Assemblymen urge restoration of LIRR Rockaway Line

Assemblymen urge restoration of LIRR Rockaway Line
Photo by Howard Koplowitz
BY Howard Koplowitz

Two state assemblyman and transit advocates are pushing for the old Rockaway Beach line of the Long Island Rail Road to run trains again after a 50-year absence.

Rehabilitating the line would ease the commutes of those in southern Queens, Assemblymen Phil Goldfeder (D-Ozone Park) and Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) said Friday as they stood in the shadow of the line near 98th Street in Ozone Park.

“To look at it is really a shame,” Goldfeder said.

The lawmakers said trains running in the area would benefit the planned convention center at the Aqueduct Racino and southern Queens residents.

Riders who used the line, which was operated by the LIRR and was cut in 1962, reached Manhattan in 40 minutes at most, Goldfeder said.

“That’s something I think we need to see again,” he said.

Goldfeder said “unprecedented growth” in the economy and residential home sales in the Rockaways warrant the Rockaway Beach line’s being rehabilitated.

“We have a tremendous transportation problem and this is the answer,” said Goldfeder, who lives in Far Rockaway and said it takes him an hour and 40 minutes to get to Manhattan.

Miller said 52 percent of his constituents, or more than 30,000 residents, use public transportation.

He said the line would also make it easier to go from Glendale and Middle Village to Howard Beach.

“It takes me over an hour to go two miles” by car, Miller said.

With Genting, the company operating the Aqueduct racino in South Ozone Park, footing the $4 billion bill for the planned convention center, Miller said a portion of those funds along with state monies could be used to bring back the line.

“There’s an opportunity,” he said. “It’s a way of getting people from the airport, the convention center, Aqueduct into Manhattan.”

George Haikalis, a civil engineer and member of the Institute for Rational Urban Mobility, said the Rockaway Beach line should be reactivated.

“It’s not an anniversary to celebrate — it’s an anniversary to cry about,” he said of the 50 years since the line was used.

Democratic District Leader and Rockaway resident Lew Simon said residents of the peninsula would be able to reach Manhattan in 32 minutes, Howard Beach residents could make it to the city in 18 minutes and Ozone Park residents could get there in 15 minutes if the line is brought back.

He said the easier commute would also lead to higher property values.

“We need to make this happen,” Simon said. “We’re hoping within the next year to make this a reality.”

While some want the line reactivated, others, including Community Board 9, want a greenway to be created where the abandoned tracks are now.

Miller and Goldfeder said they could not see how both plans could be adopted.

Mass transit activist John Rozankowski said putting the line back in service “is the only way to enhance mass transit in the area.”

He called the greenway plan “an ostentatious attempt by bicycle aficionados to hijack the railway for their own pleasure.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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