Pointing to an abandoned railway in Ozone Park, its paint long ago chipped and trash strewn around its periphery, South Queens residents said on Monday that the city has left the site alone for too long, forcing Rockaway residents to cope with two-hour commutes to Manhattan and isolating communities within the borough.
Since Gov. Cuomo in January proposed building the country’s largest convention center in South Ozone Park — by the casino at Aqueduct —legislators and some civic leaders have called for the Rockaway Beach rail line, commonly referred to as the White Pot Junction Line, to be restored. On Monday, state Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Ozone Park), community leaders and transportation advocates gathered in Ozone Park to continue to push for trains to once again run on the line —which they have not done since the early 1960s —and said they hoped to collect numerous online signatures at rockawaybeachrail.com to support their plan, which Goldfeder plans to present to the Port Authority, Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joe Lhota and Cuomo.
“Transportation options for Southern Queens and Rockaway residents are severely limited,” Goldfeder said. “Restoration of the abandoned rail line as an efficient transportation alternative to the current subway lines would be welcomed news to the residents of Queens, who currently suffer with commutes of well over an hour to midtown Manhattan. A petition is the perfect way to send a strong message to decision makers that Queens residents are united in the quest for multiple transit options, and I urge everyone to sign on.”
The Long Island Rail Road sold the line, which runs up through Ozone Park to Rego Park, to the city in 1962. A number of plans have surfaced for the line over the years, including a recent plan to turn it into Queens’ version of Manhattan’s High Line, a greenway.
But Goldfeder said faster transportation is needed in the borough’s southern neighborhoods, particularly if the convention center comes to fruition.
“The proposed Genting convention center means more cars in Queens,” said John Rozankowski, a transportation advocate. “Only by reactivating the Rockaway line can this problem be properly addressed.”
Stefan Friedman, a spokesman for Resorts World New York, which operates the casino and plans to run the convention center, said the company supports the idea of additional transportation, though he did not specify whether or not that meant rejuvenating the Rockaway line.
“We want to increase the amount of public transportation to support the New York International Convention and Exhibition Center,” Friedman said in an email. “Genting is continuing to explore how to best increase access to our facility, and we are committed to financing part of any eventual improvements.”