The crowded field of competitors who’ve proposed solutions for the ailing Brooklyn-Queens Expressway has gotten another entrant: Bjarke Ingels Group, which has unveiled a proposal that it calls “BQP.”
The “P” stands for park, and in BIG’s plan, green space takes center stage. The firm has proposed two scenarios for either repairing the BQE’s existing triple cantilever structure, or replacing it altogether. In both scenarios, the vehicles that use the BQE would be moved to a roadway that would be covered and topped with as much as 10 acres of new parkland.
“The idea is to build the highway once, not twice,” BIG’s Jeremy Alain Siegel told the New York Daily News, which first reported the proposal.
Under BIG’s plan, the existing Furman Street, (along with space that’s currently used for Brooklyn Bridge Park parking and the park’s sound-dampening berms), would be turned into a new six-lane roadway. Traffic from the BQE would be rerouted to that new thoroughfare, which would be decked over; Furman Street would be re-introduced on the deck for local access. Parkland from BBP could then be extended east, creating new green spaces and infrastructure for the community.
As for the triple-cantilever structure, BIG has two ideas: The existing architecture could be repaired and turned into a linear park that would connect to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. If it’s too degraded, it could be replaced with infrastructure that would support a variety of uses, according to BIG—including housing and retail—or with even more parkland and even parking.
The proposal would also lead to improvements at the nexus of Atlantic Avenue and Furman and Columbia streets, which is currently a mess thanks to the confluence of park, busy streets, and BQE ramps. Under BIG’s plan, that tangle of roadways would be under a deck, and the above-ground portion could connect BBP, Adam Yauch Park, and Van Vorhees Playground.
Many of the alternative proposals for BQE reconstruction have focused on routing traffic away from Brooklyn Heights, in response to the DOT’s plans, which call for a temporary roadway that would replace the Brooklyn Heights Promenade for several years. But BIG’s is one of the few to suggest a significant investment in parkland, in addition to the rerouting of the throughway. A long-time Brooklyn Heights resident has suggested a similar project.
It would also significantly impact Brooklyn Bridge Park, which lies to the west of the BQE. Eric Landau, the president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, says that he’s been briefed on the plans, and calls some of BIG’s suggestions “quite good,” including the addition of more open space. “[It]solves one of our challenges, which is access to Brooklyn Heights and beyond,” he notes. But Landau also says he has questions regarding the feasibility of the plans—including the impact to the park during construction, and structures within the park.
“It is pretty clear that every plan that has been discussed in the public sphere to date is going to have some impact on the park,” Landau says. “But it’s not clear what the full impact would be.”
BIG’s proposal is endorsed by the Regional Plan Association, which assisted the firm with its conception, according to the Daily News. Just this week, the RPA released its own BQE study, and called for the city to implement transportation policies that could chop two lanes of traffic from the roadway and, ultimately, reduce the city’s dependency on cars.
Though a cost and time estimate for BIG’s plan has not yet been made public, the firm claims it will be less expensive, and less time-consuming, than what the DOT has proposed. The agency’s proposals—using design-build to completely overhaul the stretch between Atlantic Avenue and Sands Street, or rebuilding the span in increments—would both cost upwards of $4 billion and take several years to complete.
BIG will present its proposal at a town hall meeting—where City Council speaker Corey Johnson and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams are expected to be in attendance—tonight at Plymouth Church in Brooklyn Heights at 7 p.m.