Residents at the Woodhaven Block Association meeting were overwhelmingly in favor of the plan, which was pushed last week by Assemblymen Mike Miller and Phil Goldfeder.
The Assemblymen want to see the old Rockaway Beach LIRR rail line reactivated into a new railway.
They said they don’t oppose the other plan that’s been thrown out for the obsolete rail space – a High Line-type greenway for South Queens, known as the Queensway – but say that a rail line would help tremendously when the convention center at Aqueduct is built, helping to usher patrons to and from the city quickly while also giving frustrated Rockaway residents a faster alternative to get into Manhattan.
“Now we’re going to build a convention center which I think is a good idea for the community and jobs, but we have to talk about traffic,” Miller told residents at the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association last Saturday. “When the racino opened the first couple of weeks there was a backup. We’ve been working on the proposal for a while, to reactivate the line.”
Thee residents at the block association, with the exception of a few, said they want to see a train placed on the track in order to get to Manhattan in rapid time.
“Access to the city gives residents in Queens access to higher paying jobs,” said Vance Barbour, the WRBA’s treasurer. “And it’s an easier way for them to get there.”
Ed Wendell, president of the WRBA said he could easily see people utilizing the currently closed LIRR Woodhaven station, located on Atlantic Avenue and 97th Street near Taco Bell, as a transfer point. The station has been closed since 1976 but he said it would be great to have it opened again.
“Once you rehabilitate that line gong from that point on Atlantic, you could very easily see people from Manhattan taking a train right there, then walking up stairs to the train to take you out to the Rockaways, the casino, etc.,” he said.
Maria Thomson agreed, but did express some concern that the rehabilitation of the line would affect Woodhaven, particularly those residents with backyards that abut the tracks.
Miller said his outlook for the rehabilitation is in three different phases. Phase one requires a redo of a five to six-block stretch of track that begins at the intersection of Rockaway and Liberty avenues, and ends at Atlantic Avenue, making way for a transfer point to the LIRR.
He said the first phase would not affect Woodhaven, but the second phase would.
“It would alleviate a lot of congestion,” he said. “I’m not saying we can’t do a walkway, but it’s about utilizing a line that’s there and has to be repaired.”
Miller said he supports phase one because it’s quick.
Many welcomed the prospect of reopening the Woodhaven station underneath Atlantic Avenue.
“When they closed that station, I would have loved to know it was there, I would have loved to get to Manhattan in 15 minutes,” said one resident. “The day of the automobile is starting to fade, this is a good idea.”