Two more BQE rehab plans enter crowded field
With one proposal reworked and one fresh, the Brooklyn Heights Association brought two new(ish) ideas to the mayor's panel.
The Brooklyn Heights Association has revised its plan for the $4 billion rehabilitation of the BQE — and has developed a couple of alternate concepts as well.
BHA presented their new and revised ideas to the 17-member BQE panel appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio in April, association President Martha Dietz told the Brooklyn Eagle. The panel was developed in response to community opposition to the DOT’s plan to run a temporary highway where the historic Brooklyn Heights Promenade now stands. It recently issued its first report.
The association’s original BQE plan, presented in November 2018, was conceived by Marc Wouters Studios, a Heights-based architect-urban planning firm. The Wouters design would move BQE traffic to a temporary two-level bypass west of the existing triple cantilever. The triple cantilever underpins the promenade.
“We were all frantic in the beginning when Wouters devised the temporary parallel bypass,” Dietz told the Eagle. “Now that there’s time, he is envisioning what we can do with it” once the BQE rehab is complete.
“I studied pedestrian connections between the Promenade and Brooklyn Bridge Park back in February of 2018 at the request of a group called Connect Montague,” Wouters told the Brooklyn Eagle. “Our newest design is an extension of that prior study.” (See note below.)
The new plan takes the original temporary bypass idea and makes it a permanent addition to Brooklyn Bridge Park. After the rehab is finished, the lower roadway of the two-level bypass structure would be transformed into a landscaped terrace, connecting directly to existing parkland.
According to BHA, this new section of the park would be screened from the noise and view of the highway by a screen east of the new terrace (and just west of the lower level of the rebuilt BQE). It would also allow direct pedestrian connections from locations within Brooklyn Heights to the park.
“He was inspired by [Mark] Baker and BIG, looking at what part of the bypass can you salvage,” Dietz said. Baker and BIG — the DUMBO-based Bjarke Ingels Group — introduced plans that would include a boxed-in highway and a permanent park earlier this year.
The plan also features elements similar to a plan from NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, “taking the top off and having a linear park,” Dietz said.
Dietz said the new plan avoids relocating an MTA fan plant on Furman Street and sewer lines under Furman.
A BHA spokesperson said the terraced structure could become the “Brook-Line,” Brooklyn’s version of Manhattan’s High Line.
Plan B: The Four-Lane Alternative Concept
BHA also released another alternate plan, which it calls the “Four-Lane Alternative Concept.” This would expand the existing lower level of the BQE into a single-level, four-lane roadway and transform the existing upper level of the BQE cantilever – the northbound lanes — into a half-mile long linear park with new pedestrian connections from this level to Brooklyn Bridge Park. The four-lane highway would be screened from the park by “an attractive noise attenuation feature” located on the western face of the structure.
This proposal builds upon the recently released Regional Plan Association’s report, “Reimagining the BQE,” which suggests that the rebuilt BQE could be reduced to a four-lane highway following new traffic management initiatives.
These include the congestion pricing recently enacted by the state legislature and a proposed federal amendment that would restore two-way tolling on the Verrazzano Bridge, which would reduce the volume of trucks using the BQE.
BHA says that both of these new concepts offer several distinct advantages from other recent proposals, since neither would require the costly relocation of other major infrastructure (including MTA facilities, the park’s headquarters or a major sewer trunk line under Furman Street) and neither would affect the condominium building at 360 Furman St.
Some of the previously proposed schemes would require the tenants of 360 Furman St. to move their lobby to another floor, along with other changes. Residents of the building hope to come up with a plan that would leave their building untouched.
“There’s not just one solution,” Dietz said. “Thinking continues.”
Reconstruction of the Columbia Heights Bridge
The BHA released a “phased reconstruction” approach for the existing section of the BQE under Columbia Heights, which could be used with any plan eventually chosen.
According to the group, this plan would permit two lanes of travel to be maintained at all times — both northbound and southbound — while eliminating the restricted height clearance that now exists under the Columbia Heights roadway, which forces semi-trucks to be diverted off the highway onto local streets.
BHA was the first group to come out with an alternate BQE rehab design after residents were shocked to hear the details of the city’s preferred plan. The city’s plan would have temporarily replaced the landmarked Brooklyn Heights Promenade with a six-lane BQE bypass for six to eight years, destroying a protected view plain and polluting neighborhood air with the toxic particulates from 153,000 vehicles a day.
UPDATE: An earlier version of this story said that Wouters’ latest design was inspired by other alternate designs that appeared after the BHA proposal opened the flood gates. On May 30, Wouters explained that he had studied pedestrian connections between the Promenade and Brooklyn Bridge Park back in February of 2018 at the request of a group called Connect Montague. “Our newest design is an extension of that prior study,” he said. The story has been revised to reflect this.
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