Home Queens NYC reps call for federal funding for Rockaway rail study

NYC reps call for federal funding for Rockaway rail study

by Benjamin Kabak

Three New York politicians have called upon the federal government to deliver funding for a study on reactivating the city’s long-dormant Rockaway Beach Branch. Tying such an effort into both Sandy-related infrastructure investment and improved mobility for Queens and Brooklyn residents who currently face very long rides into Manhattan, Congressmen Hakeem Jeffries and Greg Meeks joined New York State Assembly Representateive Phil Goldfeder this weekend in requesting that some federal Sandy relief aid be earmarked for the project.

“Although Superstorm Sandy destroyed our coastlines and paralyzed our communities, we have an opportunity to rebuild the City in a smart and sustainable way that proactively addresses our future needs,” Rep. Jeffries said during a Sunday press conference. “Residents of Southern Brooklyn and Queens currently face the longest commute averages in the City because of the lack of reliable transportation. Restoring the Rockaway Beach Rail Line would not only ease the commute for hundreds of thousands New York City residents, it would also spur job growth and revive local businesses that have been struggling since the Great Recession hit in 2008.”

Goldfeder has been a leading political voice expressing support for the rail line, and enlisting Meeks and Jeffries should bring some further attention to the idea. It may not be as au currant or sexy as a High Line-style park, but expecting a High Line-style park to pop up in central Queens is foolish at best. Rail’s impact, as these politicians pointed out, would be far more beneficial for everyone.

“Immediate investment in this project would offer a permanent and viable transit solution for the millions of hard-working families all across Queens,” Goldfeder said. “It became evident after Sandy that we need to increase public transit options and improve our infrastructure for our neighborhoods in Southern Queens and Rockaway. Restoring the rail line will help prepare our communities to become more resilient for our future and allow our local economy to thrive for many years to come.”

Now, as park activists push forward with an RFP, we just have to wait for Washington to respond.

Previously: Rockaway Beach Branch coverage, QueensWay coverage

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David March 26, 2013 - 3:10 pm

Every article on this thing mentions the “long rides” from the Rockaways into the city. Do you think that people were under the impression that they would have a short ride to other parts of the city when they decided to move to the Rockaways? Also, do you think that people that moved to a barrier island didn’t realize they might be subject to storms and storm surges when they moved there?

And if they do decide to fund this and build it, I’m sure you will be the first to complain about how that money could be better spent on other projects.


SEAN March 26, 2013 - 3:32 pm

1. Some moved there for a tax break & others moved there because it’s what they could aford.
2. Very few people assumed that a Sandy type storm would hit & do that type of dammage. If they did, they wouldn’t move there.

Jim March 26, 2013 - 5:36 pm

Do you think that people who moved to the Upper West Side before the IRT was built were under the impression that they would have a short ride to other parts of the city?

No, but improving the quality of life and mobility of city residents, as well as giving people more options for where to live in the city and still enjoy a reasonable commute, is a worthwhile goal.

Michael March 27, 2013 - 9:42 am

A lot of people living in the Rockaways are placed there in subsidized housing projects. It would be nice to build the tools necessary for people living in the projects to land decent jobs and eventually move out.

Bolwerk March 27, 2013 - 12:52 pm

But there isn’t a better way to spend the money. We can pretty much rule the possibility that there is out. This is a clear case where any substitute project has problems this one avoids, either in expense or service quality. SBS might be cheaper, but it’s slower, less reliable, and probably more expensive in the long run. And that area doesn’t really need the expense of a new subway; it just needs trains on the ROW it has.

AG March 27, 2013 - 10:23 pm

David – yes ppl with money who moved to the Rockaways did so to “escape” the city – while still being in the city… but there are also thousands of poor on the Rockaways who are the ones who suffer the long commute (or don’t have jobs). In any event – being that no one alive in the area saw a storm like Sandy… I doubt the ppl who built homes thought it would happen. Some of the ppl are already rebuilding their houses… about 8ft. higher than before.

In any event – this is about more neighborhoods than just eh rockaways.

Alek March 26, 2013 - 3:15 pm

Off topic but a minor MTA fail:

When I got off from the (A) at 42nd street to transfer to the Queens bound (E) while waiting I was looking at the planned service change for the late night (A) service running in 2 sections.

The fail was:

-Between 168th street and the Rockaways

The (A) is not yet reaching the Rockaways and this service change is for this week. It should read Howard Beach/JFK

SomeGuy32 March 26, 2013 - 6:22 pm

the shuttle busses running from Howard Beach to Mott Ave are labeled “A-Train” – so any service change includes that section

Mike March 26, 2013 - 3:32 pm

Does this really relate to Sandy? The A-Train uses the old right of way and that was washed out. A restored LIRR would need the same fortifications that the A-Train is getting (and possibly more).

Does anyone believe that the use of the LIRR would justify the expenses?

I think the Subway option should be explored.

On another note, I wonder what LI politicians think of this idea.

SEAN March 26, 2013 - 3:38 pm

On another note, I wonder what LI politicians think of this idea.

The answer to that question is obvious, they won’t be happy

John-2 March 26, 2013 - 3:55 pm

Ironically, reactivating the Rockaway Branch might be the only way the LIRR can justify not giving up any slots at Penn Station to Metro-North, if the numbers come back and show a sufficient number of passengers and trains will be diverted to Grand Central under East Side Access.

The LIRR and Long Island pols can’t just keep open slots at Penn simply as placeholders for some imagined future service, and the MTA’s not going to run redundant, half-empty trains at rush hour just so the LIRR can keep those slots away from trains coming in from Connecticut and Westchester.

(Personally, I think the best solution would be to connect the Rockaway Branch into the Queens Blvd. line and convert Woodhaven into an express stop to take the transfer pressure off Roosevelt Avenue. But it would be funny if pols on Long Island who at the outset would be dead-set against reactivating the Rockaway Line to suddenly have a change of heart if it helps them keep Penn Station all to themselves.)

Bolwerk March 27, 2013 - 1:02 pm

I somehow doubt these people think that far ahead. Fear of losing LIRR slots at Penn is a knee-jerk reaction by a bunch of provincial knuckledraggers trying to guard their fief.

Benjamin Kabak March 26, 2013 - 3:40 pm

It relates to Sandy in that the ROW doesn’t cross Broad Channel, thus (ideally) ensuring redundancies in the system in the event of another Broad Channel wash-out.

BBnet3000 March 26, 2013 - 4:23 pm

Doesnt the LIRR already go to Far Rockaway? Its a block away from the free H shuttle.

E March 26, 2013 - 7:46 pm

Hang on, now I’m confused. Which ROW are you talking about? The current active LIRR route to Far Rockaway doesn’t cross Broad Channel. A potential new LIRR route using the reactivated Rockaway Beach Branch presumably would, if it also took over the section of the branch south of Rockaway Blvd. in Queens currently used by the A (which crosses Broad Channel). I don’t see how we’re adding redundancy here that could mitigate the effects of a wash-out, since the only “new” part would be the reactivated route in central Queens, and that would be the case whether it takes the form of an LIRR line or a subway line.

Benjamin Kabak March 27, 2013 - 12:17 am

Sorry. I wasn’t clear. The ROW for the Rockaway Beach Branch line leads into the A a bit north of Howard Beach. It would then use the Broad Channel route to the Rockaways.

Bolwerk March 27, 2013 - 12:55 pm

That doesn’t seem to offer any storm redundancy. It might offer some route redundancy in the event of problems on the IND Fulton Street Line.

AG March 27, 2013 - 10:06 pm

well it’s probably not as much about the Rockaways as it is about getting the money to improve transit for that whole region of Queens. if the Rockaways are the conduit to get federal dollars… I have no problem. In that same token – maybe they should try again to get a commuter rail tunnel in lower Manhattan (as was supposed to happen after 9/11) since there was flooding down there too. then maybe lower manhattan can finally get that ride to JFK.

Paco March 26, 2013 - 4:53 pm

Nice to hear of the assemblyman’s support… too bad he refuses to also support any notion of a SBS (or better yet, a BRT) on Crossbay/Woodhaven Blvd through his district. It would similarly be a big boost for travel times at a fraction of the cost and could be studied and implemented in a matter of months. His email response to me was only “I have heard BRT discussed, but I am not yet convinced it is the best option for Woodhaven Blvd. The roadway is heavily congested, especially during rush hour and removing another lane for dedicated bus, without a plan to reduce car traffic could be a disaster.”

Gold March 26, 2013 - 11:41 pm

Maybe the old LIRR right of way should become a bus and bike lane.

bigbellymon4 March 26, 2013 - 10:15 pm

Activating the abandoned line as a subway line connecting to the QB lines would be a great help to them and anyone along the line.
1. Around the new stations would be a nice boom of businesses
2. Connecting to the qb line can help put more trains on the local tracks, adding more service to the busy line
3. If the LIRR want to hog penn, they can send their trains over there

SA March 27, 2013 - 12:31 am

This is good news! Let’s hope Washington listens and supports this plan. It really is in everyones best interests.

alen March 27, 2013 - 8:35 am

the people who own homes close to the tracks will sue this into oblivion for the next 100 years

Jeff March 27, 2013 - 10:53 am

Nothing eminent domain can’t deal with.

The real question is which group of politicians can get the most support for or against this thing.

alen March 27, 2013 - 10:58 am

there are also noise and environmental impact studies that will have to be done. lots of fodder for a lawsuit

there are little league fields close to the tracks as well

Jeff March 27, 2013 - 2:20 pm

EIS’s are EIS’s… They get performed, they usually pass since there’s no sensitive environmental issues in those areas, and that’s that. Not much for legal contesting there unless they have a reason to believe it wasn’t fairly conducted.

Modern railroads are quiet enough such that noise impact studies won’t be a big issue.

JMB March 27, 2013 - 9:44 am

What I find curious is how the IND planners built the stub tunnels for a connection to the Rockaway branch. Correct me if i’m wrong, but the LIRR was still running on the branch when the QB IND was built…was the original intent perhaps to run both services over the line or was it that LIRR service on the branch was rapidly dwindling and the IND figured they would scoop it up as soon as feasible?

Think twice March 27, 2013 - 9:27 pm

I think LIRR service was dwindling and the City knew which way the wind was blowing. In ’29, the IND’s plan was to run parallel to the Rockaway Branch. By ’39 they planned to operate over the Rockaway Branch itself.

Jeff March 27, 2013 - 2:47 pm

Apparently MTA did a study for this back in 2001… And found it not feasible.


Alex C March 27, 2013 - 11:11 pm

Extending an IND Queens Boulevard line may be more worth it, and would be an easier connection since there would be no FRA involvement.

Jeff March 28, 2013 - 8:52 am

It wouldn’t be much “easier” since they need to physically build a connection to get to the bellmouth on the Queens Blvd line, which is no small task. They’d need to tunnel under an existing apartment building for example.

Justin Samuels March 29, 2013 - 1:02 pm

Well, after Sept. 11 New York got funding for ESA, Phase 1 Second Avenue.Subway, Fulton Street complex,and the South Ferry renovation. Bloomberg himself said they should use federal dollars coming to NY for train network expansion. So great idea. If these funds are awarded eminent domain will deal with nimbys.

Ryan April 1, 2013 - 10:02 am


Benjamin Kabak April 1, 2013 - 10:03 am

This is one of those comments you should reconsider before posting. It’s a post from a week ago, and you’re not adding a thing. I’m growing very tired of this.

Ryan April 2, 2013 - 3:56 pm

I was gone for a week, and I was typing this on my phone anyway. What else could I do?

Philip McManus April 1, 2013 - 11:48 am

Queens had the RBL for years until the City decided to manipulate and steal the RBL. Just like the IRT and the BMT. Remember they kept the subway price at 5 cents for decades. How could the IRT or BMT survive? Then the City wanted their own IND line. Great business practices. Why did the City not help the LIRR RBL in 1950? The City wanted to take or steal the RBL. The NIMBYS wanted to get rid of RBL too. They worked together to stop RBL and continued to stop RBL. The results apartheid. The City saw an opportunity through eminent domain from 1939 to present to build low income housing, adult homes, nursing homes, drug treatment and low income social programs which caused financial, political, racial, cultural, and moral divide within Rockaway and outside of Rockaway. The stealing of the RBL is a part of dividing south Queens from north Queens, rich and poor, black and white, traditional families and untraditional families, employment and unemployment, mentally stable and mentally unstable, educated and uneducated, public safety and crime, hope and desolation etc., etc. The comments of some people are clearly divisive, disrespectful, selfish, derogatory, and elitist. I pray that our neighbors will love thy neighbor and not blame thy neighbor and realize it is better to teach a man to fish then to steal a fish from a man. Transit systems build great cities and benefit directly and indirectly everyone. Why would we say no to the RBL and stop the growth of a great city and Queens? I wonder?

Ron April 15, 2013 - 10:48 am

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


Ron April 15, 2013 - 1:50 pm

Please sign these two petitions to help make reactivation of rail service a reality!



Ron April 15, 2013 - 1:53 pm

A GREAT article on why rail service MUST be reactivated!



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