BQX supporters rally on steps of City Hall as massive project enters environmental review phase

They’re on board.

On May 30, a rally held on the steps of City Hall gave backers of the Brooklyn Queens Connector (BQX) a chance to voice their support for the nearly $2.8 billion streetcar project that is proposed to stretch along the waterfront for 11 miles, connecting to nine ferry landings, 13 subway routes and 30-plus bus lines.

As the project enters the environmental review phase ahead of the city’s public review process, Jessica Schumer, executive director of the Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector, was joined by elected officials, NYCHA residents association leaders from developments along the route, plus transit and environmental advocates, civic and faith leaders, small business owners, and representatives of the Building Trades Council of Greater New York and the Transit Workers Union.

“The BQX represents exactly the type of bold and visionary thinking our city needs if we are going to continue to grow equitably and increase opportunity for New Yorkers,” Schumer said. “The BQX has the potential to connect this fast-growing corridor and create a new spine of our city through affordable, accessible and efficient mass transit. We’ve worked hard to talk to New Yorkers along the route as they learn about the project and appreciate that the City Council is continuing that conversation today.”

Among the BQX’s supporters is Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who says the light rail system — which would connect Astoria, Long Island City, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Downtown Brooklyn and Red Hook — would modernize the borough’s transit system.

“The BQX has the potential to be a game-changer for Brooklyn, connecting residents throughout the borough with economic opportunities and attracting new industries to our vibrant commercial districts,” he said. “Our city deserves a 21st-century transportation network, and we have to seize every opportunity to improve mobility and close transit gaps. It is important as we move through this process to listen to the voices of community stakeholders and use their input to craft a plan that works for residents and businesses.”

The Regional Plan Association is among the organizations that support the BQX. “Our aging infrastructure and increasing capital costs continue to strain our transit system while 40 percent of New Yorkers cannot walk to a subway station,” said RPA Senior Associate Maulin Mehta. “This has caused an increase in private and for-hire vehicles clogging our streets and polluting our air. Congestion pricing will address some of these concerns, but more than half of the city’s job growth over the last 15 years has been in the outer boroughs. Surface transit ideas including light-rail projects like the BQX offer important expansion options for neighborhoods that lack transit alternatives.”

Among those areas is DUMBO. “Transit options to reach DUMBO and the emerging employment clusters in Tech Triangle are severely limited,” said Alexandra Sica, executive director of the DUMBO BID. “The York Street station is now woefully overcrowded, with one entrance that backs up at rush hour in a way that has been a deterrent for many businesses looking to locate their office in our neighborhood. We need more transit options and we need better transit options.”

Another neighborhood underserved by public transportation is Red Hook.

“The Red Hook East Houses are completely cut off from the transit grid, served only by buses and none that go to Manhattan,” said Frances Brown, president of the Red Hook Houses East’s resident association. “That’s why we are in desperate need of new solutions and there have been none better or more realistic than the BQX. We must improve our connections if we want our residents to get into better schools, better jobs, better opportunities.”

The system could boost the borough’s businesses, said David Rosen, co-founder of Brooklyn Allied Bars and Restaurants, noting, “Commute times for our most underserved neighborhoods would be dramatically reduced by the BQX while offering a world class connection to some of the best food and drink the outer boroughs have to offer.”

Carlo Scissura, president and CEO of the New York Building Congress, concurred. “The BQX would catalyze new development and retail, all the while being mindful and inclusive of the neighborhoods that have been virtually cut off from opportunity since their inception,” he said, adding, “The project will also boost the number of available jobs and expand access for many minority and women-owned businesses.”

However, not everyone is on board. Among those is Councilmember Carlos Menchaca who, back in February, cited the cost of the project and what he said was a lack of public input, in discussing his opposition.

“The city continues to spend millions of taxpayer dollars on a project with hardly any public input, and blithely insists that we should fork it over despite there being no clear plan for how to finance it and outstanding doubts about its transportation benefits,” contended the councilmember, who also said he objected to EDC having, “Made this decision to spend millions more in taxpayer dollars despite receiving careful and thoughtful questions from the Council and a request for a reply prior to further investment.”

A rendering of the BQX.

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