Are developers calling the shots at the BQX trolley project?

Reps from Durst, Two Trees in regular talks with city
January 02, 2017 10:00AM

Rendering of Brooklyn-Queens streetcar line (credit: Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector)

UPDATED, Jan. 3, 11:06 a.m.: Two Trees Management and an advocacy group backed by real estate interests are involved in regular phone discussions with public agencies over the planned Brooklyn Queens Connector trolley line.

The revelation comes amid growing local concerns that the transit project could benefit developers at the expense of housing affordability.

The executive director of Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector, an advocacy group backed by development firms Two Trees TRData LogoTINY and the Durst Organization, and a representative from Two Trees take part in calls with city’s Department of Transportation and Economic Development Corporation twice a month. One source told the New York Post that the two “in effect, run the call.”

The city dismissed the suggestion that real estate developers are calling the shots at the trolley project. “Neither the Friends of the BQX or Two Trees Management has any role in the planning of the Brooklyn Queens Connector,” an EDC spokesperson told the Post. He added that the calls are merely intended to “discuss community engagement.”

The Friends of the BQX’ executive director Ya-Ting Liu said in a statement: “Like the Friends of the High Line and many other non-profit groups, Friends of the BQX is a diverse coalition of community, NYCHA, business and transportation leaders formed to advocate for a project with tremendous public benefit. In this role, leadership of the Friends were invited to meet periodically with BQX officials to discuss opportunities for community engagement and public education.”

The de Blasio administration plans to build a trolley line connecting Red Hook and Astoria along the East River waterfront. It wants to pay for the project by issuing tax-exempt bonds and hopes to begin construction in 2019 and complete it in 2024. An April city analysis found that the project could raise the values of adjacent properties by 3.5 percent.

Jed Walentas’ Two Trees is developing the Domino Sugar mixed-use complex on the Williamsburg waterfront along the trolley’s planned route. [NYP] — Konrad Putzier