|Issue 190||September 25, 1998|
At a hearing last week on reconstruction of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, community groups in Jackson Heights, Queens demanded assurances that the NY State DOT will reduce the highway's impact on their community. The Friends of Travers Park and the Jackson Heights Beautification Group recommended that the state deck over the sunken sections of the highway and reclaim the land above it with ball courts, seating areas and other park facilities. The groups have also developed a proposal for a bikeway along the length of the BQE right-of-way.
The state DOT intends to rebuild and widen several sections of the BQE beginning in the summer, 1999. Despite concerns raised by parties along the highway like Assembly members Nolan and Lentol (see MTR #47) that increasing capacity at key areas along the BQE, including the Kosciuszko Bridge, will increase pollution and congestion, officials declared in 1996 that the project will have "no significant impact".
We wonder whether NYS DOT is on its way to repeating its Gowanus debacle along the BQE. In the early 1990s, DOT attempted to avoid environmental review of the Gowanus project altogether, but deepening community and official resistance to DOT's approach led to continually escalating levels of review and alternatives analysis, which the agency is still in the midst of. Community groups along the BQE cite concerns very similar to those articulated by the civic organizations that formed the Gowanus Expressway Community Coalition - air and noise pollution, the highway's division of communities and NYS DOT's failure to provide alternative methods of transportation to decongest the highway.