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Brooklyn Heights Association’s 2022 Annual Meeting addresses BQE, Montague St., climate change

February 27, 2022 Mary Frost
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The Brooklyn Heights Association’s 2022 annual meeting on Feb. 24 took place online for the second year in a row. The Zoom event covered topics including the reconstruction of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, traffic patterns on Montague Street and local businesses’ continuing woes.

The meeting featured a panel discussion with noted authors and journalists Eugene Linden and Leslie Kaufman in a conversation about climate change.

BHA also presented its annual Community Service Awards to groups and individuals who have made significant contributions to the neighborhood’s quality of life. Tom Stewart, popular host at Thirteen WNET New York, emceed the award ceremony.

BHA President Erika Belsey Worth led the meeting and Executive Director Lara Birnback presented the financials (which are available online). Worth opened with a tribute to two special members lost this year: Jack Kenny and Ben Crane.

“[Kenny] used to stop by the BHA office with quality of life reports — overflowing trash bins and the like. He never missed an annual meeting and was first to put a ‘Six lane highway? No way!’ poster in his window,” Belsey Worth said.

“Ben Crane spearheaded the successful lawsuit that preserved the scenic view plane and stopped development at Piers 1 through 5,” she said. “To quote former Executive Director Judy Stanton, ‘Ben Craine was a treasure of a man who gets as much credit for Brooklyn Bridge Park as can be poured on him.’”

BHA Community Service Award winner Amerika Williamson. Photo courtesy of the Brooklyn Heights Association

The crumbling Brooklyn-Queens Expressway

“The BHA has not wavered in our determination to pursue a more responsible and sustainable solution to the problem of the BQE,” Belsey Worth said. “We continue to work with our neighbors on the ‘BQET,’ which is the Coalition for the BQE Transformation.” She applauded legislation allowing metering which would identify overweight trucks automatically.

Adding a bike lane on the Brooklyn Bridge reduced the Manhattan-bound traffic from three to two lanes, which benefits both bike riders and the crumbling cantilever underpinning the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, she said. Reducing traffic on the cantilever from three to two lanes in each direction did not clog local streets as feared, she added 

BHA is advocating for these specific BQE priorities: 

  • Eliminate the pollution, vibrations and the noise, especially In the North Heights. 
  • Preserve the historic Promenade and maintain compliance with SV-1, the scenic view plane.
  • Improve the existing entrances to Brooklyn Bridge Park, especially at Atlantic Avenue
  • Create new connections to the park from Brooklyn Heights.
Members of the team honored with a BHA Community Service Award for the Brooklyn Heights Community Fridge project. Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Heights Association

Montague Street and Clark Street Station

BHA has engaged “traffic guru” Sam Schwartz to analyze the current state of traffic on Montague Street. Schwartz is working on designs for the four blocks from Court Street to Montague Terrace.

“The goal is to create a pedestrian-friendly zone that encourages people to linger and to shop so that our existing businesses will flourish and our new businesses will fill the remaining empty spots,” Belsey Worth said. 

She urged neighbors to shop at the stores in Clark Street subway station, which are suffering a devastating loss of business during elevator construction.

“We have been told by the MTA that the work is on schedule and they will be reopening the station for full service by the end of April,” she said.

Authors and journalist Leslie Kaufman, panelist at the Brooklyn Heights Association’s 2022 Annual Meeting. Photo courtesy of the Brooklyn Heights Association

Senate district changing

“Brooklyn Heights may be losing Senator Brian Kavanagh when we become part of Senate District 23,” Belsey Worth said. Most of Brooklyn Heights and Dumbo will be combined with parts of Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens and Red Hook, the coast of Sunset Park, Coney Island, Brighton Beach and Staten Island.  BHA will be inviting the candidates to speak at a candidates forum on June 28. 

Author and journalist Eugene Linden, panelist at the Brooklyn Heights Association’s 2022 Annual Meeting. Photo courtesy of the Brooklyn Heights Association

Community Service Awards

Stewart emceed the Community Service Awards with his usual jovial panache. Awards went to Amerika Williamson, for spearheading the annual tree lighting ceremony on the Promenade, and to the founders of the Brooklyn Heights Community Fridge, led by Rev. Adriene Thorne, the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church. 

“Sometimes there are things that happen in our communities that we simply take for granted. They seem to happen every year by themselves … Such is the story of the Christmas tree lighting ceremony on the Promenade,” Stewart said. “Tonight we would like to recognize Amerika Williamson, who is the unsung hero of this lovely tradition.”

“Take what you need, leave what you don’t — that’s the motto of the Brooklyn Heights Community Fridge,” where Rev. Adriene Thorne came together with neighbors to provide fresh fruit and meals to those who need it, Stewart said. Instrumental were Darryahn Knight, James and Caroline Koster, Jenny Astrachan and others, including school and church groups. 

Climate talk

Panelists Eugene Linden and Leslie Kaufman were introduced by BHA’s Birnback, who noted that environmental effects are an important consideration in BHA’s work with the BQE and Montague Street.

“We’ve known about climate change for decades now, and yet when we look at what we’ve accomplished to stop it, it’s very little,” Kaufman said. She asked why, if we have so much knowledge, it’s taken us so long to address it.

One answer is that industry developed a playbook which has been used when inconvenient concerns like the ozone layer or global warming come up, Linden said. 

“The fuel lobby used the same playbook developed during the ozone story: dispute the science and the consensus, attack the scientists and their motives, and mostly say we have time.”

Consumers can choose to not buy products made by “bad actors,” Linden said. He also recommended universal tariffs and putting pressure on businesses. “It’s within our power to reduce emissions if we find the will to do it,” he said.

The entire meeting can be viewed here

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