Hovering above Atlantic Avenue and 100th Street in Queens, an elevated structure made of old, chipped concrete covered in multi-colored graffiti and adorned with rust-covered handrails is part of what remains of a location once called “Woodhaven Station.” It is a long-unused railroad branch station currently owned by the city where one can still capture a glimpse of an older New York City.
Though the question of what to do with the long-abandoned Rockaway Beach Branch of the Long Island Rail Road has produced supporters who want to replace it with the 3.5-mile greenway or new commuter service, a few residents have pushed for leaving the railway alone, citing concerns that noise and lack of privacy could become a problem, as well as the financial costs for the city to construct any project.
“At this point in time, it’s better to just do nothing and just leave the status quo,” said Woodhaven resident Anita Ferrara. “Just leave it alone until times get better.”
The cost of each proposed project has also been a factor in the lack of progress in restoring commuter rail service to the line. The Metropolitan Transit Authority has concluded that reactivating the line would be much too costly, with a 2001 study estimating a price tag of $875 million, according to an article by Rockaway-based newspaper, The Wave.
The QueensWay’s supporters, The Friends of the QueensWay, are currently raising funds for a feasibility study in conjunction with the Trust for Public Land, a non-profit organization that develops parks for public use. Friends of the QueensWay steering committee member Travis Terry said he estimates the project will cost between $60 to $80 million based on fees associated with a similar project, the Bloomingdale Trail in Chicago.
Besides the costs, the construction itself and the effects on the quality of life of the surrounding areas have become common objections to both proposals. At a Community Board 6 meeting in Kew Gardens on Nov. 14, representatives of the Friends of the QueensWay and the Trust for Public Land presented their vision for the abandoned railway.
“I think about half the people in here don’t want to do anything with it,” stated Steven Goldberg, a Rego Park resident since 1979 who has been a member of the Community Board 6 since 1985.
After the QueensWay presentation, Goldberg, along with other residents, voiced many concerns about the project including privacy issues, noise and crime.
Goldberg would go on to state that reactivating the branch would also be too costly and create too much noise both during and after its construction.
Though there are no recognized noise limits for above-ground transit or construction, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection has issued recommended standards that seek to mitigate noise caused by either activity.
With homes being so close to the tracks, the noise issue has become a recurring concern with both proposals.
“I work nights and sleep during the day, so I really wouldn’t want trains or construction waking me up,” said Loraine Flohr, who recently moved to Ozone Park with her daughter from the Rockaways.
Flohr said her new building, located on a dead-end street with the abandoned line serving as the end, would be directly exposed to any noise emanating from construction done in the area, whether it’s for the QueensWay or for reactivating the branch.
Crime and security have also become major concerns with both projects.
“With construction on the train line, you’ll have strange characters, men, this and that. You don’t know who it is coming and going,” said Flohr.
Woodhaven resident Michael Ferrara also said he thought the QueensWay would attract crime.
“As far as the park, I think it’s a little dangerous,” he said. “I think it would be a bad idea. It would be a bad hangout.”
Though Manhattan’s High Line, which has served as a model for the QueensWay, has experienced little crime since it opened, Rego Park resident Robert Federico remained skeptical.
“It’s a security issue,” he said. “This is just not a secure area. The city is very different. This is a residential area, and the city is more commercial.”
The privacy of residents has also been an issue. Residents fear that both the QueensWay and the elevated train line would make the inside of their homes visible to onlookers.
“You don’t want people during all hours of the night going in and out of a park,” she said. “And then you have to worry about them looking in your windows or breaking in your house.”
Those living near Manhattan’s High Line faced similar issues, but many who lived near the Manhattan High Line moved there knowing that their homes would be visible to onlookers while others have learned to live with it in various ways such as installing glass brick in their windows or simply closing their blinds.
Anita Ferrara said she didn’t think those solutions were adequate.
“People bought homes in those areas for the quiet, for the privacy, for what they saw,” she said. “Now if you uproot everything, all these people are going to have to sell their homes.”
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Photo Slideshow Produced by Danielle Valente