Opponents of the project have also denounced the BQX for possibly leading to over-development of waterfront communities. Liu noted that the corridor is already one of the fastest-growing stretches in terms of population growth and development. She said residents will need more reliable transportation soon.
Another concern is how to pay the $2.5 billion price tag, which city officials are sorting out now. Liu said “all options are on the table,” but the Friends of BQX recommended the strategy of value capture, a mechanism that allows the city to generate property tax revenue on the higher land value.
Liu said she believes it’s a way to pay for the project without competing with items in the city’s budget. “That is a viable financing model,” she said. “We think it’s a progressive way to fund public transit.”
At the event, Borough President Melinda Katz said transportation needs to be a coordinated effort, including ferries, subways, Select Bus Service, bike lanes and even the BQX, which is “part of that huge discussion we need to have.”
“Right now, the most important thing is to make sure that we can move New Yorkers from borough to borough to borough,” Katz said.
She acknowledged that more discussions need to take place first, including figuring out what happens to parking and bike lanes on the corridor.
“Move forward, have this discussion, and see how BQX can benefit the entire city’s economic development, transportation and families that we serve,” Katz said.
Leaders, advocates and representatives from a variety of industries attended the unveiling to support the project. Claudia Coger, tenant association president at Astoria Houses, said the BQX would provide another mode of transportation for her isolated community.
“Living without easier access to transit means our residents have to struggle more for the opportunities provided to so many others,” she said. “Opportunity means upward mobility.”
She urged the mayor to follow through on his promise to bring more transit to help connect residents to jobs and young people to cultural institutions.
“Mr. Mayor, the time is now for the BQX,” Coger said. “If you want to help the NYCHA residents living along this corridor, if you want to end the tale of two cities we are living today, it is time to get to work.”
April Simpson, who leads the tenant association at Queensbridge Houses, said the BQX would not only connect local residents to jobs, but it would also help those with disabilities get around easier.
She said although Queensbridge Houses has the F train right on 21st Street, it’s often over capacity.
“I think this would be an excellent alternative for people to get around,” she said.
Simpson also said she appreciated that BQX streetcar team approached her and other public housing tenant leaders for input before proposing the project. She noted that as developments continue to go up in nearby Astoria and Long Island City, no developers have approached her for consultation.
“The only ones who did that was the BQX, that speaks volumes,” Simpson said. “Sometimes I didn’t always agree with what they were proposing, but the BQX was the first to come and sit down with the residents. They wanted to know what we think about it.”