Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Bklyn-Qns-Bx choo-choo

Here's a project announced by MTA Executive Director Elliot Sander during his recent "State of the MTA Address". It calls for passenger service along existing freight lines in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx and would connect to many existing subway lines.

Is a Brooklyn-Queens-Bronx Train Line Pie in the Tri-Borough

I'm liking this much better than the Cross Harbor Tunnel Plan which would mean more trucks in many neighborhoods.


Anonymous said...

Using abandoned railroads to create subways makes WAY too much sense to ever happen in NYC, where when the money gets tight, transit projects are the first to go. People who matter, people with money, go places by cab or limo.

The High Line should, ideally, have been the southwestern extension of the #7 train. The infrastructure was in place, for Pete's sake. Yet when CSX sold it to the city one of the stipulations was that it NOT be used for transit. So, what we'll get is a very haute, stylized elevated walkway. Better than a poke in the eye, I suppose.

The western end of the LIRR's "Montauk" branch, running through Forest Hills, Glendale, Maspeth, Blissville and LIC, was neglected and effectively abandoned as passenger service for the railroad for decades, and finally, the purchase of new equipment 8 years ago gave the LIRR the excuse it needed to cancel whatever meager service there remained.

Despite the fact that it ran to LIC/Hunters Point, would connect with the #7 Flushing Line, and would finally give Glendale, Fresh Pond, etc. the subway service it has long lacked, locals have fought any proposal to refit the Montauk Branch as a subway line tooth and nail.

Ditto any reactivation of the LIRR's Rockaway Branch through Rego Park, Forest Hills and Woodhaven.

The desire to keep undesirables, ie. people not from the neighborhood OUT of the neighborhood trumps any convenience mass transit might bring to any area in NYC's boroughs.

How is Sander going to raise the money to do this project and, at the same time, battle the locals who don't want the project?

He won't.

Anonymous said...

One big reason the locals resist these projects is because of the way this city operates, especially recently.

Seeing this idea released to the media today immediately made me wonder, has the MTA been going around to local civic associations and making contact, preparing them, getting feedback? I doubt it. I'm sure locals are hearing about it today just like most everyone else. I also suspect certain vested interests have known about it a while. Does this train line run near St. Saviors?

Do locals feel they can trust the authorities not to use this as a pretext to up-zone the hell out of their neighborhoods?

Is that not exactly what happened in Jamaica?

Was not the stated reason for the Jamaica up-zoning the fact that there are good mass transit connections there?

People can be reasonable, I'm sure locals would agree to some up-zoning in the immediate vicinity of new train stations if there were guarantees and trust that the system wasn't rotten and their views would be respected.

The level of mistrust of the authorities in this town did not come out of thin air, it was earned.

Anonymous said...

It's a great idea, and econmically realistic.

But unfortunatly Forgotten.ny just hit the nail on the head. He is 100% correct.

Anonymous said...

The line almost seems to be designed to meander through the most "tweeded" neighborhoods in NYC, where the administration wants to build hostel housing for the million new workers. Astoria, Elmhurst, Middle Village, Ridgewood, down into Brooklyn to take in East Flatbush and terminate in Sunset Park, the sweatshop capital of the USA.

Anonymous said...

Yes these people have already found a way to get where they're going without driving. Why not work on subway service in eastern Queens, who are the ones bitching the most about congestion pricing being a tax?

Anonymous said...

That old Rockaway line ROW would take 10 Years to rehab and electrify alone.
Active Gas lines that are ages old to JFK are under the tracks.

The people in those homes along Ozone park, Woodhaven, Middle Village, Rego Park would have a such a fit it would tie it up for years.

Anonymous said...

The first railway line to be proposed for a subway makeover was the Whitestone Branch in the 1920s. The LIRR offered it to the city, and the city refused. In 1932, the line was abandoned.

Jason in Kew Gardens said...

"That old Rockaway line ROW would take 10 Years to rehab and electrify alone."

Not to mention that some pieces of land along the line have been sold as parking lots, etc. Check out Google Maps.

Too bad...

Anonymous said...

"People can be reasonable, I'm sure locals would agree to some up-zoning in the immediate vicinity of new train stations if there were guarantees and trust that the system wasn't rotten and their views would be respected." hey if you want a friend in city hall get a dog. Politics are not run on these points.

You need a comprehensive study of any community before you can accept 'resonable' development - and the last time I looked at a map of Queens all I see are ... streets ... everywhere.

The problem is the system is already running at 130% and what we have is at the end of its planned life and has to be replaced.

The point here is just because a polticians says we need development doesnt mean we need it. Those community groups that are going around their nabes looking for places to put in development are naive at best and stupid at worst.

"The level of mistrust of the authorities in this town did not come out of thin air, it was earned."

Most people believe everything their politicians tell them. They either have a vested interest in the system, an immigrant from a culture that respects athority, or senior citizens that grew up at a time with fond memories of Roosevelt and Kennedy.

Remember, most people in Queens are workers, not managers. To question authority is something that has to be developed.

The recieved wisdom is to not say anthing or to move.

Now Brooklyn and Manhattan, ah, there is a different kettle of fish!

Anonymous said...

From the map it would seem the plan does not use the Far Rockaway ROW nor the Montauk line but rather the connecting line that runs thru Juniper Valley. Mixing freight (class A) and subway (class B) traffic is a no no. That connecting RR is the only freight link to Long Island.
Back in the 80's when the E63rd st tunnel and Archer Ave were brought online, there were 5 plans to connect the two. Two of the plans were to use the Montauk line. One of the two plans would have put a subway stop in front of our house in Glendale. That's when we became Suffolk residents.

Anonymous said...

There is a set of tracks 200 feet east of the Metropoloton Ave M train stop that goes under Metropoloton Ave, through a long tunnel in the cematary, Juniper and come out around 63 St Rego Park. It also goes south over a bridge (above the old Montauk tracks)toward Ridgewood

queensjohnnie said...

That map does not refer to the LIRR Rockaway Beach ROW, but the closer examination of the MTA plan reveals that expansion of the Main Line and eventual reopening of the old ROW is a future possibility.

When Community Board 9 resolved to support the conversion of the old ROW to a linear park (ala the Chelsea High Line) back in '05, the homeowners on adjoining lots raised holy hell. They were worried that a park would encourage use by 'an undesirable element.' The CB quickly changed their minds.

If we can't even get a park put in there, reactivating the LIRR seems even less probable to me.

Anonymous said...

To the couple that moved to Suffolk County I commend you.

You realized that Queens is a part of New York City and that may not just be the type of living you really want, so you moved to where their were like minded people as yourselves whom have a similar backgrounds and you dont have to deal with things like a subway station popping up outside your front door.

I just wish there were more people like you on this blog.

Anonymous said...

The G line is losing money - will this do any better?

Anonymous said...

To those of you who are saying that the plan doesn't involve the Rockaway Branch or the Montauk Branch, yes, I realize that; I was making an analogy.

If plans involving either of those branches were unworkable, the Bay Ridge Branch plan won't either.

Ideally, I'd be for reactivating all these branches and running subways on them, or restored LIRR service, but there are very high roadblocks to any of that happening.

Anonymous said...

Over my dead body - run a subway on Conrail line through Middle Village and Elmhurst?

Anonymous said...

There you have it...

queensjohnnie said...

Nearby subway station = diminished property values? That's 1980's thinking. By all means, enjoy your cultural homogeneity and property taxes out East.

If your neighborhood has decent housing stock, a nearby subway stop could be a boon. Note the nascent gentrification in parts of Ridgewood (Ridgewood!). The neighborhood would have to be vigilant, however, against over-occupation and overdevelopment.

The downside is that you would probably expect upzoning near those new stations. I'm sure the JPCA would lie down for a plan like that in their backyard...

Anonymous said...

Why not a subway through Middle Village and Elmhurst?
Most people want MORE mass transit.

And as for your opening comment, be careful what you wish for.

Anonymous said...

Johnnie, that sounds like a put down. In 1980 there were 2 fare zones in New York and many people bought in Glendale and Middle Village because they were 2 fare zones. Ridgewood isn't and wasn't a 2 fare zone because of the M & L lines. Even before the prospect of a subway stop in front of our house, it was a daily fight against crime, graffiti, illegal dumping and noise. I've never regretted our decision to move and thankfully I can afford to live in Suffolk. Kudos to those who remain and fight the good fight.

Anonymous said...

What a ridiculous statement from the pro-development advocate who commended the writer who moved out east to flee overdevelopment and be among "like minded people"

Queens is full of "like minded people". People voted for Bloomberg in droves in 2005 because he sent his functionaries to community meetings all over the borough promising down-zoning to vast neighborhoods like Glendale, Middle Village, Maspeth, Auburndale, Bayside, if you read back a few months on this site, you will see signed posts from officers of those groups describing the promises made to them, they all seem to have been told they were
"next in line" for down-zoning.

Those groups believed what was told to them, went out, rallied voters, pumped up turnout resulting in overwhelming numbers for Bloomberg in Queens, enabling his re-election.

As soon as he was re-elected he yanked most bldg department people working on the downzonings and put them on a massive UP-ZONING plan for Jamaica! The downzonings, which he used to entice people to vote for him have mostly not happened.

The fact that people believed these lies and voted for Bloomberg should not be misconstrued as support for his "pro-development agenda".

Most of that agenda voters only learned about after he was re-elected.

Anonymous said... said:

The desire to keep undesirables, ie. people not from the neighborhood OUT of the neighborhood trumps any convenience mass transit might bring to any area in NYC's boroughs

First of all, if they are "undesirables," what is wrong with property owners wanting to keep them out? You can say that an infinitesimal proportion of subway riders are "undesirable" if you believe that such a profile even exists, but to people whose entire net worth is sunk into the value of their property, that is a new pipeline for them into the community that didn't exist before. Why should anybody be forced to tolerate ANY increase in "undesirable" activity as a byproduct of anybody's greater good?

If it is not undesirables, it is noise, vibrations, the blight of the trains and stations themselves with their seedy-looking nature, the stench of urine, litter, rats, etc. not to mention the higher rate of foot traffic traipsing through the neighborhood that was not there before. All of these are valid property value and quality of life concerns that are more economic than race-based, as you can see.

While bringing a subway into neighborhoods that have seen better days may well be an injection of hope and a rising tide that lifts surrounding boats, to many other neighborhoods it is a regression to some lower-than-comfortable denominator the neighborhood's character was well above as it was without the intrusion of the interloping subway.

It's all relative.

Anonymous said...

I have lived in Glendale for my entire life.
Truthfully the only thing I do in Glendale is shop for groceries.
There is one good restaurant (Zumstammtisch) and not one good bar.
I am a single guy in my early thirties, I spend most of my time in Manhattan and some of my time in North Brooklyn. For a guy like me a subway stop in Glendale is ideal.

Anonymous said...

That's a good point you make, Anonymous Who Began With "First Of All"... but in Little Neck, I live 2 blocks away from a LIRR station (at grade, as the Montauk Branch trains would be) and we don't have the stench of urine, not a lot of litter, and perhaps a rat every few weeks, and property values in Little Neck were never higher, that is until banks started giving mortgages to people who couldn't afford them.

Subways and trains do not automatically mean crime, bums and rats...

Kevin Walsh

Anonymous said...

Kevin, the Railroad is an entirely different breed of cat with a far different mission from the subway. It attracts a more purpose-driven upscale crowd (of all races, religions, creeds, what-have-you) that isn't likely to just meander in from anywhere just because it can, and it does not run at the same frequency of a subway line except for a few hours each way, each day. Thirty minutes may seem like a lot of frequency, but what subway line runs a train only once every thirty minutes during daytime hours?

Not to mention, the Railroad was there since the mid-1800s, has run constantly without interruption, and anybody buying a house there ostensibly knows what they were getting into. They can accept four trains per hour (two each way each hour) of plates rattling, but not once every three minutes in each direction.

And the LIRR has made great strides in improving the aesthetics of their physical plant (station plazas, rights-of-way, quiet rolling stock, etc.) even though previously the shabby condition of some of the structures was more charming than menacing IMO (I know from your pages you'd disagree, but from a different point of view).

The subway has difficulty maintaining anything to mint condition five minutes after it has been set out for the public to pummel it. It babysits far many more sociopaths and potential sociopaths than the Railroad, a fact not lost upon riders and non-riders along the line alike.

I would love to see the Bay Ridge Branch converted to at the very least LIRR-level service of limited stops and twice-hourly high-speed M7 class trains. The problems are that the clientele who would most benefit from such an arrangement won't pay LIRR prices for such a service, and the people through Midwood, Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, et al where the line would operate will reflexively say "NO!" due to their being jaded by all the "problems" a regular subway line would bring and their not knowing or caring about the differences between the two.

The trick is not to beat the public into accepting a way of life they never bargained for by trumpeting a dubious "greater good" benefit, but to get them to want to be educated on the issue, being as accommodating as possible, and hoping for the best. If after all this effort the answer is still "no," that's democracy at work, but maybe after a few more attempts, the tide will change.