De Blasio Plans Waterfront Streetcar Linking Brooklyn and Queens

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks on Sept. 23, 2015, in the Bronx.

Photographer: Andrew Burton/Getty Images
  • The line would run 16 miles at a cost of $2.5 billion to build
  • The system would connect affluent areas and public housing

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed a $2.5 billion streetcar system stretching from Sunset Park north to Astoria, Queens, linking neighborhoods with little or no subway service to downtown Brooklyn and Manhattan.

The cost of a trip on a Metrocard would buy a ride along a 16-mile (26 kilometer) dedicated line at a speed of more than 11 miles per hour. It would wind through rapidly growing and gentrifying waterfront neighborhoods, including Long Island City, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Downtown Brooklyn, Brooklyn Navy Yard, Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Red Hook, Gowanus and Sunset Park.

While some of these areas, such as Brooklyn Heights and Long Island City, are located near several subway lines, other neighborhoods such as Red Hook, are remote and rely on buses and ferries to Manhattan. The streetcar route will also pass 13 public housing projects, giving their 40,000 residents more mobility and easier access to downtown Brooklyn and the rest of the city. It would connect riders to 15 subway lines, 30 bus routes and 10 ferry landings.

“This is about equity and innovation,” de Blasio said in a prepared statement, released in advance of his State of the City address scheduled for Thursday night. “We are mapping brand new transit that will knit neighborhoods together and open up real opportunities for our people.”

The $2.5 billion system would be paid for through “tax incremental financing,” which would allow the city to sell bonds secured by the anticipated property-tax revenue the city would reap as the neighborhoods along the streetcar corridor experienced development and economic growth, according to Wiley Norvell, a spokesman for the mayor. 

This way of securing bonds was used to finance an extension of the No. 7 subway line from Times Square west to serve Hudson Yards. That swath of previously underdeveloped land on Manhattan’s far west side between 30th and 34th street is where developers Related Cos. LP and Oxford Properties are creating what they describe as 17 million square feet of commercial and residential space, including office towers, 5,000 apartments, shops, restaurants, a hotel, a school, a theater and 14 acres of open space.

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