‘Gridlock’ Sam and Brooklyn Heights Association discuss the derelict condition of the BQE
Famed traffic planner and former city official “Gridlock” Sam Schwartz told Brooklyn Paper Radio on Monday that the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway’s (BQE) half-mile triple cantilever section — which runs between Atlantic Avenue and the Brooklyn Bridge in Brooklyn Heights — is in need of major work.
The BQE is a triple cantilever — meaning the Promenade, northbound highway and southbound highway are supported on only one end.
“The repairs are long overdue,” Schwartz said on the radio program. “[The BQE] should have been rebuilt back in the ’90s. We thought we had solved this problem back in 2007; then the funding dried up.
“Now, the city has put in a couple of million dollars to hopefully act soon before we do have a calamity on the BQE,” Schwartz continued.
Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA) executive director Peter Bray told the Brooklyn Eagle on Wednesday that he too believes “there’s been a longstanding concern about the condition of the BQE.
“The highway is certainly advanced in years, and it’s understandable [that] something significant has to be done in the near future to address its need to be serviceable for decades to come,” Bray continued.
Schwartz went on to describe the dilapidated disorder of the BQE.
“If you want to get a sense of the [condition of the BQE], go to Joralemon Street with the triple cantilever overhead,” said Schwartz. “You’ll see concrete on the wall that has sprawled off completely. You’ll see exposed reinforcing bars, which shouldn’t be exposed, that are totally rusted.
“That’s the problem we’re having on the deck as well,” Schwartz continued. “If you look up at Joralemon Street, you’ll see netting that’s there to hold the concrete from falling down. The city and state have identified a number of void locations where you have that loose concrete … This is pretty serious.”
On the radio program, Schwartz also cited several fatalities that have occurred over the years due to decrepit infrastructure projects.
Schwartz mentioned a number of deaths that occurred from a snapped Brooklyn Bridge cable in 1878.
The transit buff also recalled a Brooklyn dentist who was killed by falling concrete on the FDR Drive in Manhattan in 1989.
In June 1981, another accident occurred when a Brooklyn Bridge cable broke and the loose end thrashed onto the pedestrian pathway, killing a 33-year-old Japanese tourist and photographer.
According to the official website of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, “the cantilevered section of the expressway opened in 1954 … One of the expressway’s most distinctive features, this section was built to conserve space and minimize intrusion in the surrounding neighborhood.
“The Brooklyn Esplanade (or Promenade) … with spectacular views of lower Manhattan and many recreation and sitting areas … grew out of a citizen’s plan to mitigate the effects of the expressway on their neighborhood,” the website explains.
In addition, according to the Parks Department website, the BQE differed from the city’s other parkways in that it was created to accommodate both commercial and non-commercial traffic.
The BQE was built to not only relieve congestion on local streets, but also to help industry and businesses by shortening travel time between the boroughs.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) does, however, have preliminary plans to address the neglected condition of the BQE.
“The DOT is in the very early planning stages for the reconstruction of the triple cantilever,” Bray told the Eagle. “It’s our understanding, even though there hasn’t been anything formally announced yet, that they’re going to relaunch the project.
“[The BHA is] going to be both avidly interested in what [DOT] presents to the community board and to the community, and we’ll take an active role in the planning process so that concerns of the community are addressed by DOT in the design and implementation of the project,” Bray continued.
Bray stressed the importance of the upkeep of the BQE not just for Brooklyn, but also for the entire city.
“The BQE is a major artery into Brooklyn and part of the whole highway system in New York City,” said Bray. “I would think that both the New York City DOT and the New York state DOT would have a very strong interest in carefully monitoring the condition of the roadway so that a catastrophic failure doesn’t occur.”
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