December 19, 2004
Park & Ride
On the Rockaway Line
It has come to my attention that after decades of abandonment, the Rockaway railroad line is back in the news. This time, it is being proposed to be reused as a park. With the support of community activists and local elected officials, this plan is taking its form as part of a long process from being a dream to becoming a physical reality.
With precedents such as the Motor Parkway trail in eastern Queens and the proposed High Line Park on Manhattan’s West Side, the idea of turning this right-of-way into a park is realistic and feasible. Yet as our city’s rail, subway, and bus lines remain crowded to capacity; and roads choked with traffic, no new transportation routes are being planned in Queens. The last time that the idea of reactivating this railroad line was brought up, many local residents complained that it may result in train noise, and a decline in the overall quality of life.
While Assemblyman Michael Cohen of Forest Hills supports turning the line into a park, Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer of Rockaway wishes to see train service restored. Is it possible to fuse their two wishes together in a way that will not harm the surrounding neighborhoods?
My answer is yes- by burying the future railroad line beneath the current right-of-way, and having the park built above it. That way, residents of southern Queens can have their express ride to Manhattan without disturbing their neighbors in central Queens. Unless you count the trees and rusty rails, little demolition would be needed to dig a trench and then cover it with a park.
Like the park idea, my proposal also has precedents- Riverside Park on the Upper West Side originally had a noisy freight railroad bisecting it, and in the 1930s it was buried. As a result, land values rose, and parkland was expanded. Park Avenue on the Upper East Side once had a railroad trench running through its center as well. After this trench was covered, a green median along the avenue’s center helped make Park Avenue’s name synonymous with wealth. In both cases, land values improved without reducing public transportation.
The next question you may have is which agency will run the railroad- the LIRR or the subway system? If the line were to be used as a subway, it would not be much of a problem because the Queens Boulevard subway line already has three stub tunnels built in the 1930s, branching off from it, in anticipation of a future rockaway subway line. These tunnels are located near Roosevelt Avenue, Woodhaven Boulevard, and 63rd Drive stations. If the line were to be used by the LIRR, the tunnel connecting it to the main railroad line in Rego Park is still in good condition since being abandoned in 1962.
I hope that my idea for simultaneously expanding public transportation and parks is given consideration by our elected leaders.
Forest Hills, NY