A proposed streetcar that would connect Brooklyn and Queens just got a big backer: According to the New York Times, Mayor Bill de Blasio will endorse the idea in his State of the City address, happening tonight at Lehman College in the Bronx. The proposal calls for a 17-mile system of above-ground rails that would run along the East River waterfront, linking Astoria to Sunset Park through neighborhoods like Long Island City, Greenpoint, Dumbo, and Red Hook.
According to the Times, the streetcar would travel at a speed of about 12 miles per hour—at that rate, it would connect Greenpoint to Dumbo in a little less than half an hour. The projected cost: $2.5 billion.
In an interview with the Times, Alicia Glen, the deputy mayor in charge of economic development, said the system is a way of "mapping transit to the future of New York." The neighborhoods that the streetcar would connect (Long Island City, Williamsburg, Downtown Brooklyn, Sunset Park) are places where developers are investing heavily in residential and commercial development, particularly in the way of office space. And the current options—MTA buses, or some combination of the G train and multiple transfers—are less than ideal. "The old transportation system was a hub-and-spoke approach, where people went into Manhattan for work and came back out," Glen told the Times.
But she also acknowledged that the project would face "significant engineering challenges." For one, the streetcar is designed to run alongside existing traffic, including buses and cars. Current renderings don't show a barrier between the different methods of transportation, though those could be added if the system comes to fruition. There are several other hurdles to cross before the project could move forward: It would need to go through the public review process, for one, and would require input from the many neighborhoods the streetcar would service.
Of course, one particularly large hurdle wouldn't be there: Because the streetcar would operate outside of the MTA's purview and within the city, it would not require state (ahem, Governor Cuomo) approval. And the proposal already has some big-name backers in the real estate world, including Doug Steiner and Two Trees's Jed Walentas (both of whom are working on big developments that the streetcar would connect—Steiner at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and Walentas in basically all of Dumbo). Tucker Reed, the president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, namechecked the "pockets of unprecedented job and housing growth" as a reason to bring the project to life. "This streetcar line can be the catalyst to extend that opportunity to tens of thousands of New Yorkers in many more neighborhoods," he said in a statement.
If the plan moves forward, construction wouldn't begin until 2019 at the earliest, with the streetcar operating by 2024, potentially.
· Mayor de Blasio to Propose Streetcar Line Linking Brooklyn and Queens [NYT]
· Nonprofit Wants 17-Mile Streetcar Linking Brooklyn & Queens [Curbed]