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Crowley Steps Down from Friends of the QNS Board

Former New York City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley has stepped down from her position as chairperson of the board of Friends of the QNS, a nonprofit organization that she founded to advocate for expanded commuter rail-based transit across the borough.

Crowley said her decision to step down was made in order to focus fully on her candidacy for New York State Senate District 17.

“It has been an honor to serve as the chair of Friends of the QNS,” Crowley said.

The “QNS” proposal was introduced by Crowley to improve transit within her former Council district. Specifically, the plan sought to revive the former Lower Montauk rail line, which stretches nine miles from Hunters Point in Long Island City, through central Queens neighborhoods including Middle Village, Glendale, and Ridgewood, to the Jamaica hub.

This portion of central Queens is commonly referred to as one of the City’s “transit deserts,” since no passenger rail currently serves many of these neighborhoods.

In a 2018 report from the Department of Transportation, it was confirmed that the defunct rail line could be converted to include passenger service at a fraction of the cost of other major expansion projects like Manhattan’s 2nd Avenue Subway.

The New York State Senate district seat that Crowley is currently running for would include a vast majority of the former Lower Montauk Line within its boundaries. It was recently created by state lawmakers following the 2020 Census and will include Glendale, Maspeth, Richmond Hill, Ridgewood, Woodhaven, Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside, Ozone Park, and Greenpoint in Brooklyn within its boundaries.

But while Crowley is stepping down from her position as the board’s chair, she said she vows to continue to advocate not only for the QNS rail but for a greenway along the QNS line, if elected.

“Queens has been growing at a tremendous pace, especially Long Island City,” Crowley said. “For this borough to keep up with its growth, we need to provide better transit to our residents. It’s not ambitious, it’s common sense.”

This proposal to restore the former commuter rail is similar to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s 14-mile IBX plan, which seeks to add a train line from Bay Ridge in Brooklyn to Woodside, Queens.

Both use existing, underused train rights-of-way, converting them to passenger service from strictly freight service.

Crowley also indicated that she would work to include a dedicated bike lane running parallel to QNS, because “an intolerable” number of bicycle accidents and fatalities have been occurring in recent years.

“If we want people to use alternative transportation, we want them to feel safe as they do so. A slightly revised QNS ‘rail and trail’ plan would help that goal,” Crowley said.

Denise Keehan-Smith, former chairperson of Community Board 2, will replace Crowley as the new chairperson of the Friends of QNS. Keehan-Smith promises to continue the hard work that Crowley started and will also advocate adding a bike lane to the proposal. The organization also hired a senior strategist to help assist with the group’s expanding workload.

“I shall be forever grateful to [Crowley] for serving as the founder and chair of our organization,” Thomas Mituzas, a Blissville resident and QNS board member, said. “She brought to the forefront the need for a new commuter line for the many living in the transportation desert of Queens.”

Another push to shut down work at Bayside yard

Bayside residents have had enough of a yard the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) has been using as a “temporary” staging site for overnight construction work on the Port Washington line for the at least the past six years.
Neighbors of the rail yard say they are often woken up several times a night by the work and loud diesel engines pulling in and out of the yard.
In addition to the noise, residents contend the site is being used to store flammable chemicals and other potentially hazardous materials.
“This is not a safe situation for any of us, it’s beyond inappropriate,” said Karen Digiacomo, who lives next door to the yard on 217th Street just south of 40th Avenue. “All of this has been done with complete disregard for us. We have been more than patient.”
Digiacomo said if the LIRR fails to take action, her and her neighbors have discussed filing a class action lawsuit.
Stephen Panagiotakis moved to his house on 218th Street next to the yard one year ago with his wife and two small sons. The overnight noise is a nuisance, he said, but so are the trucks entering and leaving the site all day long.
“There are trucks barreling down 40th Avenue,” he said.
Tony Avella, the Democratic nominee for City Council, said when he was last in office as a state senator in 2018 he spoke with LIRR president Phillip Eng about the issue.
“Eng promised to reduce activity, but now it’s worse than ever,” Avella said at a rally with residents on Monday calling on the LIRR to end activity at the site.
Assemblyman Ed Braunstein said he also sent a letter to Eng and the LIRR about the issue in 2017, suggesting the agency find an alternative site for the staging work. He suggested moving the operation to Willets Point, a far-less residential area mostly surrounded by Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. He followed up again in 2019.
“The people in this neighborhood have been tortured by the Long Island Railroad for long enough,” Braunstein said earlier this week. “People do not deserve to live like this.”
Representatives from the MTA and LIRR did not respond to requests for comment.
While the LIRR has been unresponsive in the past, Avella said this time around they might have an ace up their sleeve. On Sunday night, Avella said Senator Chuck Schumer called to congratulate him on his primary win, and asked if there was anything Schumer could help with.
Avella mentioned the issues at the Bayside yard, and Schumer said he would reach out to LIRR officials to discuss the matter. Avella said Schumer’s help is important because many train operations are overseen by federal agencies.
“Having the senate majority leader on your side is a big deal,” Avella said.

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