The Town Hall convened just hours after a bombshell announcement by Mayor de Blasio that he has appointed a panel of experts to evaluate the various proposals for repair of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, thereby backing away from his earlier support of a City Department of Transportation proposal that would replace the Brooklyn Heights Promenade with a six lane highway for a period of at least six years.
At the meeting’s outset, Hillary Jager of A Better Way NYC (at left in photo, with Martha Bakos Dietz, President of the Brooklyn Heights Association) said she and other community representatives had met with City officials, who “said they want to take a fresh look” at how to deal with the BQE.
All of the elected officials and their representatives present expressed strong support for any alternative that would avoid either closing the Promenade for an extended period or diverting traffic to local streets. City Council Speaker Corey Johnson described the Promenade as “a treasure” and noted that the Council, along with the State Legislature, must approve any final plan. He observed that congestion pricing, just approved by the State, will likely cause less traffic on the BQE, and that the City needs to “re-prioritize” its policy regarding cars as opposed to public transit. Finally, he said the City Council will hire its own independent experts to evaluate options.
City Comptroller Scott Stringer also stressed the need to invest in public transportation: “That’s the future,” he said, “it’s not just about the BQE.” The City needs to break away from “the development outlook of the 1950s” and “stop building luxury towers.” Instead, we need to find how to make the City an affordable place for all, so that his young children would not be forced to leave New York.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said, “Don’t just think outside the box; destroy the box.” State Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon stressed the “need to look regionally” and noted the importance for reduction of truck traffic of restoring tolls in both directions on the Verrazano Bridge. This would require action by Congress. A representative from the office of Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez said he expected this to be included in an appropriations bill to be introduced in May of this year. State Senator Brian Kavanagh said the DOT “realized it made a fundamental mistake” by limiting its planning to solutions that stayed within the existing BQE right of way. He stressed the need to get all concerned agencies on board, including the MTA and tha Port Authority.
Representative of the architectural and design firm Bjarke Ingels Group, “BIG,” described their recently announced plan, which they developed at their own cost pro bono, to re-route the BQE at the level of Furman Street, placing it under a roof that would extend the size of Brooklyn Bridge Park.
At the close of the meeting, representatives of A Better Way NYC and the BHA noted the need for continuing community involvement in the environmental impact and land use review processes. We will keep you advised of relevant dates and deadlines.