The Real Deal New York

Critics say BQX streetcar plan will struggle to gain traction after Amazon exit

De Blasio loses key talking point in slow-moving campaign
February 22, 2019 11:31AM

A rendering of a BQX streetcar with Jeff Bezos and Bill de Blasio (Credit: Getty Images and BQX)

Amazon’s decision to bring part of its HQ2 to Queens helped breathe new life into the city’s long-stalled Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX) streetcar plan. Now that Amazon has canceled those plans, BQX could really be on its last legs, according to local critics.

“It’s one less arrow in the mayor’s quiver,” Ben Fried, a spokesperson for commuter advocacy group TransitCenter, told the Brooklyn Eagle. “But the fact is, with or without Amazon, this project was losing momentum and was on its last breath.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio gave the project one more push last month, when he granted a $7.2 million contract to a consulting firm to study the environmental impact of the trolley, basically kicking the project over for the next administration to deal with.

“That’s highly irresponsible, and they should just let it die a dignified death,” Fried said.

In a statement, Jessica Schumer, the executive director of the Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector, said “The need for high-quality mass transit along the BQX corridor was glaringly clear before Amazon chose Long Island City and still is today.”

Though some view the streetcar as a boon for transit-starved neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens, critics have panned the project as unnecessary, uneconomical and a costly handout to developers with property along the planned route.

Last April, de Blasio finally admitted that BQX would require federal funding, despite previously claiming that the project would pay for itself through funding from local taxes.

In September, BQX director Adam Giambrone announced that he was stepping down and returning to Canada. His last day on the job was October 5, just over a month before Amazon said it would be coming to Long Island City.

The streetcar’s proposed route will run from Gowanus to Astoria. An extension of the route into Sunset Park was scrapped amid local political opposition and fears of low ridership. [Brooklyn Eagle] — Kevin Sun