By Steve Mosco
At a special forum in Woodhaven last month, two groups laid out opposing plans for the abandoned Rockaway rail line, while the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association said it would refrain from taking a position until further notice.
But notice came last week and the WRBA decided to stay off the tracks and not support either plan for the rail line.
“After carefully considering a multitude of viewpoints expressed by Woodhaven residents, the WRBA has decided not to support either of the proposals at this time,” the association said in a statement. “In light of the diverse and sometimes conflicting opinions we’ve received from our community, we believe that leaving the abandoned rail line alone is the best way to satisfy the needs and desires of as many residents as possible.”
While transportation advocates want to revive the railway and give southern Queens easier access to the city, Friends of the QueensWay, an organization consisting of city residents, hopes to transform the tracks into an outdoor park similar to the High Line, an elevated park in Manhattan.
The Rockaway Branch of the Long Island Rail Road has been inactive since 1962, when it was shut down due to lack of ridership. Since its closure, there have been many attempts to revive the line, but reactivation routinely proved infeasible for a variety of reasons, including cost, environmental impact and detrimental effects on residents.
The block association said there is strong opposition to the reactivation of the railroad since many residents have expressed concerns about how their homes and daily lives would be affected by trains speeding through the passage.
“We cannot endorse a plan that would impose such high costs on so many of our fellow Woodhaven residents, and which has engendered so much opposition from our community,” the association said. “We hope elected officials, city agencies and all other interested parties take note of this widespread sentiment among our neighbors.”
As for the QueensWay, WRBA said residents worried about implications for parking, reduced privacy for homes abutting the path and a lack of police and other security presence.
But even though it is not supporting either plan for the tracks, WRBA said it believes the city should take responsibility and clean up the abandoned rail line.
“We do, however, recognize that this strip of land has declined into a truly deplorable state,” it said. “It is full of trash, fallen trees and unsafe conditions. We call on the city of New York, which owns the property, to step up and take responsibility for maintaining it after years of neglect.”
Ed Wendell, president of WRBA, said he foresees many more meetings and forums about the rail line and what exactly to do with it.
“This will be played out in many other realms before it’s decided and down the line elected officials are going to have to figure out what to spend money on,” he said. “We are very close with our elected officials and we carry a lot of sway with them. We give folks in the neighborhood a voice, and if they are against something, the elected officials are going to think twice about it.”
Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4546.