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Queens, New York

Rockaway Beach Branch

A desolate railway that Queens forgot may get a fancy new makeover 

New York has its fair share of abandoned train track, but this one may turn out to be something special. 

The defunct stretch of track that once carried vacationing vacationers to a little stretch of sandy heaven called Rockaway, but referred to more often as “New York’s Playground” or alternately  “Irish Riviera”. In the 1920s, rich citizens of the Big Apple would hop on the train at Whitepot Junction and breeze through Queens, ending up on the beautiful sands of the peninsula; resorts, amusement parks, and shopping just some of the many activities awaiting them. 

Sadly, the ride was over when the Long Island Railroad went belly up in 1962, and while much of the track was rerouted, a 3.5 mile stretch has sat abandoned as the wilderness of trees grew through and around it, officials at a loss at how to repurpose the line. As nature reclaims them in the growing season, dead branches and debris cover them more and more as each decade rolls by.

There have been countless attempts at a solution to the decaying space—parks, bike trails, and line reactivation have all landed on the table only to be discarded for lack of funding. While the progress has been slow and bumpy, it seems as if there may soon be a lovely solution, assuming the plan manages to come to fruition.

There’s a strong possibility that at least a section of the Rockaway Beach Branch will get a fancy repurposing like the one bestowed on the Highline in Manhattan, and become an aerial greenway. Despite grumblings from transit advocates, the American Institute of Architects held a design contest in 2013 to vet hopeful potential designers for the project. 

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