We were surprised and troubled upon hearing the news that Transit Workers Union Local 100 had endorsed the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX). As neighbors working to keep Queens affordable for the working class, the Queens Anti-Gentrification Project (QAGP) unequivocally opposes the BQX for a number of reasons.
Our foremost concern is that the developer-backed project threatens further displacement of Queens and Brooklyn waterfront communities. But we also view the BQX in a context that sees politicians first cozying to organized labor for support, then caving to developer coercion against employment of union workers.
We explicitly oppose luxury development in all its manifestations — and in this particular case believe the developer sponsors of the BQX are simply using your union to garner support among working people as a means to further displace working people.
Dubbed the “gentrification express” by city hall staffers, the public-private project relies on the anticipated increased property values along its route for funding. The majority of the neighborhoods from Astoria to Sunset Park have already undergone swift deindustrialization, a fact which has left New York’s working class — once concentrated in these neighborhoods — underpaid and undervalued. Promises that the BQX will bring manufacturing back to our city are specious at best, considering the once industrial waterfront is actively being converted into an urban playground for the wealthy with projects like Sunset Park’s Industry City.
At a time when the protections and collective bargaining power of unionized workers are diminishing, we see working people penned into low-paying, harshly anti-union service sector industries and independently contracted jobs, which by nature deny workers any tangible benefits. It is our belief that there is an undeniable correlation between this shift and rising hostility towards workers city and nation-wide.
We’ve been down this road before. As you well know, before the existence of the TWU, New York’s subway lines were independently and privately owned. Until the 1935 Squeegee Strike — the TWU’s first organized strike — successive strike attempts by New York’s transit workers were broken. We remind you of this simply because TWU members carry on a rich legacy of collective power and we feel the endorsement of the BQX will ultimately undermine this legacy.
To endorse what amounts to an essentially private transit system, opens the transportation workers of New York City to the same type of harassment and anti-union sentiment that accompany all private companies on the road to profit.
We understand that you want to put your union to work. But as a representative of some 42,000 workers, the right of those workers — those New Yorkers — to affordable housing is ultimately jeopardized as luxury projects like the BQX come to our city.
The city and TWU’s interests would be better served by putting pressure on the governor to invest in our crumbling subway, an intricate and world-renowned transit system that serves some 6 million people daily and is in desperate need of a full-scale redevelopment — as the TWU knows better than anyone.
Additionally, the city could reach communities underserved by public transit with express bus lanes and material expansion of subways. Any of these alternatives would put TWU to work for a long time.
The Transit Workers of New York have long been the vanguard of what it is to be a New Yorker, serving not the wealthy 1%, but our neighbors and families.
We write to you as residents of Queens who see luxury redevelopment such as the BQX as the death knell in our borough’s reputation as a haven for working people the world over. We strongly ask you to reconsider the TWU’s endorsement of the BQX.
If you have any questions or concerns about how we might move forward with unity, please do reach out to us at your earliest convenience.
Queens Anti-Gentrification Project