BQE confidential: City sets private meeting with local civic gurus to discuss highway’s repair

No ‘Big Dig’: Planners likely to take BQE tunnel option off the table
The Brooklyn Paper / Evan Gardner

Department of Transportation officials will meet with leaders of local community boards behind closed doors on March 11, to get the civic gurus’ input on the proposals to repair the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway’s crumbling triple cantilever, according to an agency spokeswoman.

“The meeting will consist of a briefing on the BQE project, and serve as an opportunity to hear feedback from the community boards, and will not include new information,” said Alana Morales.

The rep did not say which boards will send members to the meeting. But the top staffer of Community Board 2, whose district includes the Brooklyn Heights Promenade — which one proposal suggests converting into a six-lane highway for expressway traffic in order to repair the three-tiered highway beneath it — said that he and other leaders of that panel received an invitation.

“DOT invited us to an invitation-only scheduled briefing on the BQE,” said CB2 District Manager Robert Perris.

Perris, who said the invitation came with no further details on what the meeting would cover, will attend the meeting with CB2’s newly elected chairman, Lenny Singletary, and heads of the panels’s Transportation and Public Safety, Parks, and Land Use Committees.

It will be the first time in five months that agency leaders discuss the looming fix with the civic gurus, according to the district manager. And he suspects officials waited that long so that tempers could cool following the overwhelming backlash they received to their two proposed repair plans at a September town hall — retaliation that Perris believes led transit chiefs to reconsider their so-called innovative option to turn the Promenade into a speedway in order to fix the triple cantilever.

“They have not talked to CB2 since the September town hall, when they had their tails handed to them,” he said. “They’re not talking to anybody because their reconsidering their plan.”

Since the heated town hall, Transportation Department officials only attended one CB2 meeting in January, where they presented a project on Nassau Street pedestrian improvements to the panel’s Transportation and Public Safety Committee.

But over the past five months, agency leaders continued to meet with Brooklyn Heights residents, business owners, and other groups with a vested interest in the fate of the beloved Promenade, according to Morales. And those conversations suggest another town-hall style gathering may follow the upcoming private meeting, Perris said.

“They’ve been meeting with property owners in the neighborhood and politicians. All of that is an indication that they are on the verge of having another town hall meeting,” he said.

In addition to the innovative option — which would turn the Promenade into a speedway for no less than six years so workers can shore up the 1.5-mile stretch of expressway between Atlantic Avenue and Sands Street by 2026, the year experts worry the triple cantilever may collapse beneath the weight of the thousands of trucks that travel it daily — transit officials are now weighing two other repair plans.

One, the city’s so-called traditional option, proposes repairing the triple cantilever lane-by-lane, a job that could last until 2028, cause traffic backups for up to 12 miles, and would still require closing the Promenade for at least two years for repairs. The other, proposed by an architect tapped by local civic group the Brooklyn Heights Association, calls for creating a temporary, two-tiered roadway for diverted expressway traffic along the Furman Street border of Brooklyn Bridge Park, and would allow the job to finish faster than either city option, according to Heights Association leaders.

The Transportation Department spokeswoman could not confirm by press time whether the agency planned to hold another public meeting about the repair plans, but said that its leaders will continue to engage with community members.

“We will continue to work with elected officials, the community, and all local stakeholders on the entire project corridor to hear their input,” Morales said.

But one CB2 member accused transit officials of not being transparent enough about their plans for the project — which could kick off as soon as next year — claiming the panel is still waiting on answers to its own questions about the forthcoming fix.

“I want them to not be evasive about it, and answer our questions about alternative proposals,” said Transportation and Public Safety Committee member Patrick Killackey, who lives in Brooklyn Heights. “This project is going to change our lives. Why are you just dismissing having dialogue with the community and experts?”