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Brooklyn-Queens streetcar may be unviable, leaked city memo suggests

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The project may prove to be too costly to sustain itself in the long run

Update, 4/18/17: In an interview with NY1’s Errol Louis (h/t Daily News), Mayor Bill de Blasio conceded that there’s a chance that funding for the BQX may not come through. “We believe this is a vision that can work and can work on time,” De Blasio said, but noted that if the money isn’t there, then “we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.”

While the feasibility study into the streetcar’s viability has yet to be completed, a leaked document laid out the “serious challenges” of moving it forward—which De Blasio said was “far from the complete analysis.” He continued, “I believe in the end we're going to find that the original vision does work and we're going to move forward on the existing timetable.”

The proposed Brooklyn-Queens streetcar project, or BQX as it’s known, may not have the requisite funds to move forward, a leaked memo obtained by Politico has revealed. Addressed to Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, the memo, crafted by the “BQX Project Team,” says there are “several serious challenges,” to address before the $2.5 billion project can move forward.

Despite public pushback, the city has always maintained that the streetcar project will pay for itself, and this assertion is based on a financial model known as “value capture.” As Politico explains, the city had hoped to pay for the project in large part with the rising property values along the proposed 16-mile route.

That financial model may now be faltering, according to this memo. Chief among the concerns is the amount of money it would take to relocate all the utility services—gas, water, sewer mains that run along this route.

The city has been studying the streetcar’s path between Astoria and Sunset Park over the last six months, and still has to present a final analysis, but this leaked memo does not look promising for the highly-publicized project. If in its final analysis the city finds that the cost to prepare for the streetcar would be far too expensive, it might abandon the project altogether, according to Politico.

“The numbers change constantly, and that study has to be completed so we can move ahead,” Melissa Grace, a spokesperson for the Mayor’s office, said in a statement to Politico. “The project will improve transportation for hundreds of thousands of people, and we continue to work to move it forward.”

Many people living along the proposed route have complained that the project will only benefit developers, and further spur gentrification, but city officials have been pushing forward regardless with eye-catching promotional materials being released every few months.