Skirting the law: City needs Feds’ permission to run streetcar past courthouse — but doesn’t have it

Skirting the law: City needs Feds’ permission to run streetcar past courthouse — but doesn’t have it
Community News Group / Lauren Gill


The city wants to run its planned streetcar in front of the Eastern District federal courthouse on Cadman Plaza East, which has been blocked off with barriers and guards since 9-11. But city officials haven’t actually asked the Feds’ permission to reopen the thoroughfare, they admitted at a recent community meeting, and residents are skeptical they’ll get it now — especially from the new guy in charge.

“You’re never going to be able to put a streetcar on Cadman Plaza East,” said Community Board 2 Transportation Committee member Jon Quint when officials came to present the plan at a committee meeting on Nov. 15. “President Trump is not going to let you.”

The Cadman Plaza East leg of the $2.5-billion trolley is just one of several potential routes the city is considering Downtown, but it is the only connection planners are proposing for getting the train to Dumbo — a neighborhood that is booming with workers, residents, and tourists but is still serviced only by the dank and overcrowded York Street F stop.

The Feds “temporarily” took control of the blocks between Tillary Street and Red Cross Place after the 2001 terrorist attacks in the name of security, and have since installed gates and booths manned by U.S. Marshal — although some residents scoff that it is really just a private parking lot for judges and staffers from the city’s Office of Emergency Management, which is also behind the barriers.

Regardless, local leaders agree it is unlikely the country’s top brass will relinquish control.

“I would be highly surprised if the U.S. Marshal Service signed off on running the streetcar down Cadman Plaza East,” said Community Board 2 district manager Rob Perris. “I cannot imagine that they’d ever agree to having a public conveyance that went directly in front of the courthouse.”

A U.S. Marshal Service spokesman said he couldn’t comment on whether the law enforcement agency’s honchos might surrender the space to the streetcar because, he confirmed, this was the first they’d heard of it.

“We have not heard of or have been approached by anyone who has suggested that the streetcar project includes that the route pass through Cadman Plaza East,” said Jim Elick, the assistant chief of the Marshals Service.

Streetcar planners are still conferring with residents about the trolley route, and the project is only “2 percent” through the design phase, Brooklyn-Queens Connector bigwig Adam Giambrone told the community board meeting.

But they also expect to finalize the specific path early next year, and Quint said the lack of planning for the Cadman Plaza East leg makes the community consultation process look like a sham.

“For you to put this up there as an option suggests that you’re dreaming and you’re not giving us reasonable alternatives to discuss,” he said.

The city expects to begin building the streetcar system in 2019 and have it running in 2024.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Blocked off: The city wants to run the streetcar down the closed Downtown street in front of the federal courthouse.
Community News Group / Lauren Gill