May 18, 2016 Staff Report
Some of the names behind the push for a new streetcar system between Queens and Brooklyn will sound familiar to western Queens residents, due to major projects they are developing here.
The Friend of the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX) – which has been working on the Connector plan since 2014 – has released its board of directors list (online here).
That list includes some big players in Astoria and Long Island City development.
Tishman Speyer is represented on the Friends of the BQX board by public affairs managing director Michelle Adams, who is also a member of the Long Island City Partnership board. Tishman Speyer is the developer behind 2 Gotham Center at Queens Plaza South and 28th Street and is also working on a two-tower commercial building next door.
Jordan Barowitz of the Durst Organization, which is developing the Hallets Point megaproject on the Astoria Waterfront, also sits on the BQX board. The $1 billion project involves more than 2,000 units of housing, plus a supermarket and a school. The development broke ground in January.
Mayor Bill de Blasio formally announced the plan for the $2.5 billion streetcar project in February. It would run from Astoria to Long Island City and down to Sunset Park, Brooklyn, with 30 stops about half a mile apart from one another.
A number of other western Queens commercial stakeholders are represented on the BQX board.
These include Tom Grech, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce; Jukay Hsu, founder of the Coalition for Queens; Elizabeth Lusskin, president and executive director of the Long Island City Partnership; and Bishop Mitchell Taylor, CEO of Urban Upbound.
At a community meeting last week in Astoria, the City Economic Development Corporation said the Connector could carry twice as many riders as buses and would serve 15 million riders annually.
However, locals at that meeting expressed concerns about the project’s price tag and the development it could spark in an already overcrowded area.
The next BQX community meeting will take place tomorrow in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
The Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector board is headed by Ya-Ting Liu, a transit and environmental justice advocate who was previously a director at the New York League of Conservation Voters.
Two former MTA chairs, Joe Lhota and Jay Walder, also sit on the board, as does Transportation Alternatives executive director Paul Steely-White.