The Resorts World Casino opened last year in Queens and has since seen over 20,000 visitors a day on weekdays and 50,000 a day on weekends. The success of the casino has increased ridership on the subway that services the area and its residents, according to local politicians and community activists. That increased ridership has reignited an old debate in Queens over the fate of the Rockaway Beach rail line, which has lied dormant for nearly 50 years.
On one side, some politicians and transit advocates are pushing for a reactivation of the old rail line. To them, the addition of another rail line will accomodate both the increased traffic on trains in the area while providing economic development to neighborhoods that sorely need more access to public transportation.
On the other, some community leaders want to transform the derelict rail line into a Highline-style park. With food vendors, retail opportunities and a scenic walkway, the leaders are hoping to provide an economic engine for a handful of Queens communities without having a new train barrel through residents’ backyards.
Whatever plan wins, the state of the rail line now is a dismal one. The tracks are in disrepair, and many local residents use the area as a trash dump. Some residents even report of homeless New Yorkers who find shelter in some of the abandoned rail stops. Where some parts of the old line still have tracks and remnants of infrastructure, others have been completely lost to wilderness.