BQE fix to be announced next month: Mayor

The Brooklyn Queens Expressway’s ailing triple-cantilever section in Brooklyn Heights.
Photo by Todd Maisel

City street designers will unveil in May their long-term plan for the dangerously-decaying BQE, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Friday.

“I think we’ll have some more to say on this in May,” said de Blasio at his April 23 press briefing. “I can say next month we’ll start to talk about those specific plans.”

Department of Transportation Commissioner Hank Gutman — who recently took the over the helm after longtime department head Polly Trottenberg resigned and took a job in US President Joe Biden’s Administration — is working with his team to figure out a way to address the increasingly-crumbling 65-year-old highway, according to the mayor. 

“Commissioner Gutman and his team are thinking of lots of different ways of approaching it going forward, hopefully, in a circumstance where we have a very different reality in this city in terms of a lot less car usage, so we want to be mindful of that,” de Blasio said.

The roadway’s triple-cantilevered section wrapping around Brooklyn Heights, which includes the beloved pedestrian promenade above the highway, is in severe disrepair and could become unsafe to drive on as soon as 2026, according to a report published by de Blasio’s appointed “expert panel” that studied the roadway in early 2020.

Much of the damage on that stretch comes from illegally-overweight trucks barreling down the roadway, leading de Blasio to sign an executive order shortly after the report’s release intended to up police enforcement. The study also urged the reduction of lanes from three to two in each direction, but de Blasio was not convinced by that proposal.

Hizzoner convened the brain trust two years ago after the city’s initial proposal from 2018 to build a six-lane speedway atop the beloved promenade during repairs — which locals panned immediately.

After the city’s proposals were shot down, numerous alternative schemes surfaced by local architects, consultants, and politicians, including tearing down the highway entirely and replacing it with a park or boring an $11 billion tunnel from Gowanus to Williamsburg.

In January, de Blasio claimed that work would resume “in the coming weeks” on a full plan for the BQE after a year of radio silence on the massive infrastructure project amid the pandemic.

DOT has started some smaller-scale repair work to shore up the 1.5-mile section of the BQE it has jurisdiction over between Atlantic Avenue and Sands Street (the remaining stretches of the highway are run by the state), such as a fix to the wall at Hicks Street near Poplar Street.

“First of course protecting the BQE as it is now so that we can work toward a future different vision, but first we have to make sure that it’s secure for the here and now,” de Blasio said Friday. “A lot is being worked on right now.”