Is the BQX Finally Dead?
The controversial Brooklyn-Queens Connector streetcar proposal – known as the BQX – is likely to die with the next mayor administration. Yesterday the mayor confirmed the project is being delayed due to the pandemic related budget crisis, “the decisions will have to be made by and large in the next administration, given the time that’s been lost here... Everything’s been slowed down by the reality of the coronavirus.”
The proposed waterfront streetcar would have run 11 miles from Red Hook Brooklyn to Astoria Queens, connecting 13 subway lines, more than 30 bus routes, nine Ferry landings, and over 100 Citi Bike stations at a projected cost of $2.7 billion. The Mayor and Economic Development Corporation argued it was the perfect transit solution for public transit deserts like Red Hook that have been underserved for decades.
The BQX would be emissions-free and run on tracks flush with the existing roadway in a dedicated lane without overhead wires or underground power sources, making it resilient to major storms and flooding. Unlike the original proposal, the recent route removed Sunset Park and avoids Dumbo. The pre-pandemic had the streetcars running by 2029 with a projected ridership of 50,000 a day.
The project was already losing momentum, especially with the recent loss of the Amazon HQ2 in Long Island City that city officials said would justify the expenditure. An environmental impact statement was awarded last year, signaling the project was still being considered by the city.
The value capture approach of the BQX seeks to reimburse the taxpayer funding by generating tax revenue from increased property values along the line. Opponents of the proposal say it primarily benefits private real estate interests and is a vanity project by the Mayor's administration who could just as easily dedicate select bus service along the corridor at a fraction of the price.