Our friends at the Brooklyn Heights Association have told us that the expert panel appointed by Mayor de Blasio to study and make recommendations about the repair of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway below Brooklyn Heights “met last [Thursday, April 25] evening with representatives from 16 community organizations, local elected officials, and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and her staff.” The panel’s chair, Mr. Carlo Scissura, said this would be “just the beginning of the community engagement process and promised that a public hearing would take place within the next few weeks to enable the Panel to hear directly from the public.” He also said, “we’re here to listen. We’re here to learn.” In addition to listening to community members, he said the panel will consult with other potentially affected or interested parties, such as the MTA, the Port Authority, and the NYC Department of Environmental Protection. “To facilitate [the panel’s] work, subcommittees will evaluate the governmental approval structure for the project, engineering and constructability of options, and aspects of the project related to parks, environment and historic preservation.” Mr. Scissura “anticipates that the Panel will issue a report in the fall that will address what can be built and establish guidelines about what should be built.”
During the meeting, the BIG Group, BHA/Marc Wouters, and Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office presented their alternative plans for BQE reconstruction. The BHA distributed its Statement of Values that includes in its list of “What We Expect Will Be Achieved” a plan that preserves “the historic character of the Promenade and of Brooklyn Heights, including maintenance of pedestrian access to the Promenade as long as possible during any construction”; that “minimize[s] the impact of the highway on nearby residential buildings and the air, noise and visual pollution in all adjoining neighborhoods”; and that will include “the implementation of traffic demand management measures, including street direction reversals, that minimize the use by diverted traffic of local streets in all affected neighborhoods.” Included in its list of “What We Expect Will Be Avoided” are “the proposed Promenade Highway at our neighborhood’s doorstep”; “any temporary construction which — were funding to disappear — would become an unacceptable permanent structure”; and “[u]se of non-consensual eminent domain.” The BHA requests donations to its BQE Fund.
In response to our publication of a letter by a Brooklyn Heights resident to elected officials concerning DOT official Tanvi Pandya’s statements at a meeting with Poplar Street residents, DOT Assistant Commissioner and Press Secretary Scott Gastel sent us the following statement:
NYCDOT is not committed to any one plan at this time as evidenced by the recent convening, in consultation with local elected officials and civic associations, of an expert panel to evaluate options for replacing this aging infrastructure. We deeply value the experience and perspectives the panel members bring to the table and are very much looking forward to what they recommend. It is correct that the panel will issue advisory recommendations because the final decision for the BQE project concept can come only through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. NYC DOT will not begin the formal NEPA process until after the panel issues its recommendations. Once the formal environmental review process begins, the public will have additional opportunities to both formally and informally participate.
We also value the time and effort that has gone into other concepts that have been presented, and the panel will be looking into them further. The project will require approval from a number of legislative bodies and agencies, and we’ll continue working closely with them throughout the project, including during the panel process.