A waterfront light rail could be in Sunset Park’s future

January 21, 2016 Jaime DeJesus
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Could a new ticket to ride be in Sunset Park’s future?

Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector — a nonprofit organization consisting of individuals in real estate firms, other businesspeople and transit experts — has done a study that proposes a light rail route to stretch along the waterfront for 17 miles between Sunset Park and Astoria, Queens.

As envisioned by the advocacy group, the line would connect to 10 other neighborhoods along the way as well as the already mass-transit-accessible Barclays Center, according to The Daily News, which broke the story.

The Daily News reported that the study had concluded that the streetcars would accommodate an estimated 15.8 million passengers by 2035 under the plan.

Some members of the organization believe that the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) shouldn’t be the only answer for straphangers.

“Too much of the city is underserved by our transit system, and we need to be looking at ideas like this to create a 21st century network,” said Jill Eisenhard, founder and executive director of Red Hook Initiative and also a member of Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector, in a statement.

Red Hook is arguably one of the city’s least accessible neighborhoods, unserved by the subway, with only a handful of entrance and exit points, and cut off from the rest of Brooklyn by the BQE.

According to The Daily News, the study estimates construction of a Brooklyn Queens Connector would cost $1.7 billion, not counting the $26 million it would cost annually per year to maintain the rail.

Some Sunset Park residents are receptive to the idea of the ambitious alternative.

“With all the questions regarding the closures on the R and N lines, an alternative such as this sounds like it could be really convenient, but I’d like to learn more about it,” said resident Carmen Oyola.

Others aren’t as optimistic.

“The price tag seems outrageous and I think it’s unlikely to happen,” said Sunset resident Juan Acosta. “I also feel that this move would further lead to the growing fear of gentrification.”

Sunset Park’s Industry City, which continues to grow in its retail spaces and services, would benefit as the commute there isn’t ideal for non-drivers.

Along with convenience for riders, some people believe the proposal would include additional benefits for the community, such as local employment. “They have the potential to bring lots of new jobs to Brooklyn waterfront neighborhoods,” investor Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures and another member of the nonprofit told this paper.

Other notable members of the Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector include Helena Durst of the Durst Organization, a real estate firm, and Doug Steiner of Steiner Studios.

Wiley Norvell, a spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio, said that the proposal could be a viable one in future years despite the hefty cost. “We’re always open to new ideas that can help build the 21st century transportation system New Yorkers deserve,” he told The Daily News.

Photo courtesy of  Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector
Photo courtesy of Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector via the New York Daily News

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