Assemblymen Mike Miller and Philip Goldfeder said they don’t oppose the other plan that’s been thrown out for the obsolete rail space – a High Line-type greenway for South Queens, known as the Queensway – but say that a rail line would help tremendously when the convention center at Aqueduct is built, helping to usher patrons to and from the city quickly while also giving frustrated Rockaway residents a faster alternative to get into Manhattan.
The two stood against the backdrop of the abandoned tracks on Friday, February 10, along with transit advocates and a few community leaders, expressing the need to reactivate the tracks.
“Right now, we’re being strangled with car traffic, our roads are jammed, our rail lines are at capacity,” said Miller. “Right now, we have a problem and when the governor proposes a convention center, we need to find a way to solve that problem.
“If you can get people from the airport to Aqueduct to Manhattan in half an hour, I think people will utilize that,” he added.
“As you could see, by putting the Rockaway line back into use you’re just giving yourself so many more transportation options,” Goldfeder said.
The assemblymen say this is just another option for the rail line, which runs through Ozone Park, Forest Hills, Rego Park and other neighborhoods, and that a greenway is still on the table.
“Assemblyman Miller and I are not opposed to public parks,” Goldfeder said. “We are willing to sit down with anybody to create options and figure out what is the best way forward for this community.”
Miller stressed that it’s only a plan. “It’s underutilized track,” he said. “There’s a few options, we need to figure out what’s the best one to go with.”
The plan has Rockaway and some Ozone Park residents on board. District Leader Lew Simon said the plan will be a boost to commuters from his neighborhood, who often times get stuck waiting on the A train for hours.
“This will put people back to work,” Simon said. “This would be a win-win for the convention center, the casino and the people who we represent.”
Ozone Park resident and activist David Quintana also supports the plan.
“It’s an area so underutilized it’s become an eyesore to the community and there’s so many uses for it,” he said. “It takes almost an hour to get to Manhattan from the Rockaway Boulevard station, so a 23-minute ride from Howard Beach into Manhattan would be a joy.”
He said he likes both options, but the train line seems to make more sense to the community.
But others, such as Community Board 9 Chair Andrea Crawford, is against the plan for a rail line. CB9 is one of the major proponents of the Queens greenway.
“We’re talking billions of dollars here,” she said. “To say that you can reactivate the track is disingenuous. We need more open space in Queens and I don’t think the time and energy spent on a railway project helps anyone. I don’t think it’s a viable solution.”
Crawford suggested updating the A train so that it becomes more reliable and offers more express train service.
With the 10,000 to 20,000 jobs projected to be offered at the convention center, Goldfeder says there needs to be adequate access to the neighborhood. “We cannot envision that as transportation options are right now,” he said. “We have a problem now, we’re going to have a bigger problem moving forward.”