RED HOOK TROLLEYS removed

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There’s one less reason for me to visit Red Hook. On February 9, 2014, the collection of trolley cars that Bob Diamond, the rediscoverer of the Atlantic Avenue Tunnel, had assembled in a scotched attempt to bring trolley service back to the streets of Brooklyn, were trucked away from the tracks behind the Fairway Supermarket (originally the Van Brunt Stores building) on Beard Street where they had been parked for the greater part of the last decade since the trolley project fell through.

 

(photos from the summer 2010)

Apparently the owner of much of the warehouses and property in this stretch, Greg O’Connell, tired of seeing the rusted hulks along the waterfront, where they had been open to the harsh winds and salt air and water of the Upper New York Bay.

A little background is in order here.

There was a Jurassic Park-like experiment that went on in remote Red Hook, Brooklyn, where a Flatbush resident named Bob Diamond dreamt of returning trolley cars to their rightful place on the streets of Brooklyn, where they ran for the greater part of the 20th Century. In the movie Jurassic Park, Richard Attenborough cloned some dino DNA found in an amber-preserved insect, and bingo, a flock of man-eating lizards appeared. Diamond has acquired some trolley DNA in the form an 1897 model from F. Schuckert & Co., built in Nürnberg, Germany, and used in the Oslo, Norway trolley system for many years (and even served as the king’s private car for a time,  three 1951 PCC cars that ran on Boston’s Green Line for decades, a switching locomotive, and twelve trolley cars from Ohio. He intended they rid the waterfront streets of auto traffic the way the dinos got rid of hapless villains and extras in the movie.

 

In 2003, the City pulled the plug on Diamond’s dream. The Department of Transportation insisted that Bob acquire independent funding for the project; so far he has been unable to raise enough money to continue, but he still had the trolley cars, and so his dream wasn’t completely dead.

 

After discovering an abandoned LIRR tunnel under Atlantic Avenue in the early 1980s, Diamond set in motion a process that he hoped would someday bring trolley service from Red Hook to Brooklyn Heights. He acquired space in the venerable Beard Street Warehouse where he formed the Brooklyn Historic Trolley Association and worked night and day on revitalizing the ancient cars; he had hoped to open the space for a trolley museum, construct trackage from Red Hook along Columbia and Furman Streets to the new waterfront park being constructed there, and perhaps even return the Atlantic Avenue tunnel to revenue service.

 

For a couple of years, things progressed steadily, as Diamond constructed trackage in a loop along the waterfront running west from the warehouse, and then along Conover, Reed and Van Brunt Streets. The PCC cars and the magnificent brown and gold Schuckert clanged along the waterfront as tourists marveled.

 

Diamond had disputes with former volunteers on his team, was evicted from the warehouse after occupying the space rent-free for almost 10 years, and the city grew tired of waiting for Bob to raise funds. At length, the City dropped support for the project, and finally, the Department of Transportation came in and ripped up the tracks and paved the streets in early 2004. But the tracks along the waterfront, catenary wire and poles, and trolley cars, covered in canvas to protect them from the elements, still remained at the waterfront.

 

The tracks and catenary are still in place and are all that is now left of Diamond’s quixotic quest. Reports vary about where the trolley cars were taken to. Some say they’ll be trashed for scrap. Diamond is hopeful that they will go to the Trolley Museum of New York.

Oh, and the Schuckert was vandalized some time back.

It’s one more example of New York City’s edges being smoothed out.

UPDATE: the trolleys were donated to the Branford Electric Railway Association which operates the Shore Line Trolley Museum in East Haven, CT; however, Diamond maintains the trolleys were not McConnell’s to donate.

2/13 UPDATE: the cars are so far gone that BERA thinks they may have to be scrapped.

2/10/14





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20 Responses to RED HOOK TROLLEYS removed

  1. Julian says:

    Richard Attenborough, not David.

  2. Robert says:

    From the O’Connell organization;
    This past weekend O’Connell Organization donated three trolley cars which were located on the company’s property adjacent to Fairway Market for a number of years. These trolley cars, along with a significant donation, were conveyed to the Branford Electric Railway Association, which operates the Shore Line Trolley Museum in East Haven, CT, an organization founded in 1945 dedicated to the preservation of the trolley car.
    For more than a year, since Hurricane Sandy, The O’Connell Organization has been working with the BERA in order to find a home for these trolley cars. Unfortunately, the salt water that flooded the Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook during Hurricane Sandy did considerable damage to these trolleys, limiting the potential of finding a suitable organization to undertake their rebuild. The list of issues that arose post-Sandy with respect to these trolley cars includes rust, rotting, missing doors, frozen gear cases, destroyed windows and glass, and motors which were immersed in salt water. The O’Connell Organization continues to hope that these trolley cars will serve a purpose somewhere and have donated them to the BERA for this very reason. Rather than let these historic trolleys continue to sit stagnant, building up rust and rot in Red Hook , the O’Connell Organization has passed them on to BERA, which has the ability to rebuild them or at the very least can facilitate a transfer to someone that will.”

  3. Julian says:

    Gothamist.com says O’Connell donated them to the Shore Line Trolley Museum in East Haven, CT. Diamond is quoted as saying they weren’t O’Connell’s to give away.

    • Trolley Troll says:

      Wonder why BHRA, a 501c3 with financial records that are available to the public, never claimed any of “their” trolleys as assets on Form 990-EZ’s dating back to the mid-2000′s. The organization’s documents (if you get a chance to look at them), at the very least, provide context for their tainted reputation, and at most, shed light on BHRA’s financial and operational inconsistencies. Gothamist and other media have given this failure a platform to continue propagating lies. Diamond seems to be quite the operator.

      • Hopeful in Red Hook says:

        It seems that every time his organization tries to move forward on some project, the City abuses their power and just destroys. Why destroy? I don’t think you are being fair to his organization one bit, Mr. IRS 99 0 naysayer. You want to to do some investigating, then do it right. You are focusing on nonsense.

        I for one am hopeful that with Diamond’s persistence, there WILL BE TROLLEYS in Red Hook.

        Speaking of financials, those tracks were laid with FEDERAL TRANSPORTATION FUNDS – the current DOT Commissioner was in charge of that federal transportation funding back in the day – I wonder what she has to say about the integrity of those funds and the project. Why don’t you go find out ?

  4. CarrollGardener says:

    Happened on their removal yesterday; pix here:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/20085053@N00/sets/72157640781101013/

    One of the crew said they were being moved to indoor storage. Gothamist says they are going to the scrapper.

    As of a year and a half a go, there was a fourth car in much better shape stored inside the building on the pier. Not sure if it’s still there.

    These guys were flooded during Sandy, and the track was falling into the water. They have deteriorated quite a bit during their stay.

  5. SR says:

    These trolleys were awesome. So sad to read they’re gone.

  6. Alan Gregg Cohen says:

    It’s a pity that Mr. Diamond’s valiant attempt to bring back trolley service to a small part of Brooklyn, met with the same death nell that the original trolleys did, when they were replaced by bus service many years ago. Thanks for the link; it’s nice to see that there is a Trolley Museum of New York, albeit 90 miles north of New York City.

  7. Tal Barzilai says:

    Unfortunately for Bob Diamond, if there was a way to save those trolleys especially by him, he would have found that way by now.

  8. Liman says:

    Am I the only one who got the Brian Auger reference?

    Go visit the trolley museum in East Haven. It’s worth the trip.

  9. David Berson says:

    Just for your information the edges of Red Hook were smoothed out once the price of single family houses went above 50,000 dollars. It was a great neighborhood back in the day when the banks red lined and Vinnie Russo was one of the few who would hold paper so you could buy a house there. Once it was the last refuge of folks who wanted to live in a funky neighborhood, close to the city and not be part of the same homogenized crap that overran Park Slope. Now its just another hip community surrounded by all that connotes hipness. Its only a name now. Nothing more.

  10. SK says:

    I’m surprised Brooklyn loudmouth Marty Markowitz didn’t have the clout to have the trolleys run form Red Hook to Barclays Center through the Atlantic Avneue Tunnel and have the Nets finance it.

  11. NY2AZ says:

    The Shoreline Trolley Museum makes for a very pleasant day trip. Hipsters seem to believe that they & they alone are the arbitors of “cool”. Better technology & business necessity, be damned. So, since they love trolleys, so much, will they flock to Phoenix, AZ, to ride the light rail, which runs between Phoenix & Tempe? Construction began in 2005 & was completed eventually. It hasn’t attracted as many passengers as predicted so please, come & ride. And forgive Phoenix for not being Brooklyn or Portland. Please excuse, I have to watch “Red Eye”.

  12. Dan says:

    Vintage PCC trolleys (like these) are still in regular service in San Francisco, Boston, Philly, and a handful of other cities. All deliver a very pleasant ride.

    As I recall, the Shore Line Trolley Museum already has a few in much better shape. Hopefully, they’ll use these poor neglected specimens for more than spare parts.

    I’ll definitely miss seeing them on the Red Hook waterfront. Even in their advanced state of decrepitude, they’re magnificent.

  13. pirichardtracy says:

    Mr. Diamond’s BHRA has been reporting questionable financials for years. Notice how the Brooklyn Historic Railway Association does not claim any trolley cars on their Form 990 as assets. http://www.scribd.com/collections/4445165/Brooklyn-Historic-Railway-Association-BHRA

    • Hopeful in Red Hook says:

      see my comment above “richard” it was meant for you, posting the same comment on twelve different websites

      I wonder who you are, you seem so motivated to libel & slander diamond and his organization

    • George Dunne says:

      The trolley cars are not assets; they do not run and their is no market for them. It would cost more to haul to a scrapper, than would be worth in dismantling.

  14. bruce says:

    I took a few photos of the trolleys at various times, if anybody is interested.

    http://jpgmag.com/photos/2616354
    http://jpgmag.com/photos/2616353
    http://jpgmag.com/photos/1558288

  15. Old Skool says:

    When you tilt against windmills sometimes the windmills win. Corporate B.S. will always be just that….B.S. The little guy always winds up getting screwed. Hooray for the good fight while it lasted. I think what the city needs is less kowtowing to the corporations that would rule and more of that vaunted NYC ‘tude that actually meant something.

  16. Peter Udbjørg says:

    The Schuckert car is one of three preserved. They were bulit for the line from Majorstuen to Holmenkollen (opened in 1898).
    Here is a very brief histrory of the cars and the line they were bulit for: Original plans to use city tram tracks to extend service to town center failed, and Majorstuen became the terminal. Around 1905–1910, the comoany bought new, bigger, “railway” type cars, and the old ones were scrapped (and a few kept as works cars). Now all thoughts of street running were abandoned. Eventually, a tunnel was built from Majorstuen to Nationaltheateret (downtown, so to speak).
    Check out http://sporveismuseet.no/ and http://vognparksporveismuseet.atwebpages.com/vognpark/HKB1.htm and http://vognparksporveismuseet.atwebpages.com/vognpark/HKB8.htm

    Car number 1 got a rebuild in 1916, giving it two large and one small window on each side, but it being done for the benefit of the king, is a myth.
    Car no. 8 is on display in the Oslo Tramway Museum at Majorstuen.
    Car no. 3 is the one that was aqcuired by an American collector and eventually wound up at Red Hook.
    And: Too bad with the PCCs. And shame on the owner for letting them sit outside in the rain and salt spray for all that time!

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