City’s BQE proposals unlikely to be approved, experts say

The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway seen from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

Two of the most controversial schemes to repair the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway will likely be tossed, according to the head of an expert panel overseeing the project.

A 16-person panel Mayor Bill de Blasio convened to study the repairs of the roadway’s crumbling triple-cantilever told local stakeholders and elected officials in June that the Department of Transportation’s plans had little chance, and that the agency should explore other proposals.

“There may be a need for a temporary alternative route during what could be a six to ten-year construction period, but the alternatives proposed by the city Department of Transportation present very serious issues with very little chance of being approved; other alternatives should be explored,” the presentation reads.

Local residents and several pols came out against the agency’s proposals from last September to either rebuild the stretch of roadway between Atlantic Avenue and Sands Street bit by bit, or construct a six-lane highway on top of the beloved Brooklyn Heights Promenade during the reconstruction, which could last up to a decade, according to the department.

De Blasio announced the formation of his BQE panel in April, and the experts have spent the last few months gathering input from city agencies and community organizations, and is expected formulate its recommendation this fall.

Saved? The city’s most contested plan involved laying a six-lane highway on top of the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, which is beloved by locals and tourists alike.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

The Robert Moses-designed highway first opened in 1948, and surpassed its intended 50 year lifespan in 2008. The city’s timeline now is to start rerouting trucks in 2026, with a plan to shut it down completely by 2036 — 28 years after the roadway’s planned retirement date.

The BQE brain trust — which is chaired by Carlo Scissura, chief of the building industry advocacy group the New York Building Congress and previous head of the business advocacy group the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce — expressed misgivings about how DOT’s proposed temporary highway would intrude on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, a popular walkway that sits atop the highway’s cantilevered section, as well as the adjacent Brooklyn Bridge Park.

“The commission has serious concerns about the proposed highway and encroachment on the Promenade (other than to renovate and upgrade the promenade) or major incursion into the Brooklyn Bridge Park with a temporary highway,” the presentation read.

The panel also noted opportunities to reduce future planned highways from six to four lanes, including instituting a two-way toll on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, the congestion pricing tax set to hit drivers heading into Manhattan in 2021, and adding high-occupancy vehicle lanes, which require motorists have at least one passenger to travel in.

The BQE panel has held 10 meetings since April and will now draft its recommendations. Its members would also like to meet with the community again before it issues its report, its presentation said.

Opposed: Brooklyn Heights residents immediately slammed the city’s proposals to build on top of the promenade when the agency unveiled its plans last September.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.