Pitching a Queens-Brooklyn Streetcar

Michael Kimmelman resurrects an old plan by Alex Garvin to build a light rail connection between the waterfront neighborhoods of Queens and Brooklyn, except Kimmelman would build a streetcar line.

New York Times Architecture Critic Michael Kimmelman has a plan to bring transit service to one of the well worn paths, or “desire lines” of New Yorkers—one that avoids Manhattan altogether and joins the waterfronts of Queens and Brooklyn. The transit mode of Kimmelman’s choosing: the streetcar.

Kimmelman thinks the two boroughs make sense for a transit connection, but in transit-rich New York, the two boroughs are surprisingly under-serviced: “Right now, it’s easier by subway to get from Long Island City to Midtown, or from Downtown Brooklyn to Wall Street, than it is to get from housing projects in Fort Greene or Long Island City to jobs in Williamsburg, or from much of Red Hook to — well, almost anywhere.”

In responding to the counter argument that bus service could just as adequately provide the capacity Kimmelman would hope to deliver, the critic makes the case for the streetcar’s role in contemporary New York City: “But where’s the romance? A streetcar is a tangible, lasting commitment to urban change. It invites investment and becomes its own attraction. I’m not talking Ye Olde Trolley. This is transit for New Yorkers who can’t wait another half-century for the next subway station.”

As for the potential alignment, Kimmelman cites the details of a plan proposed by Alex Garvin about a decade ago: “The route — others are possible, so let the debate begin — would start in Astoria Park and run along 21st Street. Moving south to Long Island City, it would cross a dedicated, movable bridge to be built across Newtown Creek with bikes lanes and room for pedestrians, restoring a subway bridge torn down years ago.”

Along the lines of the debate requested by Kimmelman in that last quote, Stephen J. Smith provides his dissenting take on the idea: “On a logistical level, the waterfront line falls flat for one fundamental geographical reason: You cannot effectively connect waterfront neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens to both each other and the subway.”

Full Story: Brooklyn to Queens, but Not by Subway

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