In the ‘Gentrification Express: Breaking Down the BQX’ filmmakers show how supporters advocating for the Brooklyn-Queens Connector are behind rapidly developing properties along the proposed route
The new documentary “Gentrification Express: Breaking Down the BQX” explores Mayor de Blasio’s plans to build a tramline, the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX), and sheds light on the project’s big money supporters. The film shows that the majority of BQX’s board members belong to the New York City real estate world— including the board’s chair Jed Walentas, CEO of Two Trees Management, reports Indypendent.org.
In January of 2016, de Blasio first announced the plans for the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX), a streetcar that would run a 16-mile waterfront route from Astoria to Sunset Park. The announcement was accompanied by a PR campaign that claims that the BQX as a transit option would, amongst other things, serve the low-income communities along the corridor.
In the documentary, filmmakers Amanda Katz and Samantha Farinella, students at Hunter College, show how Walentas and others advocating for the streetcars are behind rapidly developing properties along the proposed route. The film also gives voice to anti-BQX activists, including Sunset Park’s UPROSE and Queens Is Not 4 Sale, and documents their opposition to the project. Activists and community groups argue that the transit project is for the benefit of developers, rather than locals, and fear it will end up displacing longtime residents as property values rise in those neighborhoods.
A simpler solution for better transit options would be to improve the city’s bus lines, which public housing tenants have been advocating for.
“You don’t need a streetcar to have a fast-moving mode of transportation along the same streets,” says Samuel Stein, a professor of Urban Studies at Hunter College. “Having a nice bus line will not increase property values nearly as much as a streetcar will.”