Abandoned LIRR Woodhaven Blvd Station (Rockaway Beach Branch)

Published on: August 16th, 2016 | Last updated: December 5, 2016 Written by:

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The Woodhaven blvd rockaway beach branch station is an important neighborhood piece of infrastructure that currently sits in ruins.

This year (2016) happens to be an election year, and politicians are going through the paces of claiming that they care about the infrastructure of our nation. Election cycle after election cycle we hear this talk, but the results are few and far between.

This abandoned commuter rail station is but one monument to this country’s (and NYCs) failure to maintain key pieces of infrastructure over the past decades. Reopening these tracks is the very definition of a ‘shovel ready‘ infrastructure project that would literally transform the way most people who live near this station commute. Their only current choices are long walks to the subway, inadequate bus service, and cars.

Train service to this station ended in 1962. At the time, the LIRR was a private company in bankruptcy. Just a few years later, it would be rolled into the present Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Had it survived, train service likely would never have been discontinued on this route.

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Looking down at Atlantic Avenue

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Since then, community requests to see it reopen have fallen on deaf ears. The MTA never had much money, and the near bankruptcy of NYC itself in the 1970s resulted in further decay to NYC’s transit routes. Just keeping the existing subways, buses and trains running was a challenge. This challenge was addressed by the MTA going into deep debt. This debt load still weighs heavy on the MTA’s bottom line, making expansion projects all the more difficult. For the Rockaway beach branch, it doesn’t help that a politically connected group wants to take over these tracks and make the whole space into a linear park that no one wants.

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Today, the tracks are covered in large trees. These trees began growing here shortly the last trains rolled through.

To the north, the tracks are also covered in a thick forest of trees, while to the south, a school bus parking lot has encroached on the tracks. It is unknown if they pay rent to the city or MTA for this invaluable property.

Since it’s a little hard to imagine what this space looked like before and immediately after trains stopped running, here’s a few awesome photographs borrowed from our friend Dave Keller.

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Here is a 1940-ish photo of a Manhattan bound LIRR train, as seen from the south end of the Rockaway bound platform.

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These two awesome photos were shot by Brad Phillips in April of 1965. At the time, the station was freshly abandoned just 3 years before.

These photos also serve as a reminder: “Urban exploring” didn’t begin as a hobby in the late 1990s. It has a much longer history, which we’re proud to continue today.

Today, the future of this station is very much in question. With little maintenance being performed on the overpass, sooner or later this structure will either need to be removed or collapse onto Atlantic avenue, potentially killing a few people when it does. Continued neglect isn’t an option, and a linear park would create no revenue for maintaining it into the future. The best option here is the obvious one: rebuild these tracks. Give this neighborhood the piece of commuting infrastructure that was wrongly taken from them decades ago.

16 responses to “Abandoned LIRR Woodhaven Blvd Station (Rockaway Beach Branch)”

  1. _itscarlito says:

    Sad to see this could serve as a potential direct line to JFK Airport from Penn Station, whilst also covering transit deserts along the Woodhaven Blvd corridor. Absolute bullshit that the state and city just lets this huge opportunity die.

  2. Glenn DiResto says:

    Everyone in South Queens needs Affordable and Accessible transportation alternatives. Reactivation will allow thousands of daily commuters easy and fast access to the middle od Queens and Midtown Manhattan. It would also allow tourists, beach goers and others easy access to Resorts World Casino, JFK Airport, Queens Center Mall and the Beaches of Rockaway. There is no doubt this property would much better be utilized as a method or reliable, and fast transportation than a park. Middle of Queens already has Forest Park, WE NEED TRANSPORTATION ALTERNATIVES NOW.

  3. Adrian Horczak says:

    This abandoned railroad should be converted to subway service. The MTA does not have enough money to build a real subway, but it should at least use this valuable piece of neglected infrastructure. More subway service is necessary!

  4. Rafe says:

    Our railroads and subways were neglected, virtually ignored, during the decades-long reign of “The Power Broker,” Robert Moses. Over half a century, he spent countless millions on roadways that, upon opening, instantly became miles-long parking lots. What a pity that the greatest city in the world does NOT have the greatest public transportation system in the world.

  5. StonedSnake69 says:

    I mean it would be hard to turn this thing into a subway now. The Queens Boulevard line is at capacity on both the local and express tracks. Connecting this line to that one would just cause delays further on down the line. Extending the G or adding the two outside tracks like they were supposed to are the best options. Alternatively you could turn 63rd Rego into a terminal station and have trains run on the line that way. In reality most of these options are impractical and the line itself will most likely be used for something else.

  6. Control says:

    I think reconnecting it to the LIRR is the only logical option. It would be very cheap to do, and with ESA coming they could squeeze in some capacity at Penn or (more realistically) GCT. Even if it only ran as a shuttle to Rego Park (there was a station there) with a transfer, you’d be providing a significantly faster commuter to everyone living on this route.

    The subway on either end is a no go. Queens blvd connection would take years and cost a ton of money, connecting to a route with capacity problems. You could maybe route it down the G line and make people transfer though. Same with the A train on the south end – a new wye would mean immanent domain of a few buildings and major structural work on the elevated. Plus you have similar capacity issues: cranberry st. tube into Manhattan is a log-jam at the moment.

    My thought is this: what could realistically be built within a short amount of time and not getting bogged down in expensive new connections. The answer is LIRR. Clear the brush, rebuild the tracks, build a few stations and replace overpasses. Throw in a new switch at White Pot. Done. It’s simple, clean, easy, and would not disrupt service to any existing routes at all. Would cost less than 500m. if done right. (compare that to 7x, SAS, ESA, or that ridiculous piece of shit they call a PATH station in lower manhattan – all multi-billion dollar projects over budget).

    The best option, and perhaps the only option, is the one that the route was built for: LIRR.

  7. SJU85 says:

    Provisions for connecting the Queens Boulevard Local subway to this abandoned line already exists. “There is an unused trackway for westbound local trains beginning at outer wall just east of station, rising up to an upper level. It crosses over the existing tracks to curve south, ends at the edge of the line under Queens Blvd. At that curve, another unused trackway for eastbound local trains curves off outer wall.” (credit NYCSubway.org) This was a provision built in the anticipation of taking over the Rockaway Line from the LIRR (who tried to get rid of it for years before finally getting rid of the potion the A currently uses in the 50s and eventually stopping service on the rest of the route in the early 60’s.

    I agree however that the LIRR service along this right away makes more since (even though they have now completely enclosed the Whitepot Junction under-jump which the trains from this right-away used to run underneath the four tracks of the mainline and then rose to meet and connect to them to continue heading west towards Penn) and filled in the area where the tracks rose to meet the mainline). They could also re-open the tunnel bellmouth where trains from what was then called Flatbush Terminal would exit the Alantic Avenue Branch and rise to meet the Rockaway Tracks just west of the Woodhaven Blvd Station (you would also need to remove the bus parking lot in the area).

  8. Adrian Horczak says:

    I also see problems with connecting a new subway to Rego Park. If there is construction between Forest Hills and Jackson Heights the whole line would have to be shut down. However, there is extra space next to the LIRR tracks where the abandoned railroad used to run. In other words, the infrastructure exists for six tracks not just four. At the northern end they just have to lay tracks on the sides and put a fence for fare control. The extra space continues up to the point where the Port Washington Branch merges. Right before it merges the new subway can follow Kneeland St to 78th St and merge with the Queens Boulevard line through an existing connection that was built there for future expansion. The new subway can use the completed upper level of the Jackson Heights Roosevelt Ave Stop and then merge with the Queens Boulevard line for a short distance and then follow the F. The 63rd St tunnel is under capacity. Finally, the new subway will merge with the Second Ave Subway.

    This route eliminates many problems with the proposed one.

  9. PegLegGuy says:

    .
    .
    Right Control, reconnect to the LIRR.

    .

  10. Control says:

    RE: the Queens blvd connection. There are only bellmouths & underjump in the Queens blvd. subway tunnel – you would still need to build 4 blocks of new tunnel to connect the two routes in rego park. That would cost a ton of money. I’ve heard loads of rumors over the years about the 4 block tunnel being in place, but I have seen zero evidence of it. I’ve been to white pot dozens of times and have inspected the subway tunnel myself. The bellmouths in the subway end at solid concrete walls (very much like the bellmouths south of whitehall, etc. This subway connection would require extremely expensive new tunnel construction. Period.

    It’s fun to dream of what *could* be built, but what is realistic? 4 blocks of tunnel these days would cost how many billion dollars? Remember when they connected Queens blvd to the 63rd street tunnel? How much did that cost? How long did it take? That was a very small connection in a non-residential neighborhood. Can you imagine the actual protests from rego park residents that would explode if anyone seriously proposed building a tunnel through the neighborhood (and potentially needing to take down apartment buildings to fit it in)? This is fantasy. It will never, ever happen.

    The LIRR connections are literally just a matter of putting in new switches – all on property that the MTA already owns.

    These politicians don’t want to spend money anywhere that they can’t justify the cost via increased property tax value. They don’t want to spend anywhere that their real estate developer friends aren’t pushing them for. No one is going to spend billions hooking up the RBB tracks to the subway. They *might* with enough pressure, be willing to reconnect the tracks to the LIRR though – because the cost would be substantially less. I think this is literally the only way the RBB will ever see another train again.

  11. StonedSnake69 says:

    If you go the LIRR route then you have the issue of pricing. No one is really gonna want to pay 4.25 just to go a few stops. You would to make that route have the same price system as the subway or change the city ticket program in general (which I think should be done). Why pay 4.25 if your going to Forest Hills from Penn right?

  12. Control says:

    I wonder about the pricing stonesnake69 – it’s expensive compared to other routes, but the time savings might be worth it to many. Like express buses and uber. It wouldn’t be my first choice, but if you’re making a decent hourly rate, shaving a lot of time off your commute could add up to a few hours per week that you could spend making more money, or doing something else. I know a guy in forest hills that goes to penn via lirr on the weekends since it’s faster (and the E is usually screwed up).

  13. VBarbour says:

    Reactivation is not universally an acceptable solution. Let’s be clear. People who have moved to the communities covered by this line knowingly moved in without it functioning. Now we have the MTA/DOT trying to implement an ill advised SBS plan virtually alongside this right of way wit a price tag of anywhere between $200 and $400 million. What would make anyone believe this would be easily and efficiently reactivated?

  14. Control says:

    No one gets to move in and expect nothing to ever change. This is NYC. It has been evolving since the moment it was settled.

    If you don’t understand why or how it could be easily and efficiently reactivated you haven’t read enough. All of the answers are in posts on this site.

    I agree though that SBS plan is 200% insane. The price tag makes no sense and it would only make traffic worse.

  15. Joe Versaggi says:

    This is a situation of you get what you pay for in capital.

    As a LIRR service, allegedly easier to build, current LIRR Zone 1 fares are far above the current MTA Express bus fares. Don’t assume MTA would fall back and charge “City Fare”. No one but JFK airport users on business expense accounts will pay that, and certainly not working class folks in Parkside, Woodhaven, or Ozone Park. LIRR would be hard pressed to fill 2 and 4 car trains twice an hour, which they do not operate, which means they wouldn’t be worthy of slots into Manhattan, whether it be NYP or GCT. So it at best becomes a backwater Hunterspoint Avenue service.
    As a branch off the Queens IND, the locals are not run to capacity. So divert the M or R trains from 71st Avenue and send to Rockaway Park in lieu of the (S) Rockaway Park shuttle. Forget about the G train extension. Yes, 4 blocks of tunneling would end up costing a billion dollars.

    Do not overlook 54 years of thousands of serious tree trunk incursions into the embankment. Every one of them has to be removed and filled in, or there is risk of sink holes over the next few decades as they rot below the surface. Figure a billion dollars for that, and to fix serious deterioration of the concrete viaduct in Ozone Park.

  16. Bad Guy Joe says:

    I think you might assume that the population of the area won’t change. Neighborhoods that were never appealing to new city residents have gentrified. There are people willing to pay more money for a comfortable ride. I don’t see those queens blvd locals staying below capacity for long. 10 years ago, Astoria line trains were below capacity – today you can barely fit on at rush hour. As people are priced out of western Queens and Brooklyn, many are going to move east into areas such as the ones along this ROW – where transit options are already bad. Increasingly, this area is going to need a real transit solution, and this is the only available ROW to build one.

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    Joseph Anastasio

    Design & History nerd, open space & infrastructure advocate. 
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