Not On Our Backs!
To say Rockaway residents are enthusiastic about reducing their travel times to Manhattan by reviving the former LIRR Rockaway Beach Line would be an understatement.
What residents may not realize, however, is that same enthusiasm isn’t as heartfelt across the borough of Queens where the rail line would cut through some residents’ backyards. During a Community Board 6 meeting last week, Forest Hills Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz vowed to do everything in her legislative power to block the rail line from reopening.
“The Rockaways need transportation, but not on our backs,” Koslowitz told Community Board 6. “We don’t need another train running through that doesn’t service our area.”
Koslowitz, who declined an interview with The Wave this week, also blasted the proposal on the previous evening at the Forest Hills Community and Civic Association. It was reported that she talked about the impact it would have on homeowners in the affected area.
“Fifty years ago when the Rockaway line stopped running, people bought houses. We do not want the value of their houses going down the drain,” she was quoted as saying.
Then she promised the civic they would hear from her again “to make sure this doesn’t happen.”
When asked during a phone interview, Community Board 6 District Manager Frank Gulluscio said the board hasn’t formed a formal opinion yet on the proposal.
“Nothing has been presented formally to this board as far as the rail line goes,” Gulluscio told The Wave. “Because nothing has been presented, the board doesn’t have an informed opinion yet. People have been talking about it, sure, but until a plan is presented to us we as a board cannot form an opinion either way.”
Other sources indicate that there are mixed feelings about the project. Some still want to see a highline-type park in place of the rail line, while others want nothing at all. Most of the people who want to see nothing become of the rail line are the property owners, such as those from the Forest Hills Civic, some of whose homes lie up against the abandoned tracks.
People in Rockaway, however, need better transportation options, the project’s main supporter, Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder, said. Reopening the rail line, he further said, is truly the best option. His petition, which can be found at www.rockaway beachrail.com, has already garnered more than 1,000 signatures since he launched it just two weeks ago.
It was that petition which Koslowitz denounced at the CB 6 meeting. She said that most residents already complain about the Long Island Rail Road stops in Kew Gardens and Forest Hills, so there’s no way the community will want another line running through their neighborhood.
“We will protest, even if I have to lie down,” Koslowitz said. “We don’t want this in our community.”
When asked by CB6 members to seek alternatives to the line such as the Highline style park, Koslowitz said her main focus right now is not alternatives to the rail line, but to prevent the line from reopening at all.
Many close to the discussions also believe that the rail line comes and goes along with the proposed convention center at Aqueduct. Plans to build one of the largest convention centers in the world at Aqueduct using mostly private funding can spur the revival of the line. State lawmakers say that if the convention center is built, the rail line infrastructure can also be paid in-part with that same private funding.
The Rockaway Beach Line 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.
The newly 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.