Mayor Adams wants Brooklyn residents to weigh-in on BQE overhaul plan

Adams, Brooklyn
Traffic heads north on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in Brooklyn Heights.
Photo by Kevin Duggan/amNY File

Mayor Eric Adams and city Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez want to hear from Brooklyn residents living along the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway as the city explores how to rehabilitate the crumbling roadway, the pair announced Friday.

The city is launching two public engagement periods this month, inviting communities living near the BQE to weigh-in on the city’s forthcoming efforts to make long-term fixes to both the city-owned section of the roadway between Atlantic Avenue and Sands Street – dubbed “the BQE Central project” – and the stretches to the north and south – referred to as “the BQE North-South project,” according to a release form City Hall.

Those portions of the BQE, running up to the Kosciusko Bridge north of Sands Street and the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge south of Atlantic Avenue, are managed by the state Department of Transportation.

Now is the perfect time to start making serious repairs to the highway, Adams said, as the city is flush with cash for such projects from federal funds allocated through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law signed by President Joe Biden last year.

“It’s time to take a new approach to the BQE and ‘Get Stuff Done,’” Adams said. “Our administration is seizing a once-in-a-generation opportunity to partner with communities and develop a bold vision for a safe and resilient BQE. Together, we are finally confronting the racism built into our infrastructure and putting equity front and center to modernize this vital transportation artery now.”

The sections of the BQE covered by BQE Central and BQE North and South, respectively. Image courtesy of New York City Department of Transportation.

Rodriguez echoed the idea that this new project will not only deliver a better refurbished highway, but also reconnect communities to the north and south of the BQE that were divided by its construction.

“We must reckon with the harm these 20th-century highways have caused communities of color in New York City,” Rodriguez said. “While we undertake the BQE Central project, we will ensure we are also planning how best to reconnect other neighborhoods that have been split apart by this highway, from Bay Ridge to Greenpoint.”

The mayor first floated the idea of nixing his predecessor Bill de Blasio’s plan to make short-term repairs to the BQE over the next two decades in June, promising to fast-track a larger overhaul of the roadway in order to unlock federal dollars from the infrastructure deal. De Blasio’s plan also included tightening restrictions on overweight trucks, which put a strain on the roadway’s tiered section in Brooklyn Heights – known as the triple cantilever.

Adams’ office said they expect construction on the BQE Central project – including the triple cantilever – to begin within the next five years, according to a release. They’re also working to reconnect communities north and south of the BQE by building parks and plazas and providing new transportation options. Although a release wasn’t specific about what those changes would look like.

Traffic heads north on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in Brooklyn Heights. Photo by Kevin Duggan/amNY File.

The community engagement period starting this month will consist of in-person and remote workshops, meetings with community groups, public surveys and outreach in neighborhoods straddling the roadway. The city will provide funding to community groups looking to engage underrepresented individuals in the planning process.

The city is also inviting those who live or work along the BQE corridor to apply to join the “BQE Community Visioning Council (CVC),” which will meet on a regular basis and advise DOT on its outreach strategy. Those wishing to join can find the application form here.

In a statement, Carlo Scissura, president and CEO of the New York Building Congress applauded the mayor for launching the BQE public engagement process.

“We are thrilled that Mayor Adams and his administration are moving forward with several of the critical recommendations of the BQE Expert Panel report, which I had the honor of chairing in 2019-20,” Scissura said. “We are eager to work with his team to ensure that necessary critical repairs are made to ensure the long-term safety of the roadway.”

“We also look forward to an eventual corridor-wide, full re-imagination of the BQE from Staten Island to The Bronx that serves people, communities, and the entire city,” he added. “In the name of sustainability and equity for those impacted by the mistakes of yesteryear, all options for a greener, fully modernized, community-focused roadway must be considered.”

Outreach Schedule:

  • September 28: Corridor-wide kickoff (virtual)
  • October 6: Corridor-wide kickoff (virtual)
  • October 11: BQE Central workshop (in-person)
  • October 13: BQE Central workshop (virtual)
  • November 3: BQE North and South workshop (virtual)
  • November 7: BQE South workshop (in-person)
  • November 10: BQE North workshop (in-person)

This story was updated to include information about the CVC and outreach schedule.