Join us for a walking tour… of the future! On today’s episode, co-host and transit nerd Dan will bring us on a walking tour of Bay Ridge and Sunset Park in an alternate future. An alternate future where The Triboro has been built.

What’s the Triboro? It’s a proposed passenger rail line that would run along the underutilized tracks in northern Bay Ridge. It would connect Co-Op City in the Bronx to Bay Ridge, and all the communities in between… shaving hours off commutes between the boroughs.

But our walking tour doesn’t just explore a single rail line… it explores what sustainable, community-led development might look like! That means affordable housing, community-led development, new parks, and mixed-use communities. We’ll walk through a Bay Ridge in which residents have taken power away from real estate developers, and empowered communities across three boroughs.

Finally, we’ll meet up to interview the amazing folks at the Regional Plan Association at their downtown offices. They came up with the plan, and we’ll talk about how local communities like Bay Ridge can help make The Triboro a reality.

The 65th Street Yard, the proposed terminus of the Triboro Rail Line | Photo by Daniel Hetteix

Audio Bookmarks

Show Notes

The Triboro Route

The proposed route of The Triboro | Image from the RPA’s Triboro Report

The best thing about the Triboro is that, technically, it’s already built. The rail lines exist, and only need refurbishment and legal adjustments to make them suitable for passenger traffic. That also means getting the multiple owners of the tracks, which includes the LIRR, to agree to share the tracks for passenger service.

That also means that the location of the Triboro stations aren’t set in stone. Most of our podcast descriptions of the various stations are based on suggested station placements, and meant to be evocative of what individual communities might request. The lack of stations on Randalls Island, or Dyker Heights, might be possible additions.

Finally, there is the possibility that Bay Ridge wouldn’t be the end of the line. If the Cross-Harbor Freight Tunnel is built, it’s possible that The Triboro could extend passenger service all the way to Staten Island or New Jersey!

Community Land Trusts

We spend alot of time in the episode describing various forms community-led development. This includes mixed-use development, climate change infrastructure, and more. We put special focus on Community Land Trusts.

CLT’s already exist in New York City, though they haven’t been widely adopted. They’re an exciting possibility for letting residents maintain control over their land. They also help neighborhoods maintain their affordability, counteracting greedy developers.

Often, existing controls such as zoning isn’t enough to keep upzoning from displacing existing residents. With CLTs, the balance of power can tilt back in favor of residents and renters, allowing for more responsible densification and maintenance of NYC’s housing stock.

Bay Ridge, especially, is one of the few neighborhoods in Brooklyn with a healthy mix of “medium-density” housing. Medium-density housing (often 3-4 story walkups) are big targets for developers. It’s easy to convert these buildings into lower-density higher-income luxury units. This is especially true in Northern Bay Ridge, where The Triboro would have the biggest impact.

The Triboro will be seen as an opportunity by developers across the city. Tactics to put more control in the hands of residents, such as Community Land Trusts, are essential if we’re going to preserve the Triboro’s intended purpose: a more equitable city.

The Triboro vs. Cross-Harbor Freight

A view of the Bay Ridge Line right of way, the proposed western route of the Triboro rail line
The Bay Ridge Line right of way. The Triboro rail line would re-purpose some of these tracks for passenger service, while still allowing for freight traffic. | Photo by Daniel Hetteix

We name-dropped the Cross-Harbor Freight Tunnel multiple times throughout the episode. It’s the OTHER major infrastructure project envisioned for the Bay Ridge Branch, apart from The Triboro.

The Cross-Harbor Freight Tunnel would be the replacement to the “Car Float” operation at the 65th street yard. It is, predictably, a huge tunnel that would go under the Narrows. Importantly, it would allow freight to move between Long Island and the mainland United States.

Right now, there’s no way for freight trains to get onto Long Island without going all the way up to nearly Albany, crossing the Hudson at Selkirk, then coming all the way back down through the Bronx. The Cross-Harbor Freight Tunnel would solve that, and be a great way to stabilize and reinforce New York City’s food and freight supply.

There’s alot of concern that The Triboro would interfere with freight traffic along the line. Fortunately, even if the Cross-Harbor Freight Tunnel was built, freight trains is expected to run only once every hour, which gives more than enough leeway for running multiple Triboro passenger trains along the same route.

We’ll have alot more detail about the Cross-Harbor Freight Tunnel in a future episode!

Additional Reading…

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