Woodhaven Residents' Block Association

Inactive Railroad Tracks Along 98th Street

The defunct Rockaway Branch rail line's tracks run along 98th Street, often very close to Woodhaven residences and their backyards.  The tracks cross Jamaica Avenue and Park Lane South at the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill border, and run past the Forest Park Co-ops and Victory Field.

Debate has been swirling around competing plans for the inactive line.  The two leading proposals are returning the tracks to use for an active train line, or converting the route into a walkway and bike path dubbed The QueensWay.

On September 29, 2012, the WRBA hosted a special forum dedicated exclusively to the question of what to do with the railroad tracks.  At the forum, a speaker for each of the leading proposals made their case.  After the presentations, we opened up the floor to residents who voiced their questions, comments, and concerns.  To learn more about this meeting, including photos and videos, click here.

The forum was extremely helpful in the WRBA's formulation of its stance on this issue.

After carefully considering a multitude of viewpoints expressed by Woodhaven residents, the WRBA has decided not to support either of the proposals at this time.

Here is an excerpt of the WRBA's position statement:
The Block Association would like to note that among our neighbors, there is very strong opposition to an active railroad. Many residents have raised numerous valid concerns about how their homes and their daily lives would be adversely affected by having trains run along this passage. We cannot endorse a plan that would impose such high costs on so many of our fellow Woodhaven residents, and which has engendered so much opposition from our community. We hope elected officials, city agencies, and all other interested parties take note of this widespread sentiment among our neighbors. 
The WRBA also does not support the QueensWay. Woodhaven residents have raised several important concerns about this proposal, including its implications for parking in the neighborhood, the reduced privacy for homes abutting the path, and a lack of police and other security presence. We also observe that Woodhaven already enjoys an abundance of jogging and cycling paths, including an already-existing Queens Greenway that passes directly over the proposed QueensWay route. 
In light of the diverse -- and sometimes conflicting -- opinions we've received from our community, we believe that leaving the abandoned rail line alone is the best way to satisfy the needs and desires of as many residents as possible. 
We do, however, recognize that this strip of land has declined into a truly deplorable state. It is full of trash, fallen trees, and unsafe conditions. We call on the City of New York, which owns the property, to step up and take responsibility for maintaining it after years of neglect. 
Finally, we urge those who are disappointed by our position not to cast aside our neighbors' concerns as mere selfishness or "NIMBYism." Any change to the rail line, especially reactivating it, could have a considerable negative impact on many residents. The harm they would suffer is as real and significant as any advantage that would be received by the beneficiaries of a revived rail line or QueensWay. To dismiss Woodhaven's concerns is to ignore half of the equation. Our residents are as important as the residents of other communities. We remind critics that the best way to change Woodhaven's collective mind is to make a more persuasive case about how our neighborhood would benefit from -- or at least not be harmed by -- their proposals. 
We thank our neighbors for taking the time to weigh in on this matter.
The full statement can be read here.

The WRBA's efforts to represent its community's interests in this debate have received substantial attention:

  • Queens Chronicle, "'Queens high line' faces Woodhaven opposition," by Domenick Rafter, 10/25/2012
  • Times Ledger, "Group rails against plans," by Steve Mosco, 10/26/2012
  • Times Newsweekly, "WRBA Says 'No' To Rail Plans," by Robert Pozarycki, 10/18/2012
  • Queens Tribune, "WRBA Opposes Both Track Plans," by Ross Barkan, 10/18/2012
  • DNAinfo, "Community Groups Resistant to Proposed 'Queens High Line' Project," by Nigel Chiwaya, 11/15/2012
  • Times Newsweekly, "Round 2 of Rail Debate," by Sam Goldman, 10/4/2012
  • Times Ledger, "Civic weighs park and rail plans," by Steve Mosco, 10/4/2012
  • The Forum, "The Great Debate: Revived Train Line or Bike Trail," by Luis Gronda, 10/4/2012
  • Queens Chronicle, "Woodhaven holds forum on LIRR line," by Domenick Rafter, 10/4/2012
  • Queens Tribune, "Residents Consider New Rail Options," by Ross Barkan, 10/4/2012
  • Leader-Observer, "Residents debate future of rail line," by Kathleen Lees, 10/3/2012
  • New York Daily News, "QueensWay supporters and opponents to face off at forum," by Lisa L. Colangelo, 9/27/2012
  • Queens Courier, "QueensWay vs. LIRR debated at public forum," by Terence M. Cullen, 10/1/2012
  • WPIX 11, "Mocker update on inactive railway debate," by Greg Mocker, 10/1/2012
  • Times Ledger, "Woodhaven meeting on Rockaway railbed set," by Alicia Taylor-Domville, 9/26/2012
  • DNAinfo, "'Queens High Line' to be Debated at Hearing," by Nigel Chiwaya, 9/25/2012
  • Queens Courier, "Fate of defunct Queens rail tracks to be debated," by Terence M. Cullen, 9/27/2012
  • Times Newsweekly, "Woodhaven Eyes Abandoned Line," by Robert Pozarycki, 9/20/2012
  • Queens Chronicle, "WRBA to hold rail line forum, 9/20/2012
  • Times Newsweekly, "Editorial," 11/23/2012
  • WPIX 11, "What to do with abandoned railroad tracks in Queens?," by Greg Mocker, 9/28/2012
  • Times Newsweekly, "Senate Candidates Tussle At WRBA," by Sam Goldman, 10/25/2012
  • Times Ledger, "Leave Rockaway Branch alone and let city clean it up," 11/6/2012
  • Queens Courier, "Done Deal?" by Mildred Facinelli, 10/18/2012