Letter to Queens Chronicle:
The City Council’s Transportation Committee held a rare public hearing in South Queens on April 25 at the Broad Channel American Legion Hall. Legislators heard the reoccurring theme of a borough in crisis, rapidly expanding but hampered by very poor mass transit service. Another sore point was the city administration’s inability to grasp the borough’s urgency. Mayor Bloomberg gave his “green” speech just days before the hearing, proposing an $8 surtax on cars entering Manhattan — clearly showing an inability to think outside the box: the Manhattan box.
We’re not referring to the mayor’s backbone but to the borough’s lack thereof — Queens has no backbone. Without north-south crosstown service joining east-west lines at strategic points, Queens lacks what Manhattan’s transportation designers brilliantly implemented in over a century of development — a mass transit grid. And to this day, Manhattan-centric thinking dominates the city’s longterm transit plan. The cries of pain, emanating from the Broad Channel Legion Hall, bemoan the city’s incredibly shortsighted decision of 40 years ago, to deactivate the Rockaway Beach line — the borough’s only north-south rail right-of-way — and thereby sever the spine of Queens. The shrieks are still heard today louder than ever.
The saddest proposal of all and a reflection of pure frustration at ever seeing a Queens mass transit system that actually takes people where they want to go is the “Let’s build a ferry dock and get around by boat” plan. This is the Algonquin plan, or the same way the Indians got around before Giovanni da Verrazano sailed into the bay. The pros and cons of this plan were discussed at the hearing. It was surprisingly popular: an “any port in a storm” approach to the intractable transportation problem. And how does the administration (the mayor) justify this quaint return to the 15th century, while the 21st century transit system for Queens, the borough’s north-south rail right-of-way, remains fallow? Well, it’s cheap and doesn’t warrant federal funds, the billions of dollars presently earmarked for Manhattan construction projects.
Screenshot from Windows Live Local