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Riding the Desire Line

Healthy cities welcome change. Today, neighborhoods along the waterfronts of Brooklyn and Queens are among the ones undergoing the biggest changes in New York but they’re badly served by mass transit.
I’m Michael Kimmelman from the New York Times and this is my proposal to bring back the streetcar - mostly along the route first laid out nearly a decade ago by urban planner Alex Scarman.
The route begins in Red Hook. The streetcar would start at Ikea, which runs a ferry to Lower Manhattan. Small businesses in Red Hook now cut off from customers by a lack of transit would suddenly become more accessible.
Traveling north along Columbia Street and then Furman Street we pass Brooklyn Bridge Park. Here there are more ferries into Manhattan and a link to subways in Brooklyn Heights and in Dumbo. The area is also a potential magnet for startups, tech companies, small businesses and artisan prized older buildings with open floor spaces and lots of character.
Today a city that attracts young entrepreneurs who favor these old mixed neighborhoods and industrial buildings and whose employees like to ride bikes, take public transit and live near work is thinking ahead - so is a city that doesn’t leave behind its poor citizens in neighborhoods that have long had meager access to public transport.
Go east on Flushing Avenue and then north on Kent Avenue into Williamsburg: Kent is ripe for transit which would run beside one of the city’s most popular bike lanes.
A modern streetcar with tracks buried only a few inches into the asphalt shares the road and flows with existing traffic. It’s a permanent commitment which generates economic development and becomes its own attraction.
Further north and past McCaren park, Greenpoint has been colonized by millenniums but it’s under serveby the G-Train. The route here dead-ends in Newtown Creek but a dedicated bridge with bike lane and pedestrian pass would restore the old subway bridge that was torn down years ago, providing easy access for residents and workers in Greenpoint to reach the subway at Vernon Boulevard.
Property values are skyrocketing in Long Island City. It’s got PS1 and the Silvercup studios and a slew of bars and funny little shops and the feeling of a neighborhood on the make.
From there, we head north on Vernon Boulevard. Across the river on Roosevelt Island, a new Cornell tech campus is being built linked to Queens and Manhattan by the F-Train. This entire route could become, who knows, a new Silicon Alley.
We hang a right at 41st Avenue, just south of the Noguchi Museum and Socrates Sculpture Park – long marooned city gems. Then a left on 21st Street into Astoria: a strip full of parking lots and low-rise industrial buildings ready for new housing and other development. The end of the route is where the Triborough Bridge meets Astoria Park. There’s lots of new development already and a glorious public pool from the 1930’s where American swimmers practiced for the Berlin Olympics.
A streetcar could link not just underserved parts of the city, long neglected by mass transit; it would also trace a new desire line that is emerging in New York, linking waterfront areas rich in history but also crucial to the city’s future.

Source: nytimes

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