In The News
Trolley Service May Return To Brooklyn

If Bob Diamond has his way, trolley service may soon be returning to Brooklyn.

Diamond is President of the Brooklyn Historic Railway Association, a non-profit group that's been working for years toward that goal.

"There are so many reasons to do it," Diamond said. "All you have to do is look around the country and you'll find eight or nine projects just like this."

Diamond's dream began in 1979 when he heard about a long lost tunnel beneath Atlantic Avenue.

"I thought it was kind of interesting because they said there was this tunnel that no one could find for the past 100 years," he said. "And when I had some free time I did research for a few months and found the way in through a manhole cover."

After hearing that the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce had interest in a light rail line, Diamond stepped forward.

"I took it one step farther and drew up a loop that would connect up all of the cultural attractions and all of the economic centers in Downtown Brooklyn on a circulation loop, which is lacking right now," he said. "I would also use the tunnel as a historical attraction and also as a way to short-circuit the trolley route under the congested part of Atlantic Avenue."

But all big ideas start small. So Diamond operates from a pier in Red Hook where the proposed trolley line begins and where a small portion actually exists.

"I applied for an ISTEA Enhancement Grant through New York City DOT as a sponsor and we got it," he said. "That paid to buy the materials. And all the work was done on a voluntary basis."

Red tape caused construction to stop for nearly three years, resuming again last October. But Diamond said the work can move quickly.

"If there were no red tape and the funding was in place we could be up to Borough Hall in about 18 months," he said.

Diamond stores 14 old trolley cars at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, plus three in Red Hook. Some of the cars date back to the late 1800s.

It's the newer model that Brooklynites might someday see on the streets, including a 1951 car built by the Pullman company.

That car holds about 150 people, double the capacity of a standard size city bus.

"Trolleys bring neighborhoods and people together," he said. "Highways separate people, trolleys bring them together. And trolleys create economic revitalization along their routes."

So while the BHRA waits for money and red tape, the people of Brooklyn continue to wait for the return of the trolley.

--Paul Messina

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