NEW YORK | Rockaway Beach Branch


#1

In Queens, Taking the High Line as a Model

By LISA W. FODERARO
Published: January 7, 2013

It has been abandoned for five decades, a railway relic that once served Queens passengers on the old Rockaway Beach branch of the Long Island Rail Road. For all those years, no one paid much notice to the ghostly tracks, long overgrown with trees and vines, as they ran silently behind tidy houses in Rego Park, dipped through ravines in Forest Park and hovered above big-box stores in Glendale.

That is, until the High Line expanded the possibilities of a public park.

Now, the three-and-a-half-mile stretch of rusty train track in central Queens is being reconceived as the “QueensWay,” a would-be linear park for walkers and bicyclists in an area desperate for more parkland and, with the potential for art installations, performances and adjacent restaurants, a draw for tourists interested in sampling the famously diverse borough.

…Last month, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a native of Queens, awarded the trust a $467,000 environmental protection grant through the state’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. The grant will help pay for a community planning survey and a feasibility study that will include environmental, engineering and financial assessments of the project, including consideration of the condition of the railway’s trestles, bridges and embankment

But bringing the park to fruition will not be easy. The modest neighborhoods and light industrial areas through which the abandoned rail line passes cannot provide the tens of millions of dollars that were raised privately by Friends of the High Line, the nonprofit group managing the construction and maintenance of the elevated park on Manhattan’s West Side.

Nor is everyone on the same page about the Queens railway’s destiny; at least one elected official has called for a simultaneous study of reviving the rail line to provide better train service to the increasingly popular Rockaway beaches, damaged as they might be in the short term by Hurricane Sandy. (Mr. Benepe, who is well schooled in community opposition, imagined the potential horror of nearby homeowners at the prospect of the train line’s rumbling to life again.)

Still, the trust has already raised tens of thousands of dollars for the project, in addition to the state grant, and it has broad experience in fostering linear parks, having worked on four dozen such parks, mostly on ground level, around the country. The trust is currently the project manager of Bloomingdale Trail in Chicago, a 2.7-mile former elevated railway that is being converted to a park, in the mold of the High Line.


#2

This is interesting. Something along of the High Line would probably be a huge success. The perfect catalyst to spark development (similar to the Manhattan High Line).

In terms of tourism, I think its a great idea because tourists need to realize that New York is more than Manhattan. Getting outerborough tourism will be the key for New York’s Tourism industry to grow in the 21st century. As of last year, 52 million visitors came as I recall; which is the highest it’s ever been.


#3

If a subway line used the route…



#4

Outer boro transit dreams: A wishlist of service improvements

By DAN RIVOLI September 14, 2014

QUEENS

Queens transit advocates believe a 3.5-mile piece of Long Island Rail Road track that has been abandoned since 1962 is the best hope to slash travel times to Manhattan and other far-flung neighborhoods in the city’s largest borough.

Advocates for reactivating a rail say some kind of transportation there would make colleges and job centers in northern parts of Queens and midtown Manhattan more accessible.

"How do you get to these schools and how do you get to these better jobs if you’re an hour and a half, two hours away," complained Phil McManus of the Queens Public Transit Committee, which is pushing for the line to be brought back. “It will drastically improve not just Rockaway but everybody that’s close to that line.”

The abandoned track runs near Woodhaven Boulevard from Ozone Park up to Rego Park, close to the Queens Boulevard lines serving the E, F M and R trains. The Queens Public Transit Committee envisions a subway that connects to the Queens Boulevard line or carries riders near it; or running LIRR trains to connect with the three branches that run through Queens into Penn Station.

The MTA in its report looking 20 years into the future said a solution to the challenge of moving people who are traveling within boroughs is using the abandoned track as a way to link subway lines.

But there is competition for this stretch of aging track. A group wants to turn it into a High Line-style park and bike path called QueensWay.

In the meantime, Queens College’s Urban Studies Department is wrapping up an analysis of people’s travel patterns and a 5,000-person survey for a “snapshot of community opinion” on the proposals, said Scott Larson, director of community studies at the urban studies department, who is overseeing the study.

“Clearly, the Rockaways is underserved in terms of transportation – that much is pretty clear,” Larson said.


#5

From December 5, 2013…

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#6

The “Queens High Line” Is A Bad Idea

Max Rivlin-Nadler on Oct 15, 2014 9:35 am

Since the success of the High Line, a park serendipitously located above one of the trendiest and wealthiest neighborhoods in the world, many a plan has been drawn up to try to replicate it. From the nearby Lowline on the Lower East Side, to Philadelphia’s Rail Park, to Chicago’s nascent 606, park advocates and urban planners everywhere are lining up to get in on the “line” craze, which aims to take unused rail lines in densely populated areas and turn them into parks. Yesterday, the Trust for Public Land released a report on “The QueensWay,” a sometimes-elevated park that would cut through central Queens along an unused rail corridor, which formerly brought commuters from Rego Park to The Rockaways, but was abandoned in 1962.

But is Central Queens a logical place for an expensive park project, or are we going to build a complicated park just because we can? The area does not necessarily fit the bill for such a “high line” project, only two of which (the other being the Promenade Plantée in Paris), have actually succeeded in being developed. There are a variety of reasons why the “High Line on steroids” in Central Queens would be a misuse of badly needed parks money, a fetishization of design over actual use, and could commit the city to missing an opportunity to finally bring real transit options to central Brooklyn and Queens.

Central Queens Doesn’t Need More Parks: For a borough with a reputation for being somewhat suburban, the majority of Queens has an incredibly dense population and lacks much public parkland. But in Central Queens, the QueensWay’s potential home, is downright flush with parks.

In fact, the QueensWay would run right along Forest Park, a beautiful space that distinctly lacks a central component of any public park: the public. A bike ride in Forest Park is a wonderful experience, especially owing to its lack of pedestrians on paths. Much of Forest Park is taken up by a golf course, the destruction of which should be explored well before the construction of a brand new park. The elimination of the Forest Park golf course would open up some much needed meadow-space, which, as you can guess by the name, Forest Park lacks.

Building a new park before shuttering the golf course (of which Queens has several more) is like building a new home because the living room of the old one needs to be remodeled.

Forest Park lacks the visitors and tourists of Prospect and Central Parks, because it’s located in deep Queens and there’s a dearth of transit options, which reminds us…

Where Is This Money Coming From?: The plan for the park puts the cost at $122 million. Even that amount seems unrealistic, especially considering the High Line cost close to $200 million, and the QueensWay would be much longer. Not only that, but the QueensWay serves a much less affluent community, meaning large private donations might be hard to come by.

So far, the Trust for Public Land has raised $1.2 million for the park. The QueensWay, the report states, would be built in phases, like the High Line. Unfortunately, like the Second Avenue Subway, a project that is not fully funded (or funded at all) might only achieve a single portion of the envisioned goal, leaving the rail line just as unused, save for a single section. The new subway line would also need a massive amount of money, but the federal government has shown a willingness to pony up for transit before parks.

Considering the city itself just made a massive investment in local parks in all five boroughs to the tune of $130 million, it seems unlikely that the mayor’s office would be that interested in shelling out another massive sum for a single park, or even a smaller amount to begin the project. As the mayor’s office told the Times about the project, “We look forward to continuing conversations with stakeholder about the future of this asset.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement.


#7

Abandoned LIRR tracks in Queens could be converted into both a new subway spur and a walking-cycling trail

Any proposal for reviving the long-dormant right-of-way between Rego Park and Ozone Park should consider both a two-track subway route and a greenway

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Sunday, November 2, 2014, 2:00 AM

…A rail line could serve thousands of people per hour. A walking and cycling trail won’t serve those kinds of numbers, but it would still give the community the benefits of a new greenway. What might be the best approach is to research the feasibility of both land uses in the same corridor, before it’s too late — why not incorporate rail transit and a recreational trail together?

Connecting the LIRR right of way to the Queens Blvd. subway was first proposed over 80 years ago, and it’s still a valid idea. Plans to connect the two lines date back to 1933, when the Board of Estimate, under interim mayor John O’Brien, approved spending $34 million to buy the LIRR route between Rego Park and the Rockaways and connect it to the new Independent System (IND) subway just east of the 63rd Drive station. This idea very nearly became reality; the IND tunnel was even provided with turnouts to allow future trains to connect with the LIRR Rockaway Beach Branch. This Rockaway subway plan eventually died because of the city’s higher priorities during the Depression. The Rockaway turnouts under Queens Blvd. remained, unused to this day.

The debated piece of land for this right of way, which has been owned by the city since 1952, now resembles a small forest. Some of it lies atop an embankment. Much environmental study and engineering work, including bridge repairs, would be needed if any re-use occurs. Only an extensive engineering survey can reveal what can or cannot be built, but any proposal should study the feasibility of both a new two track subway route and a greenway. In many areas, the right of way appears wide enough for both uses. Innovative construction techniques and designs could permit trains and people safely side by side.

If this line is completed, Queens would gain its first true north-south subway route, giving Rockaway and southwest Queens easy subway access to Forest Hills, Rego Park, Jamaica, Citi Field, and the Arthur Ashe tennis stadium without long roundabout trips through Brooklyn and Manhattan, or long bus rides. Transfers to the J line could be provided at jamaica Ave., where the LIRR once had a station called Brooklyn Manor. Rockaway, Howard Beach, Ozone Park and Woodhaven would have a second, more direct option for travel to and from Midtown Manhattan.

Whatever the final outcome, the time to do a real study of reactivating rail transit and providing a recreational trail on the abandoned line, is now.


#8

Goldfeder Study Says Rockaway Rail is ‘Way’ To Go

Impact plan reveals “the true needs of Queens residents and small businesses.”

Julie Sickel, 2014-11-07

The full results of a much-anticipated study that examines the public’s opinion of uses for the land that was once home to the Rockaway Beach Rail Line will be revealed Monday morning at Queens College.

For several weeks, Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder has been hinting at the study’s upcoming release. Conducted by the Department of Urban Studies at Queens College, the “Community Impact Study of Proposed Uses of the Rockaway Beach Branch Right of Way” surveyed 5,000 rail-adjacent residents and 800 businesses, and used census data to assess the needs of communities around the rail line.

Goldfeder said in the past that he hoped such a study would reveal “the true needs of Queens residents and small businesses.” A summary of findings obtained by The Wave suggests the study has done just that.

The results assert that reactivating the Rockaway Beach Rail Line could result in half a million daily subway trips on the line. The neighborhoods around the rail line are already underserved by buses and rail lines, with a third of all rail-adjacent residents, and half of residents in Richmond Hill and Woodhaven, making a daily commute of more than an hour. Rockaway residents face a longer commute to midtown Manhattan than residents of Nassau County.

…The study concludes that residents within a half-mile of the proposed park area already have access to more parkland acres per person than the average NYC resident. The study states that a reinstated rail line would actually improve access to the existing Forest Park, which attracts 900,000 people annually, with 70 percent of those visitors arriving by car. Additionally, a majority of residents around the rail line said they were concerned about increased crime in the area if a park were to be created.


#9

Douglas Durst Talks Queens, Midtown and WTC

BY Guelda Voien, November 4, 2014 12:22PM

Queensway

Mr. Durst is also involved with the Trust for Public Land, a non-profit organization that preserves and creates public parkland across the U.S.

He admits the name of the group is a bit of a misnomer. “I made everybody upset when I suggested we change the name,” he said. “It’s not a trust. In some states, a trust implies a bank.” In fact, the T.P.L. is just an old-fashioned non-profit.

Among the group’s current projects is the QueensWay, a 3.5-mile sort of High Line for Queens that the T.P.L. is hoping to build along an abandoned railway in that borough. The elevated pedestrian and bicycle pathway would add recreational space, commute options and, well, trees, to a swath of Queens between Rego Park and Ozone Park.

“It requires a lot of funding but we believe Mayor [Bill] de Blasio is going to be a big supporter, so we believe we’ll be able to get it started during his administration,” he said. And he may just get his way. Mr. Durst donated the maximum legally allowed to Hizzoner’s campaign, as reported.

The project should be underway “in six to eight months at most,” Mr. Durst said.


#10

QueensWay and the Reactivated Rockaway Beach Branch: Solutions In Search of A Problem?

BY: JOHN PETRO ON NOVEMBER 14TH 2014 AT 4:00 PM


The abandoned Rockaway Beach Branch, photo from AbandonedNYC

There it sits, the northern portion of the deactivated Rockaway Beach Branch rail line, a 3.5 mile-long right-of-way in central and southern Queens that last saw passenger service in 1962. One MTA board member described it to YIMBY as “the most valuable dormant right of way in the world.” This may be hyperbole, but the site’s inherent value is indeed tantalizing.

It is this sense of value that has led to some well-meaning advocates, dismayed by its current decrepit state, to propose active uses for the Rockaway Beach Branch. One proposal, the QueensWay, would create an elevated park and walk-bike trail that its proponents have likened to the High Line on Manhattan’s West Side. The other proposal is to reactivate the line for passenger service, either by linking the line with the Long Island Rail Road or the Queens Boulevard subway line. Reactivation could also take the form of a 26-minute ride from Penn Station to the Howard Beach AirTrain station.
None of these ideas are bad in theory, but given the area’s existing built environment and population density, as well as the reluctance by local community boards to allow any significant new development, it is difficult to rationalize the significant investments needed for either of these proposals – at least at this time.

When one takes into account competing needs across the city and a scarcity of funding for essential projects, it may be that this is simply not the right decade to pursue either option. The right-of-way isn’t going anywhere; it will still be there when the city and surrounding communities get serious about redeveloping southern Queens.

Proponents of the QueensWay say that it would cost about $122 million to construct, or about $2.6 million per acre, with another $4 million annually for maintenance and upkeep. It is difficult to determine the accuracy of these cost estimates, though one may be inclined to round up. A similar project in Chicago called the 606—which QueensWay advocates hold up as a relevant case study—cost $6 million per acre to construct. The High Line cost $25 million per acre, though the design of the QueensWay would be much more humble than its Manhattan counterpart.

Meanwhile, the city’s existing parks must fight for their share of a miniscule parks budget. The $122 million needed for the QueensWay would be around a third to half of the city’s current annual capital contribution to parks. As it is, many parks are already in dire need of improvements – Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is just one example.

…So far, the communities flanking the Rockaway Beach Branch have not thrown their weight behind either of the competing proposals. Many community leaders seem hostile to the idea of change, and are more concerned with preserving the low-density character of “their” neighborhoods. NIMBYs don’t want a High Line-style park in their backyards, nor are they excited about the idea of trains rumbling through.

Perhaps once these neighborhoods are ready to “grow up” and accept the next stage of development, then they will have the population density to merit significant new investments in new parks and transit. That time seems a long way off yet.


#11

MTA Reinvention Commission pushes for light rail expansion of transit system

By Pete Donohue on Wednesday, November 26, 2014, 6:18 AM

…The MTA Reinvention Commission urges an “aggressive expansion” of the transit system — and says light rail should be explored as an option.

Light rail is an electric railway that has its own route or shares space with automobiles.

The commission’s report, released Tuesday night, doesn’t specify where a system should be pursued. But some transit advocates have clamored for a crosstown option for years. The report says unused rights-of-way could be used to expand the transit system relatively quickly.

Many elected officials and unions have been urging Gov. Cuomo to fund a reactivation of the former Rockaway Beach Rail Line in Queens. The former LIRR route ran from Rego Park south to Rockaway Peninsula.

…System expansion is needed because of existing subway overcrowding and projected population growth, experts say.

The report also says the MTA needs “a balanced, stable, reliable long-term funding plan” and congestion pricing should again be considered.


#12

A Green Line Through Queens

By The Editorial Board on December 26, 2014


A trestle for the old Rockaway Line on Fleet Street that would be a part of the QueensWay Park. Credit Byron Smith for The New York Times

The abandoned Rockaway Beach line of the Long Island Rail Road cuts a shaggy green swath through southern Queens. Trees have thickly colonized the railbed. The rusty rails run parallel through the shadowy underbrush and — where the tracks are elevated by concrete and steel — overbrush. The line has been rotting since the 1950s, though a group of park advocates say the result is not ruin but wild perfection. They want to make it a three-and-a-half-mile park and call it the QueensWay.

The question is not whether a new park in Queens is a good idea. It’s a spectacular one. The question is whether it is a better idea than a less-flashy alternative — reviving the rail line so people in Queens, particularly in the Rockaways, can get to work without creeping along congested boulevards in cars and buses, or taking the hour-plus ride to Midtown on the A train. (There used to be a Rockaway ferry, but it was discontinued at the end of October.)

Of the two tantalizing possibilities — rail or trail — trail now has the upper hand. A half-million-dollar study, released in October, resoundingly affirms the foregone conclusion of the national conservation group that commissioned it, the Trust for Public Land. It found that the QueensWay would be a boon to the borough, transforming a humdrum stretch of residential-commercial-industrial-whatever with the sylvan graciousness that the High Line brought to the West Side of Manhattan, but on a far bigger scale. It would open a walk-and-bike gateway to another big park, Forest Park, that is now dangerously hemmed in by roadways.


#13

Queens College studies/findings conducted months ago

http://qcurban.org/office-of-community-studies/our-work:


#14

Bad call to scrap Queens rezoning

Give New Yorkers a place to live, not LaGuardia passengers a place to shop

Letter to the editor - June 15, 2016

…A more sensible plan would be to restore the 3.5-mile disused LIRR Rockaway Beach Line in central Queens and operate a world-class, one-seat-ride express rail service between Manhattan and each of the terminals at John F. Kennedy Airport. With four, much longer runways, JFK could easily accommodate the diverted LaGuardia travelers, using larger aircraft and more frequent flights. It’s time for the governor to take charge, and not leave it to self-serving bureaucrats at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to run the show.

George Haikalis

Manhattan

The writer is a civil engineer and transportation planner.


#15

A slightly older article. I think the study is still happening though!

Goldfeder discusses reactivation of Rockaway line

By Mark Hallum on May 26. 2016


Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder discussed the benefits of a reactivated Rockaway Beach LIRR branch at the Woodhaven Resident’s Block Association meeting.

The Woodhaven Resident’s Block Association held its monthly meeting last week, and the main topic of discussion was the possible reactivation of the Rockaway Beach Rail Line, a long-abandoned branch of the Long Island Rail Road that has sparked intense debate in recent years.

State Assemblyman Philip Goldfeder (D-Ozone Park) spoke passionately about why he believes the line could bring relief to commuters in Queens’ congested roadways.

Goldfeder is advocating for the reactivation of the line as a way to reduce traffic on the roads. But residents of communities that would be affected argue that resurrecting the long-dead high line tracks would bring noise pollution and vibrations to their homes, which border the old line.

In April, the MTA announced it would conduct a feasibility study of the tracks to explore the possibility of bringing service back to neighborhoods between the Rockaways, northern Queens and Manhattan by way of transfer, something Goldfeder sees as a personal victory. Goldfeder, with the help of Queens College, conducted a study that projected the potential utilization of the rail line.

“The number of people who touch the line, who could use the line, could go as high as 500,000 per day. That doesn’t mean that 500,000 are going to ride it,” Goldfeder said, adding that even a fraction of that could take a huge chunk out of the number of cars on the road. “We’re giving people choices.”

“I’m proud to announce that the first week in June, I’m going to be sitting down with the chairman of the MTA to talk about the parameters of the study, about what they are going to be reviewing and what they are going to be looking at, what kind of trains are going to be going on there, what’s the best way to mitigate some of the noise,” the assemblyman told the crowd at the town meeting May 19.

MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said study would examine the costs of bringing back the railway from an engineering and economic standpoint as well as other options that could spring up to affect utilization of the rail line, such as a new bus line or the Citywide Ferry Service set to launch at the beginning of 2017.

The feasibility study for the Rockaway line is set to be complete by June 2017.

Alexander Blenkinsopp from Community Board 9 addressed the issue that some neighborhoods affected by putting the old right-of-way to use might not receive the benefit of a having a stop, becoming in effect simply “fly-over” territory. Goldfeder responded by reassuring the crowd that each community would be entitled to a stop.


#16

Here’s an up to date article from April 7, 2016. It confirms that a feasibility study to is being conducted by the MTA. What will happen here in the meantime? . … . . .

MTA To Conduct Feasibility Study Of Rockaway Rail Line


(image from different source http://ny.curbed.com/2013/12/5/10167526/abandoned-rockaway-rail-line-waits-for-high-line-moment)

By John Cronin on April 7, 2016

After years of advocacy, one of the Rockaway Rail Line’s most fearsome proponents, Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D – Rockaway Park) announced that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority agreed to conduct a feasibility study into reactivating the railway after the Assembly and Senate passed it in the state budget.

A representative from Goldfeder’s office said that this is a commitment from the MTA, who suspended service on the line in 1962 and ceded ownership to the city. There is no funding attached yet. Goldfeder’s office estimated between it will be $1 to $5 million based on past feasibility studies the MTA has done.

“For tens of thousands of Queens families forced to endure some of the longest commutes in the city, this announcement by the MTA is real progress. A comprehensive study of the Queens Rail will give voice to our transit concerns and bring Queens one step closer to having the transportation infrastructure we need and deserve,” said Goldfeder. “I have no doubt that this study will prove once and for all that reactivation is the best and most cost-effective way to speed commute times for our families and boost our local economy.”

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) as always stated that he supports the project. He said he hopes it will be different than the three other studies that have been done in the past.

Addabbo said before the budget he spoke with Prendergast and asked him what he thought about the project itself. Addabbo reported that Prendergast said he can’t have any other projects leapfrogging over others, such as the Second Avenue Subway line.

This is done by the MTA, which is a big difference,” he added, “This is a project they should embrace.” He then noted that his district cover the entire stretch of the Rockaway Line. He would have to listen to his constituency and balance all the project ideas. “All these things have been spoken for decades,” and “Financially, we could be discussing this for decades to come. Just being realistic.” He believes they will have to do more work to get the MTA to consider it.

…MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast wrote in a letter to Carl Heastie, speaker of the Assembly, “The Metropolitan Transportation Authority recognizes that opportunities may exist along retired rights-of-way within the region and commits to an evaluation of the former Rockaway Beach rail corridor and the West Shore of Staten Island.”

They will be finished by no later than June 30, 2017.

Language in the budget proposal text justified the appropriation on the grounds that “constructing new mass transit routes and services reduces vehicle traffic and alleviates congestion.”

Goldfeder gave joint testimony last November with U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Brooklyn/Manhattan), member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, before a City Council Transportation Committee hearing on transit deserts in New York.

He noted in a press release that, “In 2014, the Queens College Urban Studies Department conducted a student-led survey of communities adjacent to the abandoned right-of-way. The resulting report found that reactivation could generate half a million subway trips a day and that a majority of local business owners supported the plan. Around this time, a report by the NYU Rudin Center for Transportation ranked many communities in the Assemblyman’s district among the lowest city-wide for access to job opportunities via public transportation.”