2013-11-29 / Editorial/Opinion

In Queens You Can’t Get There

Gotta hand it to him. Phil Goldfeder has long been a supporter of reactivating the Rockaway Branch rail line which would cut the commute time from Rockaway to parts of Manhattan in half. It’s problematic because there is a lot of opposition in other parts of Queens. In some places, the old line’s right of way cuts through the backyards of some people. In support of the line, we’ve seen politicians join rallies, write letters (big deal!) and call for studies. And it’s all for show.

Goldfeder worked quietly and doggedly to get an actual study done. Good for him. And maybe good for Queens.

For all the opposition, there is growing realization that transportation throughout Queens is horrid. There’s an old saying, you can’t there from here. Forget Rockaway, that’s true from one part of Queens to another. You can’t get there.

Using either subway or bus it could take an hour and a half from Rosedale to Long Island City; same thing from Bayside to Astoria. And speaking of Bayside, if you live in Far Rockaway and want to go to Queensborough, the community college in Bayside, leave yourself an hour and 55 minutes! You could certainly drive to Philadelphia in less time.

These unreasonable journeys force people into cars. More cars, more traffic, longer commutes. And express buses are hardly the answer. Express bus lanes will choke traffic further. Queens is probably the least bike friendly borough outside of Manhattan. What’s the Queens' choice? Discourage bike riding or clog traffic further by expanding bike lanes?

The Queens Museum – you can’t really get there – just reopened after a multi-multimillion dollar facelift and is aiming to be a top tourist destination. It’s just the latest sign that Queens is being reenergized. Astoria and Long Island City are attracting young people and new businesses; Ridgewood is the latest hipster enclave. Rockaway Beach is the coolest place to be for three months every year with signs that suggest three months will become five or six months soon.

But the borough can’t thrive without addressing its transportation woes. The airports need to be linked; a ferry should run from JFK (free up the Van Wyck!) to Rockaway and then on to the City; the Queens Express (formerly the Rockaway Branch line) should be revived as either a rail line or even an elevated bus route.

Turning it into an elevated park, as some want, would be a great mistake. Advocates say it would be like the High Line. Untrue. Just a couple of blocks east, the 8th Avenue subway line runs parallel to the High Line. The High Line doesn’t remove a transportation option in the area. A Queensway park would.

And here’s the other thing. People couldn’t get to the Queensway! You can’t get anywhere in Queens. It would be great if it were in your backyard but not for anyone else. If it became a tourist attraction, people would have to drive to it – causing more traffic!

Queens needs a north-south transportation option desperately. The study Goldfeder helped trigger will no doubt confirm that.

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