Kavanagh slams state Senate GOP for holding BQE repair bill hostage
Is It ‘Time for Traffic Problems in Brooklyn?’
In a dramatic confrontation in Albany on Wednesday, state Sen. Brian Kavanagh (D-Brooklyn Heights-Greenpoint-Lower Manhattan) demanded that Senate Republicans explain why they were holding hostage a bill crucial to Brooklyn — and the entire metro area — in the budget negotiation process.
The bill in question, S. 7508-B, would authorize “design-build,” a quicker, cheaper method to carry out the upcoming $1.8 billion rehabilitation of a decrepit length of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE). While the Assembly bill authorizing design-build is clean, the sponsor of the Senate bill, state Sen. Marty Golden, included last-minute add-ons that will likely snarl its passage.
The add-ons require the city to assign a police officer to every school, and that money saved by the measure must be turned over to MTA.
“Is this an example of the Majority — if they don’t get their way on a certain policy issue, however legitimate — suggesting perhaps it’s time for traffic problems in Brooklyn, to borrow a phrase from New Jersey?” Kavanagh asked Sen. Cathy Young, who represents several upstate counties. She is the chair of the Finance Committee.
Kavanagh was referring to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s infamous George Washington Bridge lane scandal, known as Bridgegate, in which Christie’s political appointees schemed to intentionally create traffic jams in Fort Lee, New Jersey, by closing lanes on the George Washington Bridge.
If design-build for the BQE isn’t authorized in the state budget, the result would be not days of traffic chaos, but years, throughout not only Brooklyn but the entire metropolitan region.
Design-build authorization, which has received the support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, must be included in the state budget by April 1.
“Can the sponsor explain why the Majority’s language for that very sensible, cost-free proposal that will prevent traffic from being snarled in the New York City area and save $100 million with no cost to the state — why approval of that in the Senate resolution is conditioned on approving a separate proposal that may be worthy … ensuring a police officer in every single school in New York City?” Kavanagh asked Young.
Young denied several times that Republicans were pulling a Chris Christie move.
“We believe that both proposals are very important so we will be negotiating those as we move forward,” she said, echoing what John Quaglione, Golden’s chief of staff, told the Brooklyn Eagle last week.
“Both school safety and transportation (MTA funding) are by far two of the largest pressing needs facing Sen. Golden’s district and New York City,” Quaglione said at that time.
On Thursday, Golden said in a statement that the budget plan passed by the Senate Wednesday night “is a pro-growth budget plan that will help all the residents of our great state, but more importantly, this plan will help our local families.”
The highlights of the Republican budget plan listed by Golden included “funding to provide for quick capacity smart sensor threat detection systems for schools, toll relief for Brooklyn Verrazano commuters and design-build language to provide for faster and more cost efficient repairs to the BQE.”
Both the Senate and Assembly version of the bill authorizing design-build are “one house” bills, which are the starting points for the “three men in a room” negotiations, where the governor, the Senate leader and the Assembly leader negotiate the final budget.
BQE Alarmingly Decrepit
The stretch of crumbling BQE from Sand Street to Atlantic Avenue will no longer be able to bear the weight of trucks by 2026. The stretch includes the triple-cantilever roadway under the famed Brooklyn Heights Promenade.
The seven-year reconstruction must be completed by 2026. If it’s not, NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) says it will likely have to divert 16,000 trucks daily from the highway onto local streets, causing jams that will reverberate from Brooklyn to Staten Island and Queens.
Design-build is a bidding process that allows engineering and construction to be contracted together rather than separately, saving time and money. It is used throughout the state. To get the BQE job done before years of disruption take hold, Albany must authorize design-build by the end of this month.
The Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA) has been running an extensive campaign to get design-build legislation passed, organizing letter-writing campaign, sponsoring a petition and featuring the topic at their latest annual meeting. Members of community groups from Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Boerum Hill, Gowanus and Park Slope joined a lobbying expedition to Albany last week, organized by BHA, to encourage legislators to support the measure.
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