Brooklyn Heights

BQE vibrations create nightmare for Brooklyn Heights residents

September 10, 2019 Scott Enman
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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.

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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.

More than 150,000 vehicles travel over the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway daily.

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, a neighbor of the Scalas, says her family might have to move if the vibrations persist.

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.

Councilmember Stephen Levin said he has communicated with DOT about the issue and would be sending a letter to the agency soon.
The son-in-law of Ciro and Patricia Scala wears wax earplugs to sleep at night. The early morning truck routes often wake him.

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.

The neighbors of northern Brooklyn Heights demand repairs be made to the BQE to stop vibrations from trucks rattling their homes.

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.”

Follow reporter Scott Enman on Twitter.

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  1. misanthropingnyer

    How about a discussion of the endless trucks, honking, vibrations, soot, noise pollution, etc going on on Caton Avenue where interstate trucks travel every day when it is a local route, not a through route and not one official cares. Ear plugs do nothing living on Caton Ave. You have to actually move out of the neighborhood to protect your lungs and your hearing (and get some damn sleep!)

    I have contacted the DOT, Jumaane Williams, Letitia James, Matthew Eugene, NYPD, 311. That clown de Blasio promised he’d get the trucks off of Caton long before he was Mayor and did nothing. Now the BQE will be worked on and Caton Ave isn’t even part of the Environmental Study even though we will be directly impacted since we’re the main artery of all these damn nasty trucks who come off of the highway.

    But nobody cares about Caton Avenue because it’s mostly poor people of color living there. It’s okay that we can’t sleep at night and we breathe in gasoline and diesel fumes 24/7.

  2. Nomcebo Manzini

    “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 traffic on the BQE.”

    Well, there’s your answer! Love the Eagle’s reporting (esp. MF’s), but y’still need an editor/proofreader!