Brooklyn Heights

Brooklyn Heights to City: We need other options for BQE repair

October 2, 2018 By Scott Enman Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A local resident stands and yells at DOT representatives during a town hall meeting about the BQE rehab plans last week. Eagle photo by Paul Frangipane
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They’re calling it the greatest threat to the neighborhood “since the time of Robert Moses.”

Brooklyn Heights residents resoundingly denounced the Department of Transportation’s BQE rehab plan last week at a town hall meeting, and on Monday, those concerned constituents received the backing of the Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA).

“The message to DOT is clear: Back to the Drawing Board,” BHA wrote in an email to its members. “The BHA calls upon DOT to work with the community to identify and evaluate other options that do not prioritize motorists at the complete expense of residents.”

DOT is considering two plans to fix the decrepit 1.5-mile triple cantilever section of the BQE. The first option, known as the “Traditional” approach, is to fix the roadway using the typical lane-by-lane method over eight years.

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The second route, and the one preferred by DOT, is the “Innovative” approach, which would replace the famous Brooklyn Heights Promenade with a six-lane highway between Atlantic Avenue and Sands Street for six years.

DOT would tear down the existing Promenade and its gardens to build the elevated highway, which could block the views of residents who live on Columbia Heights and potentially displace them from their homes, depending on environmental and health hazards such as air pollution.

If the “Innovative” plan were chosen, at least 153,000 vehicles a day would be driving past some of the most valuable real estate in the city.

“We ask that DOT take the ‘Innovative’ approach off the table,” BHA wrote in its email. “We need to see more options, and we ask that DOT listen to and be responsive to the concerns of our community.”

For community activist and Brooklyn Heights resident Steve Guterman, the timing and price of the rehab plan was most concerning.  

“The project is a real demonstration of a complete failure of both state and city government,” Guterman told the Brooklyn Eagle. “This project is going to cost tax payers hundreds of millions of dollars more than it would have if this project had been done before [Brooklyn Bridge Park] was built.

“The right plan is to not put the temporary roadway where they’re planning it, but to put it just west of Furman Street.”

BHA agreed with Guterman’s suggestion, saying DOT should consider the “Traditional” approach for the temporary highway, as well as other locations, including pushing it west of Furman Street.

Some long-term residents of Brooklyn Heights are interviewing law firms to fight the plans, in anticipation of what one called “blatant disregard for the unique historic qualities of Brooklyn Heights and in particular the Promenade.”

Their primary argument is that the city administration exhibited “aggressive disregard” for the city’s first landmark neighborhood in favor of an “overbuilt park,” giving political donors a windfall in development projects in the park.

In simpler terms, they believe traffic should be diverted through the park, primarily a transient constituency, instead of having a direct negative impact on the tax-paying base within Brooklyn Heights.

Another resident at the town hall meeting said she was concerned that DOT might not rebuild the Promenade as promised if the “Innovative” approach is chosen.

“This community has gone through a decades-long planning for Brooklyn Bridge Park, and we have seen that the government for our city did not live up to the promises that it made to us,” Susan Rifkin said. “I’m concerned with how we will trust you.”

Thursday’s town hall was the first of several scheduled over the next two years as a final plan is molded. DOT commissioner Polly Trottenberg said that other options could be discussed, but her agency is backing the initial two proposals.

Follow reporter Scott Enman on Twitter.


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