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City Looks to Move Forward With BQX, Neighborhood Meetings Planned

Rendering (EDC)

Jan. 12, 2020 By Kristen Torres

Mayor Bill de Blasio is moving forward with plans to construct the Brooklyn Queens Connector—a $2.7 billion, zero-emission street car that will run 11 miles along the waterfront from Astoria to Red Hook.

The city launched an official BQX website Thursday that provides details of the plan as well as an array of meeting dates in neighborhoods to be served by the proposed streetcar– including in Greenpoint, Astoria and Long Island City.

The city will be providing workshops, webinars, community board presentations, public outreach campaigns and environmental review scoping hearings. The city is taking steps that will ultimately lead to the ULURP process, the mandated city land use review process.

“With the BQX heading toward its public review process, 2020 promises to be a big year for the project,” according to a spokesperson for Friends of the BQX, an advocacy group comprised of real estate developers, transit experts and representatives of public housing.

“Engaging with those who live and work along the route is critical to the BQX’s success, and we applaud the City for putting together a robust outreach plan for the coming months…we expect that support network to keep growing,” the group spokesperson added

The city’s Economic Development Corporation is spearheading the project alongside the Department of Transportation.

The BQX is expected to serve nearly 400,000 people living along the corridor, with connections to 13 subway lines, nine Ferry landings and more than 30 bus routes. The cost for riders is expected to be the same as a MetroCard fare and there would be free transfers to subways and MTA buses.

The BQX was first announced by the de Blasio administration in 2016, and originally consisted of a 16-mile railway running from Astoria to Sunset Park with a $2.5 billion price tag.

The Sunset Park leg of the proposed route was scrapped by the EDC, with the city-backed organization citing low predicted ridership and high construction costs. The estimated price tag increased to $2.7 billion despite the shorter route.

BQX route from Astoria in Queens to Red Hook in Brooklyn

The EDC is expected to release a draft environment impact statement later this year. The agency hired an engineering firm in 2019 to conduct the study.

The proposal has been controversial since it was first announced, with opponents arguing that the new transit system would gentrify surrounding neighborhoods and add to roadway congestion.

But the city contends that the BQX is a much needed transportation link that would provide service to those residents living along the corridor who currently lack easy access to the city’s subway system.

The city needs to get federal dollars to help pay for the project. The city was initially looking to fund it entirely through a concept called value capture–a tax mechanism that uses the increased land value of nearby real estate projects to pay for it. However, revenue from value capture will not be enough.

A report on the plans for the project was last released in 2018. The city aims to start construction in 2024 and complete it by 2029.

Meeting Schedules (Click here for details)

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35 Comments

gillmoli

Running a streetcar on 21st street in Astoria? Yeah, that sounds like a good plan. And on Vernon? One of the posters above mentioned this. It’s become a nightmare, even for pedestrians. I mean, come on. It’s taking the MTA ages to fix the Manhattan bound entrance’s stairs, just think how long this will take?! No thanks.

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Merman

If this ends up anything like the LIC library project it will cost 100 billion dollars, take 45 years to complete, and the street cars will be pulled by a team of oxen.

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Artie Minsky

Regardless of what happens, a footbridge from Vernon Boulevard to Manhattan ave in Greenpoint would be most welcome. I think the leg from Williamsburg to Astoria is a bit superfluous, and will not work well with the existing traffic patterns. The leg from Red Hook to South Williamsburg seems like it would be a great way to serve some areas that don’t have proper transit right now, and the roads in Red Hook and The Navy Yard area are pretty lightly used. So maybe run it from Red Hook to the Williamsburg bridge bus plaza and leave it at that.

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Anonymous

Except a simple footbridge isn’t being proposed. Instead, they are talking about a complex structure that would be raised to allow barge traffic from the creek to to and fro the river. How they expect to design and build that bridge on time and on budget is wishful thinking, as is everything else about the BQX

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Jimbo

They should consider putting the north and southbound tracks on different, parallel streets to minimize the disruption to local traffic. Also in LIC, 11th street might be a better route since it has the width for this dual use. Generally, I think converting the Bay Ridge freight line to light rail would be a better use of resources and help people in southern BK, eastern BK and Queens get transit access when they have none. Or doing the same to the Montauk freight line to maspeth

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Real VVNY

NYC subway is bursting at the seams. Anyone can confirm this by riding NRQ, 456 or 7 line during rush hour. People cannot get onto the train because it’s so packed. If this rail line helps even a little with reducing the number of people trying to go from Queens to Brooklyn (and vice versa) through Manhattan then I don’t understand why would anyone be against it except for car drivers and the ones whose property taxes might go up as a result.

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VVNY

I am an Amazon worker from Seattle who bought real estate in LIC before it was decided that Amazon will move here. Then it was decided Amazon will not move here. I look forward to the rising property values brought by this streetcar light-rail transit tram tramway.

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VVNY

Nice use of my identity, fake “VVNY.” You assumptions about me are delusional at best. Instead of rebuking me you decided to go the route of the lowest denominator, to lie. Good for you. Don’t forget that there is someone above who knows everything about you and the truth is absolute.

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anon

I’ve read so many comments online- no one but the Mayor, and the real estate developers seem to understand why money is being wasted on this. It’s a boondoggle. There is a bus line being created along this same route.
Also, this will increase property taxes. What homeowner wants increased taxes?

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VVNY

Your logic is if the area improves the property values will go up then property taxes will go up as a consequence then we shouldn’t improve anything? Just let things remain as they are? How about not settling in the most expensive city in the world then? Everyone shouldn’t be suffering because someone’s property taxes are going up. The taxes go up because the values go up. One can sell and make a decent profit.

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Anon

The logic is that it’s a waste of BILLIONS of dollars. They can make improvements in the bus routes that already exist. How is it an improvement if it doesn’t have it’s own dedicated lane AND it increases traffic in the area. HOW is that an improvement? This whole Friends of the BQX is run by developers. That should tell you everything you need to know about who this is really for. The increase in property taxes is fine if it were actually going to help pay for something useful, which this is not.

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COCED

I’d assume that the path will be dedicated only to the tram line, without other traffic along it. Wonder if it’s really possible. The idea of connecting these two points – Astorija and Red Hook – is very enticing, with so many stops along the way. Connection between the so distant now neighborhoods would be amazingly convenient. City would be proud of the 21 century look.
On the other hand, the estimate will grow twice or three times by the time it’s completed, as usual. It will take forever to acquire the rights. And, most likely, I won’t see the ribbon cutting ceremony ))

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Anonymous

Take a look at the map of the proposed route, which runs almost entirely on jammed local streets. The drawings make the streetscape look as if it were populated by well-behaved zombie drivers and pedestrians, with none of the chaos and mayhem we all are too familiar with on Queens and Brooklyn streets. Interestingly, there are no drawings of what LIC streets would look like, presumably because even the traffic planners working on the project know what a joke it is.

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VVNY

Right, so according to your logic if things are bad we should accept them as they are and stop trying to make any improvements.

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ASensibleMan

“zero-emission street car”

There is no such thing as “zero-emission.” The emissions will come from the electric plant used the power the street car. Enviro-maniacs love using duplicitous terms like “zero-emissions,” as if this thing ran on unicorn farts. Anyway, I’ll believe this project when it happens.

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VVNY

You can filter the pollution coming out of smoke stack and the leftover pollution will be less than the pollution created by all of the vehicles it will replace combined.

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Larry Penner

There is a fatal missing $1.4 billion federal funding shortfall flaw to the recent announcement by City Hall concerning advancement of the Brooklyn Queens Street Car Connector project.  After five years, there has been no real progress in securing federal funding for the proposed Brooklyn-Queens Street Car Connector project.  In 2015, The Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector originally claimed it could be built for $1.7 billion.  In 2016, the NYC Economic Development Corporation said $2.5 billion.  Today, the estimated cost is $2.7 billion.  How many more billions might it cost upon completion?  It takes more than a simple planning feasibility study to turn it into a viable capital transportation improvement project.  There have been no completed environmental documents or design and engineering efforts necessary to validate any basic estimates for the $2.7 billion construction costs.  Awarding a $7.25 million consultant contract to perform environmental work supplements the previous $7 million feasibility study for a total of $14.25 million.  This leaves the project $2.685 billion short of funding needed for completion.  The original completion date has already slipped five years from 2024 to 2029.   It is doubtful that the Federal Transit Administration would pay for up to 50% of the cost.  Dreams of Amazon doing the same have come and gone since they canceled coming to Long Island City. There is no funding for this project in the MTA $51 billion 2020 – 2024 Five Year Capital Plan,  It remains to be seen if  this project will be included within the pending long range MTA 2020 – 2040 Capital Needs Assessment document.  This report was suppose to have been released by the end of December 2019.  Mayor Bill de Blasio has yet to request let alone been granted approval to enter the Federal Transit Administration New Starts process for future funding.  The project is not included within the March 2019 FTA New Starts report for federal fiscal year 2020.  Don’t count on seeing it in the next FTA New Starts report for federal fiscal year 2021.  This easily averages five or more years before there is an approved Federal Full Funding Grant Agreement in place.  After five years, NYCDOT has been unable to convince FTA to approve $97 million in New Starts funding toward $231 Woodhaven Blvd. Select Bus Service Phase 2.  If NYCDOT can’t obtain $97 million, the odds of obtaining $1.4 billion in FTA New Starts funding toward $2.7 billion for the Brooklyn Queens Street Car Connector are slim to none.  It is not ethical for project director Jessica Schumer to “lobby” her father Senator Charles Schumer for federal funding.  Without a billion or more from Washington, don’t count on riding the Brooklyn Queens Connector in your life time.  Instead, try running simple limited stop bus service on the same route.  MTA New York City Transit Queens Bus Network Redesign Draft Plan proposes creation of  the new QT 1 bus route.  It would cross the Pulaski Bridge to connect Astoria, Long Island City, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, The Brooklyn Navy Yard, and Downtown Brooklyn. This might make for a low cost easy to implement improvement versus the $2.7 billion Brooklyn/Queens Street Car Connector.
(Larry Penner — transportation historian, advocate and writer who previously worked 31 years for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office.  This included the development, review, approval and oversight for grants supporting billions in capital projects and programs on behalf of the MTA NYC Transit bus and subway & NYC DOT Staten Island Ferry & private franchised bus operators).   

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Terry

Man, Penner, give it a rest with your posts on every Queens-related site. All you do is rehash the same old figures over and over. We’re sick of it.

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VVNY

Just give it a chance people, just give it a chance. It works in other countries and it can work here too. While NYC’s population adds 10s if not 100s of thousands new residents every year the transportation remains almost the same. We need more public transport and this projects will contribute to solving that.

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Anonymous

Streetcars in other places including those in older European cities, the streetcars run on wider boulevards and with much lower volumes of competing activity from loading and unloading delivery vehicles, moving traffic, bikes, pedestrians, constant road construction for utilities, and parking. I doubt anyone is against streetcars per se — it’s the impracticality of running them on insane Queens and Brooklyn roads. Why not run quiet electric buses on the same route instead?

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VVNY

So let’s just accept that things are as they are and stop trying to improve them? Is this your logic?

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Anon

Please go back to your real estate developer/broker utopia. This thing is a waste of money. Spend the money to improve and upgrade what already exists. They can even upgrade the ferry system to run along this line.

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Real VVNY

Please tell me how do you improve the 7 train of it already runs every 2 minutes in the morning yet still getting packed to the brim?

Gardens Watcher

Don’t have to look overseas, VVNY. Look at Cincinnati’s streetcar debacle, a new system which is only a few years old. Cost overruns, construction delays, equipment failures and unexpected technical problems with track installation in a city with a lot less snow and ice than NYC.

Might as well make them free to ride too, since it is very easy to hop on without paying.

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Real VVNY

Can you give me an example of a public transit in NYC that gets underused or doesn’t have problems or cost overruns and let me know if it is a bad idea to have it.

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Gardens Watcher

Who even wants this, other than the real estate developers? Thought this project was dead, especially after the Amazon HQ2 deal died.

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Anonymous

This project is a looming boondoggle and needs to be stopped now. I’m all in favor of enhanced public transit, but, in Long Island City anyway, I can’t see how the BQX would work in its proposed right-of-way. Traffic on the narrow and congested Vernon Boulevard from 44th Drive to Borden Avenue is tied up in knots all day. How can planners not recognize the impossibility of running the streetcar on this roadway?

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MRLIC

It is because the planners are getting their pockets full of developer $$$$$$$$$$$$$$. Do they care how your commute is or will be affected: NO. The PUBLIC BE DAMNED in NYC.

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Too bad you voted for those developers

The exact same developers that President Developer is giving HUGE tax breaks to.

Thanks for making it so easy for real estate developers! How gullible can you be.

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Anonymous

We can at least start by charging cheapskate Long Island resident drivers who park for days on end on local LIC streets or those who exit the LIE and clog up local streets by driving to the 59th Street Bridge instead of taking the tunnel to Manhattan.

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