Since the early aughts, it seems there's always been at least one politician or opinion-maker fantasizing about a trolley or streetcar system along the Brooklyn/Queens Waterfront.
The Brooklyn Bridge Streetcar Company made noise about rails in Brooklyn Bridge Park and Coney Island back in 2005, and in 2009 Mayor Bloomberg expressed interest in a "new streetcar service in growing waterfront neighborhoods in Queens and Brooklyn." The DOT sought a consultant for an optimistic $10 million Red-Hook-to-Brooklyn-Bridge-Park rail in 2010, and last spring the Grey Lady gave an Astoria-to-Sunset-Park line a Real Serious Think.
One imagining of the rail route, proposed by advisory group member Alex Garvin (via)
Now, Capital reports, an advisory committee made up of people who would benefit from a streetcar along the waterfront—including DUMBO's notorious developer/overlord Two Trees—has commissioned HR&A Advisors (who also consulted on the High Line) to determine if a streetcar from Astoria to Sunset Park, cutting through neighborhoods like Red Hook, Williamsburg and Downtown Brooklyn, is indeed "feasible."
In addition to serving startup bros in Industry City and the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the advisors argue that laying tracks would also provide more public transit options to some NYCHA properties, like the Farragut Houses in Vinegar Hill.
Bob Diamond of the Brooklyn Historic Railway Association, who has been pushing for a Brooklyn streetcar since the late 80s, tells us that the baseline cost of said rail would be $13 million a mile, "including track, catenary, light rail vehicles, etc." He also estimates that transit-starved Red Hook would supply 15,000 riders per day, looking to connect to the subway at Smith/9th Street and Borough Hall. As of right now, that neighborhood is only directly served by one mode of public transit—the sad and lonely B61 bus.
There are still many big questions that need to be answered before anyone starts laying track, though. For example, who would pay for this project? And where, exactly would it go? Alex Garvin, one of the advisors on the committee, has suggested running the line down 21st Street in Astoria, where it would meet the F train at 21st Street-Queensbridge, then cross over Newtown Creek and continue down the waterfront to Red Hook. From the NY Times:
In Brooklyn, the route would follow Commercial Street to Franklin Street to Kent Avenue and eventually end up on Columbia Street at the Erie Basin in Red Hook, along the way linking to subways and to ferries that now suffer because they’re disconnected from the transit network.
One thing that does seem clear, is that the debt-plagued MTA is not at the top of the list to fund the project. (That is "probably... a good thing," one advisor told Capital.) So maybe that means it will actually happen?