Alternate plans for Brooklyn–Queens Expressway reconstruction on the table

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(Courtesy of Bjarke Ingels Group)

Reconstructing a 1.5-mile cantilevered section of the crumbling Brooklyn–Queens Expressway is one of the biggest infrastructure projects New York City has ever undertaken. Yet no one seems to be able to agree on how to best do it.

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday announced the formation of a 16-member independent expert panel to review the various plans that have been floated.

"We have to come up with a plan that will really satisfy a bunch of interests," New York Building Congress CEO Carlo Scisurra said. He will chair the mayor's panel.

One of the city's most prominent architecture firms unveiled a new proposal Wednesday. Bjarke Ingels Group, or BIG, has created two proposals, pro bono. Both plans would turn the existing highway into Brooklyn Queens Park and run a ground-level six-lane highway on what is currently a service road and part of Brooklyn Bridge Park.

"We can build the roadway at ground level today while traffic is still running on the BQE," said Jeremy Alain Siegel, an associate and a senior designer with BIG. "Once it's done, we build a cap over it."

That cap would be turned into green space.

BIG's first proposal would turn the current cantilever into a multi-tiered park. The second would demolish it and reuse the gravel and construction materials to build a park-like cliff.

Siegel said both alternatives would save the city money because they don't require the construction of a temporary highway during reconstruction. The plans would also create 10 acres of new green space.

"We wanted to take a look saying, 'Can we improve the short-term effect but also build a waterfront that will last for next 100 years or more?'" Siegel said.

Last fall, the Department of Transportation put forth a plan that would construct a temporary highway on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade while the BQE is repaired. But that plan was met with fierce community opposition.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said the DOT's proposals are "dead on arrival." The council will have to ultimately approve any plan.

Scissura said the new panel will consider all options and "start fresh."

On Wednesday night, hundreds of Brooklyn Heights residents packed into Plymouth Church for a town hall organized by the group A Better Way.

BIG presented its plan and City Comptroller Scott Stringer put forth an alternative plan.

The mayor's panel will have until the summer to reach a resolution.