Rockaway Freeway runs beneath an elevated train. A road diet more than a decade ago narrowed the street to one lane in each direction, cutting down on crashes. But poor visibility around the concrete elevated structure is still a problem, and there isn’t enough safe space to walk or bike. People are stuck using either narrow, crumbling sidewalks or striped areas in the roadway next to moving car traffic.
“This corridor wasn’t designed as a roadway. It was designed as an elevated railway,” said Jeanne Dupont, executive director of the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance. In fact, some sections of the street have already been demapped, handing ownership from DOT to other city agencies or private developers.
“There’s sidewalk on the north side pretty much the whole length. On the south side, it is spotty,” said Community Board 14 district manager Jonathan Gaska. “You do see people every now and then walking in the striped area, and the occasional cyclist.”
Clearly the status quo is far from ideal, but the community board’s idea of how to fix it would make it tougher to implement the walking and biking improvements that the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance envisions.
Gaska said the long-term plan is to widen Rockaway Beach Boulevard, which runs parallel to the elevated train and turns into Edgemere Avenue. Then, sections of Rockaway Freeway would be converted to parking. “During the summer, traffic is insane, especially going east and west… That’s a big concern here, and parking is a nightmare in the summer, especially on the weekends,” he said. “Cars are very important for the residents here, and we keep that in mind.”