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Wrba Says ‘no’ to Rail Plans

Thumbs Down To Reactivation & ‘Queensway’

Neither brand new rail service nor a bike path on the former Rockaway Beach branch of the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) are good alternatives for the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA), which publicly announced its opposition to both ideas in a press release issued on Monday, Oct. 15.

“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,” according to the statement released by the civic group. The organization stated its belief that “leaving the abandoned rail line alone is the best way to satisfy the needs and desires of as many residents as possible.”

The group’s policy statement came on the heels of a public forum it held on Sept. 29 in which residents heard from advocates for reactivating rail service on the defunct train line and for the creation of the “Queensway,” a combined bike path and public park which has been compared by some to the High Line Park in Manhattan.

Running north-to-south between the LIRR’s Main line in Rego Park and the A subway line in Ozone Park, the Rockaway Beach branch-which serves as the de facto border between Woodhaven and Richmond Hill- was taken out of service by the LIRR 50 years ago. Since that time, much of the line has become overgrown with trees and other plant life.

Earlier this year, lawmakers in southern Queens announced their support for reintroducing train service along the branch, claiming that communities in the area are underserved by public transportation. It was estimated that reactivating the Rockaway Beach line would cut down commute times between southern Queens and Manhattan by 30 minutes each way.

Supporters of the Queensway, however, argued that turning the line into a public park and bikeway would preserve the natural growth that has taken place on the line since 1962, protect nearby homes from being exposed to train noise and be an economic boon to the borough through increased tourism.

In hearing arguments received at their Sept. 29 forum and reading comments sent by email to the organization, the WRBA noted that “among our neighbors, there is very strong opposition to an active railroad.”

“Many residents have raised numerous valid concerns about how their homes and their daily lives would be adversely affected by having trains run along this passage,” the organization stated. “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.”

As for the Queensway plan, the WRBA indicated that local residents were concerned about parking in the area as well as potential issues related to the privacy and security of homes adjacent to the branch.

“We also observe that Woodhaven already enjoys an abundance of jogging and cycling paths, including an already-existing Queens Greenway that passes directly over the proposed QueensWay route,” the civic association added. The greenway to which the WRBA referred runs along Forest Park Drive through Forest Park.

Despite opposing both reactivated rail service and the Queensway, the WRBA called upon the city to maintain the abandoned rail line and remove debris.

“We … recognize that this strip of land has declined into a truly deplorable state,” the civic association stated. “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.”

The WRBA, while thanking all those who spoke out on the matter, urged supports of either plan not to dismiss the civic group’s position as being an example of “NIMBYism,” adding that “any change to the rail line, especially reactivating it, could have a considerable negative impact on many residents.”

“The harm they would suffer is as real and significant as any advantage that would be received by the beneficiaries of a revived rail line or Queensway,” the civic group concluded. “To dismiss Woodhaven’s concerns is to ignore half of the equation. Our residents are as important as the residents of other communities. We remind critics that the best way to change Woodhaven’s collective mind is to make a more persuasive case about how our neighborhood would benefit from- or, at least, not be harmed by-their proposals.”

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