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Anti-BQX documentary to screen in Astoria on Oct. 25, Q & A with filmmakers, activists, to follow

Rendering of the BQX at Queens Plaza

Oct. 23, 2017 By Nathaly Pesantez

A documentary that claims the city’s proposed Brooklyn-Queens light rail connector is a road to gentrification will be screened in Astoria on Wednesday.

The short documentary, titled “Gentrification Express: Breaking Down the BQX”, will be shown at the Greater Astoria Historical Society, located at 35-20 Broadway, at 6:30 p.m on Oct. 25. The film, just over 17 minutes, was made by filmmakers Amanda Katz and Samantha Farinella, who will be in attendance and will answer questions about the film.

The documentary looks at Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan, released February 2016, to bring a streetcar through a 16-mile stretch by the Brooklyn and Queens waterfronts. The rail system, which would go through several neighborhoods, including Astoria, Long Island City and Greenpoint, and all the way down to Sunset Park, is seen by the filmmakers as a dishonest attempt to alleviate the city’s overburdened transit system. They say the BQX  just serves the interests of the real estate industry.

“What’s so gross about this project [BQX] is the way it’s being sold,” Katz, a 26-year-old graduate student at Hunter College, said. Katz said the “slick” advertisement and promotion of the BQX as a job stimulator and a boon for low income residents, among other outcomes, were the impetus to begin to research and read between the lines of the proposal.

Proposed route

The film includes the opinions of urban planners and local activists, who claim that the developers steadily building along the BQX’s planned route have donated money to de Blasio. Concerns of actual construction costs of the project, currently estimated at $2.5 billion, are also addressed in the film, with Samuel Stein, a Hunter College Urban Studies professor, noting that the cost has been low-balled to deflect opposition. Once the plans are green-lighted costs then rise.

The BQX’s “value capture” funding model is also criticized, where increases in property taxes along the streetcar’s path will be used to pay for the rail system. The filmmakers argue that this hike will drive some longtime residents out as their housing costs go up.

“I don’t know how de Blasio wouldn’t have thought through the outcomes,” Katz said.

The film does not feature representatives from the Friends of the BQX, the Economic Development Corporation, or de Blasio’s office. Katz said the EDC gave an introductory phone interview when the film was proposed in August 2016, but the agency eventually stopped responding.

Katz and Farinella are currently promoting the film, released August 2017, and are reaching out to local community groups to discuss the project. The Oct. 25 screening is being hosted by the Queens Anti-Gentrification project, and will also feature a screening of “Flushing Meadows Corona Park: What it’s Worth” by Queens Creative Solidarity. Queens Neighborhood United, the Coalition to Defend Corona, the Justice for All Coalition, and the Long Island City Coalition will also be in attendance. Free food and refreshments will be available at the event, which will run until 8:30 p.m.

The BQX is still in its infant stages, where groups like Friends of the BQX are holding introductory meetings in communities along the proposed route and receiving feedback from local residents. In an Oct. 18 town hall in Brooklyn, de Blasio announced that the project would likely break ground in 2020.


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I own real estate close to the route and of course this light rail is a good thing. Why would anyone be against more transportation? What is wrong with bringing more development? What is wrong with making a community more convenient to live in. The people who oppose development say that resident will be pushed out but look how many more people are living in LIC now. Isn’t that good for local businesses and restaurant? Isn’t that good for the schools which will see increased funding? Yeah some poor people might have to leave the neighborhood as taxes increase but so what, there are there are other places to move to in this country that aren’t so expensive. There is no right to be able to live in a certain place, things change people have to adapt to the new situation. If my taxes go up so much that I can no longer afford it, guess what…I’m selling and moving, simple as that. This hatred of gentrification is just stupid. What is wrong with new people coming into a neighborhood and revitalizing it? This is what progress looks like. To those who don’t like it I suggest you read the book “Who Moved My Cheese”.


build it and they will come!!
Im talking amazon of course.
you people are fools!
Amazon will need transportation for their 50,000 workers to buzz around NYC.


If they implement this, the property taxes will go up, which means we’re paying for this stupid idea. The Mayor should find some other way to fund this crap.


How could any rational person dislike this? As another poster said, this thing doesn’t even go into Manhattan. The train congestion is from the people trying to get from wherever to Manhattan. How does this help alleviate anything when it doesn’t cross the river?!?


Property taxes go up, normal commercial leases pass these onto the small retail and industrial tenants in these neighborhoods pricing them out of the market.


What is wrong with Gentrification? Yeah, let’s keep the area run down and sh*tty …. great idea.


disliking this solely based on your handle, and obvious political deficiencies. I am ok with Gentrification


We need transportation plain and simple. It doesn’t sound as if Ms. Katz. or Ms.Farinella have ever had the pleasure of ridding any of the buses or subways that service the areas of the proposed BQX route, especially at morning and evening rush hours.


The benefit does not justify the cost. This corridor can be served via ferry and does not warrant a $2.5B investment at a minimum. Since Deblasio will fill this with all union jobs we can all but guarantee the price tag will come in at least $5B. In fact I would bet it ends up costing $10B just to serve an area that could be served by ferries. I can think of many other better uses for that money.


i bet a dollar NO UNION JOBS AT ALL that is the way they want it you can take that to the bank –


There was a time and place for unions but they are out of control. Like the NRA. They no longer serve for the good of the whole. They are self serving and criminal and disgusting.


I wanted to have a party in Manhattan for my friends who could not make it to my European wedding. We finally found a place that we could almost afford when at the end they told us there would be a union fee. A what? They referred to it as a fee to open the door. Because this facility was a union facility, to work on the weekends, we had top pay $5,000 just to open the doors. Ha ha. That was the last straw. We canned the dinner completely. Then there was the time that some union was harassing a non-union restaurant by standing on the street blowing whistles for hours. In front of my office. Unbelievable. Huge union guys acting like little children. Just the other day on NY1 watching the idiot who was interviewed saying, De Blasio does nothing for unions. When asked simple questions, he could not answer. All he knew was that De Blasio wasn’t helping his union so that was it. I bet he couldn’t point out Texas on a map.


brooklynmc- Are you sure the the restaurant that was getting “harassed” by the union, in Manhattan, wasn’t the place I worked at for seven years upon my arrival in America from Ireland? The place that was stealing our tips and shorting our pay. Local 6 came into organize and got our money back. Thank local 6. Please find out the facts before bad mouthing. “unbelievable”


BrooklynMC- he is salty that his cousin the plumber lives in a mansion in CT and drives a BMW and his feelings are hurt and he hasn’t forgiven the big bad union for blowing whistles outside his office. He also complains about the price of brunch for him and his family and that he had to pay someone to patch holes in his apartment. He was going to patch them himself but he would have ruined his manicure.


-Brooklynmc: If you can’t pay a living wage to the people working your party then you haven’t arrived yet. There are plenty of banquet facilities in Brooklyn and Queens at less than half the cost of facilities in Manhattan. The second party shouldn’t eclipse the first, the main event. You sound extravagant. From the tone of your posts it sound as if you have high sense of entitlement and are blaming the people at the bottom the ones with least control, least pay and least power. You come across as a jaded elitist. You can’t throw a party because you can’t spring the bill to impress your friends so it’s the “little guys” fault, as you ignore the dozens of other components that drive up costs of holding an affair at a venue in Manhattan. Manhattan is obviously out of your reach as it is for most. Is this why you live in Queens, you can’t afford Manhattan or trendy parts of Brooklyn? It wouldn’t be you lack the ability to make the money to afford Manhattan, you’re just way too much of a narcissistic self absorbed elitist to ever believe something like that so therefore it must that over paid union employee holding you back.


@Bruno – There is no way to tell if these women have ridden our local buses or subways, please leave speculation out of this – it adds no value to your “point”. @Practicality, you are completely right – in addition, this doesn’t alleviate the transportation needs of Qns and BK residents trying to get to Manhattan, it could actually increase subway traffic on the 7 and L lines when those lines are more accessible to people connecting from this trolley. At least the ferries include stops in the city


@Yup – If they did ride the buses and subways in the areas in question they would know what the riders and city and state officials have been saying for years, we need more transportation. It’s no secret. So, they’re obviously oblivious to this fact or just ignoring it since its never mentioned. North South transportation is getting more and more important too. There are now hundreds of production studios in Greenpoint. Two of my neighbors in Astoria now commute to the Steiner Studios in the old Navy yards as do dozens new comers to Sunnyside and Woodside. Many of the new residents in Astoria,Sunnyside and Woodside who I deal with daily, very rarely go into Manhattan. They work in places like Greenpoint, Dumbo and Williamsburgh and socialize in places like Williamsburgh, Bushwick and Greenpoint. Also many from Brooklyn socialize the nightlife scene of Astoria, I know I have met hundreds at my brothers restaurant on 28th ave. There are thousands of new residents along the water front in Brooklyn and Queens,there are dozens of new schools (in the past 15 years anyway) on Thompson Avenue alone. Hundreds of new bars and restaurants have been added to these areas as well. Much of it, if not most of it is out of reach of the ferries. Zoning laws were put in place for a reason. The Board of Standards and Appeals has issued so many zoning variances that it has stifled the much of the infrastructure. It started with the over development of Downtown Flushing in the late 60’s. That overloaded the 7 train at the start of the route in Queens. Then as the industry left LIC it was replaced with new residents with very few people exiting the train at the LIC stops (33rd street, QP, 45th Road, Hunters Point and vernon Blvd.) but instead with now thousands of people looking to board the train at these stops. During the morning rush the people at these stations have to let multiple trains go by on a regular basis. When Williamsburgh was gentrifying there were groups who vilified “gentrification” even went as far as to make the young people sign affidavits that they would never move out of the neighborhood. The anti gentrification movement is nothing but racism just like it was in Williamsburgh and Bushwick, it will fail here too.


Still, you don’t know if they rode the transit in our neighborhoods, so you cannot make a comment either way. To do so is assumptive, and discredits anything else you say. Their film is to comment on The Trolley as the solution for transit needs, not transit in general – I really don’t see anyone arguing against the need for more transit, esp not on LICPOST, just that this trolley idea is stupid and expensive and wouldn’t solve the transportation need in general. @yup and @Christian – While the G train doesn’t cover much of Queens, it DOES connect to other lines that do, and DOES provide an option west of the water, which this Trolley does not. It really appears to be a carbon copy of the ferry routes… with less coverage.


Yup- Are you for real? The current G train route only makes 2 stops in Queens covering about 8 blocks..The G is now pretty crowded all the time too. That line was empty in the 70’s when I took it to Westinghouse..There are a lot of young people moving into old Astoria, Ravenswood and all the way up to Astoria Ditmars.


@pract- Yes non union right to work for less jobs is the way to go..You see the massive success ‘right to work has accomplished in the states where implemented.
List of Right to Work states Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana newly added Alabama,Arizona,Arkansas,Florida,Georgia,Idaho,Indiana,Iowa,Kansas,
Kentucky,Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska,Nevada,North Carolina,North Dakota,Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota,Tennessee Texas, Utah,Virginia, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Wyoming
List of US states by per -capita income:Connecticut,,New Jersey,Massachusetts,Maryland,New Hampshire,Virginia,New York,North Dakota,Alaska,Minnesota,Colorado,Washington,Rhode Island,Delaware,California,Illinois,Hawaii,Wyoming,Pennsylvania,Vermont
(Exact mid point)
Iowa,Wisconsin,Maine,Kansas,Oregon,Nebraska,Texas,South Dakota,Ohio,
Michigan,Florida,Missouri,Montana,North Carolina,Nevada,Arizona,Georgia
Oklahoma,Indiana,Tennessee,Utah,Louisiana,South Carolina,Idaho,Kentucky,New Mexico,Alabama,Arkansas,West Virginia and
Mississippi. The “RTW” list almost mirrors the bottom states by per- capita income. Non Union RTW keeps people poor. Fact! That’s exactly why Republicans like Mike Pence keep passing legislation to pass it. Do some research. People like you are pulling the ladder on the generation behind us. Union decline has direct correlation with income disparity and declining salaries.


Name me a project that a union has completed on time and on budget? Very few as they really have no incentive to do so. This is because the politicians love to hand out union jobs in return for the union votes. I have many friends and family who work for unions and I know EXACTLY what goes on. So please stop pretending that unions are good for the economy. They are only good economically for those that are in them and no one else. I say good economically for those in them because many of my unions family and friends dislike their jobs yet they remain due to pensions etc.. I get the political system allows this and I don’t see it changing. My point is that New York taxpayer dollars should not go towards this ill conceived plan at its current estimate which we know from prior experience will end up costing 2X – 4X more.

John John

Practicality – You don’t sound very practical. When wages are too low they hurt societies and economies especially in a consumer driven market economy that uses a progressive system of taxation to fund and sustain its education and infrastructure. There is not enough money circulating through the economy to collect for education, infrastructure, public safety services or many of the elements that make up or raise a standard of living.To bring Mac’s point a step further, just check out the statistics of the states at the bottom of the list of states by “per capita” income. Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana show statistics that rival those of third world nations in infant mortality, education and life expectancy, just to name a few. The most productive nations with the most robust economies in the world are the most unionized such as Germany, Netherlands, Australia and Canada. These facts prove your quote “so please stop pretending that unions are good for the economy.” as uninformed and just ridiculous.Untimely and costly budget over runs are not unique to “union jobs”, they’re very common in “non union jobs” as well. That is just a fact of construction just ask anyone in the business or who is had work done on a home. Do some research and educate yourself.

John J

@p-Name a non union project that finished ahead of schedule and came in under budget..You sound naive. Don’t paint all unions with one brush just like you can’t paint all companies with one brush. There are many companies caught engaging in criminal activity. What, people in non union jobs they’re unhappy with don’t stick it out for the benefits? News flash buddy, unions don’t set the estimates on the cost of a job, that estimate comes from the contractor and his team of managers. The contracting firm is a private company. You are horribly misinformed.


Practicality, I am confused by your post. Better yet you appear confused. When you said your ” friends and relatives who work for unions”, do you mean friends and family who have union jobs but work for a local union itself or a company? Are they tradesmen? Unions are not hired to do a job a contractor, a private firm is awarded the bid by a govt agency. Any job that is contracted out to a subcontractor is at risk of being deliberately extended, it’s the nature of the business. I work with outside contractors and financial consultants who sometimes engage in this behavior and they are not in unions and thre are way more independent contractors in US job market than unionized employees, just look it up. You sound angry confused and misinformed.


John John… When wages are too high it hurts the society around them. Have you not noticed the loss of industrial jobs in the US? My company has now taken away our trash cans so that we don’t have to pay for the union cleaning services at night. We now have to bring our trash to a separation area and separate it ourselves. If you can’t compete on a global level, then your jobs will go away. Period.


@brooklynmc – Your quote ” If you can’t compete on a global level, then your jobs will go away.” is just absurd. The average monthly wage in India is about $475.00 USD. Do you honestly think you can compete. LOL Fight the lies of globalization. Globalization = Slavery. You’re way too eager to put yourself neighbors and loved ones into servitude.


Union members account for about 6% of the private secotor workforce – nowhere near enough to account for the differences Mac is citing. Another example of correlation not being the same as causation. Unions do represent around 35% of the public sector workforce. Perhaps they account for the bloat, inefficiency, and cost overruns there?


@Frank, What differences are you referring to? Macs post is comparing states with Right to work legislation and per capita income. Which comment stream are you commenting to?


Frank- “Union decline has direct correlation with income disparity and declining incomes”. This statement is an indisputable fact. As union membership in the private sector dropped from its highs of the 50’s & 60’s to their current lows, the average salaries have stagnated and remain where they were in the late 70’s for the average American worker. While the very top tier has enjoyed salary increases within this time frame creating income disparity. Mac is absolutely right. Again you try to hijack a discussion with your right wing self important slant. Union employees are no lazier than non union ones.


David – go look up “correlation” and “causation”, figure out the difference, then repost.


It benefits the developers plans to make Astoria into the monster buildings that now dominate the LIC landscape. The Developers and Real Estate people are pushing his and the Ferry Service as transportation for the lack of transportation where they want to build. These Greedy Developers and Real Estate People have DumBlasio in their pockets and JVB also. Don’t help them sell out Astoria. the way hey did LIC.Vote these two out of office ASAP.


Maybe, they are building transportation options because we need them. With your attitude, the subway system would never have even been built. We need more transportation. Everyone needs it. Rich and poor.


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