2012-02-17 / Top Stories

LIRR To Aqueduct Spells Great For Rockaway

By Nicholas Briano


Proposed rehabilitation of the Rockaway Beach Branch of the LIRR. Proposed rehabilitation of the Rockaway Beach Branch of the LIRR. With thoughts of an Aqueduct convention center predominantly paid for with private dollars, Rockaway Assembly member Phillip Goldfeder, with the help of some mainland allies, believes the time is right to reopen the former Rockaway Beach Branch line of the LIRR which would cut travel times to Manhattan in half for most Rockaway residents.

The infrastructure revival would be part of a private investment made by Malaysian casino operator, Genting, the people responsible for building Resorts World Casino and who would develop a world-class convention center adjacent to the casino at Aqueduct. Advocates for the line’s reopening (the line also known as Whitepot Junction) were told for many years that the infrastructure was too expensive to restore and that ridership numbers weren’t high enough to warrant the investment.

The idea is being revisited by Goldfeder, however, because of the prospect of improving transportation to the Rockaways with the use of private dollars, making it a no brainer and win-win for Rockaway residents.

Goldfeder and Assemblyman Michael Miller, during a joint press conference last Friday, outlined their vision for the former Rockaway Beach line of the LIRR.

The main purpose of reopening the line would be to provide multiple access points to Aqueduct in the event the convention center plans for the area come to fruition, which is why Genting is willing to invest private dollars to open the line.

The envisioned route would start at the Aqueduct A line stop and continue north through Queens with stops at Ozone Park, Woodhaven Junction, Brooklyn Manor, Parkside and finally, Rego Park. The Rockaway Beach Branch enables riders from Rockaway to connect to trains such as the Atlantic Beach Branch of the LIRR at Woodhaven Junction, the J and Z, and be blocks away from E, F, M and AirTrain. The Rockaway Beach line, best of all, can connect passengers to the LIRR main line which goes right into Penn Station. Currently Rockaway residents, as most know, must take the A line through Queens, into Brooklyn to finally get into Manhattan.

“With the opening of the casino at Aqueduct and the proposed convention center, having adequate transportation to and from Queens must be a top priority,” Assemblyman Goldfeder said. “Now more than ever our families need access to affordable and reliable public transportation.”

The Rockaway Beach Line was created around the turn of the 20th century and was owned and operated by the Long Island Rail Road. It provided residents access to other parts of the city and 40 minute commutes to midtown Manhattan. In the early ’60s, parts of the railroad service were condensed, sectioned off and eventually closed. In the following years, the property was vandalized, encroached upon and has become a source of embarrassment for the families that reside in the area.

“The transit infrastructure of Queens is hardly capable of handling the population needs of 1990 – let alone 2020,” Assemblyman Miller said. “There are a lot of proposals out there to improve transportation options for the residents of Queens, its time we took a serious look at some of these options.”

Despite the limited transportation options, in recent years, Southern Queens and Rockaway in particular has seen a large population and construction boom and this combined with the prospect of adding the convention center at Aqueduct, make the need to restore this rail more important than ever, Goldfeder added.

“The goal of these initiatives is to cut down on commute times for Southern Queens and Rockaway families traveling outside of the borough for daily necessities and make Queens more accessible,” Assemblyman Goldfeder said. “This plan would help us achieve both.”

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