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Editorial October 23, 2014  RSS feed

Times Newsweekly EDITORIAL

The QueensWay To Nowhere

Not since the days of Robert Moses has there been a public project more tone-deaf, condescending and unnecessary than the QueensWay.

Supporters of the proposal—which would turn the longabandoned, 3.2-mile Long Island Rail Road Rockaway Beach branch into a nature trail and bike path—heralded their scheme with a press conference last week outside Forest Hills’ Metropolitan Avenue Educational Campus, which is near the fallow rail line.

They could have held it a couple of blocks west at the corner of Metropolitan Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard, but we guess there were too many cars on the road—and too many passengers waiting to board crowded buses—to accommdate their needs.

The QueensWay supporters make their idea sound terrific, claiming it transforms an abandoned eyesore into something with a purpose, addressing needs for additional park and recreational space and giving people a place to bike, run or leisurely walk through nature.

In the real world, it’s a bunch of baloney.

Has anyone at the Trust for Public Land, the main proponent of the QueensWay scheme, bothered to travel Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards recently? Do they even know where these roads are?

Let us clue them in a bit on the situation. Four bus lines—the Q11, the Q21, the Q52 and Q53—serve this corridor. Most days, they’re running with delays because of traffic and packed door-to-door with passengers.

Neither of these lines, mind you, connect southern Queens riders to Manhattan. Three express bus routes run along Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards, but service is only available during rush hour and some weekend periods. Anyone traveling between Manhattan and south Queens must rely on the A line, which snakes through Brooklyn and takes about an hour each way.

The MTA and city Transportation Department have obviously noticed the congestion, as they plan to introduce Select Bus Service (SBS) along the boulevards. This may speed things up a bit, but it still doesn’t solve the problem of long travel times between Queens and Manhattan.

Meanwhile, there sits the Rockaway Beach line, which used to link up with the LIRR’s Main Branch in Rego Park and travels near the J/Z line above Jamaica Avenue, the LIRR Atlantic Terminal Branch below Atlantic Avenue and the A train above Liberty Avenue. It’s also close enough to Kennedy Airport that it makes the idea of a one-seat rail link between the airport and Manhattan viable.

The Rockaway Beach branch should be used for public transit again. State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said as much in a recent report. The MTA also hinted its interest at bringing some kind of train service back. They seem to, at the very least, acknowledge the plight of the suffering Queens commuter.

But the self-aggrandizing proponents of the QueensWay don’t care about the transportation problems Queens commuters face—or Queens commuters, in general. They only care about forwarding their own fantastical vision of outdoing the High Line in Manhattan.

It’s a matter of ego-friendliness, not ecofriendliness. Should the city endorse and fund the construction of the QueensWay, we predict, as 1960s urban activist Jane Jacobs said in “The Death and Life of American Cities,” it will become a promenade that goes “from no place to nowhere and have no promenaders.”

Like Robert Moses, the Friends of the QueensWay and the Trust for Public Land think they know better and act supposedly in everyone’s best interest—but they’re really looking out only for themselves. Every elected official, civic and business organization truly looking out for Queens’ interests should work to stop this stupid plan and work to build something Queens really needs—a new rail line.