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Mayor de Blasio’s proposed streetcar line between Brooklyn and Queens criticized by some

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NEW YORK -- Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday formally laid out his proposal for a $2.5 billion, 17-mile long light rail system that would connect the waterfronts of Brooklyn and Queens.

In those two boroughs, which have a long history of streetcar activity, the mayor's plan could be seen as a trip back to the future. The movie with that name was, obviously, fiction, and in order for the mayor's proposal to become more than fiction itself, he's going to have to satisfy some critics.

The street car line would mostly run along streets near the waterfront, from Hallet's Point in Astoria, Queens, to Sunset Park in Brooklyn, starting eight years from now.

While the plan has been generally well received, there's no shortage of critics, from articles online that accuse the mayor's plan of favoring gentrifying neighborhoods and ignoring infrastructure needs in public housing, to others saying that the trolley line is being invested in at the expense of other transportation needs.

There are also critiques like that of Eric Kenly, a resident of Queensbridge, a public housing community situated next to the proposed line.

"Traffic here is bad," Kenly said, pointing to the neighborhood's main artery, 21st Street. "Put a trolley here, it would only get worse."

Elected officials in Queens and Brooklyn, including Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Queens City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, who generally favor the light rail proposal, agree that traffic studies, as well as implementing the traffic changes they may recommend, will be key to making the streetcar a reality.

Supporters of the proposal point out that the trolley line would connect with subway stops and ferry docks. It would also run adjacent to at least three public housing developments, two of which, Queensbridge Houses and Red Hook Houses, are the largest and second largest public housing complexes in the city, respectively.

"In Red Hook Houses," said Michelle de la Uz, executive director of the Fifth Avenue Center, a Brooklyn based community support and development organization. "The median income for a family of four is $16,000 a year."

Light rail would enable residents to much more easily get to, and keep jobs that would help them improve their standards of living.

Many of those jobs, said Carlo Scissura, president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, are likely to be in the boroughs where the residents who would use light rail live.

He said that from the Brooklyn Army Terminal to Williamsburg to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, "you have some of the hottest developments in America along this corridor."

Most people PIX11 encountered along the trolley route said that they would ride it.

"Because the MTA [is weak]," said Sandra Holder, who used an unflattering word to describe the performance of most of the city's trains and buses.

Her statement raises another important point. Mayor De Blasio's proposal is set to be paid for by the city, not the MTA, if it gets approved.

Regarding that, the city's biggest advocate for public transportation, Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign, told PIX11 News, "my concerns are the usual ones" involving public investment. "Where will the money come from, and will it stick to budget?"

He said that it will be vital to look very closely at the mayor's plan as it goes forward to get those questions and more answered fully and truthfully.

The light rail line is slated to go into operation in 2024.