Construction Advocacy Leaders Push Government Officials to Tear Down and Rebuild the BQE
By Yehudit Garmaise
The NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) proposed, in August, improvements to the deteriorating Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE), but today, government leaders were told that instead of their current plan to fix the, some say, crumbling BQE in ways that were intended to keep it safe for another 20 years, they should use New York's share of President Biden's $1.2 billion infrastructure dollars to demolish and rebuild the highway, which is being called completely outdated, dangerous, and even reinforcing segregation in the city.
“I walk down the block [at Fourth Ave.] and the worst monstrosity in the United States, I have to look at,” said Carlo Scissura, the CEO and President of the New York Building Congress, at a morning panel discussion that took place last week. “The BQE is the most ridiculous, disgusting eyesore.
“It’s dangerous, it’s polluted, it’s rusted, let’s all chant, ‘tear the BQE down, tear the BQE down.’
Scissura, who not only the heads influential advocacy association that promotes construction in the city, but also served on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s expert panel that proposed in early August efforts to reduce truck traffic and reinforce the Brooklyn Heights triple cantilever, which many say is completely outdated, dangerous, and needs to be adapted to meet 21st century needs.
“It’s called knocking down, redesigning, and rebuilding a BQE for people, for communities, and for all of us in our city,” said Scissura, known as an industry heavyweight, who said the time is right to redesign and rebuild the BQE, now that President Joe Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill has passed, Gov. Kathy Hochul is in charge in Albany, and Mayor-elect Eric Adams will head the city on Jan. 1.
“We had no money three years ago, now we’ve got money and we’ve got a city and a state that are working together, we can actually get some incredible things done,” Scissura said.
Not only are BQE critics saying that the expressway is too decayed to be restored, some critics are saying that that expressway is an example of systemic racism in that it divides neighborhoods and provides shoddy infrastructure to low-income communities.
“If a highway were built for the purpose of dividing a white and a black neighborhood, or if an underpass was constructed such that a bus carrying mostly Black and Puerto Rican kids to the beach in New York was designed too low for it to pass by, that that obviously reflects racism that went into those design choices,” said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
Biden’s spending plan for infrastructure, which Congress passed on Friday, includes $1 billion, which came down from $20 billion during negotiations that resulted in the first-ever program to “reconnect communities divided by transportation infrastructure.”
US DOT said that it will still reconnect as many as 20 communities, by removing parts of interstates and repurposing former rail lines.
“This is a moment to do something right,” said Scissura. "It’s a moment to say we’ve got an investment, and we’ve got a moment to really rebuild our highway system."