Community leaders weigh in on Brooklyn Queens Connector plan

Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled plans for a streetcar to link Brooklyn and Western Queens at his State of the City address.
Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Queens Connector

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plans for a streetcar along the East River from Sunset Park to Astoria garnered many opinions from community leaders in the “World’s Borough” from high praise to great concern.

QNS reached out to community leaders in Astoria, Long Island City and surrounding areas to ask them to weigh in on this proposal:

“The streetcar plan isn’t a bad idea. There is a need to expand transit service to this area, and light rail transit — streetcars, trolleys, etc. — shouldn’t have been removed from this city to begin with. The problem is that other parts of Queens have equal, if not greater needs for an expansion of the rail transit system.”

-Joseph B. Raskin, former director of governmental and media relations for the MTA

“I am excited to learn of plans for a Brooklyn Queens Connector streetcar that will allow New Yorkers to travel more directly and quickly between the neighborhoods of western Queens and the Brooklyn waterfront. Queens and Brooklyn are no longer simply homes for people who work in Manhattan but are destinations in their own right. This new streetcar will help people from Queens and Brooklyn commute back and forth as well as enjoy the many fine restaurants and cultural institutions on the east side of the East River without having to cross the waterway twice in each direction.

As this proposal moves from concept to reality, I look forward to working with the city to ensure the specifics of this plan will be beneficial and not harmful to our communities.”

-State Senator Michael Gianaris

“There is no question that improved north-south transportation along the waterfront both within Queens and between Queens and Brooklyn is very much needed for the economic and cultural vitality of Long Island City, its residents and businesses, and we applaud the mayor for proposing a visionary solution and look forward to participating in the community process going forward.”

-Elizabeth Lusskin, executive director, Long Island City Partnership

“This could be a game-changing solution to the current transit problems as we know them in Brooklyn and Queens. A Brooklyn Queens Connector could potentially provide more career and job opportunities for the residents of those boroughs. As someone who lives in Brooklyn and have been commuting to work in Queens for the past 15 years, I find it frustrating to have to travel to Manhattan to get to work. And I am not alone.

This project, however, needs to be further evaluated to determine financial sustainability, and whether the proposed fee for the riders makes sense. In addition, a sound environmental impact survey must be conducted that addresses any potential headaches for the roadways in the affected communities.”

-Yoselin Genao Estrella, executive director, Neighborhood Housing Services of Northern Queens

“Historically, this has been an isolated, underserved area. With the proposed light rail, Ferry, Citibike and additional bus routes and frequency, we will finally be integrated into the fabric of the rest of Astoria, and New York City in general. Also, this provides a much-needed additional corridor between Brooklyn and Queens, which today consists primarily of the BQE and G train.

However, until the specific details are determined, such as routes, equipment, frequency, fees, taxes and funding sources, etc., we cannot fully comment or endorse the proposal.”

-Richard Khuzami, president, Old Astoria Neighborhood Association

“The light rail could potentially be the single largest catalyst to future development along the Astoria waterfront. Growth along the light rail will revitalize a long derelict section of western Queens into a vibrant, mixed-use community that rivals the very best neighborhoods in the five boroughs.”

-Brett Harris, Aki Development

“While I agree in concept, I am very concerned how this will affect traffic on 21st Street, the main route from the Grand Central Parkway to the Queensboro Bridge.”

-Joseph Vaccaro, local developer

“Our legacy transportation infrastructure simply isn’t built to handle so many of today’s challenges, from the need for greater resilience to more inclusive economies. The BQX is exactly the kind of investment New York City should be making to deliver multiple wins with one investment including greater transit capacity, more diverse economic opportunities and ensuring more people can access opportunity far into the future.”

– Peter Madonia, chief operating officer, The Rockefeller Foundation

“The proposal by the de Blasio administration to create a light rail/streetcar connector between Queens and Brooklyn while laudable and visionary given the paucity of reliable transportation options between the two boroughs outside of the G train, is mistimed and Pollyanna. While infrastructure projects are most definitely needed, the current slate of ongoing projects (east side access, Second Avenue Subway, MTA station rehabilitation projects and general capital improvement needs) along with the wish list of transit proposals recently floated by Governor Cuomo and Amtrak simply makes the mayor’s proposal look like an attempt to look proactive in an area already oversaturated with expensive ‘wish list’ projects. There is no doubt such a project would be beneficial, but given the current environment this project is more pomp than circumstance.”

– David Fernández, public finance attorney of Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney PC