Brooklyn-Queens Connector advocacy makes stop in Williamsburg

Friends of the BQX Executive Director Makes Presentation to Greenpoint Chamber of Commerce

December 12, 2016 By Andy Katz Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Greenpoint Chamber of Commerce board member and East River Ferry Vice President of Creative Marketing Paul Samulski. Eagle photos by Andy Katz
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Like the Little Engine That Could, proposals for the Brooklyn-Queens Connector streetcar (BQX) continue to gather steam, building momentum in news and feature articles, op-ed pieces, artists’ renditions and residential surveys.  It has become one of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s signature projects and has garnered support from many other elected officials, relevant business improvement organizations, community groups and cultural institutions.

The nonprofit 501 (C3) organization Friends of the Brooklyn-Queens Connector, founded in 2014, recently hired its first full-time Executive Director, Ya-Ting Liu. She recently paid a visit to Williamsburg to present the BQX to members of the Greenpoint Chamber of Commerce.

Prior to Liu’s presentation, Greenpoint Chamber of Commerce Chair Elaine Brodsky introduced the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce’s incoming President Andrew Hoan. Hoan wasted no time sharing his enthusiasm for the BQX project: “This is a piece of infrastructure that will serve residents, businesses, not-for-profits — move New Yorkers in ways not possible before,” Hoan declared.  “We will support this project — it’s incredible for Brooklyn, incredible for New York. It’s a whole new way of doing business!”

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Liu opened her presentation with a description of the East River waterfront: “This is the new economic spine, the new cultural and educational spine of New York City,” she began. “This new economic and cultural spine deserves a world class service.”  

As proposed, the BQX would run 16 miles from Astoria, Queens to Sunset Park. Streetcars would operate 24 hours, seven days a week. During peak hours, stops would be made every five minutes, each car holding up to 170 riders, with an estimated maximum capacity of 52,000 riders per day.

According to a 2015 rapid assessment by the NYC Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and the Department of Transportation (DOT), cost of construction would be in the range of $2.5 billion, an increase from an earlier study sponsored by the Friends of the BQX, which estimated costs of around $1.7 billion. The NYCEDC/DOT assessment also suggested phased implementation of the line and suggested that a proposed spur connecting to the Atlantic Avenue LIRR/MTA station would needlessly complicate the plan.

Otherwise, the NYCEDC/DOT assessment was in broad agreement with the Friends of the BQX feasibility conclusions.

On the other side of the ledger, Friends of the BQX propose that implementation will bring some $25 billion in economic development to the waterfront in the form of construction and local business reinvestment — some 28,000 construction jobs alone are predicted.

“If you look at a subway map,” Liu explained, “You see these great, gaping holes. New York City’s subway system was designed more than a century ago with Manhattan in mind.”

The once-thriving East River waterfront collapsed economically as heavy manufacturing abandoned the region in the post-war era. Two key waterways, the Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek, became among the most polluted bodies of water in North America and crime followed the infrastructure neglect.

In the late ’90s, soaring Manhattan rents drew people back across the river just as crime and decay had once driven them the other way. Gentrification revived old industrial blocks as Brooklyn became one of the hottest real estate markets in the country.

Accessibility to transportation is one of the key factors driving rents and housing prices, rendering the BQX a double-edged sword for some residents. As reported in The New York Times and Gothamist, some who live along the proposed line, in Sunset Park and Red Hook especially, fear the BQX will simply raise prices and drive them out of their neighborhoods. But others see the new plan as a solution to navigating through areas of Brooklyn that lack connecting subway lines, forcing residents to endure slow bus routes and traffic.

Judging by the applause Liu’s presentation received in Williamsburg after her presentation, the BQX is building a momentum that could carry it all the way from conception to completion.


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