BQE repair options may be curtailed by new construction at Brooklyn Bridge Park
The excavation phase is complete, and construction is going ahead on 3.2 acres of new parkland in Brooklyn Bridge Park, in the uplands of Pier 2.
This sounds like good news — but not for everybody.
Construction has begun despite uncertainty over the course of the upcoming Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) renovation. This has some residents asking how the park can justify proceeding with costly construction which might have to be torn down if an alternate BQE reconstruction plan is approved — in the exact area where park construction is underway.
The city’s Department of Transportation’s (DOT) current proposal is to temporarily replace the Brooklyn Heights Promenade with a six-lane highway during the $3.4 billion reconstruction, an idea that is anathema to Heights preservationists and residents.
The reconstruction could last roughly eight years, depending on the option taken.
An alternate idea being floated by the Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA) and Councilmember Stephen Levin would run a temporary, double-decker BQE replacement roadway over the eastern edge of the park, impacting the park’s grassy, sound-attenuating berms, a sidewalk, a parking lot just east of the berm and a bus drop off area.
After meeting with the BHA last week, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said the city would consider and analyze their alternate plan.
But Brooklyn Bridge Park plans to proceed with their park improvements anyway.
Reconstruction of the sidewalk and parking lot has already begun and is projected to be completed by Memorial Day, park spokesperson Sarah Krauss told the Brooklyn Eagle.
According to the park’s financial statements, Kelco Construction Inc. won the bid to carry out the park work for roughly $14 million.
What’s Included in the Pier 2 Uplands Project
The uplands under construction will have a waterplay feature containing pier remnants cut away from Pier 3, Krauss said. Adjacent to this will be a 6,300-square-foot lawn with a scenic seating area made from salvaged granite from the Brooklyn Bridge Rehabilitation project.
As part of the park construction, the park’s berm will be extended north to the Pier 2 uplands. The project also includes construction of a new maintenance and operations yard, and the bus drop-off area for up to five buses on Furman Street.
Krauss said that work has already begun to install a new storm water retention tank, which will capture water used in the waterplay area and recirculate it for irrigation. Work on the new section was expected to wrap up by June 2020.
Another project that could be impacted is a swimming pool planned for Squibb Park, on Columbia Heights directly above Brooklyn Bridge Park, which is overseeing its construction and operation.
The park did not respond by deadline on how the BQE reconstruction would affect these projects.
‘How Can You Just Move Ahead?’
Brooklyn Bridge Park Community Advisory Council (CAC) member Doreen Gallo, president of DUMBO Neighborhood Alliance, told the Eagle that at the CAC’s October meeting, members questioned President Eric Landau, president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, on the impact of the BQE’s reconstruction.
“He said they were proceeding with the proposed plans. But how can you just move ahead? How can you expect the pool to be open during construction?” she said. “He’s letting people believe the construction won’t affect the park. Are you kidding?”
“The [traffic] backup is going to affect everyone for a very long time,” Gallo said. “They’ll need space, holding areas. How can you proceed with parking off Furman — they’re going to have to close Furman.”
“There has to be the ultimate community involvement,” she added. “The community should not be brought in after it happens. We are expected to put up and shut up.”
Long-time Brooklyn Heights resident Charles Gill suspects there is a method to the park’s madness.
“It seems strange that the park would be doing this, on the face of it. It might actually be part of a plan to make it more difficult to proceed with an alternate BQE plan,” he speculated.
Gill compared the park’s actions to the earlier construction of Pierhouse and the Pier 6 luxury towers, which proceeded despite lawsuits that could have resulted in their demolition.
Gallo says there may be something to Gill’s speculation.
“Look what happened at Pier 6,” she said.
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