Neighborhood Intel

A streetcar named 'Mayor de Blasio's new transit proposal' links Brooklyn and Queens

By Alanna Schubach | February 9, 2016 - 9:59AM

This may come as some consolation in the wake of news about station and subway shutdowns: the New York Times reported that Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to bring a streetcar system, dubbed the Brooklyn-Queens Connector, to the East River waterfront, linking the two boroughs. 

Traveling between Queens and Brooklyn can frequently pose challenges: Subway-wise, the journey requires either the seldom-seen G train, or a time-consuming trip through Manhattan, a sad reality that has surely put a strain on many inter-borough relationships.

But de Blasio’s proposal could make Queens-Brooklyn romances slightly less star-crossed. The plan entails a line that would run on aboveground rails and traverse the 16 miles between Sunset Park and Astoria, with stops in Red Hook—now poorly-served by the subway—as well as booming neighborhoods like Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO, Greenpoint, and Long Island City.

The project is estimated to cost $2.5 billion—but that’s less than a new subway line. (As a means of comparison, the Second Avenue Subway is expected to run up a $17 billion tab by the time it’s finished.)

Map of proposed streetcar system from the New York City Mayor's Office

A better connection between Queens and Brooklyn is not unprecedented—the boroughs used to be connected by trolleys, which were part of a city-wide network that was around for 70 years. Most trolleys were phased out by the 1930s, however, to make way for cars and buses. But buses didn’t truly make up for the loss, as they were designed with getting commuters to the subway, and on to jobs in Manhattan, in mind. Trolleys, on the other hand, linked neighborhoods where people didn’t necessarily work, but did socialize, shop, and eat. 

The streetcar plan isn’t the first proposal for connecting the outer boroughs. Triboro RX, for instance, which was dreamed up by the Regional Plan Association, is a suggested subway line that would use existing freight train lines to connect neighborhoods from Bay Ridge all the way to Jackson Heights, and then on to the Bronx’s Co-Op City. 

Untapped Cities broke down some of the pros and cons of the Brooklyn Queens Connector: While it would allow improved access to many who need it—including the residents of 13 NYCHA developments—it would also be costly and complicated, requiring the involvement of community boards and other stakeholders. 

Whatever happens, city officials have said that such a system might not be completed until 2024. So if you live in Long Island City and are looking for love, Red Hook residency might remain a deal-breaker for a while. 


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Alanna Schubach

Contributing writer

Contributing editor Alanna Schubach has over a decade of experience as a New York City-based freelance journalist.

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