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