BQE concerns headline Brooklyn Heights Association annual meeting
Group also grapples with Brooklyn House of Detention, BQX issues
St. Francis College’s 300-seat Founders Hall was standing room only Tuesday night for the Brooklyn Heights Association’s annual meeting.
The topic personally affecting most of those in attendance — the city’s plans for the reconstruction of the BQE — was called “the most consequential development to affect this area for decades” by BHA President Martha Bakos Dietz.
“On Sept. 27, DOT sprung on us its plan to build a six-lane elevated highway at the level of the Brooklyn Heights Promenade for the duration of the BQE reconstruction. DOT told us all this was its preferred plan for reconstructing the BQE. Needless to say, we were as appalled at this revelation as the rest of the community was,” Dietz said.
BHA set up a task force to address what they have dubbed the “Promenade Highway,” Dietz said. Their mission is to counter DOT’s proposal, cause DOT to withdraw the plan from consideration and assess how to better deal with “this major reconstruction project that will inflict massive disruption on communities up and down the BQE corridor.” They also want the city to have more engagement with the community.
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Dietz detailed the association’s work with Heights architect and urban planner Marc Wouters on an alternate plan, as well as their engagement with officials and a variety of transportation consultants and law firms, including Shearman and Sterling, which is contributing on a pro bono basis.
DOT has said it is considering the Wouters concept, among three to five others, Dietz said. But BHA has heard nothing from the agency.
“We want the city to take a broad, long-term view of the city’s transportation needs and develop a 21st century solution rather than blindly rebuild a 20th century highway structure,” she said, to applause from the audience.
A BQE town hall scheduled for March 12 is being rescheduled for early April due to scheduling conflicts.
House of Detention
Dietz also reported on the city’s proposal to increase the size of the Brooklyn House of Detention on Atlantic Avenue in Boerum Hill to 40 stories — part of the plan to close Rikers Island. The new jail would be “wholly out of context” with the surrounding area and would bring unacceptable environmental impacts, she said.
“There’s been a complete lack of any meaningful engagement with the affected community,” she reiterated. In spite of this, “The administration is in a rush to start the land use review process [ULURP] next month.” BHA has called for a delay in the start of ULURP, pressed the city to identify a second jail site within Brooklyn and advocated for alternatives to incarceration for the roughly 40 percent of inmates who are mentally disturbed.
BQX raises its head again
The controversial on-again, off-again BQX (Brooklyn-Queens Connector) streetcar plan, for which the city recently committed $7.2 million toward an environmental study, is another project BHA is grappling with.
The project can’t be built “without considerable federal funding,” Dietz said. The death of the Amazon HQ2 deal has again introduced uncertainty into the project’s fate, she added.
The BQX’s proposed route runs from Gowanus through Downtown Brooklyn to Astoria. If the city does move forward with the plan, it would occur at the same time as the city intends to rebuild the BQE, she said.
“You can only imagine the tremendous additional impact that would have on traffic congestion near the BQE.”
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