Pol’s Petition To Revive Old LIRR Line
Hoping to convince the MTA to bring a new public transportation option for residents in south Queens and the Rockaways, a local lawmaker has created an online petition in support of the reactivation of the defunct Rockaway Beach branch of the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR).
Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder announced the creation of the petition during a press conference in Ozone Park on Monday morning, Apr. 30. The appeal calls on Gov. Andrew Cuomo, MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to support the creation of a new rail line on the former stretch between Rego Park and Ozone Park, which has been closed for 50 years.
Goldfeder stated that the time is right to reintroduce rail traffic on the abandoned Rockaway Beach branch-which has become covered in overgrowth and encroached upon by local businesses and residents in some spots-due to a recent population boom in southern Queens and the opening of the Resorts World New York Casino at Aqueduct Racetrack.
“Transportation options for southern
Queens and Rockaway residents are severely limited,” Goldfeder said. “Restoration of the abandoned rail line as an effective transportation alternative to the current subway lines would be welcome news to the residents of Queens, who currently suffer with commutes of well over an hour to midtown Manhattan.”
The Rockaway Beach branch ran from the Whitepot Junction in Rego Park (where it linked to the LIRR Main Line) south to the Rockaways. Originally, the line split in two directions, with the eastern section ending in Far Rockaway and the western branch terminating in Rockaway Park.
The line formerly had stops at Metropolitan Avenue in Forest Hills (called Parkside), Jamaica Avenue in Woodhaven (Brooklyn Manor) and Atlantic Avenue in Woodhaven (Woodhaven Junction).
During the 1950s and 1960s, as the branch was taken out of service, New York City Transit took control of the Rockaway Branch south of Liberty Avenue and made it part of the A subway line running to Far Rockaway. The Rockaway Park Shuttle was later created to link customers between Broad Channel and Rockaway Park.
But the section of the Rockaway Beach branch between Whitepot Junction and Ozone Park was left abandoned. In recent years, advocates have called for the former line-covered in plants and trees and vandalized along much of the way- to be converted into a “green way” or a linear park similar to the High Line in Manhattan.
Talk of reactivating the Rockaway Beach line for transportation purposes were rekindled after Governor Cuomo announced in his State of the State Address in January a plan to build the nation’s largest convention center at Resorts World/Aqueduct. One point on a fact sheet for the project released by Genting Americas, which operates the casino, indicated that the company and the state “would work alongside the MTA to help fund and introduce uninterrupted subway service between Midtown Manhattan and” the convention center.
Though there were no specifics outlined regarding that goal, bringing train service back to the Rockaway Beach line has been one idea floated by local elected officials in recent months.
At Monday’s press conference, Goldfeder stated that the petition, which can be viewed and signed at www.rockawaybeachrail.com, will be delivered to Cuomo, Lhota and the Port Authority “to demonstrate that the community is eager to see the return of” the line.
“Increased public transportation options would be welcomed news to residents and small business owners throughout Queens and across the city,” he added. “In today’s difficult economy, complete restoration of the Rockaway Beach rail line would offer affordable, reliable transportation to those who desperately need it.”