2002-01-16 / Front Page

Marshall Favors Willets Pt. Route To LaGuardia Over 31st St.

Marshall Favors Willets Pt. Route To LaGuardia Over 31st St.

by john toscano

In her first appearance before a local civic organization as Queens Borough President, Helen Marshall told the Astoria Ditmars Homeowners & Tenants Civic Association that she preferred a Willets Point route for the train to LaGuardia Airport rather than running the N train through established residential neighborhoods.

One of those neighborhoods is Astoria. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has proposed running the N train north along 31st Street from Ditmars Boulevard to 20th Avenue then east to the airport. The community is vigorously opposed to building an elevated line for that route, ruining an established residential neighborhood in the process.

Last Tuesday night, Marshall also said she opposes building an Olympic Village at Queens West in Hunters Point and tearing up major portions of Flushing Meadows–Corona Park to build a boating facility for the 2012 summer Olympics should the games be held in New York City.

Marshall’s stance in opposition to the Olympic Games proposals agrees with that of her predeccessor, Claire Shulman.

Marshall also reviewed some of the items she views as priorities for her first year in office, such as adding more school seats and building affordable housing, developing the economy wherever possible in the borough, improving health care and senior benefits, creating a Queens General Assembly "to enhance the exchange between people of diverse origins," and assuring that power companies follow through with promises to reduce emissions and pollution.

However, it was Marshall’s position on LaGuardia rail access that created the biggest stir at the meeting.

In pushing for access to the airport, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Shulman always cited the simplicity and low cost of merely extending the N train from its terminus at 31st Street near Ditmars Boulevard by continuing the route along 31st Street.

The MTA has appeared to favor this plan too, but local officials and store owners and residents along the route are strongly opposed to it.

Addressing the subject, Marshall opened by saying, "It is clear we can and must protect the integrity of our neighborhoods, but we can still improve service to the airport and maintain LaGuardia’s vital economic role in our borough."

Continuing, the new borough president said, that running the N train through established residential neighborhoods obviously is not the answer to the airport access route dilemma.

"There are excellent opportunities to create a viable public transportation alternative without hurting our neighborhoods," she stated. "One excellent alternative is to create a spur on the Number 7 line at Willets Point."

In support of this alternative Marshall noted, "Developing the Willets Point area has long been a component of our borough’s plans for growth."

The former East Elmhurst City Councilmember pointed out that Long Island Rail Road service is already on the sites, as is ample space for construction and new business. For years, local residents and public officials have called for changes. Replacing the auto junk yards which have been at Willets Point for many years is also eagerly sought.

Marshall concluded: "A Willets Point-to-LaGuardia line is a wonderful opportunity for the city and state to reinvigorate travel and build our economy."

Under such a plan, travel to and from LaGuardia by subway would be direct from Manhattan via the Number 7 train.

Regarding the 2012 Olympics, Marshall said "On the surface, the economic investment, the tourism and overall interest in Queens can be overwhelmingly positive."

But, she said, she was disappointed in plans for an Olympic Village on the Queens West development site that would house 15,000 Olympic athletes. This is part of the plan proposed by the NYC 2012 Committee, which was headed by Dan Doctoroff, now appointed city Deputy Mayor for Economic Development by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Marshall stated "There are better sites in Queens for the Olympics." she said the Sunnyside Rail yards had been proposed for the Olympic Village and parts of Flushing Bay for water events. "These are logical, workable sites with ample road and rail access," she declared.

As with her opposition to the 31st Street route for the N train extension to LaGuardia, Marshall said she opposed the Olympics proposals because the integrity of Queens neighborhoods can and should be protected. "We need to remember our long-term goals go well beyond 2012 and our short term goals include a high quality of life for our neighborhoods," she said.

Discussing schools and housing, Marshall stated, "A reasonable quality of life begins with good homes and good schools, and I want to make sure that our school board and our developers understand this and work with us to ensure a basic standard of living for all."

Marshall said she wanted to continue economic development along the lines of the models of Long Island City and the thriving 82nd Street Business Improvement District in Jackson Heights, and to encourage more investment such as that seen in Jamaica in the past decade. This development must occur in emerging neighborhoods as well as established areas, Marshall said.

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