Trolley Dodgers

by John Delach

One of New York’s worst kept secrets is that the governor of the Empire State and the mayor of the Big Apple despise each other. They do whatever they believe necessary to go one up on the other or undercut each other whenever opportunities present themselves. In theory, these two liberal Democrats, Andrew Cuomo and Bill DeBlasio, should be simpatico; cooperating for the greater good, but ambition, past slights, condescension, arrogance and just plain nastiness are the rules of their game. They have been reduced to two egos jousting in an endless gotcha contest.


They clash over policies, projects, funding and just about anything they can think of. Cuomo fancies himself as a Twenty-First Century, Robert Moses, proposing grand projects like a new LaGuardia Airport that includes a monorail to nowhere and a rebuilt Penn Station that would be nothing more than shining s***. Regardless, Andy Boy just loves to step on Comrade Mayor DeBlasio’s toes with these grand illusions that he proposes inside the city limits.


Comrade Mayor DeBlasio has had a few victories in these skirmishes including blindsiding the gov into making pre-school funding available across the state. As they joust, they may fantasize that they reflect Moses, the master builder, but they are actually more akin to Bernie Sanders. Moses knew how to fund projects in advance whereas the Gov and Hizzoner advocate free stuff since neither provides concrete funding for their dream works.


Hizzoner’s latest scheme is to add a sleek cross-Queens/Brooklyn trolley line to whisk passengers 17 miles from Astoria to Sunset Park at a thrilling speed of 12 miles-per-hour. So far, Andy hasn’t chimed in on this proposal, perhaps because our comrade mayor may have made an end run circumventing the Gov’s authority?


Did you know, Bob and Ray, that all rail and bus transit and transportation in and around New York City operates under the mantle of the state controlled Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)! Despite this mandate, Dan Janison recently reported in Newsday: “The city would build this so-called BQX streetcar line independent of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s MTA. That might sidestep the current alienation between the mayor and governor.”


Okay, Hizzoner predicts the proposed trolley line will cost $2.5 billion. That estimate may be illusionary if reports are correct that the right-of-way will require two new draw-bridges to span Newtown Creek and the Gowanas Canal. The final figure must also include the sixty trolley cars needed for the line, the car barns* (where the trolleys will be stored, maintained and repaired) and money to fund operational costs. It is safe to say that the MTA will treat the BQX worse than a rented mule or more like the way The Donald predicts he will treat undocumented workers. Even simple items will be complicated. BQX employees will be separate from all other transit employees and the city will end up fighting its own MTA for federal dollars to repair and replace equipment and infrastructure. (Suggestion: Check out the popular definition of insanity.)


So how does Comrade Mayor DeBlasio plan to pay for this grand plan? The New York Times reported the following, “Administration officials believe the system’s cost can be offset by tax revenue siphoned from expected rise in property values along the route.”


The key words in that statement are siphoned and expected. If revenue is expected, that means that you’ve already anticipated that it will be there and that siphoning it infers that you are diverting it from an already intended use.


Neat, indeed! Something like: “If you build it, it will be okay because all will be good.” I wonder just who the administration officials plan to screw by siphoning away their intended funds?  Welcome to Fun City as Dick Shaap once put it.


The good news Andy is already in his second term as governor and even if comrade mayor is re-elected, he will be out of office by 2021. Both will be long gone before 2024 when the BQX is scheduled to be up and running which, if consistent with other NYC transit projects, should be more like 2030.


  • I’m sure there is modern alternative to “car barn” but I just like the way it sounds.


On The Outside Looking In, will be off next week and will resume on March 9th.