City Comptroller Scott Stringer, several elected officials, a panel of experts and about 60 local residents convened last Thursday in Cobble Hill to finalize a solution on how to repair the 1.5-mile triple-cantilever stretch of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway (BQE) in Downtown Brooklyn.
Engineers deemed this span of the 50-year- old roadway structurally unsound about 15 years ago. The stretch lies between Atlantic Avenue and Sands Street and is beneath the Brooklyn Heights Promenade with its breathtaking views of the Manhattan skyline and New York Harbor.
It is also a crucial transportation link between Staten Island, Southern Brooklyn and the rest of the city for both motorists and the transport of goods and services. Roughly 150,000 vehicles use the BQE each day, of which about 15,000 are trucks, according to a city-commissioned panel that is looking for ways to fix the roadway.
At Thursday’s meeting held in the auditorium of PS 29 on Henry Street in Cobble Hill, Stringer and his policy team shared their vision, which would rehabilitate the triple cantilever into a one-level highway. The road would be for trucks only, with one lane running in each direction from the Brooklyn Bridge exchange to Hamilton Avenue. It would also involve building a two-mile linear park above the highway that extends from the middle of the cantilever to the pedestrian bridge in Red Hook.
“We want to live in communities where we can breathe clean air, enjoy the outdoors and raise healthy families,” said Stringer before presenting his $3.2 billion proposal, that also would widen the Brooklyn Bridge Park and preserve the beloved Promenade, decrease the roaring noise of traveling vehicles, and eliminate pollution.
According to Adam Foreman, the lead member in this issue from the comptroller’s policy team, the vehicular transportation emissions not only endanger the environment but are linked to 660 emergency room visits for asthma each year, specifically when concentrated within towns that border the BQE.
But to significantly reduce the amount of automobiles traveling on the BQE and make the road for trucks only, the cars that usually travel the BQE would be rerouted. The suggested solutions discussed at the panel would be to divert a third of the automobiles to the Hugh Carey Tunnel assisted by congestion pricing to disincentives the use of the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges and to have the city focus on greater investment in public transportation and lane build-outs throughout Brooklyn and Queens.
“Drivers want to get where they’re going as fast as possible,” said Foreman, “ [if] the existing roads and highways are the fastest trip to point A to B people will drive, if not they will find other alternatives.”
In a recent report released by the City Council commissioned by the engineering firm ARUP, another option would be to replace the section of the BQE with a three-mile-long tunnel from the Gowanus Canal to the Brooklyn Navy Yard in a project that would cost roughly $7 billion more than the former plan, but would enable the removal of the expressway through Cobble Hill, Brooklyn Heights, Dumbo, Fort Greene, and Clinton Hill, and allow for greener options to be built.
This comes on the back of the Department of Transportation (DOT) releasing two previous plans on how to fix the section of the BQE, one of which was widely unpopular due to the fact that it would turn the Brooklyn Heights Promenade into a temporary roadway to enable construction on the existing highway
Present at the panel was the host of the event, Cobble Hill Association President Amy Breedlove, and Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon (D-Brooklyn Heights, Downtown Brooklyn, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Gowanus, Park Slope, Boerum Hill, DUMBO), who made explicit mention that in order for anything to be put into action, the city and state legislature would have to put their heads together.
“In Albany, we have a three-legged stool – the assembly, the senate and the governor,” said Simon. “So nothing is going to happen unless we have coordinated effort and agreement on those things.”