Brooklyn Boro

NYC unveils ideas to revamp BQE North & South

Reconnect communities, improve safety

March 22, 2023 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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New York City can’t take it upon itself to rebuild the sections of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway owned by the state. But what it can do is improve the city-owned infrastructure surrounding BQE North and BQE South, in an effort to reconnect long-divided communities and add public spaces.

New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez unveiled late Tuesday three design approaches for BQE North and BQE South, the roughly ten miles of the BQE running north and south of the crumbling city-owned BQE Central, a 1.5-mile stretch from Atlantic Avenue to Sands Street. (BQE Central, which includes the Triple Cantilevered underpinning the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, is approaching a multi-year multi-billion-dollar overhaul.)

DOT said the three “toolkit” concepts — Community Connector, Multi-Modal Connector and Green Connector — can be mixed and matched to apply through varying neighborhoods. To develop these concepts, DOT collected feedback through in-person and online public workshops with 160 attendees, through 18 community partners, stakeholder meetings and focus groups, and via 2,600 survey respondents. 

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The design package was released in conjunction with a second round of design workshop taking place Tuesday night. DOT said in its statement that the three design approaches prioritize transit, active transportation and improved public space. Some projects which will deliver immediate safety and mobility enhancements will begin in 2023.

The Adams administration has committed to focusing on historically overlooked communities, which are disproportionately lower-income neighborhoods of color, in the BQE Corridor Vision process. 

“From day one, this administration made clear that any discussion around the BQE  should include overlooked communities along the entire Brooklyn corridor. This design toolkit is a blueprint for how the city can reclaim space from cars for safer and more environmentally friendly uses, like pedestrian plazas, mass transit priority, and cycling infrastructure,” Rodriguez said in a statement. 

Three models

The Community Connector would emphasize improved crossings under and over the BQE to reknit communities safely, focusing on spaces under and around the highway for community amenities.

The Multi-Modal Connector expands options for multi-functional spaces under the highway and on its surrounding streets, and improves infrastructure for pedestrians and bus riders, bikes, freight, and electric vehicles.

The Green Connector envisions new open spaces throughout the BQE corridor, by consolidating the roadway under the viaduct structure to unlock new public space on either side of the structure. This approach could also be achieved through capping.

Immediate safety improvements

DOT said it will begin to implement projects in 2023 responsive to community feedback and that improve safety and public space in BQE North and South. This includes:

  • Installing new and upgraded pedestrian ramps which include a red or white detectable warning surface to help guide people with visual disabilities, and provide access for wheelchair users, strollers, and carts across the city, including many locations across the BQE vision area;
  • Expanding and developing new freight and congestion management strategies, like creating neighborhood and commercial loading zones, and working with commercial partners to move freight off-hours;
  • Bringing projects to improve safety and public safety to the BQE Corridor this year:
    • DOT will be implementing street safety improvements by Ingersoll houses and the Navy Yard at Park Avenue, Navy Street, Hanson Place, and Ashland Place;
    • Safety improvements on McGuinness and Meeker in Greenpoint;
    • Building-out to the Waterfront Greenway in a few BQE South communities, including Sunset Park;
    • Launching Third Avenue and Red Hook Neighborhood studies.
  • Working with the Sanitation Department to target locations for cleaning under the viaducts along the corridor.

DOT said it will continue to work with its community partners and continue planning efforts to reconnect communities in the BQE North and South sections, with the goal of implementing both short-term projects as early as this year, and long-term, larger capital projects to reconnect communities that have been divided by the structure. 

The agency will continue to meet with stakeholders to further refine the toolkit concepts, DOT said. These workshops will help the city refine potential projects for inclusion in a 2024 report and to inform federal grant applications and NYCDOT-led projects starting this year.

 While BQE South (from Atlantic Avenue to the Verrazzano Bridge) and BQE North (from Sands Street to the Kosciuszko Bridge) are under the purview of the state, the state has said it will not have a hand in upgrading the 70-year-old highway.

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