In his State of the City speech on Thursday—attendance at which his administration is working very diligently to limit to friendly faces only—Mayor Bill de Blasio will unveil, among other things, his proposal to build a streetcar line along the East River, connecting Sunset Park, Brooklyn, with Astoria, Queens.
The proposed system (which would not open until 2024) would cost the city about $2.5 billion to build, the New York Times reports—significantly less than a new subway line. “There is a desperate need for north-south transportation between Brooklyn and Queens,” Mitchell L. Moss, director of the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy at NYU, said. “This is going to do more to encourage more housing than any other transit improvement currently underway.”
This is a ridiculous thing to say: developers do not need any more encouragement to renovate and build on Brooklyn and Queens waterfronts, which are already home to some of the most expensive real estate in the outer boroughs. Speaking of which! From the Times:
Mr. de Blasio’s plan has support from major developers, including Jed Walentas of Two Trees Management, whose residential conversion of the Domino Sugar refinery on the Williamsburg waterfront is set to open soon. Mr. Walentas, who has both clashed and collaborated with the mayor, has championed the streetcar plan, helping to pay for a study on its feasibility and cost.
Actually, Two Trees owns more than a dozen residential and commercial properties on the Brooklyn waterfront. The Times hints that de Blasio will tout this plan as beneficial for the (not insubstantial, especially in Queens) number of people living in NYCHA housing along the proposed line, but nobody was talking about how badly these folks need infrastructural support before one of the most influential developers in the state got involved.
What’s more, if the mayor was really interested in providing better transportation options to low-income families, he’d look to the busiest bus routes in Queens and Brooklyn, almost all of which pass through neighborhoods like Flatbush/East Flatbush, Flushing, and Jamaica. That is to say: very, very far from the waterfront, and very, very far from any property owned by Two Trees.
All combined, that barely cracks the top 10 busiest NYC buses. It about ties with the Bx19 on Southern Blvd. in the Bronx.— Market Urbanism (@MarketUrbanism) February 3, 2016
Any "value capture" will come directly out of the city's existing tax base. The city will pay for it and lie and say developers did.— Market Urbanism (@MarketUrbanism) February 3, 2016
Regina Schwartz, an aide to Mr. de Blasio, wrote last month in an email to officials at city agencies that they should be careful to keep anyone out of the event who might protest or voice opposition to the mayor’s agenda. Ms. Schwartz wanted the agency officials to vouch that no one invited would protest, the email shows.
The administration has approved what aides are calling “partner organizations” that share the mayor’s liberal agenda and given them tickets to the event, trying to pack the auditorium at Lehman College in the Bronx with a friendly crowd. The venue seats about 2,300, according to its website.
Asked about the email, a mayoral aide told the Journal, “If you’re asking whether we have an invitation list to an event with limited seating, of course we do.”