Last month, the MTA released the long-awaited Rockaway Beach Branch reactivation study and the conclusions confirmed what we have known all along; it will benefit overall ridership and all Queens families. To put it plainly, restoring service on this right-of-way would cut commutes substantially between south Queens and Manhattan, improve mobility within our borough, and promote economic growth for the borough and the entire city. The results of the study demonstrate that this project is not only possible, but completely necessary.
Earlier this week we were informed that the Queens Chamber of Commerce strangely supports a proposal that would create a public park on the deactivated right-of-way and ignore the transit needs of the entire borough. While we appreciate the benefits of public space, we are completely opposed to a park proposal that ignores the needs of Queens residents and are outraged that the Queens Chamber of Commerce would choose to support the creation of a park—with no transit options—over economic development.
The few local residents and outside interest groups that are advocating for a park already enjoy significant access to public parkland not to mention expansive transit options and commutes of 30 minutes or less to midtown Manhattan. There is absolutely no reason why the residents of southern Queens and Rockaway shouldn’t be afforded that same opportunity. The utilization of this abandoned right-of-way would open opportunity for thousands of local businesses and would promote access to jobs for all of Queens—all of which the Chamber should be promoting and facilitating; not publicly denouncing.
Even more ironic, there was once a time when the Queens Chamber of Commerce was on the right side of this issue. In a 1971 NY Times article, the incoming Queens Chamber president actually proposed an extension of transit service into Rockaway, he further went on to advocate for transportation in the borough saying: “Over two million people live here but we can't get the right time on transportation. Queens has always been treated as a stepchild but we're not going to be treated as second-class citizens any more.” It seems the Chamber has lost their way.
Our community has seen a major construction boom and resurgence post Sandy. We’ve seen growth firsthand with the expansion of the hugely successful Resorts World Casino, the revitalization of JFK, the investment in Downtown Far Rockaway and Edgemere Commons, which will create over 5,000 units of housing. The renaissance of the Rockaway Peninsula has created a world-class destination for everyone to enjoy, and the overall growing population demonstrates that the restoration of this rail line is needed now more than ever.
We both believe that southern Queens, Rockaway and the entire borough of Queens would be better served if this forgotten track once again fulfilled its original purpose as a much-needed transit option. We urge the Queens Chamber of Commerce to reconsider their misguided stance on the project. The time to improve transportation in our community is now and we will continue to move forward—all aboard!
Stacey Pheffer Amato,
Member of Assembly 23rd District
Phil Goldfeder, Former
Member of Assembly 23rd District