The intersection of Broadway and Whitney Avenue in Elmhurst still bears the evidence of the old Long Island Rail Road stop — the steel supports on the trestle that once supported a platform, and the markings on a concrete wall indicating where there once was a stairway.
The LIRR shut the station down in 1985 die to lack of use. Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) says the neighborhood now wants the station back and can support it.
He has the backing of Congressman Joe Crowley (D-Queens, Bronx) and now the LIRR is studying the possibility.
“Whenever I’ve gone door-to-door, residents here tell me they want a new station,” Dromm said last Thursday at a press conference that also featured Crowley and LIRR President Helena Williams. “The neighborhood has changed. My district has grown the most of any in the city in the last Census. People will use it.”
The press conference, along with a walking tour of the site with Williams, was organized by Crowley.
“People are looking for a faster, more comfortable ride into Manhattan,” Crowley said. “If you can save 20 minutes or 30 minutes per trip, that gives you an extra 40 minutes to an hour doing what you wanted in Manhattan, or lets you get back earlier to be there when your kids get home from school.”
Williams said the LIRR routinely reevaluates its assets along all lines, and that it has begun a massive investment in the Port Washington branch, on which the Elmhurst station would sit. She said the review of the line coincided with Crowley’s request to reexamine the possibility of building a new station.
“We have to ask ourselves in each case if a project might be feasible,” she said. “For the first time, we could look at Elmhurst and say yes.”
Williams and Crowley said a new station is not a done deal — Williams said it could be a $20 to $30 million investment. She also said that with ample bus and subway service nearby, the MTA would require reasonable assurance that people would be willing to pay the higher $5.75 fare to and from Penn Station on a continuing basis.
She said the stop was servicing fewer than 30 riders per day when the decision was made to close the station in 1985. It was torn down a few years later.
“Now it’s up to us to prove that the community will support it,” Crowley said.
Citing the 2010 federal Census, Dromm said the community has grown more than 40 percent since the old station reached its nadir. He said the community and its residents are stronger economically.
Williams said Elmhurst is the only former site currently under review, though Crowley said he also has wanted a reconsideration of the old Corona station for a few years for similar reasons.
“That closed about 40 years ago,” he said. Crowley also said people would use the LIRR to head east as well as into Manhattan.
“The trains run both ways,” he said. One area resident, Noe Dichoso, approached the congressman during the tour.
“I would use it to visit my family on Long Island,” he said. Dichoso, a native of the Philippines, said the area has seen a great influx of residents in recent years, including his own countrymen and a large population from India.
He said a major Hindu shrine near the site of the station would draw riders from throughout the region.