QueensLink hosting town hall meeting in Ozone Park, giving residents a chance to sound off on city’s plan for long-dormant train line

QueensLink is hosting a town hall in Ozone Park Thursday to hear community feedback on the future of the old Rockaway Beach Branch. (Courtesy of QueensLink)

Ozone Park residents and transportation advocates from around the borough will be able to ensure their voices are heard on Thursday, March 16, during QueensLink’s town hall. The meeting at MS 137 America’s School of Heroes will allow QueensLink the opportunity to ask the community how best to meet their needs for transit, open space and jobs.

Much of Ozone Park is a transit desert which makes it difficult for area businesses to attract customers and makes residents who work in Manhattan suffer long commute times, according to QueensLink. Cars heading to JFK Airport, Resorts World New York City and the beaches in the Rockaways cause congestion on Woodhaven Boulevard, the Belt Parkway and the Van Wyck Expressway, polluting nearby neighborhoods.

The long-dormant 3.5-mile corridor could provide a rail link that would extend the M train south through Ozone Park to the Rockaways. (Friends of the QueensWay)

The QueenLink solution is to extend the M train south from Rego Park to the Rockaways over a long-defunct, city-owned Rockaway Beach Branch right-of-way. The MTA has determined that the QueensLink solution is feasible and at the town hall meeting, organizers will present possible site plans and renderings and collect residents’ opinions to incorporate into a proposal that “seems to work for almost everyone.”

QueensLink will hold similar events in other neighborhoods along the line.

“QueensLink is committed to working with everyone, whether they would take the train or not,” QueensLink Executive Director Rick Horan said. “QueensLink’s goal is to reduce people’s travel times while improving neighborhoods along the right-of-way. This cannot be accomplished without community input.”

Horan noted that interest in the rail corridor is at an all-time high after Mayor Eric Adams announced his support to break ground within a year for a linear park on the same land, much like Manhattan’s High Line. The mayor came to Forest Hills in September to announce a $35 million investment for the design and construction of the Metropolitan Hub, phase one of a new multiphase greenway and park called QueensWay, a rival project that would convert the disused rail corridor into a linear park running from Rego Park down to Ozone Park.

Mayor Eric Adams announced in September a $35 million investment in the QueensWay project. (Courtesy of the Mayor’s office)

Horan, a resident of the Rockaways, said that the city’s plan would impede the development of the train line and that his nonprofit QueensLink has proposed building a subway extension with parks along the corridor.

“We don’t have to choose between rails and trails. We can have a quiet, non-disruptive subway line and parks,” Horan said. “We can connect communities with rails and trails just as Boston, Vancouver, and cities in Illinois and India have done.”

The QueensLink town hall at MS 137, located at 109-17 98th St. in Ozone Park, gets underway at 6 p.m. and runs until 9 p.m. on Thursday, March 16.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve public transit, the economy, and the environment with one comprehensive project,” Horan said. “Let’s not screw it up.”