Dear Mr. Anthony,
We are writing to express our concern over your recent endorsement of the Brooklyn-Queens Connector, or BQX. Founded in 1966 by Puerto Rican activists, UPROSE is a fifty-year-old community-based grassroots organization in Sunset Park committed to environmental and social justice. At the center of our work is the empowerment of community to advance their own agenda and drive local development in the interest of racial, social, and economic justice — oftentimes in contrast with the top-down interests of privilege and power. The proposed BQX flies in the face of this community-based model and instead puts luxury real estate development at the center of the agenda.
Here in Sunset Park, you are a hero and we hold you in high regard as an uncompromising advocate of communities like ours. For this reason, we were deeply disappointed and stunned to see that your staff did not do their due diligence in reviewing this proposal before advising you to endorse it. The BQX is a novelty project of several powerful real estate interests along the Brooklyn/Queens waterfront. Together, they make up the so-called Friends of the BQX. While their public relations team emphasizes the public housing along the route, they do not highlight the real estate developers’ waterfront properties that are in actuality driving this proposal. The PR team does also not highlight how the project is proposed to be funded: by inflating real estate values along the route and then taxing them. What this means is the guaranteed displacement of low- and working-class residents, mom-and-pop shops, and blue-collar industrial businesses. Moreover, there is no guarantee that BQX riders would be able to transfer for free to MTA subway and bus lines. In essence, this is transportation for the privileged at the expense of the poor. There are city government staffers privately referring to this proposal as the GX, or Gentrification Express.
You state you are concerned about the current lack of transportation in Red Hook and other working-class communities. This is a very real and long-standing concern that we share. However, with only a thin veneer of transportation justice, the BQX is designed to displace the very community that it purports to serve. If the city and their real estate partners genuinely had transportation justice in mind for the Red Hook community, they would seriously be considering working with the MTA to bring Bus Rapid Transit service to the neighborhood, which is cost effective, resilient, and accessible financially to community. Instead the BQX is the only transportation option they are considering for this area. Why has the call for more transportation options to Red Hook been ignored for decades, and only now that the neighborhood is rapidly gentrifying is there interest in a shiny and unaffordable streetcar? Given the federal budget cuts that are surely coming New York City’s way, why are we promoting expensive and exclusive services that are likely to further burden our communities?
We find it very unfortunate that the Friends of the BQX are so successfully putting black and brown faces on a real estate-driven project. Given your extraordinary story and your commitment to justice, our community embraces how you use your platform to put a spotlight on injustice and inequity. We were hoping to connect with you directly to raise this concern; however, given our limited capacity as a grassroots organization, we are making this a public appeal. In the interest of justice and the good of our communities, we hope to have a private conversation with you about your endorsement of the BQX and the very real displacement threats that the proposal poses. If you would like to discuss this further, we can be reached by phone at 718-492-9307 or Twitter at @UPROSE. We look forward to hearing from you.