For decades, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, more commonly referred to as the BQE, has been rapidly decaying. A first of its kind expressway during its construction in the 1940s, the BQE was designed “not only to relieve congestion on local streets but also to aid industry and business by shortening transportation time between the boroughs,” according to the NYC Parks website. However, in more recent years, the BQE has failed to withstand the weight of our 21st-century infrastructure needs.
The BQE’s initial placement by renowned and reviled city planner Robert Moses represents a strategic desire to disrupt the Black and brown communities through which it cuts, not to mention plague them with pollution and other environmental injustices.
Now the North Brooklyn community has a once in a lifetime chance to make their voices heard when it comes to this major thoroughfare. The city’s Department of Transportation, alongside local non-profit North Brooklyn Parks Alliance, will host a series of community visioning events in order to collect feedback about modernizing the north corridor of the BQE. Topics up for discussion include parks and open space, street safety and quality of life, freight and traffic, and land use and development.
The non-profit was selected by the city from a competitive pool of applications. NBK Parks Alliance has also partnered with St. Nick’s Alliance and Transportation Alternatives to facilitate these workshops.
Even for those who don’t own cars, NBK Parks say that the presence of the BQE impacts their daily lives as well. “Pretty much everyone is affected by the BQE. Noise pollution, air pollution, those are things that aren’t visible to the naked eye, but does affect everyone who lives here,” said Konstancja Maleszyńska, BQE North Outreach Consultant for the group.
NBK Parks noted the compressed timeline as required by the city. These visioning sessions represent phase one of the project. Based on community feedback, the DOT will draft a plan to present to the community in the fall. Though it’s not currently possible to give an exact timeline for when project implementation can begin, Maleszyńska estimates that it will take until 2024, at least.
While the project to modernize the BQE represents an important step forward, some see it as a bit of a missed opportunity. Almost 20 different Brooklyn elected officials signed on to a statement lamenting that the project’s responsibility rests squarely on the shoulders of the city’s DOT, despite the fact that the state’s DOT actually owns the majority of the BQE.
Below is the timeline of events. You can sign up here.
Wednesday, February 15
Via Zoom (Pre-Registration Required)
Hosted by St. Nick’s Alliance
Thursday, February 16
211 Ainslie Street
Walk and Talk
Transportation Alternatives will be hosting a BQE Walk and Talk on Sat., Feb. 25 from 10 am to 1 pm. We’ll gather at 10 am for coffee and remarks and start the tour at 10:30, walking under the BQE or alongside it towards the Kosciuszko Bridge with designated stops/speakers along the way. We’ll walk on the Bridge for a stretch and turn around to end with a tour led by Katie & team Under the K.
Lunch & Learn
Saturday, February 25
75 Thomas St (Waste Management HQ)
Drop-In Open House
Saturday, March 4
1:00 – 5:00 PM
86 Kent Ave (Bushwick Inlet Park Building)
Free Childcare + Translators Provided