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A Better Way for A Better BQE

A Speech By Hilary Jager at the Brooklyn Heights Promenade Rally
January 12, 2019

Good morning! We said we would pack the Promenade and we did! Thank you all!

Thank you, Comptroller Stringer, for bringing us together today. This event would not have happened without you.

Thank you also to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, State Senator Brian Kavanagh, Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, Dan Wiley from U.S. Representative Nydia Velazquez’s office,and Glomani Bravo-Lopez from Councilmember Stephen Levin’s office for joining us on the Promenade today – and thank you to all of our supportive neighbors and friends, the Brooklyn Heights Association and the Cobble Hill Association.

My name is Hilary Jager and I am a Brooklyn resident, a parent and a member of A Better Way NYC. A Better Way NYC is a grassroots community organization opposed to the DOT’s proposal to build a six-lane highway on the Promenade during the rehab of the BQE. We reject any plan that would cause the BQE traffic to clog our local streets. The City has given us a false choice and we are demanding that we all find a better way. We are dedicated to the development of a new, innovative plan for the BQE Project – a plan that reduces traffic, pollution and noise – and honors the progressive values at the heart of community and city.

We are proud to stand with Comp. Stringer and our elected officials today to demand that DOT do a better job working with the community on this significant overhaul. This project is significant not only in that it will have direct and serious consequences along the BQE and for all those who live near it or use it, but also to the taxpayers at large who will be shouldering the over $3.5 billion price tag. New Yorkers simply cannot afford to let the City get this wrong.

We are here today demanding community engagement because in the 107 days since the DOT held its hearing on September 27, they have not been transparent. 107 days ago the DOT promised community meetings. They have not held a single meeting open to the public. 107 days ago the DOT promised us a project timeline. No timeline has appeared on their website. 107 days ago the DOT promised they would consider alternatives when DOT Commissioner said they would “go through the 50,000 pages of designs” and “flesh out some other options.” We haven’t seen any sign that they have done so. And when A Better Way NYC asked for data essential to developing alternative plans, the DOT refused to share it.

The DOT and the Mayor appear committed to pushing through an ill-conceived plan without transparency and without listening to the collective voice of the community—a voice they claim to value. They have ZERO VISION for the future. But a better way is possible. Just last week Gov. Cuomo literally found a better way when he announced that a team of experts had found a solution to fixing the L-train that would avoid shutting it down. Now that’s the kind of innovative approach and determination New Yorkers demand from their leaders! San Francisco, Seattle, Milwaukee – these progressive cities are working to rebuild their
waterfronts and reduce car emissions – even to the point of tearing down highways! The NYC BQE plan would do the exact opposite: spend billions to re-build a mega-highway over what is now a public waterfront space, showering hazardous pollutants and destroying a historic landmark in the process.

We can find a better way. We must find a better way. A better way means genuine engagement with the community and stakeholders. A better way means a BQE plan that envisions a transportation solution for the next century, not a Robert Moses plan designed for the last one. A better way means a BQE plan that protects green space, public parks and a national, historic landmark and treasured NYC gem – not one that closes them for six years or more. A better way means a plan that is aimed at reducing pollution, not increasing it, especially now when the federal government refuses to even acknowledge climate change. A better way means a solution that is innovative and will leave the city better off than it is now.

So, on behalf of A Better Way NYC, we ask the City to:
Stop the Current Plans;
Look for an innovative alternative; and
Listen to the thousands of voices demanding a better way.
Thank you.