Friday, December 11, 2009
Agony and Ecstasy
This is the view of Manhattan while traveling on the BQE. If you examine a map of Brooklyn and Queens carefully, you will find that there are not really a great number of highways, particularly in light of the fact that there are nearly 5 million residents between the two boroughs combined. For the highways that do exist, of course, that means TRAFFIC.
I have written before of the fear and anxiety that many have of driving in and around New York City. The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway justifies those fears - it is everything you don't want in a highway. It is not pretty, it has sharp curves, it's dangerous to drive on, it's confusing, there are no shoulders or places to stop, and for most of the roadway, the speed limit is 45 mph - if you're lucky. It divides, connects to, and blends with other highways, bridges, and tunnels. You had better know what you are doing, or you may be going where you don't want to go and/or miss where you intended to go.
The construction of this highway dates back to 1937 with the Brooklyn-Queens Connecting Roadway. The highway is 11.7 miles long - extending from the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel in Brooklyn to the Grand Central Parkway in Queens. It was built to accommodate both commercial and non-commercial traffic and was intended not only to relieve congestion on local streets but also to aid industry and business by shortening transportation time between the boroughs.
The project was fully completed in 1964 under the helm of controversial urban planning czar Robert Moses (1888–1981), chairman of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority.
In the 1980s, the roadway was under construction. For long time residents, the BQE has had a history of agony. But there are pleasures in riding the BQE, such as the vistas of Manhattan, by day or night. The nicest stretch is driving north under the cantilevered section of the expressway, which forms the Brooklyn Heights Promenade above. Here, the views of Manhattan are magnificent, both from the highway and from the esplanade above. Perhaps it is a bit of a stretch of road, but can we call the experience agony and ecstasy?
Photo Note: This image was taken traveling south on the BQE in the central section near the Long Island Expressway. Looking west in the evening light, you can make out the outlines of the Empire State, Chrysler and Citicorp Buildings.