Despite recent concerns, Transport Workers Union endorses BQX streetcar

Posted On Mon, June 12, 2017 By

Posted On Mon, June 12, 2017 By In Policy, Transportation

When a leaked memo about the Brooklyn Queens Connector (BQX) surfaced a couple months ago, it painted a less-than-optimistic picture of the proposed $2.5 billion streetcar due to major construction challenges and doubts that Mayor de Blasio’s plan to self-fund the project through taxes from higher real estate values would pan out. Despite these concerns, however, the Transport Workers Union Local 100 endorsed the 16-mile streetcar project today, according to a press release from Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector.

The announcement took place this morning with remarks from Frances Brown, President of Red Hook East Houses Residents Association, Ya-Ting Liu, Executive Director of Friends of the BQX, and John Samuelsen, Local 100 and TWU of America International President. According to the Daily News, Samuelson, who’s also on the board of the MTA, says the project will add several hundred well-paying jobs to the union, including streetcar operators, drivers, supervisors, and maintenance workers. He also feels it would give a boost to the local manufacturing economy if the streetcars and related equipment are made nearby.

But the endorsement doesn’t guarantee that union members will get the work for the BQX. TWU 100 spokesman Jim Gannon said, “They’ll be private sector. They could join any union or not. But we like our chances.”

 

More support came in the form of $245,000 in donations to de Blasio’s Campaign for One New York from seven developers who have projects along the streetcar’s proposed route, including Toll Brothers, Alma Realty, and Two Trees.

BQX, Brooklyn Queens Connector, Mayor de Blasio streetcar

But those who oppose the project point to the seven-page memo from February to Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, which outlined how the necessary relocation of utilities along the path from Sunset Park to Astoria, such as water mains, sewers, and power lines underground, could make the entire plan unaffordable. The document said this issue “continues to be the biggest single cost factor” that “has the possibility to make the project unaffordable and render implementation timelines unfeasible.” It also says the self-funding plan may not provide “sufficient revenue to fund the entire project as originally stated.”

In response to the memo, a recent op-ed in Crain’s “laid out an idea for the city to sell air rights in the Brooklyn Navy Yard neighborhood to raise money for the project,” as 6sqft reported. The Navy Yard has between 15 and 20 million square feet of development rights, and since it’s city-owned land, the sale of these air rights could in turn fund the BQX.

Nevertheless, the financial viability of the project won’t be fully determined until the end of the year when KPMG completes an analysis and audit.

[Via NYDN]

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