CB 5 gives green light to Crowley’s light rail proposal

By Gabriel Rom

Community Board 5 has voted to support Councilwoman Elizbaeth Crowley’s (D-Glendale) proposed commuter-rail plan from Glendale to Long Island City. The vote, which ended up 36 in support, six against and one abstention, came on the heels of CB5’s Transportation and Public Transit committees narrowly recommending the proposal last week.

“If we start right here in Glendale and go west, CB 5 residents could be easily connected to the M, the 7 and E trains in Manhattan, the East River Ferry and Citi Bike stations, conveniently providing intraborough transit – all for the cost of a MetroCard,” Crowley said at the Wednesday meeting.

“ Just last week, the LIRR vice president said to me that they have no intention of stopping its freight operation, and every intention of increasing it. The threat of more freight is very real, unless together we come up with an alternative use for the tracks,” she added.

John Maier, co-chairman of the Transportation Services Committee, drafted a resolution for both committees to vote on in support of Crowley’s concept during the committees’ joint meeting.

The committees voted 7-5 in favor of the resolution, with one non-vote and one abstention.

Crowley hopes to establish a rail commuter service line from Glendale to Long Island City on the LIRR Lower Montauk line, which carried passenger service until the late 1990s and is currently lightly used to transport freight.

“Light rail in this community could change the way we all work, where we eat, the way we play and more,” Crowley said at the CB5 meeting.

The plan would create new passenger stations at the Atlas Park Mall in Glendale, the M train station at Metropolitan Avenue in Middle Village, the abandoned Fresh Pond Road station beneath the Metropolitan Avenue overpass, Flushing Avenue in Maspeth and the Hunters Point Terminal in Long Island City.

“We have an elected official who has spoken to agencies trying to get resources invested in a part of the city that doesn’t have many resources for mass transit,” said Toby Sheppard Bloch, a CB 5 member who lives more than a mile from the nearest subway station. “It seems like a slam dunk.”

Crowley anticipates a rail car to cost about $3 million. The tracks and the right-of-way—two of the most expensive pieces—have been secured for the future project, according to a Crowley spokeswoman.
Bob Holden, a committee member, said the plan would only be feasible if it went to Jamaica and was connected to the Rockaway Line, which he said would alleviate many commuting problems on Woodhaven Boulevard.

“They need a transportation master plan,” he said. “The plan is not really a plan, it’s just an idea.”

He added, “Why are we wasting our time on a plan that the MTA hasn’t yet approved?”

The resolution noted that if this system should come to fruition, it should be part of a larger plan with additional phases.

“Further phases are to possibly include the re-activation of the old Rockaway Branch Line of the LIRR, re-activation of the Bushwick Branch of the LIRR, and connections to LIRR’s East Side Access to Grand Central or LIRR’s existing Penn Station Access should also be considered,” the resolution stated.

“Light rail and street cars can bring tremendous benefits.” DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said at a City Council hearing in November. “But we also have to look very carefully at technical feasibility.”

Reach reporter Gabriel Rom by e-mail at [email protected]cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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