Feasibility Study to Address Streetcars or Light Rail for Brooklyn-Queens Waterfront

July 31, 2015

In the ongoing discussion of expanding the city’s mass transit options to underserved areas, we may be a step closer to addressing the need for transit along the Brooklyn and Queens waterfront–between Astoria, Red Hook and Sunset Park, according to CapitalNY. While many of those areas have transit to and from Manhattan covered, a north-west connection is needed (and relying on the G train doesn’t help much). An advisory committee comprised of developers, transportation experts and civic organizers has formed to address this need.

Recently, the consulting firm of HR&A Advisors (former employers of city planning commissioner Carl Weisbrod) was hired by the committee to study the feasibility of a streetcar service or a light rail line to connect Sunset Park to Astoria, connecting rapidly growing neighborhoods like Red Hook, Williamsburg and Downtown Brooklyn, as well as burgeoning business and industry hubs like Long Island City and the Brookyn Navy Yard.

Streetcar in the Bronx
A streetcar in the Bronx

Committee members include developers Two Trees, Regional Plan Association president Tom Wright, traffic engineer “Gridlock” Sam Schwartz and Transportation Alternatives executive director Paul Steely White, among others. Urban Planner Alex Garvin, principal of design firm AGA Public Realm Strategists, has long been a vocal advocate, citing the fact that “opportunities for new housing and development within a stone’s throw of Manhattan line the East River in Astoria and Long Island City. By creating a new light rail line in those neighborhoods, we could create an enormous opportunity for new investment.” Developers would be the obvious beneficiaries, but so would residents of the public housing projects adjacent to the Navy Yard and in Red Hook.

1930s brooklyn bmt, Brooklyn trolley map
Vintage Brooklyn trolley map

Above-ground transportation wouldn’t be an entirely new feature in Brooklyn. In the early 20th century, there were nearly 1,800 trolleys servicing neighborhoods like Greenpoint, Gowanus, Bay Ridge and beyond. By 1956 they were forced out by the auto industry, but there were attempts to revive the the system between Red Hook and downtown Brooklyn back in the ’80s and ’90s, as we reported last month.

The questions that will be more closely addressed by the newly-hired consultants include the most critical issue of how a light rail would be funded, who would operate it and what its route would be. A similar idea was recently discussed as an environment- and  tourist-friendly transit addition in the Bronx.

[Via CapitalNY]


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