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Queens Chronicle

Trains, a park, both or neither?

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Posted: Thursday, July 11, 2013 10:30 am

They come here one after the other, candidates for office, taking the hot seat in our conference room for editorial board interviews and all declaring, among other things, that increasing public transportation is a top priority.

More trains, more express buses, more ferries — they want it all, or however much of it they can figure out a way to pay for. One route we think they should consider taking is the Long Island Rail Road’s old Rockaway Beach line, which runs south to the peninsula from Rego Park and Forest Hills.

Trains haven’t run along most of the line for decades, but the right of way is still there. Reopening the route would take a tremendous amount of work and cost a fortune, but it would vastly improve transportation options for everyone in Central and South Queens, as well as Rockaway itself — not to mention commuters and travelers to and from Kennedy Airport. The idea initially was proposed by state Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder of Rockaway Park and has since been endorsed by Reps. Hakeem Jeffries and Gregory Meeks, who also represent the area.

A competing plan would turn the right of way into a park like the High Line in Manhattan, called the QueensWay. That’s also worth considering. The state agrees, and has given $500,000 to the nonprofit Trust for Public Land to study the proposal’s feasibility. We’d like to see it also give the MTA at least as much to research what it would take to restart train service.

There’s even been talk that the right of way might be wide enough to accommodate both train service and a Queensway. Sounds a little dicey, but if it could be done safely, wouldn’t that be so cool?

A final idea, endorsed by our friends at the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association, is to do nothing and just let nature continue to slowly reclaim the right of way. We understand people who live up against it don’t want trains or people right behind their houses where none were before, but NIMBYism can’t be the deciding factor here. Security would simply have to be a top consideration in any plan that goes forward.

Let’s study the park idea, study the rail idea, study the park-and-rail idea, present the results and then decide what’s best for Queens and all New York.

Welcome to the discussion.