Don’t blow this chance for a ‘forward-thinking’ BQE
Residents pore over the preliminary designs for the rehab of the Central portion of the BQE at a community outreach meeting on Dec. 13. Photo: Mary Frost, Brooklyn Eagle
The upcoming, multi-billion dollar rehab of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) is supposed to be visionary, ushering in a new era of urban transportation, reducing traffic and pollution, increasing equity and reimagining our urban landscape.
But the preliminary designs the city released this week for the BQE Central portion of the redesign fail to reach those goals, Brooklyn officials told the New York City Department of Transportation on Friday.
BQE Central is the decrepit 1.5-mile city-owned section of the highway running from Atlantic Avenue to Sands Street, which includes the triple-cantilever underlying the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.
“We need to see a more forward-thinking option that re-imagines the entire BQE corridor for the health and well-being of New Yorkers and our planet,” U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez, U.S. Rep.-elect Dan Goldman, state Senator Andrew Gounardes, Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon and Councilmember Lincoln Restler said in a statement to DOT.
The ultimate design must keep traffic to two lanes (plus a shoulder) in each direction; and limit pollution, noise and vibrations by capping the roadway, they said.
In meetings held on Dec. 13 (in person) and Dec. 15 (virtual), participants learned that, despite the city’s preliminary BQE Central designs modeling two lanes plus a shoulder in each direction, the highway may be required by governing bodies to have three lanes plus a shoulder in each direction.
“Any proposal that takes us backward by expanding cars and trucks to three lanes would result in accommodating six million more vehicles annually on the BQE. That is at direct odds with our city and state’s environmental goals,” the officials said.
In announcing the preliminary BQE Central designs this week, Mayor Eric Adams had said, “Now is the time to think big. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build a BQE for the 21st century and transform an environmental and aesthetic nightmare into a dream come true for our city.”
Adams and his DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez have accelerated the redesign timetable to take advantage of funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. BQE Central is the first section to be reconstructed due to its poor condition. BQE North and South will follow on a more extended timeline, the city has said.
DOT representatives said at both meetings this week that the designs were not final, and community input would be taken into consideration as far as possible in the process.
The officials’ letter is reproduced completely below:
Elected Officials Release Statement on Brooklyn-Queens Expressway Design Proposals Released by New York City Department of Transportation
Brooklyn, NY – On December 13, 2022 and December 15, 2022 the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) released design concepts for the 1.5-mile stretch of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) from Atlantic Avenue to Sands Street.
In response, U.S. Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, U.S. Congressman-elect Dan Goldman, State Senator Andrew Gounardes, Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, and Council Member Lincoln Restler released the following statement:
“The rebuilding of the BQE presents us with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to undo decades of environmental racism and community harm, protect our planet, and provide the 21st century infrastructure Brooklynites deserve. With the climate crisis upon us, we must explore options that ensure a just transition away from fossil fuels and greenhouse gasses.
We need to see a more forward-thinking option that re-imagines the entire BQE corridor for the health and well-being of New Yorkers and our planet.
It is also our consensus opinion that any solution must at least achieve two goals: 1) minimizing vehicular traffic to two lanes in each direction and 2) limiting negative impacts on air quality, noise and vibrations, such as maximizing the capping of the roadway.
We recognize that the triple cantilever is falling apart and we support efforts by the Adams’ administration to secure federal funding to address this critical need. Yet any proposal that takes us backward by expanding cars and trucks to three lanes would result in accommodating six million more vehicles annually on the BQE. That is at direct odds with our city and state’s environmental goals. We must encourage forward-thinking policies that consider Bus Rapid Transit and increase regional marine and rail freight movements to minimize long haul trucking on our roadways and bridges.
Finally, we urge the State to participate in this process of re-imagining the entire BQE corridor and address longstanding inequities. We look forward to continuing to work with our city, state, and federal agencies to ensure that the project is consistent with their respective climate change goals and responsive to the community’s concerns.”