Photo courtesy of Friends of the BQX
With the unveiling of its inaugural prototype last fall, things were looking up for the Brooklyn Queens Connector (BQX) streetcar, a proposed light-rail trolley that would run 16-miles along the East River between the two boroughs. The Friends of the BQX even held an event to show off the ultra-sleek, 46-foot long prototype car. However, studies into the project’s construction feasibility, as well as its ability to pay for itself, are still underway, according to the Daily News. At an event at NYU, Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen said the administration is still determining the project’s ability to be self-funding.
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Photo of Fairway on the Red Hook waterfront, via CityRealty
The story of Red Hook is ripe for a movie-rights bidding war. In the past, there were mobsters and maritime ports, hurricanes and housing developments. Now there are politicians and developers fighting to rebuild and locals fighting back. In the end, what will happen to Red Hook is unknown but none of the massive proposals will happen in the near future. It is a small community in a big city that is tackling the issue many neighborhoods have dealt with in the past – how to grow.
After the massive Hurricane Sandy rebuilding effort, there is a very solid and passionate local population and a growing cluster of cool restaurants, retailers, and artists attracted to the area. That coupled with the recent political attention by Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio and the developers drooling over the possibilities of the 130 acres of land ripe for redevelopment (that’s six times the size of the $25 billion Hudson Yards development) make Red Hook very newsworthy.
Transportation, development, and more
Photo courtesy of Friends of the BQX
A group of public officials and advocates joined the Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector (BQX) today to unveil the inaugural prototype of the streetcar proposed to run between Astoria and Sunset Park. First backed by Mayor Bill de Blasio in February 2016, the BQX project, expected to cost $2.5 billion, would connect Brooklyn and Queens along the East River. Despite significant setbacks, including a bleak assessment about the finances and logistics of the project from Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen in April, BQX supporters are urging the de Blasio administration to make the project a priority during his second term.
See the streetcar
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.
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Although Mayor de Blasio’s proposed BQX project, which would connect the Brooklyn and Queens waterfronts via streetcar, received praise from many, finding money to fund it may be tougher than expected. Earlier this month, a leaked memo obtained by the Daily News laid out a tough assessment of the construction logistics and financial problems facing the project. And while the mayor admitted last week that his plan for the BQX to be self-funded through tax revenue from higher real estate values may not pan out, an article 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.
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After working for decades advocating for transit equity and environmental justice at various organizations, Ya-Ting Liu came on board as the Executive Director of Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector. It’s been almost a year since the non-profit advocacy group first released a proposal for a streetcar to run along the borough’s waterfront, and since that time the city has stepped in to back the estimated $2.5 billion project, even appointing a director and creating preliminary maps of the streetcar’s possible routes. As one of several transportation undertakings on the table, the BQX certainly has a big year ahead. 6sqft recently sat down with Ya-Ting To get the scoop on what’s to come, as well as some insider thoughts on the streetcar’s common misconceptions.
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Rendering of the streetcar on Berry Street in Williamsburg
When the plan for a streetcar from Brooklyn to Queens was officially announced by the city in February, we knew that the $2.5 billion line would run 16 miles along the East River, from Astoria to Sunset Park, but the exact routes have remained a mystery, up until now. The Times reports that yesterday the city released a 25-page report that outlines these key details, as well as how the streetcar would traverse bridges to cross Newtown Creek and the Gowanus Canal and more logistical details. It also includes maps for the various routes through each neighborhood with a list of pros and cons (road width, proximity to existing subway stations, street and pedestrian traffic) for each possible street.
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When the Mayor officially endorsed the plan for a Brooklyn-Queens streetcar, the estimated cost to realize the project was pinned at $2.5 billion. Since then there have been plenty of purported roadblocks that some believe could balloon costs further, such as the claims that the 16-mile streetcar route would run entirely through flood zones and require two new bridges. But the latest comes via Crain’s, who reports that the necessary train yard/maintenance facility for the cars may be the size of an entire city block and cost $100 million, which only adds to concerns that the Brooklyn Queens Connector (BQX) may become more of an economic burden than the city can take on. While that may or not be so, proponents maintain that the cars are absolutely necessary. Not only are a number of areas along the BQX’s proposed routes underserved by existing transit, but with all of the new office and residential developments planned for Brooklyn’s waterfront, the fact is, adding additional transit is a necessity, not an option.
More details on the train yard and share your opinion
The Post is calling him the “Canadian Anthony Weiner,” and it’s just been announced that he’s the new Director of the Brooklyn-Queens Streetcar. Adam Giambrone ran for mayor of Toronto in 2010, but had to drop out after leaked text messages ousted him in an affair with a 19-year-old college student.
Sex scandal aside, the 39-year-old is a former Toronto city councilor, a position that allowed him to chair the Toronto Transit Commission from 2006 to 2010. During that time, he advocated for a network of suburban streetcars called Transit City. It was shot down by Mayor Rob Ford, but construction has since begun on portions of it. According to NY Mag, Giambrone then went on to serve as a traveling light-rail expert in Montreal and Milwaukee.
What will he be doing here in NYC?
Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector launched a brand new website yesterday, revealing not only more images of how the streetcar could fit in with the various neighborhoods it would serve, but also the names of the developers, transportation experts and civic organizers involved in pushing the lightrail project forward. As listed on the site, members of the advocacy group include former MTA head and mayoral candidate Joe Lhota, big names hailing from the likes of Tishman Speyer, Steiner Studios and Two Trees Development, and a number of local groups, including the Fifth Avenue Committee, Industry City and DUMBO BID. According to DNA Info, over the next 16 months, the committee will attempt to get additional neighborhood groups and residents along the streetcar’s 16-mile route involved in the city’s public planning process, which in turn should drive more support and funding.
More photos of the Connector this way