2018-05-16 / Front Page

HPCA Meets For May

By Thomas Cogan

The Hunters Point Civic Association’s May meeting was its last of the season.  One reason HPCA suspends its meetings a month earlier than most other civic associations or community boards might be to allow it to prepare its summer block party.  As a valedictory gesture last Tuesday at the New York Irish Center, 10-40 Jackson Ave., boxes of pizza were brought in and their contents consumed avidly even after the hot slices had cooled.  Soft drinks and sturdy red wine aided digestion.  The business of the meeting was twofold:  a look at Dan Hendrick’s movie about Jamaica Bay and some commentary about the proposed Brooklyn Queens Connection [BQX] by Mitch Waxman, explorer and activist of western Queens and parts of Brooklyn.

Hendrick showed excerpts of his film, Saving Jamaica Bay, which he has made and added to over the years.  It was formally completed in 2011and had Susan Sarandon as the voiceover narrator, a fact that he explained in one of his moments of commentary.  Jamaica Bay has always been a remarkable wetlands area and a haven for fish, fowl and other animals, but since the mid-19th century or earlier, industry has visited it heavily, though the greatest possible instance of it, a proposed port that might have become the world’s largest, was cancelled by the disapproval of Robert Moses, a man deplored during much of his life for letting industrial matters roll over natural settings and other of life’s finer things.  (Hendrick offered praise for Moses’s long-ago decision.)  What did occur there was a great landfill of refuse, and though the acres of garbage were closed in the 1990s, the bootleg activity of dumping goes on.  (One scene shows the skeletal remains of a Volkswagen sticking out of the water, looking like a murder victim.]  Also, in the space of 15 to 20 years during the 1930s and ‘40s, construction of two gigantic south shore airports was the reason why miles of wetlands along the bay were paved over.

Part of the addenda to the original film is footage of the pre- and post-Sandy situation, in which Don Riepe, a local naturalist, recalls the storm of 2011 called Irene as he awaits the arrival of Sandy in late October 2012.  He points to where the waters of Irene reached in his home and where Sandy could reach if it is as bad as forecasters say it will be.  Hendrick’s post-Sandy footage shows it was worse than that. As the voiceover to this part, he asks rhetorically if anyone should actually live in a place so naked to nature’s fury.   Don Riepe, standing some time later in his extensively repaired house, says he’s never given a thought to living anywhere else.

Talking live to his audience at the meeting, Hendrick said that getting Susan Sarandon to narrate the original film came about when he got a suggestion simply to call her representatives and ask about the possibility.  Then, he submitted a proposal and she accepted.  He said that Screen Actors Guild rules made it mandatory she take proper payment for her work, but he said the check he sent her was never cashed. 

Mitch Waxman resides in Astoria and is a specialist regarding several streets and waterways in Queens and Brooklyn.  His observations about the proposed streetcar line between Sunset Park in Brooklyn and Astoria, the Brooklyn-Queens Connector or BQX, were therefore bound to be interesting. 

He began by saying that a completed BQX would be quite convenient to him, since he lives in Astoria and often travels to or in the direction of Sunset Park.  He pictured it as better than using the G line, the old GG Local, which he must do now.  But he said that several proposals for the construction of the BQX have led him to believe that its difficulties haven’t been thought out and might prove impractical or impossible.  Even if it were achieved, he said, it would be a misappropriation of funds that could be better applied to other transportation projects, among them a better, because much more needed, “connector,” which he described.

He said BQX enthusiasts can try selling you a good beginning and ending:  the terminal buildings.  There appears to be plenty of room to build them in both Sunset Park and upper Astoria.  Determining how the middle is to be made could be problematical, however.  Going from Sunset Park north toward Astoria it would be parallel to Fourth Avenue line trains (N, R, D) into downtown Brooklyn, where (if one can imagine and accept the feasibility of construction in a very busy district) it would have no recourse but to turn a little east and run parallel to the G line right up to Newtown Creek.  Waxman said that getting it over the creek via the Pulaski Bridge cannot be considered, since that bridge could not support it.  It seems the BQX would require its own bridge, and thus the plot thickens. 

In the planners’ dreams and in some of their literature, the builders fight their way to 21st Street and lay trackage up past Ditmars Boulevard, reaching a glad destination. Ten blocks east, the Astoria Line runs parallel to the new trolley line.  This proclaimed south-north breakthrough between Brooklyn and Queens has a lot of existing south-north train traffic already there.   The imagined route of the BQX does not go through one of those “transit deserts” planners talk and write about.  Waxman suggested a north-south connector that really connects, with linkage to at least 10 train lines. 

It would go from the No. 7 line’s 103rd Street-Corona Plaza station to the Broadway Junction station in Brooklyn.  Presuming that any such trolley line would have a cooperative fare and transfer agreement with the MTA (and if it didn’t, all ideas of a trolley line anywhere in Queens and Brooklyn would perish) it could provide transfers to subway and elevated lines, most of them running west to east or vice-versa.  That way, people living in this north-south area, where there is transit galore but most of it just a bit out of reach, would have a means of making connections and traveling east to Jamaica or west to Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Right now, that’s a dream too, but a better one than the BQX.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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