Jan. 12, 2020 By Kristen Torres
Mayor Bill de Blasio is moving forward with plans to construct the Brooklyn Queens Connector—a $2.7 billion, zero-emission street car that will run 11 miles along the waterfront from Astoria to Red Hook.
The city launched an official BQX website Thursday that provides details of the plan as well as an array of meeting dates in neighborhoods to be served by the proposed streetcar– including in Greenpoint, Astoria and Long Island City.
The city will be providing workshops, webinars, community board presentations, public outreach campaigns and environmental review scoping hearings. The city is taking steps that will ultimately lead to the ULURP process, the mandated city land use review process.
“With the BQX heading toward its public review process, 2020 promises to be a big year for the project,” according to a spokesperson for Friends of the BQX, an advocacy group comprised of real estate developers, transit experts and representatives of public housing.
“Engaging with those who live and work along the route is critical to the BQX’s success, and we applaud the City for putting together a robust outreach plan for the coming months…we expect that support network to keep growing,” the group spokesperson added
The city’s Economic Development Corporation is spearheading the project alongside the Department of Transportation.
The BQX is expected to serve nearly 400,000 people living along the corridor, with connections to 13 subway lines, nine Ferry landings and more than 30 bus routes. The cost for riders is expected to be the same as a MetroCard fare and there would be free transfers to subways and MTA buses.
The BQX was first announced by the de Blasio administration in 2016, and originally consisted of a 16-mile railway running from Astoria to Sunset Park with a $2.5 billion price tag.
The Sunset Park leg of the proposed route was scrapped by the EDC, with the city-backed organization citing low predicted ridership and high construction costs. The estimated price tag increased to $2.7 billion despite the shorter route.
The EDC is expected to release a draft environment impact statement later this year. The agency hired an engineering firm in 2019 to conduct the study.
The proposal has been controversial since it was first announced, with opponents arguing that the new transit system would gentrify surrounding neighborhoods and add to roadway congestion.
But the city contends that the BQX is a much needed transportation link that would provide service to those residents living along the corridor who currently lack easy access to the city’s subway system.
The city needs to get federal dollars to help pay for the project. The city was initially looking to fund it entirely through a concept called value capture–a tax mechanism that uses the increased land value of nearby real estate projects to pay for it. However, revenue from value capture will not be enough.
A report on the plans for the project was last released in 2018. The city aims to start construction in 2024 and complete it by 2029.