Plans for Queens' 'High Line' Has Competition: Bringing Back the Train

Queen's version of Manhattan's High Line is known as the QueensWay, an abandoned LIRR branch that went from Rego Park to Rockaway. Two congressmen have now endorsed a plan to bring the train back - though planning for the new park has already begun.
March 27, 2013, 10am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Domenick Rafter

It could be viewed as a case of "rails to trails", or rails to rails. It's also a competition between 'active transportation', i.e. walking and biking (and do note that the 'original' High Line prohibits biking) and commuter rail. Each side has their advocates.  

With the support of two area congressmen, the rail advocates now have some political clout.

Domenick Rafter writes that "(a) source familiar with the plan to bring transit back to the line, which runs from Rego Park to the Rockaways and has been abandoned since 1962, said it will get the backing of the two Congressmen representing southern Queens."

The source says Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) and Greg Meeks (D-Jamaica), whose districts meet at the Ozone Park section of the line, will endorse the proposal and push to allocate federal transportation subsidies to study a plan for bringing rail service back.

The rail idea has been championed by officials in the Rockaways, especially Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Park). Supporters of reactivating the line, which connects to the Long Island Rail Road's (LIRR)) main route into Penn Station at Rego Park, say it would drastically cut commute times for Rockaway residents, which are among the highest in the city. When the LIRR went to Rockaway Park in the 1950s, it took only about 40 minutes to get from the peninsula to Penn Station. Today, a ride on the A train could take more than twice that.

In January, the Queensway plan was reported here, and is championed by the Friends of The QueensWay. (For images past and present, click on 'gallery').

The last train ran down the line in June 1962 and the route south of Rockaway Boulevard is now occupied by the A train.

The news (of the expected endorsement of the congressmen) comes after New York Times opinion writer Eleanor Randolph penned a column last weekend about the other proposed plan for the line — the Queensway.

Randolph wrote that the project was awarded a "$467,000 environmental protection grant through the state’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. The grant will help pay for a community planning survey and a feasibility study..."

Both alternatives share at least one all too familiar aspect of much local planning - local opposition. Rafter writes of a new "movement, 'No Way Queensway,' aimed at killing both the rail and park plans."  

Correspondent's note: Both congressmen endorsed the 'rails to rails' alternative plan. It will be referenced as a comment below after the article is published in the Queens Chronicle.

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Published on Thursday, March 21, 2013 in Queens Chronicle
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