RED HOOK — Three abandoned trolley cars that occupied a portion of the Red Hook waterfront for years were trucked out of the neighborhood Sunday night.
The three cars were removed and given away by the O’Connell Organization, a Red Hook real estate development business that owns the property behind Fairway Market where the trolleys were located, the company announced on its website.
The company donated the trolleys, “along with a significant donation,” to the Branford Electric Railway Association (BERA), which operates the Shore Line Trolley Museum in East Haven, Conn., according to its website.
“Rather than let these historic trolleys continue to sit stagnant, building up rust and rot in Red Hook, the O’Connell Organization has passed them on to BERA, which has the ability to rebuild them or at the very least can facilitate a transfer to someone that will,” the announcement read.
Since Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the O’Connell Organization has been working with BERA to find a new home for the flood-damaged trolley cars, which faced rust, rotting, missing doors, frozen gear cases, destroyed windows and glass, as well as motors that were immersed in salt water.
Early Monday morning, around 12:30 a.m., the three streetcars were hauled out of Red Hook — a “very sad” sight, said local photographer Silvia Saponaro, who witnessed the event first reported Gothamist.
The cars, which had been left unused for years, symbolized the neighborhood’s aspiration for a light rail system of its own, said Bob Diamond, chairman of the Brooklyn Historic Railway Association. He said two of the trolleys dated back to 1951, while one was from 1947.
“They basically snuck up and took them out of there,” said Diamond, who has spent more than a decade working to build a trolley network in Red Hook and was unaware of their donation.
Diamond said his association had hoped to restore and repaint the trolleys but did not hear back from the O’Connell Organization after reaching out to the group several times this year.
The O'Connell Organization did respond to further requests for comment.
Diamond, along with the Gowanus Canal Community Development Organization, recently launched a study to determine the feasibility of building a streetcar system that would travel through Red Hook from Borough Hall to the Smith-9th Street subway station.
The Department of Transportation derailed plans for a Red Hook trolley system in 2011 after determining that the project’s expense would outweigh its return.
But Diamond said the DOT’s study was wrong.
“The important thing is to produce the new study,” he said.