NYC construction honcho calls to ‘tear down the BQE’

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A top representative for New York’s builders and developers told a group of Brooklyn business leaders on Wednesday that the city and state should use money from the federal infrastructure bill to “tear down” the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

“It 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,” New York Building Congress President Carlo Scissura said during a breakfast panel hosted by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.

Scissura, the Brooklyn Chamber’s former executive director, said he hoped the elevated highway on the borough’s Third Avenue could be replaced with an underground tunnel that connects drivers to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, instead of funneling them along the current route of the BQE through Brooklyn Heights, Fort Greene and Williamsburg.

Traffic makes it's way across an elevated portion of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway
Mayor Bill de Blasio nixed controversial plans to replace the highway in 2019.
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

He said the project would be “the largest infrastructure in America.”

“We’ve got a moment to really rebuild our highway system, our federal interstate system across the nation. Let’s start with a project that affects the most people, the most communities,” Scissura told the group of business leaders. “I have one mission in life with infrastructure … and it’s called knocking down and redesigning and rebuilding a Brooklyn-Queens expressway for people, for communities, and for all of us in our city.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2019 nixed controversial plans to replace the highway that would have shut down a popular waterfront promenade in the ritzy Brooklyn Heights neighborhood.

Traffic moves along the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge, August 2, 2018 in New York City
Carlo Scissura hopes the elevated highway on the borough’s Third Avenue could be replaced with an underground tunnel.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Scissura then led an “expert panel” convened by the mayor that recommended reducing traffic volumes on the Brooklyn section of the deteriorating highway to extend its lifespan. De Blasio followed through on that recommendation this year, reducing the number of lanes on the highway from six to four. The city’s current plan is to use “preservation strategies” to keep the existing structure in place for 19 more years.

Highway tunnel projects are a costly endeavor — Boston’s “Big Dig” project infamously took 16 years and $24 billion to complete — but that hasn’t stopped New York leaders from entertaining the concept.

On Tuesday, Sen. Chuck Schumer and US Rep. Ritchie Torres called on the state to cover the Cross Bronx Expressway — calling the highway’s presence in that borough “literally and metaphorically a structure of racism.”

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