Lawmakers spar with Governor Cuomo over Kosciuszko Bridge implosion plans

Photo via DOT

After Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the city would implode a section of the old Kosciuszko Bridge, several elected officials in Queens and Brooklyn, including Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, voiced concerns about the impact this implosion would have.

But Cuomo’s office says that Adams did not attend any of the meetings or tours that they invited him to and that he did not voice any concerns until now.

The main span will be dropped down and removed separately to avoid polluting Newtown Creek, according to the governor. The current Brooklyn and Queens approaches, which extend three quarters of a mile, will be imploded.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said the community was alerted to the governor’s plan through news reports last week. He, along with representatives from Brooklyn Community Board 1, Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks and Planning and Organizations United for Trash Reduction & Garbage Equity (OUTRAGE) held a press conference on Feb. 24 to express their concerns.

“Expeditious action should never trump public safety and health quality,” Adams said. “The community at large and the local elected officials should not find out from reading in the tabloids any new methods that could potentially damage the cleanup that we have attempted to do in this community and have worked so hard to accomplish. We already have a large concern around car pollution, and we don’t want to add to this issue by having particles pushed in the air due to this implosion. That is our call today to the governor’s office: Give us a clear understanding of the impact of using any form of implosion or explosion.”

Newtown Creek is considered a Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which means it poses a risk to human health and the environment. The EPA has found that sediments in the creek and its tributaries are contaminated with a variety of pollutants, including pesticides, metals, polychlorinated biphenyls and volatile organic compounds.

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, who represents Queens, said that up until this point the Brooklyn community has been consulted about construction decisions pertaining to the bridge. She added that with a “significant decision” like the implosion “the community should be consulted beforehand.”

“I share and understand their concerns about the impact of a bridge implosion,” she said. “This is a community that has been suffering from real environmental hardships — poor air quality, water pollution. We need to understand the potential environmental ramifications, the impact on the neighborhood, on traffic, on small businesses. We need to know what alternatives were considered and why this approach was chosen.”

A spokesperson for the governor said the state has had more than 100 meetings about the construction of the new bridge and that Adams has not attended any of the briefing meetings or tours scheduled by Cuomo’s office.

“The state has had more than 140 meetings to date and we will continue public dialogue with all stakeholders throughout the remainder of this project,” the spokesperson said. “Implosion is the safest and the most efficient plan so any theatrics or grandstanding from community leaders is not only unnecessary but entirely misleading. We are surprised that the borough president suddenly has an interest in this project considering he didn’t attend a single one of the five briefing meetings or two tours that he has been invited to since he took office.”

The demolition will take seconds and the main span underneath the creek will be removed in pieces. The controlled demolition does not blow up the bridge but cuts key connections that cause the spans to fall.

The Brooklyn and Queens spans will drop straight down onto berms made of soil to control vibration; no debris or dust is expected to fall as the spans will drop intact instead of in pieces.

Businesses on both sides of the bridge – an ice company and cemetery on the Queens side and a waste management business, scrap yards and a small business on the Brooklyn side – were all visited by the design team to explain the demolition. They will all be revisited before the implosion and Cuomo’s office said none expressed concerns.

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