Leave Rockaway Branch alone and let city clean it up

The Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association announces its official position on the defunct Rockaway Branch rail line, which runs along 98th Street in Woodhaven.

The two leading proposals for the rail line are to return the tracks to use for an active train line, or to convert the route into a walkway and bike path dubbed The QueensWay.

The WRBA held a forum on the issue Sept. 29, received e-mails from residents and solicited input from across the neighborhood. 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 block association would like to note that among our neighbors, there is opposition to an active railroad. Many residents have raised numerous valid concerns about how their homes and daily lives would be adversely affected by having trains run along this 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. We hope elected officials, city agencies and all other interested parties take note of this widespread sentiment among our neighbors.

The WRBA also does not support The Queens Way. Woodhaven residents have raised concerns about this proposal, including its implications for parking in the neighborhood, the reduced privacy for homes abutting the path and a lack of police and other security presences. 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.

In light of the diverse — and sometimes conflicting — opinions we have received from our community, we believe leaving the abandoned rail line alone is the best way to satisfy the needs and desires of as many residents as possible.

We do, however, recognize that this strip of land has declined into a deplorable state. It is full of trash, fallen trees and unsafe conditions. We call on the city, which owns the property, to step up and take responsibility for maintaining it after years of neglect.

Finally, we urge those who are disappointed by our position not to cast aside our neighbors’ concerns as mere selfishness or “not in my backyard” talk. Any change to the rail line, especially reactivating it, could have a 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. 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.

We thank our neighbors for taking the time to weigh in on this matter.

Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association