Rendering of streetcar on its way to the Atlantic Terminal near Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Image via Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector
Many questions and criticisms have risen about the Brooklyn-Queens Connector. The $2.5 billion cost is cheaper than digging a new subway line, but some argue that the money may be more effectively used to improve the existing bus system. Funding, according to the Mayor’s office, would come from tax revenues derived from increasing property values in the area.
Another critique has been the streetcar system’s vulnerability to environmental disaster, particularly given the alignment of the streetcar path with the flood zone and damage sustained by the Brooklyn waterfront during Hurricane Sandy. Some areas were without power for two weeks and it took over a year before vital infrastructure in the region was fully restored. With the inevitability of future superstorms, it seems necessary to institute a concurrent plan to protect the streetcar line but a recent $176 million dollars award for a new flood protection program will only cover the lower part of Manhattan. A revitalized flood barrier has not been implemented along the East River and members of the Red Hook community will likely face more damage if another storm were to take place.
The approval process will also likely be ripe with controversy. On one hand, the streetcar will not run on any land that necessitates state jurisdiction, thereby removing any approvals from Governor Andrew Cuomo. But the project will require the approval of local community boards, institutions generally and traditionally hesitant about change, in the standard ULURP (Uniform Land Review Procedure) process. Benjamin Kabak of Second Avenue Sagas contends that this makes the proposed timeline “aggressive.”
For now, we’ll let time and politics hash out the future of the New York City streetcar project.