The Long Island Rail Road has agreed to fund and conduct a survey that could result in the rebuilding and reopening of a station in Elmhurst.
LIRR President Helena Williams announced the implementation of a two-tier resident survey at a press conference last Friday organized by Congressman Joe Crowley (D-Queens and Bronx) in the shadow of the trestle where the old station spanned Broadway at Whitney Avenue between 1927 and 1985.
“Reopening the Elmhurst Station will increase residents’ access to Midtown Manhattan, and help the area reach its economic potential,” Crowley said.
Williams said the railroad will be mailing two survey forms — printed in English, Spanish and Mandarin — to residents within a one-half mile radius of the station site.
It will ask their opinions on reopening the depot, and whether they would use it if offered as an alternative to the area’s bus and subway service.
They also will conduct in-person surveys at and around nearby subway stations and buildings with large public accommodations in an effort to get people from further out, or who have traveled to the area from Manhattan, Long Island or other places.
She said the survey has a simple purpose — to determine if the neighborhood will use a new station to the point where the LIRR can justify the $30 million price tag.
Results should be in by the end of the year, and Crowley said residents should take the survey seriously if they want a new station.
“This is not a done deal by any means,” he said. “But it does help when the person at the railroad who is interested in the project is at the level of president.”
Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) was the first vocal advocate of a new station.
Like Crowley, he said Elmhurst and the surrounding region have changed vastly since 1985.
“Just my own district is a lot different, a lot more diverse than it was when I first got elected four years ago,” Dromm said.
He and Crowley believe that a revived Elmhurst, with new businesses, myriad ethnicities and languages, cannot only support a new station, but will work in concert with a new station to draw people in from outside to visit restaurants, stores and cultural events.
“We have some of the best Queens has to offer right here,” Christian Cassagnol, district manager of Community Board 4, said. “It’s a win-win for everybody.”
Crowley also believes that enough people, given the option, will pay a little more for the convenience.
Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, which promotes use of mass transit, said a new station will be more successful if Railroad and city officials begin planning now enhanced safety and ease of access on streets that would serve as approach routes.
Williams said that is the main reason the in-person surveys will be crafted to reach people outside the immediate area.