Wrinkles in BQX project as review process is delayed, president of support group steps down

January 3, 2018 Jaime DeJesus
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The Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX) project reportedly has missed a deadline to start its public review process, which was slated to begin at the end of 2017.

According to Crain’s, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) now plans to begin the public review process for the $2.8 billion proposed streetcar project that would stretch along the waterfront for 16 miles between Sunset Park and Astoria, Queens early this year.

“The BQX will dramatically increase opportunity for the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers along the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront who are clamoring for better access to jobs, education, healthcare and recreation,” wrote a spokesperson for the Friends of BQX, the group that has been promoting the project, to this paper. “We’re optimistic that the project will take significant, concrete strides forward in 2018.”

 “The BQX would be a multi-billion dollar investment bringing a modern and efficient transit option to communities along the waterfront,” added Senior Vice President for Public Affairs for the NYCEDC Anthony Hogrebe, also in a statement, when this paper asked for comment. “We’re willing to take the time necessary for a thorough analysis to make sure it gets done right.”

The missed deadline occurred roughly in conjunction with a changing of the guard at the top of Friends of the BQX. Indeed, just two weeks after the first-ever life-size prototype of a light rail car for the BQX was unveiled with great fanfare at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the group’s Executive Director Ya-Ting Liu stepped down on Friday, December 1.

Deputy Director Jessica Schumer has since served as interim executive director and will continue in that post “until the position is filled,” according to the Friends of BQX. The Friends of BQX website states that Schumer had worked at Hillary for America where she served as policy advisor for vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine. Prior to that, she was one of the two drafters of the 2016 Democratic platform.

“As a seasoned transit advocate, Ya-Ting’s primary goals were to building a robust coalition of supporters and future riders, all of whom believe in a more equitable transit system that reflects the needs of neighborhoods from Sunset Park to Astoria,” said a spokesperson for the Friends of the BQX in a statement. “We’re proud to say she accomplished just that. During her tenure, she built a diverse board of directors and more than 200 organizations endorsed the project, including the Transit Workers Union. And in the last several weeks, hundreds of those supporters turned out at our prototype unveiling and nearly 3,700 NYCHA residents signed petitions in the support of the project.”


Ya-Ting Liu

“Ya-Ting’s passion and drive helped make this all possible. Just as importantly, her tenure has laid the groundwork for our continued advocacy in the months to come as work on the project begins,” the statement also read.

Liu, who spent three years at the New York League of Conservation Voters working on the city’s sustainability policy, including transportation, started with the group in mid-2016.

“It has been a start-up environment,” Liu told this paper during the summer of 2016. “It’s taken us a while to try to build up infrastructure, and we have been immediately engaging our board members and our network to publicize and let as many residents and groups know about the city’s community visioning sessions we’ve been doing.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who originally unveiled the BQX initiative, continues to support the ambitious project.

“I proposed it. I said I want the most transportation I can get in the city,” he said in a town hall in the Sunset Park area on Thursday, December 14. “NYC Ferry started the last two years out of scratch. It didn’t exist. We created a whole new approach. You have it in a lot of places and it’s going to keep growing in the city. We need that. The subways are overcrowded.”

De Blasio also referenced other cities where light rail has succeeded. “Look at cities all over the country,” he said. “Light rail can be added to communities. New subways can’t.  Look how long the Second Avenue subway took. It took decades and decades to add a small amount more. If we’re going to add more transportation, light rail is part of it in my opinion.”

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