POL: LET ROCK. BCH. LINE ROLL
Goldfeder Pitches Train Reactivation To CB 6
A month after Community Board 6 heard a proposal to turn the Rockaway Beach Branch of the Long Island Rail Road into a greenway, they heard a lawmaker’s plan to run trains along the line once again at the group’s Wednesday, Dec. 12 meeting at the Kew Gardens Community Center.
Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder began his remarks by providing an overview of the damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy, which decimated his southern Queens district.
The lawmaker spent the first night following the superstorm sleeping in the 108th Precinct station house.
“We all sort of wondered what’s next,” he told the crowd. “We’re not talking about rebuilding or recovery; but first, when’s the relief going to start.”
He thanked Board 6 members and volunteers for giving supplies and helping in the relief efforts, calling it “a lifeline to us.”
He then began to pitch his proposal to reactivate the Rockaway Beach Branch line, stating that it could help revitalize the area.
“My presentation was different than it probably would have been six weeks ago,” he admitted.
Goldfeder has made the reactivation of the line a priority since his election to the state legislature 14 months ago, hoping to help continue “the renaissance” of the Rockaways.
However, with Rockaway currently a “beachfront community without a beach,” the reasons are different.
“So you say to yourself, ‘How are we going to get back?’” he stated. “The key is simple. The key is finding ways to not just incentivize but to create the ability for mobility.”
“The number-one concern now: we can’t get there,” Goldfeder added, noting that the city has scrambled to create an H line shuttle and a ferry service to help customers in South Queens.
Goldfeder then transitioned into the benefits of reactivating the Rockaway Beach Branch line, a 3.5-mile track that runs between Rego Park and Ozone Park which was no longer in use by 1962.
“It would provide safe commutes for people going into Manhattan,” he noted, calling it “an affordable, accessible option.”
The assemblyyman claimed it would also support intraborough connectivity, allowing Rockaway residents to go shop on Austin Street in Forest Hills, or allow Forest Hills residents easy access to the Rockaway beachfront.
Goldfeder also pointed to the transportation and environmental benefits to reactivating the line, noting that it would help alleviate traffic concerns on north-south routes.
“If you can find a way to take thousands of cars off the road and put people on rails, you’ve created a win,” he told Board 6.
While he welcomed alternatives, he told the crowd he would oppose obstructionism “with every fiber in my body.”
Goldfeder noted that he had spoken to several local lawmakers about his proposal, including City Council Member Karen Koslowitz.
“I know we’re going to find a way to work together,” he stated.
Koslowitz, who was in atten- dance, said that she and Goldfeder have had “many conversations” about the Rockaway line, but she expressed concern with the increase in congestion and the line’s effect on property values.
‘I would work with you in any way and fight with you to have transportation to the Rockaways,” she told Goldfeder, but reactivating the line “would lower the cost of people’s homes, which would be devastating for people who own those homes.”
Noting the recent opening of Resorts World New York and the prospect of future construction near Aqueduct Racetrack, Board 6’s Christopher Collett wondered if Goldfeder has examined the prospect of using light rail on the line, which would create less noise than a standard subway line.
“I don’t think anything is off the table at this point,” said Goldfeder, who has even heard suggestions of paving over the line and creating a bus line.
He added that he has been taking suggestions from members of the public on how to deal with noise issues.
Board 6’s Bernice Katz, who lives in the Forest Hills Crescents, claimed that she would fight any effort to reactivate the line.
“This proposal would destroy my whole neighborhood,” she said, adding that she had “an entire briefcase” documenting every effort to reactivate the line. “The train would be a disaster. You cannot destroy one neighborhood to improve transportation for another.”
“I’m trying to do something to prepare an entire borough for the future,” Goldfeder countered. “I understand that I have to sacrifice to live in the neighborhood I live in. Everybody has to sacrifice.”
Steven Goldberg of Board 6, who also lives along the line, told Goldfeder of the noise issues that he endures from Long Island Rail Road trains as well as planes flying over his home.
“It’s not a slight inconvenience. It’s continued inconvenience,” he stated.
Barbara Stuchinski of Board 6 asked Goldfeder about the practical costs of the line’s reactivation. Goldfeder suggested that he may seek federal funding intended for disaster mitigation to go toward the line’s reactivation.
Nancy Copperman of North Shore-LIJ Health System announced that the new Affordable Care Act requires the agency to report on community outreach efforts and to create a needs assessment to target health initiatives to their local neighborhoods.
The assessment will begin in January, and must be filed with their next tax returns.
As a result, North Shore-LIJ has begun to focus on tobacco advertising.
Copperman noted that most cigarette advertisements are located lower than usual ads, in an effort to get younger buyers to purchase smokes. In addition, she claimed, tobacco companies will pay pharmacies to advertise cigarettes near sweets.
The health system is attempting to educate merchants and residents alike to thwart such advertising measures.
On another track, North Shore- LIJ is pushing smoke-free outdoor air policies, according to Copperman, who added that secondhand smoke can carry through walls and even electrical sockets inside an apartment building to neighboring apartments.
With winter already here, Claudia Filomena of the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit offered an overview of Department of Sanitation (DSNY) snow removal procedures.
In Board 6, the DSNY would focus on primary streets, such as Queens Boulevard, Austin Street and Woodhaven Boulevard. Streets with school, police or fire facilities are also treated as primary streets, as well as any streets that are part of bus routes.
Secondary streets are streets that feed into primary streets, while deadend and smaller roads are considered tertiary streets.
The DSNY will work with other city agencies to help clear snow from those roads.
Residents who sign up for Notify NYC can receive email and text updates on snow removal.
Reports and other news
Chairman Joseph Hennessy remarked on the recent Borough Board meeting, where plans for a new Major League Soccer stadium at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park were unveiled.
He noted that board members have concerns about the parking for the stadium and the replacement of 13 acres of parkland.
“It’s a long way down the road,” the chairman told the crowd, with no owner currently in place.
District Manager Frank Gulluscio noted that the Department of Design and Construction will repair any sidewalk damaged by trees uprooted by Hurricane Sandy. Residents who need help can call 311.
He also noted that the U.S. Department of Agriculture “will be all over our neighborhood over the next month or so” searching for signs of the Asian longhorned beetle, which is known for wreaking havoc on area trees.
Gulluscio also announced that the J.H.S. 190 Beacon program, which has been saved from the budget ax in recent years, is once again in danger of being cut.
“I don’t understand that,” said Koslowitz. “I didn’t get notified that there’s something wrong, and we’re not at that process at that yet in the budget to know any of this.”
Pizzeria Uno, at 107-16 70th Rd. in Forest Hills received Board 6’s approval for a unenclosed 10-table/21- seat café.
New licenses were approved for Mint’s Thai Kitchen, at 70-15A Austin St. and Tower Diner, at 98-95 Queens Blvd., booth in Forest Hills.
Three Forst Hills eateries had their renewal applications endorsed: Thai Boulevard Restaurant, at 118-16 Queens Blvd.; Dafnon Food Corp., at 72-04 Austin St.; and T-Bone Diner, at 107-48 Queens Blvd.
Board 6 usually meets on the second Wednesday of every month at the Kew Gardens Community Center, located at 80-02 Kew Gardens Rd.