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Blog: Queens Issues
Description: Rockaway Beach Line Advocacy Posts
Created byon Fri 04 of May, 2007 [05:19 UTC]
Last modified Fri 04 of May, 2007 [05:56 UTC]
(1 posts | 5184 visits | Activity=2.00)
by joseph tiraco
The City Council's Transportation Committee held a rare public hearing in South
Queens on April 24th at the Broad Channel American Legion Hall. They heard the reoccurring
theme of a borough in crisis, rapidly expanding but hampered by very poor mass-transit service.
Another sore point was the city administration's inability to grasp the borough's urgency. Mayor
Bloomberg gave his "Green" speech just days before the hearing, proposing an $8.00 surtax on
cars entering Manhattan - clearly showing an inability to think outside the box: the Manhattan
We're not referring to the mayor's backbone (not this time) but to the borough's
lack thereof - Queens has no backbone! Without north-south crosstown service joining east-west
lines at strategic points, Queens lacks what Manhattan's transportation designers brilliantly
implemented in over a century of development - a mass-transit grid. And to this day, Manhattan-
centric thinking dominates the city's long term transit plan. The cries of pain emanating from the
Broad Channel Legion Hall, perhaps in visceral anguish, bemoan the city's incredibly shortsighted
decision of forty years ago, to deactivate the Rockaway Beach Line, the borough's only north-
south rail right-of-way, and thereby sever the spine of Queens. The shrieks are still heard today,
louder then ever.
250,000 people are bottled up in South Queens, with no way to reach North
Queens except to trek along Woodhaven Boulevard by car or bus. One hardy woman ("I'm a sr.
citizen, she proudly announced, but no one would believe it by looking at me.") stunned the
audience by relating the all-day ordeal of her annual doctor's visit. She had to take 8 trains to
reach his Manhattan office. One Council member remarked, a Pony Express rider would have
reached the destination sooner with fewer hops. Community Board #6 (Forest Hills, Rego Park)
District Manager, Frank Gulluscio, put his finger on the pulse, opening his testimony with, "What
effects you, effects us." He expressed alarm at the daily tidal wave of traffic streaming between
the Rockaways and Queens Boulevard, especially heavy truck traffic that diffuses onto residential
streets. In another exchange, Councilman Liu verbally sparred with representatives of DOT
(Department Of Transportation) over the inadequacy of the bus fleet, a sporadic defile of street
coaches knotted in traffic, failing to fill the mass-transit void ( as replacements for the Rockaway
Beach Line.) Busses are unmistakably a stopgap measure, not the answer.
The saddest proposal of all and a reflection of pure frustration at ever seeing a
Queens mass-transit system that actually takes people where they want to go, is the, "Let's build
a ferry dock and get around by boat" plan. This is the Algonquian plan, or the same way the
Indians got around before Giovanni da Verrazano sailed into the bay. The pros and cons of this
plan were discussed at the hearing. It was surprisingly popular: an any port in a storm approach
to the intractable transportation problem. And how does the administration ( the mayor) justify
this quaint return to the Fifteenth Century, while the Twenty-First? Century transit system for
Queens, the borough's north-south rail right-of-way, remains fallow? Well, it's cheap, and
doesn't warrant federal funds, the billions of dollars presently earmarked for Manhattan
Knowing the crowd had come to hear the latest on reopening the Rockaway Beach
Line, the MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority, again, the mayor) sent a soft-spoken woman
who opened her testimony saying, I have been asked to address several issues, and one of these is
reopening the Rockaway Beach Line. I am vice-president of bridges and don't know much about
railroads, upon which she drew out a fifteen year old report and read it to the audience in a
subdued shaky voice, as if expecting to be pelted with eggs.
Unfortunately, implementation of such a service faces significant operational difficulties which
makes its feasability doubtful; estimates of the cost were $900,000,000 in the 1990s.
So there you have it, billions for new Manhattan transit construction, and a boat slip for Queens.
In his introductory remarks, Councilman Joe Addabbo pointed out a simple yardstick to quantify quality of life,
"Transportation is the issue that decides where people live."
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