No Train In Their Backyard
The emotional statement by Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz opposing the reopening of the Rockaway Beach Line recalls a meeting we had with the Councilwoman and Assemblyman Michael Cohen, who also represented Forest Hills about 12 years ago. After a mass meeting with hundreds of Rockaway residents and a petition campaign coordinated by Lew Simon that collected thousands of signatures supporting the RBB line, Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer set up a meeting at Karen Koslowitz’ office to resolve our differences.
Echoing Bernice Katz, president of the Forest Hills Crescent Civic Association, the Forest Hills legislators made wild charges against the Rockaway line. I was among the Rockaway representatives along with Assemblywoman
Pheffer, and the late Jack King, president of the Belle Harbor Property Owners, the 100 Precinct Community Council and chair of the Rockaway Transit Coalition.
As soon as we sat in their quiet office, Koslowitz and Cohen spoke calmly and rationally. They raised questions about vibrations from passing trains and the blowing of train whistles. We assured them that vibration from a properly laid and maintained roadbed is minimal and train whistles would not be frequent. Train whistles are required at grade crossings. There are no grade crossings on the Rockaway line and none are anticipated.
Our only difficulty was that as private citizens we could not make binding promises about their concerns. We would join them in demanding that the MTA guarantee these provisions in the specifications they issued for the contractors.
There are a small number of homeowners who will remain in opposition, During a walking tour on the railroad right of way behind a small community called Forest Hills Crescents we noted a number of large backyards that had been enlarged to encroach on the right of way. Foliage had been removed and lawns were extended onto city property. I noted a badminton court and a portable swimming pool on city property. Obviously these items would be removed when the RBB line is reactivated.
We are making more progress this year than in the past. The need for mass transit to serve Aqueduct and the proposed convention center make the case for reactivation more urgent. Assemblyman Mike Miller of Ozone Park is a strong supporter. He replaced Assemblyman Tony Seminerio who was always opposed. Former Forest Hills Assemblyman, City Comptroller and briefly State Comptroller Alan Hevesi, who was a powerful opponent of our rail line, is no longer on the political scene.
Most residents of Queens are neutral or unconcerned about our rail line. On Monday, June 18, Rockaway residents will have an opportunity to meet with other Queens residents and help convince them that reopening the Rockaway Beach line would benefit almost all Queens residents. The Queens Civic Congress, an association of 113 civic groups throughout Queens, will meet to hear presentations on the Rockaway line and a Greenway which is designed to block the Rockaway line forever. Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, a strong support- er is coordinating our presentation. He will be joined by Dolores Orr. chair of Community Board 14, and John Rozankowski and David Krulewitch who are transit experts.
Andrea Crawford, chair of Community Board 9, is coordinating the presentation for the Greenway. I cannot judge Andrea’s sincerity, but when I approached her after a recent Civic Congress meeting to discuss a compromise allowing a Greenway in the ample space alongside most of the right of way, she told me she was opposed to the rail line because the trains would frighten the horses on the bridle path in Forest Park.
The June 18 meeting will be at the Maple Grove Center, 127-15 Kew Gardens Road. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. with presentations to begin at 7:30 p.m. They are scheduled to adjourn at 9:15 p.m. All members of Queens civic associations are specifically invited. Local groups that are members of the Civic Congress include the Bayswater Civic Association, Belle Harbor Property Owners Association, Deerfield Area Association, Neponsit Property Owners Association and Rockaway Park Homeowners/ Residents. If your civic is not presently a member, it can apply for membership or you can contact a group that is close to you. Rockaway really needs to show up and get the rest of Queens on our side. For further information contact Norman Silverman at email@example.com.