Coalition demands greater transparency and community engagement during planning of upcoming Brooklyn-Queens Expressway reconstruction

Rally follows Comptroller Stringer’s letter to Mayor’s office, DOT

(New York, NY) — Today, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer, State Senator Brian Kavanagh, Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, Council Member Stephen Levin, A Better Way NYC, Brooklyn Heights Association, Cobble Hill Association, Cadman Towers, and community leaders demand more transparency and community engagement from the City during the rehabilitation of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE).

Last year, the City’s Department of Transportation (DOT) announced two potential options to repair the triple-cantilevered section of the BQE. The first would replace the Brooklyn Heights Promenade with a six-lane highway for up to six years while the permanent highway is reconstructed below. The second would be a conventional lane-by-lane construction project, which would take longer, involve nighttime and weekend work, and likely flood local streets with thousands of trucks and cars diverted during construction.

While these repairs are necessary and urgent, DOT has failed to devise sufficient alternatives to the current proposed BQE redevelopment plan. The coalition called on the City to open the planning process and consider a wider range of construction options.

The rally comes after Comptroller Stringer issued a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio expressing concern that the City has failed to consider community needs and provide transparency regarding alternatives to the renovation plan. Congressmember Nydia Velazquez, State Senator Kavanagh, Assemblymember Simon and Council Member Levin also issued a statement as an update on their conversations with DOT and the community.

“When the City plans a massive years-long project, their top priority should be transparency,” said Comptroller Stringer. “No project can succeed without community input and the planning process for the BQE renovation has failed that basic standard. The City must consider a wider range of options to ensure this project does not unnecessarily burden the Brooklyn Heights community.”

“Reconstructing the BQE will be an enormous undertaking, but long before the City settles on a plan and the first shovel hits the ground, we need an equally expansive effort to get the design, the construction method, and the process right,” said State Senator Brian Kavanagh. “That’s why from the first day this project was announced to today, I’ve joined my elected colleagues and many local organizations and residents calling upon the DOT to explore every feasible alternative option and to give every affected community a full opportunity to have their needs and concerns considered. The DOT has met with us and has shown signs that they are willing to do just that. We know we have to keep our communities engaged and keep the pressure on, so I’m proud to stand with Comptroller Stringer, Congressmember Velazquez, Assemblymember Simon, Councilmember Levin, the Brooklyn Heights Association, the Cobble Hill Association, and many other concerned New Yorkers, to renew our call for a full, thorough, transparent process.”

“I am glad to stand with Comptroller Stringer, my partners in government, and with community residents to ensure our communities’ voices are heard and that all feasible options for the reconstruction of the BQE are rigorously examined. I am encouraged that DOT has begun engaging in small group meetings with those who will be most affected by the reconstruction and that DOT is open to considering alternative plans to its two existing proposals, but we need greater transparency and engagement at every level of this process,” said Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon.

“DOT’s proposed innovative approach has revealed several concerning impacts on the surrounding community, and a better way is needed. I appreciate DOT’s efforts as they explore alternative options and I urge them to continue to work with community stakeholders to find a solution that’s in the interests of everyone,” said Council Member Stephen Levin.

“NYC DOT has stepped up to rebuild the BQE triple-cantilevered highway, now it needs to step up its process to work proactively with local communities along the corridor to find more alternatives outside-the-box to minimize impacts, ensure health, safety and preserve the historic and world-famous Brooklyn Heights promenade.  All possible alternatives to plowing a bypass road over the promenade must be found and fully explored,” said Congressmember Nydia Velazquez.

“It is heartening to see so many of our city’s leaders step up and join the resounding call for transparency and community engagement around the proposed BQE rehabilitation,” said Hilary Jager of A Better Way NYC. “While Governor Cuomo is taking an innovative approach to avoid the devastating consequences of closing L train service, Mayor de Blasio is taking a page out of the Robert Moses playbook: proposing to spend nearly $4 billion to bulldoze local neighborhoods, expand highways and further New York’s dependence on pollution-spewing cars. Our communities refuse to stand idly by while the City attempts to ram through a closed-door plan that will increase pollution and traffic. In solidarity with the thousands who stand in opposition to the current proposal, we call on the City to work with us – transparently – to find a better way.”

“The BHA joins with all our elected officials and neighbors to urge the DOT to find an alternative to its six-lane Promenade Highway as part of its reconstruction of the BQE. DOT must remove this six-lane Promenade Highway from consideration and engage with all the affected communities as well as outside experts to devise a plan for the BQE reconstruction that does not irreparably damage the quality of life of the tens of thousands of local residents and businesses in the many Brooklyn neighborhoods that will be impacted by this project,” said Martha Bakos Dietz, President, Brooklyn Heights Association Board of Governors.

“Cobble Hill and other neighboring communities cannot have 150,000 cars and trucks using our local streets as a major thoroughfare,” said Amy Breedlove, President of the Cobble Hill Association. “The Cobble Hill Association stands with our elected officials and our neighbors in urging the DOT to find a solution to reconstructing the BQE that minimizes the negative impacts on the surrounding communities.”

“Anytime the city announces a major overhaul of a significant portion of highway, it is incumbent upon the members of the community that will be directly affected to stand up and ask questions. That’s exactly what we are doing. The DOT plan as presented to the community last September has many flaws. To that point, we are looking to work with Comptroller Stringer and our other elected officials to ensure that we have a seat at the table when presenting alternatives to NYC DOT Commissioner Trottenberg,” said Toba Potosky, President of Cadman Towers Board of Directors.

###