Federal funds from a potential $4 trillion infrastructure package in Washington could pay for a subway expansion into southeastern Brooklyn, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Feb. 19.
President Joe Biden’s Administration and Democratic lawmakers in the nation’s capital are currently focused on passing a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 emergency relief bill that would, among other things, extend unemployment benefits and provide $1,400 stimulus checks to many Americans — but Schumer said the new president’s next big economic recovery package, dubbed “Build Back Better,” may include a train line to the southern corner of the borough starved of subway access.
“There’s some talk if we get the $4 trillion that we could build a subway line to southeast Brooklyn, which is a subway desert,”said the newly-minted senate leader at a Zoom panel with the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce Friday, as the New York Post first reported.
The Park Slope lawmaker in passing also mentioned that some of the federal money could go toward the crumbling Brooklyn-Queens Expressway’s triple-cantilever section around Brooklyn Heights, but that government authorities will still have to iron out the plans for the beleaguered highway.
“There probably could be money if they ever figure out what to do with the BQE overpass,” he said. “I’m not going to tell them what to do, they’re going to have to figure it out for themselves.”
Schumer did not give more specifics on the subway plans, but the Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials studied improving transit along the busy Utica Avenue corridor in February 2020 just before the coronavirus hit.
The MTA study included looking at extending a subway line south from either Fulton Street’s A and C stop or the Eastern Parkway 3 and 4 stops, which would extend the train through the neighborhoods of East Flatbush, Flatlands, Marine Park, and Mill Basin.
The B46 bus and its express line run along Utica Avenue there and are the busiest routes in the borough and the third-busiest in the city pre-pandemic with 44,000 daily commuters and frequent over-capacity occupancies of 108-percent during morning rush hours on weekdays and 121-percent on Saturday midday.
A spokesman for MTA said the $5 million study will inform the agency’s next capital plan for 2025.
“We’re grateful to Majority Leader Schumer for securing billions of dollars in federal funding to help save the MTA’s basic services during this pandemic,” said Shams Tarek in a statement. “This study looks at different transit improvement concepts using various modes and will be evaluated along with other major regional transit expansion projects as we build the next capital program.”
The Authority in 2019 also eyed a $1-2 billion passenger train project dubbed the Triboro Line, which would run on old freight lines through some of the same southern Brooklyn areas, along with Queens and the Bronx.
The agency did not respond to a follow-up request regarding the status of that project.
Local state Sen. Andrew Gounardes — whose district includes subway-less nabes such as Marine Park and Gerritsen Beach — hailed Schumer’s comments, adding that better transit would be a boon for local businesses.
“The Build Back Better program is a massive opportunity for the MTA and I’m glad that Senator Schumer is talking about funneling the funds towards outer borough transit deserts, such as those that would benefit from the Utica Avenue extension,” Gounardes said in a statement. “Finally connecting these neighborhoods to the rest of the borough and making it easier to access these small businesses and restaurants in these communities would be a tremendous opportunity for our economic recovery.”
Update (Tuesday, Feb. 23, 4:22 pm): This story has been updated to include comment from state Sen. Andrew Gounardes.