Residents debate future of rail line
by Kathleen Lees
Oct 03, 2012 | 5254 views | 0 0 comments | 57 57 recommendations | email to a friend | print
While local residents seemed to be on the fence about converting the inactive Rockaway Rail Line into a park, most seemed to be sure about one thing—they didn’t want to reactivate it.

Two parties with very different ideas for the abandoned rail line presented their perspectives at a public forum on Saturday, Sept. 29, at the Queens Tabernacle, 86-03 96th St.

The Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association hosted the event to give people a chance to discuss the issue.

Mass transit activist Jon Rozankowski said that reactivating the Rockaway line would end economic isolation for Southern Queens.

“This would mean that property values around the railroad would grow and business will soar,” Rozankowski said, who also added that traffic along Woodhaven Boulevard would be significantly reduced with the addition of mass transit.

Rozankowski suggested removing existing track and meeting contemporary LIRR standards to provide easy travel between South Queens and Midtown Manhattan, either through a subway or railroad option.

Allan B. Smith, a resident of Woodhaven, said he was in favor of reactivating the rail line to make transportation to Manhattan easier for those commuting to work.

Smith, however, was one of the few attendees to advocate for the restoration of the rail line. Common complaints among residents were problems with noise and pollution that a new train could bring near homes.

Though most public officials have yet to take a stance on the issue, Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder said he believes reactivating the rail line would have the most benefits for local residents.

However, Friends of the QueensWay, as a proposed High Line-style park has come to be known, see a much different vision for the future.

“We’re trying to take 3.5 miles of land that will become the soul, spirit and economy of Queens,” Andrea Crawford, a member of the Friends of the Queensway steering committee, said.

The proposal would turn the tracks, which run through Forest Hills, Richmond Hill, Woodhaven, Glendale and Ozone Park, into a green space that is similar to Manhattan’s High Line.

Crawford said that the organization has raised over $6,000 to help fund a feasibility study.

“This will help with economic development,” Crawford said, who stressed that restoring the Rockaway rail line was not secure and would be extremely expensive.

“We do not need the rail line restored,” said Dominick Sartale, a resident of Woodhaven who supported the QueensWay. “It would just open up a lot more problems.”

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