Brooklynites Slam State’s Canceling Of BQE Studies

Cantilever Structure Still At Risk, They Say

At the right of this photo is the unusual “cantilever” structure that supports both the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. Eagle file photo.

By Raanan Geberer
BROOKLYN — Officials and civic leaders were stunned and disappointed at the news that the state Department of Transportation (DOT) has canceled environmental impact studies for two sections of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

The first segment extends from Atlantic Avenue north to Sands Street, including the unusual triple-cantilever structure beneath the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. The second segment, referred to as the Gowanus Expressway, extends from Sixth Avenue to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel.

The decision was made because of the state’s financial problems and a shortage of available funds, said an e-mail from planner Naomi Doerner that the Eagle received earlier this week.

The cancellation does not, despite initial reports, include the BQE “ditch” through Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens, long an object of agitation in those communities. A study on re-doing the “ditch” was actually completed, although, says Cobble Hill Association President Roy Sloane, “there are no dollars for implementation.”


The deteriorating triple cantilever, which might also be called “triple-decker,” was constructed around 1950. The staggered structure, which doesn’t have support columns on its west side, supports traffic going in two directions, on two different levels, as well as the Promenade on top.

It also carries about 160,000 vehicles a day, many more than it was originally designed for. Most planners and engineers have said that the structure has already reached the end of its original life span and is in serious need of repair.

Borough President Marty Markowitz said, “While I understand that budgets are facing deep cuts, the decision of NYSDOT and the FHWA (Federal Highway Association) to terminate the EIS studies on the Gowanus and BQE expressways is an insult to Brooklyn and New York City. By postponing their replacement by a generation or more, poor service will continue on these critical roadways and the millions of New Yorkers who travel them every year or live in proximity will suffer.”

Judy Stanton, executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association, said that she and the Heights community have been repeatedly told that the highway was in critical need of rehabilitation, and it was extremely difficult for her to suddenly believe that it isn’t in critical need of rehabilitation.

The “patchwork repairs” that will be done in the future, she added, will in the long run be more expensive than an actual rehabilitation, and based on past experience, it will be very difficult to get the city (which is responsible for day-to-day repair) to act.

She expressed disappointment that the item was a federal “earmark,” meaning a legislative provision tacked onto a congressional budget bill that directs funds to be spent on a specific project. The project, she said, is too important to be an earmark.

Robert Perris, district manager of Community Board 2, said it was a concern because “the state DOT and its consultants made it clear at the outset of the environmental review that while the structure was safe for now, we needed to start planning for its repair or replacement.

“The thing to not lose sight of is that the environmental review and its design and construction will take at least a decade. We can’t wait until it’s unsafe to figure out what we’re going to do next.”

Sloane of the Cobble Hill Association added that although the aforementioned section is north of Cobble Hill, it begins at Atlantic Avenue, which is the northern border of the neighborhood. The state’s plan would have included the redesign of the BQE exits at Atlantic Avenue, which have seen many accidents.

“We are disappointed that the Atlantic Avenue entrances and exits will not be broadened into compliance with current highway standards, and this will most likely lead to more accidents,” he said.

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