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Johnson Derides de Blasio’s BQE Plan

MARCH 5, 2019

Council Speaker Corey Johnson took a moment during his first State of the City address Tuesday to condemn Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plans to repair the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

“We need to take a fresh look at the BQE problem,” said Johnson. “We shouldn’t assume that the best way forward is the old, car-centric way.”

The portion of the BQE that undergirds the Brooklyn Promenade is deteriorating so badly that city officials estimate it won’t be able to support the weight of truck traffic by 2026. As it travels through Brooklyn Heights, the BQE is circumscribed by residential development and a new park. Those circumstances also limit the city’s repair options, officials say.

The two options the de Blasio administration has thus far discussed both involve a yearslong closure of the promenade, which rests on the BQE’s apparently fragile triple cantilever. Both would cost more than $3 billion.

One option, the city’s preferred, “innovative” approach, would entail replacing the promenade with a six-lane highway for several years. That proposal has sparked a firestorm in Brooklyn Heights, prompting the formation of a well-financed opposition group that has retained lobbyists, media consultants and even the Regional Plan Association. According to the city, the other approach would rely on “incremental lane-by-lane construction,” take longer and cause more traffic.

“The BQE only carries 150,000 vehicles a day,” Johnson said. “The Lexington Avenue subway line carries more passengers than that in a morning rush hour … We can’t change the past, but we can make choices that will lead us to a better future.”

He declined to say what that future might look like.

“We are undertaking a thorough review process that will look at range of options for this critical transportation corridor, accompanied by substantial community and expert engagement,” said New York City transportation department spokesperson Alana Morales, in response.