Southern Queens is on the cusp of something great, but, to be successful we need to continue pushing ahead with transportation and economic development improvements. That means investing time and energy into projects that will make our area more efficient, effective and appealing. In order to do that, we must give great consideration to rehabilitating the Rockaway Beach Rail Line and despite what the governor has said, moving forward with plans to open the Resorts World Casino and Convention Center at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Ozone Park.
Created at the turn of the century, the Rockaway Beach Rail Line, also known as White Pot Junction, was owned and operated by the Long Island Rail Road. Strategically placed within a major network of trains throughout New York City, the rail line provided residents with safe, affordable and expedient access to the rest of the city. Unfortunately, in the early 1960s, parts were condensed, sectioned off and eventually closed, and as time went on, the abandoned tracks were vandalized and encroached upon, causing them to become a source of embarrassment for the families residing nearby.
Nonetheless, a lot has changed since the 1960s when the rail line was abandoned. Queens has seen a large boom in population and as roads and bridges fall into disrepair and need maintenance, more and more construction projects pop up to further delay travel. Commute times between Southern Queens and the Rockaways to Manhattan, sometimes take close to two hours, if not longer. Our families deserve better!
Restoring the Rockaway Beach Rail Line is the perfect alternative. Once rehabilitated, the commute to Manhattan would be cut down to 45 minutes and we’d see an increase in the number of travelers to Queens, be it for the racetrack, beaches or any of the other wonderful attractions in our borough – all of which would help create stable jobs and allow small businesses to thrive.
The push to restore the rail line is not a novice idea. In fact, for the past 20 years, Rockaway residents have been fighting to restore the old tracks and create a new, more efficient transportation alternative to the A Line. I will continue my fight to restore this vital rail line because so many remain hopeful that it will someday reopen, bringing jobs and economic strength with it.
Earlier this year, the governor proposed very ardent plans for the development of the world’s largest convention center, to be built at Aqueduct. Unfortunately, the governor recently announced that talks had broken down with the developer and he would no longer be moving forward with his plans for the convention center.
To that I say: Governor Cuomo, don’t give up on Queens!
The convention center project has the potential to revamp and revitalize Queens as a whole. We can’t allow it to be put to bed because of one bump along the way. If the plans to build the convention center are carried out, it would create thousands of local jobs, spur economic development throughout the entire borough and create funding potential for much-needed transportation upgrades, like the Rockaway Beach Rail Line.
We’ve seen the success Genting, developer of Resorts World, has had with operating the racino at Aqueduct. Since the day it opened, they have served as an eager and effective community partner, exceeding our every expectation. We should give them the chance to do it again.
There are many important opportunities on the horizon for Queens, but we need to start taking advantage of them now, before it’s too late. The creation of a convention center could be the jolt we need to become a true economic powerhouse. Restoring the Rockaway Beach Rail Line would help make that possible, and give our hardworking families the opportunity to spend more time at home and less time in traffic.
Now is the time to invest in Queens.