Sunset Park-to-Queens streetcar plans deliver excitement and concerns

streetcar

At a meeting on Wednesday addressing the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (aka the de Blasio Streetcar) Councilman Antonio Reynoso proposed Bedford Ave be closed to traffic to encourage more visitors to the area. (Not that we need any more.)

The bustling thoroughfare Bedford Avenue could be turned into a pedestrian plaza and a right-of-way for the proposed streetcar, a city councilman suggested at a Wednesday night.

“How about we shut Bedford down and make it a plaza,” said Councilman Antonio Reynoso who represents Williamsburg and parts of Bushwick. “The businesses would love it, it would be a destination.”

The remarks came at a community meeting Wednesday night, the third of its kind to be held in neighborhoods along the route of the Brooklyn-Queens Connector. The 16-mile streetcar plan, backed by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office and waterfront real estate developers, would connect Sunset Park to Astoria… Williamsburg residents who gathered Wednesday hoped the streetcar would connect to local subway lines, would be handicapped accessible and that jobs created during construction would go to locals.

Others said they would use the streetcar to travel to Long Island City to shop or to other destinations along the water.

“I would definitely be taking the streetcar to downtown Brooklyn,” said Pedro Valdez, 24. “The B62 bus is unreliable. Sometimes I have to take two transfers. [It takes] at least 45 minutes.”

With a legitimate need for more transit options in the area — the G and the L aren’t cutting it — most residents are excited by the prospect of the streetcar. Still, the plan has its critics. Many wonder why more remote parts of Brooklyn are not being serviced with increased public transportation, while others worry that the streetcar will displace locals:

The city’s planned Sunset Park-to-Queens streetcar could be a one-way ticket out of Williamsburg for low-income residents, locals said at a public forum about the trolley on Wednesday night.

The system is expected to raise property values along the route — that’s how the city says it will pay for the $2.5 billion tram — and one housing activist wondered if the two dozen locals who gathered at the First Spanish Presbyterian Church will even be able to afford to live there when the streetcar opens in 2024.

“If property values go up, it displaces a lot of residents because landlords want to move tenants out to capitalize on the economic growth of the community,” said Ausar Burke of Churches United for Fair Housing. “We feel that’s not fair to the people already living there, it moves a lot of people out of the community.”

The city plans to use the expected increase in property taxes to foot most of the bill for the streetcar — a plan first pitched by the very developers who have properties along the line and stand to benefit the most from it.

Critics argue that it is more of an amenity for their buildings than a mass transit system designed to get Brooklynites around — especially when it will run along the waterfront, where the city about to launch a new ferry service, while farther-flung parts of the borough remain true transit desserts.

But one participant, who spent the last few years working for the Navy Yard said he saw it differently — the streetcar is a chance to connect commercial and manufacturing hubs in Sunset Park, Red Hook, and Fort Greene, he argued.

“One criticism is that it won’t support the whole outer borough — that it’s only supporting the rich and sexy waterfront, there’s truth to that, but I look at it from a manufacturing background,” Brooklyn Law School grad Dan Chertok said. “The Navy Yard, Sunset Park are huge manufacturing hubs and if you have the opportunity to connect to them, it’s better for the city, it means more jobs, and hopefully this thing grows and there’s trolleys throughout Brooklyn.”

Comments

  1. Peter Gaffney says:

    It would be nice if the DOT and MTA put thought into this and fixed the existing traffic flow first. NYC needs to look at realistic solutions for commuters. How about we start with cleaning the existing buses and painting and cleaning subway platforms, while monitoring existing infrastructure to grow and develop appropriate traffic patterns before putting a tram that disrupts the everyday lives of NYC commuters. This could be easily tested with a bus system and blocked off weekend street fares to see if it even makes sense before committing to it long term. 200k+ commuters are now displaced w/ the L and putting a tram between BK and Queens isn’t going to solve anything as the routes are irrelevant to those going into Manhattan. Bedford is a already a mini-Paris and they should study the traffic patterns on the streets and shoreline before putting a tram in place. Trolleys used to exist between Queens and Brooklyn and they need to understand how to do this right with due diligence before implementing something that causes more problems for existing NYC traffic patterns.

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