GOWANUS — A bridge over the Gowanus Canal for the mayor's proposed Brooklyn-Queens streetcar would be welcome — as long as it connects the new transit line to the subway, advocates say.
City officials said recently that Mayor Bill de Blasio's proposal for a 16-mile streetcar route could require the building of new bridges over the canal and Newtown Creek. The project's $2.5 billion price tag would include the cost of constructing the new spans, officials said at a recent update on the proposed streetcar.
The idea of a bridge over the canal makes sense if it links the streetcar to the Smith-Ninth Street subway station, said Paul Basile, president of the business advocacy group Gowanus Alliance.
"Our only concern is whether or not Gowanus gets linked to Red Hook," Basile said. "We know a lot people in Red Hook can't get to the Smith-Ninth Street station. If Smith-Ninth Street isn’t part of the streetcar route, it’s a big oversight for Red Hook and Gowanus."
The Alliance has been advocating for a new bridge over the canal for pedestrians and cyclists, and city officials said the new streetcar bridges would have pedestrian walkways and bike lanes, YIMBY reported.
The Alliance wants a car-free bridge at Fifth Street, and Basile says that area seems to be the most logical choice for a streetcar bridge as well.
Of the canal's existing bridges, the Hamilton Avenue one has too much traffic for a streetcar, the one at Ninth Street is too narrow, and the bridges at Carroll, Third and Union are too old, Basile said.
Putting a streetcar bridge at Fifth Street also makes sense because there are plans in the works to build a large affordable housing development there, Basile said.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is poised to do a massive cleanup of the canal, which is one of the country's dirtiest waterways. An EPA spokesman said Tuesday that it was too early to comment on the possible impact of a new bridge on the cleanup.
Bridges built over the canal must accommodate boat traffic, a DOT spokeswoman said. That means bridges over the waterway must be built high enough for a vessel to cruise under, such as the elevated subway track at Smith-Ninth Street, or they must be moveable, such as the Ninth Street drawbridge.
A spokesman for the mayor said Tuesday that the streetcar proposal is still the early planning stages.
Preliminary engineering analysis indicates that existing bridges could be adapted to serve streetcar operations, said spokesman Wiley Norvell, but the city "is ensuring" new bridges could be accommodated within the overall plan "as both a conservative approach to budgeting and to maximize other policy priorities like enhancing biking and pedestrian access between neighborhoods and boroughs."
"No decisions in this area have yet been made, and our community-level engagement and planning will determine which approach is ultimately best," Norvell said.
The city is in talks with the MTA on how the streetcar could be linked to subway and buses. A 2011 DOT study found that a streetcar between Red Hook and downtown Brooklyn wasn't feasible, but de Blasio said recently that his streetcar vision differs from that earlier version.
“This is different from going from Red Hook to Downtown Brooklyn," the mayor said in Red Hook recently.
"The simple answer is that we spent two years looking at the issue and decided there was more possibility than had been seen previously."