Saturday, February 8, 2014

Queens Public Transit Committee Letter to Mayor de Blasio

February 8, 2014

Dear Media and Friends, 

For your consideration and distribution.

A letter to Mayor de Blasio.  See attachment and letter below.

Dear Mayor de Blasio:
I am writing to you as a citizen, as a life-long resident of the Rockaway Peninsula, and as president of the Queens Public Transit Committee, whose goal is to improve transportation options throughout the borough.

First, let me welcome you as the mayor of our great city. In your campaign you promised positive change to help our city, including, in particular, improving the livelihoods, the neighborhoods, and the opportunities of New York’s “90 percenters.”  I was encouraged that you expressed a commitment to focus on the needs of the often neglected “outer boroughs” of the city.

It is to help you achieve this goal that I am asking you to support an open, detailed, and fair study of the Rockaway Beach Line. The line’s right of way, which is owned by New York City, has remained largely intact since deactivation.  Assemblyman Philip Goldfeder, State Senator Tony Avella, and Congressmen Gregory Meeks and Hakeem Jeffries have all called for reactivating the line. In addition, Queens Community Boards 14 and 5 have endorsedreactivation of the Rockaway Beach Line by lopsided margins.

And here’s the reason why:  the Rockaways and south Queens have been neglected for decades.  Our communities have been struggling in terms of economic opportunity, access to jobs, and in attracting local development, businesses, and employment.  One of the key reasons is poor transportation.  It takes longer to travel from the Rockaway Peninsula to midtown Manhattan than it does from Long Island, Westchester, and many parts of New Jersey.

Travel between north and south Queens is a nightmare.  People must travel either through Manhattan or take several buses to reach destinations in their own borough. South Queens has developed such a reputation for poor access that its location was a prime impediment to Governor Cuomo’s Genting convention proposal.  If people can’t get to their destinations quickly and easily, why should they invest here?

Unfortunately, there has been for decades a small, influential groupthat has blocked the restoration of the Rockaway Beach Line. Many in this group live near and enjoy both LIRR and subway access to midtown Manhattan.  Is it fair for a small group of people to block the ability of Rockaway and south Queens residents to obtain more access to jobs and education, and to develop their communities?

For some reason, the news media has focused solely on restoring the LIRR.  There are, however, several subway options that would benefit more people from all walks of life.  A new subway line could originate from both Far Rockaway and Rockaway Park andrun along the A line to a point north of the Aqueduct/Conduit Avenue subway station.  There is sufficient capacity, and no alterations to the A line would be needed.

The new subway could then proceed on the abandoned Rockaway Beach Line to Rego Park/63rd Drive.  There, a station could be built that would be only four minutes away from the IND 63rd Drive station and the Rego Park malls.  There is enough space for a joint LIRR/subway station.  In addition, two limited bus services could be created.  One could head north to Citi Field, the new mall, Fort Totten, and LaGuardia Airport, forming a complete north-south Queens link.  A second could run along the Long Island Expressway, past Queens College to the busy commercial Main Street, Flushing district.  With one fare and one transfer, people could easily travel within Queens, encouraging the growth of small businesses and job creation.

That is why this study is needed. It would look at all options:  subway and LIRR, and at alternatives and adjuncts like Woodhaven Select Bus Service and ferries.  It would be similar to the detailed studies for East Side Access (ESA) and the Second Avenue Subway, which included extensive public participation.

In conclusion, Mr. Mayor, the opportunity is there to provide jobs and to enable local development and access to jobs, while at the same time reducing excessive travel times, traffic congestion, and pollution.  We ask you to endorse this study and urge Governor Cuomo to do the same.

We welcome the opportunity to meet with you in person to discuss these issues, to hear your concerns, and to go forward with a consensus that will bring Queens together and enable everyone to share in what our city has to offer.

Philip McManus 
Queens Public Transit Committee   
Rockaway Park, Queens

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