BY LUIS GRONDA
Nearly one year after announcing its launch, a survey organized by Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Ozone Park) and Queens College has been completed.
Findings were announced along with more support for reactivating the Rockaway Beach Rail Line at a press conference on Monday at the University.
The study, which was conducted by the Queens College Dept. of Urban Studies, surveyed 5,000 residents and 800 businesses that are near the vacant rail line to ask them about the two much-discussed options for the 3.5-mile stretch of land: reviving the former train line that used to run there or turn it into the QueensWay, an elevated bike and pedestrian pathway similar to the High Line in Manhattan.
According to the fact sheet about the survey, the study “was not to determine a best use or advocate for any particular option, but rather to contribute to a more complete understanding of the various options in relation to community demand.”
The survey actually found that residents, who responded from the central Queens portion of the area in question, including Forest Hills and Rego Park, preferred the activation of the train line over the QueensWay. A total of 39 percent of residents from those areas preferred the train as opposed to the green space.
Conversely, a little more than 36 percent of responders from the Rockaway peninsula said their choice for the land is the QueensWay as opposed to reviving the train line.
Dr. Scott Larson said they tried to get as much broad response from people who support both projects as much as possible, rather than getting one side. He also said their survey found that many people did not know of the two options for the land at all.
In addition to announcing the results of the survey, Goldfeder also used the announcement to tout more public support for reactivating the rail line.
The Assemblyman announced that U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan/Brooklyn), Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Manhattan) and TWU Local 100 all backed the train line option. Rodriguez is the head of the City Council’s Transportation committee.
“This Queens College study is another step towards understanding the real needs of every Queens neighborhood and I urge the MTA to include restoration of the Rockaway Beach Rail Line in their next capital plan,” Goldfeder said, “Complete Restoration of the rail line will increase transit options for every resident in Queens and NYC.”
Marc Matsil, the head of the Trust for Public Land, the non-profit organization that is leading the charge to build the QueensWay, also attended the press conference and spoke with reporters after its conclusion.
He said they are thrilled with the study because it confirms their prior findings from studying the QueensWay, including the fact that reviving the train would decrease real estate values of homes living near the track.
“We were delighted by the results, but it was unfortunate results that there would be a real estate decline for adjacent owners, not to mention quality of life impairment from a train in your backyard,” he said.
Matsil also mentioned that the cost for reactivating the train line would be much more than their estimates for building the QueensWay. Goldfeder said that the train line would cost about $700 million to fund, while the TPL estimates that creating the QueensWay would cost about $120 million.
Regarding the $700 million, Nadler said that price, taken into context, is “not that huge” considering the amount of money that is spent on infrastructure throughout the City and the MTA capital plan, which is $32 billion.
For more information on the survey, go to http://qcurban.org/office-of-community-studies/our-work or rockawaybeachrail.com.
Reach Reporter Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @luisgronda.