Brooklyn Boro

New BQE proposal would create ‘Tri-Line’ park, burying highway

Plan could create walkable ‘cliffs’ overlooking harbor

March 20, 2019 Mary Frost
A new proposal would turn a decrepit section of the BQE — the Triple Cantilever — into a three-level Tri-Line park, similar to the Highline Park in Manhattan. Rendering via Mark Baker

A sweeping new proposal would turn a decrepit section of the BQE into a three-level Tri-Line park, similar to the Highline Park in Manhattan.

Under the plan, the Triple Cantilever would become part of Brooklyn Bridge Park — the “cliffs” of Brooklyn Bridge Park — overlooking the park, the harbor and the skyline of Manhattan.

The BQE’s cars and trucks would be routed along a new, enclosed highway at ground level along Furman Street’s road bed. Doing this would eliminate noise and pollution from the highway and enlarge Brooklyn Bridge Park by eight acres, says the proposal’s creator Mark Baker. It would also preserve the landmarked Promenade.

The plan “preserves the Promenade and adaptively reuses the Triple Cantilever, the most important transportation work of the master builder Robert Moses (whether you like him or not),” Baker told the Brooklyn Eagle.

He added, “It would be the most important act of historic preservation in Brooklyn Heights since the historic district was formed.”

Enclose the BQE and eliminate pollution

This cross section shows the proposed Tri-Line design at the Triple Cantilver. Rendering via Mark Baker
This cross section shows the proposed Tri-Line design at the Triple Cantilver. Rendering via Mark Baker

A rendering released by Baker shows the rebuilt BQE enclosed within a 100-foot-wide box, allowing pollutants to be collected and treated. The highway would be buried under the soil, plants and the walkways of the enlarged Brooklyn Bridge Park.

The linear Tri-Line parks, each 1,880 feet in length and over two acres in space, could contain  gardens, walking paths, seating, bike lanes, exercise space and equipment, such as climbing walls, Baker said.

These levels will be connected to each other, to the Promenade above and to the park below, through stairways, escalators, elevators or slides, improving access to the park from Brooklyn Heights and Downtown Brooklyn.

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“With no noise from the totally covered BQE the need for the berms in Brooklyn Bridge Park is removed and additional acres of usable park space created in the current park footprint,” Baker said.

The plan doesn’t involve a “costly and disruptive temporary highway in this area,” he said.

“Vehicle emissions in the above ground tunnel can be captured and treated. The particularly dangerous particulate matter pollution from trucks can be scrubbed using electrostatic precipitators and other technologies,” he said. “This is particularly important along the BQE because of the proximity of playgrounds along the BQE route, some of them created by Moses himself.”

It also preserves the current capabilities of the BQE and makes the BQE achieve federal standards in design and safety. “No more back-ups when a car is disabled—there will be a breakdown lane,” he said.

The city’s Department of Transportation, which is now considering a number of BQE proposals, had not yet seen the plan as of Tuesday. However, it appears to address many of the concerns of local residents.

Hilary Jager, a spokesperson for the transportation advocacy group A Better Way NYC, told the Eagle, “The Tri-Line plan is a creative concept that reimagines the BQE with an eye towards maximizing open space and limiting pollution exposure to the surrounding communities. It’s a welcome alternative and one we hope City Hall and NYC DOT will give careful consideration.”

A slew of alternate proposals

This cross section shows the current structure of the Triple Cantilver underpinning the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. Rendering via Mark Baker
This cross section shows the current structure of the Triple Cantilver underpinning the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. Rendering via Mark Baker

An early proposal put out by DOT, which would replace the Promenade with a temporary six-lane BQE bypass while the structure underneath was rebuilt, was met with loud opposition by residents, who pointed out it would bring the noise and pollution of 153,000 vehicles a day up to ground level and into the neighborhood for a minimum of six years.

Since it was released, a number of individuals and organizations have urged the city to use this window of opportunity to reimagine the BQE.

A plan proposed by NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer would eliminate cars from the BQE, run trucks along a two-lane thruway at the bottom level of the triple cantilever and turn the rest into a new linear park.

The Brooklyn Heights Association has submitted its own alternate BQE proposal designed by Marc Wouters Studio. This plan would run a BQE bypass along the edge of Brooklyn Bridge Park, as opposed to DOT’s proposal to run it along the Promenade.

Another proposal, by Cobble Hill resident Roy Sloane, calls for a tunnel to bypass the BQE and cut across Downtown Brooklyn.

DOT is also considering repairing the triple cantilever section of the BQE piece by piece, a process that could add up to two years to the timeline.

Baker, a 30-year resident of Brooklyn Heights with his wife and three children, is chief executive officer and a director of Progenics, a pharmaceutical company that develops drugs to treat cancer. From 2003 to 2005, he was a director of New York Water Taxi.

He was formerly the chair of the board of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy, but his term recently ended and he has decided to focus on the Tri-Line idea. Baker emphasizes that the proposal is his own idea, not the Conservancy’s or the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation’s.

“The Tri-Line Plan is a personal idea of mine and doesn’t relate at all to my work over the years with the Conservancy,” he told the Eagle.

To see the full plan, visit TheTriline.com.

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Updated 12:40 p.m. on 3/20/19 to reflect that Baker is no longer on the board of Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy.

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