Close the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway forever, critic argues

This has been called the biggest infrastructure challenge in New York City history: what to do with the crumbling 1.5 miles of the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway that runs along the Brooklyn Heights Promenade?

The city has proposed two unpopular options: piecemeal repairs over eight years or temporarily moving the six-lane highway to the promenade while a new road is built over the course of six years.

But the architecture critic for New York magazine has another suggestion: Let the BQE die.

"The city's planning to spend billions of dollars and a lot of years fixing it up and putting it back to where it used to be," Justin Davidson said. "I think that's a mistake because we're just moving into the past."

He added that history shows when urban roads go away, so do drivers. And his theory is that by 2030, highways will be obsolete. He has written that by that year, personal cars will be like the cigarettes of the 21st century: offensive to most, beloved by some, and perennially hard to kick.

"You can't embark on a massive, disruptive reconstruction effort without stepping back and thinking, 'Well, what is the city going to be like a generation from now?'" Davidson said.

But would letting the BQE die be realistic?

"No—the BQE is an essential link in our supply chain network," said former Transportation Commissioner Lucius Riccio, who supports future alternatives but said the BQE is needed for freight.

"New York City does not have the rail links it should have nor does it have water links for moving goods," Riccio said. "We're stuck with a lot of trucks for the lifeblood of our economy."

Davidson said he doesn't dispute that. But he argued we also need to rethink how we deliver goods.

He also said the next best option is to turn the section of the BQE into a tunnel. The DOT told Fox 5 that would be extremely challenging but Riccio said that might be one of the better alternatives.

A consensus on this project seems unlikely. The Brooklyn Heights Association presented an entirely different proposal to officials in late November. A final decision is expected sometime next year.