After leaks, BQE panel head says don’t jump to conclusions
Last week, Politico reported on a draft report that said the panel may recommend no particular solution at all for rebuilding the crumbling triple-cantilever highway underpinning the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. A source who said they had seen the draft told Politico that the panel is recommending creating another panel, made up of city, state and federal representatives, to deal with an immediate patch job and then envision a long term solution.
But panel head Carlo Scissura, president and CEO of the New York Building Congress, said the draft described by Politico was not final, and urged people not to jump to conclusions.
“As a result of the diverse voices involved, each draft version has had changes down to the most pertinent details,” he told the Eagle. “While early drafts have leaked during this process, we urge everyone to wait for the final report before drawing conclusions on interim recommendations.” An earlier version of the draft leaked to the Wall Street Journal in December.
Scissura said the final report would be out “once we complete engagement with our numerous stakeholders.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who appointed the panel in April, also recommended that people wait for the final draft before drawing conclusions.
De Blasio, on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer’s show on Friday, said that “some portions of the report came out before the whole report came out. So the first thing for everyone to know is, let’s see the whole thing and judge when we all get to look at it.”
He added, “I think they’ve found some interesting options, but we have to see the full report. And then in the end, this is going to be this real clear thing we have to decide — how much time do we have? And you know, what’s the best way to do it that’s most respectful to the surrounding community but does not wait too long before something really bad happens…”
The City Council hired its own engineering consultants, Arup, in September to double check the work of the mayor’s panel and the Department of Transportation.
“The future of the BQE is a monumental decision for our city, and the council is committed to ensuring we approach this issue not as a simple highway rebuilding project, but as an opportunity to think holistically about our transportation infrastructure,” Johnson told the Eagle on Friday. “Neighborhood groups from around the BQE have put forward multiple compelling ideas, and we continue to work with Arup to review all our options.”
Johnson said the City Council’s draft recommendations would be out in February.
The city’s DOT says it won’t comment until the report is out. “We will review the external panel’s report when final,” DOT spokesperson Olivia Lapeyrolerie told the Eagle in December.
A member of a coalition of a dozen community organizations pushing for a total transformation of the highway told the Eagle that locals have known for a while that the mayor’s panel was not going to make a specific recommendations, but rather recommend emergency repairs, buying time for something truly visionary down the line.
Over the past year, at least seven alternate plans — several strikingly transformative — have been floated by community members, city officials and design firms.
Politico’s description of a second “panel” is a misnomer, the member said, clarifying that the idea was instead for a special governance body like one used in the Presidio Parkway project in San Francisco. Such a body would include representation from the city, state and federal levels.
DOT has been saying for years that the section of the BQE from Sands Street to Atlantic Avenue is so decrepit it needs to be replaced before 2026, or trucks would have to be rerouted through Brooklyn’s residential streets. DOT’s original target for starting construction was 2023.
Mayor Bill de Blasio received overwhelming criticism after backing a controversial proposal from DOT to run a temporary BQE bypass over the Brooklyn Heights Promenade for a minimum of six years during construction.
Opposition to the city’s original plan reached a fever pitch over the past two years, with huge levels of community organizing.
DOT’s preferred plan would have temporarily replaced the landmarked Brooklyn Heights Promenade with a six-lane highway, bringing the pollution and noise of 153,000 vehicles a day to neighborhood level for six to 10 years.
An unnamed member of the mayor’s panel told the Wall Street Journal, however, that sensors placed in the roadway found that the cantilever was deteriorating faster than the city initially believed.
If rapid repairs are deemed necessary, the report would likely recommend imposing restrictions in 2020 on the largest and heaviest trucks that use the BQE, the panel member said. This could send tens of thousands of trucks through local streets during repairs.
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