State Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway) is still riding the advocate train in the hopes of restoring the Rockaway Beach rail line.
In a sitdown interview with the Queens Chronicle on Monday, the South Queens politician said reactivating the decommissioned line would be the best way to relieve traffic congestion for much of the borough.
“People are going to go out of their cars and take the train,” Goldfeder said — as opposed to buses, which he believes they would not do.
Working to restore the line, which would connect the lower part of the borough to Forest Hills, has been one of Goldfeder’s main goals since he was elected to the state Legislature in 2011.
The reticence to reactivate it, or fund a feasibility study, is part of a longstanding trend that has seen Queens get the short end of the stick when it comes to funds for transportation improvement, he said.
“Queens is being left out of the equation,” Goldfeder said, adding that Manhattan is given a large chunk of transportation improvement funds. “Queens has been getting the transportation shaft for too long.”
But he and others seeking to put the train back on the line have to first fight those seeking to have a 3.5-mile stretch of parkland, known as the QueensWay, on the same track.
The QueensWay, the borough’s answer to the High Line, has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the state to draw up preliminary designs.
Goldfeder said the QueensWay would not serve nearby residents the way the rail line would.
A study conducted by the Department of Urban Studies at Queens College found that 500,000 riders would benefit from the train option. The study was commissioned by Goldfeder.
The QueensWay, however, might not be the only thing in Goldfeder’s way. He also has to face the Forest Hills Little League, which would lose its home fields on Fleet Street if the train were to run again.
The assemblyman said he believes the loss of those fields is worth the reward of having the train back and is willing to work with the league to find a new home field.
“We have the second biggest park in the borough,” he said, referring to Forest Park.
He also said the rail line would be a better option for commuters than the Department of Transportation’s $200 million plan for a dedicated bus lane along Woodhaven Boulevard.
Goldfeder said he’s not convinced the service would get people out of their cars and onto buses. He also expressed doubt the bus lines would last as long as the rail line would.
“There’s no longevity in bus lines,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to work.”
Speaking of the city’s plan to have a five-borough ferry service launch in 2017, Goldfeder said while the peninsula needs the alternative transportation now, he has been told by city officials it must be included in a larger plan.
The assemblyman said it was sad that it took a catastrophe like Sandy to show the city that Rockaway residents need better modes of transportation.