High line of Queens

I missed this article when it was first published, and the only link I have for it probably requires registration, but Sunday’s Times featured a story about a proposal to turn the LIRR’s abandoned Rockaway Beach Branch into a linear park, a la the High Line.

The Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) ran the Rockaway Beach Branch (link 1, 2) line until the 1950s, when declining ridership led to its abandonment. The MTA bought the right of way (ROW) in the late 1950s, and now a portion of the ROW carries the A line out past JFK, across Broad Channel, and onto the Rockaway Peninsula. (See Jen’s photos from our trip to the Rockaways.)

Apparently, the MTA floated a proposal a few years back to reinstate train service along the line, but then abandoned the idea. Looks like NIMBYism, in part, killed the plan. It’s a shame. As the Times article notes, it would provide speedier service from the Rockaways (and, of course, JFK) to Manhattan.

Also, since most of the old stations along that line have been demolished, it might also provide another option for routing a one-seat ride from JFK to Manhattan. However, proponents of the current one-seat plan envision two things that the Rockaway Branch wouldn’t provide: access to Lower Manhattan (the Rockaway Branch, if reactivated, would terminate in Penn Station or Grand Central), and an extension out to Long Island’s suburbs. 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.

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