State signals support for faster BQE fix: Design-build process ‘essential’ to city-led job, Gov. says

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Now it’s getting somewhere!

The streamlined design-build process is integral to the city’s repairs to a crumbling portion of the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway, according to Gov. Cuomo, who this week signaled his support for the process that would fast-track the fix — months after local pols and residents began demanding he authorize the procedure in his budget so city transit honchos aren’t forced to send the thousands of big-rigs that travel the road daily down local streets instead.

“The Brooklyn–Queens Expressway is a very big construction project. The city planning to move traffic throughout the construction period is by definition problematic,” Cuomo said on Tuesday during an unrelated conference call with reporters about the next day’s snowstorm. “Downtown Brooklyn is already congested, so design-build for the BQE I think is essential. Even with design-build it’s going to be a real problem in terms of traffic.”

The governor has long maintained his general support for the process that state law requires his authorization for local governments to use, which would request one bid for the expressway makeover’s design and construction instead of hiring unique contractors for each phase. He green-lit it for several state-run projects, including the construction of the recently built Kosciuszko Bridge and a new span that will bear the Cuomo name.

But he’s repeatedly left advocates hanging when asked specifically whether he’ll allow the Department of Transportation to use design-build in its reconstruction of the expressway’s decaying triple cantilever. And Cuomo failed to authorize the procedure in both his first and revised drafts of the state budget, so his statement indicates he is moving in the right direction as his April 1 deadline to sign-off on a final budget looms, according to a Brooklyn Heights lawmaker in favor of the process.

“What’s different is that this is more direct, and it’s about doing it in the context of the city and some of its priority projects,” said Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon. “The governor is signaling that he will fight for this.”

Before the call on which Cuomo recognized how design-build could help the expressway’s repair, his staffer Alphonso David penned a Feb. 25 letter to Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D–Manhattan) that urged city officials to seek approval for the process in specific cases — including the road’s rehab and other projects such as closing the jails on Rikers Island and replacing them with new facilities throughout the five boroughs, and making much-needed renovations to the city’s public-housing complexes, according to the New York Daily News, which first reported on Cuomo’s support.

But design-build advocates said they aren’t taking a victory lap until the governor officially approves a final budget that authorizes using the procedure to fix the expressway, a permission that will cut about $113 million from the job’s current $1.9-billion price tag, and accelerate the reconstruction of the 1.5-mile stretch of the road between Atlantic Avenue and Sands Street by at least two years, supporters say.

“Of course I’m worried,” Simon said. “I’m not going to rest until it’s done.”

Members of both houses in Albany are now writing each chamber’s own budget, which are due by the end of next week and together will be used to create the final version that must be approved by early April, according to Simon and another Brooklyn Heights state pol, who in a joint statement applauded Cuomo and pledged not to give up their fight for design-build as the budget-approval process continues.

“We thank Gov. Cuomo for his essential support for design-build for the BQE, and we look forward to working with him and with our colleagues in the Senate and the Assembly to ensure that legislation authorizing design-build for this project is enacted later this month in the final budget,” said state Sen. Brian Kavanagh.

The governor’s public support for the streamlined process followed a Feb. 27 meeting where Transportation Department bigwigs presented a draft of their expressway-repair plan, which locals have until March 12 to submit comment on by e-mail or snail mail.

Check out the city’s proposed scope of work for the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway repair at E-mail feedback to, or mail it to BQE Project Team, 605 3rd Avenue, 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10158. All comments due by March 12.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 5:48 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

David Weinkrantz from Downtown Brooklyn says:
Why not change New York State law so that all projects can use design-build without making an appeal to the governor and then waiting?
March 8, 2018, 9:40 am
Tunneler from Brooklyn Heights says:
Where there's a will, there's a way. So let's go for the best for the best.

A tunnel is the best approach ramping sub-grade from the existing "Atlantic Ave. Ditch" and coming out on the north side of Brooklyn Heights.

It can be done in two segments/two tunnels so that one side could be opened before starting the other. This way we can actually improve traffic flow before starting the second.

Further, a tunnel would have an air catchment system that would purify the tunnel air before releasing it. A double benefit of a tunnel.

Additionally, a tunnel would eliminate the unsightly roadway at one of our most prestigious vantage points.

Lastly, the existing cantilever could be re-purposed into a triple level river-walk with the existing/open promenade above, and the two levels below for cafes/restaurants, shops and the like. A class act for a class town.

Let us stop giving the best of the best to Manhattan and give what Brooklyn has earned as world class amenity.

The best for the best - it's Brooklyn's turn.
March 8, 2018, 10:05 am
grace from park slope says:
design build is an open vein for contract change orders and escalating the budget as the project proceeds, as well as circumventing union labor qand union rights. Design build is not a fix, it is a recipe for cost escalation without consequences..duh
March 8, 2018, 5:22 pm
Frank from Furter says:
The city has a master contract with the trade unions that cover anything done under design build. The two projects done by Andy Cuomo were union jobs..the kosciosko bridge and the Tappan zee bridge(aka the Mario Cuomo bridge). The NYC unions have signed on to design build.
March 8, 2018, 6:56 pm
Frank from Furter says:
In fact design build is the law in 48 states. It results in time saving and cost savings most of the time. The two above were both design build and came in on time under budget. Traditional design bid build has more contract changes and disputed
March 8, 2018, 7 pm
Frank from Furter says:
The cross harbor tunnel is estimated between 15 to 30 billion dollars. It's just about 1000 meters long. It parallels an already existing train tunnel
It doesn't have subway tunnels and water tunnels in the way
This if it was underground would be at least twice the length and cross either over or under 5 or more subway tunnels and a water tunnel. So the difference in rebuilding of the tripple cantilever of about 1 to 2 billion and upwards of 20 billion for a tunnel or more. Remember the state and the feds are not giving one cent...
March 8, 2018, 7:52 pm
Joe from Clinton Hill says:
Oh, now we're in a hurry! As if no one knew this was coming 10, 20 years ago.
March 9, 2018, 11:20 am
Christopher from Brooklyn Heights says:
Crazy this has to be begged for. Is there an alternative solution of which I am unaware?
March 9, 2018, 2:11 pm
Frank from Furter says:
It is a reasonable question. Why this wasn't planned for. The answer is it was sort of. The state dot was reconstructing the bqe. It was working it's way south in sections. The next section. To be done was in the scoping stage for the tripple cantilever about 3 to 4 years ago. Suddenly the state abandoned this section. Saying to the city it's all yours and by the way the 1 billion. Dollars set aside is no longer I believe it went to a project in westchester named after another Cuomo. The city paid for the original building of this section too 60 years ago and it still shows on the state map as unbuilt(no kidding). So the state abandoned this to the city.
March 9, 2018, 10:30 pm

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