Make up before it breaks up: Gov. must forget feud with mayor, let city fix BQE faster, locals say

Make up before it breaks up: Gov. must forget feud with mayor, let city fix BQE faster, locals say
Community News Group / Julianne Cuba

They need to work it out so the real work can begin!

Gov. Cuomo must look beyond his public political spats with Mayor DeBlasio and allow the city to use a process that will accelerate its repairs to the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway’s decaying triple cantilever in Brooklyn Heights, local pols and activists demanded during a rally at the foot of Montague Street on Feb. 9.

State lawmakers and local leaders again called on Cuomo to green-light “design-build” — a process that would request one bid for the project’s design and construction instead of hiring unique firms for each phase — weeks after they first demanded he revise his recently unveiled budget to include authorization for it.

“The only obstacle I can see is this rancor between Albany and the city, and that’s just completely unacceptable,” said Peter Bray, the head of civic group the Brooklyn Heights Association, which is bussing local advocates up to the state Capitol on March 6. “Our neighborhoods deserve better, and our communities should not be collateral damage to this political fighting.”

Cuomo approved design-build for multiple state-run projects, including the recently built Kosciuszko Bridge and a new span touting his family’s name, so his refusal to allow it in the city-led expressway fix must come down to his schoolyard fight with Hizzoner — which has also included bouts over deer and the subway system — especially because authorizing the process won’t cost the state a dime, the newly elected Council speaker said.

“If it’s good enough for the new Kosciuszko Bridge and the new Mario Cuomo Bridge, why is it not good enough for the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway?” asked Councilman Corey Johnson (D–Manhattan). “It doesn’t make any sense. We should put politics aside.”

Although he said he supports expanding design-build, Cuomo released his first draft of the budget without it on Jan. 16. He had until Feb. 15 to make amendments — including authorization for the process — before both houses in Albany prepare their own fiscal plans that, together with the governor’s, will be used to create a final budget that must be approved by April 1.

Design-build proponents argue it will cut about $113 million from the job’s current $1.9-billion price tag, and speed up the reconstruction of the 1.5-mile stretch of expressway between Atlantic Avenue and Sands Street by at least two years.

Local transit honchos now expect work to begin in 2024 and wrap in 2028, but if Cuomo allows design-build, they say repairs could start as early as 2021 and conclude before 2026 — the year the city will be forced to send the more than 16,000 big-rigs that travel the triple cantilever daily down local streets instead so the three-tiered structure doesn’t collapse beneath them.

Roads including Third and Fourth avenues, and Tillary, Court, Jay, and Columbia streets could all get a massive spike in truck traffic if the vehicles are banished from the expressway, according to the Department of Transportation.

And in addition to saving time, using design-build would conserve funds that could be reinvested into the city’s failing subway system and cash-strapped public-housing complexes, according to another councilman, who attended the rally alongside Borough President Adams, Comptroller Scott Stringer, Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, and Brooklyn Heights pols including state Sen. Brian Kavanagh and Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon.

“This is insanity, $100 million could be used to address a subway crisis and a heating crisis in New York City Housing Authority buildings,” said Councilman Mark Treyger (D–Coney Island). “I find it outrageous and insulting that they would hijack more than $100 million in public money that could go towards addressing transportation, public-housing, quality-of-life, and public-safety issues because of a high-stakes political game.”

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Time is now: Councilman Mark Treyger joined the contingent of design-build advocates at the rally, many of whom said the governor must look beyond his political squabbles with the mayor and allow the time-and-money-saving process.
Photo by Zoe Freilich

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