State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), a Democratic candidate for Queens borough president, on Monday, declared his support for a plan to restore rail service on the old Rockaway Beach Long Island Rail Road line that has been abandoned since 1962.
Avella called the train a key component to improve transportation not only for southern Queens, but for the entire borough.
He announced his support at a press conference in Ozone Park, directly across the street from where the proposal received the endorsement of two southern Queens Congressmen, Reps. Greg Meeks (D-Jamaica) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn), in March and promised to steer federal money toward a study reopening the line that runs from Rego Park to the Rockaways.
“I fully support the reactivation of this line,” Avella said. “It’s going to be much easier than any other alternative for mass transit. We can hook it up to the Long Island Rail Road, to New York City Transit. There are options here.”
Before trains stopped running on the line in 1962, the Rockaway Beach branch carried riders down a right of way that runs from the LIRR’s Main Line near 63rd Drive in Rego Park to the Rockaways roughly parallel to Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards for their entire length. The right of way south of Rockaway Boulevard is now occupied by the A subway line. The old line served stations in Glendale, Woodhaven and Ozone Park.
A competing plan, favored by Andrea Crawford, former chairwoman of Community Board 9, is to build a High Line-type park along the right of way and call it the QueensWay. In January, Gov. Cuomo awarded $467,000 in grant money to The Trust for Public Land, a national urban parks advocacy group, toward studying the feasibility of the QueensWay project.
Others, including a number of residents in Woodhaven and Forest Hills who live along the line, have expressed opposition to both plans, fearing either would decrease property values and the quality of life on their blocks.
Neil Gianelli, a resident of 98th Street in Woodhaven, established an advocacy group called “No Way QueensWay” dedicated to killing any planned park or train on the line. Gianelli has spoken at a number of CB 9 meetings since both the QueensWay and rail plans have gained momentum.