By Bill Parry
The de Blasio administration’s $2.5 billion Brooklyn-Queens Connector streetcar project picked up its first union endorsement Monday.
The 42,000-member strong Transport Workers Union Local 100 said the proposed 16-mile BQX line from Astoria to Sunset Park, Brooklyn, would give a powerful boost to the city economy, create good union jobs that can sustain working families and provide mass transit to service-starved neighborhoods along the Queens and Brooklyn waterfront.
“Mass transit is the economic lifeblood of the city,” said John Samuelson, Local 100 and TWU of America International president. “A streetcar along the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront will attract more business to the area, including manufacturers, and increase job opportunities. We see this as a vitally important project.”
Samuelson said Local 100 would marshal its membership and political resources to lobby elected officials in support of building the BQX in order to achieve expansion of the city’s mass transit system, spur economic development, including a supply-chain of manufacturers producing equipment and parts for the system, and prioritize community hiring and provide job opportunities for high school students opting not to pursue a college degree immediately after graduation.
The TWU offered its endorsement months after an internal memo to Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen was leaked that raised questions about the BQX funding model, which the de Blasio administration said would pay for itself by taxing increased property values. The memo also explained the relocation of utilities, such as water mains, sewers and underground power lines along the corridor, could make the project unaffordable and render time lines for the project unfeasible.
“We welcome the TWU’s support,” de Blasio spokeswoman Melissa Grace said. So did the non-profit Friends of the BQX.
“Too often the people who most need a reliable transit option are the same people who lack a voice, for whom a shorter and easier commute can make the biggest difference,” Friends of the BQX Executive Director Ya-Ting Liu said. “The men and women of the TWU know better than anyone how much of a difference transit can make in the lives of New Yorkers, and we’re so grateful for their support.”
The BQX will serve 400,000 people who live and 300,000 people who work along the Queens-Brooklyn waterfront, including 600 TWU members. The TWU endorsement does not guarantee that its members will be employed by the BQX when it is completed as early as 2024.
“They’ll be private sector,” TWU Local 100 spokesman Jim Gannon said. “They could join any union or not. But we like our chances.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr