Plans to build a 16-mile streetcar line connecting Astoria, Queens to Sunset Park, Brooklyn will be announced by Mayor de Blasio at his State of the City speech tonight, the NY Times reports. The light rail proposal, which first leaked in the beginning of January, would cost an estimated $2.5 billion dollars to build out, and would run mostly near the East River, potentially dipping into downtown Brooklyn and Brooklyn Heights. Here's the route that's under consideration:
This route closely resembles the proposal leaked last month by the nonprofit group called Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector, whose members reportedly include Helena Durst of the Durst Organization, Jed Walentas of developer Two Trees and investor Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures.
Walentas's Two Trees owns much of DUMBO, as well as projects in downtown Brooklyn, and is also betting big on an enormous mixed-use development at the old Domino Sugar refinery on the East River in Williamsburg. All of those areas would be well-served by the proposed light rail route. According to the Times, the de Blasio administration believes the light rail system’s $2.5 billion cost "can be offset by tax revenue siphoned from an expected rise in property values along the route."
The streetcars would travel an estimated 12 miles per hour, meaning a trip between Greenpoint and Dumbo in Brooklyn lasting around 27 minutes, which the Times reports is "less than current routes on buses and subways." Some of the route would put the streetcars in their own dedicated lane, separate from vehicular traffic. And the cost of the ride would be about the same as the subway fare, the Daily News reports.
De Blasio's proposal would not need approval from the state-controlled MTA, which allows the mayor to avoid an ongoing obstructionist feud with his nemesis Governor Andrew Cuomo. But the project would still be subject to a lengthy community review, and the Times sources say construction would not begin before 2019, pending local approval, with service starting some time after 2024.
Still, if the proposal starts to seem like its' going to be a reality, it will easily boost potential rents and property values at developments like Domino, which isn't expected to be fully complete for decades.
"The old transportation system was a hub-and-spoke approach, where people went into Manhattan for work and came back out,” Alicia Glen, the deputy mayor for housing and economic development, told the Times. “This is about mapping transit to the future of New York.”
De Blasio's State of the City address is at 7 p.m. tonight at the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts in the Bronx. It will be streamed live here, but we have an exclusive sneak preview of what's in store: