No one seems to agree how to fix the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway: After a plan that would have closed the Brooklyn Heights Promenade for six years sparked outrage in the neighborhood, the city backed off.
Then came proposals from an expert panel, outside groups, and just this week, the City Council — though, in a twist, the council speaker is non-committal.
“I want to be clear that I haven’t endorsed any singular plan,” City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said before a council hearing on possible solutions Tuesday morning. “Today is really about just getting all the information out there.”
In a report presented at City Hall Tuesday, an engineering group hired by the City Council recommended that a design previously presented by the Bjarke Ingels Group is the best option to replace the crumbling triple-cantilevered section of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.
Controversial designs initially presented by the Department of Transportation, which would temporarily replace the Brooklyn Heights Promenade with a highway and were criticized by local residents and politicians, have been officially scrapped, according to Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. Despite the recommendation, the City Council has not yet officially supported any of the proposals.
The New York City Council and engineering firm Arup have recommended two different but equally sweeping ideas to replace a decrepit section of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. The multi-billion dollar project would reconstruct, at minimum, a 1.5 mile section of the interstate highway from Sands Street to Atlantic Avenue.
A blockbuster crowd packed a church in Brooklyn Heights Wednesday night to hear proposals for the replacement of a crumbling 1.5-mile section of the BQE.
The turnout was unprecedented. Every one of historic Plymouth Church’s 1,000 seats was filled, and additional attendees were crowded four deep at the back.
Taking center stage was a plan unveiled by DUMBO’s Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) for a sweeping new Brooklyn Queens Park, or “BQP.”
BIG’s plan was remarkably similar to a design proposed by Mark Baker, who came up with a proposal to create an almost identical decked-over BQE and convert the triple cantilever into a Tri-Line park. Baker introduced Siegel from BIG and passed him the baton.
“I was surprised when I learned that BIG had been working on their own proposal like mine, with a vented box covered with a park,” he said.
“It felt like my baby had grown up and gone to college.”
At the opening of Wednesday night’s town hall meeting regarding the planned reconstruction of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, Hilary Jager of the organization A Better Way NYC laid out the community’s main objectives.
“We’ve been urging the city to ask a different question: not how would you rebuild the Moses-era highway, but what should we rebuild?” she said.
The anticipated proposal was from Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). Elements of the proposal are similar to another that was put forth by Mark Baker in his “Tri-Line Plan,” which was released late last year. “If the same idea develops in two different places at once, you know there’s something to it,” Siegel (BIG) said.
New York City is committed to repairing the 1.5-mile section of the BQE that skirts Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO. The search for a way to do that without closing, or damaging, the Promenade has set off an unofficial competition among architects.
No matter which plan is chosen, the repairs will cost billions of dollars. Siegel said he believes BIG’s approach might be the most economical because “we’re building the roadway once, not twice, and it’s a simple at-grade roadway rather than a 90-foot-high column-supported structure.” In addition, he said, “it delivers a lot of community benefits.” Noting the similarity to Baker’s plan, Siegel said, “There are a lot of people coming forward with ideas, which I think is a very healthy thing.”
Hundreds crammed into Plymouth Church on Wednesday night to hear about a series of proposals, which turn to innovative solutions as an alternative to the city’s contested reconstruction plans.
Under the proposal, BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) would convert Furman Street into a new six-lane roadway that would be decked over. This would be done through a lane-by-lane deconstruction and reconstruction approach. BQE traffic would be rerouted to that new expressway, and the new landscape would allow BIG to create sprawling green spaces extending Brooklyn Bridge Park. Furman street could also be incorporated as a corridor for the city’s proposed BQX streetcar, if there’s a desire for that, Siegel noted.
Meanwhile, the triple-cantilever structure could be repaired and turned into a linear park, which Siegel notes is similar to the tri-line proposal suggested by Brooklyn Heights resident Mark Baker. If the structure is too damaged, the rubble from its deconstruction could be ground up and reused to create a “stabilized slope” from Furman Street up toward the promenade that would feed into the creation of new parkland. A “menu of ideas” is possible here, Siegel said.