Just as Mayor Bloomberg hinted that he was interested in bringing streetcar service back to Red Hook and other waterfront areas, a local businessman is looking to divest himself of his fleet of four trolleys laying fallow on his Van Brunt Street property for years, this paper has learned.
Greg O’Connell and his son, Michael O’Connell, are reportedly shopping the four trolleys -- one of which is totally restored -- around, although there has been no takers.
Word of their intentions stunned the borough’s own “Mr. Trolley,” Brooklyn Historical Railway Association President Bob Diamond.
“Many years ago Greg O’Connell provided us with space and a trolley barn to run a trolley track along the Red Hook waterfront from Beard Street to Conover Street,” Diamond explained.
Those trolleys from that track line, which ceased operation in 2003, are still on O’Connell’s property, Diamond said. “We hope that he leaves [those trolleys] right where they are and don’t do anything right now in case the city restarts their trolley project.”
Diamond said that he was excited to hear that at a campaign stop earlier this month Mayor Bloomberg expressed interest in bringing life back to Red Hook’s rusting trolley plan.
Bloomberg said trolleys were one of several energy efficient and environmentally sound transportation proposals he plans to entertain in the next four years.
“We’ll look into the feasibility of using the city’s old trolley tracks to create new streetcar service in growing waterfront neighborhoods in Queens and Brooklyn, starting in Red Hook,” said Bloomberg.
Diamond, an “urban explorer” who routinely runs tours of a long-forgotten Long Island Railroad tunnel 30 feet below Atlantic Avenue, said that a trolley in Red Hook could be a reality as soon as Bloomberg gives the nod -- especially since $295,000 in federal funds has been earmarked for a feasibility study to determine if a light rail or a trolley system is right for the neighborhood. The Department of Transportation is expected to begin the study later this year.
But if the city blows the dust off Red Hook’s still existing trolley tracks, they’ll be quite empty if O’Connell gets rid of the ones he already has.
One of the trolleys on O’Connell’s property was built in 1947, Diamond said. The other was built in 1951 and was one of the last trolleys to come off the Pullman manufacturing line.
“Those trolleys have sat [on O’Connell’s property for six years,” Diamond said. “What’s the big deal if they stay there another year?”
Both Greg and Michael O’Connell were out of town and unavailable to comment on their plans. A worker from the O’Connell Organization confirmed that they were trying to get rid of the trolleys, but assured this paper that they were not heading to a scrap yard.
“We want to donate them,” the employee said. “We told the New York Transit Museum about them, but they said that they couldn’t take them.”
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