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Will the Brooklyn-Queens streetcar benefit developers more than locals?

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An investigation looks at developer contributions to the BQX

As the streetcar project along the waterfront in Brooklyn and Queens inches towards reality a New York Daily News investigation is questioning the real motivation behind the project. The paper’s reporting seems to suggest that several big name developers with multi-million dollar projects along the proposed streetcar route made contributions to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s now-extinct non-profit, Campaign for One New York, in order to get the project rolling, and in turn benefit their developments.

It all seems to start with the developer behind the Domino Sugar factory megadevelopment, Jed Walentas. Soon after de Blasio became Mayor, a representative from his nonprofit allegedly drew up a list of developers that the Mayor should contact to get behind his non-profit. At that time Walentas was trying to get the green light on his Domino project and the city was pushing for more affordable housing. Walentas eventually agreed but the city allowed him to build a larger overall development.

That same year Walentas was also spearheading the Brooklyn-Queens Connector project, and helped form the group, Friends of BQX, to that regard. Even though the city was initially hesitant about the project, Walentas was allegedly able to change the city’s mind by hiring traffic experts and by showing that tax revenue from increased property value along the route would sustain the project.

But something else was going on at the same time. Other developers along the proposed route which stretches from Sunset Park in Brooklyn to Astoria in Queens allegedly began making contributions to the Campaign for One New York, according to the Daily News. These include the developers behind Greenpoint Landing, Pierhouse, and Astoria Cove among others.

The following year the Mayor announced that he was in favor of spending $2.5 billion on the streetcar project, and the city would pay to run the streetcar every year. When one of the potential route lists was published last month it showed streetcar stops at the developments of all seven developers who had contributed to the non-profit, according to the Daily News.

But that begs the question of how many people the streetcar project will actually benefit. Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen has gone on record to say that a rapid bus system would be much cheaper. Some business owners along the route have expressed hesitation over how all the construction will effect their work, and several Downtown Brooklyn residents have said they don’t need the project.

That being said the project has been gaining support in recent months (albeit in polls organized by the supporters of the project), and some elected officials have been getting on board as well. So far, an environmental review has been planned for next year, with a groundbreaking ceremony planned in 2019 unless there is overwhelming opposition in the interim.