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Inside the triple-cantilever! Our editor gets a look at what keeps traffic moving along the BQE — for now

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Photo gallery

1/8
Outside, it is clear the triple-canteliver needs some sprucing up.
2/8
But we didn’t know what it would look like inside until we went through this door.
3/8
It was eeirly quiet inside, and some of the concrete looked fine.
4/8
Although some of the floor was littered with concrete from the “ceiling” — that is the roadway above.
5/8
A close-up of the fallen concrete.
6/8
Most of the outer walls and pillars looked solid, but the ceiling could certainly use some work.
7/8
A closer look shows why.
8/8
The carvern ends abruptly with a mound of dirt and concrete.

The silence shocked me the most.

Last Friday I got a chance to go deep inside the belly of the beast when the city’s Department of Transportation took a bunch of journalists through some old doors at the foot of Joralemon Street to tour the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway’s infamous triple-cantilever — the connector between Atlantic Avenue and Sands Street that hoists two levels of roadway plus the legendary Brooklyn Heights Promenade above Furman Street.

And much to my surprise, the belly wasn’t growling. In fact, it was eerily quiet inside the structure that, for almost 70 years, has allowed millions of cars and trucks to zoom past the Heights while their drivers, along with the tourists and Brooklynites on the Promenade above, take in one of the most impressive skylines in the world.

But now, that engineering marvel is, according to just about everyone, on its last leg and in desperate need of a replacement — something the city says will cost close to $4 billion, take more than six years to pull off, and require the closure of the Promenade to make way for cars while construction is underway.

Stepping through the doors at very noisy Furman Street, I was expecting the worst. After all, the outside of the structure has certainly seen better days, with cement falling off at the touch of a finger and steel rebar rusting away.

But inside, past some long-forgotten office and into what amounted to a dirt-floored garage with a really high ceiling, well, things looked pristine.

Clearly, somebody had done a clean-up job before we were allowed inside, and there wasn’t a rat or mouse or bat around. The cement walls looked as smooth as the day they was poured and, surprisingly, there weren’t any creaking sounds warning of imminent doom. And the floor was relatively dry, although there were some patches of mud.

For years, as I drove along the triple-cantilever, I wondered how it could defy gravity along the waterfront.

And now I know. The hidden concrete innards are something to behold, with giant pillars three-wide spaced evenly apart along what was once a wider Furman Street. And that concrete looks noting like the kind you find on other New York City highways, with a thickness I’ve only seen in earthquake-susceptible places like San Francisco. To my untrained eye, they looked strong.

But so did the concrete on that bridge in Genoa, Italy.

Of course, this is not to say everything inside was pristine. Concrete portions of the roadway that fell from the “ceiling” above littered parts of the floor (we were ordered to wear hard hats) and the joints of the only roadway we could see — the one taking traffic toward Staten Island — looked worse for wear. And I don’t even know how to describe the beginning (or end) of the structure, which appeared to be some weird mix of cement, earth, and springs holding up I don’t know what.

And according to the city, it all has to come down and be replaced before 2026, or else heavy trucks won’t be allowed to travel the roadway — and instead will be forced to use local roads as an alternative.

Nobody wants that to happen, but I still couldn’t get past the quietness inside.

Maybe I shouldn’t worry so much like I do every time I drive along the triple-cantilever.

Or maybe that silence is just the calm before the storm.

Vince DiMiceli is the editor-in-chief of the Brooklyn Paper.

Updated 8:49 pm, September 26, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Frank from Furter says:
DOT was out today scaling the lose concrete off the outside by the Cadman Plaza exit.... It looked mostly sound but the scaling should loosen all the lose concrete and expose whether the re-bar is rusting under the concrete skin.
Sept. 24, 5:10 pm
Zaxby says:
Gothamist has a better article about it here; http://gothamist.com/2018/09/24/bqe_crumbling_photos_brooklyn.php#photo-1
Sept. 24, 6:54 pm
Liza from NY says:
It always seemed to me that brooklyn is some kind of unusual place, where anything can happen. These are old buildings that do not change for decades. But they do not break down, stand, without debris and even dirt :) Many interesting people, each with its own history. When I was working at https://coolessay.net, we had a Brooklyn office. And every time his representatives came to us, I was surprised that they even had their own accent, although they live not so far away)
Sept. 25, 9:52 am
Liza from NY says:
It always seemed to me that brooklyn is some kind of unusual place, where anything can happen. These are old buildings that do not change for decades. But they do not break down, stand, without debris and even dirt :) Many interesting people, each with its own history. When I was working at https://coolessay.net, we had a Brooklyn office. And every time his representatives came to us, I was surprised that they even had their own accent, although they live not so far away)
Sept. 25, 9:52 am
tunneler alert from Brooklyn says:
Calling all tunnelers, calling all tunnelers! To replace the cantilevered structure would be a grave mistake - in fact it's a hidden gem. But first let's share how we can work around it - literally. In the scheme of things, a tunnel is a well worth-while endeavor and a far superior solution to another cantilever. We go under ground starting from where we are already subgrade, from what's know as "the ditch", south of Atlantic Ave., we go through the rock under Brooklyn Heights (the perfect material for tunneling) and reconnect north of Brooklyn Heights. There would be tubes that connect seamlessly to the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges while the main tubes reconnect directly to the BQE. In doing so, their would be no interruption in traffic, no disturbance to our surrounding neighborhoods and the result would be no more traffic to be seen, no more exhaust to breathe (tunnels have air filtration/cleaning systems), no more vehicle/truck rumbling and horns to he heard. Peace and tranquility regained!
Sept. 25, 10:11 am
tunneler continued from Brooklyn says:
Now for the existing cantilever part. The triple cantilever gets polished up and goes from the diamond in the rough to a cut diamond worthy of Brooklyn Heights. The Brooklyn Heights Triple Cantilever River Walk. Three levels of River Walk instead of one. The upper staying as is, while the lower becomes prime commercial real estate for the like of shops, restaurants, outdoor cafes and entertainment. An unmatched space in NYC and the perfect compliment to Brooklyn Heights and the new Brooklyn Bridge Park. So why are we leaving the decision to the government, let's decide for ourselves.
Sept. 25, 10:14 am
digger from brooklyn says:
I dig the tunneler's idea.
Sept. 25, 11:04 am
Frank from Furter says:
A study was done about a tunnel. First it would cost 10-15 billion dollars(more than the big dig). It would only be 2 lanes in each direction. It wouldn't connect to the Brooklyn or Manhattan Bridges and it would require significant eminent domain takings of housing. there are at least 4 subway tunnels under the area. there are water tunnels too. It would take 20 or more years....by then you would have starved...
Sept. 25, 1:02 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
This city needs another Robert Moses to tell all the car hating cranks to go stand in the corner and get the infrastructure of this city rebuilt before it collapses. Or we can wait until a few bridges collapse before we get to work.
Sept. 25, 2:56 pm
Bill from Fulton Ferry says:
Part of the cornice at 1 Front Street (Grimaldi’s) collapsed today. As a result, a temporary pizzeria will replace the Brooklyn Bridge Promenade while the building is renovated.
Sept. 25, 5:06 pm
bing from bong says:
This city needs another Richard Simmons to tell all the lardass$ cranks in their single occupancy SUV's to go stand on a treadmill and get sweatin' to the oldies. This is an especially huge problem in Bay Ridge. More fat per square inch there than in any other Brooklyn neighborhood.
Sept. 25, 5:19 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
⬆️⬆️⬆️You really need to tell your nurses to up your dosage, your work is really slipping⬆️⬆️⬆️
Sept. 25, 6 pm
bing from bong says:
⬆⬆⬆Guttless Coward⬆⬆⬆ That joke is as old as you momma.
Sept. 25, 6:10 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
⬆️⬆️⬆️Tolerance levels are through the roof, needs 100mg of adderall to write a coherent sentence now⬆️⬆️⬆️.
Sept. 25, 6:56 pm
Cato The Elder from Rome says:
Even after the various photo montages I can't put together a mental picture of the structure of the triple-C. Are there good diagrams anywhere? To conclude, A JAIL MUST BE BUILT ON STATEN ISLAND.
Sept. 25, 7:20 pm
bing from bong says:
⬆⬆⬆LOL⬆⬆⬆ Get help you loser.
Sept. 25, 7:30 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
⬆️⬆️⬆️what a sad existence this one lives. Not sure how many more tax dollars I want to spend to support this. It’s obviously not working⬆️⬆️⬆️
Sept. 25, 7:58 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
I can't come up with anything other than the same tird trope, back to the basement with me.
Sept. 25, 8:17 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
I'm so disgusted with the Trump administration. They are a bunch of racist fascists. I should have voted for Hillary.
Sept. 25, 8:24 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
I am a racist, that’s why I voted for Hillary. She knew how to bring them to heel.
Sept. 25, 8:57 pm
Benny from Park Slope says:
Anyone who has traveled in any other developed nation in the world in recent years understands that America's car culture has utterly destroyed the quality of life in what was once the greatest city in the world, NYC. I own a car, and I like it -- but I drive it maybe once a month, and until we focus on the needs of people and neighborhoods instead of self-involved asshats driving around our streets alone in their SUVs, the quality of life is going to keep plummeting.
Sept. 26, 11:11 am
tunneler alert from Brooklyn says:
...don't believe the hype. Just because a study was done 1) doesn't mean it was right, 2) doesn't mean that the most major thoroughfare in NYC isn't worth the cost, 3) if they could do the enormous feat of the "big dig" in Boston, we could do the "biggest dig yet" in NYC. If there are obstacles (subway), then take them out (reroute)! (if thy right eye offends the, then pluck it out!)
Sept. 29, 11:30 pm

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