Brooklyn Boro

Proposed BQX streetcar faces its first test

The City Council task force will meet May 30.

May 23, 2019 Scott Enman
A rendering of the proposed BQX streetcar runs through Downtown Brooklyn. Photo courtesy of Friends of the BQX

The proposed Brooklyn-Queens Connector streetcar will face its first major test next week when the City Council’s BQX Task Force meets to discuss the viability of the project.

The panel was formed to scrutinize the plan and make recommendations to the full City Council, whose approval is required before construction can begin on the 11-mile trolley that would run from Red Hook to Astoria.

The oversight hearing is scheduled for May 30 at 11 a.m. at City Hall and is open to the public.

The task force is made up of Brooklyn Councilmembers Carlos Menchaca, Antonio Reynoso and Stephen Levin, and Queens Councilmembers Costa Constantinides and James Van Bramer, all of whom represent districts that would host the proposed light rail line.

Red Hook’s Menchaca, chairperson of the unit, has long been skeptical of the project and has argued that the New York City Economic Development Corporation’s two-year feasibility study left many questions unanswered.

“The upcoming Task Force oversight hearing on the BQX is focused on government transparency, something that New Yorkers expect the Council to provide,” Menchaca told the Brooklyn Eagle.

“After several years and millions of dollars, the BQX report published in August still fails to answer key questions that both I and many New Yorkers have about the project — from transportation benefits to the cost to financing model.”

The councilmember has maintained that the community’s input is crucial and that the hearing will provide an opportunity to address those lingering concerns in a public setting. He pledged to ask “hard questions” so that the panel could do a “real assessment” of the value of the project.

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Friends of the BQX, a nonprofit founded to organize support for the $2.73 billion streetcar, has mounted a public petition and an advertising campaign to build support for the project. At press time, it had 337 signatures.

Jessica Schumer, executive director of Friends of the BQX, said community engagement will be crucial leading up to the city’s public review process.

“We’re glad the City Council will provide a forum for New Yorkers to hear about how the city can retake control of its transit destiny and establish an efficient and accessible option for hundreds of thousands of residents and workers along a burgeoning corridor,” Schumer told the Eagle.

Proponents of the trolley are also planning a rally at City Hall directly before the Task Force is slated to meet. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, along with NYCHA residents, will attend.

Levin said he was looking forward to hearing from all stakeholders and gathering “concrete data” so that the city can best serve the community’s interests.

“The BQX Task Force came together with the recognition that a proposal of this scale requires public transparency and input,” Levin said. “I have heard from my constituents who have questions and concerns around the project’s process, and we need to make sure we’re making fully informed decisions that meet our transportation and public access goals.”

The proposed trolley runs through Williamsburg. Rendering courtesy of the Friends of the BQX
The proposed trolley drives through Williamsburg. Rendering courtesy of Friends of the BQX

Trolley supporters organized an event on March 5 where small business owners and advocates from across the country spoke about the benefits and challenges of introducing a trolley in their respective cities.

Mayor Bill de Blasio awarded a $7.2 million contract to a consulting firm in February to study the environmental impact of the BQX.

The Environmental Impact Statement is expected to be released in September 2020. It’s required for the project to move forward in the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.

Following public hearings, the streetcar plan will go in front of the City Council.

Follow reporter Scott Enman on Twitter.

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