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Politicians sound off on light rail plan

By Gabriel Rom

While the light rail plan proposed by City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale) is still in its preliminary stages, elected officials and civic leaders are beginning to voice both praise and concern.

In September, Crowley met with Community Board 5’s Transportation Committee to discuss the specifics of the proposal. At CB 5’s monthly meeting last week at Christ the King Regional High School in Middle Village, Deirdre Feerick, an aide for Crowley, made the case for the line, which would run on existing LIRR tracks, and asked for the board’s support.

“Tonight we ask that the board votes in favor of this project so that we can develop the plan together in a way to benefit all residents in the district,” Feerick said at the Nov. 4 meeting.

“We believe that the track, which the Federal Railroad Administration says is in ‘great condition,’ could better benefit the community and the borough at large through a commuter line that could bring interborough transit for residents traveling between Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan,” she added.

Crowley’s proposed rail line would run from Glendale near Woodhaven Boulevard into Long Island City, with passenger stops at the Metro Mall in Middle Village and in Long Island City. The approximately 5-mile stretch of tracks that runs from Long Island City to Glendale is currently used only for a brief period overnight to transport freight.

Vincent Arcuri, CB5’s chairman, said the Transportation Committee is still discussing the plan and will present a recommendation to the board in December.

“This would be a combination of a light train on a heavy rail system, so we’re not sure if it is true light rail,” Arcuri said.

Arcuri mentioned the reactivation of the Rockaway Line and the current light-rail line from John F. Kennedy International Airport to Jamaica, contending that tying these plans together could create a “master plan” to improve transportation borough-wide.

State Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Ridgewood) has not yet taken an official position on the plan but said at the Ridgewood Legislative Forum last week that she “wants to give the councilwoman a chance to educate me on what she’s talking about.”

But Nolan added that “on its face I have some concerns and questions. What need is it filling and how much use will it get? Would this be something that benefits our community or something that just travels through our community?”

She also mentioned the potential environmental impact of a diesel train.

State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) gave a similarly cautious response.

“I want to give the councilwoman a chance to educate me on what she’s talking about, but I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt as she explains the proposal to us as we go forward,” he said.

However, state Assemblyman Michael Miller (D-Woodhaven) was unequivocally supportive.

“There is a major reason why I do support this plan,” Miller said. “If we utilize that track, we can take a lot of that time back from the garbage trains that come in and out and move back and forth in our communities. If we go back to transportation rail, the trains won’t have free rein to move the garbage all night long. In that respect, that plan will help reduce traffic,” he added.

Reach reporter Gabriel Rom by e-mail at grom@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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