Trolley dodger! Menchaca on streetcar: ‘I’m not for it’

Visions of things to come: A rendering imagines a streecar gliding past Industry City in Sunset Park — which in this fantastical future also sports bike lanes and repaved roads.
Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector

Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D–Red Hook) came out against Mayor DeBlasio’s proposed streetcar during a public input session in Sunset Park on June 21. Hizzoner plans to pay for the $2.5-billion, developer-backed people-mover with additional tax revenue generated by rising property values that the Sunset Park-to-Queens line will spur. But rents are already off the rails in the neighborhood, and Menchaca said he can’t get on board with an engine for displacement.

“What was $800 for a one-bedroom is now almost $2,000, which is absolutely insane,” he told Gothamist. “If this is going to accelerate that, I’m not for it.”

A spokesman confirmed Menchaca’s statement, but said the councilman couldn’t provide additional comment.

And the legislator wasn’t the only one at the session who feared the tram will be a one-way ticket out of the neighborhood.

About 100 people with maps drew routes, highlighted what the streetcar should avoid, and noted landmarks it could pass. But mostly, they worried they wouldn’t be around to see the thing, because Sunset Park would be too expensive.

“I think it’s a disaster for this neighborhood. There are families that can barely afford to pay their rent now, and if this happens, it’s going to raise property taxes and raise rents,” said native renter Michael Alvarado. “It’s going to kick out a lot of people who have lived here. It’s turning this into a Midtown Manhattan.”

DeBlasio claims the project will link thousands of public housing residents to jobs along the waterfront, but Red Hookers also questioned whether the plan was better-suited to yuppies at a meeting last month.

Many in Sunset Park also told city reps they were concerned that trolley infrastructure could not survive a Hurricane Sandy sequel. The Friends of the Brooklyn-Queens Connector, a private group tram-boosting developers that first pushed the plan, claims the project would be “resilient against major weather and flood events” because it “would not rely on overhead wires and underground power sources.”

Others locals questioned if congested waterfront streets could handle a streetcar along with normal traffic. The city claimed in February that it would give the trolley a dedicated lane for 75–80 percent of its journey from Sunset Park to the hinterlands of Queens.

Still more demanded free transfers from the city-run system to the state-run subway — a provision that officials are not committing to.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation held four input sessions in the borough over the last two months and will do more in the fall, a representative said.

City officials say they’ll announce the route in 2018. They plan to begin construction — which could involve building two entirely new bridges — the following year.

Reach reporter Dennis Lynch at (718) 260–2508 or e-mail him at dlynch@cnglocal.com.

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