Rail-splitter! Red Hook Houses leaders divided on streetcar

Residents to city: Streetcar can’t be amenity for rich, white yuppies
Friends of the BQX

It is East versus West.

The tenant leaders of the Red Hook Houses are divided over whether Mayor DeBlasio’s planned $2.5-billion streetcar will actually help residents of the massive public housing complex as the city is promising. One recently joined the board of the project’s advocacy group, but the other says she is skeptical the route will end up being designed with New York City Housing Authority denizens in mind.

“I don’t see how it would be able to help us,” said Lillie Marshall, the tenant association president of the Red Hook West Houses. “Wherever they put it isn’t going to help the people of NYCHA that much.”

The city has been touting the Sunset Park-to-Queens streetcar as a way to connect 40,000 public housing project residents to subways and job hubs — especially those in the Red Hook Houses, which is the borough’s largest housing project with some 6,000 tenants but has no subway stops nearby.

Marshall’s counterpart in the Red Hook East Houses agrees — she thinks it will be a boon for residents by offering them a way to get to work without trekking to the Smith-Ninth station in Gowanus.

“It’s a good project and I think it will be very helpful to all of the communities it’s going to go through,” said Brown, one of two Brooklyn public housing leaders to join the board of lobby group Friends of the Brooklyn–Queens Connector, out of 11 projects along the route. “We have a lot of people who have very good jobs and have to get to their jobs.”

Marshall says she also met with reps from the Friends — an organization chaired by builder Jed Walentas of Two Trees, who first came up with the streetcar idea and has property along the line — who wanted to know how she felt about the trolley. But she came away unconvinced that it will help anyone except developers and residents outside the housing complex, she said.

The city is still deciding on the route the tram will take through the nabe, but a preliminary proposal released in November shows it traveling either down Mill Street — right through the middle of the houses in what looks to be an incredibly narrow space — or on the vastly roomier Bay Street, a few blocks away near the ball fields.

Several residents polled at both the east and west sides of the complex said they are excited about having more transit options nearby.

“I have kids that work in the city and on weekends the trains are horrible,” said Yvette Rodriguez, who lives in Red Hook West. “This will be a great idea so they have another way to get around.”

But one said he isn’t on board, because he thinks it could mow down kids playing in the streets.

“I don’t support it,” said Barnaville Willey, who also lives in Red Hook West. “There’s a lot of kids out here running in the street who could get hit by it.”

The Red Hook Houses’ most famous former resident, Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony, also recently joined the Friends board of directors and recorded a video endorsing the streetcar. He now lives Manhattan.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Laying tracks: This map shows the city’s proposed routes through Red Hook. The blue part is the Red Hook West Houses and pink is Red Hook East.