“Where there’s a RAIL there’s a WAY”
The Queens RAIL and WAY Task Force is a newly-formed, ad hoc group of community stakeholders who want to see the old Rockaway Beach Branch right-of-way (ROW) used to expand rail transportation and provide more parkland. The immediate goal of the Task Force is to work with the MTA and the Queens community to work out a broad design for a subway connection under most of the 3.5-mile ROW with the surface utilized for a park, such as the QueensWay.
The Task Force has already begun working towards the following goals:
- Unite the Queens community around a plan that fully utilizes the right-of-way with a modern, underground subway, from Atlantic Avenue to Queens Blvd., with a world-class park on top.
- Ensure the underground option and other community needs are included in the MTA feasibility study.
- Promote public-private partnerships and design-build methods for speed and efficiency.
- Calculate return-on-investment (ROI) for the combined project for the City and its people.
The Borough of Queens and indeed all of New York City has one shot to work out the best use of the long-neglected Rockaway Beach Branch ROW. That’s why the Coalition for QueensRail is reaching out to The Friends of QueensWay, The Trust for Public Land, local businesses, community organizations, government agencies and elected officials to work together for the common good.
For years, Queens has been unable to arrive at a consensus as to how to use this priceless asset. Advocates for restoring rail service and those seeking to convert it to a park have passionately made their case. With no resolution in sight, the only reasonable path forward is to build both. Thankfully this is not only possible, but indeed the only way to fully utilize the right-of-way, while addressing the needs of all constituents.
Rather than continuing to debate which idea makes more sense, we would rather use our resources to advocate for both projects. We’ve gotten support from many elected officials.
Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato said, “Compromise and open communication are how we are going to make smart decisions, so we can invest in permanent transit infrastructure for our communities. The anticipated return on investment from this project makes it more expensive NOT to build.”
State Senator James Sanders (District 10) said, "Reconnecting south and central Queens with midtown will significantly expand employment, education and recreation opportunities for all New Yorkers, especially those living at the edge. Safer, less congested roads, cleaner air and additional parkland makes this a no-brainer.”
Congressman Gregory Meeks expressed support: “The plan strikes the appropriate balance between addressing serious inequities in transportation access and promoting environmental justice.”
NYS Senator Joe Addabbo was also onboard: “I look forward to working with the task force and all interested individuals to find the best way to move forward with this ambitious plan.”
It wasn’t just Rockaway officials who showed support. “It’s time to reactivate the Rockaway Beach Branch and reconnect Southeast Queens with the rest of the borough. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Assembly and community leaders to get the conversation moving on better transportation for Queens,” NYS Assemblyman Mike Miller (District 38) said. Councilman Robert Holden (District 30) is also in support of the Task Force.
NYC Council Member Donovan Richards (District 31) said, “Including parkland in the plan to bring back the Rockaway Beach line is a win-win for all of Queens and I commend the Coalition for QueensRail, the Friends of QueensWay and the Trust for Public Land for coming together to build a plan that works for everyone.”
The Queens RAIL and WAY Task Force’s work with the MTA will initially focus on the need to include the underground rail approach in their ongoing reactivation study. We understand that expanding the scope will mean a further delay, but Queens has already waited 56 years and deserves a no-compromise study. The MTA needs to consider all options, especially putting the rail underground with a park on top. Besides, this is a unique opportunity to prove to the world that New York is still capable of building great projects.
Now it’s our turn to invest in transportation and recreation infrastructure for ourselves, our children and our children’s children. We must address local concerns, implement best-in-class, design-build methodologies and utilize public-private partnerships.
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