BQE vibrations create nightmare for Brooklyn Heights residents
Broken glasses, cracked walls and sleepless nights have become all too familiar for some families in Brooklyn Heights, who say vibrations from the nearby BQE have severely disrupted their lives.
Residents told the Brooklyn Eagle that when large trucks pass by on the roadway near Middagh and Willow streets — especially in the left-hand lane — it’s particularly bad, often leaving their buildings trembling.
“At four in the morning, you’ll hear tremendous loud bangs and you’ll feel shaking,” said Brooklyn Heights resident Pia Scala-Zankel. “It’s like thunder. My shutters will [rattle]. The window will reverberate. It can feel like a mini earthquake.”
The interstate highway is located especially close to homes in the northern portion of the neighborhood, where the roadway slopes toward the Brooklyn Bridge near Exit 28.
Locals say the vibrations, which have been ongoing for decades, have worsened as the triple-cantilever section of the BQE has deteriorated, going from intermittent to incessant. There’s been a “palpable uptick,” said resident Jimmy Zankel, who resorts to wearing earplugs at night.
For Patricia Scala, who has lived in the neighborhood for about 40 years, the situation is no longer manageable.
“We’re concerned about the house. There’s concern about health,” she said, noting that these homes are part of the Brooklyn Heights Historic District.
The vibrations, which are most intense during rush hour, are continuous throughout the day, starting as early as 4 or 5 a.m. and continuing until 8 p.m. or later. The only time they stop is when there is bumper-to-bumper traffic on the BQE, forcing trucks to slow down.
“It’s just constant,” said neighborhood resident Ciro Scala. “We feel it all the time. We shouldn’t have to live here like that.”
When the Eagle visited two Brooklyn Heights homes on a recent morning, the vibrations were constant. It felt as if a subway train was periodically passing beneath the floors. Flowers vases shook. Water rippled in glasses.
Heather Gallivan, who has lived on Willow Street for 13 years in the last standing home of famed preacher Henry Ward Beecher, said she’s particularly concerned about the structure of the house given its historical significance.
She said the vibrations — combined with the noise pollution, poor air quality and uncertainty surrounding the BQE rehab plan — are so troubling that she and her husband are considering moving their family. “I don’t know if it’s feasible to live here,” she said.
Residents say they have complained to the Department of Transportation, but no solutions have been implemented. A DOT spokesperson told the Eagle that the agency would be conducting a vibration-monitoring program that includes properties near the triple cantilever, as well as properties on Middagh and Willow streets.
Brooklyn Heights Association Executive Director Lara Birnback said her organization has made the city aware of the problem for years, but little has been done to address it.
“We have asked repeatedly for the DOT to diagnose and repair the problem, but so far that has not happened,” Birnback said. “The noise and vibration are mitigated when the roadway is repaved and potholes are filled, but that is only a partial and temporary solution.”
She added that the BHA would be reaching out to DOT officials in the next few weeks to arrange a meeting to discuss the problem and find a solution.
Ken Fisher, another resident on Willow Street, said the uncertainty of not knowing whether the vibrations will worsen or ever stop, coupled with a lack of answers from officials, has been particularly concerning.
“When you have to straighten your pictures every day, it might not be the worst thing in the world,” he said. “But when you get shaken awake at night or have trouble going back to sleep because the bed is shaking, that obviously can have a significant effect on people.”
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