De Blasio blindsided us on BQE, Brooklyn Heights Association fumes
Blasts NYC DOT for Not Considering Other Options
The Brooklyn Heights Association sent out a searing statement on Sunday condemning Mayor Bill de Blasio for “blindsiding” the community by supporting a radical Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) reconstruction plan even before the public comments are all in.
On Friday, the mayor voiced his support for a proposal to temporarily replace the Heights Promenade with a floating, six-lane highway during reconstruction of the BQE between Atlantic Avenue and Sands Street. The highway, choked with 153,000 vehicles a day, would run alongside the back doors of some of the most valuable real estate in Brooklyn.
BHA President Martha Bakos Dietz said in a response to de Blasio that she was “stunned” to read of the mayor’s endorsement of the controversial plan.
“At a time when the BHA has been trying to meet again with the DOT [Department of Transportation] to urge serious consideration of alternatives to its two proposals, the mayor makes it clear that the city does not care to hear our community’s opinion,” she said.
While the neighborhood is willing to “share the pain,” the mayor’s approval of the plan is “condescending and dismissive of the very real consequences to Brooklyn Heights of an approach that would place six lanes of highway traffic in close proximity to an historic district and its almost two-centuries-old buildings,” Dietz said.
Thousands of trucks from the BQE could be diverted onto the streets of Brooklyn if repairs on the ageing structure aren’t completed before it reaches its expiration date in 2026. Robert Collyer, DOT Deputy Commissioner of Bridges, assured reporters in September that, though DOT favors the six-year approach, the Environmental Impact Statement “makes the final decision.”
‘Innovative’ Approach Horrifies Residents
The plan at the center of the controversy is one of just two that DOT says it is considering to fix the decrepit 1.5-mile triple cantilever section of the BQE which underlies the Promenade. DOT dubbed it the “Innovative” approach.
The other option, known as the “Traditional” approach, would fix the roadway using the typical lane-by-lane method over eight years. DOT has been giving this alternative short shrift in its communications with the public.
BHA wants the city to consider other options. The group said on Sunday it is attempting to meet with DOT to present an option drawn up by an organization called Save the Promenade that would shift the temporary roadway west of the Promenade.
Save the Promenade said on their website that “plunging a six-lane highway through the heart of Brooklyn Heights would gut the neighborhood for a generation, as businesses and young families flee and new residents steer clear due to traffic, noise, and heavy pollution.”
DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg in September called the reconstruction job an “epic challenge.”
“We know there are going to be huge community concerns and we recognize that the impact of a project like this is very big. It also has huge implications for traffic and the economy of the whole city,” she said.
Rip Off the Band-Aid
De Blasio said on Friday that he favors the Innovative plan because the quicker the job gets done, the better.
“It’s the way to address the bigger project once and for all and as quickly as we can do it,” he told Brian Lehrer in a WNYC radio interview. De Blasio characterized the faster but more painful alternative as “kind of the pull-the-Band-Aid off approach.”
“There’s two options and they’re both painful,” he said. “This BQE is one of the lifelines of the city. It has to be fixed. If we don’t get to work fixing it soon it will be out of service and that would undermine everything. That would undermine mass transit because of the buses, it would undermine everyone’s ability to get around, trucks’ ability to get around, you name it.”
The traditional option “would cause a huge number of vehicles to go through the streets of Brooklyn and clog up residential areas and business areas, and I think that’s extraordinarily problematic. It would also take longer – several years longer to achieve the change in the BQE,” de Blasio said.
Locals, however, call the Innovative approach the greatest threat to the neighborhood “since the time of Robert Moses.”
At a community meeting earlier this month, they resoundingly denounced the plan, resorting at times to shouting and other expressions of frustration over issues including the environmental implications of tearing down the Promenade, the impact that construction would have on noise and nearby buildings, and questions about why DOT hasn’t considered alternative locations for a temporary roadway, such as over or to the west of Brooklyn Bridge Park.
DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said at the meeting earlier this month that other options could be discussed, but her agency is backing the initial two proposals.
BHA said the city needs to go back to the drawing board.
“We truly think there are other options to be considered and the city needs to meet with us as soon as possible to discuss these,” Dietz said.
The group is urging the community to contact Daniel Abramson, the mayor’s representative to the Brooklyn Heights community, at [email protected].
The BHA also calls upon the community to support Save the Promenade and sign its petition. (savethepromenade.org)
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