On Monday, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz issued a statement calling on Amazon to pay for the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX), the mayor’s proposed streetcar that would run from Astoria down the waterfront to Red Hook.
The BQX should include a free transfer to MTA subways and buses, and reduced fares for low-income New Yorkers as part of the “Fair Fares” program, the borough president said.
“Amazon’s pick of Long Island City is a gamechanger for Queens,” Katz said. “That said, the community’s significant concerns about capacity, equity and already strained infrastructure needs are certainly valid, given the substantial tax incentives offered to Amazon.”
Katz argued that Amazon paying for the BQX would be a “fair investment to its new home.” The streetcar would benefit the impacted communities in western Queens, she said.
To help alleviate the loss of thousands of parking spots from the BQX, Katz said the city should “aggressively explore” creating new municipal parking options.
She also suggested opening two new Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) stations: Long Island City and Hunterspoint Avenue, both which should come with enhanced service.
“The company and the public sector must work together to make investments in necessary transit improvements that will support Queens residents,” Katz said.
But opponents of the Amazon deal, including two local officials, say that would not be a good idea.
When asked on Monday about Katz’s idea, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said he had not seen the statement yet. But he said if it was up to him, the billions of dollars would be invested in public housing, schools and parks instead.
“There are so many other needs in the community,” Van Bramer said. “It is much more important to me that we see justice for our public housing residents.”
He added that the BQX would cost billions of dollars, and would taken a dozen years to build anyway.
“We need immediate relief,” Van Bramer said, “and I think there are better and quicker ways to deliver that relief when it comes to transportation infrastructure.”
State Senator Michael Gianaris, who is also opposed to the HQ2 deal, said if Amazon wants to have a discussion about what they need to do for the community, it should be about paying for affordable housing and fixing the subways, two areas that will be negatively affected by their campus.
“Having one tool of gentrification pay for another is not what we should be looking at doing here,” he said.