The BQE Should Be Shut Down Before a Tragedy Happens

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You should know that The New York City Council paid $240,000 to ARUP, a consulting firm, to study the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE). In their presentation to the Council and City this past Tuesday, they concluded that the BQE is crumbling. I use this word crumbling because it is in fact falling apart.

It is important for you to know that the BQE was built by Robert Moses during the Great Depression, and today it handles twice the amount of traffic it was designed for daily. There are holes in its surface. The structural beams and supports are rusted. The retaining walls are not secure. It is in worse shape than the Westside Highway was in the 1970’s, when a car fell through it, which caused the City to react.

The City of New York is totally responsible for the maintenance, repair, and safety for the BQE while New York State is responsible for Ocean Parkway. But why you ask is the City, and not the State, responsible for building, fixing, maintaining the BQE? After all it certainly looks like a state highway doesn’t it? It doesn’t look like Ocean Parkway does it? No. One is certainly a city street and one is certainly a highway. But the BQE is a city street and Ocean Parkway is part of the NY State Highway system, and not the other way around. It seems counter intuitive right dear reader?

This mess occurred during the days of Governor Nelson Rockefeller, the upstate cities and towns were increasingly asking New York State to designate their roads as part of the NY state highway system in order to shift costs from localities to the State. But upstate was reliably Republican, so Gov. Rockefeller and his lawyers decided to pass a law limiting the numbers of miles which the State of New York highway system could have in its inventory. Once enacted, these upstate localities could be refused because “the state road system is full.” At that time, Ocean Parkway was already included in the state Highway System. New York City and the BQE were excluded.

Interestingly, both the BQE and Ocean parkway are about the same length of miles. So it seems to me that before we look at the various ideas floated by the NYC DOT, its paid consultants, and Comptroller Scott Stringer, lets ask the Governor and the State Legislature to “swap” these two roadways because an even swap would not violate the law and would bring NYS into the equation. Why? Not only does NY State have greater resources, they have access directly to Federal Highway funds, an access the City does not have. Does anyone really believe that the 500,000 cars and trucks which traverse the BQE are solely intended for New York City? Of course not.

My suggestion is simpler. Immediately shut the BQE down before we have a tragedy. Ask the Governor to make the swap in the state highway system–Ocean Parkway for the BQE. Then the State will call in the Federal Highway Administration, for an immediate infusion of 4 billion dollars of US Highway money to immediately repair and replace the existing roadways.

My dear reader, New York City has no money for this project. It cannot make the required changes to replace the BQE, build new jails to prepare for closing Rikers, and fix the issues in NYCHA. Every NYCHA project in the Bronx and throughout the City needs new boilers and elevators. Why not put the responsibility for a new BQE where it belongs?

This is Councilman Rev. Ruben Diaz and this is what you should know.