Alternate Route For Former LIRR White Pot Junction?
For the many Rockaway residents who advocate for a faster rush hour commute to Manhattan, the installation of an A-line express on the route of the former LIRR White Pot junction rail is the most commonly talked about solution. That option, which has long been talked about when discussing ways to improve transportation to the growing Rockaway peninsula, may soon be gone forever if the community and city decide to make it into a park.
According to published reports, members of Community Board 9, whose district encompasses parts of the railway which extends from Ozone Park to Rego Park, are excited about the idea of turning this particular piece of land into an urban park similar to Manhattan’s Highline Park. A proposal was recently brought before them by park and bicycling enthusiasts who previously thought about a bike path adjacent to the rail line. Never was there talk about using the tracks for an actual park, according to Democratic District Leader Lew M. Simon. “There’s enough land on the side of the tracks,” Simon said. “The people of those communities would never support anything like this.” Simon feels there is a growing interest in re-opening that track especially in light of the recent economic growth from Resort World Casino in Ozone Park. Opening that line, Simon says, could go a long way to alleviating the growing traffic concerns in and around the area of the casino which can experience gridlock conditions on the weekends. “To put anything on the line other than a train would be a disgrace and would not be accepted,” Simon said. “Unless this park is in the outer areas of the tracks, it’s not going to happen. Many people are looking to eventually re-open this line.” Historically, the LIRR’s Rockaway Beach line began at the main line in Rego Park, near 66 Avenue. It continued south through Middle Village, Woodhaven, Ozone Park, Howard Beach, and into Broad Channel, across the trestle to the Rockaways. Once in the Rockaways, the trains went either east to Far Rockaway to rejoin with the LIRR Main Line, or west along the peninsula until the last stop at Beach 116 Street. In the 1950s LIRR riders could choose either “the short way,” which went through Queens and into Grand Central Station, or the “long way,” which went to Far Rockaway and then through Nassau County to Jamaica, where commuters had to change trains to get to Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan. After a fire destroyed the trestle in the 1950s, the right of way was sold to New York City for the rapid transit system. At that time, the political decision was to run the A Train through Brooklyn rather than through Queens to service the large, growing community of East New York and surrounding Brooklyn neighborhoods. That is when the White Pot Junction line was abandoned. An original proposal of a bicycle path stalled back in 2007 because of complaints by Forest Park neighbors who were concerned about security and impact on their property. A representative of the MTA was asked at last month’s Community Board 14 meeting about the realistic possibility of the MTA re-opening the White Pot junction anytime soon. Unfortunately, contrary to popular belief, the MTA does not own the majority of the White Pot junction line anymore. It’s mostly in control of New York City and the MTA would have to reacquire the land in order to make something like that happen.
“It’s disappointing and would be an answer to improving commute and transportation times,” Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska said, whose board is highly in favor of reopening the rail line to improve commute times for the growing number of working class Rockaway residents. “In regards to creating a park, it will be really disappointing if the option to re-open the line will disappear forever.”