Goodbye BQE? How infrastructure bill boosts real estate

Expanding transit and burying highways would lift property values, foster development

New York /
Nov.November 12, 2021 11:23 AM
Sen. Charles Schumer, President Joe Biden and Mayor-elect Eric Adams with the BQE (Getty, iStock)

Sen. Charles Schumer, President Joe Biden and Mayor-elect Eric Adams with the BQE (Getty, iStock)

With a massive infrastructure allowance coming to New York, decision-makers are eyeing ways to transform the city’s transportation systems, floating grand plans that would boost property values and spur development.

Among the most radical proposals is to demolish and redesign the Bronx-Queens Expressway, Gothamist reported.

The president and CEO of New York Building Congress, Carlo Scissura, told business leaders Wednesday he wanted an underground tunnel to replace the hulking highway so the land might be used for parks and bike lanes. The idea traces back to the 1990s, but the pending flood of cash from President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill has revived it.

Conceivably, a project to bury over 10 miles of highway would create opportunities for development and raise the property values of homes that flank the reviled roadway.

It’s been done before. Rochester, for example, after receiving $18 million from the Obama administration in 2013, filled in a portion of its six-lane freeway to make way for new development, the New York Times reported. A fresh crop of apartments now dot the space.

The Brooklyn project, though, is a long shot. Mayor Bill de Blasio determined this year that the crumbling portion of the BQE that curves past Brooklyn Bridge Park would be restored to buy the road 20 more years — enough time to come up with a permanent solution.

Also on the docket is a possible cap on portions of the Cross-Bronx Expressway to curb air pollution from its endless onslaught of vehicles. Sen. Charles Schumer backed the proposal Tuesday and Mayor-elect Eric Adams likewise voiced his support this week.

The project would counteract over half a century’s worth of environmental racism the expressway has inflicted on residents of the Bronx. It would not, however, bring back the thousands of homes razed by Robert Moses to clear a path for the roadway.

A 2018 study by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health looked into the fiscal benefit of installing a “deck park” along the 2.4-mile stretch of highway. Researchers found the project would be worth $1,629 to each of the 225,000 people living nearby, largely from increased property values, and add two months to their lifespans.

Janno Lieber, the former Silverstein Properties executive now running the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, is expecting to get $10 billion from the federal package. The funds could go, in part, toward building out the subway system.

Lieber floated the possibility of creating a 16-mile subway line from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, to Astoria, Queens, speeding the dreaded cross-borough commute. The project, which would use existing tracks and right-of-way, has been championed for years by the Regional Plan Association.

Expanding public transportation creates opportunities for development and increases property values, studies have shown.





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