Skirting the law: City needs Feds’ permission to run streetcar past courthouse — but doesn’t have it

Blocked off: The city wants to run the streetcar down the closed Downtown street in front of the federal courthouse.
Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:


The city wants to run its planned streetcar in front of the Eastern District federal courthouse on Cadman Plaza East, which has been blocked off with barriers and guards since 9-11. But city officials haven’t actually asked the Feds’ permission to reopen the thoroughfare, they admitted at a recent community meeting, and residents are skeptical they’ll get it now — especially from the new guy in charge.

“You’re never going to be able to put a streetcar on Cadman Plaza East,” said Community Board 2 Transportation Committee member Jon Quint when officials came to present the plan at a committee meeting on Nov. 15. “President Trump is not going to let you.”

The Cadman Plaza East leg of the $2.5-billion trolley is just one of several potential routes the city is considering Downtown, but it is the only connection planners are proposing for getting the train to Dumbo — a neighborhood that is booming with workers, residents, and tourists but is still serviced only by the dank and overcrowded York Street F stop.

The Feds “temporarily” took control of the blocks between Tillary Street and Red Cross Place after the 2001 terrorist attacks in the name of security, and have since installed gates and booths manned by U.S. Marshal — although some residents scoff that it is really just a private parking lot for judges and staffers from the city’s Office of Emergency Management, which is also behind the barriers.

Regardless, local leaders agree it is unlikely the country’s top brass will relinquish control.

“I would be highly surprised if the U.S. Marshal Service signed off on running the streetcar down Cadman Plaza East,” said Community Board 2 district manager Rob Perris. “I cannot imagine that they’d ever agree to having a public conveyance that went directly in front of the courthouse.”

A U.S. Marshal Service spokesman said he couldn’t comment on whether the law enforcement agency’s honchos might surrender the space to the streetcar because, he confirmed, this was the first they’d heard of it.

“We have not heard of or have been approached by anyone who has suggested that the streetcar project includes that the route pass through Cadman Plaza East,” said Jim Elick, the assistant chief of the Marshals Service.

Streetcar planners are still conferring with residents about the trolley route, and the project is only “2 percent” through the design phase, Brooklyn-Queens Connector bigwig Adam Giambrone told the community board meeting.

But they also expect to finalize the specific path early next year, and Quint said the lack of planning for the Cadman Plaza East leg makes the community consultation process look like a sham.

“For you to put this up there as an option suggests that you’re dreaming and you’re not giving us reasonable alternatives to discuss,” he said.

The city expects to begin building the streetcar system in 2019 and have it running in 2024.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Reasonable discourse

Tyler from pps says:
Cuz public transportation to a public building is CRAZY! Right?

And somehow streetcars are more dangerous than buses, trucks, cars, helicopters, airplanes... uggh.

A streetcar is about as much as a threat as any of the cars parked in there.
Nov. 22, 2016, 11:17 am
BrooklynGersh from The WT says:
This is a good piece of solid American journalism, by Lauren Gill. Here's hoping the rest of the city's press corps picks it up.
Nov. 22, 2016, 1:28 pm
William Harris from Boerum Hill says:
Damn! Back to the drawing board, right? Oh,
well, there's always Furman Street. What, you
say Polly (NYC DOT Commish) says "no way"?
How about the East River? How about Red Hook
Lane? How about...
Nov. 22, 2016, 1:34 pm
William Harris from Boerum Hill says:
BrooklynGersh nailed it regarding Lauren Gill.
The basics, simply and honestly stated.
Nov. 22, 2016, 1:37 pm
off street from Brooklyn says:
Furman St is the obvious best choice. It can run just off street along the edge of Brooklyn Bridge Park, continue as such down Columbia St on the west side of the Greenway, following the path along Degraw St, and down Van Brunt to Hamilton.

This is all NYC and Port Authority land, making the transition easy, and it would eliminate all interference with intersections, parking and the Greenway.

The BQX is a great idea and we need the right mapping to make it work.
Nov. 22, 2016, 1:48 pm
Rob from NY says:
Is the caption describing the street "closed" correct? Is it closed to pedestrians, or just bicycles and motor vehicles not owned by court personnel?
Nov. 22, 2016, 2:09 pm
marsha rimler from brooklynheights says:
This is a developer and DeBlasio driven unnecessary project. Stop wasting money and agency time on it... How much has already been wasted.. It would be better used to help solve the homeless problem
We need a new Mayor. period
Nov. 22, 2016, 2:26 pm
Pedro Valdez Rivera Jr. from BS, BK, NY, US says:
I will be surprised that this could be a $5B boondoggle before it is set and done, rapidly accelerating gentrification to maximum overdrive.
Nov. 22, 2016, 4:12 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
They really should wait for this project to be approved before considering whether or not the streetcar should run through that street.
Nov. 22, 2016, 4:59 pm
downtown guy from bay ridge , says:
Im sad to say that you or I will probably never see this happen , the city has had so many B,S projects ,they make all this noise and all these plans and then it all just disappears with out an explanation,I repeat you will never see this .
Nov. 22, 2016, 10:18 pm
HONEY Pooter from Williamsburg says:
Just move the Court House if this is such a problem!
Nov. 24, 2016, 9:23 am
Thomas Brieger from Downtown Brooklyn says:
What law authorizes the federal government to close a New York City street, notwithstanding the adjacent federal courthouse?
Nov. 27, 2016, 9:22 pm
AMH from Harlem says:
It's already closed to through-traffic, making it an ideal transit route.
Nov. 30, 2016, 11:10 am

Comments closed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Keep it local!

Stay in touch with your community. Subscribe to our free newsletter: