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Q. Where is the Rockaway Beach Branch right-of-way located?
A. The southern end is located at the intersection of Rockaway Blvd. and Woodhaven Blvd. in Ozone Park and the northern end is at 63rd Street and Queens Blvd. Historically this 3.5 mile right-of-way was part of a branch of the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) that connected Penn Station with Rockaway.
Q? Why is it called QueensRail?
A. The name Rockaway Beach Branch implies that the reactivation of this line will only benefit that portion of the borough when in fact it will benefit the entire borough.
Q? What will QueensRail connect to?
A. Going forward there are several possible ways for QueensRail to tie into the existing metropolitan rail infrastructure, but generally speaking it will reconnect with the LIRR's main line to Penn Station or to one of NYC Transit's subway lines at Queens Blvd.
Q? How will reactivating the rail affect the community through which it runs?
A. After 55 years the original right-of-way is still intact with no grade crossings so rebuilding the line on top of the berm were it was can be done relatively easily. From a practical point however, there has been resistance from neighbors who worry that reactivation will adversely affect their quality of life. In order to accommodate their concerns, the Queens RAIL and WAY Task Force is proposing that the rail is built underground, which should eliminate any noise, vibration or other adverse effects of the train.
Q? What is QueensWay?
A. QueensWay is the name of a linear park idea that would be built on top of the right-of-way. It is currently being designed and promoted by two organizations, The Friends of QueensWay and The Trust for Public Land.
Q? Can Queens have both the rail and the park?
A. Absolutely! With the rail located underground there is no reason why there cannot be a park on top of the right of way north of Atlantic Ave., or 3 miles out of the 3.5 mile total length. Unfortunately both of these organizations are still insisting that they do not want a subway under the park. The Task Force is working hard to change their minds. We see the reactivated underground rail connection as the cake and the above ground park as the icing.
Q? What is the status of the project?
A. The MTA is currently conducting a feasibility study on reactivating the Rockaway Beach Branch. The results of this study were originally due in the spring of 2017 but it did not begin until the end of the summer. Results were to be released by the end of the first quarter, 2018 but it was delayed again. But this could be good news?
A. Absolutely! With the rail located underground there is no reason why there cannot be a park on top of the right of way north of Atlantic Ave., or 3 miles out of the 3.5 mile total length.
Q? Why could the delayed MTA study be good news?
A. It is our understanding that the MTA has not studied the option of putting the rail underground to allow a park to be located on top of the right-of-way. Therefore we are looking at this delay as an opportunity to expand the scope so that this option is fully vetted. Not only do we see this as being the best possible use of this valuable property and the right thing to do by our neighbors, it is probably the only way either project would ever get built because of the political forces at play.
Q? What else is the Task Force doing?
A. We will be meeting with all sorts of stakeholders who can benefit from the RAIL or WAY or both. Our goal is to better understand everyone needs, compile some design recommendations and quantify the return on investment for this project. Lastly we look forward to working with the MTA to share this information so that they can help deliver what Queens so desperately needs.
Q? How can I help?
A. You can reach out to your elected officials and let them know how important this project is to you and your family. Beyond that you can help our 501(c)3, not-for-profit Queens RAIL and WAY Task Force with your tax-deductible donation. If you would prefer to volunteer your time we can always use extra hands for passing out brochures and other tasks.