Dec. 3, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz has called on Amazon to help pay for the controversial and still-in-planning Brooklyn-Queens Connector as part of its headquarters buildout in Long Island City.
Katz, who supports the tech-giant’s move to Queens, reaffirmed her position in a statement released earlier today, but said that the trillion-dollar corporation should also help foot the cost of the $2.73 billion “Queens-Brooklyn Connector,” as she calls it, claiming it’s only fair.
“A substantial and meaningful investment by Amazon that helps ensure the feasibility of QBX would be a fair investment into its new home, and a welcome opportunity for a good corporate neighbor to directly benefit the existing, impacted communities of Western Queens,” Katz said.
The borough president, who is strongly in support of said her statements come as the community has expressed concerns about Amazon impacting already-strained area infrastructure, especially given the billions in tax incentives the company is set to receive.
“The company and the public sector must work together to make investments in necessary transit improvements that will support Queens residents,” Katz said.
The BQX, a proposed 11-mile street car system between Astoria and Red Hook, is only in its nascent environmental impact study stages, with the public review for it set to kick off in 2020.
But even then, the project has already seen several setbacks and significant public opposition to it since it was proposed by Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2016.
Its length, for instance, has been shortened, and the city now says federal funding will be needed for the project, countering repeated claims that value capture alone would fund the system.
The project is also expected to break ground in 2024, years away from its initial 2019 start.
Opponents of the plan say the street car route covers communities that already have rich transit connections, and that the system would benefit wealthy developers and accelerate gentrification.
The city, however, has still touted the BQX project as a means to provide “equitable” transit options to the waterfront communities between the two boroughs, and an alternate mode of transportation that can help alleviate the strained subway system.
Katz’s BQX statements echo de Blasio’s, who said after the Amazon announcement that the company’s presence “makes the need for the BQX even greater.”
Apart from asking Amazon to help fund the street car, Katz also took the opportunity to expand on other facets the city should include in its BQX rollout, including free transfer to MTA subways and reduced “Fair Fares” for low income New Yorkers.
The city, Katz adds, should “aggressively explore” the creation of more municipal parking spots to make up for the thousands that will be lost as part of the BQX project.
The Queens borough president even pitched in on ways to help alleviate current overcrowding in subway lines, calling on both the Long Island City and Hunterspoint Avenue LIRR stations to become full time stations with enhanced service.
Katz’s lineup of infrastructure demands also comes as the City Council is preparing to hold oversight hearings on how the city and state came to strike the deal for Amazon’s headquarters. The deal, announced only weeks ago, has been criticized for being secretive and giving away too much to a private corporation, among other concerns.
While many Queens and city officials have denounced Amazon’s headquarter plans, Katz has stood in strong support of the project, noting that the tech-company’s presence is a “game-changer” for Queens.
Her support for the deal follows a letter she sent to the city last year boasting of Long Island City as Amazon’s potential new home.