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For New York Expressway, Community Engagement to Spark Reconnecting Neighborhoods (WXY)

For New York Expressway, Community Engagement to Spark Reconnecting Neighborhoods (WXY)

The mayor and transportation officials in New York City have announced a plan to study the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE), starting with community engagement and the goal of “reconnecting communities needlessly divided by the creation of the highway.”

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David Vega-Barachowitz

A team assembled to handle the community engagement process includes WXY architecture + urban design, and the firm’s David Vega-Barachowitz, an associate principal and WXY’s Director of Urban Design, is available to discuss this major initiative.

According to New York City Mayor Eric Adams and the city’s Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez, the teams will “simultaneously embark on a community outreach process and build on already-completed community planning to develop designs for reuniting communities north and south of the BQE by creating public spaces like parks and plaza and providing new mobility options for commuting, recreation, and commerce.”

“These communities have suffered for decades from increased traffic pollution and road safety risks after being divided by the highway,” the officials said in an announcement late last week.

The community engagement process includes “in-person and remote public workshops beginning in September as well as a public survey, pop-up outreach in neighborhoods along the entire BQE corridor, meetings with community stakeholder groups, and updated online resources. The processes are designed to invite a wide range of voices to work towards projects that improve communities while prioritizing technical and fiscal feasibility.”

The Mayor added that funding will be made available to “community-based organizations to engage underrepresented voices at the grassroots level.”

New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) Commissioner Rodriguez announced that the agency will bring on community engagement specialists to lead the visioning process corridor-wide, including:

  • engineering firm WSP USA Inc.
  • design and public space studio WXY architecture and urban design
  • inclusive innovation agency 3×3.
NYCDOT also retained the Triple Cantilever Joint Venture for design and planning for BQE Central, led in partnership by AECOM USA, Inc., and Parsons Transportation Group of New York, Inc., who are working with AKRF, Inc., Bjarke Ingels Group, Fitzgerald and Halliday, Inc., SCAPE Landscape Architecture, and others.

A map of Brooklyn with the BQE North and South highlighted in green, and BQE Central highlighted in dark navy blue, which starts fromt Atlantic Avenue to Sands Street.

“Our administration is seizing a once-in-a-generation opportunity to partner with communities and develop a bold vision for a safe and resilient BQE,” said Mayor Adams. “Together, we are finally confronting the racism built into our infrastructure and putting equity front and center to modernize this vital transportation artery now.”

Notably, the community engagement process will inform plans to tackle longstanding issues with the BQE with an expedited, long-term fix for the city-owned section from Atlantic Avenue to Sands Street and a concrete plan to explore options for improving the BQE corridors in Brooklyn to the north and south, “reconnecting communities needlessly divided by the creation of the highway.”

Two Projects, in Parallel
The two parallel public engagement efforts begin this month, says WXY’s Vega-Barachowitz: One for the “BQE Central” project engagement, which will inform design for the city-owned section of the BQE, with construction to begin in about five years, and a second for the “BQE North and South” project engagement. The latter will identify strategies to reconnect communities north of Sands Street to the Kosciusko Bridge and south of Atlantic Avenue to the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge that have been left out of previous BQE engagement processes.

With federal funds newly available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Adams administration is taking advantage of a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fund this much-needed work on the BQE.

“The Adams administration is tackling the inequity in our built environment across the BQE corridor, and we are getting to work immediately,” said Deputy Mayor for Operations Meera Joshi. “Repairing the wrongs of the BQE is one of the most complex and necessary infrastructure projects of our nation, and we will not waste time, money, community patience, or the once-in-a-generation opportunity to use increased federal infrastructure dollars to get the job done right.”