Train-wrecked! Transit pundits pan streetcar at Heights panel

Proceed with caution: Professor Candance Brakewood gives her thoughts on the Mayor’s streetcar plan as part of a panel at the Brooklyn Heights Association’s annual meeting.
Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

It is not too late to switch tracks!

The city should scrap its $2.5-billion waterfront streetcar plan and instead focus on building more cost-effective transportation for low-income Brooklynites, said a panel of public-transit pundits who took part in a pane on the so-called Brooklyn-Queens Connector at the Brooklyn Heights Association’s annual meeting on Monday.

“There are low-income people — hundreds of thousands of them — who have crappy transit today and those are the needs that ought to be addressed,” said David Bragdon, who was a top political honcho in Portland, Ore., when a streetcar started running there, and now heads New York public-transit advocacy organization Transit Center.

The panel — which also included New York Times columnist Jim Dwyer, Second Ave. Sagas transit blog author Ben Kabak, City College of New York civil engineering assistant professor Candace Brakewood, and Samuel Stein, a doctoral student who has written about the streetcar for Jacobin magazine — generally panned Sunset Park-to-Queens tram plan, with members arguing Mayor DeBlasio would get more bang for his buck by working with the state to extend subway lines and create better bus services.

DeBlasio and lobbyists for the developers who stand to benefit from the amenity have exhaustively touted the streetcar as a way to connect public-housing residents to job hubs, which Dwyer said made it sound like a charity project.

“Some of their literature makes it seem like an anti-poverty program,” said Dwyer, who wrote about the streetcar for his About New York column last year.

But many of the panelists said they think it will really benefit the rich who already own property near the route, which runs through Red Hook, Downtown, Fort Greene, and Williamsburg.

They also side-eyed the city’s claim that it can foot the bill for the project through increased property taxes along the line, arguing that property values in those areas are already skyrocketing, so it would take an extreme increase in development to cover the costs.

“It only works if property values rise significan­tly,” said Stein. “Four stories would have to become 15.”

The city is still in the midst of planning the streetcar’s final route, and officials are scheduled to visit community boards with a proposed route this year. Construction will begin in 2019 and it is scheduled to be up and running in 2024.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Reasonable discourse

Juan from Prospect Heights says:
Can Candance Brakewood can-can dance? Or would proof-reader that doesn't work there know her name is Candace. You had one job.....
March 1, 2017, 7 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
The nicest thing anyone can say about this plan is that Cuomo has several worse plans so this isn't the stupidest idea out there.
March 1, 2017, 8:25 am
Charles from Bklyn says:
Sadly, the best thing to happen would be for DeBlasio to lose his reelection and the next mayor scrap the project. This is the Democratic party we need to get rid of as soon as possible.
March 1, 2017, 9:04 am
Pedro Valdez Rivera Jr. from BS, BK, NY, US says:
How does the BQX proposal will impact Mayor de Blasio's reelection chances? The voters will be the judge of that.
March 1, 2017, 9:07 am
Blogger Bill from from Boerum Hill says:
Fine, accurate reporting from talented Lauren
Gill. From my seat in the sardine-squeezed
audience she got it as I saw it.
March 1, 2017, 9:30 am
crazy people from Heights says:
The crazy (rich) people from the heights have spoken. But what they really want is isolation. The rich separated from the poor.

The subway system and the bus system do not serve enough of the people and buses run dirty.

Time we get a clean, reliable, efficient alternative and the BQX is it. Remember, the street car was the best transit system NYC ever had and corruption (the bus and tire lobbies) moved it to inefficient diesel spewing buses.

Time the mayor stop asking and start doing. Put down some track and let it roll.

The world is moving back to street cars. Let's not allow NYC to become a failing city that can't get out of its own way.

Build it and they will get on board!
March 1, 2017, 10:16 am
Sid from Boerum hill says:
No one is saying that new transit is not required. Extend the 1 train to red hook and sunset park. There is a train station at court street and schermehorn open it and use bus rapid transit for the rest with buses getting light priority. The bqx connector doesn't do much. Thailand added a skyway a raised elevated system not using the same roadway.
March 1, 2017, 11:15 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
The reason this plan is hated so much is because the streets aren't that wide enough to support it. Also, many don't see this streetcar as being different from taking the bus. The other reason is the high cost of something that will move pretty slow when a bus can move for a fraction of that cost. Overall, I don't see why there is a need for the BQX Streetcar.
March 1, 2017, 3:18 pm
Alan from Crown Heights says:
A tram is a perfectly useful technology— but if we're going to spend $2.5B on one, we ought to be building it on Utica or Flatbush or the B35 route where there's huge demand for bus service, not on a route no one would use anyway (other than me, back when I was commuting from South Williamsburg to Dumbo as a baby gentrifier who already had access to East River Ferry, decent bike lanes, and the B67 bus).
March 1, 2017, 3:23 pm
Stan Chaz from Greenpoint says:
STOP!- you can't come thru MY Brooklyn Heights neighborhood - which has zillions of subway lines already serving us. We don't care if you just want to connect and serve areas that are transit-starved along the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront. Not thru MY ritzy neighborhood!!
March 1, 2017, 4:52 pm
TOM from Sunset Park says:
Can anyone name a community board in either Brooklyn or Queens that has shown any interest in this fantasy?
March 1, 2017, 5:12 pm
Ursula from Downtown Brooklym says:
Tom, if you followed the "visioning" meetings put on by the Friends of the BQX for at least two community boards (CB2 was not one of them), the attendees of these meetings were reported as being "very" supportive. In the meantime, the leadership of at least two, possibly three, public housing developments, whose residents presumably will benefit from the BQX, have been given seats of the Friends' board in exchange for their advocating for the BQX. As Jim Dwyer pointedly mused at the meeting on Monday, the BQX seems to be marketed as a social welfare program.
March 1, 2017, 11:20 pm
City cynic from out west says:
Just in case you might know it ,even if some of you are just 10 years old ,you will never ,I repeat never see this happen , it is another planet in the delusional universe of the worst mayor ever ...Stop and think it takes years to put up a simple street sign ,never mind a whole tram system ,its all just political babel ....
March 2, 2017, 10:33 pm

Comments closed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Keep it local!

Stay in touch with your community. Subscribe to our free newsletter: