The debate over the future of the abandoned Rockaway Long Island Railroad (LIRR) line is heating up, and while a proposal to convert the viaduct into a version of the High Line called the QueensWay has gained early momentum with support from the likes of Governor Cuomo, it looks like an alternative proposal to restore the long-defunct rail line is picking up steam as well. According to the Queens Chronicle, a source revealed that Representatives Hakeem Jeffries and Greg Meeks will call for for federal transportation subsidies to return the line to rail service. For residents, the reactivation of the railroad could mean a significantly faster commute into Manhattan.
Restoring the 4.2-mile Rockaway Beach Line, abandoned in 1962 and running from Rego Beach to the Rockaways, would cut commute times between Penn Station at the peninsula on the edge of New York City in half—from 80 minutes on a subway to 40 minutes. New signals, tracks, and a third electrified rail would need to be installed as well as major repair or replacement of spans along the route. An estimate by the Rockaway Subcommittee of the Regional Rail Working Group put the project cost at $400 million.
Recently though, the QueensWay plan to transform the railway into 3.5-miles of a High Line-esque parkland, has been garnering a fair amount of attention. In the New York Times opinion page last week, Eleanor Randolph endorsed the linear park plan saying that it “offers far more promise than a forest that only thickens while people nearby yearn for places to walk, ride, snack and play.” In December, Governor Cuomo donated nearly half-million dollars to the Trust for Public Land to conduct a feasibility study for the Queensway conversion, which got underway on Thursday.
But then, there are a number of residents who would like to see the rail line left alone. Neil Giannelli, a Woodhaven resident whose house borders the tracks, founded the group “NoWay QueensWay” which is trying to derail both plans and leave the route as is. According to the group, a survey of 230 residents along a portion of the route resulted in 98 percent preferring no change.