And while both sides do it, the Republicans did such an amazingly effective job of gerrymandering around the country that they will maintain control of the House and complete control of at least half the state governments in this country for another decade. That means on a federal level, and in half the country on a state level, we won’t see a dime increase in transportation spending.

            • Justin Samuels says:

              You will not have any serious expansion in transit here. Part of the problem is NY can no longer finance transit construction. They are dependent in large part on the federal government, who has no major interest in building lots of new trains in NY.

  11. Tim says:

    Who the F thought it’s a good idea to drop an MLS stadium in Queens? Has no one seen the fallout from the Harrison/Red Bull debacle? Are they trying to lure the NYRB, or are they 100% guaranteed an expansion team or something? This has C-F written all over it.

    • AG says:

      The MLS came up with the idea. They want a team specifically within city limits specifically because the Red Bulls are in Jersey. They are planning to put up their own money to do it.

      • Alex C says:

        If they’re putting up the money and the taken-over parkland gets added square-inch-for-square-inch somewhere else like College Point, I think most New Yorkers would support the idea.

  12. Ron says:


    Most of us want to see rail service return on the Rockaway Beach Line in any way possble. We also understand the need for reactivation.

    What realistic steps can be taken for our goal to materialize?

    • Henry says:

      You need at least two of the three

      1) Cash
      2) A group (or groups) from the community that support such a project
      3) Someone in power willing to at least entertain the idea

      Basically, you’d need to do everything the park group did, and possibly a little bit more. You’d need to have the support of the MTA (which killed off the 7 to Secaucus idea), and possibly the DOT.

      To get the line itself started, you’d need to fix up the old line by clearing trees and possibly repairing bridges, put up some ADA-accessible platforms, and either hook it up to Queens Blvd or build terminal platforms on the LIRR Main Line ROW.

      The biggest hurdle to this (and pretty much any other transit project in the city) is cash. Our region has been receiving a lot of FTA money for the past decade or two, and whether or not they’d like to pony up more cash is doubtful. Federal cash would also require the line to meet certain effectiveness metrics, and the MTA isn’t so great at keeping costs down. The state and city might need to issue some bonds or raise some taxes, but it could be done if there was political will.

      Whether or not raising money for this is a good idea when most of the current capital program and the next one is going to be financed by debt, is debatable. But if you don’t have money and supporters in both the community and in office, it’s not happening. (It is possible to overcome NIMBYs – all the bike-lane activism has been paying off.)

      • Justin Samuels says:

        If you had businesses supporting that idea, it would go. Except the A train already goes to Howard Beach and Jamaica, so no need for the Port Authority or the Airlines to involve themselves in Rockaway Beach LIRR activation. The real estate industry in the Rockaways has bigger problems, post Sandy, as there is a long term wash out of the A train over Jamaica Bay, plus enormous damage.

        So it doesn’t look like anything like a train activation will happen.

        • AG says:

          Justin – the business interests in that area are precisely some of the ones who want additional transit options. It only helps them. even in suburbs office parks offer shuttles to mass transit. in the 21st century anyone in business knows reliable mass transit in cities increases competitiveness. it’s the residents who complain that trains are too loud who don’t want it.

          • Justin Samuels says:

            Are the business interests willing to put their mouth where their money is and pay for some of the costs? If not, they don’t truly support the expansion of the rail system. And I suspect overall they don’t really.

          • Henry says:

            I would say that this actually isn’t the case, at least in Flushing. Business leaders were screaming because a municipal parking lot was going to be redeveloped into a mall, just two or three blocks from the Main St station.

            Main St is the tenth busiest subway station in the city because so many people are funneled into it through the buses. The pedestrian crush is very real in Flushing, especially given the fact that all traffic going north-south is funneled onto a short section of Main St surrounding the subway station. Yet, we have community leaders throwing a fit because a parking lot that isn’t even full half the time is turning into a mall.

            The Rockaway Beach line would probably be better received because it doesn’t impact the roads at all, but they would never go as far as, say REBNY lobbying the feds for a station at 41st St/10th Av (albeit quite belatedly). And even then, REBNY was not talking about ponying up some of its own money.

  13. Ron says:


    Thanks for the info. I really appreciate it. I noticed that you don’t personally support the reactivation because you feel that service elsewhere would be negatively impacted. However, perhaps restoring the Rockaway Beach Line could be phase 1 of a larger plan to bring more rail service to Queens. Maybe the MTA’s 1969 plan or something similar.

    Also, rail supporters have reached out to the Queensway folks in the past to include a bike path as part of the reactivation plan. However, we’ve been rebuffed. (I know, they’re winning.Why would they want to deal with us? And, yes, I realize that the bike plan was really created to block reactivation.

    As far as funding is concerned, Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer brought up the idea of an infrastructure bank during his mayoral campaign. Why hasn’t the idea gained more traction? Also, what about investments from hedge funds or foreign entities? (I know that we have to tread very carefully here, but we need the cash)

  14. Someone says:

    Can we have a JFK express subway line instead?

  15. Ron says:

    The Rockaway Beach Rail Line would serve that purpose. Look at a map.

  16. Ron says:

    If we are going to rebuild the A line over Jamaica Bay, from the Rockaways to Ozone Park, why not rehabilitate the entire line to Rego Park?

    What about private investment from hedge funds and/or foreign investment?

  17. Rom says:

    Even before any rail project, can’t we just buy these NIMBYs out through eminent domain so we can just get them out of the way? Then in the future we can proceed with the project that we want.

    • Jeff says:

      And how much money would you need for that?

      Keep in mind the neighborhood this ROW goes through happens to be the Rego Park Crescents, which feature some of the most expensive houses per sqft in Queens. The people who live there will have money and power to fight this to the bitter end.

      • Bolwerk says:

        Maybe close to none. There isn’t really very much to take. The ROW is already public property, and the encroachments may or may not require anymore than an eviction.

  18. Ron says:


    I agree wholeheartedly with what you said. Exactly, eminent domain payouts would be a lot less money than digging new subway tunnels.

    I would like to add that I’m not looking to evict anyone. I believe that they can all stay in their homes. We are just paying for the privilege of using their backyards. Almost like leasing space. We are willing to pay a hefty lease. Rail supporters have made the mistake, in my estimation, of not beginning the conversation with what an eminent domain payout might look like.

    If you want projects to be accomplished in America, you have to show people the money.

    • Bolwerk says:

      I don’t think eminent domain is relevant here. The ROW is still publicly owned, and so far as I know adverse possession hasn’t been claimed.

      I don’t think anyone needs to be evicted from their homes, but they might need to be evicted from the ROW. Some back yards and perhaps other uses (a baseball field?) are encroaching.

  19. Ron says:

    We can all agree that the Rockaways are not the Hamptons, but things are improving rapidly. Just look at Long Beach. It struggled for years, but it is now a very desirable area,Sandy notwithstanding. People will always pay a premium to live by the beach.

    If Rockaway Beach Rail Line reactivation is blocked forever because the ROW was relinquished, it would be an historic blunder.

    • Justin Samuels says:

      Well, insurance companies are not issuing new policies for coastal New York ,and without insurance, you can’t get a mortgage.

      So Sandy did a lot of damaged to these areas, in terms of residential living.

      With that said, you can always have these areas as summer resorts.

      A number of homeowners are saying the city is requiring that they upgrade their homes, and that they can’t afford to do so. Selling their homes now is impossible, with the no new insurance policies they’d have to give their homes away.

      • Nathanael says:

        Well, you CAN sell an uninsurable house, but only to cash buyers.

        Which restricts the market a lot, and drives the price down a lot. So if the homeowner has a mortgage, bang, they’re underwater on their mortgage.

  20. Ron says:

    However, seriously, is Governor Cuomo’s funding of the study for the bike trail the coup de grace for the Rockaway Beach Rail Line?

  21. Ron says:

    If the rail line is blocked from any future reactivation by converting it to a park, it will be a civic tragedy and a city planning failure of the highest magnitude. It is akin to the demolition of Penn Station, the Dodgers and Giants leaving New York, and yet another painful reminder of the erosion of rail transit throughout the outer boroughs.

    It is simply unfathomable why a compromise can’t be reached, i.e. the use of sound barriers/enclosing the RBL in a tunnel like structure, and constructing a bike trail where possible.

    Where are the MTA and DOT? Missing in action? Perhaps that is the most lamentable fact of all.

  22. AG says:

    The article as reported touched on new parks like High Line – Hudson River – Brooklyn Bridge. The major thing is that those parks have operating budgets funded by private enterprise. A condo and hotel are being built in Brooklyn Bridge Park to help pay for it’s upkeep. Hudson River is thinking of trying to get a local tax instituted to pay for it’s upkeep. The High Line gets money from many of the new projects built in the area (see Chelsea Market expansion and Hudson Yards). Where would similar money come from for this proposed Queensway??? Mom and Pop businesses won’t be able to take that burden. The only way that could work is if they have businesses operating in it like on Governor’s Island… but it doesn’t sound like that is anything at all like what they are proposing. Not to mention Governor’s Island has historical value which draws ppl in the first place.

    Also – in this article below – there is an ironic complaint. One person claims that ppl drive and park in Forest Hills area to use transit and the re-activated corridor would make it worse. The irony is that if other neighborhoods had better transit they wouldn’t need to drive and park in Forest Hills. I don’t get the mindset:

    To me – if they are really interested in green space – they should look at what is being done in the “South Bronx Greenway” where the existing streets are being modified… with an eventually connection to Randall’s Island. They could do the same there to link to Forest Park and Flushing Meadows… while letting this be a new rail spur.
    Encouraging less cars on city streets is one of the best ways to clean the air and help ppl lead healthier lives. Mass transit should be a part of any plan.

  23. Ron says:

    We definitely need the suport of residents of Rego Park. Please visit or (Regional Rail Working Group’s website) and click on the Rockaway link

  24. Ron says:


    Ok, I hear ya. Let’s keep the comments family-friendly. I just meant that the NIMBYs in Rego Park/Richmond Hill have helped successfully defeat every proposal to reactivate service since the Super A Express idea in the 1960’s (I know that lack of funding was a major reason why that plan was killed as well) And, as we all know, Gov. Cuomo, the highest ranking elected official in NY state, also appears to be sympathetic to their concerns. It’s not like reactivation is a brand new idea that has evolved in the last couple of weeks and let’s first determine if there are any opponents.

    With regards to purchasing a home along the ROW, let’s say someone bought it during the housing boom of the last decade. The line had been out of service for 40+ years. In addition, as I read in an earlier post, realtors/community board representatives/elected officials may have informed these potential homeowners that every proposal to reactivate has been defeated and the same thing can be expected to happen in the future. And we’re only talking about what may have been said privately. After Assemblymen Goldfeder and Miller held their press conference calling for reactivation in February,Forest Hills Assemblywoman Karen Koslowitz went on the record. She said that she would “lie down in front of the tracks” and that a new rail line would “wreak destruction on the neighborhood.” Sure, people could have chosen to walk away from buying homes along the ROW, but with a 50 year track record of success defeating reactivation, why should they have any trepidation?

    I want this reactivation to happen as much as anyone. Queens, not just the Rockaways, desperately needs this project to happen. I just thought that something out of the box needed to be done to finally make this dream a reality.

    I’ve mentioned the cash buyout idea a few times and I’ll try not to mention it again. I’ve said my piece.

    • Bolwerk says:

      The only reason this is even being discussed is the public input process is so weighted in favor of infantile NIMBYs. Transit advocates for some reason never want to challenge those laws, I guess because they seem them as a foot in the door for the next Robert Moses.

      But it’s simply disingenuous to claim that these people would ever suffer any harm because a rail ROW gets reactivated. Noise is a simple issue to mitigate. The others, like the fact that black people might use it to get between Fulton and Queens Blvd.? Well, they don’t want to admit that’s what they’re really worried about.

      And if Karen Koslowitz willingly kills herself because of the reactivation? Well, I’m not going to cry about that.

      • Alex C says:

        This hits the nail on the head. The likes of Koslowitz are terrified that a peasant or black person might step foot onto the pristine sidewalks of the Forest Hills area. They NIMBYs are stupid, but they know the land for the railroad already exists.

        • AG says:

          Alex – someone should inform them then that in 2012 ppl of all races have access to cars… and the internet… so they can drive through their neighborhoods. their navigation systems might even send them there…. sad sad sad

          • Alex C says:

            They are of the mindset that only poor/non-white people use public transport, hence a subway line in their neighborhood to them means scary poor and black people coming into their neighborhood to [I don’t actually know what they’re supposed to do, you’ll have to ask Koslowitz as to why she’s scared].

  25. Ron says:

    Press conference with Congressmen Jefferies and Meeks to support the revitalization the Rockaway Beach Rail Line this Sunday, March 24th at 2pm. We will stand in front of the abandoned Rockaway Beach Rail Line at 99th Street and Liberty Avenue in Ozone Park.

    We would be delighted if you could attend and show your support!

  26. Ron says:

    Press conference to support Rockaway Beach Rail Line TODAY, Sunday,March 24th at 2pm. 99th Street and Liberty Ave. in Ozone Park. Please join us!

  27. Ron says:

    Propety values of homes along Rockaway Beach Rail Line should increase if the line were to be reactivated!

    • AG says:

      i find it mind boggling that as “Transit Oriented Development” is the new buzz in real estate across the nation – that ppl in THE transit city – NY – would somehow think their property values would drop. Very strange!!


  1. […] right-of-way into a park. I want rails-to-trails initiatives to disappear and would prefer to see a renewed effort to reactive the Rockaway Beach Branch line. In the aftermath of Sandy and with space for transit at such a premium in New York City, giving […]

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>