They need to talk.
The city must establish a public outreach liaison for the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway’s repair project, transit-minded civic leaders demanded at a recent meeting.
The Department of Transportation’s manager of the roadway’s reconstruction, Tanvi Pandya, is focused on the technical difficulties of the project, so the agency should add a dedicated staffer to interact with the local community, said the leader of Community Board 2’s transportation committee.
“We feel the existing DOT project manager is rightly concerned with the engineering aspects of it and figuring out the right proposal, but she’s probably not the person to be spearheading the public outreach process. We need somebody to specifically focus on that,” said the committee’s chairwoman Juliet Cullen-Cheung at the board’s March 25 executive meeting.
During the March 21 transportation and public safety committee meeting, Cullen-Cheung and her colleagues said the community board should take part in the process to find a better way to manage the reconstruction project, given that many different interest groups have put forward their alternative proposals to repair the beleaguered triple cantilever in the past months and due to the issue’s large impact on the community.
“We were brainstorming how the community board could participate in that process – now that all these other organizations are coming out with their own plans and initiatives – that allows us to respond to it,” she said. “Because this is such a huge enormous process.”
The agency has been meeting with several small groups of residents, businesses, and politicians since it first announced its controversial plan to build a six-lane highway in the beloved promenade last September.
Department brass also met with the leaders from community boards 2 and 6 at a closed-door meeting on March 11, where the agency reportedly told them that they were backing off their controversial promenade highway plan.
The committee leader added that the community board should also appoint a board member to act as a liaison for the project.
An intermediary from the community board could attend the various meetings and bring the information to the board in a more centralized way, according to another board member who supported the idea.
“There are many meetings about this going on within the community, I’ve been to a couple of them myself. I don’t think we’re going to stop them. However, I think to have a single message and also that the message is correct, it’s accurate, would be a very good thing,” said Leonard Jordan. “This way you don’t have seven or eight different small meetings going on and information gets passed around and actually happens in one venue.”
The community board chairman lauded the idea, but said that he would have to consider whether it’s feasible because it would be challenging to get someone from the board, whose members are all volunteers, to take on the hefty workload.
“I’m not against it, it’s just to try to get people to volunteer to take on roles like that and given the complexity as we understand it, that could be a job. We don’t get paid for this and so the other person wouldn’t get paid either,” said Lenny Singletary. “I think the idea would be a wonderful idea, I just want to see how we take it from concept to reality, which would be our process.”
Singletary asked Cullen-Cheung and her fellow committee members to pen a letter with their specific requests which he will review and send to the department.
“I would ask that the committee write a recommendation of what you would like to see for this process and then let me review it and we submit that to DOT,” he said.
The public will have a chance to hear more about the BQE project and ask questions at an upcoming town hall meeting, hosted by the civic group the Brooklyn Heights Association and the activists A Better Way, this Wednesday, April 3, at 7 p.m., at Plymouth Church — located at 57 Orange St., between Henry and Hicks streets.