By Mark Hallum
The stretch of Rockaway Beach Rail line extending through Rego Park has been rusting for decades, neglected by the city since service was shut down in the early 1960s.
The debate over whether to revive the old Long Island Rail Road branch has not distracted state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Park) from the immediate public safety hazard posed by the disrepair in the line’s structures.
At a news conference in December, Addabbo called on the MTA to repair a stanchion on the high line rail east of the intersection of Yellowstone Boulevard and Alderton Street at the Forest Hills-Rego Park border. The stanchion had a hole at the base large enough for the senator to put his hand through.
At another news conference April 14, Addabbo announced the stanchion in question had been successfully repaired by the MTA.
“The disrepair these structures were in just a few months ago posed a serious hazard to the community,” said Addabbo. “This rail line may be abandoned, but the structure still stands over an active roadway and pedestrian underpass, putting thousands of people in danger as the rust-covered stanchions that support it were crumbling more and more each day.”
The issue of putting the inoperative rail line back into service has been complicated by questions of cost and necessity. The Rockaways are notoriously underserved by public transportation and many officials such as Addabbo have advised commuters to look to more immediate options.
A feasibility study has been launched to explore the need for a fully serviced rail line. It is expected to be completed by mid-2017 and will take into account the new forms of transportation available by that time, such as a bus line or the CityWide Ferry Service scheduled to launch at the beginning of next year.
Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) not only believes that the public should focus on non-rail options, but released a statement which made the argument that a new branch of the Long Island Rail Road would be highly disruptive.
“The Rego Park/Forest Hills area already has an active LIRR line running through it which causes my constituents grief to no end. I am constantly confronted by local residents and business owners complaining of the noise and vibration emanating from this rail service and the trash in and around the tracks,” said Koslowitz.
The noise pollution, destructive vibrations and proximity to homes could drastically affect the the property value of homes in southern Queens, she said.
Among the more pressing transportation needs of the borough, however, is the need to control any deterioration to the rusted, aging structure.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall