Sunday, October 2, 2011

Yay or Nay?

New Rails or New Trails?

Photo by AAPremlall

There has been much debate about what the Queens community wants and the LIRR has in store for this beautiful, crumbling abandoned railroad. 

I cannot say I wasn't delighted to read The Wave's article: MTA Derails Rockaway LIRR Plan

A study revealed that "the replacement of New York City Transit subway service to Far Rockaway with LIRR service and a restored Rockaway Beach Branch to White Pot Junction, while retaining NYC Transit service to Rockaway Park, "would be no net benefit to Rockaway commuters." The report states that 68 percent of Rockaway commuters who have destinations other than midtown Manhattan would not be served and the travel times of Far Rockaway commuters destined for lower Manhattan, Downtown Brooklyn, and other areas of Queens would increase. The study further identified the following as reasons why the proposal was not feasible: LIRR track and terminal capacity constraints would limit or preclude LIRR Rockaway service in critical peak periods; the construction of a required new two-track trestle across Jamaica Bay would impact environmentally sensitive wetland areas; and the cost for construction is high, estimated to be $875 million.

"Face it, easy access to JFK is a smokescreen for what planners really want: increased commuter service for wealthy Long Islanders who work in the Financial District. Since the Rockaway Branch can't provide that, it's best future is as a bicycle path," commented Michael Deitsch succinctly after examining both sides in his blog.

Supportive actions have been made as indicated in Dreams and Schemes for an Abandoned Rail Line: "A bikeway would take this old, abandoned ugly structure and, if you have tree plantings on it and you could beautify it, it would add to the community," said Mary Ann Carey, district manager of Board 9. "It's not something that's going to happen overnight, but we know there is precedent for it." and "That line runs right behind all our homes and properties on 98th Street," Ms. Maria Thomson, Executive Director of the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation said, "and if it were reactivated, it would be a hazard to the residents and their quality of life."

And some semi-supportive ones as well: "A bike path for the next 20 or 30 years might not be so bad," Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, said. "It's a very comfortable use for it in comparison to selling it and putting a building on it. But I'd really like to reactivate it."

What do you think? Would a park in this area be worthwhile? Looking forward to your insights!


  1. This is an excellent idea. It doesn't have to cost a fortune, either. Could be done at zero cost to the city by scrapping the rails, and using that money to buy enough rock dust to cover over the ties and roll it. That makes a surface firm enough for skinny tire bicycles and strollers. There are enough people in Queens that volunteer labor could get everything done, from clearing brush, to removing litter, to trail maintenance.

  2. This reminds me of the rails-to-trails programs happening in other parts of the country (Massachusetts comes to mind). A protected bike path that is also beautifully wild is something I'd like to see for Queens!

  3. Even though I am not in Queens anymore I did spend most of my life there and I agree that a bike lane is a great idea and would definitely benefit nearby residents or anyone else who comes to visit and enjoy the scenic trail and the peaceful mood.
    I vote Yay!

  4. I envision this historic yet abandoned relic as a place where people will interact under trees and native plants, and ride their bikes or walk from one part of town to another. Revitalizing it would enhance our character. I picture the Highline in Manhattan, and then envision the "Queens Highline" on a scale suitable for Queens.

    The style of trestles, often manufactured in Queens by the well-recognized American Bridge Company, bears a built-in plaque on the overhead trestle, which states "American Bridge Company" and the year of completion. In much of this line, it says "1908." The year is also engraved in the stone walls below. Has anyone taken notice of these historic characteristics? Their website is

    I am Chair of Rego-Forest Preservation Council based in Rego Park & Forest Hills, and I am also represent Queens in the Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance. I am also a board member of the Central Queens Historical Association. I am proud to have come across this blog. The webmaster is very dedicated, and doing a great job to draw support for this project. Thank you! Anyone can feel free to reach me at

  5. when i was a kid we all use to walk the tracks in forest hill it would be nice to have a walk way there hope they do it before i get too old lol

  6. i also have some old photos of it when it was in use he you like me to post them or if you want to look at them just email me at roger3211@aol ,com

  7. Russ, I love your idea of keeping it simple and low-cost! Have you done this type of renovation before?

    Thanks for sharing your memories JMB!

    Thank you very much for your support Michael Perlman. I will definitely reach out to you for guidance and in rallying residents to support this worthy space.

    Roger, I'd love to see your photos of the operating rails and I am happy to post them for you!

  8. Yay, all the way. I am all for this project. I wanted to pose a few questions and comments to spark ideas, nudge you along and encourage more dialogue.
    I think getting the local community involved is crucial to making this idea happen and that a sure way to get local folks (and businesses!) to love the idea is to get them up there to experience the space. What will it take to open this space to the public even as "rustic" walking paths?
    What does the law say and what are the safety issues.
    Who exactly owns the structure?
    Could you get a permit to take small groups on "historic sightseeing tours" up on the line?ll the way!
    I think it would be interesting to partner with some bike shops along the line for some added support. (Even though I would push for basic public access first and a bike path second).

  9. well not sure if Atlanta is doing it correctly or not, but that is what is going on down here - lots of old RxR property has been bought to put together a big circle of green path/park path grand plan which has been going on for several years, but they actually have some real parks that have now really been created - like I said not sure what critique to give it other than alot of time and some actual fruition,but not sure if it is a model of perfection or not. One area actually visually looks like a path, but has the duel role of water basin flood catcher type thingy, but it was somewhat expensive. but yeah go for it. seems like a good idea that basically really does work

  10. Gil, thank you once again for your support and enthusiasm, as well as your questions!

    >>What will it take to open this space to the public even as "rustic" walking paths?
    There are some how have walked it (I wrote about it in this part of the blog

    >>What does the law say and what are the safety issues.
    Will have to look into that!

    >>Who exactly owns the structure?
    It was owned by LIRR, Forest Park now owns part of it. Still trying to find the right contacts. I have a meeting coming up with a group that's working on a proposal as we speak!

    >>Could you get a permit to take small groups on "historic sightseeing tours" up on the line? ll the way!
    That would be very cool! I'd like to walk the entire path myself. There are large trees on some parts and lots of garbage. Maybe I can start with a community clean up day?

    >>I think it would be interesting to partner with some bike shops along the line for some added support. (Even though I would push for basic public access first and a bike path second).
    I agree, cyclists do need better paths and businesses in the area will definitely benefit. With the new Casino opening up today in South Ozone Park, very close to JFK Airport and not too far from Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and Forest Park, this will be a new and worth tourist attraction as well as a much needed community space.

  11. Thanks Bill, I'm glad to hear that Atlanta has some of the same projects going on. Do you have some photos or links to share?