Gentrification Express: Breaking Down the BQX explores plans touted by Mayor Bill de Blasio to build a tramline, the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX), along the waterfront from Astoria to Sunset Park, casting light on the project’s big money supporters.
Nearly all of the Friends of the BQX’s board members belong to the insular world of New York City real estate — including Jed Walentas, CEO of the $3 billion Two Trees Management, who serves as the board’s chair. Filmmakers Amanda Katz and Samantha Farinella show how Walentas and others advocating for the streetcars are behind rapidly developing properties along the proposed route.
If the BQX becomes reality, the public dollars that go to fund it will pump up property values, enriching developers and displacing low-income residents as rents skyrocket.
Shortly after the documentary was released online this week, BQX Executive Director Ya-Ting Liu penned an oped in the Gotham Gazette, pushing back against critics.
“People living on the waterfront who have long faced limited transportation — including over 40,000 residents of the New York City Housing Authority — will have more employment opportunities and easier access to schools and healthcare facilities with the BQX,” Liu asserts.
A simpler solution and one that the film makes clear public housing tenants have been clamoring for is to improve the city’s bus lines. This fix to waterfront transportation woes, while less costly, won’t, however, enrich private coffers.
Amanda Katz welcomes the public debate her the documentary appears to have helped fuel, telling The Indypendent: “I feel confident that with the two arguments viewed side by side — ours voiced by long-time residents of the communities along the [tramline’s proposed] corridor — the problems with the BQX plan are evident.”
See for yourself:
Photo (top): Mayor Bill de Blasio outlining plans for the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX) last year. Source: 1.nyc.gov.