Home Asides Cuomo: MTA ‘working on additional transit applications’ for Ozone Park

Cuomo: MTA ‘working on additional transit applications’ for Ozone Park

by Benjamin Kabak

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo embarks on an extensive press tour to promote his plan to bring a privately-funded convention center to the Ozone Park area, reporters have asked him about the transit implications of such a plan. As I’ve mentioned in the past, the proposed area out near the Aqueduct and JFK Airport, isn’t particularly transit-accessible with only sporadic A train service and a nearby AirTrain. That isn’t stopping the governor though from eying the spot — and the $4 billion in private funds that come with it — optimistically.

Speaking with reporters earlier today, Cuomo said in a reponse to a question on mass transit, “The MTA is working on additional transit applications.” He touted the fact that Genting will pay for the construction of the convention center and will carry the costs of some transportation-related aspects of the project as well.

Admittedly, it’s still early in this process, but early is when key decisions are made. The MTA, governor and Genting must be as transparent and inclusive as possible in this process. A successful convention center will incorporate increased transit access without taking frequency away from popular stops further down the line, and the MTA should not be expected to cover the operating costs of increased service or the capital costs of building out a rail extension or new station stops. Now is the time for these concerns to see the light of day and not when the shovels are entering the ground.

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Adrian January 18, 2012 - 4:34 pm

It’s all about utilizing those 63rd Drive bellmouths. Apparently the tunnels were built up to the LIRR ROW (along 66th Avenue, with one tunnel even currently serving as an emergency exit). Simply connect to the Rockaway Branch, add stops at Metropolitan, Jamaica and Liberty avenues and crossovers to the express tracks along Queens Boulevard, and continue along the ROW to the Rockaways (with all A trains now terminating at Lefferts). Rockaway commuters get a faster commute, Ozone Park commuters get more frequent A service plus additional service along the new line. Plus access to the new convention center (read: boondoggle).

At least these improvements will remain in place after the convention center folds.

Lawrence Velázquez January 18, 2012 - 4:39 pm

There is a good argument to be made that the Rockaway connection is a poor transit investment.


Marc Shepherd January 18, 2012 - 4:44 pm

You are certainly right best answer is to reactivate the Rockaway Branch, but it is far from “simple.” The Rockaway Branch hasn’t had any maintenance in five decades, and it was probably not very well maintained even before that. It would need to be totally rebuilt. And some of the details are less sensible: there is no way they are sending 100 percent of A Trains to Lefferts, for a whole bunch of pragmatic reasons.

I do think there is an error in the main post. The complaint is NOT that A service to Aqueduct is sporadic. Headways on that route are more than adequate for the convention center. No, the complaint is that the train takes too long to reach Manhattan.

Indeed, if Adrian’s proposal were implemented, Aqueduct would see less rail service than it does now: there is no way they’re going to offer the A Train’s current headways on the LIRR. However, the trains (once they come) would get to midtown much more quickly, making the service far more attractive.

Alex C January 18, 2012 - 5:06 pm

This would also allow extension of the G back to Forest Hills, so I do like this idea. Maybe combine it with the old Queens super-express plan and send a QB local and a super-express down to the Rockaways.

Andrew January 18, 2012 - 10:29 pm

The demand for the G to Forest Hills is tiny. Nearly all of the local riders in Queens, want to go to Manhattan, and a lot of them have finally gotten used to staying on the local the whole way rather than transferring at Roosevelt. Give the outer local stations half of their service on the G and they’ll go back to cramming onto the express at Roosevelt.

Alex C January 19, 2012 - 1:09 am

Well, either the M or R will have to be routed down the Rockaway Beach ROW if the 66 Ave tunnels would be used, so I simply suggest running the G to Forest Hills to at least give some kind of extra local service.

Andrew January 19, 2012 - 7:12 am

I’d suggest leaving the M and R where they are now rather than spending a small (or not-so-small) fortune to bring a new local service to Aqueduct while simultaneously degrading the existing Queens Blvd. service.

John-2 January 19, 2012 - 1:05 pm

Given the angle the Rockaway Branch travels off the main line and the angle of Queens Blvd on the north side of Forest Hills, you could probably get away with sending the M or R south, because a stop east of Woodhaven at Metropolitan would attract a number of riders living on the southwest side of Forest Hills who currently use the 67th Ave. station.

It doesn’t help if you’re on the north side of QB, but it’s doable with only minor protests. What’s not is running any express service down the Rockaway Branch, because any pol serving an area east of Kew Gardens would be voted out of office (and possible run out of the area) if they backed sending local service to Parsons/Archer or 179th. Still, an LIRR link to the Convention Center/Casino from Grand Central and/or Penn Station would still probably be a less controversial option.

jim January 18, 2012 - 6:01 pm

I doubt there’s that much transit needed. The site will have the convention center, hotels and a casino. Many, probably most, conventioneers will stay within it.

There will be the need for hotel/casino workers to get to work, but the existing A service will be adequate for that. Some of the convention-goers will want to go into Manhattan for a night on the town or to sightsee or shop. An extension of the AirTrain from Howard Beach into the site, so that one can ride it into Jamaica to catch the train into Manhattan will satisfy that.

There isn’t going to be massive traffic between the convention center and Manhattan.

Andrew January 18, 2012 - 10:23 pm

Even if there is, subway trains swallow up large crowds easily. When you see a crowded rush hour train, it’s not carrying people to one busy destination – it’s carrying people to thousands of busy destinations.

Furthermore, traffic to and from the proposed convention center will not coincide with the peak rush hour flow – that is, there won’t be many people traveling from the convention center to Manhattan at 7:30 a.m. or back to the convention center at 5 p.m. At other times, there’s plenty of capacity on existing trains for conventioneers, and there’s room to add more trains in case the trains get overloaded at times.

So the only reason to change anything is to provide faster service. But if the new service, whether a reactivated Rockaway Branch or some sort of superexpress on the A line, will only be serving conventioneers, gamblers, and perhaps flyers, its cost per rider will be astonishingly high.

An AirTrain extension would be useful to get to the airport, but I can’t see many people riding AirTrain south and east to Federal Circle, then changing to a Jamaica train, then paying $5 to get through the turnstiles, then paying and riding LIRR into Penn or Grand Central, and finally, in most cases, getting on the subway (one more fare!) to reach their destinations. Wouldn’t they just take the A?

John-2 January 18, 2012 - 6:23 pm

Reactivating the Rockaway Branch is the only way to not just boost service by rail, but boost coverage area. But hooking it up to the Queens Blvd. subway as opposed to the LIRR would be a tricky situation.

Problem 1.) Express service via Queens Blvd. Basically, you’re not getting it. No matter how much $$$ Genting throws at them, no politician in Eastern Queens or from Nassau County is going to allow the MTA to swap out either E or F service from Hillside-179th or Parsons-Archer for any local service, in order to send some express trains to Ozone Park. And you can’t put a third express line on Queens Blvd. because the track capacity between 36th Street and 71st Continental is maxed out.

The M/R local tracks do have some capacity, either to add trains or to extend the G to Continental while the M or R heads south. but then you run into…

Problem 2.) Extension of any Rockaway Branch train past Howard Back to the actual Rockaways. Another non-starter. Think about how crowded IND trains already are at Roosevelt Avenue. Now take virtually everyone riding in from the Rockaways and add them to the mix. It would be great for people at Euclid Avenue wanting to get a seat on their morning A train commute to Manhattan, but not so hot for anyone trying to board the E/F/M/R from 63rd Drive west.

If there was a subway connection ending at Aqueduct or Howard Beach, the MTA would try to make it as much of a PITA as possible for Rockaway riders to come in/out of Manhattan via Queens Blvd., just to get the train capacity on that and the A in Brooklyn in balance. And the option would likely by local service from 63rd Drive to Queens Plaza. That probably wouldn’t make Genting happy, but with the Grand Central connection due to open before any Convention Center is built, reactivating the Rockaway Branch for it’s former LIRR service and reconfiguring the line from Liberty Ave. to Howard Beach to resemble something like the WMATA Red Line and the MARTA service at Rockville might end up be the opion to best get people to the site from midtown while not stressing/unbalancing services on the Queens IND lines.

Ramiro January 18, 2012 - 6:31 pm

I think the best solution is for the bellmouths at 63rd drive to be used. Then turn the Woodhaven Boulevard Station into an express stop as it is provisioned to be one, and run one of the express trains [E or F] as an express through the rockaway branch and extend one of the local trains to cover for the express trains stations at the end of the line.

If I recall reading somewhere, the R train used to go all the way until the end of the F Line, although I believe the E line would be better to run on the Rockaway Branch since it doesn’t run through Bk like the F train does and would make the F’s run way too long.

Andrew January 18, 2012 - 10:26 pm

Because I’m sure all of those Jamaica Center riders would just love to have a local ride all the way into Manhattan.

Frank B. January 19, 2012 - 1:48 am

I wasn’t aware that Woodhaven Boulevard is provisioned as a future express stop. Where did you get that tidbit of information from?

Evan February 22, 2012 - 2:51 pm


The above website has the information.

Also, if you ever chance to be in the area, look out of the train window that’s nearest to the platforms immediately after leaving 63rd Drive or Grand Ave. You’ll notice that the wall curves away slowly from the track, before it adjoins the track again just before the platform; those are the bellmouths mentioned in the article.

If the station is ever expanded, it would allow both express and local riders access to all the shops in the area (Queens Center, Rego Center, Queens Place, Junction Blvd. shops, restaurants, etc.), and make an already busy neighborhood into one of the busiest in Queens – as well as push already ridiculous rents even higher, which is why I personally view it as both a boon and a curse, but mostly a boon.

Steve January 18, 2012 - 7:02 pm

Anybody have any sites that give more information about these possible routes. I’m not too familiar with them but it sounds intriguing. I would also love to see the G from Church Ave-Forest Hills permanently.

Alon Levy January 18, 2012 - 9:26 pm

Does anyone think that this convention center will be transit-oriented at all? If you do, please contact me as soon as possible; I’m about to leave the country and need to sell my assets quickly, and you could be a good buyer.

Andrew January 18, 2012 - 10:34 pm

To Cuomo, Ozone Park is an excellent place for a convention center because there’s room for a vast parking lot. Transit access probably didn’t even occur to him until later. (Transit clearly isn’t a priority to him.)

Alex C January 19, 2012 - 1:11 am

I’m waiting on his “let’s widen the Belt Parkway and Van Wyck!” proposal. His completely suburban view on transit is not very encouraging.

jim January 19, 2012 - 9:11 am

Not necessarily widening the Belt and Van Wyck, but certainly creating better access from them to the site.

Alon Levy January 19, 2012 - 2:19 am

Yeah, pretty much. If he’d cared about making things transit-accessible, he’d put the convention center in Coney Island, which has underused subway lines, a history and connotation with being a fun destination for people, and probably no more residents who object to urban renewal anti-development NIMBYs than Ozone Park.

And transit is very clearly not a priority to him. Neither is any sort of urbanism. He’s running for President after all, and will soon be in charge of a nation that’s 90% rural; he can’t be seen as a cloistered urban New Yorker.

Andrew January 19, 2012 - 7:18 am

I don’t know if he’s anti-urban because of his presidential prospects or because that’s just who he is.

But if the former, he should be reminded that, while we may be 90% rural in square miles, we aren’t 90% rural in voters or even in electors.

Bolwerk January 19, 2012 - 12:40 pm

I take it as the latter. I’m not even so convinced he’s transit-hostile. I think there is a strong possibility he doesn’t think it’s very important, or never really thought about it at all.

As far as people’s attitudes break down, POTUS is in charge of country where many people are convinced their suburban subdivision represents idyllic small town social mores. It’s ridiculous, of course, because most of those ‘burbs border on urban and now have most of the problems associated with postwar urban cores – and when they don’t, they tend to lack the positives (tangible community) and negatives (sheep shagging) alike of rural or small town culture.

Alon Levy January 20, 2012 - 1:35 am

I don’t think he’s deliberately anti-urban for political reasons, but that’s why he supports two big anti-urban projects – this convention center disaster, and the Tappan Zee boondoggle. It might also be why he refuses to sign the transit lockbox bill, but that could be idiosyncratic.

al January 19, 2012 - 2:13 pm

The Coney Island Yard Complex has enough space for a 3-4 million sq ft convention center. The same applies for the Sunnyside Yards. Platform cost is an issue.

Willets Point would work, but you would need several buildings surrounding Citi Field and deck over the parking lots and subway yard tracks in the area.

Getting more creative, rebuilding the piers on the Hudson or East River with multistory buildings on top will generate the millions of sq ft needed over several adjacent sites. Just look at the gaps where there used to be dozens of piers.

Andrew January 19, 2012 - 9:30 pm

An unrelated benefit of building platforms over train yards is that they’re protected from snow, and suddenly there’s no longer a need to store trains on underground express tracks whenever a snowstorm is in the forecast.

Alon Levy January 20, 2012 - 1:43 am

I wasn’t even thinking of the yards, though they’re also a possibility, albeit one that’s on the wrong side of the Shore Parkway. I was thinking of former amusement parks, parking lots near the station, and empty lots (there’s a block next to the stadium that’s entirely empty).

And yes, Willets Point is another good site. So are the piers. The issue with Coney Island is that it has so much subway service and such a history of entertainment that it could work without making people think it’s in the middle of nowhere.

Bolwerk January 20, 2012 - 1:52 am

Speaking of anti-urban, this boner for a convention center is itself anti-urban no matter where you put it. New York isn’t going to steal Vegas’ thunder in that department. I think we could steal gambling from them more easily than we could steal conventions. New Jersey is a better place than Queens for such a thing, if only because it means the ~50M people within roughly day’s driving distance to go to a convention in this region would not be paying to cross two rivers.

He’s made some shrewd reforms, but on this one Cuomo is really being a clown. Even a two-bit red state governor would be wary about this one.

Bolwerk January 18, 2012 - 11:49 pm

I’m not even convinced it should be. Hell, that bridge is what should be getting the transit, not some dumpy part of Queens.

jim January 19, 2012 - 8:47 am

Just outside Washington, there’s a development called National Harbor. It has a convention hotel, high end shops and restaurants. It gets a lot of convention business. It is sited right next to the Capital Beltway and when the Woodrow Wilson Bridge was replaced, Maryland made sure lanes were built providing access to it. But it is almost transit inaccessible. There’s an infrequent bus from the end of the Green Line, which is used by the site’s workforce. There’s a euphemistically named “Water Taxi” — an overpriced ferry — with peak half-hourly service to the Alexandria waterfront for sightseeing in Old Town and restaurants. Alexandria provides a free shuttle from its waterfront on at best twenty minute headways to the Metrorail stop a mile and a quarter away. And that’s it.

Local transit activists hate the place, but it seems to be doing OK. Convention business doesn’t need transit.

Bolwerk January 19, 2012 - 10:58 am

Convention business doesn’t need transit.

Behl, probably true in most places. However in this specific case:

(1) This BS Cuomo wants is more than just convention cruft. Gambling is presumably part of the equation too, and that will attract non-convention users.

(2) If there is a non-trivial workforce population, transit probably is beneficial for them. Practically speaking, this is probably one of those rare cases where buses are unambiguously more cost-effective than trains, at least as long as there aren’t other users arriving by transit (which will be the case in DC, but maybe not in New York).

(3) Washington, or at least its suburbs, is probably a generally more convention-friendly city than New York anyway. No matter where you place a convention center in New York, for any local use, presumably a non-trivial number of users have to cross at least one major body of water. If it’s in Queens and you expect visitors with origins in New Jersey (e.g., from Newark Airport), there is absolutely no good public transportation option – though one could be provided cheaply enough by Amtrak, LIRR, or NJ Transit via Penn Station through service – to cross two bodies of water.

All that said, even if they spend billions on providing good transit, they’ll probably fuck it up by making people walk across a parking lot or something.

SEAN January 19, 2012 - 2:55 pm

If you go to the National Harbor web site http://www.nationalharbor.com, you will find that it is being marketed as a transit oriented project even though that claim is somewhat questionable. There is talk of extending the Green line there, but no movement on that as of now.

Al D January 19, 2012 - 2:27 pm

The convention center is deliberately close to JFK in the hopes of grabbing more of a global audience I would think. So, are we even sure what the demand is for access:

1. Car?
2. Transit?
3. Air?

Al D January 19, 2012 - 2:41 pm

Sorry for a 2 part post, but what I meant to ask was if we even know whether or not the demand exists to reactivate rail lines or build light rails and so on. Perhaps most center goers will use cars, or be flying in from out of town and taking shuttles from the nearby hotels to the center. Auto Show goers will drive as will many others. The Belt is woefully overcapacity as is, so some form of additional highway capacity will certainly be needed. And for transit, perhaps a few extra A trains will do the trick.

Fd January 19, 2012 - 5:12 pm


Bolwerk January 19, 2012 - 5:39 pm

I hate to be this harsh, but I find it amazing that anyone thinks more highways are a good idea at this day in age. What we need are fewer highways, and we should be tolling the ones we have enough so that there is never any congestion.

I’m not against more transit, but I still think there are better things to spend it on than a convention center….like maybe New Yorkers?

Al D January 20, 2012 - 10:16 am

I don’t find your comment harsh at all. I am simply stating a reality about the Belt and a large project that will bring countless additional vehicles to an already clogged road. That’s just the way it is whether I’m a transit ‘advocate’, a highway buff or a someone living in a cabin in the woods with no interest in any of this. So, the natural thing then is, and it will happen if the center is built, to at minimum reconfigure some roads in the area, whether there’s a direct exit from the Belt, or existing exits are expanded, Conduit Ave is somehow rearranged or something bigger.

Mass transit is not the cure all mobility solution. Personalized vehicular transport will always be needed. The issue is more is its economic model, and the need to move away from fossil fuels.

Bolwerk January 20, 2012 - 1:09 pm

Even if more vehicles try to show up, you can always toll/tax/CP away traffic. But I don’t think that’s a threat. There is a physical limit to how many vehicles can fit on a highway, and after a point (we’re beyond that point much of the day) no more can fit; the result is some people give up. But adding more capacity only means more, who might not have been inclined to show up, will show up to create the same degree of congestion.

I don’t think there is a problem inherently with POVs, only how they’re used. The nature of POVs in large cities does need to be re-evaluated. Many POV trips could become transit trips at no harm to the traveler or society. Of course, admitting that is “anti-car.”

Alex C January 19, 2012 - 11:04 pm

How about this:
1a) This thing I posted before: http://g.co/maps/dt8fy . Have a V train run on 10 minute headways between 2 Ave and Rockaway Park via this super-express/Rockaway Beach route.
1b) F as is, except using the super-express b/w 21 St-Queensbridge and Forest Hills.
2) Use those 66 Ave tunnels and connect them to the Rockaway Beach ROW. Extend the G from Court Sq up the QB local and then down this route to Howard Beach.

So Rockaway/Convention has a quick ride straight to midtown, and a local connection to QB if they need. Also, this gives the G some use. And since it’s no longer terminating on QB but just switching in and out, the G can squeeze in. (CBTC would obviously help…)

It isn’t perfect, but hey, just throwing stuff against the wall here.

Andrew January 20, 2012 - 12:06 am

That’s a lot of extra service, largely to a part of the city that has very low demand. Who pays for it?

And the G has plenty of use. It isn’t (and will never be) of much use to most Queens Blvd. riders, though.

Alex C January 20, 2012 - 12:22 am

Like most of these “proposals” who knows who pays for it. As for too much service, I do agree. I just wanted to integrate QB local service as an extra “why not” since it’s just ideas here. Theoretically, the G would turn at Howard Beach, so any extra service would only run that far. Down to the Rockaways you’d just have the new V take the place of the Shuttle to Rockaway Park and have the A continue as is. Actually, on the issue of the A, I’d finally fix that “two terminals thing” and just rename one of the lines the K already.

My point, I suppose, is that the Queens super-express it the way I’d do it. No need for a QB local to the Rocks.

Andrew January 20, 2012 - 12:44 am

Genting is supposedly offering to pay for transit improvements to the proposed convention center. Nobody is offering to pay for random extensions of the G.

Alex C January 20, 2012 - 12:51 am

Hence my point that the G extension is an add-on, not a main part of service expansion.

Bolwerk January 20, 2012 - 1:44 am

This G obsession is connect the dots nonsense. I can’t think of any useful way to extend the G from that terminus, unless it could somehow be done to Queensboro Plaza. Even that is relatively little benefit for a relatively high price. If it’s possible at all; the main benefit of an in-system connection to the 7 has been achieved, and actually seems successful.

Al D January 20, 2012 - 10:31 am

G1 can be the current route. G2 can also be 4 car R68 sets connecting the Prince Cuomo Convention Center to the already overcapacity QB express line. And ne’er the 2 shall meet!

For a convention center in Queens, a second chance to get it right :: Second Ave. Sagas June 4, 2012 - 12:32 am

[…] was vaguely a part of the plan as well. Genting had promised upgrades, but details were scarce. Transit advocates had hoped to see […]


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