S’Park pol scorns trolley, leverages it for new bus service

Trolly dodger: Carlos Menchaca is leveraging a public review of a proposed trolly system to bring express bus service to Sunset Park.
Brooklyn Paper
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He’s not playing fare!

A Sunset Park councilman with a long history of trashing Mayor Bill de Blasio’s multi-billion-dollar pet trolley project — the Brooklyn-Queens Connector — is now vying to leverage a public review of the controversial transit scheme to bring express bus service to his constituents.

“I think that it is a mistake that Sunset Park isn’t part of this conversati­on,” said Carlos Menchaca at the first city Council hearing to discuss the trolley project at City Hall on May 30.

As part of a public review of hizzoner’s $2.73 billion trolley proposal, the city’s Economic Development Corporation has commissioned a study kicking off this fall, called an Environmental Impact Statement, that will include an analysis comparing hizzoner’s hugely expensive trolley scheme versus the city’s less flashy, but far cheaper Select Bus Service, which makes express stops and includes other features designed to decrease travel times, according to the executive vice president of the city-run corp.

“We found with an apples-to-apples comparison that you only see a capital costs saving of 30 percent by doing [bus rapid transit] versus light rail or streetcar,” said Seth Myers, casually down playing an estimated $800 million in taxpayer savings at Thursday’s Council hearing.

And Menchaca — who chairs a five-member BQX task force providing Council oversight of de Blasio’s rail scheme — says he wants in, and is calling on officials to use the trolley study as an opportunity to bring Select Bus Service to his scorned constituents.

Myers, however, was reluctant to oblige the Sunset Park lawmaker, and said the neighborhood should explore more orthodox solutions for enhancing local transit, directing the councilman to petition the Department of Transportation.

“Using an EIS process for the BQX may not be right forum to have that conversati­on,” the honcho said.

The mayor’s trolley scheme originally snaked through transit-starved coastal neighborhoods along a 14-mile route between Queens and Sunset Park, but the high cost of spanning the Gowanus Canal, coupled with low-ridership projections on the other side of Brooklyn’s Nautical Purgatory, led officials to shorten the route by three miles, ending it in Red Hook, Myers explained.

“It required the crossing of the Gowanus and a bridge of several hundred million dollars to get the train there and then it was a several mile run that really didn’t attract the level of ridership that seemed to justify that cost and that potential disruption of local businesses,” said Myers at the hearing.

But even before the trolley’s Sunset Park stops got the ax, Menchaca came out strong against the mayor’s streetcar scheme, saying rents would skyrocket and locals would be displaced along its trajectory.

Indeed, the EDC’s early projections forecast that increased tax revenue generated by higher property values along the line could fully fund the proposed tram, although the city now admits that increased property taxes will only cover half the costs.

Their new plan is to lean on Uncle Sam for the remaining funds, although some members of the trolley task force took the city’s claim that the Trump administration would be willing to shell out some $1.3 billion for a city transit project with a grain of salt.

“The current occupant [of the White House] is not necessarily the most friendly to New York City,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D–Queens).

Van Bramer echoes sentiments of federal Brooklyn pols, who said the mayor shouldn’t hold his breath for a Washington windfall.

The agency aims to start the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure next year, and officials set a start date for construction at 2024 with the hope to get the service up and running by 2029, according to a spokeswoman.

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.
Updated 11:29 am, May 31, 2019
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Reasonable discourse

The Hunkster from Bed-Stuy says:
There are many reasons why that this is a boondoggle: 1) Most of the route is on the old, one way street; 2) Most of the route is prone to flooding; 3) The project is lobbied by real estate developers.
May 31, 2019, 11:27 am
Rosa Sanchez from Sunset Park says:
He’s just promoting his own interests! We, the locals, want this trolley!!!
May 31, 2019, 11:44 am
Tyler from pps says:
What upsets people so much about a streetcar? It's not the abstract $2 billion vs $1.5 billion. That's meaningless to most people, but there is a visceral response. Streetcars are stable, predictable and much more comfortable than a bus. What are the negatives that create the emotional response? Is it "too nice" so it's gentrifying? A-hole drivers would actually have to not block the road because they tram can't drive around their narcissism? What is it? (*don't want to hear the "it's too expensive" argument -- that's clearly not the biggest issue here)
May 31, 2019, 11:51 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
It's weird that the weirdos behind this trolley care about costs enough to not cross "Brooklyn’s Nautical Purgatory" but not enough to simply not do any of it. Tyler is wrong, which I do not say often. Streetcars are not more comfortable than a bus. They are not more predictable because they will get stuck in traffic more often. He acknowledges that drivers are a-holes, but anyone who is familiar with the low quality of our NYPD knows that a-hole drivers ruin everything and nothing will be done.
May 31, 2019, 12:14 pm
Frank from Furter says:
More mass transit for 2.5 billion they can send you in a limo. 1.8 billion for a bus? How much is that padded with? Give me 100 million and it would start tomorrow. You got 2.5 billion hanging around extend the 1 train to red hook and sunset park. Real mass transit not some yuppies set dream.
May 31, 2019, 12:16 pm
Tyler from pps says:
I don't disagree about the NYPD -- they are garbage when it comes to any sort of enforcement and are often the ones creating the dangerous situations (bike lane and sidewalk blocking, dangerous bottleneck creation by double-parking when they're getting their 3rd breakfast) BUT I'm not convinced that we need always say No to something because of the crappy human behavior of New Yorkers. I think we are capable of learning and changing behavior. Or are we that stupid? If streetcars work around the world, shouldn't they work in this supposed "world class" city?
May 31, 2019, 1:01 pm
Fung Doo Wong from Sunset Park says:
Sunset Park locals want trolley!!!
May 31, 2019, 1:04 pm
Tyler from pps says:
And trains of any type are more comfortable (seating, less jostling, etc) and less stressful (clearly defined route, unambiguous stops) than any type of bus... the one exception being a proper BRT, which is basically a fully traffic-separated light rail system that uses buses instead of trains.
May 31, 2019, 1:05 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
The reason streetcars work in other cities but BQX won't is the other streetcars have dedicated rights of way. Where other streetcars fail, it is because they don't have dedicated ROW. BQX is designed to fail right now. (And it's expensive, duplicates existing services without integrating with Metrocards, etc.)
May 31, 2019, 2:21 pm
Tee Gee from Sunset Park says:
Mike from Williamsburg hit the nail on the head - while there are a dozen reasons why it will not work, his point is #1 - without a dedicated right of way, running on Brooklyn streets would reduce it to slower than walking. But one the story opens with a misconception. Carlos has been the Mayor's lapdog ever since the Mayor slapped him around and didn't let him attend the press conference for the Muni ID card. Right after that Carlos gave up the City Council's responsibility & right to review any leases for the Sunset Park waterfront from 29th to 39th - the only instance in the entire City where the local councilmember and city council cannot review proposed leases. And this will be in power for some 30 years - long after carlos is no longer remembered. By the way Carlos also had to be dragged to the right side of the BQX issue by Sunset Parker - he was a slow learner.
May 31, 2019, 3:11 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
Any idea that means less cars on the road in NYC is a good idea. This is not a great idea though.
May 31, 2019, 4:11 pm
Tyler from pps says:
Dedicated right-of-way is not difficult. We have painted and camera enforced bus lanes. These actually work quite well. You don't need grade-separated tramways to create space for transit.
May 31, 2019, 4:28 pm
Tyler from pps says:
By the way, I don't think the BQX as currently conceived is all that great. But it's the right direction.
May 31, 2019, 4:29 pm
Larry Penner from Great Neck says:
Mayor de Blasio has yet to request, let alone been granted approval, to enter the Federal Transit Administration New Starts process for future funding. The project is not included within the March 2019 FTA New Starts report for federal fiscal year 2020. This easily averages five or more years before there is an approved Federal Full Funding Grant Agreement in place. It is not ethical for project director Jessica Schumer to "lobby" her father Senator Charles Schumer for federal funding. In 2015, The Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector originally claimed it could be built for $1.7 billion. In 2016, the NYC Economic Development Corporation said $2.5 billion. Today, the estimated cost is $2.7 billion. How many more billions might it cost upon completion? It takes more than a simple planning feasibility study to turn it into a viable capital transportation improvement project. In 2019, work on the environmental review along with design and engineering efforts necessary to validate any basic estimates for the $2.7 billion construction costs, is just getting started. What is the cost and funding source above the $2.7 billion base line price tag to pay for two new bridges over the Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek as part of project scope? Initiation of the environmental review for the proposed Brooklyn Queens Street Car Connector is just the first step of any potential capital transportation project improvement. The journey for a project of this scope can easily take 10 to 20 years before becoming a reality. Given the increasing uncertainties of project financing, growing costs for utility, sewer lines and water main relocation and other more urgent needs, it appears that a new limited stop bus route along this corridor would make more sense. A limited stop bus route could be implemented within two years. All you would need is several dozen buses, bus shelters and additional operating subsidy to supplement shortfalls from farebox revenue. NYC Transit can purchase new buses for less than $1 million each to support this new service. Don't count on riding the Brooklyn Queens Connector any time soon. (Larry Penner is a transportation historian, writer and advocate who previously worked 31 years for the United States Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for billions in capital projects and programs for the MTA, NYC Transit, Long Island Rail Road, Metro North Rail Road, MTA Bus, NYC Department of Transportation along with 30 other transit agencies in NY & NJ)
May 31, 2019, 6:24 pm
Morris from Flushing says:
I hope the BQX happens. I'm so sick of the rampant NIMBYISM that kills worthwhile projects throughout NYC. Yes, we desperately need cost reform, but changing plans due to all the brilliant "community input" received also dramatically increases the price. You know what community input typically involves? "We don't want it. Put it somewhere else. We like our neighborhood just the way it is." Wonderful. Maybe people with these attitudes should have the roads & train stations in their neighborhoods closed. Then they'll realize how it feels to deny accesss to others.
June 1, 2019, 7:18 am
Morris from Flushing says:
Wait a minute. I may have to admit that I already stand corrected regarding my previous comment about rampant NIMBYISM in NYC. Perhaps there is some hope...?
June 1, 2019, 8:21 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I still think this plan is unrealistic and the rate it would move would be no almost no different from that of a bus not to mention it will cause a lot of alternating volume of motor vehicles on surrounding streets.
June 1, 2019, 3:06 pm
Charles from Bklyn says:
Just another giveaway to developers who paid to play. Why not expand select bus service for working people and forget the rich man's trolley?
June 1, 2019, 4:11 pm
Janet from Park Slope says:
If at grade, it's just like a bus. "More comfortable" only when it's new. Like a new bus. How about restoring the B71 and other devastated bus lines, so that they're dependable, rather than building this?
June 2, 2019, 4:53 pm
Tyler from pps says:
I seriously think no one commenting here has ever ridden in a streetcar.
June 3, 2019, 12:32 pm
concerned from Greenwood says:
Mike from Williamsburg is right. Unless the BQX had its own dedicated lane to bypass street traffic, it will not be express anything. Can't believe no one is aware of this! There's no room on the streets of Brooklyn for a streetcar. It's a 20th century solution for a 21st century problem. How about a monorail? That seems like a better idea to me.
June 3, 2019, 1 pm
Tyler from pps says:
Umm... so, give it a dedicated lane. Like they give to buses.
June 3, 2019, 3:49 pm
Ralph Kramden from Sunset Park says:
How about taking the billions of dollars that would go to DiBlasio's boondoggle and invest it in the R train. Right now, at rush hour, when the MTA website shows "good service" you often have to to wait 12-18 minutes for a train.
June 3, 2019, 6:02 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Ralph, that's something I could never understand myself especially in how some politicians or agencies can come up with new ideas but can't seem to fix what they already have first.
June 4, 2019, 1:47 pm
Sally from Brooklyn says:
This trolley idea is a ridiculous waste of billions of dollars. Put this money into expanded express bus service. Thankfully this idiot mayor will be long gone and this trolley folley will be trashed.
June 28, 2019, 4:09 pm
Sandy from Brooklyn says:
Tyler, you have such hate for people and groups.
June 28, 2019, 4:12 pm

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