Brooklyn Heights questions BBP expansion plans as alternative BQE repair routes explored
Funding loyalties raised, but park programs supported
A suggestion to suspend donations to Brooklyn Bridge Park and throw financial support instead to groups fighting the city’s plan to temporarily replace the Brooklyn Heights Promenade with the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) is stirring up a backlash in the neighborhood.
The city’s plan may be terrible, Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA) says, but the group is urging park donors to keep on giving to the park Conservancy while also funding the strategic and legal efforts to save the Promenade.
BHA and the newly-formed A Better Way NYC (formerly called Save the Promenade) have allied in advocating an alternate plan that would spare the Promenade during the $3.4 billion reconstruction of the BQE.
Their alternate plan would run a temporary highway along the western edge of Brooklyn Bridge Park — right where the park is currently charging ahead with costly new construction. Advocates fear alternate BQE repair options may be curtailed by this new construction, which includes bus parking, berm extension and improvements uplands of Pier 2. The alternate plan may also affect a planned new steel Squib Bridge and a new swimming pool in Squibb Park.
“We believe that the efforts by the BHA and A Better Way to oppose DOT’s ill-considered plan for reconstructing the BQE and to advocate for a better solution than a highway on the Promenade need and deserve generous support by the community,” BHA’s Executive Director Peter Bray told the Brooklyn Eagle on Wednesday.
He added, however, “At the same time, the Park Conservancy’s mission of bringing events and programmed activities to Brooklyn Bridge Park makes a valuable contribution to the life of the community and is worthy of its continued support. We hope that donors will want to support both endeavors.”
The park’s Conservancy provides popular free and low-cost cultural, educational and recreational events including boating, fitness classes, stargazing, movies, concerts and more.
Suspending donations to the park is not a new idea, one source who did not want to be named told the Eagle.
“Folks [previously] stopped donating money to the Conservancy regarding Pier 6 and Pier House blocking the Brooklyn Bridge,” the source said.
But several park donors contacted by this paper said the Conservancy should not be punished by residents who are angry with the city.
“The Brooklyn Bridge Park is an incredible asset to all of Brooklyn and NYC and we will continue to support it,” said Heights resident and donor Brian Bosworth. Bosworth said he knew of no organized effort to divert donor support from the park.
“It’s counterproductive to set our deep affection for the Promenade against our love for the park. That is a false choice. New York City can have both,” he told the Brooklyn Eagle.
Former BHA President Alexandra Bowie said that no one had contacted her about withholding funds from the park.
“But if they did I’d probably respond that this approach reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of what BBP Conservancy does, not to mention the city’s capital budget process,” she said.
Nancy Webster, executive director at Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy, told the Eagle, “The Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy is proud of the work we do to provide free cultural, educational, and recreational programming for children from all over the borough and the city. And we are so grateful to all of our contributors who make that possible. We have great confidence that our valued friends in Brooklyn Heights will continue to support the park in many ways, all of which make our free programming possible.
Supporter Bosworth said people should give DOT time to sift through the details.
“I suspect the BQE repair proposals caught the Park by surprise – as it did the rest of us. From our (almost daily) observations, the latest park improvements were well under way before the DOT proposals were made public. Putting this remaining major addition to the park on hold right now may not be necessary. Let’s see how the DOT proposals play out in the months ahead.”