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Streetcar Connecting Brooklyn and Queens Waterfronts Backed by Mayor

By  Jeanmarie Evelly and Nikhita Venugopal | February 4, 2016 10:21am 

 A rendering of the proposed streetcar that would run between Brooklyn and Queens.
A rendering of the proposed streetcar that would run between Brooklyn and Queens.
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Courtesy Office of the Mayor

ASTORIA — Mayor Bill de Blasio has endorsed a plan to create a streetcar system that would connect burgeoning neighborhoods along the waterfront in Brooklyn and Queens — a transportation link that's needed as more residents, and jobs, move to the outer boroughs, he said.

The Brooklyn Queens Connector would run along a 16-mile route next to the East River from Astoria to Sunset Park, connecting to "innovation" hubs at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Industry City and the Brooklyn Army Terminal, as well as to 13 NYCHA developments, according to the mayor's office.

It would cost the same as a single subway ride, and would cut a typical weekday trip by about 18 minutes compared to the city's current transit system, officials said.

 The line would run from Astoria to Sunset Park.
The line would run from Astoria to Sunset Park.
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NYC Mayor's Office

A ride from Greenpoint to DUMBO, for example, would take 27 minutes on the streetcar compared to 51 minutes now.

"It's something that I think is going to make a huge impact for hundreds of thousands of people," de Blasio said during a radio interview on Hot 97 Thursday morning.

"We're talking about neighborhoods that are growing in terms of populations, we're talking about neighborhoods that have more and more jobs in them."

The idea of a streetcar connecting Brooklyn and Queens has been floated before. Last summer, a group of developers and local experts — including urban planner Alex Garvin and traffic engineer Sam Schwartz — teamed up to study the feasibility of creating such a line.

The mayor's proposed route would cost $2.5 billion to build, and would serve neighborhoods like Red Hook that have historically been "left out" by public transit, he said.

"To me, this is the kind of thing we need in this city," he said during the radio interview.

"More and more people are not going into Manhattan to work — they're going to Brooklyn, they’re going to Queens," he said. "This connects the two biggest boroughs and just makes people have a lot more ability to get around, a lot more opportunity."

De Blasio said the venture would be financed in a way similar to how the Bloomberg administration funded the 7 train extension — using revenue generated by the additional development the project is expected to spur.

"What we're really doing here is we're creating new value that wouldn't have been there otherwise, by putting in something that people value the most: more mass transit," the mayor said. "Taking that extra value and revenue that we get from it and applying it to creating the mass transit."

Construction on the project is not expected to start until at least 2019, and would take about five years, de Blasio said.

The mayor is expected to outline the plan during his State of the City address Thursday night, according to published reports.