City moving forward on BQX

The de Blasio administration announced today it will move forward with the Brooklyn Queens Connector, the “BQX,” upon release of an overdue feasibility study (PDF). The press release puts the cost at $2.73 billion, a bit up from the initial $2.5 billion the mayor initially put out there. Also, this train is not planned to reach Sunset Park anymore, but will only extend to Red Hook. This announcement follows the mayor’s recent statements that without federal aid from the Trump administration the East River trolly is dead. But, doesn’t it often appear that way? 

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Some important info from the press release: 

Community stakeholders will have opportunities to provide input as the proposal advances to the environmental review and advanced design stages… The environmental impact study process will commence this winter, followed by ULURP in 2020. Construction is expected to begin in 2024 and end in 2029.

More at NYT.

NY Post: BQX study cost $7 million

Source: Friends of BQX website

The New York Post reported last night that the delayed study for the Brooklyn Queens Connector, the waterfront light-rail concept pushed by the De Blasio admin and a nonprofit group, has already racked up at least $7 million in cost.

The study was slated to wrap up last fall but has met setbacks. The Post didn’t explain exactly what accounted for the cost and didn’t compare the cost to other similar studies.

BDB: BQX is still on

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Screengrab of a rendering of the BQX at Queens Plaza from http://www.bqx.nyc/#gallery

Mayor Bill de Blasio slammed the New York Daily News today for reporting that he “may ditch” the BQX streetcar proposal. The News had reported on a comment by Alicia Glen, the deputy mayor for economic development, that implied that if the streetcar turns out to not be self-funding, then the city might have to consider a different use of capital funds. This is the quote the News reported this week and I posted on Corner (and was posted all over the place):

“Assuming that it does not pay for itself… then we have to decide whether or not this is the right use of capital money for a transportation project.”

I never took that to mean De Blasio is backing off the BQX, and I don’t think the News reported it that way. (Disclosure: I interned for the News in 2013). You can read the quote as many times as I did. This is what De Blasio told a caller (Nick from Astoria, at 16 minutes in) on The Brian Lehrer Show segment, “Ask the Mayor” (Disclosure: I work for Brian Lehrer in a different capacity) asking for clarification on his commitment:

“This is an instance where a real disservice has been done by the media, specifically the Daily News, in taking comments that presented no change in our position whatsoever and trying to reflect something entirely different… I don’t understand how a journalist does that. I don’t understand how a journalist goes out of their way to misrepresent the facts, and I’ve seen it way too often lately at the Daily News.”

“My deputy mayor spoke about the complexities of a major undertaking like this. But it’s one we believe is going to be very, very valuable for what’s one of the single biggest growth areas and population centers of the entire city of New York, the East River Waterfront in Brooklyn and Queens. This is increasingly the core of New York City and we think the BQX is going to be a high impact investment in the community. And also because I think it’s going to be part of positive development of housing, affordable housing, job creation, that’s part of why it interacts very positively with what we’re trying to do overall to help those communities strengthen. It’s going to serve 40,000 public housing residents in many communities that are underserved by mass transit. But it’s a big, complicated endeavor and it’s certainly going to require some federal support as well, which is something I’m very hopeful about particularly because of the presence of Senator Schumer in the Senate, the roll he plays. We’re moving forward but we have to get the exact details right and we’re going to have a plan…”

“We must have more mass transit and it’s not going to be created by the MTA on the scale we need.”

So the point of the story is BDB is still committed to the BQX, regardless of what Alicia Glen said.

BdB on NYCHA freeze, Blissville shelter

Mayor Bill de Blasio commented on the NYCHA boiler issue (at Astoria Houses and elsewhere) and the Blissville 100-single men homeless shelter (just 12 hours after people railed about it at CB2) on the Brian Lehrer Show Friday. On the heat issue, BDB defended himself from Governor Andrew Cuomo for saying on the show Thursday that it’s a city management issue, not the state’s failure to supply enough funds. Cuomo insisted that as a former HUD secretary (before Ben Carson) he knew what he was talking about. “Fix it!” Cuomo had yelled, as though just annoyed with the de Blasio admin. BdB retorted, “Why doesn’t he stop talking and give us the $250 million that he already signed off on?” So, the mayor and the governor are my parents. 

On the Blissville shelter (you can listen at 7:34 – and, disclosure: I work for Brian Lehrer in some capacity but am not promoting his radio show) Rebecca called in to complain about the City View 100 men shelter and the Fairfield Inn shelter opening soon with 154 families. “Are there guidelines for density? Because at this point it will be one to one,” she said. BdB:

“We care obviously to make sure that wherever there is a shelter facility, that we take into account the needs of the surrounding community and we try and balance things, but we also have a shortage of available sites,” BdB said. “We need the sites to make sure that people are sheltered and we want them to be as fairly distributed as possible and we want to think about things obviously like the impact on the immediate community.” 

A few notes:

  • Activists will be rallying at noon today against waterfront developments on 44th Drive. I plan to stop by and observe. 
  • Estée Lauder is moving “dozens” of IT jobs from Long Island to LIC, Newsday reports. The company’s tech hub will open at 1 Queens Plaza North in July. With its proximity to the Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island LIC seems to be where it’s at these days for tech.

    “Long Island City is a growing hub for startups, tech and digital companies,” Michael Smith, the chief information officer said, adding, “our team will greatly benefit from being at the center of this fast-paced and vibrant environment.” 

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1 Queens Plaza North, site of a future Estée Lauder tech hub.

Continue reading “BdB on NYCHA freeze, Blissville shelter”

Cold politics surround Astoria Houses

Sure, it’s getting warmer. But a political battle over the heating system at the Astoria Houses got more complicated this week. Bronx Councilman Ritchie Torres, who chairs the oversight and investigation committee (he formerly chaired the NYCHA oversight committee), published a report claiming that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration will be to blame for six more “heating seasons” (somehow that translates to three years, apparently) with boiler problems at the Astoria Houses. The New York Daily News, in a January 29 story on citywide Housing Authority boiler issues, featured the Astoria Houses:

“While all four permanent boilers at the Astoria Houses were up and running, they were barely able to heat the building to 68 degrees. And while some developments have a redundancy — an extra boiler that kicks in if one fails — Astoria doesn’t.”

The Torres report follows the admin’s decision last November to cancel $43.5 million in financing from the Housing Development Corporation towards the Durst Organization’s 163-unit, affordable housing building, planned for the Astoria Houses campus as part of its Halletts Point mega-development. (This was supposed to be a way for NYCHA to profit from some of its land.) The deal involved Durst paying for boiler repairs at the Astoria Houses. Politico last week said the city “disputed” that pulling the finances was part of a feud after de Blasio listed Durst as an example of a campaign contributor that didn’t receive a favor: in this case, not winning a contract to run the East River ferry.

“There was a leading real estate developer and campaign contributor who wanted the contract for our new citywide ferry service. His proposal was good, but the City agency involved thought another one was better. He didn’t get the contract.”

After that op-ed, a Durst spokesman said, “Winter is coming.” Douglas Durst had also financed lawsuits against de Blasio-backed Pier 55 on the Hudson River.

A few notes:

  • State Senator Michael Gianaris makes case for gun purchase background checks.