Mayor: BQX trolley likely to derail without cash from Trump, Congress

Trolley-ho! Advocates of Brooklyn–Queens tram line reveal life-size streetcar model
Community News Group / Bill Parry

Mayor DeBlasio put the fate of his pet $2.5-billion waterfront trolley connecting Sunset Park and Queens in the hands of his frequent sparring partner President Trump, doubling down on a need for federal funding for the scheme after first claiming the transit system would pay for itself via tax revenue generated by a surge of development along its 14-mile track.

“I don’t think it’s doable without federal support,” DeBlasio said during a Thursday sit-down with local media. “We believe there will be some real funding created by its presence, but we’re going to need some additional support.”

Hizzoner — who has publicly called for investigations into sexual harassment claims against the president and criticized his crackdown on immigrant families attempting to cross the southern border — said the commander in chief and Congress must fork over cash for his proposed Brooklyn Queens Connector streetcar in their next budget, and that until they do, the scheme’s coffers are empty.

“Only thing I can tell you now is federal,” he said. “And that’s something that would have to come in the upcoming federal budget. The good news is we have seen the beginning of some spending on infrastructure in the last budget reconciliation.”

DeBlasio’s admission came days after Trump blasted him on social media for allegedly plagiarizing number 45’s campaign motto “Promises made, promises kept” — the president’s latest critique of the city’s top pol, whom he previously called “probably the worst mayor in the history of New York City.”

“Bill DeBlasio … just stole my campaign slogan,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday. “That’s not at all nice. No imagination!”

DeBlasio announced his beloved light-rail project back in 2016 as a way to connect transit-starved neighborhoods along New York Harbor and the East River, and real-estate firms quickly jumped on board, leading some pols and residents from neighborhoods it would serve to blast the so-called BQX as a gentrifying agent disguised as a public benefit.

Hizzoner initially hoped to start laying the connector’s first tracks by next year, so that commuters could hop on as soon as 2024, but the city has yet to release a draft route for the trolley and a study on the feasibility of its tax-funded revenue model after promising to do so in 2017.

The mayor, who wouldn’t say if he’s considering city money to help foot the infrastructure’s bill, first spoke of the need for federal green in April, telling radio host Brian Lehrer that he was very hopeful about receiving some “particularly because of the presence of Sen. Schumer,” whose daughter leads the streetcar-advocacy group Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector.

His on-air change in tune came days after some administration members offered conflicting outlooks on the streetcar’s future, with the mayor’s second in command admitting the project may crash if the much-anticipated financial research shows that new buildings alone can’t subsidize its cost, and a separate City Hall rep days later walking back those doubts and reaffirming the project is still on track — a back and forth that led some to speculate the trolley may be permanently derailed.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.