Public advocate candidates want community input on BQE repairs
Three of the candidates running in the special election for New York City public advocate said they want Brooklyn Heights residents to have strong input into the plans to rebuild the deteriorating BQE, especially as the Department of Transportation’s current plans impact the beloved Brooklyn Heights Promenade.
The DOT is considering a plan that would close the Promenade, which sits over the roadway, for several years, replacing it with a temporary six-lane highway.
The Brooklyn Heights Association met with DOT in November to present an alternate proposal that would not involve closing the Promenade. The BHA plan would create a temporary stretch of the BQE over the eastern edge of Brooklyn Bridge Park, leaving the Promenade untouched.
Assemblymember Michael Blake (D-Bronx) said the DOT should be exploring all options, but the community should have a say.
“The BQE renovation is an enormous undertaking that will pose considerable problems for the community in the short-run, including both plans around the Brooklyn Heights Promenade (closing for three years and rerouting traffic, or keeping the Promenade open and renovating highway lanes one at a time for eight years). As public advocate, I will use my position to be a voice for the community in the planning process and will facilitate the community’s input on the effects of these proposals,” Blake told the Brooklyn Eagle.
Blake also said he would look at proposals drawn up by the Regional Plan Association. “The RPA is exploring various situations that could reduce demand on the highway (the effect of congestion pricing on traffic patterns, equalizing costs of East River crossings, restoring two-way tolling on the Verrazano, various iterations of HOV restrictions, or reducing the amount of lanes) that might allow for a better range of options for renovating the BQE and I will support these efforts by advocating for congestion pricing and exploring other policy changes that could reduce demand, understanding that that section of the BQE will always be highly trafficked,” he said.
Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell (D-Upper West Side) said he would also push for the community’s voice to be heard.
“I believe the community must be an active and respected participant in all conversations about changes to its neighborhood, and the mayor and DOT need to listen to the community when it comes to the BQE renovation. I served on my community board for years. Community boards have knowledge and expertise that are imperative to these kinds of projects,” O’Donnell told the Eagle.
The Manhattan lawmaker also called for Environmental Impact Studies and community input to be included in the process before any decisions are made. “We all lose when the mayor and governor try to circumvent community review, like they did in the Amazon deal,” he said.
Dawn Smalls, a lawyer who worked in the Clinton and Obama administrations, said she is on the community’s side. “I strongly support residents who don’t want to see the Promenade shut down. I urge the DOT to find a better solution for fixing the BQE while keeping the Promenade open,” she told the Eagle.
The other candidates for public advocate did not provide comment.
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