Quick Takeaways From Tonight’s BQE Town Hall

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.

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  • Cranberry Beret

    DOT’s plan is dead, but not for the reasons you think. Someone at city hall woke up and realized this is a real estate issue, not a transportation issue. Did you see all the acreage open up in the BIG plan? The space for housing, parking, the mayor’s trolley? Yes, we will get some new park – and some new luxury towers too. Look at the mayor’s expert panel — Brooklyn Bridge Park chair, builders, BID-types. The RE industry lobbyists are making lemonade out of Trottenberg’s lemon and Di Blasio is (as always) happy to oblige.

  • Herman on Henry

    Whatever DOT plans are being discussed with the community, I fully expect the DOT to go with the plan of least resistance. Which might not be the best plan.

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7nPOzGeyaw Arch Stanton

    Sure I’ll take the wager but to be clear, I am not opposed to the BIG/BQP proposal. It is my 2nd favorite after the tunnel. However I realize the technical complications and think it’s a long shot for it to actually get built.

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7nPOzGeyaw Arch Stanton

    Yes exactly, when the guy representing BIG presented the cost estimation, his demeanor changed and hung on some of his words, signs he was lying.

    Nor sure what part can’t happen at Joralemon and Atlantic, whiteout being able to get through there the whole plan is doomed.

  • TeddyNYC

    That new BIG/BQP option looks interesting and is definitely the most forward-looking proposal on the table. I just wonder what’s the feasibility of building this thing. I’m also a little curious what happens to the proposed Squibb Park bridge replacement. It might be a good idea to wait until a decision is made on the BQE. It would be ridiculous if they also had to tear that bridge down like they’ll be doing to the bouncy bridge later this year.

  • Jorale-man

    Good point about the Squibb Park bridge. I bet they’re holding off now.

    Worth being cautious about it all. That said, the mammoth prospect of building a “temporary” six-lane expressway over the Promenade didn’t seem to faze the city exactly. It seems that a permanent ground-level highway solution with parkland built over it would be a bit less daunting. But we’ll see.

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7nPOzGeyaw Arch Stanton

    I wouldn’t take that bet, the BBP is proceeding full steam ahead with the north berm. I doubt the’ll put anything on hold until some conflicting plan is actually approved.
    That said, the BIG/BQP plan actually faces much bigger hurdles than the DOT’s “innovative” plan. A few of the big ones:
    *Relocating the A & C line subway vent.
    *The reconstruction of the Columbia Street bridge and how the highway would realign with the existing during that construction.
    *Relocating the subway substation at Joralemon Street.
    *Access to the manholes in front of the R subway vent.
    *Eminent domain for the removal of the BBP office building and the rear of the Columbia Place apartment buildings.
    *Modifying 360 Furman to build a highway directly adjacent.
    *Crossing Atlantic Avenue and realigning with the existing highway.
    Doing all that while maintaining reasonable traffic flow. I assure you, from the DOT’s perspective that is much more daunting.

  • StoptheChop

    where are the subway vents? and what about the maintenance entrance for the 2/3, where the traffic light is on Furman St?

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7nPOzGeyaw Arch Stanton

    The R train vent is on Montague Street, just West of Furman Street. The A train vent is the brick building on the East side of Furman Street, wedged in between Squib Park and the BQE where it makes the turn under Columbia Heights (at the Fruit Street Sitting Area). The BIG/BQP plan calls for the latter to be demolished and relocated.

    Good call on the 2-3 emergency exit, add relocating that to the list of seriously difficult and expensive issues to be overcome.

    I don’t want to be a Debbie downer but when one sees this plan in a realistic eye, it looks less and less likely to ever succeed.