North Brooklyn Pols Slam State’s BQE Plans

By Matthew Fischetti

NorthBrooklyn elected officials and advocates slammed the state on Monday, after the State Department of Transportation told Streetsblog that Hochul administration has no intention of addressing the state portion of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

Earlier this year, the Adams administration announced a public engagement session for redesign of the BQE due to funds available from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The BQE is split into two major parts: one dubbed BQE Central, the city owned part which stretches from Atlantic Ave. to Sands St; and the second being BQE North and South which is under state purview.

The officials took their frustration to Jaime Campiz Playground on Marcy Ave, more commonly known as “Green Grass”, which lies right across from the BQE.

“This is not about division. From Greenpoint to Brooklyn Heights. From Bay Ridge, down further south – we are unified. And we are all claiming that we want to see a corridor-wide plan. And it needs to happen now,” Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso said at the press conference.

On Thursday, after Streetsblog broke the story over the state’s lack of plans, 18 elected officials across Brooklyn released a statement condemning the state’s decision to just provide technical assistance rather than a full redesign.

For years, the city and state has considered different ways to redesign and fix the crumbling highway. The BQE was originally designed to carry  47,000 vehicles a day but carries an estimated 150,000 vehicles per day now, according to Curbed.

““New York State DOT’s refusal to commit to participating in NYC DOT’s visioning process for their portions of the BQE is completely unacceptable and irresponsible. This historic opportunity to rebuild the BQE extends beyond the Triple Cantilever and our communities deserve a forward thinking vision that redesigns the entire BQE and addresses the significant environmental justice impacts of the thruway,” their statement read.

Greenpoint and Brooklyn Height Councilman Lincoln Restler did not hold back his words at Monday’s press conference.

“One thing that we all learned when we read the Power Broker is that highways can be racist,” Restler said, referencing the 1,336 page tome that chronicles city planner Robert Moses’s implementation of highways.

“Infrastructure can be racist. The BQE is racist. It has caused enormous harm to communities all throughout Brooklyn,” he continued.

Restler also specifically called to move forward with the BQGreen proposal which would add a decked 3.5 acre park

Williamsburg Councilwoman Jennifer Gutiérrez noted that perhaps Brooklyn needed to remind the state what it means to be an environmental justice community.

“It means that since the BQE, since Robert Moses, it has been our communities that have had to breathe the fumes that have to deal with the environmental issues of this racist highway. It’s us dealing with the risk every single day and not state DOT,” she said. “What it means to be an environmental justice community is to be unapologetic, and what we demand and in the future that we see for all of us, for many of us that are here, the damage is done. We don’t stand here for ourselves. We stand here for our descendants. We stand here for our future.”

While not in attendance on Monday, Emily Gallgher’s Chief of Staff represented the Assemblymember, who’s exchange with the State DOT Commish raised the concern of the state not being interested in a full redesign of the bridge.

“We are not going to kick the can down the road any further,” Andrew Epstein said. “We’re going to tackle this racist infrastructure once and for all and we’re going to bring New York State DOT to the table as soon as we possibly can.”

Editors Note: Emily Gallagher is a former columnist for the Greenpoint Star.

New North Brooklyn Air Quality Report Released

By Matthew Fischetti

A new report studying air quality in North Brooklyn found  “concerning but not conclusive results” results.

The study, completed by North Brooklyn Neighbors in collaboration with NYU Grossman School of Health, analyzed the air quality across the neighborhood over a 13 month span, measured from November 2020 to December 2021.

The study measured three different types of air pollutants: Volatile organic Compounds (VOCs), a broad group of chemicals which are typically used as industrial solvents; Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), naturally occurring chemicals found the occur from combustion of oil or gasoline; and fine particulate matter (PM2.5), , which are tiny particles or droplets found in the air defined by their size.

The study sampled five sites across North Brooklyn: Satmar Matzah Bakers at 427 Broadway, United Transit Mix 318 Boerum Street, Entrance Ramp to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway at Roebling and South 4th Streets, Scheel Corporation at 28 Franklin Street and McGuinness Boulevard.

The report does note that the testing cannot “positively identify that the contaminants found are attributable to the specific facilities that we tested near” and calls for additional monitoring to have a more comprehensive report.

Every sample collected found elevated levels of Benzene, a type of VOC,  above the level the state determines to be a safe standard. Benzene, a common byproduct of the plastics industries, is known to be carcinogenic and cause other serious health effects like anemia with longtime exposure.

The report also found that fine particulate matter, PM2.5, exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency’s annual standards in five out of eight cases. PM 2.5 is known to cause irritation to the eyes and respiratory system in the short term while long-term exposure is associated with increased mortality from lung cancer and heart disease.

The report also notes that while not all samples exceed the state’s guidelines, that residents should be wary about the amount of exposure.

“It is important to note that while presumably based in science, exposure guidelines are also subject to politics. Just as it was once acceptable to smoke inside a restaurant, we now do not accept that as protective of human health,” the report reads “Frequently, when guidelines are updated, levels which were deemed safe become more conservative.”

Assemblywoman Gallagher told the Greenpoint Star in a statement that her office is actively exploring state legislation that “improves air quality data collection, transparency, and mitigation.”

“Greenpoint and Williamsburg have long suffered from poor, sometimes dangerous air quality as a result of a toxic industrial legacy and destructive infrastructure like the BQE,” Gallagher said in a statement. “I am committed to working closely with our federal and local partners to make sure everyone feels empowered with the real-time facts they deserve.”

Editors Note: Emily Gallagher is a former Greenpoint Star Columnist

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