By Mark Hallum
With Amazon heading to Long Island City to establish part of its second headquarters (HQ2), Borough President Melinda Katz said last week that the trillion-dollar corporation should pay for the proposed Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX) and other transit improvements in the neighborhood.
The BQX, a streetcar proposal from the de Blasio administration, would link the tech hubs of Brooklyn and Queens by an 11 mile north-south route along the waterfront at the same rate as a subway fare. Estimates for the BQX come in at around $2.7 billion.
“A substantial and meaningful investment by Amazon that helps ensure the feasibility of [BQX] 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 company and the public sector must work together to make investments in necessary transit improvements that will support Queens residents.”
Amazon predicts their expansion into Queens will create up to 25,000 jobs, expected to put a strain on the already-overburdened 7 train.
Although Katz did not mention specific subway improvements in her statement, she advocated instead for full-time service at the Long Island City and Hunterspoint Avenue stations of the Long Island Rail Road.
Katz added that in order for Amazon to establish itself “equitably” in Queens, the BQX should offer free transfers to the 13 subway lines to which it would connect.
One community concern since the unveiling of the BQX proposal was the loss of street parking that would be incurred from taking away a lane of traffic for the streetcar route. To address this, Katz suggested the city heavily invest in alternative municipal parking options.
Katz also said fulfilling these transit needs with the addition of Amazon would bring the borough closer to realizing the Western Queens Tech Strategic Plan.
Simply known as the “Tech Plan,” this aims to provide low-income, especially the approximately 11,000 NYCHA residents of western Queens, with the skills necessary to get tech jobs in the growing industry of the East River waterfront.
Through developing a local talent pool, the plan aimed to attract more tech companies to western Queens.
On Nov. 26, the 7 train began using a new communications-based train control system to replace the original analog system. The improvement will help the line accommodate 14 new trains that will start in April as the Canarsie Tunnel on the L line closes for 15 months of repairs.
Transit advocates from Access Queens have voiced doubts in the past as to whether or not the 7 train running on full capacity with CBTC will be enough improvement for the struggling line under normal circumstances, let alone with the L train shutdown and with Amazon HQ2 in the offing.
Access Queens co-founder Melissa Orlando did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the outlook of the 7 train with the corporation eying space in Long Island City or Katz’s call for Amazon to offer funds for the BQX.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall