New York Daily News

Tracking trolley folly - Streetcar buff rails as rival revival plan rolls

December 7, 2003

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Call it the Brooklyn trolley follies.

Returning trolley service to Brooklyn has been a dream agonizingly out of reach for one streetcar enthusiast for two decades.

Ironically, it now appears that after all these years, it may be his former prot%E9g%E9 who gets the job done.

Bob Diamond founded the Brooklyn Historical Rail Association in 1982, and has been toiling single-mindedly since then to get the stately streetcars rolling again.

His vision of a trolley line stretching from Red Hook to downtown Brooklyn nearly came to life - tracks were laid and old cars purchased - until the city's Department of Transportation halted funding last year.

Last month, however, the idea was revived as a means for people to traverse the planned Brooklyn Bridge Park, a $150 million, 70-acre patch of green along the Brooklyn waterfront.

But instead of Diamond's brainchild, the proposal now being examined by the park's development corporation is from Arthur Melnick, 58, a former spokesman for Diamond's organization.

Diamond, 44, has since made a flurry of unflattering allegations about his rival, the worst of which has Melnick robbing Diamond's life's work after the volunteer quit this year.

"I caught Melnick stealing everything off our computer hard drives," Diamond told the Daily News. "He took 22 years of engineering documents, maps and blueprints for a Brooklyn trolley line."

Melnick, who founded the Brooklyn City Street Car Corp. last February after Diamond's plan collapsed, called his former colleague's allegations "totally absurd."

"We're trying to ignore his nonsense and rantings," Melnick said. "We don't want it to look like it's degenerated into a brawl because we're trying to pull off something very difficult."

Diamond also said that Melnick told Brooklyn Navy Yard Development president Eric Deutsch that Diamond had died - so that Melnick could grab several streetcars that were in storage at a location on the Brooklyn waterfront, he said.

When called to confirm Diamond's claim, however, Deutsch strongly denied he'd ever been told Diamond was dead.

"No! Nobody ever called saying he was dead," Deutsch said between fits of laughter.

Because Diamond has failed to make payments on his 17 prized streetcars - one dates to 1897 - his ownership of the trolleys is now in question. Last week, he was served with papers demanding he remove five trolley cars from a Red Hook pier by the end of this month.

Nevertheless, Diamond still holds out hope that the trolleys will be used in the future on a rail line servicing Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Diamond said the cars could be leased or sold to the park development corporation. "We're very eager to work with them in any capacity," he said.

Melnick called Diamond's situation "sad," but vowed to roll ahead with efforts to bring the clanking cars to Brooklyn.


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