Recent Developments on BQE Controversy

There have been several recent developments concerning the plan to repair the cantilevered portion of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway that lies below Brooklyn Heights and its Promenade, including the City Department of Transportation’s “innovative” proposal to replace the Promenade with a six lane highway while the two levels of the BQE below are repaired. This would cause complete loss of the use of the Promenade for a period the DOT estimates as six years and, according to public health expert Laurie Garrett, as reported by Mary Frost in the Eagle, would cause dangerous increases in airborne pollutant levels in the Heights.

More developments are summarized very well in another Mary Frost Eagle story. City Comptroller Scott Stringer has sent a letter to Mayor de Blasio and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. In it, he faulted DOT because it:

has failed to engage the surrounding neighborhoods in a constructive manner, has not been sufficiently transparent regarding alternatives to the current project, and has “eliminated several alternatives from consideration” in a cursory manner

The Comptroller also noted in his letter that the DOT proposal fails to recognize:

other city initiatives and goals, including: $100 million in freight-rail improvements that would reduce truck traffic on the BQE; congestion pricing, which would also reduce traffic on the BQE; and the city’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gases.

Ms. Frost’s story also includes reactions from local elected officials: Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, Councilmember Stephen Levin, state Sen. Brian Kavanagh, and U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez. These officials have, understandably, been equivocal about efforts to save the Promenade from the “innovative” plan, because their constituencies include people who could be adversely affected by any major diversion of traffic from the BQE during repairs. Ms. Frost received a statement from these officials, noting “that they have met with members of A Better Way NYC [an organization opposed to the “innovative” plan] in addition to holding numerous meetings with local constituents and government officials.” Ms. Frost goes on to state:

They released an update on their progress on Friday, saying that both of the options the city has proposed so far “would have significant and profoundly problematic impacts on the communities we represent,” and that all “plausible alternatives” need to be fully considered before the project receives federal, state and city approval.

Photo: Teresa Genaro

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  • Jorale-man

    Good to hear that legal options are being explored. But when will any design sketches for the ground-level proposal be made public? It seems that if they want people to get behind it (at least as an option), they need to show what it would entail.

    Great reporting by Mary Frost, incidentally. She’s all over this story while the NY Times has barely given it more than a single article.

  • Arch Stanton

    There won’t be any ground level option, its completely unfeasible.

  • W.R.

    Too bad Willowtown is an afterthought. We will likely have to go our own way and split with the BHA to protect our interests.

  • Jorale-man

    Meanwhile in Seattle:
    “The viaduct, the last remaining 1.4-mile stretch of this city’s elevated highway through downtown, has been a sublimely ugly and stoutly utilitarian force of engineering since 1953. After years of planning for an alternative, the viaduct will be demolished and hauled away early next year.”

  • Nomcebo Manzini

    Any chance you’d be willing to add a sentence or 2 as to why you believe this?

  • Nomcebo Manzini

    Thanks, Claude, for keeping this on the front burner, as it were – where it belongs. Today’s NYT article about NYCHA connects to the BQE project circuitously – our Mayor picks his spots in ways we need not guess at – too many important things seem to “fall off his table,” and I fear that a better alternative than the DOT plan may very well be one of those.

    I’m guessing – but it sure fits – that BHA fears that letting the general public (including the community it ostensibly represents) see their plan – i.e., drawings and the like – would make IT a target for hate and snark about “entitled-ness.” Unfortunately, that leaves only a kind of “hail Mary pass” when (a) the game is almost over; and (b) “we are behind” … and my instincts are that that will prove –

    too little, too late. Just as the Amazon deal “had to” keep everybody in the dark, the DOT can and will say, “We reached out to the community” and leave it at that…. It’s not enough to say – as the BHA has – “there has to be a better way!”

    Again, they’ve hinted – why does that seem insufficient?! – that they believe they KNOW what a better way is. The only chance that the community – 10s of thousands of us – can get vocally behind an alternative … is if they take the wraps off … soon!

  • Arch Stanton

    The DOT was adamant Furman St could not be used for rerouting BQE traffic because: 1. it is the only access to the buildings along Furman St.
    2. Furman St will be needed to stage much of the construction from. It wouldn’t be possible to rebuild the cantilever above a operating highway.
    3. The physical constraints of the area do not permit for 6 lanes of traffic

  • Andrew Porter

    Yes, replaced by a tunnel.

    Gee, where have I heard that suggested before?

  • Arch Stanton

    Trying to compare some obsolete highway in a tiny city like Seattle to the BQE which is a vital and already over stressed link for the greater NYC area, is completely ridiculous. Long Island alone has more than ten times the population of Seattle. Look at a map and explain how 153K vehicles a day would work around a “no BQE situation”? Keep in mind, all the other access points to the city are already pushed beyond capacity.

  • Nomcebo Manzini

    Thanks so much for your thoughts – sincerely. … Now I get why the BHA proposal is said to involve a “double-decker.” … We shall see, of course – glad I don’t live near “ground zero,” but I *do* feel for those who do!

    The DOT proposal has obvious problems; I believe your favored one (a long tunnel) really is – short of a near-revolution, i.e., looking seriously at 8-digit $ figures and not rolling one’s eyes – “unaffordable;” and I’ll accept that my favored option has “engineering challenges.”

    What’s a City to do?! For better or worse, I suspect we can agree that “cost benefit analysis” will not be decisive. The “local law” that mandates scaffolding proves that! – World Trade Center-like “compensation” would probably make more $ and cents sense, but “preventable deaths” trump any calculations.

  • Jorale-man

    Yes, that’s what it’s like to be in a forward-looking city that isn’t wedded to outmoded, mid-20th century infrastructure solutions.