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Public Process For Redesigned BQE Kicks Off, Construction Promised Within 5 Years

Brooklyn-Queens Expressway looking toward Lower Manhattan, captured in 2013.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams is launching the community engagement process aimed at finally fixing the ailing Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in an attempt to unite communities that have been long divided by the 68-year-old highway.

Two public engagement processes will start this month, Adams announced alongside Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez on Friday. Construction is set to begin on the BQE Central, which covers the city-owned section that runs between Atlantic Avenue and Sands Street, within five years. The city’s public engagement is to inform the design of that city-owned stretch of the highway.

As part of community engagement, the city is gathering a group of architecture, engineering, consultants and design firms to assist. 
AECOM USA Parsons Transportation Group of New York has been recruited by the Department of Transportation to work with firms AKRF, Bjarke Ingels Group, Fitzgerald & Halliday and Scape Landscape Architecture. Engineering firm WSP USA, design and public space studio WXY architecture and urban design along with innovation agency 3x3 will also be part of the engagement process.

The Department of Transportation has said that repairs must be done by 2026, or trucks will need to be sent through Brooklyn's residential streets because the highway is in such a state of disrepair. The central part of the corridor was built 80 years ago, and right now serves over 130,000 vehicles daily, including 13,000 trucks.

Separately, the BQE North and South project engagement will look at ways to reconnect communities north of Sands Street to the Kosciusko Bridge and south of Atlantic Avenue to the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge that have been left out of previous engagement processes, according to the announcement.

The north and south parts of the BQE are owned by the state, and Adams wants to develop designs with the aim of reuniting communities that were divided when Robert Moses designed the highway in the first half of the 20th century. Covering those sections could create public spaces like parks and plazas. 

“Our administration is seizing a once-in-a-generation opportunity to partner with communities and develop a bold vision for a safe and resilient BQE,” Adams said in the statement. “Together, we are finally confronting the racism built into our infrastructure and putting equity front and center to modernize this vital transportation artery now."

The community engagement plan is to run in-person and remote public workshops, starting this month. There will also be public surveys and pop-up outreach in neighborhoods along the entirety of the BQE. Funding will also be given to “community-based organizations to engage underrepresented voices at what the city calls the “grassroots level.”

The administration is setting up the BQE Community Visioning Council to advise the Department of Transportation on engagement strategies. Adams announced in the summer he was abandoning plans from his predecessor Bill de Blasio, who had wanted to spend $500M fixing the damaged part of the expressway. Instead, Adams said he wanted to speed the process up and make use of the federal bipartisan infrastructure bill passed last year.