LIRR amends service changes at Kew Gardens, Forest Hills stations to accommodate commuters

Forest Hills LIRR
The Forest Hills LIRR station, one of the oldest in the city. (QNS/File)

After reviewing newly implemented service changes across Queens, the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) has once again amended service changes at the Kew Gardens and Forest Hills stations to accommodate commuters.

This comes in response to four Queens lawmakers — Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, Councilwoman Lynn Schulman, Rep. Grace Meng and Senator Leroy Comrie — who sent a letter to MTA/LIRR Interim President Catherine Rinaldi to facilitate a resolution. 

Announced in February, the initial proposed changes from LIRR had rerouted service between Queens and Penn Station to the newly opened Grand Central Station terminal on Manhattan’s east side. 

In a letter sent to the agency on Feb. 24,  the legislators expressed appreciation of the agency’s efforts to expand service to Grand Central; however, they did not believe the expansion “should come at the cost of service cuts … to long-standing customers of LIRR.”

Specifically, the cuts included elimination of early morning train service from Kew Gardens to Penn Station; elimination of late-afternoon service from Penn Station to Forest Hills; elimination of late-night service from Penn Station to Forest Hills and Kew Gardens; and elimination of all service between Kew Gardens and Forest Hills.

“Our offices were initially made aware of these changes after our constituents were notified of LIRR alterations that would eliminate all service between Kew and Penn for westbound trains departing between 4:46 a.m. and 6:49 a.m., and arriving at 5:01 a.m. and 7:03 a.m., respectively,” the lawmakers said in the letter. “These changes create a massive gap in coverage for early morning commuters and place unacceptable burdens on families and seniors who have come to rely on regular schedules between these stations.”

The lawmakers noted that their constituents would be forced to use the MTA’s E/F lines at Union Turnpike on Queens Boulevard as an alternative, which adds at least 25 to 40 additional minutes to their daily commute. 

“Alternatively, our constituents, many of whom are seniors and individuals with disabilities, would have to walk uphill from Forest Hills to Kew Gardens in all types of weather or take an earlier morning bus and then transfer to this station,” the lawmakers said. 

The lawmakers said that each alternative “creates additional burdens that are absolutely unnecessary” for commuters while there is a fully accessible and centrally located LIRR station in the heart of the neighborhood that can take commuters to their destination comfortably within 15 minutes. 

As they continue communicating with LIRR, the lawmakers confirmed that westbound early-morning service from Kew Gardens to Penn Station, and eastbound late-afternoon service from Penn Station to Forest Hills had been restored. 

As of March 14, the agency had been reviewing additional requests from legislators, including to restore service between Kew Gardens and Forest Hills, as well as late night service from Penn Station to Queens. 

“We have maintained continuous contact with LIRR to keep concerns on their radar, and to LIRR’s credit, agency leadership and staff have been incredibly helpful and responsive. These restorations in service will relieve huge burdens on commuters, and we’re hopeful that additional restorations will follow,” Hevesi said. 

Meng thanked the LIRR for hearing their concerns and responding to the issues raised about the change in schedules that negatively impacted her constituents. 

“LIRR customers deserve convenient service, especially when commuting to and from work, and we’re hopeful that even more restorations will be made soon,” Meng said. 

Comrie thanked the MTA/LIRR for being “flexible and seeing local community input as a priority with the recent schedule changes,” and working together to improve service for Queens residents. 

Schulman said that mobility is a fundamental part of making the city function for everyone. 

“I am glad the LIRR listened to our communities and made necessary changes to ease travel for the commuters of Forest Hills and Kew Gardens. We will continue to monitor the situation and keep the LIRR accountable to our constituents,” Schulman said.