Diamond in the clear! Transit legend’s streetcar dreams finally back on track

Brooklyn Paper
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His cable car has just come in!

Mayor DeBlasio wants to bring trolley dodging back to Brooklyn for the first time since the 1950s, and no one is more excited about it than legendary Flatbush engineer and transit geek Bob Diamond, who has been trying to get the city to do just that for more than 20 years.

“I think it’s really important for the future growth and prosperity of New York City that the mayor and other elects work to bring back a streetcar network,” said Diamond, who has been laboring to build a streetcar system linking Red Hook with Downtown since 1989.

Diamond’s dream was originally city-sanctioned, and he lay some tracks in Red Hook and purchased several vintage streetcars to ride them, only for the city to cut off funding in 1999.

The Bloomberg administration became interested again in 2009, but put the kibosh on his fantasy altogether in 2011, following a Department of Transportation study — widely circulated online again in recent days — that found the streetcar would serve relatively few people for the price tag and would be difficult to squeeze into Red Hook’s streets.

Diamond believes the study was set up to fail, however, because the city wanted to fund more buses at the time.

“To be perfectly frank, it’s been a laughing stock in the transit community since it came out,” claimed Diamond, who also poured his efforts into running tours through an abandoned train tunnel he found under Atlantic Avenue, until transportation officials killed that dream in 2010 as well.

The armchair transit expert still contends that streetcars exceed busses in every way that matters — creating less pollution, consuming less energy, accommodating more passengers, and promoting development along their routes.

“Streetcars are superior to busses on every level and in every category of metric,” he said.

Now the city has a leader who is enthusiastically on board the streetcar revival, Diamond — who says he has written seven or eight books on the subject — says his one remaining hope is that he is included.

“I’m bored, so if I can help them in any way, I’m all ready to do that,” he said. “I need something to do since the tunnel tours got shut down, and there’s only so many books you can write.”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Pedro Valdez Rivera Jr. from Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New York, United States says:
I'm deeply worrying about this project to be heavily subsidized, due to projected ridership failing to meet expectations.
Feb. 8, 2016, 10:55 am
go Bobby from Red Hook says:
It's your birthday!
Feb. 8, 2016, 12:09 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
It's nice for Bod Diamond to have the nostalgia when NYC used to be abundant with trolleys and streetcars, but he has to understand that it's unrealistic to bring them back, plus he should also understand why there stopped and their tracks and most poles removed in the first place.
Feb. 8, 2016, 4:57 pm
do tell Ta Bar from Notingville says:
Time to put your big foot in you mouth again. Open wide!
Feb. 8, 2016, 10:40 pm
Richard Garey from The Bronx says:
It's interesting that people assert insufficient ridership for any proposed streetcar line. Meanwhile in New Orleans which has a population 10% of Brooklyn and a geographic area 3.5 times Brooklyn, the streetcars are highly utilized. They run primarily through low-scale neighborhoods lined with single family homes. They work in tandem with a bus system as did New York City's original streetcar system.
Feb. 9, 2016, 8:24 am
Alton Henson from Baltimore, MD says:
I applaud this effort. You now have the government's attention; there's a real chance now. Staten Is. needs rail transit too, but any improvement is an improvement. I hope this will come to fruit. Streetcars work, & they get people to open their wallets & purses. Plus, the locals reap benefits via expanded transportation options. Build it. Build it right now.
Feb. 9, 2016, 4:46 pm
Rufus Leaking from BH says:
Garey - you will take note that NOTHING happens in a hurry in the South.
Feb. 10, 2016, 7:11 am
Karl from Ridgewood. says:
Trolleys have ALWAYS been better for the environment and that they do carry more people than the bus and on a dedicated ROW even in street running they provide a safe and smooth ride over any bus. And they are cheaper to maintain and operate and last a lot longer with proper maintenance over buses.
Feb. 12, 2016, 5:17 pm
Robby from Flatbush says:
Brooklyn needs more people like Bob Diamond. Years ago, while wearing my old-fashioned skimmer hat, I took a ride on one of Bob's trolleys, which he drove. It was great fun. I've also gone on Bob's underground tunnel tour, beneath Atlantic Avenue. That was great fun too. Bob deserves to be part of any plan to revive trolley car service!
June 27, 2016, 10:05 pm

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