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City Can't Guarantee Streetcar Won't Encroach on Waterfront Bike Route

By Gwynne Hogan | March 30, 2016 11:48am | Updated on March 30, 2016 1:34pm
 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

BROOKLYN — Mayor de Blasio's streetcar could interfere with a waterfront bike route that's been in the works for more than a decade, DNAinfo New York has learned.

The mayor's much-touted streetcar line is likely to travel a similar path to the partly completed Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway — a bike lane that will cover 14 miles of Brooklyn's waterfront from Greenpoint to Bay Ridge once it's completed.

A spokesman for the mayor confirmed the city can't guarantee that the streetcar won't interfere with the greenway project.

"Potential is there, cannot say definitively," Austin Finan said in an email Wednesday. "The city is still early in the planning phase and has not made any decisions regarding alignment.

"Part of our planning will look at other uses and projects along the corridor and we will work to complement other modes of transportation while delivering safe, efficient, and modern new transit to the Brooklyn and Queens waterfront," he added.

In a later comment following this story's publication, Finan added that "protecting and expanding the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway will be a significant priority.”

The precise route of the Brooklyn Queens Connector (BQX) has not been chosen and may require construction of new bridges over the Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek.

The conflict came to light after organizers at the nonprofit Brooklyn Greenway Initiative, which is pushing for the bike greenway, met with the Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector, the organization pushing for for the streetcar, shortly after the city began to publicly discuss the project in February.

The Brooklyn Greenway Initiative was curious about the streetcar route and how it might impact with their work on the bike lane route, they said in an internal memo written following the meeting.

"The construction of a streetcar line must not interfere with the completion of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway and indeed should help enable the Greenway’s completion," the group wrote.

"[Brooklyn Greenway Initiative] sees the logic and the merits of creating a parallel rail connection along the Brooklyn and Queens waterfront if it can prove feasible, PROVIDED that one existential issue for the Greenway is met."

Brian McCormick, co-founder of the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative, has been advocating for the waterfront bike path first as a volunteer since the late 1990's and then officially for the non-profit since mid-2004.

The DOT officially took on the project in 2012, though some portions of the bike path had already been completed dating back about a decade, McCormick said. Currently around five miles of the Greenway have been completed, and several additional sections are in the works in Greenpoint and Red Hook.

"We look forward to hearing more details on ... how the project can enhance the Greenway itself," McCormick said. "There is a process of engagement, until [then], there's nothing to worry about."

Jeremy Soffin, a spokesman for the Friends Brooklyn Queens Connector, said their group has suggested the city steer clear of the Greenway in plotting the streetcar's route, but added that the city has the final say.

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