Some want to see trains run along its tracks while others would like the see an overhead park similar to the High Line on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. And some have taken a third opinion on what to do with the long-abandoned Rockaway Beach Long Island Rail Road line that runs from Rego Park to Ozone Park — nothing.
After sitting on the sidelines for a while and examining the proposals, the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association, representing a neighborhood through which a big portion of the right of way passes, has made a decision where to throw its support.
“After carefully considering a multitude of viewpoints expressed by Woodhaven residents, the WRBA has decided not to support either of the proposals at this time,” the group said in a statement last week.
The WRBA had hosted a forum on Sept. 29, during which proponents of both the so-called QueensWay — the High Line proposal that would turn the abandoned line into an overhead pedestrian path — and the resurrection of the railroad line that ran along the tracks until 1962, both presented their ideas to Woodhaven residents.
But neither won over many supporters in the neighborhood.
The rail line runs along 98th Street and forms Woodhaven’s eastern border with Richmond Hill. The neighborhood had two stations along the line until 1962 — one at Jamaica Avenue called Brooklyn Manor, and another, simply called Woodhaven, located at Atlantic Avenue. The remnants of the station are still visible.
The WRBA officially ruled out supporting a plan that would reopen the line, citing the quality-of-life issues passing trains could cause for those living along 98th Street, many of whom have backyards that end right at the tracks. A number of residents along the street have expressed staunch opposition to the idea.
“We cannot endorse a plan that would impose such high costs on so many of our fellow Woodhaven residents, and which has engendered so much opposition from our community,” the statement continued.
The group also opposes the QueensWay idea, citing concerns about parking, privacy issues for those who live along the line and security.
The WRBA also noted that the neighborhood already has extensive parkland at Forest Park including the greenway along Forest Park Drive, which is accessible to the entire neighborhood.
“In light of the diverse — and sometimes conflicting — opinions we’ve received from our community, we believe that leaving the abandoned rail line alone is the best way to satisfy the needs and desires of as many residents as possible,” the group said.
“Finally, we urge those who are disappointed by our position not to cast aside our neighbors’ concerns as mere selfishness or NIMBYism,” it continued, referring to the “not in my backyard” reaction people often have to nearby projects. “Any change to the rail line, especially reactivating it, could have a considerable negative impact on many residents. The harm they would suffer is as real and significant as any advantage that would be received by the beneficiaries of a revived rail line or QueensWay. To dismiss Woodhaven’s concerns is to ignore half of the equation. Our residents are as important as the residents of other communities. We remind critics that the best way to change Woodhaven’s collective mind is to make a more persuasive case about how our neighborhood would benefit from — or at least not be harmed by — their proposals.”
The idea to restart rail service has been promoted by Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Far Rockaway), who says a rail line there would make commutes for those in Rockaway and Southern Queens quicker. Currently bus and subway rides to Midtown Manhattan can take over an hour. Goldfeder also says a train line running parallel to Woodhaven Boulevard would reduce traffic congestion on the busy thoroughfare.
The WRBA did say the conditions of the rail line were “deplorable” and called on the city to conduct a cleanup of the line.