He’s Red Hooked.
Knicks star forward Carmelo Anthony has endorsed the Brooklyn Queens Connector, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s waterfront streetcar project, for a new outreach campaign launching Monday.
In a video interview for the Friends of the BQX to be released Monday, Anthony reflects on his early childhood growing up in the Red Hook Houses, a public housing complex. Before honing his isolation game at Madison Square Garden, the Red Hook native had to overcome the isolation and defeatism that can creep into life in a community with sparse transportation options.
“When I was a kid, traveling was very difficult. There’s not that many options, you know, to get out of there,” Anthony says in the clip. “If you don’t catch the bus, ain’t no telling when the next one’s coming. It forces people to kind of stay in a bubble. So you give up. A lot of people give up.”
The BQX, as the proposed streetcar’s known, is planned to run between Sunset Park and Astoria, along a 16-mile route that the city is still mapping out. Anthony echoes the de Blasio administration in talking about the $2.5 billion project.
“The BQX is kind of this evolution of Brooklyn,” Anthony says in the video. “All the communities: Industry City all the way to Long Island City — I think it opens the doors up for jobs and for people surrounding those areas. The more transportation opportunities we can bring to a place like Red Hook — it’s going to enhance the mindset of the people who are from that area.”
Anthony’s endorsement follows a poll from the Friends of the BQX, a group that supports the project, published last month that illustrated overwhelming support for the project among residents near the route.
The group features a board ranging from former MTA chiefs to real estate developers from firms like Two Trees Management and Tishman Speyer.
Ya-Ting Liu, executive director of the Friends group, hopes the highest-profile streetcar fan will help attract wider input and awareness as the city begins another round of community outreach.
“Having someone with his profile will really help us reach a greater audience that might not be plugged into these types of proposals,” says Liu, who explained that Anthony’s camp reached out to get involved. Students from the Red Hook Initiative, which aims to empower local youths, interviewed the nine-time NBA all-star and produced the video.
City officials have begun meeting with community boards in Queens and Brooklyn to hash out defined streetcar routes.
But some residents and transit experts remain skeptical and have questioned virtually every element of the project, including the use of a streetcar, its route and the proposed financing.
They’ve wondered if better transit connectivity could be accomplished more easily, and more cost-effectively, through bolstering local bus service or by building a true Bus Rapid Transit system along the streetcar’s route.
Eddie Bautista, executive director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, questioned if a streetcar would be the most logical option for a route that runs through a good portion of a flood zone that includes Red Hook.
“The route, as best as we can tell, has the streetcar in flood and/or storm surge zones,” Bautista said.
“It seems like a silly and very expensive piece of transportation infrastructure to site in vulnerable parts of the waterfront.”
Tom Angotti, an urban planning professor at Hunter College, evoked the project’s unofficial title — the GX, or Gentrification Express — when he challenged the planned financing structure.
“It will take tax revenues that will be generated by future development and pour them into a piece of infrastructure that’s going to benefit people who own the buildings along the line,” Angotti said.
The city has maintained that the route will connect a diverse group of New Yorkers, including 13 NYCHA developments with more than 40,000 tenants.
At the end of the video, Anthony smiles as he says he might have to take the streetcar’s inaugural trip, possibly as early as 2025.
“The BQX will link outer-borough neighborhoods, businesses, and the families who call them home,” said Melissa Grace, a spokeswoman for the mayor.
“We welcome Carmelo Anthony’s support. Indeed, we’d be honored to have one of Red Hook Houses’ most celebrated sons make a BQX inaugural trip.”