De Blasio softens support for plan that would turn Brooklyn Heights Promenade into 6-lane highway
Tsunami of Opposition May Have DOT Looking Elsewhere; BHA Preps for Lawsuit
An outpouring of opposition may have softened Mayor Bill de Blasio’s support for a radical plan which would have turned the Brooklyn Heights Promenade into a six lane highway during the upcoming rebuilding of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE).
The mayor revealed his backing for the plan, backed by NYC Department of Transportation, just over a week ago, enraging local residents and businesses who say he blindsided them and “short-circuited the community engagement process.”
Now, the city may be considering other options.
De Blasio said on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer radio show on Friday that an idea to reroute the highway to the west of the current BQE, over the eastern section of Brooklyn Bridge Park instead of on the Promenade and through the Heights, was one that the city might consider. This alternate plan is backed by Councilman Stephen Levin, among others.
“There’s been a couple of alternatives presented and I try to be straight forward with people about what I thought was the better of the alternatives; even both of them involve a lot of sacrifice, and lot of challenges,” de Blasio told Lehrer.
De Blasio said the idea to run the highway over the eastern section of the park, most of which is currently occupied by grass-covered sound attenuating berms, is a “different idea that’s come up in recent days and of course it needs to be fully evaluated.
“I am the first to say a lot of times a government has good ideas, and there is a lot of other times when someone at the community level or other experts come forward with another alternative that may work. So we will definitely look at that,” he said.
Other community members have brainstormed alternate proposals, including one to reroute the BQE over Atlantic Avenue to Boerum Place. (See sidebar below.)
In just a few days “thousands of New Yorkers” have come together to stop the plan, said Tom Corsillo, a VP at PR firm Marino, who represents the group Save the Promenade. “We’re going to ramp up this effort to devise a plan” that really works for the community, he told the Brooklyn Eagle in a podcast.
The Brooklyn Heights Association has also mobilized its members, the group said in an eblast on Monday. BHA is forming a task force to challenge what it called “DOT’s ill-founded plan” by making recommendations “with respect to legal issues, environmental concerns, alternative engineering solutions, and communication with the community, media and decision makers.”
“We reached out to DOT. We said we’re working on this option that utilizes a piece of the park along its eastern edge,” BHA’s Executive Director Peter Bray told the Eagle. The group will be meeting with DOT on Oct. 26.
BHA’s legal advisors are also working with Save the Promenade on a FOIL request to obtain the communication between the Mayor and DOT with regard to the six-lane approach, Bray said. The group will also be coordinating with Save the Promenade’s legal team to “create the groundwork for future legal action, should it be necessary.”
DOT says its favored plan, in which 153,000 vehicles a day would rumble past the back doors of some of the most valuable real estate in Brooklyn, would allow the rehab of the decrepit 1.5 mile stretch of roadway to be completed in six years, as opposed to eight or more years using the typical incremental, lane-by-lane repair approach.
Regardless of the plan chosen, 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. Construction could start in 2023.
The stretch includes the BQE’s triple cantilever underpinning the Promenade. DOT would tear down the existing Promenade (along with its trees) to build the six-lane roadway, which could take about a year and a half to install. BQE traffic would move up to the Promenade level, opening up the levels below for construction.
At the north end of the Promenade, the temporary highway would cut across Columbia Heights near Cranberry Street — an area that most people do not realize is actually a bridge over the BQE, along with Chapin playground.
Who Is ‘Save the Promenade?’
According to Tom Corsillo, a VP at PR firm Marino, who represents the group, Save the Promenade was formed by a group of citizens concerned with the plan presented by DOT to rehabilitate the decrepit 1.5 mile stretch of BQE forming the triple cantilever underlying the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.
“More than 2,000 members have joined the fight at savethepromenade.org,” he told the Brooklyn Eagle, and 5,000 people have signed the petition. UPDATE: Since the Brooklyn Eagle podcast on this topic (see below), the nuber of petition signers is up to 15,000 Corsillo said.
Stakeholders Brainstorm Even More BQE Ideas
Besides the alternate plan that would run a BQE replacement highway over the eastern end of Brooklyn Bridge Park, other ideas are being floated by local stakeholders. Real estate executive Kevin Carberry, for example, says a better solution would be to take advantage of the avenues and boulevards connecting to the bridges and Sands Street.
“The BQE should be diverted at Atlantic Avenue with an elevated highway allowing traffic to travel in both directions, turning at Boerum Place (Brooklyn Bridge Boulevard) continuing along Adams Street,” he suggested in a letter to Councilmember Stephen Levin. “At the intersection of Tillary Street, the elevated road can have designated lanes for the Brooklyn Bridge or bearing east to the Manhattan Bridge, with one of the levels of the Manhattan Bridge designated for the highway. The elevated roadway can then continue to meet with the BQE at Sands Street. Local cars can use the service road to access the Brooklyn Bridge ramps at Jay Street.”
This solution would allow local traffic and bus routes to continue to move under the highway and may ease congestion from the Brooklyn Bridge by not forcing that high volume onto the local streets, Carberry writes.
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