New York, NY – The New York City Council and Arup, a world renowned engineering and design firm, today released a report entitled The Future of the BQE, which is a comprehensive look at the possibilities for repairing and replacing the BQE.Speaker Corey Johnson selected Arup in 2019 to provide the Council with independent, outside expertise on the multi-billion replacement project for this iconic expressway. Arup will present its findings during Tuesday’s Council Committee on Transportation oversight hearing on the BQE.
The report, available on the Council website, is the culmination of months of reviewing all the BQE proposals put forward so far, weighing their viability, and comparing them with what has been done in other cities globally to determine the best path forward for New York. The Council rejects the plan to replace the Brooklyn Heights Promenade with a temporary highway during reconstruction of the triple cantilever. Instead, based on Arup’s findings and recommendations, the Council favors two approaches – a capped highway or tunnel:
The capped highway plan, referred to in the report as BIG/Mark Baker Brooklyn-Queens Park, is a street level roadway that has a deck built over it that would support an expansion of Brooklyn Bridge Park. BIG has estimated that this plan would cost around $3.2 billion, and Arup’s high-level estimate concluded that the cost is similar to that of NYCDOT’s Innovative Plan. The tunnel bypass would cost more but would be a more transformative project, allowing for the removal of the expressway through Cobble Hill, Brooklyn Heights, Dumbo, Fort Greene, and Clinton Hill. This stretch of the BQE would no longer be needed, providing significant room for re-imagination, and could include dedicated transit and bicycle lanes, new parks, and other public facilities.
With opportunity comes hard work and rethinking how we build in New York. Next steps, as highlighted in the report, call for creating and passing state legislation this session to create a new governing body to manage the BQE project, including developing a plan for how to build for the 21st century while maintaining safe operations of the triple cantilever in the near team.
This report is a major step forward not just for the BQE, but for reimagining the role and structure of highways throughout New York City as we plan for a modern city that encourages sustainable modes of transportation. Any rebuild of New York’s roads must reflect the Council’s focus on sustainable, less car-centric modes of transportation, and minimally impact the adjacent communities during construction and in the future.
“New York cannot continue to kick the can down the road on redeveloping the BQE. Frustrated by delays and half-baked plans, the Council hired its own engineering firm to determine the best way to spend billions of dollars to rebuild this vital roadway. This is not just about rebuilding a highway, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build the city we deserve and need in the future. I am deeply proud of the work the Council has done with Arup to ensure that the ideas put forward were thoroughly reviewed and that the neighboring communities were partners in this effort, rather than spectators. I am grateful to Arup for their expertise and I look forward to continuing our work together with the community and my colleagues both here in the Council and in our state and federal government,” said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.
“With bold vision, excellent design, and a thoughtful community process, we can create a solution for the BQE corridor that meets our region’s mobility needs while better integrating to the urban fabric around it. New Yorkers of today chose time and again streets for people, vibrant communities, and multimodal solutions that enhance our quality of life. If we think big, work together, and stay committed, we will realize the same success that cities like Boston, Dallas, San Francisco, Barcelona, London, and many others enjoy. If it can happen elsewhere, why can’t it happen here? Let’s find a BQE solution that creates a lasting legacy of positive change for many generations to come,” said Trent Lethco, Arup Principal.
“More than ever, we need to look ahead to the future our city deserves and embrace a bigger vision for New York’s transportation and infrastructure needs. I applaud the Council Speaker and Arup for the immense amount of work that went into this report to redevelop the BQE, and I look forward to continuing next steps. The proposals included in the report are innovative and reflective of the challenges our community has called on us to address. We have an opportunity to invest in longstanding solutions over short-term responses, thank you to the local leaders who have helped make this possible,” said Council Member Stephen Levin.
“I’m grateful for the attention to better governance, the need for a stronger partnership between New York State and New York City, and the expertise and insight that Arup brought to this complicated and critical infrastructure challenge. As we consider the various proposals on the table, my hope is that we can prioritize livable neighborhoods, address regional transportation infrastructure needs, and find a solution that better advances our collective future,” said Council Member Brad Lander.
“As Transportation Chair one of my top priorities has been to expand alternative modes of transportation while reducing the use of vehicle in the City. As with any major projects I look forward to hearing testimonies from all relevant stakeholders,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Transportation Committee Chairman. “I thank Speaker Johnson for this leadership, and I will continue to work alongside advocates, City Hall and stakeholders to determine the best course of action for the BQE.”
“I am very much looking forward to the oversight the proposed plans present. We are moving past the days of exclusive decision making that was commonplace in the past. A time when development of the city’s infrastructure, and highways was decided by a small group of decision makers who did not consider the potential negative impact on diverse communities. History has taught us to engage the community and access resources that help to make an informed and equitable decision. I applaud Speaker Johnson and Arup, this process of review, assessment, sharing of ideas and infusion of outside successes gives way to innovation, and sustainable infrastructure that is indicative to where we are presently and where we want to be in the future. This is a ‘good neighbor’ approach, and is good governance, giving voice to the communities in Brooklyn that will be affected by providing them with the best set of options for this monumental task,” said Council Majority Leader Laurie A. Cumbo.
“While the Brooklyn Queens Expressway in Brooklyn Heights is repaired in the short-term, we must reimagine the role this thoroughfare plays in the city and borough and take action. The larger corridor-wide approach will require participation beyond City DOT to include multiple levels of government and a new mechanism to move us toward a 21st century solution that respects the environment, reduces emissions and makes for a more efficient transportation network. Such an endeavor will require maximum community input and collaboration among all stakeholders, public and private, and at all levels of government. The report commissioned by the City Council on the BQE is another step to help us there,” said Representative Nydia Velázquez (D-NY).
“The BQE has been a scar on neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens for decades and I’m pleased that we are finally taking a bigger picture look at ways to fix the corridor and begin to knit some of our neighborhoods back together,” said Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon. “I am grateful to the Speaker, the Council and Arup for providing new ways to look at the BQE project from Atlantic to Sands. For decades, I have advocated for progressive, environmentally sustainable changes to our I-278 interstate highway system. The City, State and the federal government must work together with community to plan for the entire corridor from South Brooklyn to Queens so that we do not repeat the errors of the past: building piecemeal and inadvertently creating new barriers to sustainable infrastructure. I look forward to working with all of the stakeholders for a solution that works for the entire corridor.”
“The community has been calling on the city to find a better way to rebuild the BQE since the moment the DOT unveiled its ill-conceived plans in September 2018. We are grateful to the Speaker and the City Council for taking this critical step and we are gratified to see that Arup’s report echoes our call for a comprehensive, transformative and environmentally sustainable solution – including essential legislation that would create a governing body of City and State representatives to implement the best corridor-wide plan. With leadership and action such as this, New York can build something truly visionary that matches our reputation for innovation and progress,” said Hilary Jager, A Better Way.
“Speaker Corey Johnson and the Council, through their work with Arup, have made a significant contribution to the challenge of determining how to reduce the scale and environmental impact of an antiquated thoroughfare that divided communities and served the transportation needs of a previous century. They have presented visions for Brooklyn that minimize the negative impacts of the current BQE by in part burying it beneath our streets or at street level and in part replacing it with green boulevards and more parkland. As importantly, they have identified the immediate need for a governing entity that can bring to fruition any vision for a transformed BQE. We thank and commend them for their innovative and comprehensive work,” said Martha Bakos Dietz, President of the Brooklyn Heights Association.
“The Cobble Hill Association (CHA) is thankful for the work the Council has done, with Arup, to write a comprehensive report of the history, the many failed attempts, the proposed plans and the real constraints of transforming the BQE. Speaker Johnson ensured our coalition and communities were included in the process and engaged in meaningful dialogue with the Council and Arup. The Council brings the transformation of the BQE closer to reality. CHA embraces these recommendations and will advocate for a City/State Partnership governance strategy. We are enthusiastic about the transformative possibilities of covering the Cobble Hill Trench and removing the deadly exit and entrance ramps in our neighborhood. We look forward to our continued involvement and partnership with the Council to reshape the future of the BQE, Brooklyn and NYC,” said Amy Breedlove, President of the Cobble Hill Association.