In Williamsburg, a renewed push for a platform park over the BQE
Walking along the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) in South Williamsburg, residents are plagued by deafening noise, polluted air and a lack of open space.
On average, 108,000 cars pass by this section of the BQE daily, emitting roughly 20,000 pounds of pollutants into the atmosphere each day.
Unlike North Williamsburg, which has recently experienced an influx of wealth and development, the predominately Hispanic south side is afflicted by low income and high unemployment.
While there are several small parks that line the six-lane expressway, they are dirty, “unsafe” at night and lack green space.
South Williamsburg has one of the highest asthma rates in the city, a statistic that can be directly correlated to its proximity to the BQE. The neighborhood has the third-highest number of asthma cases out of the 59 districts in New York City, according to an air quality study co-sponsored by El Puente and the New School’s Tischman Environment and Design Center.
The area also ranks among the lowest citywide in amount of open space per person.
To address these problems, Councilmember Antonio Reynoso is renewing a push for a High Line-style park over the sunken BQE that would have sweeping benefits for the neighborhood.
The 3.5-acre park, dubbed the BQGreen, would be built “out of thin air” on a concrete platform above the thruway between South Third and South Fifth streets.
The project would integrate the existing Marcy Green and Rodney Park, two small parks adjacent to the roadway.
“Creating green space for my district, especially in the south side, is crucial to the sustainability of our community,” Reynoso told the Brooklyn Eagle. “The historic lack of green space coupled with the pollution from the BQE has contributed to record asthma rates amongst our children and other respiratory related illnesses amongst seniors.
“I support this project because the BQGreen is a vision and a plan to increase access to parks, improve health and quality of life for residents.”
The BQGreen will feature a flower garden, playground, baseball diamond, indoor pool, barbecue areas and grassy and wooded areas. It would increase the neighborhood’s acres of park space per 1,000 residents from 0.3 acres to 4.7 acres.
BQGreen would also reduce environmental pollution, enhance the pedestrian experience, improve water quality and cultivate neighborhood economics, according to a report released by Brooklyn Heights-based architecture and landscaping firm DLANDstudio, which designed the project.
The park would be an incentive for new growth in the neighborhood and is expected to bring in an additional $16 million of investment to the area, the report states.
It would also increase park space by 30 percent, have the potential to reduce asthma rates by 25 percent, create $245 million in New York City Economic Activity and $5 million in local retail sales.
BQGreen would bring prosperity to a neighborhood that has both literally and figuratively been torn apart by Robert Moses’ expressway.
The idea for the $100 million project was formed in 2010 when Reynoso was walking along the BQE with Diana Reyna, who is now the deputy borough president of Brooklyn.
The plan, however, was dismissed by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The inspiration for the park came from the Klyde Warren Park, a 5.2-acre green above a freeway in downtown Dallas, Texas.
“BQGreen unites a neighborhood divided by infrastructure, bringing together diverse social groups in a new recreation space,” founder of DLANDstudio Susannah Drake told the Eagle.
“It benefits the health and well-being of people in the neighborhood with cleaner air, less noise, and space to play.”
At the end of July, community leaders and elected officials held a rally at Rodney Park North to call for Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to finance the BQGreen, citing a public health emergency in the neighborhood.
Attendees of the rally put crime tape around the park and wore gas masks.
El Puente and the New School’s Tischman Environment and Design Center also performed an analysis of the neighborhood’s La Guardia Playground, Jaime Campiz Playground, Rodney Park and Marcy Green.
The report found that all four parks have elevated levels of PM2.5, atmospheric particulate matter that can cause significant health problems like lung disease, fatigue and shortness of breath.
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