(Courtesy rendering from NYCEDC)
The Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX), a proposed streetcar that would connect waterfront neighborhoods from Astoria to Sunset Park, has proven to be a contentious notion, even with backing from Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Our lead reporter, Tyler Woods, argued earlier this year that it was “an expensive, publicly-funded project to improve the quality of life of wealthy people.” Indeed, many of the neighborhoods it runs through are relatively well-off, including Williamsburg, Dumbo and Brooklyn Heights.
But Red Hook, through which the BQX would also run, isn’t quite in that category, though it is gentrifying. Opinion on the transportation project within the neighborhood, as elsewhere, is divided. (DNAinfo recapped the skepticism among locals at a community board meeting earlier this month.) But one of Red Hook’s native sons, Carmelo Anthony, recently joined the board of advocacy group Friends of the BQX. To support the project, he appeared in a video produced by Red Hook Initiative’s Digital Stewards program. The video emphasized the lack of transportation options in the neighborhood, which is mainly served by bus.
“Red Hook is very isolated,” Anthony said in the video. “It’s almost like an island by itself, within Brooklyn.”
So does this mean Red Hook Initiative is officially endorsing the BQX? No, Executive Director Jill Eisenhard told Technical.ly. But Eisenhard herself does sit on the executive committee of the Friends of the BQX. She gave us her thoughts on what the BQX might offer Red Hook residents and the neighborhood’s tech scene.
(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)
How did Red Hook Initiative get involved with this video?
When Carmelo Anthony joined the board [of the Friends of the BQX], that felt like something. The fact that he’s supporting this project is a big deal. They thought, “How can we share that news publicly?” So they contacted us. It seemed a natural fit to put those two pieces of the story together. Our Digital Stewards do all kinds of videos for all kinds of projects, whether it’s for the local library or explaining the history of a store. It’s part of their training. In this case, it was a consulting project for the Friends of the BQX.
What was the reaction to both BQX and Carmelo Anthony’s involvement with it?
Many of our Digital Stewards are looking for longterm employment in tech. From their end, it’s exciting. Industry City, Dumbo, the Brooklyn Navy Yard — in many ways the BQX connects all those places while passing through Red Hook. Increased transportation means increased connections to tech jobs. And to produce a video for someone famous from the neighborhood, who grew up in some of the same buildings as they did, that was a meaningful experience.
What do you think the impact might be on the neighborhood as a whole?
When we do our need assessments, asking people, “How could life in Red Hook be better?” transportation is always on top of the list. The BQX would be meeting that need that people have been saying they’ve had for years. I know that the route is not official: it has to go through all kinds of approval. But the proposed route — the last figure I saw was that 10 percent of all people in public housing would be able to access it.
In waterfront communities like Red Hook, there’s often a lack of transportation access. There’s no public high school here, so the majority of residents have to leave the neighborhood, which increases the travel time to go to school. Any kind of transportation increase would improve that outcome. There’s no local hospital, no major medical center, so it would facilitate access in that way.