2011-12-30 / Top Stories

Restoration Hopes For White Pot Junction Failing

By Howard Schwach

Once it was the Long Island Rail Road’s “short way” into Manhattan, with Rockaway commuters riding in semi-opulent railroad cars in a 40- minute trip.

When the original LIRR trestle over Jamaica Bay burned down five decades ago, however, both the trestle and the land that carried the Rockaway Line, better known as the White Pot Junction Line, were ceded to the city. The trestle was used for rapid transit and a new subway line that roamed into Brooklyn rather than through the heart of Queens.

For twenty years, Rockaway residents have been fighting to restore the White Pot Junction Line as a rapid transit alternative to the A Line.

Now, that dream might well be dead.

The push to turn the abandoned line into a new Queens Greenway park to rival Manhattan’s Highline Park appears to be gaining traction, both with the politicians and the community boards that oversee the areas through which the abandoned lines run.

In fact, those who have been pushing for the park have found a powerful partner – The Trust for Public Land.

The TPL has agreed to seek funding for a feasibility study for the project, which would transform a 3.5 mile stretch of the abandoned railroad line into a park with both pedestrian and bicycle paths running from Ozone Park in the south to Rego Park in the north.

It would also include a diner, parking, restrooms, an environmental art center, athletic fields and several community gardens.

The park would run through a portion of the present Forest Park.

One project or another to turn the right-of-way into a park has been on the burner for 20 years.

In 2007, the plan was shelved because Community Board 6 decided not to back the project, which runs through the backyards of homes that have been built there since the line was abandoned.

Proponents think, however, that the plan’s time has come, due to the growth of similar parks throughout the city and the addition of the powerful TPL to the mix.

The study should cost about $500,000 and would be funded through private donations, a TPL spokesperson said.

Many Rockaway residents, however, still harbored hopes that the line would be reopened as a commuter line for Rockaway residents.

“It’s disappointing and would be an answer to improving commute and transportation times,” Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska said.

The community board has voted numerous times to pursue opening the old and abandoned line.

“In regards to creating a park, it will be really disappointing if the option to re-open the line will disappear forever,” Gaska added.

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