Staying Alive

Brooklyn-Queens streetcar rolls into environmental review

East News Transportation
Rendering of the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (Courtesy Friends of the BQX/photo by Raphael Schaller/Unsplash)
Rendering of the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (Courtesy Friends of the BQX/photo by Raphael Schaller/Unsplash)

New York’s Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX) is still alive and inching toward realization. Today the de Blasio administration awarded a $7.25 million contract to national land-use and transportation planning consultants VHB to oversee the waterfront streetcar project’s Environmental Impact Study (EIS).

Questions over the $2.7 billion streetcar route’s feasibility have plagued the light rail project since the beginning. Officials still haven’t released the exact route or said how the city would recoup the money needed for construction. Last August, Mayor de Blasio admitted that at least $1 billion would be needed from the federal government and that using the “value-capture” model (collecting increased tax revenue as the BQX boosted property values along its route) wasn’t wholly feasible. The route was shortened to 26 stops along 11 miles, from Astoria in Queens to Gowanus in Brooklyn, cutting out Sunset Park farther south, and the opening date got pushed back from 2024 to 2029.

All had gone quiet since then, but speculation flared that Amazon could potentially chip in for the system after the tech giant announced that it would be building a second headquarters in Long Island City. That seems to have been confirmed by Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, who pointed to the boom in investment along the Queens-Brooklyn waterfront as proof that new modes of public transport across the two boroughs were needed. The city expects that the BQX will accommodate 50,000 daily riders when it first opens and 60,000-to-90,000 riders by 2050.

”For some reason, everybody thinks we are not serious but we have always been serious,” Glen told the Wall Street Journal. “The mayor wouldn’t have re-endorsed and announced we were moving forward if we weren’t moving forward.”

The nonprofit group Friends of the Brooklyn-Queens Connector lauded the contract award as well, calling it a clear commitment on the part of the de Blasio administration to moving the project through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP).

With the EIS on track for completion in 2020, the BQX project will move to the next stage of the ULURP by the end of 2021. The city hopes that the project will begin construction by 2024.

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