Improved access to the Red Hook ferry, a one-seat bus ride into Manhattan and a safety overhaul of Third Avenue would all be on the agenda of City Councilman Carlos Menchaca should he get re-elected this fall.
Menchaca, who faces a stiff primary challenge from Assemb. Felix Ortiz, outlined his transit vision for Red Hook and Sunset Park on Thursday, with an emphasis on adding transportation options and improving safety in a district he considers a transit desert.
“It’s time to put Red Hook on the transit map so our residents have better access to jobs, education, health care, cultural amenities and all our city has to offer,” Menchaca said at a Red Hook news conference with City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, of Manhattan, chair of the council’s Transportation Committee.
Standing outside the Red Hook landing, Menchaca hailed NYC Ferry’s service but said the landing’s chain-link fence entrance is “dismal and uninviting.”
He’s calling for an overhaul of the landing entrance, removing the chain link fence and adding a protected bike lane connecting to the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway. He also wants Citi Bike to add a station at the ferry landing and the MTA to extend B61 service with a stop there.
“For the stop to be truly successful, we need to have residents to be able to reach it easily and we need it to be inviting and we need it to be safe,” he said.
Further on bus service, Menchaca is calling on the MTA to study rerouting one of the nine express routes that pass through the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel to make a stop in Red Hook first. If that’s not possible, Menchaca said, he’d want a new Select Bus Service route serving Northwest Brooklyn that would take residents into Manhattan.
The MTA declined to comment on a campaign event.
In Sunset Park, Menchaca wants the city Department of Transportation to conduct a Vision Zero overhaul of Third Avenue to improve the safety of what he says “might as well be an expressway itself.”
The DOT did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Conspicuously missing from Menchaca’s plan was any mention of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s $2.5 billion streetcar proposal, called the Brooklyn-Queens Connector, or BQX. At a town hall event Wednesday night in Williamsburg, de Blasio assured that construction would start at the end of 2019 on the project to bring a 16-mile streetcar route from Sunset Park, to Astoria.
But Menchaca joined others in criticizing the mayor’s plan to pay for the BQX with tax revenue from new development and higher real estate prices. He said funding the project was “predicated” on gentrification.
“If a vote came today, I’d say ‘no.’ There’s a lot more that we have to scrutinize . . . through its funding mechanism that is going to really drive gentrification forward — you’re hearing that from every corner of this neighborhood,” said Menchaca.
Melissa Grace, a mayoral spokeswoman, said in a statement that the city is currently analyzing revenue and pinpointing the costs of “hardening and moving” the below-ground infrastructure along the BQX route, but did not specifically address what level of support would be needed to move the project forward.
“We expect to finalize those analyses in the fall, and will then be able to continue engaging local elected officials and community members on the project,” Grace said.
Menchaca said he’d rather focus on transit improvements that could come more quickly.
“We need transportation options right now,” Menchaca said. “Everything that I propose are things we can do today.”