Mayor elaborates on Brooklyn Queens Connector at Red Hook Houses

Plans for a streetcar that stretches along the waterfront for 16 miles between Sunset Park and Astoria, Queens are riding along.

Mayor Bill de Blasio was at NYCHA’s Red Hook Houses, 604 Clinton Street, on Tuesday, February 16 to reveal further details regarding the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX), a plan that he officially revealed during his State of the City Address earlier this month. The mayor was joined by several elected officials and civic groups in support of the massive proposal that could be in operation by 2024.

“People in neighborhoods like Red Hook haven’t had the quality transit they need and deserve,” said de Blasio. “This new service means opportunity for those families, and it’s also going to strengthen communities up and down the waterfront. Anyone can see the enormous growth happening here – it’s time we brought new transit to these neighborhoods for all those people and jobs.”

According to the mayor, the streetcar line would be self-financed and generate 28,000 jobs and over $25 billion in wages and economic activity for New Yorkers.

The BQX would run along a 16-mile corridor through Astoria, Ravenswood, Long Island City, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Brooklyn Navy Yard, DUMBO, Downtown Brooklyn, Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Red Hook, Gowanus and Sunset Park. The BQX fare would be the same as a single ride on New York City Transit.

Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Polly Trottenberg discussed how the upgrades would affect New Yorkers.

“The BQX will provide a cost-effective transportation option for neighborhoods all along the East River that will also spur economic development and more vibrant communities for all New Yorkers,” she said.

Under the proposal, the streetcar would be capable of serving almost 50,000 passengers per day, which would make it one of the biggest urban streetcar systems in the nation. Speed would also play a major factor. Passengers would be able to travel from Queensbridge Houses to the Brooklyn Navy Yard in just 27 minutes and from Red Hook Houses to DUMBO in 20 minutes.

“In a 21st century Brooklyn, we need 21st century transportation solutions to meet the historic challenges that have faced underserved communities,” said Borough President Eric Adams. “The Brooklyn Queens Connector, like Bus Rapid Transit and the Utica Avenue subway line, is an innovative and laudable project that fits into our shared vision for a better connected borough and city.”

Assemblymember Felix Ortiz added that the proposal would benefit both Red Hook and Sunset Park for several reasons.

“While job creation and economic development opportunities along the Brooklyn Queens waterfront have expanded in recent years – including large parts of my district in Sunset Park and Red Hook – our century old transportation infrastructure has failed to keep pace,” he said. “If we hope to make our waterfront a true ‘Corridor of Innovation’ for New York City, we must invest in visionary, transformative new transportation options. The Brooklyn Queens Connector fits that bill.”

However, not everyone is optimistic that communities will benefit from the mayor’s proposal, including Elizabeth Yeampierre, executive director of UPROSE, an environmental advocacy group based in Sunset Park.  “We have real questions regarding the streetcar’s financing, affordability, and displacement impacts on working class residents and industrial businesses along the waterfront,” she said. “Further, as a member of the Mayor’s Sustainability Advisory Board, it is curious that I was offered no opportunity to weigh in.”

According to de Blasio, the preliminary estimate for the purchase and installation of the system is approximately $2.5 billion. The city would raise capital through the creation of a non-profit with the authority to issue tax-exempt bonds. It is also expected to pay off this debt by capturing a percentage of the increase in values of existing and new development along the corridor.

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