Mayor Announces Community Outreach for Brooklyn-Queens Expressway Improvement

Image Credit: NYC DOT

The city is launching two parallel public engagement campaigns, BQE Central and BQE North and South. On September 16, 2022, Mayor Eric Adams and Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez announced a public engagement campaign that will inform the administration’s efforts to improve the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE). With federal funding newly available through the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Mayor Adams intends to finance much-needed repairs to the BQE.

This month, the city will roll out two parallel community outreach efforts. “BQE Central” will inform design for the city-owned stretch of the BQE between Atlantic Avenue and Sands Street, which includes the triple cantilever. Construction on the central section will start sometime within the next five years. “BQE North and South” will seek public input to reconnect communities above Sands Street and below Atlantic Avenue. The latter effort will target communities as far north as the Kosciusko Bridge and as far south as the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, in an effort to include New Yorkers who have been excluded from previous BQE engagements.

BQE Central

For the BQE Central project, the city will immediately begin long-term repairs on the stretch of the BQE between Atlantic Avenue and Sands Street. This will save hundreds of millions of dollars which would have been spent over two decades to delay long-term repairs. Built in the mid-1940s, this corridor of the BQE carries more than 130,000 vehicles daily, including 13,000 trucks. The land is owned by NYC DOT, who will work closely with the NYS DOT and federal partners to advance the BQE Central long-term fix.

In the interim, NYC DOT will continue to make short-term repairs scheduled for 2023 to ensure this section remains safe. DOT will also continue to monitor the triple cantilever through remote tracking, with sensors placed on the structure, and through regular, in-person inspections. DOT will also deploy a cutting-edge automated enforcement program for overweight trucks, using weigh-in-motion technology to ticket illegal vehicles stressing the existing structure.

BQE North and South

During the long-term BQE Central fix, DOT will also conduct local outreach and build on completed community planning to develop designs that reunite communities north and south of the BQE. Neighborhoods along the BQE will be linked together with public spaces like parks and plazas, as well as new mobility options for commuting, recreation, and commerce.  Local communities divided by the highway have suffered for decades from increased traffic pollution and road safety risks.

Unlike the BQE Central stretch, the north and south sections of the BQE are state-owned property. NYC DOT will work on short-term fixes on either side of the corridor, and continue to engage with NYS DOT to create a partnership that can bring about real and valuable change.

Community Engagement Process

Community outreach will include in-person and remote public workshops beginning this month, as well as a public survey, pop-up programming in neighborhoods along the entire BQE, meetings with community stakeholders, and updated online resources. The process is designed to invite a wide range of voices to work towards projects that improve communities, while also prioritizing technical and fiscal feasibility.

The initial outreach schedule will be as follows:

  • 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)

To engage more underrepresented voices at the grassroots level, funding will be made available to community-based organizations. These engagement resources will prioritize work that promotes equitable access to visioning through grassroots information-sharing and feedback, tailored events and activities​, and individual supports for participation such as childcare, food, and transportation. Funding will be prioritized for groups with existing community ties, demonstrated experience in mobilizing their constituencies, and multilingual capacity. An application to receive this funding will be released later in September.

Currently, the city is accepting applications for the BQE Community Visioning Council (CVC) which will meet regularly to discuss emerging concerns, plan future engagement, analyze previous engagement, and share feedback. Applications are encouraged from those who live or work along the corridor, as well as those affiliated with small businesses, the freight, trucking, and manufacturing industries, NYCHA, or environmental justice and transportation advocacy. DOT will select one representative per organization, in hopes of developing diverse membership and conducting an equitable engagement process.

Applications for the CVC will be accepted until September 29, 2022, at 11:59 PM EST. DOT will inform selected applicants and publish the list of the CVC members.

DOT is also enlisting community engagement specialists to help lead the visioning process corridor-wide, including engineering firm WSP USA Inc., design and public space studio WXY Architecture and Urban Design, and inclusive innovation agency 3×3. For BQE Central, DOT has retained the Triple Cantilever Joint Venture for design and planning, led in partnership by AECOM USA, Inc. and Parsons Transportation Group of New York, Inc. The joint venture will work with AKRF, Inc., Bjarke Ingels Group, Fitzgerald and Halliday, Inc., SCAPE Landscape Architecture, and others.

DOT Commissioner Rodriguez praised the BQE initiative, stating, “We must reckon with the harm these 20th-century highways have caused communities of color in New York City. 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.”

Deputy Mayor for Operations Meera Joshi shared, “Repairing the wrongs of the BQE is one of the most complex and necessary infrastructure projects of our nation, and we will not waste time, money, community patience, or the once-in-a-generation opportunity to use increased federal infrastructure dollars to get the job done right.”

Mayor Eric Adams stated, “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.”

By: Cassidy Strong (Cassidy is a CityLaw intern and a New York Law School student, Class of 2024.)

Mayor Adams Announces Public Engagement Process to Accelerate Critical, Long-Term BQE Fix, Advance Planning Effort to Reconnect Communities Throughout Brooklyn Corridor, September 16, 2022.


One thought on “Mayor Announces Community Outreach for Brooklyn-Queens Expressway Improvement

  1. We had numerous studies and they came uo with a good plan for temporarily repairing the fragile cantilever structure. Don’t spend more time listening and planning. It could come down any time. Do it!!

    What actions are now being taken to kep overweight trucks off the road.

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