Train buff’s dreams streetcar desire will become reality

Train buff’s dreams streetcar desire will become reality
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

A transit buff’s quixotic two-decade-long quest to connect transit-strapped Red Hook to Downtown by trolley is really going to happen this time, the railway-loving legend claimed this week.

Bob Diamond, the frustrated streetcar advocate, who has failed to bring trolleys to the transit desert more time then we would like to remember, said his longtime dream of a Brooklyn bustling with trolleys will finally come true because this time he’s partnered with concrete titan John Quadrozzi Jr. of Gowanus Bay Terminal, and the Gowanus Canal Community Development Corp.

“I realized now that no man is an island unto himself and that there has to be a number of organizations to make this happen,” said Diamond, president of the Brooklyn Historic Railway Association. “Instead of Bob Diamond trying to do it alone, now I’m building a grassroots consortium of other organizations whose neighborhoods would benefit from the implementation of the streetcar project.”

The Gowanus Canal Community Development Corp., will now take on the role of political and public outreach for Diamond, while Quadrozzi has helped the redesign and enlarge his track route linking Downtown and the peninsula.

Diamond estimates that the implementation of the two-track streetcar project along with the excavation of the old rail tunnel under Atlantic Avenue he famously discovered in the 1980s would cost $50 million, and he will be seeking that money through federal grants.

And Quadrozzi can’t wait to get it done.

“It’s absolutely necessary and desirable,” said Quadrozzi, who has followed Diamond’s efforts during the past decade.

The concrete titan said the plan makes a lot of sense considering Brooklyn’s history with trolley’s around the turn of the 20th century, and with the limited access to Red Hook.

“This would be the best way to do it,” he said.

Ray Howell, a member of the Gowanus Canal Community Development Corp., said it jumped on board after considering the economic benefit Brooklyn’s only trolley would bring to the Hook.

“Mostly everybody believes that Red Hook needs transportation improvements in order to develop in a healthy way,” said Howell.

Diamond has tried to create a trolley service numerous times since 1989, but each time he claims he was hampered by the city, and by accusations that he is difficult to work with. He successfully laid tracks in 1999 for a line in Red Hook then, only to see his dreams crumble after the city cut off funding for a larger network of rails. Then, in 2011, the Department of Transportation said that bringing back the old streetcars would be too expensive.

Diamond says the route for the proposed streetcar line would be 1.6 miles starting near Fulton and Livingston streets by the Borough Hall subway hub. It would trek down Boerum Place and turn onto Atlantic Avenue. At that point, Diamond wants the line to move underground towards Columbia Street through the Long Island Rail Road tunnel that runs from Court Street to Hicks Street.

The trolley would exit the Atlantic Avenue tunnel when it reaches the Battery Tunnel on Columbia Street. At that point, it would turn down Richards Street, travel along Beard Street passing IKEA, turn back onto Columbia Street, run along Bay Street, and turn onto Clinton Street until hitting Hamilton Avenue where it would travel along W. Ninth Street right up until its ending point at the Smith-Ninth subway hub.

Armed with his new coalition, Diamond things he’ll be ready to seek city support after a new mayor is elected.

“We have a great chance of making this happen with a new administration,” he said. “I think Red Hook will finally get the public transportation it deserves.”

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at twitter.com/souleddout.