BY BENJAMIN FANG
New Yorkers got a glimpse of what the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX) streetcar could look.
Supporters of the proposed light rail line unveiled a life-sized prototype of the streetcar, which would run along the 14-mile waterfront corridor from Astoria to Sunset Park. Proponents of the project said it would signify the next step of public transportation in New York City.
“Public transit is the key and the missing link to connect New Yorkers to opportunities, to good paying jobs, to education,” said Ya-Ting Liu, executive director of the Friends of BQX, a nonprofit advocacy group pushing the project. “On the heels of Mayor de Blasio’s re-election, we call on the city of New York and the mayor to take action and move this project forward.”
Since the mayor announced the project last February, the BQX has been a topic of discussion among officials, residents and local leaders. Those in favor of the rail project tout its potential to connect 400,000 residents, including 40,000 public housing residents, to booming employment hubs in Long Island City, Williamsburg and Sunset Park.
Liu said the subway system was built more than a century ago, designed to move people toward Manhattan. In 2017, she said, more people are living and working in Brooklyn and Queens, so the transportation system should reflect that shift.
She added that the streetcar will have curb-level boarding that will be accessible to all New Yorkers, open gangways to create more boarding capacity, and possibly a dedicated right of way to move the streetcar faster than buses.
The city is currently analyzing potential routes and financing models as part of the BQX’s feasibility study. It could open as soon as 2024, according to officials.
Liu said letting the public to see an example of what the streetcar could look like allows people to realize that “the city is for real” about the project. The prototype was 46 feet long, nearly nine feet wide, and compromise of two cars and a driver cab.
“Putting something more concrete forward will help crystalize it for more New Yorkers,” she said.
In an interview, Liu also addressed an array of issues that BQX detractors have raised since its conception. Recent news reports raised concerns that the streetcar project would be denied by the governor, but Liu said the land the BQX bypasses is city owned. They wouldn’t need any zoning changes or eminent domain, she said.
“There will always be bureaucratic resistance to these kinds of projects,” Liu said.
On the question of fare integration with MTA buses and trains, Liu said it’s too early at this stage of the planning process to talk about integrating fares. She said she’s confident once the project is further along, it will be “sorted out” by the MTA and city officials.
“It’s used to distract from the main vision,” she said. “This is a red herring.”