March 23, 2016
By Joe Maniscalco
Brooklyn, NY – The union representing New York City transit employees is gearing up to represent future workers on a new street car line stretching from Astoria to Sunset Park, LaborPress has learned.
The Brooklyn Queens Connector — or BQX — is estimated to cost the city about $2.5 billion to construct — cheaper than a new underground subway line, and fiscally more attractive than additional bus rapid transit.
Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen touted the BQX at a special appearance in Brooklyn Monday night, in which she predicted the street car line, along with increased ferry service, will comprise a $25 billion economic benefit to the city.
But while the de Blasio administration is endeavoring to get the BQX done without MTA involvement, John Samuelsen, head of TWU Local 100, told LaborPress that his union will “definitely move to organize the workers.”
“The street car will not properly serve working New Yorkers if it's not linked to the subway and bus system via MetroCard,” Samuelsen said in an e-mail. “We support the project, but it must be built as a viable means of transit for working families. Otherwise, it will not become an integral part of our intermodal transit system, and it will be relegated to a tourist attraction.”
Transfers between the BQX and the rest of the city transportation system, however, will mean that the city will have to deal with the MTA at least on some level. And that means Governor Cuomo will, once again, have an opportunity to stymie Mayor de Blasio’s plans.
The mayor introduced plans for a new 16-mile streetcar route along the waterfront, back in February. The sleek new BQX is estimated to run about 12 miles an hour, and offer quicker service than both the subway or buses.
TWU Local 100 not only represents about 38,000 transit workers citywide, it is also the union for CitiBike workers — New York’s hugely popular bike sharing program.