The Brooklyn Heights Promenade won’t be torn down — and residents are relieved
‘It would have been devastating to the neighborhood’
They’re breathing a collective sigh of relief on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, because it won’t be demolished for BQE repairs.
The mood on the landmarked walkway was upbeat on Sunday thanks to the news that a mayor-appointed panel recommended that the city Department of Transportation not build a temporary highway on the Promenade or in Brooklyn Bridge Park during the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway fix-up.
“I am happy that it’s going to stay,” Sacha Maric, who has lived in Brooklyn Heights for six years, said of the Promenade on Sunday. “The lack of extra pollution will be a good thing, too.”
The DOT’s original plan for handling BQE repairs called for the Promenade to be replaced with a six-lane BQE bypass for six to eight years. This temporary highway would have brought noise and pollution from 153,000 vehicles per day into Brooklyn Heights.
Toxic particulate matter released by the cars and trucks would have endangered the health of Brooklyn Heights residents — and children attending school in the neighborhood, Laurie Garrett, former senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, warned in a December 2018 Brooklyn Eagle story.
Maric, who was at the Promenade’s playground with daughters Eleanor and Alma on Sunday, said the esplanade’s an excellent place to spend family time, and that the scenery is stellar. “It’s the most beautiful view of Downtown Manhattan,” he said.
On Friday, a spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed to the Eagle that the administration embraces the BQE panel’s recommendation to leave the Promenade intact.
The recommendation was contained in a much-anticipated report the panel released on Thursday night.
The panel, headed by New York Building Congress President and CEO Carlo Scissura, also recommended that a 1.5-mile section of the BQE be repaired right away. This portion of the highway includes a triple cantilever that underpins the promenade.
If de Blasio had said yes to replacing the Promenade with a six-lane BQE bypass, “it would have been devastating to the neighborhood,” Brooklyn Heights resident Madeleine Campbell told the Eagle.
“If there’s a way that the BQE can be repaired without defacing this public landmark, then that’s wonderful. I’m all for it,” Campbell said. “I know it won’t be easy or simple, but if it can be done without destroying this wonderful place, then of course, that’s great.”
She was strolling on the Promenade on Sunday with her brother and his girlfriend, who were visiting from North Carolina. The Promenade is the first place Campbell takes out-of-town friends and family members when they come to see her, she said.
During warm-weather months, Campbell takes daily walks on the iconic esplanade.
On Friday, de Blasio announced an enforcement crackdown to keep overweight trucks off the BQE and an immediate start to highway repairs.
“Just the thought of seeing traffic right here at the end of the Promenade was ridiculous,” said Brooklyn Heights resident David Weeks, who was walking his dog Milo on the esplanade on Sunday. “What they were talking about doing was so harsh,” he said.
“With all the changes throughout the city, I feel like this is one of the few neighborhoods that maintains its original flavor,” Weeks said.
The demolition threat has been hanging over the promenade since September 2018, when DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg announced the agency’s proposal to demolish it — and the trees growing on it as well — to construct the six-lane BQE bypass. This temporary highway would have cut across Columbia Heights near Cranberry Street and also would have necessitated the temporary demolition of Harry Chapin Playground.
Having the bypass take the place of the Promenade would have been “horrible,” Brooklyn Heights resident Carolyn Zintel said while walking her dog Dally on Sunday.
“There’s been construction everywhere. And we’re just under too much stress. It’s just too unnerving,” said Zintel.
Zintel was referring to redevelopment projects at Brooklyn Heights properties that the Jehovah’s Witnesses sold over the past several years while in the process of relocating their world headquarters from the neighborhood to Warwick, New York.
“We moved here because it’s a quiet neighborhood — and it hasn’t been very quiet recently,” Zintel said. “And this would just make it worse.”
“There was no reason to even think of doing this. So I’m glad it’s off the table,” Stella Varveris, a native Brooklynite who now lives in Manhattan, said of DOT’s proposal to tear down the Promenade and replace it with the BQE bypass.
She was sharing her Sunday afternoon on the Promenade with Nelson Simon, a Prospect Lefferts Gardens resident.
He said he was glad de Blasio appointed the BQE panel and that they recommended the Promenade be preserved — “especially now as we’re losing Brooklyn, we’re losing the flavor of Brooklyn, we’re losing who we are.”
According to the late Henrik Krogius, who was the editor of the Eagle’s sister publication, the Brooklyn Heights Press, the Promenade’s design was finalized in 1943. The first section of the Promenade opened in October 1950 and the remaining portion opened in December 1951.
The BQE and the Promenade were constructed under the leadership of autocratic infrastructure builder Robert Moses. According to Krogius, there were six different possible routes through Brooklyn Heights for the BQE — and the one Moses preferred, but ultimately didn’t choose, ran along Hicks Street, which would have divided the neighborhood.
Krogius’s research about the famous esplanade was compiled into a book, “The Brooklyn Heights Promenade,” which was published in 2011.
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