As supporters of QueensWay await RFP responses, the movement to restore rail to the Rockaway Beach Branch line has gained some political allies from Washington, D.C. Hakeem Jeffries and Greg Meeks — two members of New York’s congressional delegation — will throw their support behind those arguing for the rail option this weekend, according to numerous reports.
The Queens Chronicle broke the story yesterday:
Supporters of restoring rail service to the long abandoned Rockaway LIRR line may be about to get a major break in their favor. A source familiar with the plan to bring transit back to the line, which runs from Rego Park to the Rockaways and has been abandoned since 1962, said it will get the backing of the two Congressmen representing southern Queens.
The source says Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) and Greg Meeks (D-Jamaica), whose districts meet at the Ozone Park section of the line, will endorse the proposal and push to allocate federal transportation subsidies to study a plan for bringing rail service back.
The rail idea has been championed by officials in the Rockaways, especially Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Park). Supporters of reactivating the line, which connects to the LIRR’s main route into Penn Station at Rego Park, say it would drastically cut commute times for Rockaway residents, which are among the highest in the city. When the LIRR went to Rockaway Park in the 1950s, it took only about 40 minutes to get from the peninsula to Penn Station. Today, a ride on the A train could take more than twice that. Supporters also argue that the rail line would help spur development in an area that was devastated by Hurricane Sandy.
Essentially, Jeffries and Meeks are poised to deliver on the line I’ve been pushing here for a while: If we’re going to spend taxpayer dollars studying the park option, we must also do a thorough assessment of rail reactivation. Any rail usage of the Rockaway Beach Branch right-of-way has the potential to be far more important for Queens’ development, its economy, and its post-Sandy recovery than a park that won’t see much usage.
Still, while the park has generated its own set of opponents, a rail line reactivation would as well. As No Way QueensWay’s Neil Giannelli said to the Chronicle, “Out of all the residents who signed this [anti-park] petition on the block, only one person wanted a train, and he’s a 6-year-old boy who likes choo-choos. Everybody else wants it to be left alone.” How’s that for literal NIMBYism?