Yesterday, the Mayor put the long-stalled BQX waterfront streetcar project back on the table. The light rail trolley slated to run between Brooklyn and Queens was left out of the fiscal budget in April of this year, after missing its 4th feasibility study deadline. Now the project has returned with a shorter route, a higher budget, and the Mayor’s support.
When the project was first proposed in 2016, the advocacy group Friends of the BQX, headed by Jessica Schumer, daughter of Chuck Schumer, envisioned a 16-mile route from Astoria to Sunset Park. The current project stretches 11 miles, from Astoria to Red Hook, stopping in between at Long Island City, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Downtown Brooklyn.
The new route omits 5 stations in Sunset Park, but costs $2.7 Billion as opposed to the original estimate of $2.5 Billion, and the expected completion date has jumped to 2029 from 2024.
De Blasio is calling the project “one of the biggest, most ambitious projects in a generation. It will be a challenge, but New York City is taking it on.” He sees the BQX as a necessary part of the city’s transportation infrastructure, because of “two decades of rapid growth in population and jobs on the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront,” during which “public transit has not kept pace.”
The City assumes the BQX will “generate $30 billion in economic impact and approximately $1.4 billion in value capture to finance its construction,” given the increased real estate values it will inspire along the waterfront.
Despite its potential to make an already pricey waterfront even more expensive, leading many to dub it “the Gentrification Express,” Jessica Schumer lauds the project as a way to help reduce income inequality in NYC. She said in a statement, “shorter commute times are the key factor in predicting families’ ability to escape poverty and move up the income ladder. The BQX will substantially reduce commute times for tens of thousands of New Yorkers, especially for 40,000 NYCHA residents living in along its route, and put more good paying jobs within reach. At the same time, the BQX will provide greater access to essential services like education, parks, job training and health care.”
While the project’s environmental impact study will begin this winter, its social impact remains to be seen. Construction is slated to begin in 2024. You can read the full feasibility study here.