An Open Letter From BHRA Founder Bob Diamond:
BHRA has been a volunteer
organization from the time of its inception back in
1982. New York City DOT has proclaimed that this
group of volunteers, who spent the past 7 years building
a trolley line, should simply dismantle it based on
"orders" of dubious legality.
Almost $300,000 in Federal, State
and City funds were invested into this project.
The project was required to have a "useful lifespan" of
at least 10 years. The trolley line has not yet
been fully completed- let alone been in full service for
10 years. For BHRA to dismantle the project based
on "orders" from CDOT may in fact be tantamount to
destruction of public property, and open BHRA personnel
to criminal prosecution or other civil liability.
The CDOT entered into contracts
with both the Federal Highways Administration and the
New York State Department of Transportation for project
grant funding. Since CDOT contractually agreed to
provide a "completed project" to those funding Agencies,
CDOT may in fact be in Breach of Contract and be
required to refund all grant monies received to date.
According to legal statutes, CDOT may also be
"blackballed" from receiving further Federal and State
grants due to its refusal to complete the project.
Also, in order to receive Federal
funding the entire "structure" had to be deemed eligible
for listing on the State and National Registers of
Historic Places, under section 106 of the Federal
Historic preservation laws. Removal without prior
authorization from those Agencies might constitute a
breach of State and Federal laws. At any point in the
removal process, any person could pursue the listing of
the trolley tracks on the State and National Registers
of Historic Places. If that were to occur, no
public money could be used in their removal.
One does not simply "remove and
fill in" trolley tracks in the City of New York.
Detailed engineering plans must first be filed with the
NYC Department of Design and Construction, and that
Agency’s approval sought. It is even possible an
EAS and EIS would be required. Further,
construction permits from the City would be required.
According to CDOT’s own internal
cost estimates, it will cost the City a minimum of
$500,000 to demolish the project and fill in the holes
left behind. Its seems almost preposterous that in
a time of financial crisis, CDOT will approach Mayor
Bloomberg and the City Council, to request nearly
$1,000,000 in funding ($500,000 for demolition and
$300,000 to repay Federal grants), to demolish a project
that could have been completed for only $400,000- as
well as place the CDOT’s Federal and State grant
standing in jeopardy.
In the 21 years I have worked in
the non-profit field, I have heard of grants to
construct a project- but I have never, ever heard of
grants for the demolition of a project. I have no
clue as to what CDOT was thinking when they thought BHRA
could raise a huge amount of funding to demolish its own
In short, I cannot imagine a
scenario in which the Red Hook trolley will be
demolished that quickly. BHRA simply does not have
the authority or resources to comply with CDOT’s
"demolition orders". Short of receiving
authorization from Federal and State authorities to
demolish and remove Federal and State property, and a
substantial funding source to accomplish same, BHRA
cannot take any action. Similarly, in a time of
financial crisis, I cannot fathom the notion of CDOT
using almost $1,000,000 of NYC tax payers’ money to
demolish a project that can be completed for $400,000-
especially at a time when Fire Houses are being closed
and the Police Department threatened with cutbacks and
CDOT’s ill advised action has also
left the City in a very precarious accident liability
position. Since the CDOT Revoked its Consent, BHRA can
no longer maintain the track construction sites on
Conover Street and Reed Street. The traffic and
pedestrian safety barriers can no longer be legally
maintained. BHRA can no longer maintain the
safety- or "tidiness" of the construction sites- who
will? What if God forbid, a motorist or pedestrian
becomes injured? BHRA can no longer insure the
site, as CDOT has Revoked its Consent, therefore BHRA no
longer has any site control or site responsibility.
The City of New York is now dangerously exposed to
un-insured accident litigations at work sites which are
now abandoned and un-maintained.
Oddly enough, CDOT is about to
receive a Federal "T-3" "High Priority" grant of $1.4
million to study a downtown Brooklyn to Red Hook light
rail line. The grant is coming through the efforts of
Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez.