City puts trolleys back on track

The Brooklyn Paper

Clang clang clang go the trolleys?

After years of delays, the Department of Transportation will finally consider resurrecting trolleys from Red Hook to Downtown, officials announced on Thursday.

“We’re looking back to the future,” said Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. “Streetcars remain part of the transportation mix in cities from Toronto to Melbourne, and we need to consider all options to improve transit access in underserved neighborhoods like Red Hook.”

Trolley lovers and residents of the isolated neighborhood were thrilled at the announcement — especially as it came after many years of trolley dodging by the city, which received the $300,000 for the study — courtesy of Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D–Sunset Park) — five years ago, yet did nothing with it.

And in the 1990s, rail legend Bob Diamond dug, constructed and manned his own trolley line along the Red Hook waterfront, only to see his dreams dashed after the city cut off funding.

But now, Diamond is brimming with excitement that his dream of a Kings County once again teeming with trolleys might be realized.

“The mayor and the transportation commissioner have come out and said it’s a good idea,” said Diamond. “Back [in the 1990s] it was, ‘Oh, Bob is down in that corner of Red Hook doing his experiment that might be a tourist attraction.’

“Now, it’s being taken seriously,” he added.

The five-month study will be coordinated by URS, a consulting firm that was involved in the Portland, Ore. streetcar system, which Diamond cited as a model for his own proposed route last month.

If the city determines that Red Hook is ripe for a trolley system, there are certainly plenty of federal funds that could go towards the project.

The Federal Transportation Administration has at least three separate funds worth a total of $250 million for projects that could involve streetcars in cities.

In addition to those pots of cash, the Obama administration has also allocated $8 billion in federal stimulus money towards rail projects — more than $150 million of which is going to New York State.

And on Labor Day President Obama signaled once again that rail transportation would be a priority in upcoming legislation meant to create more jobs.

A Department of Transportation spokesman said that the agency was well aware of the money available, and had taken advantage of more than $200 million through the stimulus and other grants for ferry projects, a major bus lane upgrade on 34th Street in Manhattan and other improvements.

But the agency, the spokesman added, was not yet in a position to apply for the federal money when it came to trolleys.

“We are not in a position to apply for funding for a streetcar system whose feasibility has not yet been determined,” the spokesman said.

Reader Feedback

BW from Bay Ridge says:
See if Ikea and Fairway - 2 businesses that will benefit from improved transportation will pony up - it's win-win for them.
Sept. 11, 2010, 9:43 am
Mat from Marine Park says:
Is that a cow catcher on the front, or to push dead carriage horses? Looks like the bike racks I've seen on the front of commuter buses in other states.
Sept. 11, 2010, 7:38 pm
BW from Bay Ridge says:
Mat, that's a people catcher - if the trolly didn't stop and you were too slow to get out of the way, it rolled you into that basket - catcher.

You can see these in operation in some early silent films.
Sept. 12, 2010, 10:40 am
Mike Curatore from Carroll Gardens says:
Bob Diamond's mismanagement of the previous project demonstrated that just because you are a devoted expert in the field of trolleys doesn't mean you have the business acumen to run a transportation company to provide that service. I like to make model airplanes but that doesn't qualify me to run Boeing. For this to work, Bob Diamond cannot run it. Simple.
Sept. 13, 2010, 11:53 am
Trolly from What says:
What is the difference between trollies and buses? It just seems like trollies would make transportation from Red Hook more palatable to white people. But if they're going to build a rail, they should just build a mini light rail that more people can ride!
Sept. 13, 2010, 2:45 pm
Scott from Park Slope says:
Trolleys are an unique Brooklyn institution that ought to be revived. Subways subordinate us as an appendage to Manhattan, but trolleys tie our vibrant neighborhoods together and establish us as a community in our own right. Let us return to our heritage and remember why Brooklyn is best!
Sept. 17, 2010, 2:35 pm
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Sept. 17, 2010, 4:32 pm
Harry Volpe from Spring Hill FL says:
Tampa FL reintroduced electric trolley service after an absence of 60 years and it has been a big tourist attraction as well as a viable asset in connecting two sections of this city. The trolleys employed are modern-day reproductions (including air conditioning) of the type of equipment used in bygone days. A new extension is being opened in the latter portion of this year and a "Tampa Trolleyfest" is scheduled for the middle of this November. Evidently, Tampa likes its streetcars!
From a former Brooklynite.
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Aug. 7, 2011, 10:20 pm
Uprooted Bushwickian from BUSHWICK says:
I'm all for it. If it catches on in Red Hook, then maybe the fever will spread to the rest of the Mother Borough. I HOPE !!
Aug. 30, 2011, 7:19 am

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