Dear Mr. Samuelsen,
UPROSE has had a long and positive history of working with Transit Workers Union Local 100 and supporting transit workers’ campaigns, including in our successful joint effort to restore B37 bus service. I am writing to express our deep disappointment that TWU has decided to endorse the city’s proposed Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX). The BQX has generated considerable debate and community resistance along the proposed corridor. In particular, it has sparked significant concern about the influence of the real estate lobby over public projects, governmental accountability, how infrastructure projects are financed, working-class displacement, and climate resiliency. With a price-tag of $2.5 billion and growing, the streetcar is being pushed by a consortium of elite waterfront real estate developers with stakes along the proposed corridor. The financing of this infrastructure depends primarily on inflating property values along the route, which has led City Hall staffers to quietly refer to the streetcar as the Gentrification Express. It is troubling to see a labor union like TWU throw its support behind a project that spells unnecessary struggle for working-class New Yorkers.
For decades UPROSE has led on issues of transportation planning, waterfront resiliency, and anti-displacement. Locally, we spearhead Protect Our Working Waterfront Alliance (POWWA), a broad coalition of residents, businesses, labor, housing advocates, faith leaders, and others committed to preserving the industrial character of Sunset Park and preventing displacement. TWU workers live along the proposed BQX corridor in working-class communities – from Astoria to Red Hook to Sunset Park. Because of its regressive financing model, the BQX would pose a direct threat of displacement to union members living along the route. Moreover, alternative mass surface transit options like expanded Bus Rapid Transit would be guaranteed to generate transportation employment without the threats of gentrification and displacement. Moreover, there is no guarantee of transfer between the BQX and MTA transit like subways and buses. What this does is instate a two-fare zone for riders along the corridor, entirely excluding NYCHA residents and other low-income and working-class commuters that require a transfer. Finally, because we truly believe that mass surface transit is at the heart of the economic development and our city’s climate needs, we should not be supporting waterfront transit projects that are so inflexible in extreme weather.
Now more than ever, with a federal administration trampling workers’ rights and environmental justice, it is imperative that labor unions and grassroots community organizations build bonds of solidarity. Our institutions need to form strategic partnerships to push back against unaccountable corporate interests that imperil economic, social, and environmental justice. Your members live in our community; the battles that we wage – over workers’ rights, affordable housing, and climate justice – depend on our forging policy alignment that put our people and our workers first.
With the above in mind, I strongly urge you to reconsider your endorsement of the BQX. We would be happy to meet at your convenience to discuss how we might build consensus around just transportation policy that serves our shared goals and agendas. Please do not hesitate to contact me at email@example.com or 718-492-9307.