Mayor unveils expert panel to evaluate alternate BQE proposals

‘We don’t have a plan right now’: DOT starting BQE-repair process from scratch, civic leader claims

It’s time to brainstorm.

The city has formed a panel of experts to sift through the multitude of alternative proposals to fix the ailing Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday.

The panel will be led by Carlo Scissura, the 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. Scissura will meet with 15 fellow eggheads to examine the alternative proposals over the coming months in order to find the best solution for the project, according to de Blasio.

“The BQE is a lifeline for Brooklyn and the entire city — which is why we are bringing in a panel of nationally-renowned experts from a range of fields to vet all ideas and make sure we get this right,” Hizzoner said in a statement. “We will be engaging in a transparent, collaborative process to find the best solution for one of the most critical transportation corridors in the nation.”

The brain trust will begin meeting this month to look at the ever-growing number of alternatives that have emerged since the Department of Transportation announced its controversial plans last September, and will file a report with their recommendations to the city this summer, according to the mayor’s office.

It consists of a number of top figures from academia, industry groups, local civic organizations, as well as labor and business interests, according to its chair.

“The panel that has been assembled represents the absolute best minds in urban planning, transportation, business, design, engineering and construction and will create a thoughtful, meaningful and inclusive process,” said Scissura.

The city may announce additional panelists in the future, according to the mayor’s office.

Politicians, civic groups, and world-renowned architectural firms have all put forward their plans as alternatives to the department’s unpopular schemes to either repair the highway bit-by-bit or run a six-lane highway along the beloved Brooklyn Heights Promenade during construction.

The department recently indicated it was backing off from those plans and instead would look at the new alternatives.

The agency has met with several local residents, politicians, and businesses to hear their concerns, including a closed-door gathering with leaders of community boards 2 and 6, but members of the former board’s transit committee want to become more involved in the project by having a liaison from the agency to keep them informed.

The transportation agency’s chief said that the expert panel would provide a new way for the community to get involved and that the panel’s combined expertise would be a chance to find the best plan.

“This new panel presents an important opportunity to create the best plan possible — with community voices heard throughout the process,” said Polly Trottenberg, the department’s commissioner.

Here’s the full panel:

• Carlo Scissura, New York Building Congress (Chair)

• Rohit Aggarwala, Sidewalk Labs

• Vincent Alvarez, New York City Central Labor Council

• Kate Ascher, BuroHappold Engineering

• Elizabeth Goldstein, Municipal Arts Society

• Henry Gutman, Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation/Brooklyn Bridge Park

• Kyle Kimball, Con Edison

• Mitchell Moss, NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service

• Kaan Ozbay, NYU Tandon School of Engineering

• Hani Nassif, Rutgers School of Engineering

• Benjamin Prosky, American Institute of Architects

• Denise Richardson, General Contractors Association

• Ross Sandler, New York Law School

• Jay Simson, American Council of Engineering Companies of New York

• Tom Wright, Regional Plan Association

• Kathryn Wylde, Partnership for NYC

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