Katz comes out in support of Crowley’s light rail proposal

By Gabriel Rom

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz has thrown her support behind a proposal to return commuter rail service to the Long Island Rail Road’s Lower Montauk Branch. Katz said a light rail service should run from Long Island City to Jamaica, and advocated for the rail system be integrated into a larger transportation plan for Queens.

In a letter addressed to MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast, Katz said that as the population of Queens has boomed, additional transit options are required.

Katz also pushed for transit options that would connect the Jamaica LIRR Station to the Hunters Point Terminal in Long Island City.

“This passenger rail line should be considered as part of the master plan for a new regional rail system,” she said in the letter.

The notion of a transportation master plan has been raised by Queens civic leaders in the past, including Community Board 5 Chairman Vincent Arcuri and Juniper Valley Civic Association President Robert Holden.

“Several elected officials came out in favor of reactivating the Rockaway Line and currently the light-rail from JFK goes to Jamaica,” Arcuri said in a December interview. “So if you could tie these all in, it would be a whole master plan that could be accomplished.” Arcuri contrasted the large-scale plan with Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale) light-rail proposal from Glendale to Long Island City.

In December Community Board 5 voted to support City Councilwoman Elizbaeth Crowley’s (D-Glendale) proposed commuter-rail plan from Glendale to Long Island City, without explicitly recommending the usage of light-rail.

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 the week before.

Katz, who requested that the MTA conduct a travel demand study to determine potential and future ridership levels, applauded CB5 specifically in her letter for voting in favor of Crowley’s light rail proposal.

Crowley anticipates a rail car will 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.

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.

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